Newark revisited

January 22, 2008

During the summer of 1967 I worked at a Fresh Air camp in the rural hills of New Jersey. Twenty miles away there was rioting and rebelling in the streets of Newark.

I recall making an emergency trip into that ghetto to return a camper whose mother had been killed by police gunfire. I drove the camp truck and hoped it would be my credential for safe passage. On each corner were crowds of angry black men talking and staring at each vehicle which passed by. Forty years later many corners are still the same.

I was living in Newark in 1968 when Doctor King was murdered. Five of us (all quite white) lived in an African neighborhood. Down the street was Cookie’s Plain and Fancy. We would stop in after class to play pool, shoot darts, and drink High Life. Cookie always had a shotgun behind the bar and James Brown on the jukebox. On the day he bought us a round of beers we felt like honorary members of the neighborhood.

When Martin was assassinated – it all changed. We were told not to return. We moved to the white suburbs soon after.

Evil had its way – with all of us.

leave that tree alone

January 12, 2008

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Tonight Buddy and I roamed the streets of our town. He is an Airedale terrier and loves to be vigilant. Unfortunately his eyesight is not keen and he will often mistake something like a fire hydrant for a possible attacker.

Along our route were many discarded Christmas trees abandoned at curbside. Perceiving them as critters, Buddy would pitch forward on the leash at each sighting. It made these sad encounters refreshingly comical.

I could not help but reflect on all the resources we put into these trees: the time, land, labor, fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, shipping, selling, buying, decorating, stripping, tossing, and disposing. Over 100 million of these trees are harvested worldwide each year. It seems a waste.

About – my didacticism

November 19, 2007

I am often didactic. I know it can be a turn-off. I am sorry. I can’t help myself.

I believe our human problems are solvable. I believe there is wisdom at our disposal. Yet our consciousness is busy with busy work. We are all busy keeping once-useful now-archaic notions alive.

Ideas such as privilege or eternal damnation seem axiomatic to most. They legitimize division and dismissal. Yet my faith and observation  is that God shares everything and never gives up on anyone.

I sense urgency in the air and within myself. Each day brings more sad news. But the tragic has become entertainment rather than a call to action. The very things we ought to be alarmed about become our anesthesia.

People are innately philosophical. If they are given the opportunity (including the freedom and encouragement to think independently) they will find a way to get along.

I need to be a part of that process in several different ways.

EWTN watch

November 5, 2007

Heard on Nov. 3, 2007:

“Only Christ can unite a very sick and sinful human race.”

(Oh, by the way, speaking of sick and sinful – look at the cost of this merchandise at their website)

pretzel arm

February 21, 2007

I am one of those people who love to sweat. Whether running full stride on a warm evening or playing pick-up basketball in the steamy sun, it all seems very cleansing to me.

When I was young, I remember playing with friends, cousins, and siblings long after dark. We would play hide and seek, flashlight tag, and spy. Dirt rings formed around our necks and became badges of festive accomplishment – Doctor of Fun. We went indoors only when enticed by ice cream or threatened with the loss of privilege.

Upon entering the house, a ghostly light in the living room would reveal a gaggle of younger children already lying on the floor facing the television. Their bowls of ice cream sat protected in front of each of them. Quickly we’d run into the kitchen for our share and then peck our way onto the rug which had now become a beach.

As my body cooled, salt formed on the skin. I could lick my forearm like a big pretzel. It seemed a shame to take a bath and wash it all off.