Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


North Star, South of the Border & Good Sam Sunday

Oh Canada, might you be the North Star to our immigration crisis here on our southern border?  A window — an icon — into a more humane way?

The Canucks have done something amazing up there.  Hockey moms, poker buddies, and neighbors have adopted Syrian refugees, one family at a time.

A 2016 article in the New York Times tells the story, highlighted here:

Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility: They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands…

When Ms. McLorg, one of the sponsors, first met the Mohammad family, she had a letter to explain how sponsorship worked: For one year, Ms. McLorg and her group would provide financial and practical support, from subsidizing food and rent to supplying clothes to helping them learn English and find work. She and her partners had already raised more than $40,000 Canadian dollars, selected an apartment, talked to the local school and found a nearby mosque.

In the hotel lobby where they met, she clutched a welcome sign written in Arabic but could not tell if the words faced up or down. When the Mohammads appeared, Ms. McLorg asked their permission to shake their hands. 

 Abdullah had worked in his family’s grocery stores and Eman had been a nurse, but after three years of barely hanging on in Jordan, they were not used to being wanted or welcomed.  The family had been in Canada less than 48 hours and their four children, all under 10, had been given  parkas with the tags still on. (It’s cold up there!)

As they headed to their new home, Abdullah asked,“You mean we’re leaving the hotel?” And“to himself, he wondered, “What do these people want in return?”

Much of the world is reacting to the refugee crisis — 21 million displaced from their countries — with hesitation or hostility. Greece shipped desperate migrants back to Turkey; Denmark confiscated their valuables; and even Germany, which has accepted more than half a million refugees, is struggling with growing resistance to them. Broader anxiety about immigration and borders reverberates across the globe.

Reverberating urgently here in the United States, as well, but…

Just across the border,  the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand to welcome them.

“I can’t provide refugees fast enough for all the Canadians who want to sponsor them,” John McCallum, the country’s immigrations minister said.

No matter your politics or policy opinions, no one can doubt there is a crisis on our southern border. Illustrated poignantly in the heartbreaking drawing of a child, the tragedy hits home.  A crush of humanity: men, women, and children fleeing political unrest and violence in Central America have overwhelmed our immigration system.  And by our government’s own accounting, by the Inspector General of Homeland Security, detention center conditions are abhorrent: overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe and unimaginable.  The United States has detained thousands whose only crime is legally seeking asylum. Legally seeking security and safety. The safety and security, we take for granted.

Drawing by a migrant child at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

Which makes this story from north of the border seem almost like a fairy tale.

What the Canadians are doing is not without risk of course. It is far from easy. It’s messy, and complicated, and expensive.  There are no crystal balls to know ten years from now – how this will all play out. While the Canadians vet the immigrants the best they can, there is no guarantee there are not bad apples among them.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Good Samaritan

But this is the cost of compassion — the story of the Good Samaritan writ large. 

And if anyone were to ask in this global village – in this world of ours – what is the “essence” of our faith?   Jesus has the answer, his answer to the lawyer’s question in the Gospel of Luke.

 “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

“Do this and you shall live.”

“But who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer asks.

And Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, probably the most familiar parable in all of scripture.

“And which of these three, do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 

“The Samaritan” – the lawyer replies – “the one who showed him kindness.” The Samaritan — a despised foreigner, a believer of a rival creed. The Samaritan crosses the road, reaches deep into his own pockets and binds up the stranger’s wounds.

And what are we to do?

That not so famous theologian, Kurt Vonnegut, in his book, A Man without a Country, recounts an encounter with a young American from Pittsburgh, who asks: “Please tell me everything will all be okay?” 

 And Vonnegut replies:

“Welcome to Earth, young man. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside Joe, you have about a hundred years here. There is only one rule that I know: Goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind.”

Simplistic? Naïve?  Well according to Jesus, being kind can make all the difference in the world.

The priest and the scribe flee the scene, but not the Good Samaritan.  He is kind beyond words.  And in our current crisis, we can be too.

Charity Navigator is a helpful resource. They report: The recent news of children being separated from their caretakers at the border of Mexico and the United States highlights the need for a larger conversation about families fleeing their homes, communities, and countries in the wake of famine, social unrest, persecution, war, and environmental disasters. Highly-rated nonprofits advocate for and provide relief to refugees, internally displaced persons, and stateless groups around the world. They seek to provide for individuals basic needs like food, water, and shelter while advocating for policies and legislation that will address the root causes of this crisis.

