On the St. Mark

I will soon walk through the doors of St. Marks United Methodist Church one last time.  I first entered that hallowed space on the edge of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter in the spring of 2006; it was sixth months after Hurricane Katrina had wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, and St. Marks was in a state of disrepair.StM1

No. St. Mark’s was in a state of renewal – it’s historic, perpetual mode.

That Sunday morning, I was a visitor; a tourist on my first trip to New Orleans, there at the urging of my boss, who thought that I should spend the weekend of my extended business trip to Louisiana getting a first-hand look at what hurricane recovery looked like.

The trip to New Orleans changed my life. So did St. Marks.

I had arrived in town the previous Friday afternoon, and checked into a hotel on the edge of the French Quarter; it was a place best described at that moment as ‘creepy’.  It was an older building (not by any stretch one of the oldest, but it had seen a few years) and the entire first floor had been gutted down to the studs as part of its post-Katrina revelation. Stark, and empty, but that isn’t what made it strange. The second story of the hotel had been untouched by floodwaters, so they were open for business.

Floodwaters not an issue, but my room appeared to have been untouched by time.

The dark, wide-grained, walnut paneling, large, clunky, light fixtures and olive-green carpeting dated the room to sometime in the late 1960’s.  The old desk phone by the bed – while not as dated – was of only less ancient vintage, adorned with myriad instructions and extensions for various hotel services.  The creep factor quickly gave way to kitsch, especially considering I was staying in a hotel in a part of a city that was older than the country itself.

It fit me.

As a writer and history buff, this entire sidebar trip was one of great anticipation and opportunity – and I used my time to simply stroll, observe, and record.  I spent Friday night and Saturday traversing every street in the Quarter, stopping periodically to drink chicory coffee, and write.  Or to stop, eat and listen to some jazz, and write.

I filled a brand new, five-by-seven-inch spiral notebook I had brought with me.

My first visit was twelve years ago.

That Sunday morning found me at a small breakfast spot I had stumbled across the day before. the night before, I had checked the old hotel directory binder in my room for a local church I could attend – figuring that most any nearby church would have ample amounts of history and quirk to suit my rather eclectic faith tastes.

It was a quick thumb through, as I discovered St. Mark’s UMC was just two blocks from my hotel and had services at ten o’clock – ample time for early-riser me to hit the streets, see some sights, and get some breakfast.  Plus, it was a Methodist church, and I was a Methodist churchgoer back home in Minnesota.

And we shared a name.

After breakfast, I went back to my hotel, packed up my stuff and loaded it in my rental car, before making the short stroll to church.  It was a muggy morning, and the Quarter had an air about it; a whiff of old mixed with new.  There was the typical ‘old’ smell – earthy, damp – mixed with new: freshly cut wood, new plaster, and cement -all held together with the mortal of lemon disinfectant, a special treat laid down that morning by street sweepers washing away a night of revelry.

I arrived at the church and took in the look of the place. It was old, dating to the early 1920’s, but on the exterior, it didn’t seem that Katrina had done much damage. Above the stmark2door was an old, hand-painted sign, reading ‘ST. MARK’s the METHODIST CHURCH OF THE VIEUX CARRÉ ’ – Vieux Carré the French for ‘Old Square’.

The sign and the sentiment are still there.

Once inside, I immediately got the sense that this place was not typical, and that it was not going to be business as usual. Scaffolding along the sides of the church showed where stained glass windows, wall plaster, and the ceiling were all getting some badly needed repair.  The corners of the sanctuary had piles of materials and tools, and there was a definite vibe of renewal.

Same for the folks in the pews.

People milled about, some with cups of coffee in hand, a few were engaged in conversation, many sat silently, by themselves, and some were even sleeping in the pews. A number of those in attendance looked to be homeless – because they were; all of their worldly belongings with them in backpacks, suitcases, boxes.  Scattered here are there were a different set of folks; more neatly dressed, seemingly more middle class.  Racially, I was surprised to pretty even split, black and white.  I have lived and worked in the inner city; my first thought was that I had stumbled into some sort of homeless shelter.

But that idea was quickly overshadowed by a humbling realization; if these folks were disenfranchised from their communities or families, they certainly were not in this place, on this Sunday morning.  The conviviality was palpable, unforced.  This was an interesting place.

