We Called Her Mom

I’m not entirely certain why reminiscences of my grandmother have come up this week. They preceded finding a copy of my eulogy written for her in May 1988. She was 97 when she died. We called her “Mom.” She lived in a tiny southern town — Ashland, Alabama — where my sister and I had visited many times. Here’s the eulogy:

My most vivid childhood memories of Mom are, naturally enough, linked to warm summer days in Ashland when my sister and I would most often come to visit. Those were lazy summer mornings for me. I often spent them doing nothing in Mom’s front yard. In her front yard was the first time I investigated the mysteries of green moss. Out in front was also a set of mysterious concrete steps down to the curb leading to the street. I often puzzled over the existence of those steps leading nowhere. But I used to sit on them for hours and watch the Ashland of thirty [now more than sixty] years ago go by. Somebody on horseback or in a mule-drawn wagon might come along – quite a spectacle for a little girl raised in the city. Sometimes people would come to visit Mom, and they would drive their cars – or more usually their trucks – right up onto the front yard. Sometimes it seemed they would drive right up onto the front porch!

You could crawl under Mom’s front porch and under her house, too, if you dared. One day somebody drove up in one of those pick-up trucks, crawled under the porch and killed a snake under there! Much of the exotic trivia of my youth comes from Ashland.

Because of Mom’s love and concern for this church [the Baptist Church across the street from her house], it isn’t surprising that many of my Ashland memories are of this church. Sometimes on those long summer days I would go across the street to the old church building and play the piano. I was about ten or eleven then and not a very good piano player, but the church was cool on hot summer days, and I would play “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” and sing along.

And on Sunday, we’d go to church in white elastic mesh gloves and black patent-leather shoes and crinolines that we had brought along…special. I had a little straw hat with daisies around the brim. And I would sing the hymns and, before air conditioning, I would examine carefully the peaceful scenes on the fans.

Late on those summer afternoons we would come home to Mom’s from a day at the swimming pool or an afternoon at the five-cent movie, and Mom would be there busy: feeding the chickens or bustling around the kitchen making fried chicken, biscuit, lemon meringue pie. Oh! Mom’s lemon meringue pie! She kept on making it until she was in her 80’s because she knew we loved it so. And then we’d have the chicken and the biscuit and sip pink lemonade through silver straws that my father had brought from Mexico.

I remember the warm – no, hot – summer nights. Mom’s magic porch held a magic bench swing. We would sit out there on that swing and do nothing. Tell ghost stories maybe. Play jacks by the light of the door. When my sister got older, boys would come by.

Mom was like those warm summer nights: tranquil, accepting, at peace. Mom had a rare capacity for acceptance. She never railed against the fates, even when she lost a brother to typhus, a son to war (see blog post, November 11, 2020), and then a husband to cancer. She accepted what life in God’s wisdom had offered her. I know that she didn’t always approve of what we did or how we ran our lives. But she never criticized. She accepted us and loved us for what we gave and what we were. She never rejected us for what we didn’t give or what we weren’t.

I sort of lost touch with Mom as I busied through college and graduate school. After my grandfather died, she was always part of my life, always part of my Christmas, always part of my school vacations, but I was too busy to notice. And then I finally grew up and married and was fortunate enough to marry a man who realized, and helped me realize again, the treasure that our family had living with us, sitting quietly in her room reading. It was Mom in her 80’s who knew when Hank Aaron was trying to beat Babe Ruth’s home-run record. Mom who read Oliver Twist before we went to see the movie. Mom who read things that would dismay or rattle a less accepting human being. Mom who read all of the richness of life, took it in, and accepted it for its window to the world.

Going through her papers this week we came across a quotation she had cut out of the newspaper. I see why she saved it; It’s the way she lived her life:

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and the wonder of the world.

Mom gave to my life a living model of peace in a hectic world. She believed in and lived in the peace of God that passeth all understanding. Her legacy to me was her quiet goodness and the fundamental decency of her life. My sister and I have both commented that it was like Mom to leave this world in the brilliance of spring and in the peace of her sleep.

I thank her belatedly for being a calm and loving presence in my life and wish her now all the peace and tranquility of those warm summer nights.

