Monday, November 30, 2009

Walking the High Line

Ever since it opened to the public on June 9, 2009, Vicki and I have wanted to visit and walk the High Line. We thought we would achieve our goal the evening of the fourth of July and perhaps watch the fireworks from there, but the park was closed that evening. We finally walked along this elevated pedestrian parkway not long ago. We were not disappointed.

Imagine walking along an open air and elevated pedestrian walkway two or three or even more stories above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, with outstanding views of the Hudson River and New Jersey to the west and the Empire State Building to the northeast, all the while surrounded by wildflowers and the remains of an old railroad, and never have to stop for traffic when crossing a street. If you would rather watch the traffic below you instead of walking, there is an amphitheater like area with sitting benches overlooking Tenth Avenue. Other benches line the pathway, some constructed on what appear to be old small railroad wheels, which ride on old tracks left behind from when the High Line was a working rail line.

I was not disappointed with the High Line, until I reached its northern terminus and had to descend back down to street level. Hopefully, someday soon, more sections will open to the public.

As we strolled along this elevated urban parkway I often stopped to take pictures. I was not the only one carrying and using a camera. It appeared to me that several people had come to the High Line with the express purpose of locating picturesque scenes. Some of the people we saw while walking we interesting as well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mr. Kennedy, I will serve you the Sacrament

While the secular media recently seemed to focus some of its attention on the fact that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, reportedly said that he asked U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy to stop receiving Communion, because of the congressman's public stance on moral issues, I have not seen much mention of the story in the religion and spirituality blogs I tend to read.

Since I serve a protestant (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)) congregation in a heavily Roman Catholic neighborhood of north east Queens, and many members of the church I serve are either former Roman Catholics who left the church of their youth for the Presbyterian Church or are disgruntled Roman Catholics that have not officially left the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Protestantism, I take particular interest in this story.

I would never consider asking someone, certainly not a member of the church, to not receive the Sacrament. As the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states, “The invitation to the Lord's Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. In preparing to receive Christ in this Sacrament, the believer is to confess sin and brokenness, to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and to trust in Jesus Christ for cleansing and renewal. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God's love and grace in Christ Jesus." (W-2.4011a)

I think Patrick Kennedy meets the above criteria, and if he were to show up at North Church Queens the first Sunday of any month for 10:00 AM Worship, or any other time we are celebrating the Eucharist, I would serve him without question or reservation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ecumenical Multicultural Thanksgiving Worship

Last night, on the eve of Thanksgiving eve, I joined with Missouri Synod Lutherans, PC(USA) Presbyterians, and Episcopalians in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran High School, Whitestone, NY for a Community Thanksgiving Worship Service. Two LCMS and Two PC(USA) Ministers led most of the liturgy with the youth of Immanuel Lutheran reading Scripture and providing some of the music. Andy read and sang. Johnson prayed. Immanuel youth (photo right) read Scripture, sang and played. Host Pastor David preached. I prayed. Mary and Julie played. An offering was collected to benefit the food pantry of the Queens Federation of Churches. The highlights for me were the teenage youth reading scripture and offering special music, and the benediction.

North Church Queens, where I serve as Designated Pastor, presently has no teenage youth. We have an age gap with three children ages six through nine, and then our next older participant is twenty-two. It has been over eight years since I have served a church with more than a teenager or two and I miss their presence, so last night’s worship was refreshing.

The benediction at last night’s Thanksgiving eve eve worship was offered by two men and two women in four languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hindi, and English. Serving as a Pastor in Queens certainly has its challenges, but one of the joys and benefits is the opportunity to worship in multi-cultural contexts.

The attached photo at top right was taken by an unidentified participant. Here is a link to other photos, most taken by the Reverend Dr. E. Johnson Rethinasamy, Urban Mission Strategist, LCMS World Mission.

I will not be posting to Summit to Shore tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, so I wish all readers and visitors a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: The Morning Walk (Part 4 – Myrtle Avenue)

Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, at right angles to one another, are the main commercial avenues of Ridgewood. Fresh Pond runs north to south and Myrtle runs east to west. Their intersection at the southern terminus of Fresh Pond marks the boundary between the neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Glendale. If you were standing on this corner, however, you would not know it, as there are no signs or other makers identifying the boundary.

The sidewalk along the north side of Myrtle is a little cleaner this morning than usual (photo top right). Sometimes it can be quiet a mess and the sidewalk cleaner employed by the Myrtle Avenue Business Inmprovement District can barely keep up with the accumulating trash. Pushing along a large garbage can on wheels he picks up and sweeps refuse off the sidewalk. I imagine he must fill up the trash barrel once a block, if not more often. He is the other person, along with the two school crossing guards, I usually encounter while walking Myrrhlyn in the mornings. This being a Saturday, however, he must not be cleaning today because I do not see him.

As Myrrhlyn and I walk west along Myrtle, store owners are beginning to open for business, unlocking and raising the metal cage pull down barriers that protects them during the night. When I first moved to the neighborhood a little over two years ago I found these security measures a little intimidating, even fear producing, especially at night. During the day Myrtle Avenue is a hot bed of vehicular and pedestrian commercial and social activity and the metal cages are out of sight, rolled up above the store fronts. At night, however, when I walk along the street coming home from the subway late at night, I can feel like I live in an abandoned ghetto, like Newark after the riots, business locked up against looters. I am glad I am usually not walking along Myrtle late at night.

The closer we get to home the more familiar I am with the business we pass. We walk by my local Chase Bank on our right, with its ten language ATM’s in the lobby, Across the street on our left is our Post Office, where I sometimes wait in line for thirty minutes or more just to pick up a package. The smell of frying bacon greets us from a nearby Coffee Shop & Restaurant. Dunkin’ Donuts (photo second from top right), a popular stop for commuters, is across the street.

