Sacred Music Friday: Once in Royal David’s City

Once in Royal David’s City, City King’s College Cambridge 2009

The Village

villageThe Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village
John Strausbaugh
HarperCollins, 640 pages
Kindle Edition  $13.59, Amazon Hardcover  $21.45

This is a substantial work, as you can tell from the page count. It is also fascinating and readable. Strausbaugh traces the history of Greenwich Village from its days as a rural village in pre-revolutionary New Amsterdam to the present day. He covers how the Village developed and changed from those first days through the American Revolution, the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Beat era, the Sixties and on to the start of the twenty-first century.

Most everyone who had a touch of the rebel in them spent time in Greenwich Village. He talks about Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman in the nineteenth century. He quotes extensively from Malcolm Cowley in the first part of the twentieth century. He describes W.H. Auden’s years in New York City in the World War II era (and before and after), and provided some tidbits about Auden’s horrid housekeeping habits not included in an entire book devoted to the subject. (I mean a book devoted to Auden’s years in the United States, not to his housekeeping habits.) He explains the relationship Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac had to the Village, and describes the rise of the Village Voice, and how it became a national publication, no longer focused on that specific location.

There were surprises. Jean Shepherd was a radio broadcaster in Greenwich Village long before hosting the mawkish (to my mind) PBS series Jean Shepherd’s America in the 1970’s. Shel Silverstein wrote the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue” based on Shepherd’s stories of the teasing he received as a boy with that name.

Strausbaugh makes clear that Greenwich Village was always a tourist spot, and that there were always entrepreneurs ready to exploit that.

A long book, but well worth the investment of time.

eggs benedict

Terry and I have been visiting the marvelous Goose and Turrets bed and breakfast in Montara, California pretty much for as long as we’ve been together, which goes back to 1991. I’ve been staying there since 1986, which goes back to my first marriage. That means I’ve been a guest from the first year or two that they’ve been open. The proprietors, Raymond and Emily, generously gave us two free nights there last year in recognition of my being their longest continuous visitor.

We always love going there, because, the wireless Internet access notwithstanding, it is a place of quiet, serenity, and calm. It’s a place to de-stress and recharge.

It’s also a place to get the best breakfast you can find anywhere. Breakfast is served promptly at nine. You have your choice of coffee or tea, which you specify at check-in. They also serve juice. Breakfast is four courses: fruit, grain, a main dish, and sorbet. How many places can you go where you get dessert for breakfast?

Terry and I were there the first week in December to celebrate her birthday. There was one other guest, a beautiful young woman from France named Elena whose family Raymond and Emily know. For breakfast on our second morning Raymond prepared Eggs Benedict as the main dish. Elena said that this was her first Eggs Benedict. It was mine as well.

Terry loves Eggs Benedict, but like Sam I Am of the famous Dr. Seuss book, I have always avoided eggs in any form other than scrambled. But being a good B&B guest, I was not about to disrespect Raymond’s efforts. I took a taste. The Hollandaise sauce was perfect, and the dish was superb, even though I have never been big on poached eggs. Like Sam, I came around in the end, and I am glad I did.

If you’re looking for a getaway, go visit Emily and Raymond. And tell them that Terry and Mike sent you.

endings and beginnings

Last Wednesday I saw my spiritual director for the last time.

That’s not quite true, but it in some ways it felt like it. On Epiphany she is retiring from her position as rector of the parish she has served for many years. We had been meeting via FaceTime on our iPads since a year ago August when my company closed the campus where I had my cubicle. But last Wednesday I went to her office at Saint Where-she-has-been-serving Episcopal Church. It was of course the last time for us to meet there, and since she is taking January off I did not, as usual, check my calendar to schedule our next appointment at the end of our session.

The good news is that she is continuing her spiritual direction work. Though she doesn’t know what her February schedule will look like, she told me that she will contact me in January about meeting then. And she has affiliated herself with a nearby Presbyterian church which has a strong spiritual direction program, so we can meet in person when appropriate.

Rather than writing a check to the church with a notation for the rector’s discretionary fund, I’ll be writing a check to an individual. But I’ll still have a spiritual director.

I’m delighted about that.

getting there

3 Advent

I almost didn’t make it to church yesterday. I turned off the alarm at 6:59, one minute before it was to go off, and lay in bed for a few minutes before I got up to feed Tasha. When I came back upstairs, I looked at the bathtub and looked at the bed. The bed won. I set the alarm for 8:45 and figured that I could get up, take a soak in the tub, have breakfast, and take Tasha for her walk, since Terry had been recovering from a cold. Then I could pick up our New York Times and hit Trader Joe’s. It was cold, after all. Besides, at church we were still singing that somber Kyrie, which I think is fine for Lent, but to me doesn’t seem quite right for Advent. Yet at 7:29 I turned off the alarm and got out of bed. It was after all Gaudete Sunday, and I really didn’t want to miss that, did I? And besides when I miss Communion something is missing from my week. I made up for the lost time by taking a shower rather than enjoying my usual tub soak.

For the Third Sunday in Advent in Year A, congregations are given the option of saying part of Psalm 146 or the Magnificat from Luke 1. (“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…”)  As it turned out, we sang Psalm 146 in the spot for the Psalm, but our opening hymn was a beautiful appreciation of the Magnificat. Really beautiful. And the candle for 3 Advent was rose-colored. Well worth getting out of bed for.

And of course there is Communion. My week really is out of kilter when I miss Communion. So I made it there, and I am glad that I did.


Sacred Music Friday: Creator of the Stars of Night

Ely Cathedral Choir

Crossing the Bay of Bengal

BayBengalCrossing the Bay of Bengal
Sunil S. Amrith
Kindle Edition  $16.17, Amazon Hardcover  $26.78
368 pages
Harvard University Press

I enjoy books that cover the history of a certain geographical region. I’ve been reading them for quite a few years. I remember taking a book on the Black Sea with us when we took a Catalina and Ensenada cruise in the mid-1990’s.

I was intrigued, therefore, when I read a positive review of Crossing the Bay of Bengal in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Initially the book was not available in Kindle format, but a Kindle edition showed up recently. I was a tad disappointed.

The book was interesting, to be sure. It covers the interaction of people in India on one side of the bay and what is now Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia on the other. Amrith goes back to the earliest crossings of the Bay, through the colonial period, and on to the present day. Still, I felt that the content was thinner, if you will, than I would have liked.

The book was actually shorter than the page count would suggest, as there is a lot of back matter, including a glossary, notes, list of abbreviations, and index.

If this region is of particular interest to you, you’ll likely enjoy the book. If it presents only a passing interest, there are probably other books more worthy of your time.