Forgive Yourself

          Should Trump be criminally prosecuted after he leaves office? Many assume that a president cannot be prosecuted while in office but can be later. Even so, that an ex-president can be prosecuted does not necessarily mean that he should be, and my feelings about such a prosecution are mixed.

          Deciding not to bring valid criminal charges seems to place the president above the law, and that does not seem right. On the other hand, a prosecution brought by a political rival tends to make the country look like a despotic state in which political rivals get jailed by those in power. In addition, I am concerned that the Trumpistas may become even stronger and more entrenched by a Trump prosecution. My opinion: Trump should be prosecuted only if he committed a crime of such clear venality that it would be apparent to most people that this was not simply a political prosecution.

          However, if Trump pardons himself before leaving office, the next administration will have almost a duty to prosecute him. The self-pardon brings up two issues: 1) Can there be a pardon when a person has not been convicted or even charged with an offense? 2) Can a president pardon himself? There is an accepted answer to the first question, but not the second.

          It seems strange to many that a pardon can be issued for crimes that have not been charged, but we have two famous examples of such clemency in our history: On Christmas Day 1868, President Andrew Johnson pardoned all confederates even though the southerners had not been charged with crimes. And on September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon even though Nixon had not been indicted or charged. Nothing in the Constitution and nothing said by the Founders authorizes such preemptive pardons and nothing forbids them, but the actions of Johnson and Ford have been accepted as legitimate. Thus, pundits proclaim that a president can pardon people for crimes that have not been charged.

          (There is an important difference between those two pardons. Johnson pardoned the confederates “for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies in the late civil war.” Ford issued a blanket amnesty for any and all crimes, known and unknown, during a specific period. Ford granted Nixon a pardon “for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974.”)

So, while there is precedent for pardons of unindicted crimes, we have no historical precedent for a president pardoning himself. Arguments have been advanced both in favor and against that power. If Trump does issue an I-forgive-myself decree, I may explore the competing arguments, but suffice it to say now that it is not certain whether presidents are allowed to self-pardon. However, neither the constitutional text, the constitutional debates, nor court decisions made it clear that a president could preemptively pardon, but the actions of Johnson and Ford have served as precedents legitimizing that power. (Jimmy Carter on his first full day in the Presidency in 1977 granted amnesty to all who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War era. While many praised or condemned the wisdom of his action, no one seems to have questioned his authority to grant the preemptive pardons.)

          And that is why if Trump pardons himself, the Justice Department, assuming it has appropriate grounds to do so, should indict the Donald. There are clear dangers in presidents being able to pardon themselves. They can then freely commit crimes knowing that they can escape criminal punishment by being able to pardon themselves. If Trump pardons himself and that action is left unchallenged, it may become assumed that a president has such authority, just as it is now accepted that presidents have a preemptive pardon power. A self-pardon should be challenged so that the courts are forced to rule on its legitimacy. Thus, the scenario goes, Trump is indicted. Trump, presumably through an attorney—please, please, let it be streaky-faced and incoherent Rudy Giuliani—will move to dismiss the charges, citing the pardon. Courts will have to rule on this motion, and that ruling will presumably make its way to the Supreme Court. In the end we would have more than Trump’s opinion that he has the ability to pardon himself.

          Thus, I am hesitant about trying Trump for crimes unless he pardons himself, and then there definitely should be a criminal prosecution. I expect that others share these views, and thus we have a somewhat bizarre situation where if Trump does not pardon himself, he is less likely to be federally indicted than if he does.

          Of course, if Trump wants a pardon, he should work out a deal with his Vice-President and say, “Mike, I will resign if you, when you are President, will pardon me. Pinkie swear?” But since it is not clear that the two are even talking these days, this will be a hard conversation for Trump to initiate.

Snippets

We need to retire all phrases like this: “This is not our America” “This is not who we are.” “We are better than this.” The good and the bad—both have been in America from its inception. The bad is at least as much part of this country as the good. We need to recognize that if the country is to get better.

To my surprise, Edith Piaf recorded more than one song. In spite of what my ear tells me, I am not hearing the same song over and over.

The news reported that a pastor of a Methodist church was killed with his own gun by a fugitive who had taken shelter in the building overnight. The minister drew his gun when confronted by the fugitive, but the fugitive wrestled the firearm away and killed the pastor. I am guessing that this is not a situation that Second Amendment fanatics will be citing often.