Piano music was playing and people were starting to find their spots.

As I accepted a bulletin from an usher and began to look for a seat, a petite, blonde woman walked up to me, excitedly welcoming me, then warmly clasping my hand and shaking it. In a southern drawl as thick as cane syrup, she thanked me for being there, before excusing herself and answering a question of the ushers had about something.

Her name was Anita Dinwiddie, and she was the pastor.

What followed was as uplifting a service as I have attended, and the quirks I anticipated were everywhere. Among the most moving was the greeting and the call to come up to the altar, and ‘grab a flower’.  Just in front of the polished wood altar railing was a small table and scattered across it were a variety of fresh-cut flowers – daisies and carnations. Without hesitation, and with piano music playing, the majority of the congregants got up from their seats, walked to the front of the church, grabbed a flower, and then went to img_20170820_110909.jpgthe altar to kneel in prayer, placing the flower on the altar in front of them.

At least, some folks laid their flowers down. Many people held on to their daisy as they prayed – some clutching the stem intently, others twirling them around absentmindedly, as they prayed, got up, and headed back to their seat, giving the next person in line their chance.

It was a fascinating and profoundly moving five minutes – always is. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

Anita later explained that the tradition pre-dated her tenure by many years, and that the premise was simple; those who felt they had nothing to bring in terms of an offering would always have something – a simple flower – they could bring to the altar.

This simple, small piece of the Sunday morning experience at St. Mark’s is one of my favorite things about the place – and one of the things I will miss the most.  And though confession isn’t necessarily a Methodist thing (in a formal sense) I have one to make: as many times as, I have seen and participated in the flower ritual, I am often getting more from watching how others – especially first-time visitors – are moved by the sight of watching people pick up their flowers, and how they handle them.

Hey, I’ve been there.

The rest of the service was standard issue, traditional Methodist; classic hymns, prayer requests, joys and concerns, sermon.  Though very little is done without some special flair or twist.  The music on any given Sunday, was provided by some wonderful musicians of varying ilk.  Often, the soloist or vocalist you were listening to from the pew would have been performing on some nearby French Quarter stage twelve-hours before.

What might have been your cover charge on Saturday night is an offering plate drop-in Sunday morning.

At the conclusion of my first Sunday there, I was startled to see that not many people were all that anxious to scoot out the door. In fact, many were coming from the back of the church to the front.

Because it was time for the weekly meal.

Each week – then and now – the church serves a meal to the homeless immediately following the service; they have it down to a well-oiled routine, and the carts are rolling out while the pastor is at the back of the church saying goodbye to those who are leaving. each week, the meal is prepared, and then served by, groups from different churches – local, regional, and otherwise.

It is an impressive and impactful undertaking.

Along with their homeless ministry, St, Marks also has a strong, long-standing bond with the LGBTQ community. Back in 1973, an arsonist set fire to a well-known gay bar in the Quarter, and thirty-two people died.  Some of the victims went unidentified, and bodies were not claimed by families.  St. Mark’s was the only church that would allow memorial services and funerals for the victims; this church is not new to the ideas of diversity and social justice.  In the 1960s, during the turmoil of desegregation, the pastor of St. Marks held integrated services, and sent his children to help integrate a local school.

Service to all and inclusion have deep roots here.

Obviously, that first, not-at-all random (thanks, G-d) visit to St. Mark’s was not my last. Two years later, my family and I moved to New Orleans to help with the post-Katrina rebuild, and I became a semi-regular St. Mark’s attendee. The place – and the people – have made an extraordinary impact on me. Some of the deepest, most meaningful friendships I have made in my time in New Orleans began at St, Mark’s; some of the most meaningful and delightful discussions on faith I have ever been involved with came during St. Mark’s ‘disorganized religion’ sessions – for years held weekly, on Tuesday nights, at a local bar.

Pastor Dinwiddie, now retired and living in Texas, is now simply my friend, Anita.

My friends Brett, Jerry, Karl, Ed, Michael, Reita, Noble, and Corey (who took over for the retired Anita) – all welcomed me with warmth, and good humor, strong counsel.

It is a long list of things to be grateful for in my connections with St. Mark’s UMC; twelve years is the longest stretch I have ever spent with a single congregation.  I have seen a lot of people come and go, heard wonderful sermons and fabulous music.  I have signed many of the sympathy cards the church puts in with the guest register, then sends to victims of violence around the community.

