Thursday, January 30, 2020

Here's what I don't understand

In the last week 7 times the people who have viewed any other post have viewed the one below.

I don't understand why. It's over a decade old.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Charlie Manson

He's 74 and bald and has a beard not unlike mine but still more black in in than my whiteness.
I didn't know he was that old until I saw it on the Internet with his new photo, looking even older than 74, but still with the swastika tattooed between his eyes.

I was 22 when the murders happened and as shocked as I was--as we all were--by that violence (how tame it seems to what violence we've known since...) I probably wouldn't be so obsessed with him except for two things. Squeeky Frome, one of his girls, was in prison in Alderson, WV and all things West Virginian interest me. And there was this: the first parish I served was St. James in west Charleston--a black church in a redneck neighborhood because the diocese wanted to kill it off, so far as I could see--about a block from where Charlie grew up. I probably passed relatives or friends of his in the Kroger store or on the street. I was always aware that I was in Charlie's 'neighborhood' while I was the priest at St. James.

And now he is old and will die in prison. And I am getting older and will die somewhere, somehow. Charlie probably had people who loved him when he was a child--maybe not, since that would explain his madness--but I think he did. I don't think madness of the category of Charlie can be easily explained away. He grew up about 75 miles north of where I grew up and his disciples killed Sharon Tate and Abigale Folger and three others one night in California. I'm not sure why I remember those two names and not the names of the other three, who are as dead as Sharon and Abigale.
And I don't know why I was so surprised and moved to see his picture on the web. Or why we are still, in some way connected.

While I was at St. James, there was a gas station half-a-mile down the road that blew up when two men from the state were inspecting the tank. The explanation was that one of them was wearing shoes with heel tabs on them and a spark set off the gaseous residue around the tanks. Does anyone put those tabs on their shoes anymore? But the people in the neighborhood knew different--that gas station blew up because it was only a hundred feet from where Charlie grew up.

Evil endures for most of us and insinuates itself into everything around it.

I heard a radio show today about "excitable children". It was about kids that in my childhood we would have called 'bad'. I wonder if Charlie was like that or if he was just a normal, everyday kid who, in ways beyond believing, went bad?

Maybe if his mom had heard that radio show Charlie would be a CPA in Charleston and Sharon Tate would be an aging starlet and those two guys who got blown to Kingdom Come at the gas station would be grandfathers playing golf somewhere.

My theology runs dry when it is confronted with Charlie Manson or Stalin or Hitler or the rulers in Darfor or those folks who blew themselves up this week to kill innocent people. I don't know what to make of them--they don't fit the grid and defy my optimistic view of human nature.

Today one of the most helpless homeless who come through St. John's, a guy who is seldom, if ever, sober or straight and lives under a bridge or in a tent city behind the Home Depot was wearing a sweat shirt someone obviously gave him that said "Save Darfor".

Don't tell me there is no irony. Irony, by the way, is something I will write about at lengths beyond your willingness to read at some point.

Tonight I will sleep with two thoughts in my mind that I hope my dreams will inform: what is my 'animal familiar', because my friend Malinda told me she asked that from a dream and got a horse--a creature she does not like--AND I hope my dreams will tell me someway to deal with Charlie Manson and his ilk, who I cannot explain.

Sweet dreams.....

On and on it goes

The Impeachment trial in the Senate goes on and on.

Each day something new comes out to add evidence to the President's guilt. Just today, Les Parnes released a half-hour video where the President speaks to him. Just as in the tape he released two days ago.

Two conversation--one about getting rid of an ambassador--with a man the President claims he 'doesn't know'!!!

But we all know that in the end--witnesses or not--the Republicans will vote not to remove him from office and he'll be free to say he was 'exonerated' and continue his behavior.

On and on it goes.

But we all know how it will end.

And not in a way that is good for our democracy or for you and me.

On and on....

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Bradley Girls

Today we got Josh and Cathy's yearly calendar.

It is full of pictures of our three granddaughters.

There are even a few pictures of them with Eleanor McCarthy, our daughter's girl.

I gave Bern a picture a few years ago that said:

"I didn't know how much love my heart could hold
until someone called me 'grandma'."

It's true for 'gandpa' as well.

Oh, those girls....Those girls....

Sunday, January 26, 2020

1/26/2020==RIP Kobe and Gianna

Tragic that 41 year old Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash today.

He was a hero of mine on my favorite NBA team, the Lakers (because Jerry West of West Virginia University played for them).

But more tragic was that his 13 year old daughter Gianna was with him. She is the age of my twin granddaughters, Morgan and Emma. What a loss.

Kobe had much yet to contribute to our world.

But Gianna's life was snuffed out as a child.