First is very close to home, our very own —

Christ Church Refugee Ministry – Three years now, Emmanuel has shepherded three different Afghan refugee families.  Join the Care Team – which helps with everyday needs such as clothing, doctor’s appointments, and household needs. Or donate dollars to the cause, Christ Church Refugee Ministry currently helps 29 families here in the City of Alexandria. 

Second is Mother Church: Episcopal Migration Ministries provides resources for education, advocacy and direct relief and assistance to migrants and refugees. In 2017, EMM resettled more than 4,000 refugees from 34 countries in 30 communities across the country. 

And there are many other organizations working on frontlines to address this crisis: the Texas Civil Rights Project, The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Church World Service, Oxfam America and UNICEF USA, are just a few.

May this Sunday, July 14thbe Good Sam Sunday, to do something tangible and concrete.  May God grant us ample compassion to cross the road to bind the stranger’s wounds – the stranger who is our neighbor – no matter where they come from.

And  so, let me end this post with a prayer from the BCP,

O God, you made us in your own image: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time, all nations and races may serve one another in harmony, in your name. Amen.


Soul Cycling & The Blessing of the Bicycles (#2)

This post is about soul-cycling, but not the studio kind. No, it’s about the kind of ride that stirs the soul to raise up hope in a crazy world. I am talking about the rides of our lives – be they literally from the seat of a bike – or literally by the seat of our pants — in whatever our vocation might be.

As an Episcopal priest, I celebrate the sacraments. As Associate for Liturgy & Hilarity at Emmanuel, in an Excel spreadsheet, I construct our weekly worship.   Cycling (yes, pun intended) through the church’s seasons, I play liturgical Legos. With about a dozen moving parts, I piece together the service pulling from a variety of sanctioned sources.  The Book of Common Prayer, of course, but also the Book of Occasional Services, Enriching Our Worship, the Revised Common Lectionary, and the ELCA Sundays & Seasons prayers and petitions. Prayers and petitions, which I edit each week to reflect the needs of this god forsaken world.

A labor of love. At Emmanuel we use far more of the Book of Common Prayer than parishes who simply pick up the book. Episcopal worship is expansive, elastic and flexible. And here at Emmanuel, we flex as far as the rubrics will allow:

Rite III Youth Eucharist the first Sunday of the month.

The Blessing of the Animals in October.

A Contemplative Christmas in December.

A Celtic Eucharist in February.

Down to Earth Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.

Pentecost & Pride in June.

And the 2ndannual Blessing of the Bicycles to celebrate the summer solstice.

Last year we had 120 folks of all ages with their trikes and bikes. I brought and baptized my own new shiny red pseudo-Schwinn with the fat white tires. Though I confess, I have not ridden my bike much in the last year. Given my personal recent rocky road, I imagine I might be much better off if I had.

I am really an avid pedestrian. To keep myself walking, I started this thing called Soul Strolling – an hour’s sojourn and conversation, one on one, a parishioner and me, walking local highways and byways and trails. Muscles in motion is good for the soul.

So, maybe I should start Pedaling with the Pastor  to get me back on my bike. An hour’s ride with parishioner and priest, cycling together to some favorite watering hole or coffee shop. This great idea is not my idea. I stole from Pastor Ken Dixon.  He beat me to it.

Pastor Dixon, a Seventh Day Adventist minister, loved cycling but had not been on his bike in umpteen years. Moving from church to church and climate to climate, his bike gathered dust in his garage. He became a potato on his couch and gained weight to the point of being pre-diabetic. His VA doctor cut to the chase, “If you don’t do something about this, you’re going to die!” A come-to-Jesus moment, Pastor Dixon realized – for the sake of himself, his family and his parish – he had to get back on his bike.

“I didn’t want to stand in front of my congregation and tell them to care of their bodies when I am on the verge of dying!”

Dixon started cycling with half a dozen fellow Texas pastors. A few months in, he raised the stakes – sort of as a joke. “Let’s ride to the Adventist World Conference from Dallas to San Antonio!” What! No! Maybe! Incredibly quite a few said YES! “Seventeen riders from all different ages, races and places covered 350 miles in just five days.”

This pedal-powered mission strengthened more than just hearts and lungs. It broke down cultural barriers and bore fruit of a spiritual kind. Dixon’s idea took flight.