I have learned a lot – about myself, about others, about life.  St. Mark’s is a cool place, and one that I will deeply miss.

Every Sunday service at St. Mark’s closes with a group sing; first run through with accompaniment, the second done a Capella, as everyone looks around the congregation and makes eye contact with someone else – bringing an entirely different perspective to the lyrics we sing; rinse-and-repeat. Incredibly cleansing:

Shalom to you now, shalom my friend!
May G-d’s full mercy, bless you my friend!
In all your living, and through your loving,
Christ be your shalom,
Christ be your shalom.

Backatcha, my St. Mark’s friends.  Backatcha always.

Today is my last visit to St. Mark’s.  I don’t know that I’ll ever feel as at home in a church.

And I am very okay with that.

 

Advertisements

Laughter never fades

Father’s Day.Mom and Dad and I and Gramps

A bit pretentious of a title for a holiday, but it is what it is. ‘Dad’s Day’ just doesn’t have the panache – except to me, because I had my dad.

Dad died in 1986 – now more than half my life ago, which is an interesting realization to come to – I have lived more of my life without his physical presence than with.  Logically I get that, but it still hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.

Because my dad is still hanging around.

It is natural to wonder what he would think of the here-and-now; what his family has become, his grandchildren, great-grandchildren – life in general, the world in which we all live. His political commentary on modern times would be something to behold. Mostly NSFW – but due to tone, not language. My father was not generally a profane guy, not always quick to anger, but get his dander up, and he would not hold back, and he could be caustic when really provoked.

But the message, no matter how pointed, would be leavened with ample humor.

I don’t need to think too hard to reach some definite conclusions; he would see my life as it is today with a sense of pride, but also a heightened level of amusement and bemusement. Same holds for grandchildren, and his great-grandson.

My dad wasn’t highly educated – topping out the formal end of things with a high school diploma earned at night –  but he was knowledgeable and well read, a man of continual curiosity about the world.  He would have some on-point opinions on the recent state of affairs of the country and it would be a blunt, probably sarcastic, enlightening and entertaining – LOL commentary. He would have truly enjoyed and appreciated his grandchildren’s fairly sophisticated interest in things social and political.

Life would still be meaningfully funny, as would he.

Aside from all of the typical moments I regret my dad and I missed getting to share – the wife and children of mine he never met, my career and creative and milestones, the man I have become – one thing I frequently get oddly wistful about is the fact that my dad and I never got to sit down in front of a VHS or DVD player and watch funny movies.

As life regrets go, that may sound funny.

My dad was an aficionado of comedy. He spent the bulk of his working years as a television station film editor in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and then Denver. This was back in the fifties, sixties and seventies when television was still a fairly new, burgeoning entity, and most markets had only four-or-five channels to choose from, and – aside from their network programming –  had lots of local airtime to fill.  TV stations back then ran a lot of old movies; my father’s job was to edit them to fit time frames, and to insert the commercial breaks.

Dad loved movies and he did some community theater himself in his younger, pre-me dad the waiterdays. He also made a few appearances in front of the camera at both stations he worked at; as a menswear model in Minneapolis, and for a number of years in Denver as Santa Claus, on a live, local morning show.  Plus, he did some ad modeling after he retired. Dad was gregarious, willing to try new things and to have fun. Privately, and in public, his comedic timing was superb – on par with professionals.

And Dad knew comedy.

My dad loved a wide array of comedic films and performers. Humor of all kinds actually. A favorite stand-up comedian’s appearance on a show noted in TV Guide or the tvgnewspaper listings and the television was thus appropriated for that time frame: ergo, my first, youthful experiences with ‘appointment television’ were all comedic in nature. Comedy (and humor – a major distinction, to be sure) and an appreciation for things humorous, was a trait he passed on to me, though at times we had somewhat divergent viewpoints on what/who was funny, and who wasn’t.

Hence, my regret over his not living to see the home video age come to full bloom.

Born in 1916, Dad’s early experiences with comedy were vaudeville and silent films. He was a fan of silent stars Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd, and also the Keystone Cops. When I was a teenager, any public television salute to either of those guys was duly chnoted and watched by my dad, and since we only had one TV in the house at the time, me too.

