Category Archives: The Examined Life

The Two Shall Become One

 

 

I was thinking about my marriage the other day. If you know me well, you know that I am a re-married widower. After eight months in that state I married Mariellen, the woman who sits at the other end of the couch from me now. While Sheila, may she rest in peace, was dying she found time to concern herself no little with making sure I would be well matched and cared for once she had died. So, she advanced, in her subtle wife’s way, Mariellen and me. It is a story some of you may have heard. And, she had help from higher powers. That is a story fewer folks know, but no less true for all that.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it is one of the greatest truths in the universe, the truth about marriage, sacramental marriage, marriage until death do us part… When Sheila had finally finished her work here on earth I gathered the kids and said, “The best part of us is gone.” I was talking about the family, of course, but more. I was talking about who I was with her, what we were together, our sacramental, blessed, matrimonial union; the married-for-life singularity we had been for the past 34 years, 3 months, 11 days, 11 hours and 47 minutes since we became a new “person” who had formerly been two and were now one.

The Catholic Church teaches us that upon his ordination to the priesthood a man is changed ontologically; his very being, his humanity is changed. I’ll accept that. I’ll probably start a philosophical/theological argument here when I say I wonder if something along the same line doesn’t happen to both a man and a woman who “pledge their troth” in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. The two shall become one!  The words are the title of this little exercise; stolen directly from the Bible.

That’s exactly it!  We, Mariellen and I, are one flesh, before God for whom we are no longer two but one and, we have become one person also before the law and civil authority. So should we be, because we, and all married men and women, are the wellspring of life, culture and civilization, the promise and guarantee of a future, and, through the family, the first and firmest link in society; any society no matter where and no matter when.  We are that society’s basic building block, the beginning of everything human, the foundation of everything human, the “home” of humanity, its self understanding, its promise of a future and its first and firmest link and with the past.

Undo marriage, fail to affirm its unity of persons into one new person, and you unravel human kind, human culture, human life begun as two-become-one by the very God who created us; who said: “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper.”  There’s a note to this verse in the Catholic Bible: [2:18] Helper suited to him: lit., “a helper in accord with him.” “Helper” need not imply subordination, for God is called a helper (Dt 33:7; Ps 46:2). The language suggests a profound affinity between the man and the woman and a relationship that is supportive and nurturing.

What happens to one of us happens to both of us through this oneness of being-in-marriage. And what one of us does, we both do. And what is done for, with or to one of us is done to us both. Not only to us, the man and the woman, but to everyone. We are no longer two, but one, flesh and feeling and life and love.

I’d like to recommend to your attention an article which first appeared about a year ago in the journal First Things. It is well worth reading, studying, learning from, because marriage is under attack these days, weakened, treated poorly, debased and derided. If it is done away with, as many wish it to be with all their plans for “expanding” it in every direction, and marriage, real marriage, neglected and cast aside, we will have cast aside our humanity, I think, and become beasts.

The most casual glance toward, the briefest look at, the slightest taste of what passes for culture, what composes society, what orders our behavior, what guides us in law, what have become our standards and “approved” behaviors among men and women, children and families today, what we choose to be entertained by, to “tolerate” in our homes and elsewhere, should show the intelligent observer how well on our way to that state we are.

The State of the Nation II

Doughnuts and Beer: A Story of the Golden Age

Here is a story I wrote some time ago, a story about an incident that took place quite a while before I wrote it down.  Every word is true:

DONUTS AND BEER: A STORY OF THE GOLDEN AGE

A long long time ago, me and Dennis and Bobby had finished up at Toolan’s Bar on Broadway under the El (not a Hebrew word for G-d).  The places closed at 3:00am on Sunday mornings as many of you may know only because it was the law in New York City.  The three of us, and quite a few more sons of Sons of Ireland, had been in there getting fluorescent light burns from early the previous evening. talking about this and that, ball games and ball peen hammers, dying Englishmen and dead Irishmen, sirens (police and female) and song, truth and not-so-truth from early the previous evening….and drinking huge amounts of beer.