The District of Columbia has strict gun laws. Is that a reason that there was not more gun fire during the insurrection?

The spouse was right again. I thought “ukase” had three syllables.

The spouse right yet again. I did not know the difference between “mantel” and “mantle.”

The final season of The Good Place mocked my alma mater. I don’t know what it says about me, but I thought it was funny and a bit too much on the mark.

Trump believes that he is a self-made man. He wants to relieve the Almighty of a great responsibility.

In an updated take on a story about Disraeli and Gladstone: “What is the difference between a misfortune and a calamity?” “If Trump fell into the Potomac, that would be a misfortune;  if anybody pulled him out, that would be a calamity.”

People I know once included the president in their prayers. Now they look at the president and pray fervently for the country.

I would not be upset if I never encountered the word “proactive” again. Most often its use is merely pompous without adding anything to the thought supposedly being stated. For example, I recently read a job description for a manager of a club. One requirement for the job stated: “[He/she should] proactively anticipate, address and resolve member and guest issues with utmost timeliness, courtesy and professionalism.”  A dictionary defines “proactive”: “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.” Another dictionary concludes its definition with one word: “anticipatory.” Perhaps to the writer the word “proactively” in the job description sounded weighty and meaningful, but it was merely redundant. (Of course, we could also ask what “utmost” added to the job description.) Another part of the listed qualifications said that a new manager must “be creative and proactive in the development of a marketing strategy.”  How is the meaning changed if “and proactive” were excised? Let’s quit using it.

We Have Audited

            During the riots on Wednesday, I watched right-wing media to get their “take” on the events. Some of the commentators were continuing to assert, often in vague terms, that the election was fraudulent and stolen. Many others, however, while not overtly claiming fraud, maintained that a sizeable percentage of the population does not trust the outcome of the election and that those feelings must be addressed. Many who want to appease the angry hordes suggested an audit of the election. How or why this would mollify those who must be mollified was never explained.

            The appeasers ignore the fact that we already have had audits of this past election. Wisconsin investigated its voting machines. They worked just fine. Pennsylvania always does an audit after the election. There was no fraud. And, of course, Georgia did an audit. Even so, the claims of fraud and massive irregularities continued. Facts have not mattered. And reason seems to be in short supply.

            Consider Georgia again. A claim was made and stated again and again by Trump that ballots for Biden were erroneously scanned three times. You don’t have to be a forensic accountant, Hieronymus Bosch, or Sherlock Homes to deduce that if such a claim were true, the votes totaled by the machines would have been greater than the number of paper ballots. (A thinking person might also ask how Trump would know who the ballots were for.) Georgia, in its audit, did a hand recount of the paper ballots, and those totals were in sync with the machine tallies. The claim of multiple scanning was conclusively disproved. Of course, even so, Trump continued to make the claim.

While it is clear that Trump’s goal was to spread widespread distrust of the election outcome, others now say that they are not claiming massive fraud. No. Instead, their goal is to combat the distrust that so many cling to. If that were really so, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Laura Ingraham, and all those Republic representatives would have been responding every time the president made the thrice-scanned claim about Georgia, “It is not so,” they would have said. “American public, the president has been proved wrong. He is not credible when he says ballots were scanned more than once in Georgia.” And they would have gone on to explain the irrefutable evidence. Did any of them do that? If they didn’t, I can’t take them seriously now that they claim that their goal is to lessen distrust of the election outcome.

I do not know why Trump refuses to face logic or accept the evidence. It might be because of willful blindness or because he is a pathological liar or because he is delusional or because he is trying to emulate Putin. But what is to be made of these conservative leaders who have not addressed the proof? What is their goal? What is their excuse? Trump will be out of office; they will still be with us.