“Flight” by Yusuf Grillo

The Flight (pictured aboveis an “oil on board” painting by artist Yusuf Grillo. “It depicts a young family in native Yoruba dress, seated on a bicycle. While the man pedals…the woman sits on the bicycle bar cradling a baby.”

“Grillo started the painting during the Nigerian Civil War, a very painful time in his country’s history. Many lives were lost and many more were maimed. The memory of his people fleeing the violence was seared into his psyche.”

“He likened the forced migration to the flight of the Holy Family – fleeing Israel for Egypt.” Not on the back of a camel or donkey but on a bicycle. An icon for refugees everywhere, it symbolizes the very human search for safety, security and peace.

On May 12, 2018 Alana Murphy set out an 88-day, 4,380-mile bike ride across the country. Along the way, she conducted 65 interviews with refugees in 15 cities including Philadelphia, Detroit and Kansas City.

Alana’s idea took flight from the seat of her bike. “My hope was to make these stories and experiences accessible…’Refugee’ has become an increasingly divisive word. I realize most people in the U.S. have not had the opportunity to hear the stories of these incredible people….I spent the majority of my time riding through rural areas where many are not supportive of immigrants…By spending time in their communities, I was able to listen to their fears and concerns and learn about a part of our country that is often overlooked and misunderstood.”

As anyone who reads the news knows, as any who saw the photo of the Salvadoran father, Oscar Ramirez and toddler daughter Valeria, floating on the bank of the Rio Grande knows — immigrants’ desperate plight and flight is a harrowing, dangerous and heartbreaking road. As Christians – our faith compels us to respond with compassion. To welcome, embrace and shelter all such families as holy. As holy as Joseph, Mary and Jesus on the flight to Egypt. As holy as the Nigerian family fleeing danger on the back of a bike. 

And as citizens of our native land, I hope and pray this speaks to our American souls, as well. To address with all seriousness the humanitarian crisis on our southern border.

I looked into the Bible to find some wisdom about loving our neighbor on the open road. There are no scriptures that cite bicycles, of course. The closest I could get was the prophet Ezekiel:

As I watched the four creatures, I saw something that looked like a wheel on the ground…They were identical wheels, sparkling like diamonds in the sun. It looked like they were wheels within wheels, like a gyroscope… When the living creatures went, the wheels went; when the living creatures lifted off, the wheels lifted off. Wherever the spirit went, they went, the wheels sticking right with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was within the wheels.

Not about bikes, Ezekiel’s apocalyptic vision is about flight, the Israelites escaping from bondage in Babylon. It is about a freedom ride, a ride of a lifetime, and the return to the Promised Land. To life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and hope. A wild ride that the whole world is on, really.

“More than anything,”Alana wrote, “I find myself dreaming about the next time I get back on a bicycle…cycling all day under blue skies, climbing mountain passes despite hail and rain and sleeping on the side of the road snug in my tent. Feeling just you and your bicycle facing the open road is something incomparable.” Something miraculous.Something to inspire whatever comes next. 

So, let’s all get back on our bikes – both metaphorical and real – and take flight. Soul cycling can do the world a whole lot of good.


B(u)y the Book, By the Pool, Bipolar

I spent the better part of an hour tinkering with the title for this post.

Hmmmm, should it be?

Letctio-Mania-Divina?

Bipolar Beach Book Bonanza?

Bipolar Summer Reads?

I settled on the B(u)y the Book, By the Pool, Bipolar because it captures it all. The season, my library, my finances and my moods.

And ’tis the season! Everywhere you look there are lists of “Best Beach Books” or “Sumptuous Summer Reads.” And here on U&U, I wanted to add my own.

I am well qualified (or at least so I think.)

Joani is a voracious reader whose reading knows no seasons — or at least there is no season in which she doesn’t pick up at least a dozen books. But summer is different. In summer, she believes she can read at least a dozen more!

And I am not alone. On vacation, lots of us bibliophiles shove a few novels into our suitcases, a few mysteries, a biography, maybe a memoir or two.

So just why do we read so much pulp fiction by the pool?

Just in time for the summer solstice, The New Yorker answered this question in this fabulous piece: The Invention of the Beach Book. And in it, Katy Waldman reviews a book about books (my favorite kind.)