Who do you believe?

I watch Sunday talk shows (and Saturday Night Live!) on youtube on Sunday late afternoon and evening.

Today I heard Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) say of the impeachment proceedings, "hopefully, it will be instructive" to the president and cause him to change his behavior.

He said that on the same day that the president tweeted this:

"Shifty Adam Shiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN and probably a very sick man. He has not payed the price, yet, for what he has done to this country."

After Sen. Braun was on Face the Nation, Adam Shiff was. He was asked if he took that tweet as a threat.

He said, "I think it was meant that way."

So, who do you believe?

Will the president change his ways, 'be instructed', or will he continue to attack all opponents like a Mafia don?

Friday, January 24, 2020

B*lls or no B*lls

The democratic members of the House, over three days, have laid out, in detail and tediously, why the president should be impeached.

Now it is getting close to seeing whether Republicans have the b*lls to call for documents or witnesses or not.

I may be incorrect in saying "Republicans" since that party has become the party of "He Who Will Not Be Named" in this blog.

I hear Republicans--real ones--on TV and radio every day saying they have no faith in this president and they are not part of his party any more.

The president has taken over the party and holds them in fear of him and his 40% or so base. For politicians, "election" is the key and this President has threatened them that if they defy him he will bring hell down on them.

No one, who supports the president, had put out any cogent defense against what the impeachment says. There is none.

So do they just dismiss what he did and vote to acquit or not.

Probably the former.

Though over 70% of Americans, in recent polls, want to have documents and witnesses.

Has the president cut off the Senators' b*lls?

I fear so.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A miracle!!!

I went to the DMV in Hamden today, normally a nightmare. But after telling the guy at the desk that I needed to turn in plates from the car we gave to Mimi and Tim and they registered in New York, I hadn't even sat down before my number was called!

I wasn't there even five minutes and got what I wanted.

I also went to the assessor's office and called our insurance agent.

All in a matter of minutes.

A miracle in my book!

A miracle!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


My urologist, Dr. Wong, who looks so much like my daughter-in-law, Cathy Ch
en, that having her touch me there is weird, sent me to an oncologist.

Another woman doctor who has a name with 11 letters in it but is an Episcopalian and goes to Trinity on the Green in New Haven.

The problem is this: I have no prostrate gland, it was removed by surgery because it was cancerous over 15 years ago. But in the last couple of years my PSA in my blood samples have risen as high as 5.2. It should be zero since the prostrate produces PSA.

I now understand that neither urologists or oncologists understand why someone without a prostrate has a PSA count.

They just don't know.

As much as they know, and they know multitudes more than me, they just don't know.

I've had a couple of scans from Dr. Wong and there was nothing there.

Friday next I'll have a pet scan with the oncologist that should say definitely if little pieces of my cancerous prostrate traveled elsewhere.

Hopefully that scan will mean Dr. Wong won't do the test where she sticks a camera down my penis into my bladder which is scheduled in mid-February.

If you've never had a camera put into your bladder, be thankful and I envy you.

But if you have, I hope it wasn't done by someone who looks like your daughter-in-law.

Weird beyond imagining.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"Show" and "Whoa" trial

It's all there in the Senate chamber--the chief justice, the house prosecutors, the president's defense team and 100 silent, supposedly listening senators.

But it's just "show" and "whoa".

The first amendment to the cooked up rules by Senator McConnell was defeated 53-47--straight party lines. And all that was being asked was for witnesses and evidence to be subpoenaed before the trial begins, not at the end.

In no other impeachment trial in the history of the United States--presidential or judicial or other--has the Senate not subpoenaed witnesses and documents.

But they probably won't in this one.

53-47 all the way.

Alas and Alack.

I think the President should be removed. But I would want to hear from everyone involved and see all the evidence available before voting.

Not here.

This is just a 'show'.

This is 'whoa let's stop."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

My prayer

It's the prayer I say before every Eucharist with the participants before we go in.

I used it to end my sermon today at St. Andrews.

And I say it to myself several times a day.

It goes like this:




I'm not sure what else I would pray for.

So, I'm sticking with it.

I seldom suggest that you 'do something', but I do urge you to ponder using this as your prayer.

"God, open my heart to receive your love. Open my mind to receive your truth. Open my life to do your work in the world."

Give it a try. It works or me.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Winter is back

After a week of Autumn like (almost Spring like a couple of days) weather in Connecticut, Winter is back. It's 20 degrees at 8:30 with winds driving the wind chill into the single digits.

And Winter has come for our President. His trial in the Senate has begun and though I don't think there are enough Senate Republicans of Conscience (SRC from now on) to remove him from office the trove of documents just released to the House Intelligence Committee and from them to the media has significantly raised the wind chill.

