Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Love My New Picturer: Florence, Italy Says So

I could hardly believe I was standing at the foot of The David. But I was. It was as if I had met some part of myself that I had kept deep inside my soul since the day I learned of this magnificent work or art...

After an hour or so (not enough) with The David, we set off for the short walk to the Duomo di Firenze - Cattedrale di S.Maria del Fiore. The Cahtedral of Saint Mary Of The Flower.

We met a family at the top of the Dome. We asked each other to take pictures. They were from Ireland. The Dad landed a three year contract teaching in Italy. Their youngest was quite good at Italian. (T-shirt art courtesy of Cindra's husband, and my friend, Tom.)

Karen and I climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Dome. If you look to the right of the bell tower, down there on the ground, that is the very spot I would stand later to take the evening shots of the piazza...

Here is a glimpse through one of the few windows on the way up to the top...

The piazza at dusk...

When we sat down to eat this, Karen brought up Don Novello's wonderful Guido Sarducci character and this bit he did once where he says, "We're gonna play a little-a game-a. It's called, 'Find-a the Pope inna the pizza.'" It was only then that I remembered that I had brought a papal prop along that I was going to set up for special pictures. Here is the result.

I couldn't find that particular Sarducci piece on YouTube, but this will do. Prepare to laugh a LAWGHT:

One of the girls caught me snapping pictures of the group as they socialized over beer and cigarettes around the corner where Karen and I sat down to find-a da Pope-a inna da pizza. She organized what turned out to be a series of group shots. It was as if they did this sort of thing every day. They look so comfortable and relaxed.

You don't go to Florence and not walk on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). They say it's a miracle from God that this bridge did not fall victim to World War II. A miracle, I tell you...

On the way to the hotel, we stopped at this supermercato and scored big time!...

A Thankful Hapsgiving to all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Friend Came To Visit

This is Jeremy Driscoll. I love him. And I love his face.

Jeremy is a monk of Mt. Angel Abbey. He is also a priest. Ordination to the priesthood does not occur automatically with monks. In fact, in the old days even the Abbott wasn't normally ordained. St. Benedict of Nursia was born in 480 A.D. and is considered the founder of western cenobitic monastacism. The Greeks booked out their own form prior to Benedict. Prior. Get it? You might have to be--or have been--a monk to get THAT little joke. The Abbott would just have one of the monks kneel before a bishop for the laying on of hands so that the community could celebrate the liturgy of the eucharist without having to dial for a rent-a-priest from the diocese.

Monastic life is a calling. Sort of like being a doctor or an attorney or a writer or a police officer. Being a priest and a monk is regarded as a vocation within a vocation. Priesthood is secondary to that of responding to the call of being a monk. But here's a little bit about monasticism that most folks are not aware of:

There is no such thing as a vow of silence. Never has been. Never will be. I suppose some cultist could come up with such a thing. But the thought of such is just pure silliness. As with most cult tenets.

Monks live the cenobitic life. That means they live together in a community. In very rare cases, a monk may petition the Abbott to set off in a discipline known as the eremetical life. "Eremos," in Greek means desert. Only a monk who has done very well living within the contexts of community has a shot at becoming a hermit. Hermits are still joined to their community and in most cases it is insisted that he or she attend some community functions, especially Chapter. Chapter is where all the solemnly professed monks gather to vote on matters of various importance relative to the functioning of the house.

Monks take three vows: Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life. They do not take Poverty, Chastity and Obedience as is often thought. No. Not so. Mendicants do that. A mendicant belongs to an order such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Augustinians. These are not monks. These are mendicants. The word comes from the Latin meaning "to beg." The word "monk" derives its meaning from the Greek "mono," hinting at singleness or aloneness. But the monastic life has very little to do with going solo. It is all about being purged in the fire of community that one becomes holy.

The vow of Obedience literally means to "incline one's ear," to "listen up," to "pay attention." Ob-audire. Audio. Audience. Obedience. Get it? This concept is key to the beginning of St. Benedict's Holy Rule For Monks and you see it in the opening lines of the Prologue. If you go to the link, there follows a commentary by Father Philip Lawrence, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict). He is currently the Abbott of Christ in the Desert near Abiquiu, New Mexico. Phillip is also a former monk of Mt. Angel Abbey.

The vow of Conversion of Life embraces both poverty and chastiy. The latter is necessary to the function of celibacy. And it is celibacy which permits one to cleave to no single person other than God. It's a concept that has been lived out by millions of people over thousands of years. And not just Christians. The practice of celibacy predates any known manifestation of even the earliest far eastern philosophies. There are just some people who are called to be "set apart" for the sake of walking with the Creator. Even if there were a married clergy in the Roman Church, there will always be those who are called to celibacy. Many people are chaste. But that does not make them celibate. Celibacy is a way of life, a conceptual framework flowing from a sense of having been called and having responded to that call. People always ask me why I left the monastic life. Truthfully, I'm not sure what happened. It is much easier to answer why I entered and why I stayed as long as I did.