Such work can cause in one a huge appetite.  It was in the knowledge of this fact of biology that Arthur had established his diner in the midst of a nest of many such places as Toolan’s Bar on Broadway, within which would gather of a night many of the same kind of yours trulys.  The lights dimmed inside, last call had long ago disappeared into our waiting beer swollen bellies and we, perhaps a bit unsteadily, went into the dark outside; the silent pre-dawn streets, the setting of many of film-noir.  As overhead trains rumbled by overhead, carrying the earliest or the latest to their destinations, from out the other places came small groups of kin, all headed for Arthur’s and a hearty breakfast, a worker’s breakfast, a drinking worker’s breakfast.

Now, it is a law of the universe, as fixed as the law of gravity, or any of Newton’s axioms of thermodynamics, that after three drinks everything is a great idea.  All of us were more than ready to propound greatness, then, by orders of magnitude; to advance humanity any number of steps on its path to glory, or whatever.  And all of us were ready, well oiled as it were, for adventure. I cannot remember who of us said it, but all of us saw the simple, and thus beautiful, symmetry in exchanging, not money, but doughnuts, with Arthur for our breakfast.  In a moment we would repay him in kind for the many good things his amazingly talented short order cook, and his tough but beautiful waitresses would prepare and serve us.  And, we would provide our friends and neighbors with the grease and fat their alcohol soaked systems craved at this time of the morning; and the sugar fueled energy to see them home to waiting mothers and fathers, or wives and daughters.  This was an Irish crowd, may I remind you, and damn near celibate where its drinking life was concerned.

It came to us, this equation of mathematical beauty, because God, in His infinite wisdom, had ordained from eternity that across the street, and just a bit north of Arthur’s now brightly lit and crowded diner there should be an A&P supermarket.  Furthermore, He had so ordered the universe, and arranged its constituent molecules, atoms and sub atomic particles that, at the very time we were conceiving this great idea, a delivery truck was being emptied of its cargo of delicious Ann Page donuts in a plethora of styles and flavors.  Large skids piled with trays containing dozens of boxes of dozens of freshly baked donuts were being placed before us only mere yards away.

Dennis, who toiled as a clerk in some many windowed office building far to our south in Manhattan, and had a head for such figures, quickly calculated that one of those skids held trays containing five hundred dozen donuts.  Bobby, a scholar, was able to compute further that five hundred dozen donuts would be a very even exchange for three of Arthur’s special breakfasts of bacon, eggs, delicious home fries,  juice, coffee and toasted english muffins.  Bobby would go on to make a lot of money in the commodities market I believe.  I was able to see that the truck driver was pulling away and leaving at least twenty of these skids on the street…by themselves.

With catlike grace and cunning, and with equal amounts of charity and hunger motivating us, we approached the outlying skids and culled the nearest one to push to our destination. It was so easy.  And that only confirmed us in our purpose.  Had it been more difficult, it would not have seemed God’s own work we thought at the time.  Simplicity, symmetry and beauty obtained.  It was, as we were well used to hearing in liturgical rhythm, “..right and proper, and helpful for our salvation…”

Such a good feeling to be fostering a cure for hunger prevailed among us that none of us noticed our company as we pushed the nearly six foot high skid down Broadway and across the street toward Arthur’s diner, and the now gathering crowd of, no doubt, doughnut hungry and appreciative late drinkers/early eaters.  “Excuse me, lads, where are you going with that?”  The question could only have come from someone so uninspired as to be sober at this time of day.  Or to be what in fact he was, a cop.  Dennis, ever helpful, answered truthfully, “We’re taking them to Arthur’s and exchanging them for breakfast.”

The prowl car stopped.  We had already stopped pushing our cargo.  The policeman, and his partner driving, looked at us.  “Get in the car,” said the officer, reaching behind him and opening the door.  We were good boys.  We were Catholic youth.  More to the point, we were Irish-Catholic youth and this was an Irish-Catholic cop speaking to us.  It might as well have been God.  As a matter of fact there was no discernible difference.