            It is assuredly a problem that there is widespread distrust of the election, but there is an even bigger concern. Too many of us have forgotten the definition of a “fact”…not an alternative fact, a fact. Too many of us rely on and accept unsubstantiated assertions and allegations. We need to be able to seek out evidence and proof. I don’t know how we as a society can get better at fact-finding. Perhaps things might change if our elected and media leaders took the care to examine evidence and to denounce what is palpably not true. That has not been happening. Instead, too many of our leaders carelessly repeat falsehoods and baseless claims, do not correct them, and pass them on. That happened even during the insurrection. On conservative media, speaker after speaker said that “reports” stated that the Trump people had been infiltrated by left-wing agitators. No one identified the source of these “reports.” Was it the police; a demonstrator; an official in the White House; a reporter? And no doubt, some, perhaps many, in this country will now believe that antifa is the cause of the desecration without any evidence having been presented. Is this what we allow to pass for journalism or leadership?

            Some Republicans and traditional conservatives have pulled away from Trump (Lindsay Graham angrily—or so he seemed to be — said, “Enough is enough.” And I thought, “After three years and fifty weeks, you have finally come to that conclusion? Are you an imbecile? A know-nothing? A weasel?”), but our problems seem only to be intensifying. People are not entitled to their own facts, but a lot of people seem to believe that they do have that right.

Today is the Sixth of January

I had been thinking of various essays to commemorate today, January 6, often known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Several topics came to mind.

First, I thought I might write about the bizarre time the spouse and I were ordered by a man to hide behind some columns in a dark crypt inside an Mayan pyramid in Yucatan, and then we think we were invited by this man (we think it only because we had such trouble understanding his English) to a neighborhood Three Kings party. P.S. We didn’t go.

            Then I thought I might write about how some traditions call the Magi Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar even though these names are not in the Bible. I would continue by noting that not all Christian faiths limit the Magi to three or agree that the wise men visited shortly after Jesus was born. Thus, s0me denominations have as many as twelve Magi and some have the adoration by them occurring up to two years after the birth. I might include that we refer to them as “kings” even though that designation does not appear in the Bible.

            And then I thought I might explore different gift-giving traditions observing that various cultures share presents on St. Nicholas Day, December 5, or 6,  some on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas Day, some on Boxing Day, and others on January 6.

            I have several times been in New Orleans on January 6 and have always been served Three Kings cake then.  I planned to write amusingly about that tiny plastic baby Jesus hidden inside the cake, which I think is tacky. The essay would have continued with a discussion of Mardi Gras.

            However, I have been distracted today from thinking about the religious, social, and cultural aspects of January 6. All such thoughts have recently been replaced by a new epiphany that January 6 is another important day in the selection of our president. For most of my life, I considered there to be only two crucial dates for our presidential picking: Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) and Inauguration Day, some day in January when, according to the Constitution, a new presidential term starts at noon. I was aware that we had an Electoral College, but I never knew the date that it “met” because it never seemed crucial, and it never garnered more than a paragraph in the news. (Of course, the EC does not really meet – at least not in Washington. Instead, electors in each state separately convene and cast their votes.) If I had thought about it, I might have realized that there had to be some sort of state certification process of the vote after Election Day, but until this year I had not thought about that process. Moreover, I learned that the date of certification varies from state to state.

            And then there is the day that Congress counts the electoral vote — once again a date I have paid little attention to because for a century-and-a-half it has been an insignificant day of routine bookkeeping. I could not have told you that it fell on January 6, but now I know that it does. It is still expected to have no practical significance. The electoral count will be the same number that has been in effect since a few days after the election. However, this January 6 will garner more attention than any congressional elector count since 1876, a shameful time in our history. We can hope that today’s count will not reveal a shameful time in our current history.  

            The day will get attention because several members of Congress will object to the electoral count, and that will lead to “debate” in each House. Other than reaping attention for themselves, the naysayers are not expected to affect the election results. At least some of the constitutional subverters say their goal is not to keep Trump in office, but to address the distrust that has built in the public. F0r example, Ted (Look! I can grow a Covid beard) Cruz, a leader in attacking the election, said, “We’ve seen in the last two months unprecedented allegations of voter fraud. And that’s produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country. I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that.” (Hmmm. And what’s he going to do? Tell us that the fraud is real and the election results are invalid? Yeah, that’ll help.)