Besides cenobitic and eremetic monks (hermits), there are the anchorites. Julian of Norwich (not canonized, and so not a saint, but a terrific mystic of the 14th Century) was an anchorite. Julian speaks of Jesus as "the Mother of mercy." Anchorites literally anchored themselves to a church and in some cases were walled up and unable to leave their cell. But not so the cenobite, not so.

The vow of Stability refers to the monk's resolve to make vows to a particular community. That is the family he will live with until he dies. There is no putting in for a transfer. Jeremy teaches theology half the year in Rome. But he always comes home to his community and that will never change.

It was good to be able to spend some time with him. We took a walk along the edge of Yaquina Bay:

You will recognize the pintails and wigeon in this one...

The large birds are geese. Black Brandt. The others are wigeon...

Here's what's going on here: About five years ago, I was headed out to the flats at low tide to harvest some Upogebia pugettensis for a planned sturgeon fishing trip the next day. I happened to glance up at a seagull flying overhead and carrying an object in its mouth. I watched the bird as it crossed the flats and when it reached the beach, it was as if it put the brakes on and almost came to a dead hover. It climbed about 10 feet and then began a descent. As it did so, it released the object which landed on the beach with a thud. The bird quickly landed and reclaimed its object whereupon it repeated the action. I realized that the bird had picked up a cockle and was cracking it open. I have lived here since 1981 and had never noticed this activity. It's as though the birds have learned this trick in the last 10 years or so. This is a picture of the increased sophistication they've achieved. One of them tried it on a roof. Apparently, a fad was begun. Can you imagine working inside this building and hearing the bombardments?...

Jeremy's most recent books are What Happens At Mass and A Monk's Alphabet.

I miss him already...

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Camporeale. If it were a Spanish word, I would assume it had something to do with a field. "Camp" comes to mind. All I know is that my father's parents were born there and that, after two and a half hours in the home of a complete stranger, neither she nor her 80 year old retired veterinarian brother, Bartoldo could piece it together that, although we did share surnames, we were not related by blood. But, anyway you cut it, we have two new friends in Camporeale.

This one is for Scarlet. If you are in the language loop on this inside joke, you will get a chuckle. (Hey Scarlet---what do you think that initial "G" stands for? I have my own ideas, since this IS in Sicily, after all!!! Let me put it this way: It ain't a "P" for pequeno! LOL)

Here is something Somewhere Joe would never, EVER come out and say. But I am going to come out and say it: I just LOVE this shot! Taken at the seawall in Cefalu (cheh-fuh-LOO).

It rained in Cefalu:

My sister, Karen and Judy at our hotel (Baia del Capitano Hotel) in Mazzaforno, just outside Cefalu. Where it rained:

I couldn't have said this any better. I got it here.

"Cefal├╣, small port on the northern coast of Sicily, in the province of Palermo, on the railway to Messina. Located on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of a peak rising about 300 m (nearly 1000 ft) out of the sea, Cefal├╣ is the center of a fertile agricultural region. The city's cathedral, one of the most remarkable examples of Norman Architecture in Italy, was begun in 1131 by King Roger II, the first king of Sicily, and completed in 1148. Population (1996) 13,882."

Here is my take on the interior. I didn't use a flash, either (click on the mosaics link in Galen's website and see what I mean). I had to hold that new picturer really steady. Galen, I think, swaps the numbers a bit when he says the cathedral was begun in 1131. Actually, all the other sites I've checked say it was begun in 1311. Not 1312 or 1313. No. 1311. And not by the FIRST Norman named Roger, but by the second one named Roger. Anyway, the text that Jesus is holding is written in Greek. And it appears to be from the Gospel of John. It begings, "I am the light of the world." But it is written in an old script and a bit challenging. I will work on it some more. Galen does go on to say that it was completed in 1348, so there ya go:

This guy had a dog. I think that's pretty cool. I'm a dog lover. And a cat lover. But this guy had a dog:

This is something extra you won't get on just ANY blog. The initials to the left and right of the Virgin Mary (they used first and last letters of words) stand for (on the left) MATER (MAY-ter) or Mother, and then on the right OF GOD (thay-EW[ew, like when you step in something bad]). And those aren't just regular angels flanking her, either. Oh, no, no, no. They are ARCH (ark) ANGELS; RAFAEL (not RAFE-ee-ul; it's raw-phai-EL) on the left with his name tag conspicuously displayed, and GABRIEL on the left, following same company name tag policy. Down there underneath the main stage are the grouping of the Apostles beginning (as pictured) with MARKOS on the far left, then Matthew to his left (our right), the Peter. I can't make out the other guys to our right. Sorry. I am guessing that the second one is Thomas. But I doubt it. (HA!!!! Get it?! Thomas? DOUBT it! GAWD, I JUST KILL ME!!!!)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Am Being Held Captive---Send Help!