“”Books for Idle Hours,” a new history by the academic Donna Harrington-Lueker, unpacks both the constructedness of “summer reading” and its gravitational pull. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization gave summertime a new radiance—it offered a chance to escape the sweaty, overcrowded city and reconnect with nature. The steamship and the railroad made vacation getaways more accessible. Periodicals and newspapers began running features on resort towns and advertised summer activities and goods: cruises, camping gear, mineral springs. In the pages of Harper’s, the artist Winslow Homer published chic illustrations of fashionable, sun-dazed women watching horse races or strolling along the ocean. In short, bolstered by the era’s print culture, a new market of pleasure-seeking Americans emerged.

So in the summer, book shops, libraries, book stalls and drug stores all stocked up on beach books. As the reader’s appetite soared so did the publisher’s profits.

Schools and colleges and universities hijacked the tradition. The “Summer School Reading List” unfortunately is a buzz killer. Mandatory reading on holiday is just homework by another name.

But I digress.

Happily my reading is virtually all voluntary. I juggle a few volumes at a time, picking up whichever title matches a particular mood.

So let me “offer unto thee myself, my soul and my body” in my very own Bipolar Beach Book List. Here are a dozen mostly-read and a few hope-to-read titles. Fiction and non-fiction, familiar and far-flung. And be forewarned, my reading tastes tend toward the dystopian and dark, the provocative and the historic with a bit of self-help-psychology thrown in (like a cherry on top.)

(Blurbs are directly lifted from digital book jackets.)

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley “This groundbreaking dual biography brings to life a pioneering English Feminist and the daughter she never knew. Author Charlotte Gordon reunites the trailblazing author who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the Romantic visionary who gave the world Frankenstein…two courageous women who shared a powerful literary and feminist legacy.”

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman “Arguably the earliest written work of feminist philosophy, Mary Wollstonecraft produced this manifesto of woman’s rights in the time of the American and French Revolutions. This era induced many to reconsider not only the rights of men, but also of women, and none argued for female emancipation more eloquently or effectively than Wollstonecraft.”

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley describes the ethos behind what became her famous and frightening cautionary tale, “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.

M.R. James Collected Ghost Stories “Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M.R. James was an eminent scholar…His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of everyday life, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches…great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.”

Dark Tales “After the publication of her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948, Shirley Jackson was quickly established as a master horror storyteller. This collection of classic, unsettling, dark tales, includes “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Summer People.” In these deliciously dark stories, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, there’s something sinister in suburbia.”

Picnic at Hanging Rock Joan Lindsay’s classic Australian novel. “It was a cloudless summer day in 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing through the scrub into the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned…”

Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table “A fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality, sex, and religion—only to transform itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, into a successful silverware company and a model of buttoned-down corporate propriety. ” Written by Ellen Wayland-Smith, descendant of John Henry Noyes, the founder of the Oneida Community in upstate New York.

Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Growing Up and Starting Over “In the first in-depth research of its kind, Janja Lalich interviewed sixty-five people who were born in or grew up in thirty-nine different cultic groups spanning more than a dozen countries. What’s especially interesting about these individuals is that they each left the cult on their own, without outside help or internal support. In Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over, the authors craft Lalich’s original and groundbreaking research into an accessible and engaging book, the first of its kind.”

The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale that inspired the Hulu Original Series. “The story is told through the eyes of Offred. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate and wry, Offred reveals to us the dark corners of the establishment’s facade…It is at once scathing satire and a dire warning and Margaret Atwood at her best.”

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better AngelsWe have been here before. In this timely and revealing book, Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham helps us understand the present moment by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame fear and division. With clarity and purpose, Meacham explores contentious periods and how presidents and citizens came together to defeat the forces of anger, intolerance and extremism.”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are “A motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living, this eye-opening work of Brene Brown, Ph.D. bolsters the process of personal development with characteristic heartfelt honest storytelling. Based on her original research, Brown explores the psychology of releasing notions of an “imperfect” life while embracing a life of honest beauty — a perfectly imperfect life.”

Attached “Is there a science to love? In this meticulously researched book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller reveal how an understanding of attachment theory – the most advanced relationship science in existence today – can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment explains that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways: Anxious, avoidant or secure.” Which one are you?

All available in multi-media – ephemeral and real. Click on the links to learn more.

Happy reading!