I easily came to share his admiration for most of it.

Dad’s true passion, the guys he found funniest of all, were Laurel and Hardy. They were his heroes – especially Stan Laurel, the skinny straight-man of the classic duo. My dad did a pretty good Stan Laurel impersonation, and even as a young kid I was aware that I was seeing a different look in my dad’s eyes when we watched Laurel and Hardy versus other movies or shows.

Nostalgia is a funny thing; sometimes you look back on something fondly and then wonder why. This is not one of those; I still enjoy watching Laurel and Hardy – probably even more so now that I am older and grasp far more of the subtle nuances of their humor – the verbal mastery of the language, the pathos in the true-to-life friendship of their humor, and how grounded in reality even their most absurd moments were.
L&H2
I always laughed along with dad when watching Laurel and Hardy; now I know why he laughed much harder at some things than I did back then.

Watch a Laurel and Hardy short sometime, and you will see that even the physical, slapstick humor has a certain humanity to it, a gentleness. Charlie Chaplin is much the same, and Chaplin I also grasp in a much different way now than I did back then.  The poignancy is palpable, and while I got some of that while watching as a boy, Chaplin also grounded his humor in painful, adult reality.  Dad loved Chaplin, and even portrayed him a couple of times for costume parties.  He had Chaplin’s waddle and cane twirl down pat.

We did diverge at times, however, humor-wise.

In a very different vein of comedy, my dad loved The Bowery Boys; I got quickly bored with their antics. they were New York imps, and he grew up in Brooklyn, so I guess there may have been some connection to real-life for him. Me? Meh. Abbot and Costello did nothing for dad, I found them amusing – though they don’t wear as well for me as the years move on, so maybe my sense of humor is aging like good wine – or my dad.

Ahh, but our shared loves!

My Dad loved the Three Stooges – about as far removed comedically from Laurel and Hardy as you can get, in many regards. There is little subtlety in the Stooges and their 3Seye poking-head smacking mayhem, but my dad enjoyed them tremendously as do I, as do both my sons – his grandsons. There is something timeless in a pie in the face or a poke in the eye.  Don’t believe me?  As an adult, I have, by way of actual demonstration, won a couple of high-stakes bets on whether or not a pie-in-the-face would get a laugh in most any public setting.

Dad would be proud, and he would have laughed like hell seeing me splattered with copious amounts of shaving cream. Plus, I do a damn fine Curley impression.

But while I grew up sharing dad’s appreciation for Laurel & Hardy and the Stooges, we sadly, strangely parted ways over the Marx Brothers.  I was, and still am, a big fan; dad didn’t really find them all that funny (though he enjoyed Harpo and marveled at how great a musician he was). Dad’s attitude towards the Marx Brothers is one thing that has mb1always puzzled me.  All he could do in response to my not-concealed disappointment was so shrug and say that he just didn’t find them very amusing.

Funny how serious guys can get in a disagreement about what is humorous.

As well read and cerebral as my dad was in terms of comedy and satire (both on-screen and in real life) the Marx Brothers would seem to be a natural for him. Oh, he watched some Brothers stuff with me a few times, but it just wasn’t really his thing. But, when I was in high school, PBS resurrected Groucho Marx’s ‘You Bet Your Life’ quiz show from the fifties and ran them on Saturday nights. I became hooked, and Dad actually found Groucho Marx to be a funny guy, much to my relief and vindication of sorts. He still never really cared for their movies, though.

Conversely, when PBS resurrected Ernie Kovacs old shows, I was puzzled as what Kovacs bits my dad liked and which ones he really didn’t. The Nairobi Trio and Percy EKDovetonsils the poet did nothing for him but had me in stitches. By the same token, Kovaks was a pioneer in visual effects, and stretching the bounds of the young, television technology. Most of that I just found weird, my dad loved that stuff. he was, of course, a TV guy.

When asked on his deathbed if he was finding it difficult to leave this life, acclaimed actor John Barrymore was quoted as having responded, “No. Death is easy. Comedy is hard.”

Indeed.

Even though we didn’t get to plunk down in front of a TV with a handful of classics in black-and-white on DVD, my dad and I shared numerous moments of comedic television brilliance through the 60’s and 70’s and had quite lengthy and spirited debates about who (and what) was and definitely wasn’t funny.