When we first moved to Ridgewood, before we unpacked the coffee pot and set up the kitchen, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts was our sustenance. While there are other coffee shops in the neighborhood in addition to Dunkin’ Donuts, there is no Starbucks close enough to walk to, so this morning, like most mornings, I will go home, grind Starbucks House Blend beans in the Braun grinder and make our own coffee. I am, after all, a Starbuck stockholder, so every time I drink a cup I feel like I am getting a return on my purchase.

As Myrrhlyn and I stroll along Myrtle Avenue we pass in and out of sun and shade. We walk in bright warming sunshine when the buildings across the street are low enough to allow the rising southern sun to reach the sidewalk. But when the buildings reach over two stories they block the morning rays and we walk in cooler shade. I prefer walking in the sunlight and I think Myrrhlyn does too.

As we approach Key Foods (thrird photo from top right), one of the grocery stores we frequent because it is one of the closest, I appreciate seeing the fresh cut flowers out front. The flower market was not offered when we moved here.

A boarded up store front juts out onto the side walk (fourth photo from top right) in front of us. The building is actually being renovated and the barrier provides a margin of safety as well as security. In spite of the recession the Ridgewood Myrtle Avenue business district near our home seems to be hanging on. Not many storefronts are empty and when a business closes it seems not to take long for a new one to open in the same space.

One of the new businesses that have opened in the past two years is Green Line Market (bottom photo right), where I usually shop no less than every other day and sometimes twice a day. When the sun shines on the fruit and vegetable bins lining the sidewalk outside, Green Line is the most colorful storefront in the neighborhood. Sometimes when I walk by I marvel at the various shapes, sizes and especially colors of the produce. There are a few other markets like this in the neighborhood and numerous ones throughout New York City, but Green Line is the nearest, and a new experience for me since I moved here. Until two years ago I was unfamiliar with such sidewalk fruit and vegetable venders but now they are one of my favorite parts of living in the city.

Not far from home we walk through and past the only public park along our walk, Myrtle Triangle Park. This morning the bench is empty but later in the day various locals will start sitting on it, occasionally throwing bread crumbs and other food for the pigeons. Unfortunately Myrrhlyn also likes those bread crumbs. Sometimes, on warmer nights, a homeless person will sleep on that bench.

Not far off to our right is Ridgewood Stamps and Coins with a storefront and signage that is a thow back to the 50's, not the most welcoming or inviting coin shop I have ever been in, and Eddie’s Hairstyling & Barbering, where Leo cuts my hair. We cross the street near Queens Wines and Liquors, which offers one of the best selection of wines in Queens and on Friday and Saturday evenings offers free tastings, and soon pass by our favorite Chinese restaurant. Next, we pass our favorite Chinese restaurant and take out, Mr. Chen’s, where owners, Ken and Emily, are the proud parents of newborn Grace, whom we have yet to meet. This early in the morning, however, most of these business are still closed. Only Queens Wines and Liquors has taken up its security gate. It is usually the first local business to open. Sometimes they will be unlocking when Myrrhlyn and I walk by in the mornings.

At the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Forest Avenue we turn right and head north on Forest. Our morning circuit is almost complete and soon Myrrhlyn and I will be back home, thirty minutes after leaving. Myrrhlyn has done all that he has needed to do. Both he and I feel better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: The Morning Walk (Part 3 – Fresh Pond Road)

The corner of 68th Avenue and Fresh Pond Road marks the halfway point of our usual morning walk. The corner is a transition from the generally clean and quiet residential one-way 68th Avenue to the often trashy, loud, commercial two-way thoroughfare of Fresh Pond Road. At the corner we turn right and head south along Fresh Pond. I have been walking this route over two years and still I do not know if there is a pond, or if it is fresh.

Fresh Pond Road is the other main north-south artery through Ridgewood, Forest Avenue being the other one, but it is a lot busier and more commercial than Forest. Had we turned north rather than south we would have reached the Fresh Pond station on the “M” line in just a few blocks. Fresh Pond is perhaps the part of our walk were we encounter the most people. During the week Myrrhlyn and I occasionally dodge pedestrians as we make our way along what can be a crowded sidewalk. On Saturday morning’s, however, and when school is not in session, few people are out and about.

When school is in session two School Crossing Guards make crossing the busy streets a little easier and safer. The two uniformed women, one a woman of color and the other Anglo, are usually the first two people I recognize on our walks. Someday I must stop and take the time to ask them their names.

Myrrhlyn finds another stick (top photo right). This one is not forked and so the leash does not tangled in it. With the stick in his mouth we pass Mr. Bagel and my mouth starts to water, as it does most mornings. When the weather is just right this bakery, and another one down the block, will prop open their doors, allowing the aroma of fresh baked bread, bagels, and coffee cakes to waft out onto the street. The aroma is the best advertizing money can’t buy. Since I always have Myrrhlyn in tow as I pass, however, I cannot enter to better smell, look, buy and eat.

Further south along Fresh Pond, we pass Catalpa Avenue feeding in from the southeast on our left. Today the sun shines brightly along the route, rising over what appears to be the end of the Avenue. Illuminated by the rising morning sun is the storefront (second photo from top right) of a “Spiritual Reader & Advisor.” A crystal ball, geodes, and candles sit on the inside sill and on the table (third photo from top right), a mixture of New Age and Roman Catholic spirituality with what I assume to be an Hispanic and Eastern European flavor. I wonder if this particular spiritual entrepreneur can read paws and advise Myrrhlyn. If you are a human and your spirit does not find sustenance with the Spiritual Reader & Advisor there is always Beata Bakery (bottom photo right), the second on our walk, next door, and the Polskie Delikatesy further down the block.

