Sacred Music Friday: God’s counting on you

Thank you, Pete Seeger, for all you brought us. And thanks to Ann Fontaine and the Episcopal Café for this.

podcasts and music library

I’ve been writing about my Grace internet radio and all of its great features. I have now implemented two more.

The radio supports podcasts, which I love. I have moved most of the podcasts I had on my iPod to the radio. Using the radio I don’t need to worry about maintaining them –  the most recent ones are always there. I’ve also added the podcasts for some of the NPR programs I listen to regularly: Fresh Air, KQED Forum, Leonard Lopate from WNYC, and Science Friday. I frequently miss live segments since I’m working and have things I need to do. This makes it easy to catch those segments when I have time to listen.

When my desktop computer is on, I can also listen to music I have stored there. Not only does the radio play standard .mp3 files, it also plays the iTunes .m4p format. Very cool. And for those podcasts that don’t provide a generic feed URL and are only available through iTunes, they’re right there for immediate access.

All very cool.

once fatal, now chronic and manageable

I don’t normally write about grim topics, but this time a grim topic has risen up and waved its hands in my face. On New Year’s Day my friend Candi wrote on Facebook about the gay couple who got married on the float in the Rose Parade and in that comment she mentioned AIDS. The book Cool Gray City of Love, which I just finished, has a chapter that graphically describes the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

We have all been touched by AIDS and I am no exception. I first remember reading about the disease when I was living in Oklahoma City, probably in the New York Times, as that was not a topic that the local newspaper would have been interested in at the time. Doctors were confused by some unusual strains of cancer which were affecting gay men. Once the disease was understood and had a label we were at first told that there was little to worry about because it could only be contracted by frequent, repeated exposure. We quickly learned that was nonsense and that it only took a single exposure.

I was classified advertising manager at the Oklahoma Gazette, the local alternative newsweekly, when the editor interviewed a man with AIDS. This was when cases were few and having AIDS was newsworthy, at least to the alternative press. He came back from the interview somewhat shaken. Both he and the individual knew he had been handed a death sentence.

After moving to California in 1985, in my Religious Science days, there was a musical group popular amongst Religious Science churches called Alliance. The men in the group were gay, and as time moved forward all the members of the group except one were lost to the disease. Indeed, a member of our church, a gay man, fatally fell victim.

Just before this time I undertook a short, penitential and cathartic return to B. Dalton Bookseller. The assistant manager was a gay man who lived with his partner. He was always getting some kind of bug or another. He was naturally panicked, but his doctor reassured him that he was just getting every little thing that came along.

Times change, however, and a lot of very skilled and highly capable scientists and doctors threw themselves into attacking the disease. They were successful in developing a “drug cocktail” that allowed those with AIDS to move into a sort of maintenance mode. When I first became part of the Episcopal Church in 1996 one of the first Episcopal priests I met was a gay man with AIDS. The cocktail was allowed him to live an active, normal life. Today he is well and thriving in New York City.

What was once a sure sentence of death is today a manageable chronic disease with a drug regimen costing about $100 a year.

There are a lot of things wrong and misguided about our society. Sometimes, every so often, however, we as a society get it right. I’m grateful for that.

Holly Near, “The Letter,” written by Rubén Blades

Cool Gray City of Love

coolgrayCool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Gary Kamiya
Bloomsbury USA, 400 pages
Kindle Edition  $9.50, Amazon Hardcover  $20.53

If you love San Francisco indulge yourself with this book.

While the subtitle 49 Views of San Francisco might suggest forty-nine contemporary views, that is not the case. Certainly there is an abundance of reflections on the City today, but there is a lot of history as well. And the history goes way back, all the way back to early geologic time, long before flora and fauna, let alone humans.

Kamiya talks about the early Native Americans, the Spanish explorers and later settlers (invaders) from Spain and Mexico. He discusses the 49ers (the original ones, not the football team) as well as Japanese and other immigrants. He covers the Beats, World War II, and the shameful treatment of the Japanese in that era. He describes the undeveloped places, such as Glen Canyon. It turns out that Golden Gate Park is just a small percentage of the undeveloped land in San Francisco.

Kamiya offers an unblinking description of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a far cry from today when AIDS is a manageable chronic disease. He examines the pluses and minuses of gentrification.

The writing is delightful. He captures what Herb Caen meant to the city perfectly.

quoteHis daily column was the city’s agora, its Roman forum. The scoops, the sparkling one-liners, the praise and derision, and the endless dish he served up brought the city’s people together, if only for 10 minutes over a cup of joe.

And this about the Beats.

quoteThe Beat meteor shot through long ago, but late at night in North Beach you can sometimes still see its traces, like the taillights of a big car hurtling west.

And by the way, “cool gray city of love” refers to a poem written in 1920 by George Sterling. The reference is to the city’s namesake, St. Francis, and not to the 1967 Summer of Love.

In short, the book is a delight.

prayer and writing

Two distinct points: 1) One of the things that my spiritual director and I discuss intermittently is my relationship to prayer. 2) I’m a big fan of Sister Joan Chittister.

The two came together very nicely in this quote, courtesy of the good folks at Weavings Journal.

quoteSpirituality without a prayer life is no spirituality at all, and it will not last beyond the first defeats. Prayer is an opening of the self so that the Word of God can break in and make us new. Prayer unmasks. Prayer converts. Prayer impels. Prayer sustains us on the way. Pray for the grace it will take to continue what you would like to quit.
― Joan D. Chittister, In a High Spiritual Season

I’ve long been somewhat ambivalent about prayer in my life, in the sense that I struggle with what form of prayer really works for me. So I paid attention when one of my Facebook friends posted this.

quoteIn certain ways writing is a form of prayer.
—Denise Levertov

That clicked with me. I think it makes sense. Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think it makes sense.