Sleeping Around (not what you think!) or Travels with Joani

I have never been one to rough it or to sleep under the stars in the great outdoors. Even as a Girl Scout I was allergic to camp. All grown up now, the most rustic I ever get is a Shrine Mont retreat – an Episcopal mountain village and old hotel in Orkney Springs. Complete with clean linens and private baths.

My clergy income does not allow for international travel or cross country road trips. But I do love to get out of town once in a while. And when I do, I love to book myself into a fancy boutique hotel.

A weekend’s stay just across the river in my beloved hometown of Washington, D.C.; or a few days in Mr. Jefferson’s Virginia City; or farther afield to Brooklyn, NY (home of my filmmaker son!).

By Uber, by car, by train.

Sleeping around in funky beautiful places is one of my favorite things to do. So let me recommend a few. All are fabulous and none are cheap so shop around for online deals.

So here we go, details shamelessly lifted from websites.

Places Where Joani Has Slept in Washington, D.C.!

The Intercontinental at the Wharf

On the SW waterfront overlooking the Potomac River, you can take the Water Taxi from Alexandria to the Wharf. There is a rooftop pool & bar and an Afro-Caribbean restaurant called Kith & Kin. Take a stroll on the waterside piers and promenades. Check out the books at Politics&Prose. Attend a performance at the Anthem or Union Stage.

The Line

Located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, this unique hotel is housed in a 110 year-old historic church. Room numbers are posted on old hymn boards and recycled church pews line the corridors. The Line is the brainchild of local chefs, bartenders, artists and designers. It has a “full service” radio station in the lobby and three restaurants. Brothers & Sisters features “American classics with an Asian point of view.” Nearby is the Adams Morgan Community Center “an incubator space for artists and nonprofits..which hosts art shows, performances and workshops.”

Capitol Hill Hotel “…tucked away amidst charming brick row houses…and a short walk to the Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress” (my happy place!) “and the Botanical Gardens.” It is across the street from the Capitol South Metro Stop and accessible on the Blue & Yellow lines. The rooms are appointed with “plush white bedding, eclectic furnishings and classic prints by American artists.” Nearby eateries on Pennsylvania Avenue include the Hawk ‘n Dove and the infamous Tune Inn. The East City Book Shop, a fabulous indie bookstore is a hop and a skip from the must-visit historic Eastern Market.

Places Joani Has Slept in Charlottesville, Virginia!

The Oakhurst Inn

“This Craftsman inspired Inn borders the University of Virginia…the classic rooms” are all housed in three historic bungalows. Instead of a lobby, the Oakhurst has four libraries: “Sit by the fire, peruse a book, help yourself to an espresso or Italian soda. Decorated with architectural curiosities. Have you ever seen a Russian gramophone?” The cafe features “fresh takes on southern classics” and the new Oakhurst Hall sports a salt water pool and Jazz Nights. Walk across the street to Mr. Jefferson’s University of Virginia (the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the U.S.) or hop on the trolley to go shopping at the Downtown Mall.

The Boars Head Resort

Owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, the Boars Head is a country resort where the “borders between past and present, serenity and energy melt away.” Decorated with classic southern charm and equipped with modern amenities, this fabulous getaway includes nature trails, a racquet & fitness club, a spa (where I got a facial!) and three outdoor pools (one for adults only!). If you are brave (and I am not) you can book a ride on a hot air ballon. The Mill Room’s award winning chefs culinary delights are sourced from local farmers and vineyards. Literally catch your own fish (from the fish farm) for a delicious Trout Salad. Explore the “Monticello Wine Trail”. There are over 30 wineries in a 25 mile radius of Charlottesville!

Places Where Joani Has Stayed in Brooklyn, New York!

The McCarren Hotel & Pool

Located in the Williamsburg neighborhood, on land stolen from Native Americans by the Dutch West India Company in 1638 and eventually bought up the wealthy Jonathan Williams who in 1802 named the town for himself, the McCarren describes itself as “edgy, artsy and epic.” It has a rooftop bar, Freille linens and “rainfall showers.” The Urban Vegan Kitchen serves “semi-sophisticated comfort food.” The Olympic sized pool across the street, open in the summer, is a place to mix and mingle with the locals. Williamsburg is a “hipster hotspot alive with music, art shows, food festivals and farmers’ markets.” Go for a tour and a by-the-token beer tasting at Brooklyn Brewery.