            So, while he is hardly the appropriate person to address this problem, he has a point. Even I have become distrustful of our “democratic” processes, not because I buy into the baseless claims of electoral fraud, but because so many of our political “leaders” are fanning the fraud flames and are advocating extraordinary, sometimes bizarre, and often illegal and unconstitutional measures that would sabotage the democratic process. While we can be cautiously optimistic that today will end as it should with Biden’s being declared President, the bombastic stupidity that will be on display is disheartening to say the least.

            The Trumpistas are winning. They have made me distrustful and fearful. May our country and our democracy and our republican form of government survive today intact.

Snippets

How different would news reports and public perception of the Nashville bombing be if the bomber had been Black or if he had had a name that sounded as if he were a Muslim?

A recent news story said that only one professional football team had a former NFL player as its chaplain. The article did not make clear if all professional football teams had a chaplain, but it made me wonder what other businesses regularly employ clergy. How many lumbering or office-cleaning companies have a chaplain?

The op-ed headline said, “Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party? I Hope So”. How large do you think a party of “principled conservatives” would be?

“Tyranny is always better organized than freedom.” Charles Pierre Péguy.

The two-note introduction to some Netflix productions makes me wonder if that streaming company has the same composer as Law and Order.

Trump has made appointments to a commission he created to promote “patriotic education.” I thought of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said, “There is no patriotic art and no patriotic science.”

“The essential matter of history is not what happened but what is thought or said about it.” Frederic W. Maitland.

It is good to know that our society has something that is nearly perfect. A sports columnist, who I expect knows a lot more about football than most people including me, predicts the outcome of all the professional football  games against the point spread. To his credit, he gives the tally of how he has done throughout the season. The last time I looked he had been right 116 times and wrong 116 times. Damn, those point spreads are good.

On December 14, many news outlets had some variation of “democracy prevailed because the Electoral College functioned,” a platitude that may be repeated on January 6. Four years earlier, many said that we did not have a democracy because the Electoral College functioned.

Obama released his favorite books of 2020. Do you think Trump will?

A tiny tragedy of the winter: one small mitten on the edge of the sidewalk with no one around. Old joke: “I have never seen second-degree burns like that. What happened?” “Somebody called and I picked up the steam iron by mistake.” “But what about your other ear?” “They called back.”

Why Celebrate January 1?

          The New Year did not always begin on January 1. New Year’s Day was celebrated on different dates throughout history. In some ages and places, January 1 started another year, but in other places and ages, a new year began on December 25 or March 1 or some other date. In early England and its American colonies, March 25 was New Year’s Day, which strikes me as odd. I may be conditioned by the January 1 date, but it only seems natural to begin a new year as a new month begins. March 1 or April 1 seem to be possibilities for another year, especially since these are days of spring in the northern hemisphere when we see the earth being renewed.

          In England and America January 1 became New Year’s Day in 1752 as England adopted the Gregorian calendar, leading to the trivia question of when was a year not a year-long? The answer: 1751. The British parliament passed a law adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1750 that mandated that the year 1751, which began on March 25, would end on December 31 with next year being January 1, 1752. Thus, 1751 in England was only 282 days long.

          There is another answer to that trivia question, however. The Julian calendar in use in England was not quite accurate, something that had been recognized during the middle ages. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII adopted the more accurate Gregorian calendar, which had January 1 as a year’s starting point. (What are the odds? Gregory adopted the Gregorian calendar.) This deletion required the elimination of ten days so that 1582 is also a year that was not year-long.

          Of course, because the Pope made this change, which brought about a needed change, many Protestant countries resisted it, apparently thinking that if the Antichrist was behind it, then it could not be all good. Eventually, of course, other countries did recognize that the Gregorian calendar was not some sort of devilish trick and adopted the new style of dating—even the British.

          Now countries that used to use different calendars have adopted the Gregorian calendar, including Japan, Egypt, Korea, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. New Year’s Day starts at the stroke of midnight on January 1 and is the most celebrated time around the world as billions are excited by fireworks, whistles, and bells, local time of course.

          Even though I don’t understand why we celebrate the day, come Friday I, too, will be saying “Happy New Year!”

(See you next Monday.)