We got in.

We got in and arranged ourselves in the back seat, Dennis whispering, “Shut up!  Don’t tell them a thing.”  I’d have none of that, I thought.  So, to the first query of, “Just where the hell were you going?”, I answered, “Down to Arthur’s to trade some donuts for breakfast, as my good friend said.”  At about that time we were passing in front of the very same place on our way to the 50th Precinct, then a quiet little Station House in the North Bronx, a refuge for burn-outs from more active houses; a “rubber gun” squad as the term of art had it.

The two in front passed the rest of the trip in silence.  The three in back, now that the truth was out, were busy plotting defenses.  We all figured that 500 dozen donuts was, as they say in drug law enforcement circles, felony weight. What we had in our favor was the good we intended to do with them; a fact pointed out by Dennis.  That, and the fact that no one of us yet had been arrested was a cold comfort, though

Arriving at the Precinct, we were escorted out of the car past a very bored Desk Sergeant  into a large room with a long table, not unlike a corporate conference room, and told to sit tight.  Our captors both left.  Immediately, Bobby suggested an escape. I said it would be just the thing they were waiting for.  They were probably just outside the door waiting for one of us to crack it open and try a “run” for it.  I was having none of it.  Nor was Dennis.  He, suddenly filled with legal knowledge and eloquence, said that our chances “looked good” for an early release…whatever that was.  He intended to tell the officers that they had arrested us falsely and were in great danger of a civil law suit, if not arrest and imprisonment themselves.  (It was the early 60’s and a lot of that stuff was beginning to be heard.)  I prayed he wouldn’t.

Shortly, one of the officers returned. He said that they had contacted the A&P store manager, and he had sent out someone from the store to retrieve the skid on which our unexchanged “breakfast” was. We had left it on the sidewalk upon being invited to drive up to the precinct house with the officers.

Dawn was breaking now, the sky turning rosy pink over the Bronx High School of Science on the other side of the Kingsbridge Reservoir from us. Dennis was demanding that he be read his rights, and Bobby was refusing to say anything, to anybody.  He was infuriated at having his escape attempt thwarted.  I was thanking God that it was early on a Sunday morning, the cops were tired and didn’t seem to want to take anyone down to the County Courthouse.  I kissed a little butt and said that in the dawning light and growing sobriety what we had done was a pretty stupid thing to do.

That seemed to make everybody happy, everybody on the “other” side that is. My buddies looked at me like I was a quisling.  The officers left the room, and I tried to explain myself, my craven behavior.  No use.

Returning with the Desk Sergeant in tow now, we were subjected to a short lecture on how close we had come, and how lucky we were.  He was right, really.  I think that fact began to dawn on both Dennis and Bobby, who were returning to sobriety a bit more slowly than I was.

I expected then that, as the Sergeant got angrier, he’d give us a smack. He was a big guy, and I didn’t fancy one of those ham sized fists bouncing off the side of my now aching head.   But no, our luck held.  “Get them outta here,” he ordered, and the other two officers gathered us up and took us back out to the car.

Now, this was a change. I was no stranger to the 50th Precinct.  On previous such occasions I had been, more or less politely, shown the door. “Now the beating comes,” I thought.  I figured Dennis and Bobby were thinking the same thing as the door was held open and we sat in the back seat once again, silent as the car started back down the hill towards Broadway and Arthur’s and the A&P.  Perhaps we were going to be taken back to the scene and made to apologize to the store manager.  Strangely enough I even thought that maybe the cops were going to make us buy them breakfast?

We rode on in silence.  Past Broadway and up 231st Street going west  for two blocks to the next traffic light.  We made a left and proceeded slowly down the street for about a hundred yards.  We stopped in front of St. John’s Church.  The officer in front of me on the passenger side got out and opened the door.  It was nearly 6:00am and the first Mass would soon begin.