Comedians were prevalent on television when I was growing up, and not just late night with Johnny Carson. The Ed Sullivan Show, the Carol Burnet Show, The Flip Wilson Show –  it seemed there was always somebody funny on, and my dad and I enjoyed watching them all.

He loved (and I came to truly appreciate) Jewish, Borscht-Belt comedians Myron Cohen and Morey Amsterdam; yet he couldn’t stand fellow BBers Buddy Hacket or Shecky Greene.  Dad MC and MAoften puzzled over my love for the insult humor of Don Rickles or the confetti-throwing antics of Rip Taylor – neither of whom he could stomach, either. We both liked Jonathan Winters, and Burns and Schreiber – even George Carlin, to name a few.   Although my dad usually went to bed early, I got to stay up late with him sometimes on non-school nights to catch Carson’s show when a comedic favorite was scheduled, thus delaying his bedtime.

Forget the tapes and DVDs: my Dad would have become addicted to YouTube reruns of all those guys.

The great thing was, Dad was not so old school that he couldn’t enjoy contemporary stuff: he would sit with me on Monday nights and watch The Monkees. He enjoyed their antics, tolerated the music.  Looking back, this makes more sense to me; while I used to equate The Monkees humor with the Stooges, viewing them now, I see much more of the gentle love and affection of friends evident in Laurel and Hardy.  And my dad would also take pride in my 36-year-old daughter’s love of The Monkees – which she and her peers got hooked on in their middle-school years, via repeated re-airings.

Dad also loved Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and daughter Lindsay also became a fan of that show too, watching Laugh-In reruns during her teens on Nike at Nite. She now owns some DVD R&Mcompilations of Laugh-In and uses a number of the shows memorable lines regularly in her personal phraseology repertoire, which would please my father to no end – probably even more than it amuses me.

She is also a hard-core theatre geek (and married another one) so he would have been all over that, too.

TV of my youth was something my dad and I got to share as it happened.  Sitcoms of the day we agreed upon and enjoyed watching as a family:  The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, All in The Family, The Odd Couple, and M*A*S*H* were favorites that stand out – and he really loved Barney Miller.

But the quirkiest bit of humor/comedy that my father and I shared was The Muppet Show.

The Swedish Chef in particular always sent Dad convulsing with laughter, and he really enjoyed Rolf the piano playing dog. And Fozzie Bear and Kermit, of course.  But the Swedish Chef was a whole different level of gut-buster for my dad.  No, he wasn’t SC2Swedish himself, but marrying into an extended family of Norwegian immigrants and their Swedish cohorts, he could somewhat identify.  I think.  Dad was also partial to Statler and Waldorf, the old guys kibitzing from the balcony.

The Muppet Show aired at six-thirty, and if there was a particularly intriguing guest star that night, we had dinner on TV trays in the family room – a treat generally reserved for Apollo blastoffs or something equally noteworthy.

To watch The Muppet Show. As father and teenaged son.

Comedy – slapstick, self-deprecating, absurdist, topical, improvisational –  are some of the main reasons I really regret my dad and I missing out on the home video era.

One of the few ‘grown-up’ movies I ever saw with my dad in a theater was The Pink Panther Strikes Again, starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. My father loved the earlier Pink Panther movies, and thought Peter Sellers was brilliantly funny. I had only seen bits and pieces of the earlier films on TV and was unsure what to expect from a whole movie of Seller’s antics.

It was a memorable experience on a lot of levels, as I never saw my dad laugh as hard or as frequently as he did that evening in a Denver movie theater.

Two things vividly stand out in my mind from going to see that film with my father. One is a scene in which Clouseau is chasing a villain and exits a ritzy hotel as the bad guy drives off in a small car. Clouseau summons a waiting taxi, jumps in the back seat, and in his French drawl, he instructs the nodding cab driver to “Fullow that caaaaar!”  The icboverweight cabbie responds by looking at Clouseau blankly, shrugging his shoulders OK, then jumping out of the cab and running down the road – following the bad guy’s car. The camera then cuts back to a close up of Seller’s face, mostly his eyes and eyebrows, as Clouseau realizes the literal result of his order.

It was the late 1970’s and my dad had recently had heart surgery. With that scene, he was laughing so hard I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Seriously.