I work to be disciplined about my blogging. I make every effort to post five days a week, four of which contain my writing and one of which is Sacred Music Friday. The actual writing is not evenly spaced, as prayer probably ought to be, but that is a factor of the world of making a living.

I try to keep the tone of my blog conversational. I hope I succeed for the most part. Malcolm Boyd was conversational in his prayers in Are You Running with me Jesus? (I prefer the original rather than the updated version.)  Boyd published a book. My reflections are in the electronic in the blogsphere. Boyd addressed God and Jesus. I address my readers but I trust God knows that I am speaking to him/her as well. It’s not all that different is it?

For me writing, my blog, is a form of prayer.

Sacred Music Friday: Day by Day

The show Godspell actually takes the words for this song from Richard of Chichester, 1197-1253.

quotePraise to thee, Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast born for me.
Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.

I need to keep reminding myself to remember this day by day.

Pandora music

I first began using Pandora to listen to music a few years ago. I rather enjoyed it, enough so that I upgraded to a paid account. I didn’t renew the paid subscription after getting my first internet radio in early 2012, and with that acquisition pretty much quit listening to Pandora.

After getting my new internet radio after Christmas, however, I dusted off the old free account since the new radio has Pandora support built right in to it. All I had to do was associate my account with the radio. It’s been fun.

My old 60’s and 70’s soft rock and Broadway channels were still there. I added a sacred choral music channel and what I called Modern Folk.

For the sacred music channel all I had to do was select the name John Rutter, and I’ve gotten a really nice mix of sacred music since.

For Modern Folk, I started with Christine Lavin, and then added several other names, a feature I don’t remember being there before. I added Alison Krauss, Kate Wolf, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and a couple other names. That has given me a really nice mix of music in that category.

The 60’s and 70’s channel plugs along nicely with the old standards.

As for Broadway, Pandora seems stuck on Rent, Wicked, Annie, and a couple of Disney shows. There’s no way to add to shows to increase the mix. No matter, I have the SiriusXM Broadway channel.

And in any case, three out of four isn’t bad.

breakfast routine reset

For many years, at different times and in different locales, when I was single and lived alone, I didn’t turn on the television at breakfast time. My routine was to turn on the radio tuned to my local NPR station.

When Terry moved to the Bay Area in 1993, her habit was to turn the TV on in the morning to Good Morning America on ABC. I didn’t object, but at some point I got tired of Joan Lunden saying, “Isn’t this a wake-up call?” in response to any number of issues. I suggested we switch to the local morning show on Channel 2, which was then independent and later affiliated with the new Fox network. (Wisely for the Bay Area, they have always kept arms length from the news side of Fox.)

This has been our routine ever since, but while the routine has stayed the same, the program has evolved. It has morphed from a Today-like news magazine into a straight newscast. It has also evolved from covering serious news and issues to specializing on murders, car wrecks, and fires. We were both getting tired of that. Never mind that that the weatherman wasn’t giving us the forecasts we wanted to see (we need rain!).

I suggested to Terry that we leave the TV off in the morning and that we listen to NPR instead. She agreed. This has worked out well. The news isn’t necessarily positive or encouraging, but it is not sensational and is well-reported in the familiar NPR style.

Sometimes it’s good to look at those ingrained routines and change things where it makes sense.

cast iron cookware

I wrote a while back about making room in the kitchen for the cast iron frying pans that Terry inherited from her grandmother. Terry now uses one of the pans regularly when she cooks eggs during the week or on Sundays when I’m off to church. On Saturdays I often use one of the frying pans to cook our country sausage, and then Terry uses it for our scrambled eggs. I used one of the pans on New Year’s Day to make our fried chicken, and again last Saturday when I cooked a version of the same from Trisha Yearwood. (Yes, I castironpancheated. That version calls for baking, but I used the buttermilk, hot sauce, and bread crumbs.)

One of the great things about the cast iron pan is that the chicken doesn’t stick like it does in our stainless steel Calphalon. And there is something different, something more full and rich about the flavor of chicken fried in a cast iron pan with a long family history. I absolutely love our Calphalon and continue to use it regularly, but it’s nice to have a good, old-fashioned alternative for dishes where cast iron is the right solution.

rabbit in in a cartoon forest

Thanks to a couple of Facebook friends I have gotten hooked on the comic strip Coffee with Jesus from the folks at Radio Free Babylon.

The comic has Jesus in a coat and tie sharing coffee with a rotating group of contemporary individuals. There is a lay woman, a lay male, and a pastor. Oh, yes, and Satan shows up regularly. These folks are frequently portrayed as clueless, but many times Jesus’ response mirrors what I would expect Jesus to say were he around today. One strip last week gave me pause, however.

I can’t say I’ve seen the Disney movie Bambi. Maybe I’ve seen it once, or maybe parts of it. But what I did have was the 1950’s equivalent of the DVD or VHS tape. I owned a vinyl LP that reenacted the cartoon movie in an abridged fashion. I listened to it enough to probably have memorized it.

I certainly remember the Thumper quote. “If you can’t say something nice….” Like many youngsters of my era I took it to heart, certainly with reinforcement of my parents. Several years ago a manager, who later became my manager, asked me to provide feedback on a peer of mine, standard procedure at performance review time. I didn’t respond, which was not my habit when asked for feedback. I was listening to Thumper’s advice. The fellow in question maintained a standard routine of being unresponsive and uncooperative. I truly had nothing good to say about his work, which is rare for me. His manager was persistent, however, and I ultimately agreed to speak with him on the phone, where I conveyed my honest perception.

So Jesus here took me aback. Certainly Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple and had a lot to say against the scribes and the Pharisees. He certainly was not always about being pleasant and accommodating. The Jesus we see in Matthew can be particularly harsh.

But still. But still.