The three of us got out of the prowl car and walked to the curb.  We turned and looked at the two cops, now back in the car and looking back at us.  Nothing was said as the one nearest us waved slightly and smiled.  We knew what we had to do.

All three of us made it to confession before Mass began.

Several years after Special Agent Frank Shannon, a former NYPD Detective was doing my background for my entry into the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  He asked me if I had ever been arrested and I told him the Great Donut Robbery story.  Frank smiled, then he laughed softly and said, ” You’re lucky.  It probably wouldn’t happen now.  There’s too many judges today. They need the work.”

Frank is dead now.  The other two cops may be dead also.  Every once in a while I remember them and say a prayer that God is as merciful to them as they were to three jerks one Sunday morning in the Bronx about forty years ago.

PEG
3/17/01

INSTEAD OF … WHY NOT TRY THIS?

I just finished reading a book. I recommend it to you, especially, to read during these forty days (not too many of which are left…) The nice fellow who wrote an introduction to the book said: “The thinkers examined in this book have all grown unbearably uncomfortable with the current metaphysical arrangements. Each reimagines the Judeo-Christian epic in global, transcultural, and macrohistorical terms and in the process refigures our relationship to God and our place in the cosmos.” (Goodness! One of the ways to know you are quoting from a brainy tome these days is to look at what your spell-checker doesn’t know.)

Father O’Sullivan, may he rest in peace, used to recommend me to the care and protection of Our Lady of Divine Discontent when as a young man I would sometimes sit with him and grumble about structures and strictures, position and privilege…and stupidity. He liked a letter I wrote which was published in my college newspaper; and smiled at me.

In that letter I had grumbled about buildings and busyness, rules and rites, walls and wished for no walls at all before finishing by writing: “I would have no church at all.”

Along with one of my teachers the long suffering priest said, “You are young, Peter.”

Now I know that without walls there is no way to have windows to open.  Or, to have windows to break.  Without walls what use is a portico?

Towards the very end of his book (proof that I read that far) the author writes about something he calls “ontological dissent”, and quotes some fellow who goes on a bit about “rules” of one kind or another which he he uses to argue that we should finally consent to only one rule: “the rule of the way of the world.”

Fine, I supposed.  “What is that?”

The author doesn’t say.  What he does say is this:  “The thinkers here would undoubtedly agree, but they would point out that there is another rule: the Rule of St. Benedict.  And that in the monastic life, we see a synthesis of distributist economics combined with a metahistorical critique.”  He could have saved the jawbreaker words and simply said “it’s common sense.)

My spellchecker needs a check-up.

Let me know if you would be interested in reading the book, and I will tell you its name.  There are no pictures.

We’re Upstairs…

We’re upstairs the other day in the little room at the back of the house.  Just me and her.  We catch a show on the tube.  I can’t remember what the hell it is.  It doesn’t matter.

When it’s over she says she’s going downstairs to take care of some business and maybe we’ll catch another show in time.  Fine, I figure as I follow her down.  We’ll reassemble in a while.

I tell her I have a couple of things to do myself.  I say I have a wash to do.  I’m downstairs now saying this.  The clothes hamper is in our bedroom. The bedroom is directly above where I am saying this.  Upstairs.

She goes into the family room where I had left the vacuum cleaner a couple of hours earlier.  The day before I figured I would vacuum downstairs on this day, so I’d gotten the thing out of the closet early in the morning.

Her desk is there, and she sits at it to do…whatever.  I see the vacuum and remember what it is there for.

I turn around and leave, walk down the short hall to the stairs and begin to mount them.

Then I stop a few steps up.  I just stop.  And I think, or try to think, why am I climbing the stairs?  Oh, I think finally, I’m going upstairs to vacuum.  But then I think I can’t remember if the vacuum is upstairs, or still in the closet.  No, I remember, it is in the family room where I put it only a little while ago.

And, I turn to go and get it.

As I reach the bottom of the stairs and begin to walk down the little hall to the family room to get the vacuum I remember the wash I said I wanted to do.