The city’s motorized street cleaner approaches from the north, behind us, as it does on many of our walks. The shape, size and speed of the street cleaning vehicle reminds me of a Zamboni and is usually the loudest vehicle we encounter along our morning walk. Marylyn is not particularly fond of it. He seems to be annoyed by it, especially when it kicks up dust. Occasionally we will see it stopped at a hydrant, its driver operator refilling the water tank, preparing to spray some more roadway before sweeping away debris.

As the street cleaner passes I look up to focus on something that catches my eye. It is a seagull, floating overhead, reminding me that I live on an island and that the Atlantic Ocean is only a few miles away to the south. Without the occasional gull and warm, humid air serving as sensory reminders, I could easily overlook the fact that I live in a coastal environment.

At the southern end of Fresh Pond, where the thoroughfare dead-end intersects with Myrtle Avenue, we reach the boundary of the neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Glendale and the end of the third leg of our morning walk. Turning our backs toward Glendale we pivot right onto Myrtle Avenue and head west, toward home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: The Morning Walk (Part 2 - 68th Avenue)

Turning right off Forest Avenue onto 68th Avenue, Myrrhlyn and I walk east. With his teeth Myrrhlyn grabs a forked stick off the sidewalk (photo top right), chewing sticks being another of his passions. With stick in his mouth he struts down the sidewalk as if he just won the Best of Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, his new stick his trophy. After a few proud struts, however, the leash tangles in the fork of this wooden trophy and Myrrhlyn uncharacteristically abandons his prize after only a few more steps. This will not be the only stick Myrrhlyn retrieves this morning without anyone throwing it.

The sidewalk along 68th Avenue is quieter and cleaner than Myrtle Avenue. 68th is a one way Avenue, almost entirely residential, and we are walking against traffic, so no cars or busses will be sneaking up from behind. The only time excessive trash litters this route is after a breezy garbage day when the wind gathers debris and deposits it at will. Maybe that is why this part of our morning walk is my favorite. It is usually quiet and clean.

Continuing our stroll I begin hearing sounds of the “M,” a block or two away on our left. This is the same subway line that often carries me into Manhattan and brings me back home. Sometimes I have to transfer to the “J” to make it all the way into the city and back again. During rush hour, however, the “M” runs the whole way. I hardly ever ride the “M” between the Forest Avenue Station and its eastern terminus at Metropolitan Avenue.

The subway's volume and pitch rises as it approaches, and then, according to the laws of physics, lowers and fades as it passes. Without being able to see the elevated tracks I do not know if the train is headed east, toward Manhattan, or west, toward Metropolitan. In case there was any doubt, the sound of the subway reminds me that I live and walk in an urban environment.

An American flag hangs from the outside of a window (photo second from top right), as I think it usually does, its hem tucked between the bottom of the sash and the windowsill. Today, though, I notice that the upper window is decorated with vinyl peel and stick turkeys for Thanksgiving, the sort of holiday decorations that you might buy at Michel’s or K-Mart. More stars and stripes hang suspended from a pole a few doors down (third photo from top right). Many of the residents along 68th Avenue seem to take great pride in the neighborhood, keeping it clean, proclaiming their patriotism, and observing holidays with various decorations.

Even though most of the homes were originally identical row houses, they have been around long enough for the residents to undertake renovations. I could probably find and photograph enough unique doors on the front of these homes, doors of various woods adorned with brass ornamentation and cut glass inserts, to publish a door poster or door calendar, the sort that celebrate cities and historic neighborhoods. As I walk past these doors I wonder who lives on the other side and what lives they live. What language do they speak? What faith, if any, do they practice?

Occasionally I will see a parent before work delivering a son or daughter to child care or picking one up to take to school. Sometimes I will see older residents sweeping their sidewalk or putting out trash. But there are no familiar faces on this street, no one I remember seeing on a regular basis. Cities can be so anonymous.

When we reach where 68th Avenue dead ends at Fresh Pond Road we are at the halfway point of our walk. The municipal trash can at the corner offers me the first opportunity since we left home to dispose of any flourescent orange doggie bags I used along the way. I do because I did because Myrrhlyn did doo-doo as we walked along 68th Avenue. Now he feels better, and so do I.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: The Morning Walk (Part 1 - Forest Avenue)

This morning, like most mornings, Myrrhlyn and I walk our 1.1 mile circuit around the neighborhood. The walk, and its route, is our morning routine, unless it is raining. It is not raining this morning. The sky is blue and the the air crisp. Since it is Saturday, the neighborhood is fairly quiet and just waking up.

Heading north on Forest Avenue (photo top right) we safely cross the first of fourteen street crossings on our route. Some of the crossings are controlled by traffic lights with pedestrian signals, but some are not. Our first crossing is not, so we carefully look for oncoming traffic.

Not long after our first crossing Myrrhlyn finds a discarded tissue (photo second right from top) . Yes, it is gross; but Myrrhlyn has a thing for discarded white tissues and paper towels. It seems I am always stooping over to force open his mouth to pull them out. Today is no exception.

Forest Avenue is one of two major north-south traffic arteries in Ridgewood, almost dividing Ridgewood between east and west. Forest is not a major commercial street but it is a bus route. I can hear the gentle rise and fall of the light traffic noise until the louder and deeper hum of an MTA bus approaches us from the south and eventually overtakes and passes us. I am always embarrassed when Myrrhlyn decides to do his business near a bus stop of waiting commuters or next to a stopped bus with passengers looking on. He does not embarrass me this morning.