The lawyers for Les Parnas (Giuliani associate with many photos with the President) reveal how Trump (and perhaps Pence) knew fair well what was going on in the Ukraine.

In a long interview with Rachel Maddow (Conservatives gasp in repulsion at her name) he said over and over that the President 'lied' and that Pence knew too.

Today a federal government watchdog organization (the Government Accountability Office) said, definitively, that withholding the military aid from Ukraine, that had been voted by Congress, 'broke the law'.

Hopefully there are enough SRC to have witnesses in the trial and hopefully, Chief Justice Roberts--who I respect but don't agree with--will make sure that happens if the vote is 50-50. Under impeachment rules, he can break ties.

So bundle up and stay tuned.

Things are getting interesting and tricky.

SRC, stand up and be counted.

For your country and the Constitution you took an oath to uphold.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I've been not writing for a while

Mary Ann's funeral and all the news has kept me from my keyboard for a few days.

Plus, as I've said before, so few people are reading "Under the Castor Oil Tree" these days that I feel rather alone, sitting here typing.

At the funeral, Bishop Ian, at the family's request, had a period of personal sharing before my homily. Many people spoke. At least 4 of them spoke for more time than my sermon took. It went on for an hour. When I finally got up to preach, I began by saying, "I don't know what I can add to all that, but I spent time on this and you're going to listen."

Good laughs for that line.

And the Impeachment has reached the Senate after the president almost started a war with Iran. He's the guy who wanted American troops out of the Mid-East and now he's sending more.

Crazier and crazier this administration become.

Plus, Lev Parnas' bombshell release of documents that makes the whole Ukraine issue even murkier and more damning to the president.

Lots going on.

But I will be posting more this week.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Sad and Thankful

Tomorrow I preach at the funeral of Mary Ann Logue--a friend for over 30 years and a priest who worked with me at St. John's in Waterbury from 1990-1994. I'll let the sermon tell you our story.

Mary Ann Logue—January 11, 2020
          Mary Ann and I clicked at first meeting. It may have been that we were both only children. I can spot another ‘only child’ from across the room. We know much about each other—how to be alone, how to entertain ourselves, how to keep quiet when keeping quiet is good.
          She came from a remarkable Congregational background and lay ministry to join St. Paul’s while I was Rector here, many years ago. I presented her for confirmation and for ordination as a deacon and a priest.
          We spent many hours together discussing theology and our lives.
          Bern and I went to several of Frank and Mary Ann’s fabled Christmas parties and met many people who came to mean a lot to me at them.
          At the lowest point in my life, when I resigned from St. Paul’s and was separated from my wife, with whom I’ll celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary in September, it was Mary Ann who sought me out and found me a job through a friend of hers and supported me greatly as I put my life back together and rejoined my family and eventually found my priesthood all new.
          She also served with me as the assistant Rector at St. John’s in Waterbury for several years.
          Every Monday morning, she would come into my office with a list and tell me what I needed to do that week. I would take the list and carry out her orders. I am not the most focused and purpose driven person you’ll ever meet—so her gift to me was to bring a list to focus on and realize my purpose.
          We were dear friends. After Frank died and she was without him, I would visit her in Hamden, just to talk and keep in touch and share our lives.
          She always shared about Frank and her children and grandchildren. They were all the love of her life. As active and involved as she was in the community and the church, her family was the love of her life. God bless her for that.
          I won’t go on and on about Mary Ann and her accomplishments—you all know about them.
          All I want to say is that I loved her and will miss her greatly. She shared compassion and wisdom and great good spirit with me over the years.
          I thank God for her contributions to my life. And I’m sure all of you thank God for the gifts she gave to you. I’m sure of that.
          I chose today’s gospel—it’s what I want for my funeral—and it’s all about love. Love IS ALL WE NEED. Love of our families, love of our communities, love of our church family, love of our country, love of our environment, love of our world. Love of one another. That’s all we need. And Mary Ann had that love. Believe you me—and I know you do—she had that love.
          Here’s something I shouldn’t tell you. And I certainly shouldn’t say it in front of my bishop…
          But, here it is: I’m not sure what happens when we die.
          I would pray it was like one of Mary Ann and Frank’s Christmas parties. But I don’t know.
          I’m not sold on streets of gold and angel wings. I just don’t know.
          What I do know is love is what matters and we do that on this earth, while we’re alive. Like Mary Ann did, every day of her life.
          But, as a priest, I wear white at a funeral—not the color of mourning, but the color of Easter, the color of Hope, the color of new life.
          And I rely on the words of St. Francis of Assisi, everyone’s first or second favorite saint, once wrote: “Death is not a door that closes; it is a door that opens and we walk in, all new, into the presence of the One who loves us best of all.”
          For those of us still on our earthy pilgrimage, Death is a closed door.
          We are not with those who we love but see no more.
          But I believe and believe fair well, that for Mary Ann, Death was a door that opened and she entered in all new—“all new”—into the presence of the One who loves her best of all.
          That I believe—whatever it means—that I believe.
          “All new…all new…all new….”