I stop, turn and return to the stairs, climb them to our bedroom, get the hamper, take it to the basement and start the clothes washing.

I spend a lot more time on the stairs than I used to.

The floors got vacuumed after the wash was done.  We got together a bit later in the day and watched another show.

The Light and The Dark

You know, I should know better because I am part of the tradition.  So are about 95 percent of the folks who inhabit these great Untied States of America, whether or not they care to admit it.  I suppose saying that I am a part of the …oh, let’s make it a title…”Tradition” make me a little bit smug.  But, I really have no right to be smug, don’t you know.  What with all that’s happening around me now and for the next couple of weeks I am once more going to be torn between what I find myself doing and the nagging feeling that I should be doing something more.

Every year at this time the Christmas rush starts gathering momentum like a great avalanche.  (Aside:  Do I notice a trend, in keeping with everything else about this time of year to change the name of what we “do” to something called the “holiday shopping season”?) During the next few weeks until December 24th we’ll be unable to turn anywhere without being assaulted by reminders in the form of advertisements in every kind of media, crowds of people, impossibly clogged roads and a sort mania that one has a duty, in this world, to consume, and to do it on a vast scale.   (Good Saint Aldous Huxley, pray for us!)

Or else?  Well, or else financial and economic ruin will result for the nation; ruin greater than cliff jumping.  The business sections of papers and journals like the New York Slimes regularly carry stories on how fingers are being crossed and brows knit in hope and worry in corner offices all over the land.  They want us to spend and are afraid we won’t.

And so, we must shop.  It amounts to an obligation of good citizenship, I think, more important than voting often (and early); especially in light of the utter failure of anyone we elect to do anything at all constructive anywhere at any time.  It is as if we are solving our own mess by buying more and putting it all on the card.  And, it seems to me to be a responsibility we have assumed with unrivaled determination and a kind of manic joy akin to the feeling madmen might get by hitting themselves over and over with large pieces of wood.  One asks: to what good end, aside from the positive one of staving off another recession if one believes the grim forecasts from those bean counters and entrail readers?

Well, so that us and the kids (It’s always the kids, isn’t it, the little Darlin’s?) can have a good Christmas we always answer.  Really?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This won’t be another of those “Put Christ Back in Christmas” exhortations; another foam flecked, fist shaking, roof raising rant.  That horse has left the barn long ago.  Nah, I’m, sure you already have every answer you’ll need, the best one being, “Huh?”  But, if we shop till we drop will that save us from hobo camps and bread lines next summer?  Must we exhaust ourselves in the interests of our fellow citizens and little Contemptua and the twins, Aspergone and Lubricious who just won’t be happy until they awaken and see $2,000.00 apiece worth of shiny plastic and metal things made in Indonesia, Bangladesh and China by kids their age, kids who eat one meal a week, scattered all over the play room?  Have we really an obligation to go out and spend hundreds on that new AIKIDO coffee pot that is also a flat screen TV, a poncho and a fly rod?  Is it the right thing to do if you love your country?  Is it?

I guess I don’t love America enough, or in the right way, because I’d like not to do that.  Yet, in spite of myself I enter the lists, and do battle with my fellow consumers in the interests of “truth, justice and the American way.”  Sometimes  when I am in the middle of this civic minded frenzy I hear a voice deep inside me, a small whisper.  “Whoa,” says the little thing, weakly.  “Wait a minute.  You know better.”  It asks, “Is this the “spirit” of Christmas?  Are you lighting a light in the darkness?”  But, then, the next flyer from Wal-Mart arrives full of stuff everyone doesn’t need but can’t do without.  There’s no escape from the exhortations, the temptations, to buy.  There’s no release from the obligation to get the next thing, the “new” thing, because it really is our duty so to do.  Fail in that and the lights will go out, the whole tinsel covered structure will come crashing down.

