Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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Grounded Flight

propeller_beanie

I know nothing of aerodynamics but I do know that I have a helicopter in my head.

The propellers  begin to spin slowly, slowly at first.  Then faster and faster they pick up speed.

I feel a rush of wind, a little cyclone swirling counter clockwise.

My feet take leave of the ground.

Climbing skyward, I soar over the trees. I taste the clouds.

There is a lightness of being almost too delicious to describe.

I hover high above the earth. My heart beats so, I  hear the swoosh, swoosh of a rush of blood.

Heaven expands before me. Space and time, they stretch.

Gazing above, I truly believe the only direction is up.

Gravity has no hold on me.

Gazing down, I have no fear.

No fear at all.

Buoyant. Euphoric. Exquisite.

Mania.

Or at least hypo-mania.

A mild and manageable outbreak.

Please do not ask me to medicate it away.

Yes, I have a helicopter in my head and I like it that way.

Hypomania is flying just under the radar at optimal altitude. It is the passion of a polymath.

(I love that word – “polymath”. Go look it up!)

This Peacock believes herself to be a person of insatiable curiosity. Engaging in encyclopedic endeavors. And with boundless energy, of course.

I blog. I preach. I write. I teach. I walk. I read. I talk and talk. I swim and float  and dive in deep. I delight, dig in, and devour my work. I scatter seeds and rattle beads. I vocalize and volunteer. I spin tales and search for holy grails. I cruise the river front. I wander DC. I pound the pavement in front of me.  I breakfast with the birds, lunch alone, and dine with friends. I binge watch Stranger Things. I speed read three tomes at a time. And I drink lots and lots of coffee.

Good coffee.

My head expands exponentially as does the universe, so Hubble says.

The world is so, so wonderful, I dare not miss a thing. I dare not go to sleep.

My brain says that I do not have to.

I stay up later.

I wake up earlier.

I hear the engine sputter. I feel the propellers falter, the copter lunge and lurch.

Turbulent, nauseous, like stumbling and tumbling over rocks.

Sky sick, I lose control.

The ground comes rushing towards me.

Crash landing.

CRASH.

I hate when this happens.

My grandiose pride bruised. It begrudges me my humanity.

But wings of wax melt in the sun. Weight returns to my body. More than I would like to admit.

You know, I think I need a mental health day. I play hookie and “call in crazy.

“Yes, Joani,” my colleague Chuck says, “that sounds like the sane thing to do.”

So I do.

Sleep in.

Drink coffee in my pajamas.

Stretch out on the couch.

Read the paper.

Veg out.

Surf Hulu and wade through Netflix.

Take a late shower.

Get dressed.

Tune in.

Gather my thoughts.

Scribble them down.

Publish  and post them on U&U.

The helicopter has landed.

This Peacock is safely on the ground.

JoaniSign

NOTE: Manically submitted at midnight, Sunday, September 12, 2016.

 


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Chasing after wind…..

CURTIS BROS CAR WINNER

Googling myself the other day, grandiosity got the better of me.

I typed in “Joan Peacock” and lo and behold lots of “Joan Peacocks” popped up. I never guessed there were so many of us!

Add an “i”, yes, an “I” and up pops me – “Joani Peacock” and all the things the Internet knows about me!

My FB photo, my Twitter handle (I do not Tweet!), my blog U&U, my mom and dad’s obituaries, Unhinged at SpeakeasyDC. “Colorfully Bipolar” – a photo journalist’s slide show of me, the clergy page at Emmanuel, the staff page at Bishop Payne, and a few of my sermons.

Then I scroll to page 2. And there I am — a celebrity – on Rotten Tomatoes for a walk on role in “White Reindeer”.

Hysterical.

Now the real celebrity here is my son – Zach Clark – the writer, director, producer, and editor of this very outrageous and very touching Christmas movie (not for children!).

Available on Netflix streaming, “White Reindeer” premiered in 2013 at South by Southwest and has played in festivals all over the world. Critically acclaimed, the film got rave reviews in the New York Times, Variety, and the Village Voice. The New Yorker called it “an instant holiday cult classic.”

I tried out for two parts: mother and priest. I got neither. Instead I got the part of “mourner” :one of many silent extras in the funeral scene.

Rotten Tomatoes’ critics rated “White Reindeer” a whopping 89% — and that’s a very good thing. Every member of the cast and every member of the crew – that rolls by in the credits – is now listed as a “celebrity”.

“Joani Peacock”: profile picture — blank; celebrity trivia – blank; memorable quotes (from my silent walk on) – blank. Vainly I try to update the blankety- blanks – but to no avail!

Then I considered all my hands had done and the toil I expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and chasing after wind.”

After a birthday party last weekend for my brother Tim, we all went back to hangout at his house: my brothers, my sister-in-law, my daughter, her boyfriend and me.

Tim pulled out a big box of family memorabilia – a total jumble of family photos, drawings, birthday cards, and wedding invitations. Brittle and faded, buried at the bottom of the box were a handful of newspaper clippings – news of when my family made it into the news.

Fifteen minutes of fame versus a lifetime of glory.

1959. Anacostia, Washington, D.C. There’s a full-page ad in the Evening Star.

 

“Curtis Brothers

announces

The Winners

Of

The Ferrari Midget Car”

 

The winners were my brother and sister. Maureen sits in the driver’s seat while Tim jealously looks on. The midget Ferrari had “pneumatic tires, sealed beamed headlights, and a fiberglass body.” It could go as fast as seven miles an hour on a rechargeable battery! Hours of fun!

My siblings won the car fair and square – but maybe not. My parents did buy a lot of furniture there. And the ad is a sales ad for “Washington’s largest furniture display” at “The home for the world’s largest chair” – with Santa seated there. It’s Christmas. “Charge accounts invited!”

In four years time, six little Peacocks drove the midget into the ground.

“All is vanity and chasing after wind…”

And then from the very bottom of the box, another yellowed clipping.

1968. November 19. The Washington Post.

 “Chaplain Liteky receives Medal of Honor”

 Lyndon Johnson pinned the medal on my second cousin’s chest. Both the paper and the faded White House program tell his story.

How could I have forgotten about my mother’s cousin: an army captain, a Vietnam chaplain, a war hero, a Catholic priest who left the church, married a nun, and advocated for peace?

So I went home and Googled him – and found out more – so much more.

His hometown Jacksonville.com headline in 2009 reads:

 “Charlie Liteky: ‘He was our quarterback, and quarterbacks save the world’”

 In 1948 he played football at the Westside high school, Robert E. Lee.

“It’s 1967, with his battalion ambushed in a rice paddy, Chaplain Liteky gives last rites to the dead and dying, often walking upright and dodging bullets. He carries more than 20 wounded from the battlefield to safety.”

“There is so much blood, he’ll smell it to the day he dies.”

In 1968, the President pins the medal to his chest.

In 1986, he gives it back. “At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Charles Liteky becomes the first person in history to give up the Medal of Honor. Cameras click as he kneels before the black wall covered with the names of the dead.”

And in ’86 he fasts on the Capitol steps. “Liteky is gaunt and burning with hunger. For six weeks, he and three other veterans have starved themselves protesting Reagan’s policies in South America. After 46 days, with one of them near death, they finally eat.”

In 2001, “inside a federal penitentiary…Charlie Liteky is turning 70. It’s his second time in prison following protests outside Fort Benning where the U.S. trained Latin American officers accused of atrocities in their countries.”

“It’s 2003, in Baghdad and Charlie Liteky is there with other protesters for peace, bearing witness to what he calls an unjust and an unwise war.”

“Talk for Charlie is cheap. He has to do more than write a letter to Congress or a letter to the editor. He has to put his body on the line.”

 Not for the front-page headlines. Not for fifteen minutes of fame.

An ex-priest, an ex-Catholic, a former chaplain, Charlie will tell you that he is far from perfect. A lifelong witness to God’s truth, his mission has cost him his faith. It has lost him his God.

“But I have tried to live life to the truth as I see it at the time. That’s a very costly thing; I’ve lost a lot. I’m an ex-lot of things. But what have you got? Your integrity.”

Charlie is not a celebrity but a man of substance. Not chasing after wind, but striving in this life for the things that matter most – life saving things — death defying things.

No matter what — at the age of 84– the best that he can — until the day he dies.

Thanks be to his former God.

JoaniSign


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Mad about M.A.S.H.

MASH cast goodbye farewell amen

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

My dad, the M.D., was mad about M.A.S.H. This surgeon was crazy in love with the show about surgeons.

When M.A.S.H. played on primetime TV, my dad, Dr. Peacock, was in the prime time of his career – chief of surgery at Cafritz Hospital and a teaching doc at Howard U.

High priest at the hospital, his every word was gospel. Young doctors came to sit at his feet. Colleagues sent him patients they did not know how to treat. Nurses snapped to attention at his command. And grateful patients who could not pay, paid him homage — with bushels of crabs and crates of cantaloupes.

Bernard F. Peacock, Jr. (BFP, for short) was both brilliant and brash. Jesuit educated, he was top of his class – whatever that class might be. Insatiably curious, he consumed the news – reading three papers daily and the Wall Street Journal — just because. A voracious reader, he subscribed to the more scholarly book clubs – Penguin Classics and Heritage Historical, and the Book of the Month — just because.  A musical dilettante, he’d spin the New Christie Minstrels  just as soon as he would listen to Mozart or Mad, Madam Mame. Fastidious as a fox, he fussed over his attire and fiddled with his ties.  Drop dead handsome, he rivaled the likes of  Cary Grant – or maybe it was Rock Hudson — or at least, so he believed.

Being a doctor, of course, he worked doctor’s hours: weekends, holidays, Holy Days, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter – no exceptions. As a child it seemed to me he was always making rounds. And on very rare occasions, I got to go round with him and troop behind him – like an acolyte.

My father once told me, that there was nowhere he was more at ease, there was nowhere he was more relaxed than in surgery. He was most himself in the operating room.

Can you imagine that?

I thought him a miracle worker and a healer and I was in awe of him.

Not even Dr. Kildare could compare with the likes of Dr. Peacock.

Both grandiose and grand, at home my dad stayed up nights building short wave radios and practicing the piano. He was commanding and demanding, expecting the home front to function like the hospital. And to my father’s great disappointment, nothing was farther than the truth.

And all of us were – at least to some extent – a great disappointment to the good doctor. Sadly, most of all, my mom, Mary Lou.

The physician could not heal his own wife. He did not know how to cope with my mother’s illness – what we came to know as bipolar disorder. And so he coped very badly or he coped not at all. And it drove him mad.

A practitioner of the most compassionate of professions, my father could say the cruelest of things to the woman he loved. (And loved her, he did.) “God damn it, Mary Lou!”, was his most oft and mildest of refrains — so painful to recall, on the first anniversary of her death (in fact today, June 19th . God rest her soul.)

So God damned complicated, this Father’s Day weekend. So God damned complicated, for this Christian who signs herself in the name of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”.

Is it any wonder I am prone to call upon my God as a SHE and not a HE?

Because of my dad, the doctor, I know what dysfunction is.

Because of my dad, the doctor, I know what it looks like to inflict pain on the ones you love.

Because of my dad, the doctor, I know just how sick one’s household can become.

And I know that I loved him. I loved him dearly.

Because of him I am a bibliophile. Because of him, I have the audacity to sing. Because of him, I buck authority. Because of him, I know that I am smarter than any man. And even as a kid, because of him, I knew that this little Roman Catholic girl could grow up to be any God damned thing, she could dream of.

Maybe even a doctor. Maybe even a priest.

And because of him, I am mad about M.A.S.H. And binge watching reruns on my couch, I realized that this is the homily I never got to give at his funeral.

So who was my dad?

He was Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, brash, and brilliant, and bold.

He was Colonel Sherman Potter, commanding and demanding, extremely knowledgeable, and sometimes wise.

He was Captain BJ Hunnycut, dedicated, driven, devoted to his work — and as best he could be — a family man.

He was Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester, pompous and arrogant, and truly the best at his profession.

Not quite as crazy as Klinger. Nor quite as compassionate as Father Mulcahy, he had all the sex appeal of Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan – a very handsome man, indeed.

He was Dr. Bernard Francis Peacock, Jr., my dad. And he ran for 78 seasons and went off the air in August of 2004.

Mad, mad, mad, and so God damned complicated, he was my dad. I loved him madly. I love him madly still.

Happy Father’s Day, dad, 2015.

JoaniSign