The Box House Hotel

“Once a doors and windows manufacturing facility, The Box House is now home to 130 spacious lofts with soaring ceilings and factory details. Located off the East River in Greenpoint, where streets are still named for 19th century farmers, the hotel is decorated with original artwork and nostalgic details.” (My Room has a Royal manual typewriter. Maybe I will write that book!) Balconies overlook the Brooklyn skyline. The Brooklyn Lantern downstairs is a yummy full service cafe and the hotel even has its own “neighborhood taxi” which will save you a few Uber-dollars.

Too fancy to leave behind any graffiti, I would love to scribble Joani slept here on these guest room walls. But alas, no. They would not welcome me back!

The photos are are all mine (except for the McCarren). Click on the links to explore more!

Happy travels!


Dating Bernie Sanders

2016.

First-date advice from DCSingles:

Dress up. Keep it short. Don’t talk about politics, religion, or your ex.

Hmmm…not talking about politics is a bit of a challenge especially when you live inside the Beltway. And not talking about it in an election cycle seems really hard. A political  junkie, with seven news apps on my iPhone, this is going to be darn near impossible. But I will give it a try.

Hmmm…religion is off the table too. So what kind of kabuki theater will this single vicar have to perform to avoid this topic? Well, I will obviously have to state the obvious about my profession.  But I will try to table the religious debate as far as I am able.

And not talk about my ex?  This one is way easy for me. William and I parted ways amicably more than a decade ago. Since then Joani has cherished her independence and loves being mistress of her own domain. Joani thoroughly enjoys her own company.

Only men of a similar ilk need apply.

This particular week, my DCSingles matchmaker matched me with my very first match: a guy named Glenn.

5 foot 8 inches, dark brown hair, a retired environmentalist, Jewish, and age appropriate.

What’s not to like?

A quick conversation on the phone, we make a Starbucks date — to coffee we will go.

Guardedly optimistic and game for my new sport, I consult my fashionista- dating coach daughter Colleen. She approves my dress, my flats and accessories.

“Necklace or no necklace?” I text her.

“Necklace.” she decrees.

I Uber downtown to case out the joint. I grab a table near the door.  I try to look all nonchalant as I read my book. Fluffing my hair — also as attractive as I can.

I sit and wait for this first blind date.

There is a Santa Claus looking guy checking his phone anxiously by the door. “Waiting for someone?”  I ask. “And you might be?” “Steve,” he says. And in my head I say, “Thank God, I thought that was him.”

And then right on time, in walks Glenn.

The date is blind. So sight unseen, I was not sure what to expect.

But I wasn’t expecting Bernie Sanders.

First impressions matter most they say.

Uh oh, so here we go.

I am pretty sure he slept in his clothes: grunge jeans, baggy shirt, shoes older than my children. He sported a fisherman’s cap and carried a grocery bag that looked like it had washed up on the beach. If he hadn’t been my date, I would have mistaken him for a homeless guy. To call him rumpled would have been a compliment.

“Okay, Joani,” I tell myself, “Bernie Sanders is awesome! Don’t judge the book by his cover. Maybe this guy is riveting. So yeah, let the conversation begin.”

An environmentalist, maybe his clothes are recycled? Hmmmm….no. Maybe he drives a Prius? Hmmmm….no. Solar power in his house? Hmmm…no. But he did once work on a solar project for water treatment plants. The globe is way too short of fresh water so that’s one good thing.

Do-gooders are definitely up my alley.

Okay, my turn.

“Well, I serve a local church,” I tell him. “It’s a happening, progressive parish.” Being a lady vicar is a tough sell, you know, so I give Bernie points for just showing up. His being Jewish though, I knew he would have questions. But I wasn’t expecting this.

“You know I am a biologist and we believe in evolution,” he says somewhat condescendingly.

“Well guess what? So do I. Episcopalians believe in science.”

Surprised by my answer, it seemed he had never met an enlightened Christian before. Possibly  he thought we were some rare species that had gone extinct.

Wow, Bernie, this is going great! Let’s move on.

“So now that you are retired, Bernie, what do you do?”

He leans forward in his chair — smiling and definitely trying to impress.

“Well, I go the the gym twice a week and I swim half a mile, turn around and in an hour and a half I am back home!”

Satisfied with his answer, he leans back in his chair.

“Well, Bernie, I’ve walked two half marathons and am getting ready for my third.”

“You have to go out of town for those?” he asks.

“Yes, Bernie, I love going new places.”

“Hmmm, well, I don’t get much out of my neighborhood anymore.”