Myrrhlyn also has a thing for pigeons. If he sees any within five or ten feet ahead, as he does this morning, like a stalking wolf in the wild he slows his gate, slinks lower to the ground and tries to sneak up on them, lunging for them at the last possible moment. But he has never come close to actually catching one of these winged rats of the city so I am not too concerned about their safety or his.

During any given walk we sometimes encounter other dogs being walked by their owners. At times Myrrhlyn calmly ignores them. Once in awhile he gives them a passing glance and growl. Occasionally he barks up a frenzy, as if his world and very being is threatened. Today he is calm. Even when we cross the street in order to avoid a large dog and its owner who are approaching us he ignores them and does not make a murmur.

In addition to discarded tissues and pigeons my canine walking companion also has a thing for discarded food he finds on the street. I other words, my dog likes garbage, even chicken bones. As we near the end of the Myrtle Avenue segment of our walk, with the speed of light Myrrhlyn grabs something off the sidewalk and starts chewing it. By the time I open his cavernous mouth to remove what I discover is a small chicken bone, the bone is already near the back of his throat and I have to reach deep within to pull it out. I have lost count of how many such bones I have already pulled out of his chops these past few months. When will he learn? When will he stop?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Celtic Crosses Everywhere

Yesterday’s meeting of New York City Presbytery at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church was architecturally dominated by a large Celtic cross suspended from the ceiling over the Chancel (photo top right). I do not know what it was made from. It appeared to be painted gold and was a simple outline, allowing me to see through it. Perhaps the ability to see through the cross is a metaphor. Rather than focusing our gaze on the cross Christians are called to look beyond the cross, allowing it to frame our vision of the world, acting as an interpretative lens.

On the back wall of the chancel of the church I serve as Designated Pastor, North Church Queens (a.k.a. North Presbyterian Church of Flushing), you can see another Celtic cross (photo bottom right). It was lovingly crafted from wood handpicked by the woodworking church member who made it, created in memory of a saint of the congregation.

Several years ago the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Planning Calendar featured photographs of various stone Celtic Crosses from Ireland. I later saw most if not all of those crosses in person, including the one in Kells, the one time home of the famous illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells.

Today the Celtic cross is associated with ancient Celtic Christianity and contemporary Presbyterianism in Scotland and Ireland, especially ancient Celtic Christian sites such as Iona, Clonmacnoise, and Glendalough. Next to the Celtic knot, the Celtic cross is perhaps the most well known image associated with Celtic Christianity.

The origins of the Celtic cross are shrouded in Mystery. The form and shape of the cross seem to have undergone change and development over centuries. Some suggest the Celtic Cross has pre-Christian, pagan roots, and that Celtic Christians baptized a religious and spiritual symbol of the druids, the standing stone, and turned it into a cross. Know one knows for sure.

The Celtic Cross has long been associated with the Presbyterian Church, thanks in no small part to Presbyterian Scottish and Scots-Irish immigrants who immigrated to America. But during the years Cromwell ruled, dozens if not hundreds of stone Celtic Crosses in Scotland were thrown into the sea, lost forever. Isn’t it funny how what Presbyterians value and cherish today as part of our heritage was once considered an idol? I wonder what we might value in fifty or hundred years that today we think as anathema.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out of the Swamp to Madison Avenue

The Presbytery of New York City met today at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (photo right), one of its larger and more prestigious churches. According to the congregation’s history, however, the church that is now Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church was called "The church in the swamp" when it was established in 1834 near the Lower East Side shipyards. That history compels me to adapt a familiar adage for church leaders and suggest that when you are up to your ass in alligators it is hard to remember that your main objective was to establish and grow a church. And Madison Avenue has certainly grown since its founding in 1834.

Madison Avenue’s history notes that its 20th century started poorly. After another congregation had merged with Madison Avenue, the two congregations “did not meld well” and “members fell away until the merged church's rolls dropped below those of either of its constituents at the time of the union.”

The congregation’s history continues to report, however, that the situation and the church’s prospects “changed dramatically with the arrival of the young Dr. [Henry Sloane] Coffin, only five years out of the Union Theological Seminary (Some said that the church could not then afford a more established preacher).”

I wonder, if the congregation could have, at that time, afforded a more established preacher than Henry Sloane Coffin and had called him (it would have been a “him” in 1905), if the congregation’s history under that new established preacher would have been one as equally “of remarkable growth and transformation” as it was under Coffin. Sometimes safe and secure "establishment" bets end up being safe and secure, maintaining the establishment status quo, when what is needed for transformation and growth is risk taking, even the risk of the church losing its life as it undertakes it mission (G-3.0400 in the book of Order).

I am not suggesting or calling for careless risk, but rather churches and presbyteries (regional governing bodies) and even whole denominations taking the risk of trying new ideas, calling and empowering young and untested but visionary leaders, being willing to rock the establishment boat, and recognizing that it might be easier to move out of the swamp than trying to drain it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hey, that’s My Alma Mater!

A link posted by Richard T. Berman on a LinkedIn Group alerted me to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education and some good news about my Alma Mater, Davis and Elkins College. I was a student at D&E from 1976-1980. My wife was a student 1975-1979. She returned to serve as the College Chaplain from 1997-2007. I served as adjunct faculty, teaching Religion and Philosophy 2002-2007 and during that time was able to welcome the Reverend Dr. Johanna van Wijk-Bos as a guest lecturer in my class (photo right; Johanna is the one in the dress).