I’m torn because I know something else is going on.  I came of age in a time and place among people who seemed to intuit this isn’t all there is.  They lived with an understanding that something more exists both beyond and mixed in with what we can see and experience with the small bundle of only five senses we possess.   And, that fact set limits on them.  They gave over to the “mystery” of the things greater than them.   They knew that they were not the measure of all things, that no matter what they did, how hard they tried they would…on their own..never be the best they could be.

But, that’s a subject for another day.

This market madness which affects us more or less all year long, but especially so at this time of year, has about chased that sense of there being more to life than a time share in the Colorado Rockies so far down the road it just don’t count no more for many if not most of us.  And, poor kids, Clytemnestra and Rubicon will never even suspect it exists, plugged in as they will have been since age two.  Too bad.

We spend now, what is it, close to three months buying and getting and the day formerly known as Christmas begins when the kids wake up on December 25th.  It begins right around Halloween, and is really over when all the toys are opened, the videos take and the lights on the camcorder shut off.  Gorging, drinking, football games and bouncing girls in fur trimmed bikinis have more to do with blood sport in Coliseums than anything a civilized people would engage in.  When the day ends, when Uncle Grumpus, Aunt Morbidia and the cousins have driven off (Thank God!) all we have left is the feeling Miss Peggy Lee used to sing about: “Is that all there is?”  The lights are out.  Actually, despite the dancing reindeer and descending Santa out on the lawn, they never came on.  The lights never really came on.

The Feast of Christmas used to take a while to get ready for: four whole weeks.  It had a name, Advent, which meant something, someone, was coming.  I’ll leave you to wonder who or what that might be.  The way one got ready was to engage in a little interior house cleaning, practice being nice to each other and that jerk across the street, and clean up one’s act, generally.  Then Christmas came, the long awaited and welcomed time, and the celebration lasted for twelve days.  Some even kept it for forty days.  Imagine that!  By that time the year had turned and light was growing.  The world of sense mirrored that of the spirit.  How odd, that those ignorant ancestors of ours had a better idea?

I should know better, all right.  For crying out loud I do know better.  All that buying and all that getting, all those lights on all those trees and dancing blow up dolls on lawns can’t hold back the night.

Only one Light does that.

 

Please Pass, Cough! Cough!, The Butter, Dear?

We live in a smallish town in New Hampshire, the Granite State.  The town is called Nashua and it rests on the border between us and The People’s Republic of Taxachusetts.  As with most places in America, the most powerful beings in the town are the automobiles.  The Peddlar’s Daughter and Martha’s Exchange are two restaurants in the center of town, one of the favorite places for automobiles to hang out.  This is a disquisition about restaurants, automoblies and rare aquatic creatures.  Some of it is true and actually happened…or happens.

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It was a couple of years ago this happened.  My wife and I were having a quiet lunch outside at the back of the Peddlar’s Daughter.  It was a lovely day in late Spring.  Or, was it early Summer.  No matter, the day was just fine, and the venue just fine, too.

Why, you are entitled to ask, did we choose to eat our lunch way back there away from the madding crowd?  The question provides its own answer.  I have sat at table in front of Martha’s Exchange on lovely evenings, and tried to carry on a conversation.  One gets distracted among the rumble of cars and trucks, the roar of Harleys and the sight of their middle aged riders’ unruly mullets, floppy tattooed arms bared to the shoulder under their leather vested colors.  And, that’s just the women bikers.  It is a problem to carry on a conversation above the roar.  It is worse, though, eating while wondering what delicious coating of petro-chemicals was softly descending onto my crusted salmon.

Lest you think I have an animus against Martha’s, please let me put you at your ease.  I do like the place very much, and especially enjoy their craft beers.  We need Martha’s.  We need The Peddlar’s, too, and all the other downtown venues.  But, you know, every time I drive in either direction on Main Street during the summer I feel two things.  I feel sorry for the folks outside trying to have a nice meal  in all of those nice places that line those few blocks, and I feel guilty about being there in my car among all the other vehicles spitting noxious gases, making indecent noises.  And, I think, there must be something we can do to make this a more congenial place.  After all, cars don’t vote.

