Sunday, September 28, 2008


I helped out at a certain church function this week for the Ladies. (Yes, I still go even though my faith needs strengthening.)

And as I scooped beans in the serving line, I looked out over the vast crowd -- Ladies of all ages, some heavy, some thin, white, Hispanic, black and Asian, one of whom was my very own Beloved -- and I turned to the guy beside me who was ladling out the meat, and I said,

"What a beautiful sight this is."

And as my Sweetie and I lay in the warm darkness this morning, not quite ready to get up, just talking about this and that, I mentioned that to Her, said:

"What a wonderful idea Woman was."

I was reading a book about the universe yesterday -- vastness upon vastness, billions of stars sprinkled throughout the sea of space, innumerable forms of life surely found upon their billions of dependent planets, and truly, what amongst all this can compare to Her?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sounds tasty


Giambo (Okra Soup/Gumbo) and
Funchi (Corn-Meal Mush) Serves 6-8

This dish is another typically Aruban dish: Giambo (pronounced ghee-yam-bo) is the Antillean gumbo, a thick, hearty soup. The pur?d okra gives it a slippery consistency.

Soak overnight:

1/2 lb. salted beef
Discard water. Place the beef in a heavy kettle with:

2 quarts fresh water
1 ham hock
1 or 2 onions
a few sprigs of parsley
1 or 2 carrots
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk
Bring to a brisk boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about one and a half
hours, or until meat is tender.
Place in the simmering kettle.

1 lb. red snapper fillets
After a few minutes test the fish with the tines of a fork, and remove from
the broth when it flakes easily. Make a bite-size chunks of the fillets. Remove
the beef from the broth, cube and set aside with the fish. Strain the broth
and return it to the fire. Discard the ham hock and vegetables.
To the simmering broth add:

2 lbs. okra, washed and sliced
A few sprigs crushed yerba di hole, or fresh basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Simmer until the okra is tender. With a lele stick, or its equivalent, a wire
whisk, reduce the okra to a pur?. Return the cubed beef and red snapper
pieces to the kettle. Heat thoroughly and adjust seasonings.
Garnish giambo with:

1/4 lb. cooked shrimp

Funchi (Corn-Meal Mush) Serves 6

Funchi is a must with this delicious soup and we have therefore included the recipe as well:

Funchi, the Antillean staple, is a simple corn-meal preparation. It must be
vigorously stirred while cooking and to the rhytm of these rotations
old-time cooks repeated. Un pa mi, un pa bo, un pe. Funchi was then
scooped from the kettle with a little round calabash, and the "funchi ball"
was placed on each individual plate - "One for me, one for you, one for him".

Mix in heavy saucepan:

1 1/4 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups corn-meal
1 tsp. salt
Stir in:

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tbs. butter
Bring to a brisk boil over high heat and cook for three minutes. Continue
cooking an additional three minutes, stirring the funchi vigorously with a
wooden spoon or palu di funchi. When the mixture is very stiff and pulls
away from the sides of the pan, remove from the fire. Turn out in to a deep,
well-buttered bowl and cover with a plate. Now shake the funchi down in
the bowl, then invert it on a serving platter.

For a special Sunday breakfast fry sliced funchi in butter and serve with
crisp bacon and scrambled eggs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gross and gruesome

Last night I dreamed that I was working with my computer when a disgusting, crusty toe eaten up by athlete's foot appeared on my screen with the instructions to click on it.

No one in his or Her right mind would have done that. But in a dream, one has limited control over the dreamer, who is often dumb as a sack of sand. The dreamer clicked on the link.

Not only did his screen go ominously dark, so did the room he was sitting in. Demons began to enter.

At that point, Sweetie shook me awake, which surely prevented things getting even worse.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Faith of our Fathers

Meditations ...

How romantic -- in the classic sense -- that one Philotheus Byrennios was browsing an ancient monastery library in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1873, and found there an eleventh-century copy of a second-century text called Didache, or Teachings.

The Didache was known to some of the early Church Fathers, quoted by them and nearly made it into the New Testament canon -- then dropped out of sight for nearly 800 years.

If I did not love the pleasures of fine food, travel and such, if I did not utterly idolize the existence and desire the presence of the Feminine, if I had been raised in the Catholic tradition, I could possibly have been a monk. A life of contemplation, of tending a garden of herbs and poring over ancient tomes -- that appeals to some part of me.

Never shall I forget my journey to Pannonhalma in Hungary, an ancient monastery set high atop a hill -- the mystical feeling of that place and the library, oh, that library -- row after row of leather-bound volumes probably dating back to Guttenberg.

How sorrowful, that another work of the Early Church Fathers, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which I have read this week -- a stark and powerful testament to piety and faith -- should be stained and sullied with most unworthy and unnecessary anti-Jewish polemics.

Are we to believe that the Jews -- themselves persecuted and driven by the same aggrieved Romans of the 2nd Century A.D. who tortured the Christians -- would join a mob of pagans in the ampitheatre to scream that Polycarp was "a destroyer of their gods," exult in his agonizing death, then send their "captain" to burn his body to prevent the Christians from converting it into sacred relics?

Monday, September 22, 2008


"At the foot of these fairy mountains [the Catskills of New York], the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees ... a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province ..." -- Irving, Rip Van Winkle.

Few are the reminders today that the plucky and late-forming nation of The Netherlands once had an empire in the New World. New Yorkers know it, for their great city began as a Dutch project. And down in the warm Caribbean Sea, a chain of islands still holds ties to the faraway land of tulips and windmills.

One of those islands is called Aruba and in the waning days of September, it will be my geographic study, as I revive this long-suffering project. Technically, it is not an independent nation, it is autonomous but still part of the Netherlands. There are many places such as this in the world, either by choice or by force.