I can’t say I used the best criteria over thirty-five years ago when I chose to apply to D&E. My High School grades and test scores probably could have gained me admission to some top notch schools. But D&E offered some things top notch schools did not. It is related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and I am a Presbyterian. It is located in the heart of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, and being a West Virginian made some extra financial aid available while being in the heart of a National Forest meant I could be close to wild caves, wilderness areas for backpacking, and rocks for climbing. While at D&E I was in heaven. Well, almost!

D&E had less than 1,000 students when I was enrolled. None of my classes were over forty students. Some were only a dozen or less. I not only had the opportunity to go spelunking, backpacking and climbing but also served in Student Government, edited the College Newspaper, and earned credit for taking a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course in Wyoming the August between my Junior and Senior Year. And I still managed to graduate third in my class.

I am a firm believer in a Liberal Arts Education from small Liberal Arts Colleges. Such an education is not for everyone, but it was the right one for me. I am glad to read that after some tough years D&E is once again holding its head high.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Announcing a New Social Networking Site

I have decided to cash in on the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace by starting a new social networking site for the lewd, crude and non-prude.

Members of this new social networking site will be invited to post their favorite racist jokes in “Ain’t that Fanny” and their favorite sexist jokes in “Wisecracks”.

In "Out House" members may write totally false and embarrassing accusations about people they know and even those they don’t know, especially celebrities, politicians, bankers, lawyers, religious leaders, bosses, ex-partners and in-laws. Members may also post real or concocted embarrassing photos and videos of such people in “Ass the World Turns”.

If members want advice about dating, investments, diets, or just someone to listen, they can write to “Dear E. Ear”.

Chat rooms will enable social intercourse among multiple conversation partners where it seem like the conversation is as close as cheek to cheek.

A special educational component will allow dedicated users to earn a certificates or even a B.S. degree in Scatology.

A “find that buddy” feature will help members find old fraternity, sorority and drinking companions by beer, wine, or liquor brand name or name of their favorite mixed drink.

“The Plumber’s Assistant” will feature the latest fashions for discreetly or non-discretely showing off one’s assets.

I’m still playing with possible names for this social networking site but am currently leaning toward calling it “ButtBook”.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pirate Radio Rocks

My wife and I just returned home after seeing Pirate Radio. It is a treasure.

The English government might have killed pirates in the early 1700's, but as Pirate Radio tells the story, it could not kill Pirate Radio and Rock and Roll in the 1960's.

If you love classic Rock and Roll and are an anti-establishment type that likes a story about someone sticking it to the man, then set a course to theater to see this movie.

Philip Seymour Hoffman of Almost Famous exudes Rock and Roll. Bill Nighy of Pirates of the Caribbean captains the ship. A compliment of DJs, supported by a stellar cast of classic Rock and Roll cuts, rounds out the motley crew. My hunch is that this is one soundtrack that will be sailing into our collection.

Thus was the first time I ever watched a movie in theater when I was asked my opinion of the film both before and after watching it. As patrons entered the theater we were handed a survey, along with a small pencil. We were asked to fill out the front of the survey before we watched the film and to fill out the back page after watching the film.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How are Poetry and Philosophy Related?

Yesterday’s page on the Poetry Speaks calendar quoted Cynthia Ozick. She asks if poetry “is the child, or perhaps the parent, of philosophy?”

I think Poetry and Philosophy are siblings. Perhaps they are the twin children of awe and wonder struggling to rise above their humble birth. They are certainly not identical twins. Like many siblings they enjoy a love/hate relationship characterized by both close affinity and distant contention.

I’m neither a philosopher nor a poet; never the less I have made amateur attempts at both, occasionally writing poems and having taught philosophy. My poetry often reflects the emotional and sometimes mystical aspects of my being. It is the Dionysian expression of my psyche. Reading philosophy and trying to think philosophically feeds my Apollonian intellect. It exercises the “Thinking” preference of my personality.

Tom Christenson’s assertion in his Wonder and Critical Reflection: An Invitation to Philosophy, that “Philosophy, like poetry, can be important for the fresh-eyed approach it brings to things” suggests to me that the relationship between Poetry and Philosophy is like the relationship between two lenses in a pair of glasses. Looking through a single lens gives us a two dimensional view of the world, void of any depth. We need both views in order to better see, appreciate and understand our multifaceted and multidimensional world.

The picture to the upper right is the poet’s chair in the Poet’s Room of City Lights Books in San Francisco, where I have found both poetry and philosophy honored, appreciated, and celebrated. Below the windows is Jack Kerouac Alley.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Church with the Boss

Yesterday on The Daily Show Jon Stewart interviewed big man Clarence Clemons, front man saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. About a minute and forty five seconds into the exchange Jon, who is Jewish, and having recently attended a Bruce Springsteen Concert at Madison Square Garden, said about going to a Springsteen concert:

“It’s the closest I will ever go to going to church. It is this incredible experience of just pure, after all these years of performing, unadulterated joy.”

Clarence responded:

“For me it is a church. It is my religion.”

My wife Vicki is a BIG Springsteen Fan. Being a Jersey Girl, she was a big fan before the Boss made it big. She has seen Bruce perform live over thirty-five times. She has also attended both “Glory Days” Symposium. I can no longer count how many times she has come home from a Springsteen concert and said something like “This is what church should be like” or “This is what worship should be like.”

I doubt Bruce is the only concert performer that can create such a response, which is part of the appeal of live concerts. So why can’t “Church” be more like concerts? Maybe if worshippers were willing to purchase $68 to $110 reserved seat tickets in advance, with no refunds unless the worship service was cancelled, rather than volunteering to drop $5, $10, or $20 in the offering plate if they happen to show up, worship could be more like a live concert. But should it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prayer for Veterans Day

Eternal Father, strong to save,
we pray for all the women and men
who have served in the armed forces of our country,
from Lexington and Concord
to Afghanistan and Iraq.
We thank you for the freedom and security their service has provided us.
Help us to cherish our freedom and use it wisely.
We ask you to bless all living veterans in a special way,
not just today, but every day.
Comfort those veterans who grieve for fallen comrades
who gave the last full measure of their devotion.
Strengthen those who bear the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds
of service and combat.
May we, as a nation, honor our commitments and promises to our veterans.
Moreover, we pray for the day when no one needs to serve in the military.
So, help us to live not only as people who long for peace,
and who pray for peace,
but as peacemakers in this, your world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Broken Paddle

Last Saturday’s paddle was indeed a great day on The Great South Bay. As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, as we were leaving Fire Island for our return trip across the Bay I wanted “to paddle out ahead of the group so that I could take a few pictures with the sun at my back.” So “I planted my paddle for the start of a power stroke only to have the paddle snap in my hands!” Actually it was the paddle shaft that snapped, on the right side, near the drip ring.

I had originally written that “Admittedly the paddle was not an expensive one and nearly nine years old.” Actually, the paddle was over eight years old, having been purchased in may 2001 as part of a package deal when I bought my sit-on-top. It was a Cannon paddle. I am not complaining about it breaking since it has served me well over these eight and half years. On the other hand, should Cannon choose to replace it, I would not complain about that either.

As I noted in my previous post, “without a spare loaned me by Tony, I would have literally been up the Great South Bay without a paddle.” When my paddle broke, both Tony and John W. offered to loan me their spare. Tony was closest so I accepted his offer and finished the trip with his spare Warner, putting my broken paddle under the bungee cord on the bow of my boat (photo right).

That’s right. I was not carrying a spare paddle! I almost always carry a first aid kit, cell phone, VHF radio, bilge pump, paddle float, and many other “essentials”. More recently I have started wearing a tow belt as well. But I have NEVER carried a spare paddle.

I keep my paddle tethered to my kayak with a paddle leash so I do not have to worry about losing my paddle. But I never imagined that an aluminum shaft paddle would snap. Now I know. And now I will start carrying a spare paddle.

Soon after my wife and I purchased our kayaks I bought a couple inexpensive Rogue River Kayak Paddles distributed by Johnson Outdoors, but I never even took them out of their original packaging. I bought them “just in case” we lost our paddles or otherwise needed to replace them. I guess it is time I opened both packages.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Great Day in the Great South Bay

Members started arriving at the Sebago Canoe Club around 8:00 AM Saturday morning. Some came by car, some from as far away as New Jersey. Some came by Bus. They all came with the intention to paddle on perhaps the last trip away from Sebago for the season. In spite of remnants of the fall’s first frost still on the grass, the day promised to be clear and warm, which raised hopes for a great day of kayaking. By 9:00 AM five cars were loaded, and with boats on top, left Sebago, headed for Heckscher State Park.

Question: How many members of the Sebaog Canoe Club does it take to install Yakima racks on a Honda?
Answer: Seven. Three to do the work and four to watch!

After the fifty mile drive we all pulled into the parking lot at Heckscher State Park, just feet away from the north shore of The Great South Bay (photo top right). Between 10:30-10:45 AM all nine of us were on the water: Walter, Tony, John W., Phil, Peter, Elizabeth, Beth, Avi and me (second photo from top, right). I think I had paddled with everyone before bet never in the same group. Some I had not paddled with in months. The water temperature was around 48-50. At put in the air temperature was 52 but warmed up to 58 by later in the afternoon. Most of us were wearing dry suits but a few had donned wet suits.

For the first time in a long time I was able to paddle the club’s blue Necky Chatham 16, currently my favorite boat. It felt good to once again be sitting in its cockpit and to have a working skeg. It was also the first time this season that I wore my Dry Suit, which was much more comfortable than my wet suit, which I worn on the Columbus Day Paddle in Jamaica Bay. just a few weeks before.

We beached on Fire Island, near the Sailors Heaven Visitors Center around 12:20 PM. Not a soul was in sight. With the picnic area to ourselves we enjoyed a true picnic lunch, people passing goodies around the picnic table. It seemed like Tony had an endless supply of homemade pop-corn. Walter produced a bag of Jo Joes. Nuts and fruits were also in abundance, and I am not just talking about the kayakers.

After refueling we tied up our kayaks against any rogue waves and followed the boardwalk into the Sunken Forest, where we were treated to a close encounter with a five point buck (third photo from top right). Near the center of the Sunken Forest I felt like a member of the Swiss Family Robinson, living in a large tree house on a deserted isle. Passing through the Sunken Forest we emerged on the southern shore of Fire Island and briefly visited the Atlantic Ocean before heading back to our boats.

Putting in from Fire Island around 2 PM we paddled back across the Great South Bay (fourth photo from top, right) from whence we had come. Wanting to paddle out ahead of the group so that I could take a few pictures with the sun at my back, I planted my paddle for the start of a power stroke only to have the paddle snap in my hands! Admittedly the paddle was not an expensive one and nearly nine years old, still, without a spare loaned me by Tony, I would have literally been up the Great South Bay without a paddle. I will write more about that in a later post.

With wind and tide combining to provide one to foot waves for our enjoinment, the water was just a little more rougher for our return trip than it had been earlier in the day. Great discussion ensured as to whether the waves were one to two foot waves or foot and a half waves. Every once in a while it seemed like they were over two feet, but those were few and far between. Regardless of their height, the waves were rolling rather than choppy. Most spectacular, however, were some of the higher waves that occasionally appeared to glow a translucent aqua-marine as rays from the setting sun penetrated their crests.

By 4:00 PM we were back on the beach at Heckscher State Park, but not until after yours truly lost it in the surf while trying to ride a wave in. I think I had already peeled back my spray skirt in anticipation of landing so as soon as my deck tilted below the surf the cockpit quickly flooded and before I knew I was no longer on the bay but in it. Yes, I am glad I was wearing a dry suit.

As we were changing and loading boats for the return drive we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen in a long time (bottom photo right). As the orange-red glowing disk set, however, we were also faced with falling temperatures, numbing fingers as we tied off our boats for the return drive back to Sebago. For the first fifteen minutes of the drive home the car heater was on full blast.

Back at the club we unloaded and stored boats and gear, said our goodbyes, and signed out.

By the end of the day and trip our hopes had been fulfilled. We had paddled across the Great South Bay to Fire Island, visited the Sunken Forest, and paddled back. The water was challenging but not threatening. The sun was warm, the air crisp, the water nippy, and the sky blue with barely a cloud. The companionship, as usual, was competent and collegial. It was indeed a great day on the Great South Bay.

More photos from the trip can be seen here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall in the Rock Garden

A few days ago, while I was standing at the kitchen sink washing a few dishes, I glanced out the window into the back yard and was overtaken by the way the early afternoon sun was illuminating the fallen autumn leaves in the rock garden. I grabbed my camera, walked out into the back yard, and shot a few pictures, including the one above. When I showed it to my wife, she said it belonged on a calendar. I thought it belonged on a blog.

I started blogging in the dead of winter, January 5, 2009. At least a couple of my early posts, “Snow in the City” and “Winter’s Last Hurrah” were about winter. Spring was the topic of a post I entitled “Of Lambs and Lions.” To my best recollection I did not write anything about summer, perhaps because I did not have one, or at least was not able to enjoy it. I think I worked part of almost every day throughout the summer, having very few full days off to enjoy the summer by kayaking, climbing or backpacking. In fact, as I look back over the past several months, I wonder “what summer?” Now that it is fall and I am not working as much I am able to enjoy and appreciate the season and even have the time to take photographs of fall leaves in the backyard rock garden.

Randomly distributed brightly colored fall leaves among intentionally arranged rocks must hold some sort of deep, metaphorical and existential meaning, or at least serve as a Zen koan, inviting one to meditate on one’s existence and the meaning of life. What is the sound of one leaf falling? What language do rocks speak?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anatomy and Evolution of a Prayer

I generally follow and adapt “Prayers of the People: H” found on page 120 in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship when leading the Prayers of the People. One petition in particular of this prayer has developed and grown over the years of my ministry. The petition reflects, among other things, my passion for the environment. The petition reads as follows:

Awaken all people to the danger we have inflicted upon the earth.
Implant in each a reverence for all you have made
that we may preserve the delicate balance
of creation for all generations.

While the petition as I pray it might slightly change from Sunday to Sunday, what follows is generally the petition as I now pray it.

Awaken all people to the inconvenient truth
about the danger we have inflicted upon this planet entrusted to our care.
Implant in each of us a reverence for all you have made
that we may restore and preserve the delicate balance of creation
for all creatures, even to the seventh generation.

The Book of Common Worship was adopted in 1993. "A Brief Statement of Faith" was adopted two years earlier, in 1991. I like to alter the original petition in the Book of Common Worship to reflect the confessional language of line 38 of "A Brief Statement of Faith" which reads “and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.”

I am a charter member of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, now Presbyterians for Earth Care, and in 1996 was trained as a Restoring Creation Enabler at the Ghost Ranch “God’s Earth – Our Home” weeklong conference the week before the Albuquerque General Assembly. Reflecting my association with Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and my RCE training I usually alter the original petition to pray that we may “restore” as well as “preserve” the delicate balance of creation.

In the late 1990’s I was active with West Virginia’s Interfaith Climate Change Campaign. Years later and soon after Al Gore released his award winning documentary film about global climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, I began to modify “the danger we inflict upon this planet entrusted to our care” by referring to “the inconvenient truth about the danger we have inflicted upon this planet entrusted to our care.” I do not think Al Gore would mind.

As far as I know I cannot claim any Native American ancestry. Nevertheless, my spirituality has been influenced by Native American spirituality, especially my reading of Crazy Horse Hoka Hey! and The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, participating in a Sweat Lodge, and attending a few Pow Wows. As I understand Native American spirituality, ”the seventh generation” refers to the Iroquois belief that we are responsible to provide a quality of life for those seven generations to come.

I believe that our responsibility to provide for the seventh generation refers not only to humans but to all creatures. We share this planet entrusted to our care with birds of the air and fish of the sea as well as other animals of the land and interconnected in a web of life that humans are only now beginning to understand. Thus we seek to restore and preserve the delicate balance of creation not just for humans but for all God’s creatures.

Over the years, my own experiences and interests have influenced how I pray this particular petition in the Prayers of the People. How have your interests and experiences influenced the content and language of your prayers?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Day After Election Day

Yesterday was Election Day here in New York City, as it was in other cities and states, including New Jersey and Virginia. I voted, as I have in every general election since I turned eighteen.

My wife and I showed up at the polls around 2:45. There was a person in the booth but no line, and little waiting.

I have heard that nationwide it is becoming more difficult to find people to work the polls. As I looked around our poling site, the poling location for about five to seven precincts, most of the poll workers were clearly of retirement age, some more years past retirement than others. If younger citizens of both major parties do not start volunteering or otherwise make themselves available to work the polls, our American democracy may become a thing of the past.

The one local race many were watching was the race for Mayor. Incumbent millionaire and Republican turned Independent Michael R. Bloomberg turned back term limits in order to run for a third term. His opponent, Democrat William C. Thompson Jr., seemed to run more against Bloomberg’s money and turning back of term limits than on his own positive platform. Bloomberg won but the race was a lot closer than many expected it to be.

Another New York race many were watching was the upstate 23rd Congressional District, which Republicans had held since the Civil War. The race was significant because the Republican Party nominee, Dede Scozzafava, pulled out of the race and endorsed her Democratic challenger, Bill Owens, when it became apparent she could not win with ultra-conservative Republicans such as Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck supporting ultra conservative independent Doug Hoffman. Owens won in a public repudiation of the ultra conservatives.

Living in the metropolitan New York City media market, I have been bombarded with adds targeting the New Jersey Governor’s Race. Democratic incumbent John Corzine was being challenged by Republican Chris Christie. Complicating and mixing up the race was a Independent challenger. Christie won in spite of President Obama having stumped for Corzine at least three times.

Another race I was following was for Virginia Governor, where Republican Robert McDonell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds. The Republican win, even though President Obama carried the state a year ago, was not surprising considering that in the previous eight elections Virginians elected a governor of the opposite party of the President.

The Final Tally?
Republicans won two.
Independents won one.
Democrats won one (and ultra conservatives lost one)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cape Cod Beer

A week ago today, in the midst of a three day, two night mini-vacation on Cape Cod, my wife and I took a free tour of Cape Cod Beer. Located in Hyannis, Cape Cod Beer is the only microbrewery on Cape Cod. Having read about the free tour in one of those tourist books available at visitors centers, we arrived just a few minutes early for the Tuesday 11:00 AM tour. We were not disappointed, but then again, this was my first tour of a brewery of ant type.

Our tour was conducted by co-owner Beth Marcus (photo top right) who promised a 45 minute tour and delivered no less than a hour’s tour. As we were standing in the brew house looking upon stainless steel vats, (photo second from top right) Beth explained the brewing process in a way worthy of a high school biology and chemistry class. Her whimsical and entertaining delivery, however, was better than any lecture I ever received in High School, even without the complimentary beer tasting at its conclusion.

Cape Cod Beer opened for business at a previous location in April 2004. During the first year of operation there were 12 accounts, which grew to 125 by the second year. Today the Brewery services about 225 restaurants and 175-200 package stores. It employs seven full-time and two to four part-time staff, who handles all the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution from Plymouth to Provincetown.

During the tour presentation we were given the opportunity to touch, smell and taste various barleys and wheat and to smell hops. Near the end of the tour and presentation we were invited to move into the actual brewing area and to see close up the Mash Turn, Kettle, Hot Liquor Tank and eight Fermenters. After the tour and presentation we were invited to taste the year round Cape Cod Beach Blonde Ale, the seasonal Cape Cod Harvest, the year round Cape Cod Red, and the year round Cape Cod IPA, in that order. All were exceptionally fresh tasting, perhaps not surprising since they came directly from the storage tanks. And yes, it was after noon!

My only regret after the tour was that I did not purchase a growler, but I could not justify the cost considering I do not live close enough to have it refilled. If I lived on the Cape or went there often I would have purchased one in an instant.

If you are considering taking a tour of Cape Cod Beer, which can be done on Tuesdays at 11:00 Am and Saturdays at 1:00 PM without making advance reservations, I recommend that you first take the much shorter self guided tour of the nearby Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory , enjoy your two complimentary bags of chips and perhaps buy a larger bag, and then arrive at Cape Cod Beer with a thirst. If you at all enjoy a good cold microbrew, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Prayer for the NYC Marathon

Yesterday was the New York City Marathon. That may not mean much to people living outside the metro area, but for New Yorkers that means not only the excitement and hype associated with the world’s largest marathon but also street closures, traffic rerouting, and congestion at places in all five boroughs.

It was only appropriate that as the spiritual leader of a religious community in Queens that I would include the Marathon in the concerns of the Prayers of the People in yesterday’s worship. Here is the petition I wrote and included in the prayer.

We pray for all those running in today’s New York City Marathon,
as well as for those who work to make it happen.
We pray for their safety,
that you will keep them free from accident or injury.
As marathoners run today,
may we all run with perseverance the race of life and faith that is set before us,
and at the finish line we may all receive the imperishable wreath of victory,
reserved for those who walk as well as run in your ways.

By accident, the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving for All Saints Day found in the Book of Common Worship also included some language and imagery especially appropriate for the Sunday the Marathon was being run.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

About November’s Header Photo

Those new to Summit To Shore might want to know that every month I change the header photo. The header photo is the one that appears at the head, or top, of the blog regardless of whether you have arrived here using the general blog address or the address of a particular post. For instance, if you have have requested an old post or a search engine directs you to an old post, even though the post might be months old, the current header photo will be the one displayed, not the header photo from the month the post first appeared.

November 2009’s header photo was taken with my Sealife ECOshot on September 19, 2008. In the photo I can be seen paddling a yellow Necky Zoar Sport LV that belongs to the Sebago Canoe Club. When I started paddling closed cockpit boats after years of paddling my own sit-on-top, the Necky Zoar Sport LV was the first kayak I paddled. I continued paddling it for several more trips before moving up to longer boats. My favorite boat is now the Necky Chatham 17.

The scene is near Captree State Park (NY) in the Great South Bay just offshore and north of Fire Island, along the southern coast of Long Island.