That is why we chose the back of The Peddlar’s over the front where we could “be seen” and admired as we believe we should be.

I know that the folks down at City Hall have ordered up and darn near completed a bit of a makeover for that part of Main Street near Peddlar’s Daughter.  I happen to think they did a nice job.  The six lights give the bridge there a kind of 19th century retro look.  The granite posts, while they won’t prevent a terrorist in a bomb filled pick-up from crashing into the bridge and ruining river traffic for months, do remind me of hitching posts.  I see them and say, “You know, a horse drawn carriage would look good tied up along here.”  And, I day dream, imagining a scene from a Sherlock Holmes film.

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My wife and I escaped for a week long cruise up the Rhine a few weeks ago.  We stopped along the way in several old towns and cities.  I remember one sight among many pleasant ones.  In every one of these places, these old towns vehicular traffic is banned, more or less, from the center.  Town centers, town squares, are flooded with people.  Even in November, by God, the squares are full of restaurants and cafes with tables in front of them playing host to substantial numbers of customers enjoying coffee and other lovely things.  Alongside the cafes, and in between, shops carry on a brisk business.  Those places are people magnets, especially now, when they fill up with outdoor Christmas Markets; as I imagine they do regularly on other occasions throught the year.

The sight we saw?  That was in Cologne in the central square before the huge hundreds of years old cathedral.  There in the middle of the place, crowds of people flowing by it, was a Mercedes limousine, brand new, black and shiny; a vehicle of power and authority.  Inside of it was the driver…trapped.  He was trying to get off the square and could not move.  How he had gotten on was a mystery to me.  How he would get off was an even greater one.

Why not here as well as in Cologne?

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After we left our delightfully serene lunch in the back of The Peddlar’s Daughter that day, we strolled out along the walk and began to cross the bridge.  There were two couples, tourists obviously, taking pictures of each other on the bridge facing toward the old power station that is now Margarita’s.  Strolling by I asked one of the couples had they seen any of the “fresh water sharks” which inhabit the river.  “Sharks,” they said questiongly.  I nodded, and added in my most sincere voice that they swim upriver froim the Merrimack to spawn every summer.  These folks called their friends over to the rail as we walked on, leaving them to search for and get a picture of Nashua’s fresh water sharks.

I do happen to think they were satisfied in their quest though the Nashua River shark is a rare animal, but can’t help wondering how many sharks would return, and how many other animals with them, did we make some room for people downtown where now the automobile rules and roars.  Perhaps, we might see the very rare and very gentle New England Manatee again?

Black Friday and the Walking Dead

The morning sun, bright and strong, gilds the leaves of the Japanese
Maple outside my window; the same one split nearly in half last year by
our October Surprise snowstorm. A thin mist rises from the frost covered
grass, subliming upward and disappearing only a few feet above the still
green grass, the leathery oak leaves un raked yet, but sure to go when I
can get my grand son to pay them some attention. I’ll go and make myself
another cup of tea in a little bit, and begin the day.

Across the country the day has long ago begun for thousands, millions of
frenzied bargain hunters and wearied workers. Awake through the night
they toiled and bought, bought and toiled, and still while outside the bright
sun brings beauty, they inside our million climate controlled and “Winter Holiday” gayly decorated malls, serenaded by “seasonally appropriate music” shop on, slog on, grimly determined to finish, finish, finish. What should be joy is slave labor.

I puzzle what makes so many of us give up sleep and leisure for a bargain of dubious worth when so much more is available as gift and free.

Why? Might it have been because they don’t care for bright sunlight,
gilded leaves, gentle mists in the morning? I can’t accept that. I’ll
believe they are simply affected by some sickness that blinds them to
beauty, and hope they may be cured. And, I will give thanks that on this day
and the one to follow I will neither shop nor work in a place filled with
shopping hordes, more animated than the Walking Dead, but to my way of thinking with probably not as much useful purpose.