Tuesday, June 30, 2020

'Blood' and Family

Want to read an outstanding book by a talented writer?

There's "Blood," by singer-songwriter Allison Moorer.

Want to enhance the experience?

Listen to the Audible version of the book.

"Blood" is a memoir centered on the murder/suicide of the author's parents outside her bedroom window when she was just 14 years old.

In less-capable and thoughtful hands, such a shocking story might be impossible to tell.

Instead, I found the Audible version -- read by the author in a plaintive voice -- both touching and intimate. It inspired me.

On one level, it's inspiring to experience the act of being told a story. It harkens back to Homer and Shakespeare, to the days my parents read stories to me, and to memories of reading stories to my daughters.

On another level, I was inspired by "Blood"'s theme of acceptance, forgiveness and love.

If you want to learn more about Moorer's book, I recommend watching her extraordinary interview with "CBS This Morning" last October.

If you want to know more about her music, watch this clip of Moorer and her sister, Shelby Lynne, performing "Maybe Tomorrow" as part of an Everly Brothers tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. (Shelby's the one sticking the gum she'd been chewing on top of Albert Lee's amp.)


As each post-COVID day fades into the next, I've been searching for inspiration.

At first, I found some comfort from a small book of daily Bible reflections, "Rejoice and Be Glad 2020 (Easter to Pentecost)" by my friend Mary DeTurris Poust. She wrote her reflections many months ago, well before the pandemic, but scripture being what it is, the readings seemed ever-relevant.

After Pentecost Sunday (May 31), I subscribed to FaithND, my alma mater's email of daily Gospel reflections.

We're back in "ordinary time" now, at least according to the Church. The beginning of last Sunday's reading (Matthew 10:37)... the day I finished listening to Moorer's book... was a bit startling:

Jesus said to his disciples, "No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me."
I know it's unfair to focus on a lone Bible verse without context, but this one stuck in my head all day.

Meanwhile, late that night, Moorer's whispering voice... her haunting and lyrical words... reflected on her still-undying love for her parents, and her devotion to her sister.

Family is everything, and so today I'm posting this old photo of me and my sister.

Today is her birthday. I will always love her. We share the same blood.

No one is more important in my life than my sister, my wife, my daughters and my mother.

This is why Moorer's stunning book inspired me more than Sunday's Gospel.

I will never be a disciple like Matthew.

I admit it: I am not worthy.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

9 Photos, 100 Days

It's the end of longest day of the year, the eve of the holiest day of the year (Father's Day) and 100 days since I began sheltering in place in New Jersey.

Here are 9 photos that tell a bit of that story.

This is Times Square on Friday, the 13th of March, my last working day in the best city in the world:

This the Hackensack River, viewed from my home town in New Milford, NJ, on March 20. I didn't know what to do with myself those first few days, so I often simply walked aimlessly, alone, before dark:

This is the sunset more than a month later, April 28th, in the center of town... which was still deserted at dusk:

This is New York City on Sunday morning, May 17. I had to drive my daughter to the city, and I parked on empty East 51st Street to listen to the church bells ring at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The reflections of the clouds made the surrounding skyscrapers seem to disappear:

This is the Great Falls of Paterson. On May 20, I stopped on my way home after running an errand to help Mom in Totowa. Police tape blocked the parking lots, but I pulled over on a side street and took a photo anyway:

This is from the bridge between New Milford and Oradell. On May 22, it rained, and my camera captured the flare of an accidental rainbow over the water:

This is Clarence W. Brett Park in Teaneck on May 30. I was in a reflective mood and encountered a reflective scene:

This is the Black Lives Matters rally at the gazebo outside New Milford Borough Hall on June 7:

And this is a foggy Thursday night, June 18, on the Seaside Heights boardwalk... our first family trip out of town since the end of Beforetime:

The four of us -- my wife, two daughters and I -- strolled past one of the few open games of chance. An aggressive barker called out to us, "Come on! Have some fun tonight!"

He couldn't see that we were all already smiling under our masks.

Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What Inspires You Lately?

Black Lives Matter rally
June 7 in New Milford, NJ

What has inspired you lately?

In these unique and challenging times, I am often inspired... and challenged to be better... by the good I see in others.

As communications director for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, I see the great work being promoted recently on Facebook and Twitter by our grantees throughout New York State:

Restocking food pantries, supporting COVID-19 testing programs and providing additional nursing support are just some of the many initiatives supported by our Foundation. I am inspired by the self-sacrifice, dedication and community spirit I see among the grantees.

Last month, I was inspired when reading about Roman Suarez, a New Yorker who didn't leave the city during lockdown (as The New York Times noted so many residents had). He dedicated himself to picking up medication and groceries for three dozen family members in the Bronx. I posted more here, referencing "The Great Gatsby" to say he was worth the whole bunch of fleeing New Yorkers put together.

This past weekend, in my suburban hometown of New Milford, NJ, I was inspired by the peaceful, earnest resolve of those who organized and attended a Black Lives Matter rally on the grounds in front of our police station and borough hall.

Families with young children and babies in strollers, high school and college students, curious older residents and police officers stood in respectful silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The organizers spoke from a small gazebo (adopted and maintained by Girl Scouts Troop 97527), using a toy karaoke machine plugged to a portable generator in a van parked nearby.


For further inspiration, I have my old standbys: literature and music and art.

Usually, I re-read "Gatsby" every Memorial Day weekend, but this year I settled for having recently watched the movie instead. I recalled on Twitter how once, driving my daughter back to college in DC, we had listened to the book together...

I can't seem to concentrate enough to read books lately, though. My mind frets and wanders.

Music is always a comfort. I've been enjoying the intimate "concerts" from the homes of some of my favorite musicians. I was also inspired by this story last weekend, again in The Times: "5 Minutes That Will Make You Love the Cello."

The Times asked Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams, Andrew Lloyd Webber and others to pick cello music that moves them. They posted brief commentaries about their selections. While viewing their words online, you could also listen to their choices.

Two of the selections from Bach reminded me of life after college. I lived in Manhattan, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a concert cellist who loved Bach. On weekends, he would give kids cello lessons in our living room. Recalling those sounds from my bedroom on Saturday mornings -- when anything was possible -- is one of the best, most inspiring memories in my life.

Here's the haunting selection from Bach's Cello Suite No. 5 (choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's favorite), as included in The Times.

Finally, about art.

One local painter I admire, Said Elatab from Paterson, NJ, has a tendency to burn his work whenever he is sad or outraged. He posted this on Instagram last week, urging others to share it:

He wrote that this was his way of expressing his feelings until there is justice in America.

I am inspired by Said's passion. Mostly, though, I am inspired by the underlying message of his literal fire. "Nothing is permanent," the artist reminds us. 

We should support each other. We should value people, not things. We should appreciate what is here today.

I am inspired by these beliefs.

In these unique and challenging times, what inspires you?