Aruba is a speck in the sea, a mere 19.6 miles long and 6 miles wide, crammed with 90,500 people, but it enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. Of course the official language is Dutch, though the native language is something called Papiamento.

When I have more time, I will upload a picture of the island's distinctive divi-divi trees.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Did they know?

Skimming through a book on Shakespeare today, I saw a name and thought a thought. I asked Sweetie, off in the living room:

"What is the name of that Girl who played in 'Princess Diaries' and 'The Other Side of Heaven?'"

"Anne Hathaway," my Beloved responded.

So I was right. This lovely modern Actress shares the same name as the Wife of the one and only William Shakespeare.

Did Her parents know? Did Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway choose "Anne" on purpose for their Daughter -- if so, twas a beautiful gesture, albeit one lost on our modern, virtually illiterate culture. I do not exempt myself -- after all, this name relationship is as new to me as any other Joe Sixpack out there.

Mt. Vernon

How can I even begin to do justice, how can my pitiful fingers tap out a tribute sublime enough to render proper homage to such a place and to the man whose towering presence still permeates the place today?

How can I express my love for the man -- mortal and flawed though he was -- whose personal character set the pattern for my nation, who laid the foundations that fourscore and seven years later another great man would defend, in the ringing words at Gettysburg vowing that government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth.

How many democracies were there in the world in 1776? How many peaceful transfers of elected power had there ever been?

If I have learned anything from my long readings of ancient Rome and of other lands, few if any men handed or having snatched the scepter of power have ever set it back down peacefully. And yet, many a man, from caesars to czars, began with the best of intentions, only to succumb to the poison draught and drink it to its bitter dregs.

I have so much to write, so many photos to share, so much feeling for this place that I have been, that I will let it continue to take shape in my mind for a little longer before I write a full post on the subject.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Word of the Day

Word of the day:


Violent African dust storm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Great job, J-Lo!

I'm not a big celebrity watcher. But I do have a few favorites. And I love Jennifer Lopez, I just do. She's had Her share of steamy gossip on the supermarket tabloid pages, I know, but She's done much better than some.

I think Her "Love Don't Cost a Thing" video was hot enough to melt cold steel. I think She still does 39 very, very well. And I loved reading this bit of recent news about Her -- shows a strength of character that not everyone has:,,20225693,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

She completed Her first triathlon!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Finally gonna do it

I have asked for next Friday off and Sweetie and I are going to go to Mt. Vernon.

I have wanted to do this for years. I have the greatest respect for George Washington, the father of my country.

In the long, sad annals of mankind, so few have held the reins of power and resisted its temptations. The history of Rome alone is littered with emperors who spoke of free speech and the good of their people when they put on the purple, but then descended into debauchery and horror.

Perhaps only Asoka of India can be spoken of in the same light.

In preparation for the trip, I have set aside all my other books and I will read nothing else this week but the words of, and commentary about, George Washington.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Patriot Day

"Oh beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife
who more than self their country loved
and mercy more than life."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Curtain Call

"All I do is to go about and try to persuade you, both young and old, not to care for your bodies or your moneys first, and to care more exceedingly for the soul, to make it as good as possible ... either let me go free or do not let me go free, but I will never do anything else, even if I am to die many deaths ... And now it is time to go, I to die and you to live; but which of us goes to a better thing is unknown to all but God." -- Socrates

"Do not despise death but be well content with it, since this too is one of the things that nature wills ... Consider your life, your childhood, youth, manhood and old age -- for here also every change was a death. Is this anything to fear? In like manner, then, neither are the end and surcease from life itself anything to fear." -- Marcus Aurelius

"I hope, indeed, by your prayers to have the good fortune to fight with wild beasts at Rome, so that by doing this I can be a real disciple ... I am giving my life for the Cross." -- Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians.

Socrates of Athens faced his death calmly and without tears. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, well-steeped in Stoic virtue, also looked to his end without fear.

But a new script seems to have been written with the rise of Christianity, which, after all, was born in the salvatory death of its founder. Its earliest faithful not only accepted death, some of them positively longed for it. They were not as the modern kamikaze fighters or suicide bombers, sacrificing their bodies to take out the enemy -- they were as sheep to the slaughter but seeming to rejoice at the opportunity to die meekly as had their Master.

Thus Ignatius, bishop of Smyrna, who for the crime of being a Christian was marched a thousand miles across what is today Turkey, to the Coliseum in Rome to be torn by beasts. Along the way, he wrote seven letters which have been preserved for us, and which are the subject of my reading tonight.

Has there been anything else like this ever, in the history of the world?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stream of thought tonight

Too long away from Isis ... busy with back to school ... garden is nearly done but I still find sweet figs every morning ... so addictive.

My cousin-in-law has quit smoking. Good for Her.

Watched Andrew Zimmerman (Bizzare Foods) tonight. I would so love to be that guy. Imagine geting paid to travel the world and eat strange food. I'm game for that -- everything except the bull's testicles he seems to hanker for. I have a philosophical objection to consumption of male genitalia.

In reading, I have now entered the realm of the Early Christian Fathers, so-called, with 1st Clement.

Here's a thought from the late Solzhenitsyn:

"If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on Earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Sweetie wants us to move, out of our neighborhood, away from the tired sights and sounds that She grew up with and the new ones that are jarring and annoying.

I've moved way too much in my life to ever want to do it again. I have planted trees here and moved literally tons of soil and I don't want to start over again.

But I'm restless,too. Want to travel. Want a better job. Want to adopt a child into our family.

Restless, restless, restless.