“Well, Bernie, good luck with that.”

I don’t want to belabor the point but  Bernie proved way too suburban for my urban tastes. He had never heard of Uber, SXSW, or the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Though, in his favor, I am pretty sure he did know how to use the Internet.

By this time, I am definitely eyeing the exit. Keep it short, remember?

Bernie slides his card across the table, not so subtly asking for a second date.

I in turn do not slide mine. Not so subtly telling him no.

“Thank you for the conversation,” I say shaking his hand. “Gotta go to meet my daughter Colleen.” (Yes, Colleen, you are my default escape plan.)

Ducking out the door, I take refuge in the book store down the block. Ah, in here I can breathe. I order a latte at the coffee bar, sit down, and think.

If nothing else, it was interesting. A social experiment. A learning experience. A good first try.

But bye-bye, Bernie. You lost the primaries. It’s 2016 and you’re not getting my vote.

One candidate down. There were still five more on my DCSingles plan.

(Or this year a couple dozen if you count all those 2020 Democrats!)

Its still early in the election season.

Let’s see where it goes.


Of the Father’s Love Begotten

My father, God rest his soul, was a healer.

I was in awe of him.

Brilliant, like Dr. Salk who conquered polio. Handsome as Dr. Kildare. A doctor-of-fine-arts, Salvador Dali etchings hung on his walls. A master-of-music, Mozart played on his turntable. A gourmands, he insisted on lemon peel with his espresso. A voracious reader, his book shelves were packed with classics, art books, and avant-garde novels. He was a tinkerer and a gardener who grew roses in our backyard and built short wave radios in our basement.

He was also more than a bit like Felix Unger. Everything had to be spit and polished and squeaky clean. My dad was exceedingly dapper in his tweed sport coats and wing tip shoes. On his bathroom mirror, he pasted a label: “You, handsome devil you!” And he regularly boasted of acing his surgical boards.

Modest, he was not but he was (mostly but not always) marvelous in my eyes.

And when I was a child, I would pull wondrous instruments out of his little black doctor’s bag – the same things he would use to prod and poke us if we claimed we were too sick to go to school. The stethoscope to listen to your chest. Tongue depressors to look down your throat. The little flashlight to peer into your ears. The little hammer to hit your knees.  Invariably he would pronounce us well, prescribe two aspirin and send us off to school.

(No wonder, I won the perfect attendance ribbon – more ears than I can count.)

And my father was our family’s avid protector – from dangers outward and visible. A surgeon conscious of all kinds of calamity, he took unusual measures to keep his family safe.

Long before seat belts were standard in American cars, my dad had “safety belts” installed in ours. If you were not belted in, he would take the Lord’s name in vain, pull over to the side of the road and go nowhere until everyone was buckled up.

Long before smoke detectors, he installed fire alarms in our house and we quite literally had fire drills.

In a time when only banks were wired for burglary, so was our suburban bungalow.

Our house had no ashtrays. Smoking was forbidden. Saving us both from fire and  lung cancer.

Firearms – even BB guns — could not get through our front door. My dad, the surgeon had stitched up and lost too many young men on his operating table in Southeast D.C.

He wouldn’t even let us twirl sparklers on the Fourth of July – in case we might burn our little hands (or his!)

Does this remind you of your father? Or a grandfather? Or a step father – who stepped up when your own wasn’t there? Or a godfather – who guarded you under his wings?

Who loves you so much, that they would want to catch you before you fall – “lest you dash your foot upon a stone”?

Fathers, of course.

But even the best of fathers cannot save us from ourselves.

We fall, we scrape our knees, we crash the family car. We make bad choices, ingest things we shouldn’t, and head down the wrong path. We fail, we drop out of school, get in trouble with the law. Selfish and self – centered, we don’t realize the havoc we create in other’s lives. Quick to blame others but not ourselves.

Nor can the best of fathers save us from the slings and arrows of this mortal coil.

Life itself is a risky business. The world is a dangerous place.

Every day, when we head out the front door -– we assume that we will return safe when the day is done.

We assume that everyone will stop at red lights.

We assume our food is safe and our water free of lead.

We assume that everyone will follow “the rules” – whatever the rules may be.

And that the bad guys are all behind bars.

We take for granted those who serve to protect us,

who like a father (be they male or female),

keep us safe and secure.

Bad things are always supposed to happen somewhere else.