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

If you are still alive to read this....

So the President (Who Will Not Be Named Here) killed a national hero of Iran and then tonight Iran launched dozens of missiles at American bases in Iraq. No count on casualties yet.

So the President is meeting with his meat-head advisors about how to respond.

(I've watched dozens of video of the President back in 2011, saying Obama (Who Will Be Named Here With Pride!) would start a war with Iran to win re-election.)

Is that what's going on?

Who knows?

I'd no more want to be in the President's head than I'd want to be in our dog, Brigit's head.

I'd probably be more lost in the President's brain than in Brigit's.

All the General's and Cournel's and pundits I've heard tonight have said, "do nothing" and try to cool things off.

That makes sense.

Will the President do that?

When has he ever 'made sense'.

Hope you're still alive to read this.

You know, don't you, that two of Iran's chief allies are Russia and China.

And the President has angered all our allies with his nonsense.

Doesn't sound like a fair fight to me.

Keep your head down.

Sunday, January 5, 2020


I married a woman I met in Latin class when she was 14 and I was 17.

Mimi married a man she knew in college.

Josh married a woman he met in law school.

Education is wondrous.

Shimer College and my life

As a junior in high school, I became enamored of Shimer College in Chicago. It was a 'great books' school, like St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, which was Mimi's second choice to the school she chose, Bennington College in Vermont. Shimer is now a part of North Central College in Naperville, IL.

Here was the problem--Shimer required at least one year of a foreign  language for admission. Gary High School was very small--99 people in my graduating class--and only offered two foreign language classes. My senior year it was French 2, which I obviously couldn't do, and Latin 1.

Latin 1 was mostly 9th and 10th grade students, except for me. Miss Sargent, a stern woman, was the teacher.

But here's the thing--if I hadn't had that class I would have never met 9th grader Bernadine Pisano, who became my girlfriend and then my wife when we were 23 and 20 and first lived together in Cambridge for my second year at Harvard Divinity School.

I didn't go to Shimer College, I went to WVU instead and Bern came for my senior year as a freshman. But without Shimer I wouldn't have taken Latin 1 and wouldn't have met her.

And our two children and four grand-daughters would have never been born.

Ponder, if you want to, the decisions that have shaped your lives.

If you hadn't done 'a', the 'b' and 'c' and 'd' and all through the alphabet wouldn't have happened.

Amazing how one decision can completely change and enhance your life.

Amazing how undoing 'a' would have made your life a totally different journey.


Truly amazing.

Thank God for Shimer College and Latin 1 all those years ago.

Really, thank God. My whole life rolled out from taking that Latin class for a college I never attended!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Impeachment news

Stuff is coming out about e-mails about Ukraine's funds (approved by Congress) being withheld by the President and about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians.

The President has been tweeting and talking about a 'Kangaroo Court' and if the Republican leadership doesn't allow witnesses and documents on the 'trial' in the Senate, then the whole definition of a 'Kangaroo Court will be fulfilled.

The s*** gets deeper and deeper.

Who has a shovel?

I know a lot of people support the President, but it becomes clearer and clearer that crimes were committed and must be addressed.

This horribly and deeply divided country is held hostage by a man who is, at best, a sociopath and narcissist.

Something has to happen.

My biggest fear is how to get him out of the White House if he is convicted and removed from office.

There are people who would take up arms to prevent that.

This  is as scared as I've ever been--and I'm one of those kids who were taught to hide under desks in the classroom (as if that would help!) in case of a nuclear attack.

That's how scared I am for our democracy and this country I so love.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Hoppin' John

As always, we had Hoppin' John for dinner tonight on New Year's Day. It's for good luck and propriety in the year to come.

Hoppin' John is black eyed peas, rice, pork and cooked greens of some kind.

The tradition began in the South in the 1800's.

Black eyed peas were brought to this country from Africa with the slaves. They symbolize coins and prosperity.

Pork symbolizes good luck and the greens also point to money.

Rice is just to hold everything together.

So, whether you had Hoppin' John or not, may you're new year bring you good luck and prosperity.

(One legend around the dish is that an ex-slave nicknamed Hoppin' John, sold peas and rice in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina. No proof of that.)

Happy New Year!

May 2020 bring us a new President!!!!

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.