Okay. Here's what happened.

I flew my little airplane up here to Auburn, Washington so the guy could put the Garmin GNS430W in the panel. September 4th. He said he was "shooting for the 12th" and then the 17th, and then the 26th. Of September. September came and September went. No airplane. The install did not take place.

Went to Italy (see previous posts). Returned from Italy (see previous posts). October came and October went. I returned on October 29th and called the avionics guy. He said, "Hey, when are ya gonna come up and get your airplane? I need to get paid." I tell him that Monday the Monday the 5th of November (no, not September because that had come and gone; not October for same reason), but November.

So I got a guy to fly me up in his beautiful Cessna 180 with 300 horsepower P-Ponk conversion. Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Dave says he'd be glad to do it. It would be a great day to fly.

On Sunday evening the avionics dude calls and asks if he can have one more day. I ask him again (as I had already done)---"Is the airplane DONE?" He says, of course, it's done. But the kid is sick and the wife is sick. I tell him it has to be Monday. No room to budge. Got plans Wed/Thurs and am working overtime on Tuesday. Has to be Monday. He acquiesces.

Dave and I call prior to departure from the beautifully sunny Oregon coast. The avionics dude asks if we've checked the weather cuz it was foggy "up here in Auburn." We tell him we have checked and that the weather will improve by the time we get there. It had. We landed.

Avionics dude walks up to me as I get out of the plane and says, "Damn. I goofed. I have some bad news. I cut the number two com wire by mistake." I ask him how bad that is and can I at least leave because I HAVE AN APPOINTMENT AT 3 O'CLOCK IN CORVALLIS. He says, "Oh. No way. You can't leave." I go look at the airplane. Not only is it not done, but it has never BEEN done. There are empty holes everywhere. Wires dangling everywhere. I feel sick to my stomach. Dave and I look at each other. I say some words to the avionics guy. I have to restrain myself because he still has my airplane.

Dave and I leave. I pay the 171 dollar fuel bill (at the cheapest place in the state right now, Newport, @ $3.99/gallon). I call my appointment and tell him to go ahead and bill me for the missed appointment.

Avionics dude says he will have the plane done "in a day; it will be ready tomorrow." Tomorrow, at that point, was two days ago---Tuesday. But I had to work.

By some miracle (thoughts become things!), the weather was still good on a November day when we normally pull down 18-22 inches of rain in that single month. Sunny day. Beautiful day. I call the avionics guy and confirm our appointment. He says he has one thing to do that will take about a half hour. One hour and 16 minutes later (GAWD, that 180 goes fast!), we land in Auburn, Washington. The plane is not done.

The avionics guy says "I have to do this, and that will take about 10 minutes. I have to do that and that will take about 10 minutes. And then there are these things to go in. So, it should be done in two hours."

Two hours? Dave can't wait two hours. He and I were going to fly back together. I was going to take off first and see how long it would take for him to pass me. He was going to help me push my plane into the hangar when we got back.

Dave took off. I sent him on his way. We landed at 2:15pm. I took off last night at 7:15pm. But the weather had deteriorated and the weather dude on Flight Watch at the frequency of 122decimalZEROzero said conditions are IFR along the route, VFR not recommended. There is a saying: "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots; but there are no old, bold pilots." I returned to the airport.

I love the Auburn Days Inn. My room faces the airport and I can look right down the runway. There is free coffee and belgium wallfel action in the lobby. And get this: Internet is free. FREE!!! I was expecting them to charge me 7 Euros for one hour or 4 Euros for 10 minutes (like that one place in Florence).

I called my friend, Tom last night and cancelled our fishing outing planned for this morning. I called Cindra. I called Juniper. I called Dave. I callled Bob. I called Don. Now I will call Logo and Lime.

It is foggy here. Very, very foggy. It is supposed to lift.

I want to go home. And I can't. And I don't like that. But it is a great little spot I have found and I know I will return some day. Albertson's is right across the street. I am going to go buy one of those huge pomegranates and make lemonade. Well, you get the point.

No change in the fog and it's 10:05am.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Less A-typical

Okay, here's a more typical one:

I have a thing for person hole covers:

Here's another one:


As an I/A officer, I am sometimes assigned to the Rome desk to make sure things are on the up-an-up. This investigation is still pending. If any of you reads lips, please feel free to assist with this task: