Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday poetry corner...

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousnes.
Give me your hand.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

My Bruderhoff friend David sent this to me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pony tails are so not cool...

Science class experiment.
"Connecticut girl sets teacher's hair on fire." I can't resist headlines like this. Apparently the high school girl did not like her teacher's hair. So she lit George Lardas' pony tail on fire with a lighter. Mr. Lardas was not injured, but the girl was arrested. Story here.
I received this email on the news story:
"For those of you that do not know, on Sundays George Lardas is Father George Lardas, a Russian Orthodox priest in Milford CT. (Actually he is a priest all the time, and a high school science teacher during the week.) He wears his hair long because it is a precept of the Orthodox church to which he belongs that clergy not cut their hair. Because he is so used to having his hair catch fire during church services. When you mix young altarboys, long hair and lit candles, getting your hair singed just isn't all that unusual. So when he smelled the not-unfamiliar odor of singed hair, he reached around, put it out, and sent the girl to the principal's office. (She was mad at him because of a bad grade, I believe.)"
Well, now I know why he wore the pony tail.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pictures at an inquisition...

A phone conversation.
Me: Hello?
Caller: Oh, you did answer! Mr. Nelson, I have Monsignor Mussorgsky on the line, please hold on.
Msgr: Hello? Can you hear me now? (Laughter)
Me: Yes Monsignor, may I ask what this is all about?
Msgr: Oh, Mr. Nelson, you did answer the phone. wonderful, yes, His Eminence asked me to phone you for a short interview, would you be so kind...
Me: Monsignor, which Eminence and an interview about what?
Msgr: Oh, I'm so sorry, I should have explained myself better, didn't my secretary brief you first? Well, Cardinal Levada has been reading your blog and would like me to speak with you about your, er, ah - Catholic weblogs.
Me: You mean the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has questions about my orthodoxy? Wow - that is so cool, is torture involved? Can I wear one of those yellow cone hats and be stretched out on a.........
Msgr: (Laughter) Oh no Mr. Nelson, it isn't that at all. (More Laughter, covers the phone and says something inaudible.) May I call you Terry?
Me: Please do Monsignor. I like the name Terrance, but you may call me Terry. Funny, when I was younger I wanted the name Ian, but of course I'd never change my name - too complicated I'm afraid, yeah, my friend Bob changed his name to Roberto - he's Italian - and.......
Msgr: Excuse me Terry, this is long distance from Rome and it's getting late, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to get on with the interview.
Me: Oh, no Monsignor, I'm sorry, I'm not used to talking on the phone so I'm not sure who talks when or how much to say.... But before we get going, let me say this: I am not Larry Craig, nor have I ever been Larry Craig! (I'm laughing really hard after I say that.)
Msgr: (Silence, muffled sounds, as if he is talking to someone else.)
Me: Monsignor? Monsignor? I'm sorry about that. Larry Craig is a politician who had been involved in a scandal and local news is doing a segment on him, and they keep repeating the sound bite he made, "I am not g------"
Msgr: Terry, Terry, that's quite all right. Now we notice you have two blogs and both claim to be Roman Catholic, is that correct.
Me: Again, I apologize - when I get really nervous I just repeat things I hear. Anyway. Yes - well I had four blogs, no 5 blogs, and now I have 3, but the main two are the Abbey-Roads two - the other one is just a file for photos and lame attempts at poetry.

Msgr: That is interesting. The Abbey blogs are the only ones we read here at the Vatican.
Me: So you really read my blog there? I thought it was just Fr. Z reading it when he's at the Vatican Library reading the newspaper.
Msgr: Huh? who is Fr. Z? No, we read your blog periodically, don't you check your stats?
Me: Well not really, I have a neo-counter, but nothing else, I have no idea who reads my blog otherwise.
Msgr: Well Terry, we've noticed that one day you will have a post up and then the next time we check, the post is taken down. It is a little disconcerting, especially when we happen to be following comments others leave. Could you explain why you do that?
Me: Of course, I take them down if they are too controversial, or after thinking about what I wrote, I decide the topic isn't meaningful. I don't know - maybe I just think the post didn't work. Or if I do a post I think is funny, say exposing another blogger's drunken Lindsay Lohan fashion blunders at the races, and she doesn't respond laughing out loud, I usually take it down.
Msgr: What are you wearing right now?
Me: I'm wearing a sleevless sweatshirt torn down to my navel and ripped blue jeans and - what? Hey! Who is this? What kind of question is that?
Msgr: (Laughing, hand muffling the phone.) I'm just kidding too Terry. Just teasing. We at the Congregation have a crazy sense of humor - even Galileo thought so.
Me: (Nervous laughter) Oh - I get it - I think....
Msgr: Yes Terry, we do have our fun here too. But seriously, is that you in the profile photo? Is it a current pho.......
Me: (Laughing) I'm certain you have more serious questions... may we just move this along right now?
Msgr: Well frankly Ter, the Congregation wants to know... Well, the Congregation has noticed you write an awful lot about... I'm sorry, the Congregation has noticed you write rather extensively about... well, I'll just blurt it out! Chapel veils for women who wear denim jumpers. And we wondered if you wouldn't like to do a little manual for proper attire at Mass for women and men in the United States?
Me: Are you serious? I'd jump at the chance! I can see it now - very Vogue/Harpers/Vanity Fair type photography and graphics - Paper! The best paper - very important for crispy print and photos to look good. Annie Lebowitz - she must do the shoot! top models wearing th..............
Msgr: Terry, fine, fine - we will go over the details later, what we need is the text first. I'd also like to ask a few more questions, covering some other topics, if you have time right now.
Me: Oh certainly Monsignor, go right ahead.
Msgr: The Congregation has noticed you are writing a sort of memoir. First let me tell you, we are all very sorry, it's not coming off as funny as you thought it would is it?
Me: Gosh! I know! It is really a lot of work - comedy is hard.
Msgr: His Eminence is more than a little concerned about how much involvement, or rather, will there be anything surprising coming out of the story about priests or religious? Any scandalous items, and more importantly, we hope to make sure of no liability on the part of the................
Me: Oh Monsignor, I can assure you - whaddya mean - liability? Would you pay me off? Would you pay me for the book rights? Hey what kind of a cheap------------I can't beieve you'd suggest such a thing.
Msgr: (Dead silence)
Me: No Monsignor, I am not like that - neither will I be bought off. All I can say - the Church has nothing to worry about from me.
Msgr: That is good to hear, Terry. Can you tell me this however; does your story have anything to do with the recent abuse crisis that has afflicted the American clergy?
Me: Monsignor, Didn't you just ask me that question? Monsignor, I'm afraid I can't answer that, I can't give away the details. Everyone will just have to read along as I post the story.
Msgr: Well thank you Terry. Now, don't forget, start on that chapel veil thing as soon as possible. Chop! Chop! Bye, bye now!
End of conversation.
After we hung up, I thought to myself, 'That was an odd conversation.'

Before Juno and that other film Catholics were so hot for...

We had our little Catholic girl, Madonna with her pro-life message!

The Story: Chapter Three, Part Three

Chapter Three, Part Three

Naturally, everything wasn’t always dark and tawdry, there are a few funny “coming of age” stories related to all of the depravity as well, but I’ll save them for later. Obviously growing up in such a household as mine was confusing at best, yet it seems I was remarkably blasé about life. For instance, I had no idea we were poor, and I assumed our family life was normal. I never believed my brother Skip disliked me, I just thought I embarrassed him, and accepted the fact I had to play by myself. I knew he loved me, because if someone bothered me, he usually came to my defense. Yet it was my sister Beth who took on the responsibility of watching over me, and it was through her I learned the most about being Catholic. She answered all of my questions about devotions, Mass, the Blessed Virgin and the saints. Religion began to be my solace and strength from that time, and I have my sister Beth to thank for it. It seems to me the verse from St. Paul was confirmed for us at that time: “Where sin abounds, grace super abounds.”

That said, wickedness seemed to stalk our family. It’s a phenomenon some people might refer to as a generational curse. Protestants believe such things exist, as do a growing number of Catholics. They base their belief upon Exodus 34:6-7:

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

A niche healing industry has been emerging to heal memories and generational curses. Believers who accept this notion insist the sins of the fathers follow each generation, and that a “familiar” evil spirit incites the same sins from generation to generation. Perhaps there is some truth in that, for instance, psychologists believe children of alcoholics may have some sort of predisposition for addiction, in much the same way physical diseases may be genetic.

I’m rather dubious about the fundamentalist belief in the generational curse thing; I doubt very much it is as black and white as all of that. On the other hand, I’m certain “demons” of some sort may follow families for generations, inciting family members to repeat the sins of their fathers – but not always. I see it more in terms of temptation – subsequent generations may endure similar temptations, yet are not compelled to repeat the same sins. I have always looked upon adversity as a challenge to rise above, as a sort of discipline that can make you stronger.

I’m convinced of this because of the doctrine of free will. This may explain the fact that although my parents may have been abused or “sexualized at an early age” they never perpetrated the same behavior upon us. (Except in the case of my sister perhaps.) What is more, neither my siblings nor I ever repeated such abuse in our own lives. In fact, all of us seem to have gone out of our way to avoid behaving anything at all like our parents, despite the fact their flaws left their mark upon our lives. When Skip and Beth had families, the family life they created was the opposite of how we had been raised. Both of my older siblings had been determined not to repeat the mistakes of our parents, although my younger brother has been less successful..

As for myself, I resolved at a very young age to never marry, I wanted to live a life of chastity, like the saints. In many ways, this led to even greater difficulties as I matured, as you’ll see. Needless to say, what I have written of my life before the age of reason, my behavior offers proof to the doctrine of original sin and its risidual effects.

To be continued.
[Photo credit: Topper with George and Marion Kirby haunting in the background.]

Have you seen this man?

His name is Hunter Collingwood. Please contact Charlene Pfounman through the comment section of this blog with any information you might have concerning his whereabouts. DO NOT approach him or talk with him.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Question and answer.

My post-Oscar interview.

Question: Are you going to see the pope?

Answer: No

Q: Why not? You have plenty of free time, you could easily go.

A: Yeah. No. I'm not going.

Q: Why?

A: I can see him on television and read what he has to say online. I don't like big Masses anyway.

Q: So, what do you think about the pope coming to visit?

A: I'm very happy about it. I like this pope very much.

Q: More than John Paul II?

A: Yes, much more.

Q: Why?

A: Because he is more Catholic than the pope. (Laughs out loud.)

Q: What exactly do you mean by that?

A: Nothing... nothing, really.

Q: Are you happy with the Oscar winners?

A: Yes, very.

Q: Who is your favorite?

A: Favorite what?

Q: Actor, movie, director, you know, who is your favorite?

A: Can't say really... Daniel Day-Lewis is very good, he is talented and doesn't seem to be caught up in all the publicity and glamor. The British actors seem more grounded and much more talented.

Q: Yes, but many of them lead rather amoral lives. For instance, Tilda Swinton lives with her lover and her husband, and of course many Hollywood people live in morally irregular situations as well.

A: So?

Q: Okay then. Now how is that memoir thing working out for you?

A: I'm not sure, it is getting bogged down at the moment, much too complicated and wordy.

Q: What will you do?

A: Stop writing for awhile, I suppose.

Q: How is Lent going for you then?

A: Not very well, and it seems as if it is half over now.

Q: Do you look forward to Easter then?

A: Not really.

Q: Why not?

A: It seems artificial. You know, all sad and weepy on Good Friday until suddenly on Easter Sunday everyone is supposed to be happy and celebrating. I have a really hard time making that transition.

Q: I'm surprised to hear you say that, what do you mean by that statement?

A: Nothing... nothing really...

The end of the interview.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Story: Chapter Three, Part Two (Sex in the city)

Chapter Three, Part Two

It occurs to me the house in my dream had to be the Bates house, and it makes no difference whatsoever if one believes in dreams or not, the imagery was definitely file footage from my unconscious. I suspect my search throughout the house is exactly what this memoir is about, my search for meaning in life – or more specifically, in what happened to me. As I mentioned, it was at that address I arrived at the age of reason, I learned the difference between good and evil, and although I was overwhelmingly attracted to all that was good and holy, evil robbed me of my innocence.

In the mid-1980’s, shortly after my mother died, I began to see a doctor for therapy. I wasn’t having any breakdown or crises, although I had some difficulties understanding certain behaviors. I kept it secret from friends and family simply because I was ashamed of seeing a psychologist, and I was afraid others would think I was crazy and “needed” psychiatric help. I also did private pay so that there would be no insurance record. Interestingly, the psychologist offered me medications almost immediately, although I refused, I knew I didn’t need them. Anyway, everyone knows how in the past, mental illness was a stigmatized disease, although that attitude has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Today, we recognize many illnesses, clinical depression, bi-polar, and others, that can be controlled with medication and therapy. Today, it seems a good portion of the population is on some form of anti-depressant or mood enhancing drug, so mental illness is pretty much out in the open. Therefore, discriminatory feelings against anyone seeking psychiatric help should be quite rare today.

That said, my therapist helped me immensely when he explained to me I had been sexualized at an early age, something I never even thought about until he said it. Certainly sexual things went on before the family had moved to Bates, although I’m not sure witnessing my parents making love while I was still an infant counts. (I'm sure it must have happened to countless kids who slept with their parents.) Of course, fondling a neighbor, the husband of a woman who happened to be a friend of my mom’s, as well as being molested by an older neighbor boy would fit the doctor's diagnosis. Being four years old at the time of these encounters certainly fits the description of, ‘sexualized at an early age’.

Something must have been very odd in that neighborhood, since it seems to have been a rather sexually active place. The boy who molested me, most likely had been abused by his dad, since some of the things he wanted to do to me fit the profile of adult on child sexual activity. The family lived next door to our building in a single family dwelling – with a garage – where it happened to me. My dad disliked the father, calling him a “god damned D.P.” – which stood for Displaced Person after the war. My dad referred to him as a “fruitcake” (another term for homosexual) and was clearly jealous of his immigrant status as well as the benefits he received from the Government. My brother Skip played with the son, although I have no idea if his friend Rudy molested him too. (After my brother died, Beth told me Skip had been molested in New Richmond. The subject only came up when I mentioned I thought he had been sexually abused as a child.)

My relationship with my brother was confusing at best. On one hand, he emerged as my protector against physical abuse from my parents, yet at the same time, he seemed to resent me. He made fun of everything I did; mocking my piety, my intelligence – I could read simple comic strips before I was 5 years old - and he made fun of my attempts at drawing. He never wanted me to play with his friends, and refused to let me do anything except sit on the sidelines when they played sports. (Privately, Skip could be very good to me. I honestly think his negative behavior towards me was the result of how mom and dad neglected him – something I’ll discuss later.) Feeling somewhat inferior to Skip and his friends became the perfect set up for his boyfriend to exploit me. When Rudy was kind to me, and seemed interested in playing with me, I was flattered and fell right into the trap. And I never told anyone about it – because I thought it had been my fault.

Of course, Beth wasn’t exempt from abuse either. One day Skip and I had been locked out of our apartment by the high school boy my parents hired as our babysitter. Beth was inside. Strangely, both of us knew something was going on, although Beth has no recollection of it. We told mom and dad what happened and they fired the boy for locking us out – but we never mentioned Beth had been inside, nor our suspicions of sexual abuse, for fear of what would happen to Beth. Looking back, it seems to me the kids in that neighborhood were exposed to sexual activity everywhere they turned.

The same can be said for the parents, remember all of these things happened before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, and I’m fairly certain that when my parents were kids, things were pretty much the same for them. (I have reason to believe they too had been sexually abused at some point in their childhood – but that’s another story.) Obviously, as adults, sex was a big deal for my parents; I mentioned seeing/hearing them late at night, and witnessing other “inappropriate” behavior during the day. (Appropriate for marriage, inappropriate in front of kids.) Typically, when some of their friends visited, the conversation veered in that direction; not just jokes, but stories about sexual misconduct. For instance, once the parents of one of Beth’s girlfriends came over to talk to Betty and Kenny about the parish school. After a few beers, Mr. Rabbet, a door to door salesman, began telling stories of housewives who answered the door naked. It sounds rather juvenile, nevertheless for the time, these were titillating conversations, and totally inappropriate in front of children.

Naturally, everything wasn’t always dark and tawdry, there are a few funny “coming of age” stories related to all of the depravity as well. (I call one of them, "Jill on the window sill.")

To be continued.

The 2008 Oscars!

The big upset of the night will be the Best Actress award.

Marion Cotillard will take the award. Most people seem to be betting on Julie Christie, whom I love, or the Juno star. But I'm predicting Marion Cotillard for her performance as Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose". Vive la France!

Then, the Oscar goes to:

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis for "There Will Be Blood" (I mean, how often is a real actor nominated for this award?)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Charlie Wilson's War" (He should win. He is probably one of the very best actors ever.)

Best actress in a Supporting Role: Cate for "I'm Not There" (She should win. Ruby Dee wasn't acting - she really is that old.)

Best Picture: "No Country For Old Men"

Director: the Coen Brothers, "No Country For Old Men" (I know! It's rare best pic and director both get the Oscar - but this year they have no other choice.)

Best original Screenplay: "Juno"

And just for Cathy:

Makeup: "La Vie En Rose"

Costume: "Sweeney Todd"

If I am wrong on any of these, the Academy made the mistake, not me.

(Posted at 1:25PM, February 24, 2008.)