But here in our own backyard, in Charlottesville, in Virginia Beach, on Simpson Field, hate and violence have invaded Virginia, too.

Heavenly Father, the Lord God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, does not deliver us from evil.  At least not in the way, we hope him too.

To swoop down from heaven. To rescue us. To save us.

But as Christians, we believe in a God, a Heavenly Father, quite ironically, who did not bother to save his own Son. 

There is no Deus ex Machina. There is no miraculous divine intervention.

But there is redemption.

This Sunday, Trinity Sunday, on the eve of the summer solstice, I chose a Christmas carol for our sequence hymn. Not a widely known one – Of the Father’s Love Begotten. The words of the text are more than a thousand years old.

Of the Father’s love begotten,

Ere the worlds began to be,

He is Alpha and Omega,

He the source, the ending he,

Of the things that are, that have been,

And that future years shall see,

Evermore and evermore!

Now shepherds, angels and wise men are easier to imagine than John’s glory and grace.  These pretty words are a paraphrase of John’s prologue: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh.

The theologian, Barbara Brown Taylor says (and I paraphrase), “For one person the word is ‘compassion’.  For another its ‘justice’.  For someone else the word is ‘generosity’.  For another it is ‘patience’.  Just words that in reality, sadly are seldom seen.  The moment, however, that we act upon them — these words of ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ – take on flesh and bone.

Our Father, who art in heaven,

can bring out the father in all of us,

to reach out and care for one another,

to watch over and protect one another,

to love our neighbors as ourselves,

whoever our neighbors might be,

one little fatherly word at a time.

Happy Trinitarian Father’s Day 2019!


Fireworks!!

Once upon a time, the very first fireworks were concocted in a cooking pot: cooked up by a Chinese cook in her kitchen. At least, so the legend goes. Apparently the combustible ingredients were right there in her spice cabinet: saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and a dash of who knows what. A happy and dangerous accident, the recipe erupted pyrotechnically.

Stuff this stuff into bamboo sticks, throw them on the fire, and “POOF! BANG! BOOM!”, fireworks are born.

Great for warding off evil spirits.

Grand for celebrations of state occasions.

Glittering demonstrations of prowess and power (our current POTUS not withstanding.)

Picture a Tudor king’s wedding day, the coronation of a Scottish king, pyrotechnic displays at Czar Peter’s palace, and bright illuminations at Versailles,” a Wikipedia article suggests.

And this 4th of July, Roman Candles stand ready to light up our skies.  Stand up and sing with me the poetry Francis Scott Key scribbled  after the Battle of Fort McHenry, 1814:

O say can you see,

By the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed,

As the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars,

Through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched,

Were so gallantly streaming.

And the rocket’s red glare,

The bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night

That our flag was still there.

 And it was on the eve of that very first 4th, that John Adams, our second president presciently described how future Americans would celebrate the day.

“…with pomp and parade, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

 In other words —  fireworks!

Many-a-time, downtown on the Mall by the Reflecting Pool, in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I have seen those fireworks fly.

In the bicentennial days of my marriage, there was no holier day than Independence Day: the most romantic day of the year.

We’d pack a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, and fruit, and a six-pack of clearly illegal beer. We’d stuff our duffle bag with baseball hats, books, and bug spray: all for the marvelous day.

We’d head out early on metro, crowded into subway cars with the tourists – all vying for prime locations and the very best views.

We’d stake out our claim by the Reflecting Pool and spread our old cotton quilt on the ground. We’d plop ourselves down and stretch out under the setting sun, waiting for the blanket of dark to come.

We’d read to each other from Herman Hesse and tune into WHFS. We’d talk and talk and talk and then just be quiet: that lovely intimate quiet wrapped in each other’s arms:

Fireworks — of a different kind.

Now forty-seven years on, we have gone our separate ways. Sixteen years now, he has had his life by the sea. Sixteen years now, my Alexandria life is my own. And that is how it is supposed to be. The happiest place for me in my 64 years. And yet it is so strange, that my ex-husband is a stranger to me.

I harbor no resentment and I wish him well. It has been ancient of days since I have missed the man.

But what I do miss and what I hope to find are those fireworks of the intimate kind: the easy conversation; the comfortable silence; bright bursts of passion: a meeting of the minds. “POOF! BANG! BOOM!”

On a blanket,

On the mall,

On the 4th of July.

Fireworks!