Let’s Go Bowling

It is college football bowl season. There are many reasons to find college football despicable, ridiculous, and ludicrous, and bowl games are one of them. The games are played when the football players either should be with family or studying for finals. Most of the games are unexciting, meaningless affairs between teams that have been mediocre in the already too long regular college football season. Of course, this year the games are being played in mostly empty stadiums, but that is often true in other years, too. The games generate so little enthusiasm that the stadiums were mostly empty in past seasons. Only a handful of the many bowls produce excitement and get crowds.

The games, however, generate money. They are televised and they also draw a sponsor whose name makes it into the title of the bowl making for some strange sounding contests. I was reminded of this early this bowl season when I was flicking through ESPN and saw that the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl was on. (I have no idea who the teams were or what the outcome was, and I am willing to bet none of you do either.) I had never heard of RoofClaim.com before, and I still don’t know what it is, but I assume, but do not know, that it has some connection with Boca Raton, Florida.

My impression is that there are fewer bowl games this season compared to years past, but we still have some intriguing bowl names that raise questions. For example, this year there will be a Cheez-It Bowl and a Duke’s Mayo Bowl. I assume there will be normal football games at these events, but the title makes it seem as if there will be something like mud wrestling where the football will be played in fields covered in a yellow snack or in one of carefully prepared pimiento cheese and other mayonnaise-based delicacies. They might be fun to watch.

We will have a PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, and I can’t help wonder if this will be a real head knocking game or a virtual event. The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl seems to be working against itself. Should I eat a chicken sandwich or the fruit? Or is the chain marketing a new culinary creation? And what should I make of this year’s R + L Carrier New Orleans Bowl, the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl, the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, and the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.

These names may have some appeal, but to me they don’t match the titles from olden days, which in this case means a few years ago—real classics like the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. And of course, that all-time favorite, the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.

In today’s world, however, we need not just create new names for bowl games, we need to rethink them to make them more interesting. I have a few suggestions.

The Paul Manafort Ukraine Bowl. Instead of a fake-tasting sports drink, delicious borscht is poured over the head of the winning coach as  commentators read a lobbyist-written script, generating a huge bill, that Ukraine, not Russia, was the creator of the beet soup. At halftime, instead of marching bands, ostriches are paraded as well-connected people bid to have the best-looking birds made into jackets. The proceeds go to a “charity,” but no one knows what that means.

The Roger Stone WikiLeaks Bowl where it is mandatory to steal your opponent’s playbook. The game officials wear faux Saville Row clothes, and their every third pronouncement is a lie. The referee said it was a first down, but was it? Or was that a dirty trick?

The Rudy Giuliani Get-Even-Crazier Bowl. The teams get to make up their own rules for every play, but each is still doomed to failure. The field is delineated with hair dye, and the game is played in a warm climate. As the temperature begins to rise, the lines run and form Rorschach tests.

The Smartmatic Hugo Chavez Venezuela Bowl. Even though there is no such game, OAN, Newsmax, and Fox are heavily bidding on it with Fox planning on Maria Bartiromo doing the play by play, which would be her first real journalism in years.

The Dominion Voting Systems Bowl where 47.3% of the spectators believe that every time their team scores the scoreboard adds even more points to the opponent’s total.

The Donald Suck-Up Swamp Bowl. Played in a foul-smelling bog that many spectators pretend not to see or care about, each player drawing a penalty can beseech a man with orange hair sitting behind a tiny table by saying “Pardon me” in hopes of having the offense forgiven.

Snippets . . . Christmas Edition

Die Hard, to my amazement, makes lists of the best Christmas movies because it is set at Christmas time. Lethal Weapon, made a year or two before Die Hard, is also set in Los Angeles during the Christmas season. Is it, too, a Christmas movie? Or is the important takeaway that I should especially eschew LA at the holidays?

For the holidays, the fisherman sent his friends Christmas cods.

“And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” Luke 2: 3-5.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns.

During a break in the chess matches, the tournament players gathered in the hotel’s lobby and started bragging about their triumphs in past meetings. They were just chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

One of Santa’s helpers tried to commit suicide. He had low elf-esteem.

The Three Wise Men followed the big star. Were they the first groupies? (Yes, I know that the Bible does not say that there were three wise men.)

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have to worship him.’” Matthew 2:1-2.

As kids, we liked to sing, “We three kings of orient are/Puffing on a royal cigar/One was loaded and exploded/ We two kings of orient are.” (Yes, I know that the Bible does not say that there were three wise men.)

I was surprised to learn that Mary and Joseph did not speak English. Who, then, taught Jesus the language?

I have read that the song “Silver Bells” was originally called “Tinkle Bells” until the composer’s spouse pointed out the problem.

At 6PM on Christmas day, the NBP and I were walking home from a movie when a woman stopped and asked us if she was walking in the right direction for the supermarket. We said, “Yes.” I asked her what she was looking for and she replied, “Oatmeal.” Both the NBP and I pointed across the street to a neighborhood store that was open and said, “They must have oatmeal.” “Not the kind I want,” she said. Even though she knew that the supermarket may have been closed, she headed off for it. It seemed like an unlikely search for a Christmas night, but I wished her success.

I received for Christmas a few years ago a specially made T shirt I had requested. It reads: “TRUMP. HIS MOTHER DID NOT HAVE HIM TESTED.” I am not yet retiring it.

Do we ever refer to a song as a “carol” except for those about Christmas?

“We learn from experience that not everything which is incredible is untrue.” Cardinal de Betz, Memoirs.

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, . . . ‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.’ . . . And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, . . . “For with God nothing shall be impossible.’”

See you again next Monday.

Merry Christmas

Stories Lost

It is not one of the tragedies of Covid-19, but it does irritate me that because of the virus I will not learn how some stories are unfolding. For example, M was a bartender at my local biergarten. He was unlike the other bartenders in having been born in New York City, but he was like them in having been raised elsewhere—in M’s case in the Miami area. M, however, was less talkative than others who pulled the beer. He did say that his parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia and that he still had relatives there. He clearly liked his Colombian aunts, uncles, and cousins and looked forward to trips to see them. Most of the other bartenders talked about avocations or hoped-for careers outside of bartending. M did not, even though, according to others in the bar, he and friends did audio work for videos. (My ignorance of much of the technical world barred me from understanding what M actually did.)

  A year after I met M, however, he became livelier, and the cause was clear. He had a girlfriend; he was in love. He was proud of her and excited. L was a Cuban American raised in the Miami, Florida, area. Even though M came from nearby, they had met in Brooklyn and had known each other only a short while. She was working in New York for a Canadian-based nonprofit, and it was not clear to me how they had met. She was attractive and charming. I could see why M had fallen, and she seemed to return the feeling. She would regularly come into the bar when M bartended and hang out with him. Sitting at the bar, my back would be to the door, but I could always tell when she entered because M would light up.

I saw from an observer’s chair (i.e., a barstool) this love affair beginning to unfold, but Covid-19 closed the bar and has prevented me from seeing ensuing chapters. M had met L’s mother who had come to New York for a convention. M was clearly proud that his girlfriend’s mother was, as he put it, “high up in the administration of southeast Florida’s most important hospital organization.” On the other hand, M had never mentioned what any of his relatives did, but I was confident none held such a high-achieving position. M and L talked about going to Colombia to visit M’s relations. I would have been curious about her reactions to them.

L, as with other Cuban Americans I have met, had some strong political views. Some of her forebears had important positions in Cuba that were lost under communism, and to put it mildly, she was not a fan of Castro. On the other hand, she worked for a do-gooder organization trying to improve aspects of this world, and she was not a Trumpista. In contrast, I had never heard M express any political or social opinion. I didn’t see her views changing, but as M and L went on, I wondered whether he would become more politically and socially engaged.

 They were clearly smitten with each other, but there were reasons to wonder if they were well matched. L, for example, said that she came to New York to enroll at Fordham University and that she said that she picked a New York school because she wanted “to expand my horizons beyond Florida.” I realized then that I had never heard M mention college or education of any sort and that I had never heard him express any curiosity about the world except how to make a fortune in bitcoins.

I, however, will probably never know how the story has progressed. The bar still survives but with only a few outside tables and no beer at the bar. I have been told that most of the staff have long gone to other jobs and opportunities. If I ever go to the bar again, I doubt that I will see M. I will not learn how his story, admittedly not the most compelling or interesting I have encountered but which did have some interest for me, has continued. His story will just have disappeared from me, and in this small way, the coronavirus will have made my life just a little less interesting.