I have watched that scene a hundred times and laugh almost as hard as he did that night.

The other thing of note from my dad’s affection for Peter Sellers and the Pink Panther series really has less to do with my dad, and more with his influence on my relationship with my sons. A few years ago I rented the original Pink Panther movie and my sons and I watched it together. My dad loved one particular scene, and my boys do now too – especially since they have been able to watch that particular bit over and over via YouTube.

Assassins are trying to kill Inspector Clouseau. One cutthroat (disguised as Clouseau) enters the hotel suite, while another follows and then kills the first assassin, hiding in the bathtub, thinking it is the real Clouseau. When a third killer (lovely Russian assassin Olga) enters, she declares her love for Clouseau and seduces the second assassin in the dimly lit room.

Then the real Clouseau arrives, moving throughout several rooms of the suite, turning on lights and turning off others while Olga is doing the same in his wake. He’s befuddled as to what is happening with the lighting and even more surprised when he gets into bed with some “cold hands.” Olga thinks she is with the same man, and a confused Clouseau then jumps from the bed, and escapes to the bathroom, where he now finds the body of the first assassin in the bathtub.

To this point in the scene, there has been no dialogue. Clouseau goes to the phone and calls the front desk, matter-of-factly informing them of what he has discovered:

icf“Hello?… Yezzz. There eez a beautiful woman in my bed, and a dead man in my bath. Thank you.”

Again, a close-up shot of Clouseau’s face – a pause, then his wide-eyed look when he realizes what he has said – the subtle, played straight absurdity of it all, makes the whole scene.

Even without my dad at hand, that line has become a piece of family folklore.

Whenever we check into a hotel room, one of the Lucker males is sure to pick up the phone and intone, in his best, suave, French accent, “Hello? Yayes. There eeze a dead man in my bath-tuub, and a naked woman in my bed! Thank you.”  before quickly hanging up.

With any luck at all, we remember to hold down the button on the phone so the call dad 3doesn’t actually go through to the desk.

Treasured keepsake hand-me-downs from my dad. Or at least, of my dad.

He would find that more than just wonderfully amusing.

Joe-oh.

Disclaimer: The following piece is not religious satire.  If you are easily prompted to get haughty about such things, go read something else.  If you would like a peek at American culture and consumerism at its most absurd…read on, MacDuff.

My family and I are in the midst of selling our New Orleans home, as part of relocating back to our home state of Minnesota.  The process has been much slower than we would like, and I have shown a bit of my frustration in that regard on Facebook.  The other day, IMG_20180601_195403a friend of mine (an avowed agnostic) mentioned in response to a humorous post I had made that she knew some people would bury the statue of a saint in their backyard, in order to sell their house.

Knowing I was a person of faith, with a good sense of humor, she correctly presumed (I’m guessing) I would find the suggestion amusing.  She was not the first to offer up the suggestion, but knowing her beliefs, I was more amused than I was with previous nudges in the ritual direction.

I laughed, but it got me to thinking – a dangerous habit.

My first encounter with the ritual of burying of a St. Joseph statue came in the mid-70s.  I was in high school, and our next doors neighbors -good friends of my folks –  were selling their south Denver home.  Devout Roman Catholics, Madeline, the wife, was more vociferous in her faith than her husband, George, and one afternoon after work, my parents were out in our yard and they saw Madeline – a rather petite woman – digging a hole.  My father, from whom I inherited my immense curiosity, asked her what she was doing.  Madeline explained that their house wasn’t selling quickly enough, and, to my parent’s bemusement, explained the St. Joseph statue concept in great detail.

Within two days, they had an offer on the house, and accepted it – much to the smug stj9delight of Madeline, and a fair amount of chagrin for her husband George…the realtor.

My friend’s Facebook message the other day got me thinking, that, should I decide to bury a statue in my backyard, it would be as easy as hopping on Amazon to buy one and have it shipped right to my door. Just for kicks (as I needed a break from resume send-outs) I clicked on to Amazon.

Joe-oh.

It was indeed that easy – or should I say queasy.  True to form of modern society, not only stj1could I find a St. Joseph statue – ‘suitable for burying’ –  in any number of forms, in prices starting as low as $5.99, but I could also buy stj2complete St. Joseph House Selling Kits (statue, instructions prayer) in various forms.

In typical online shopping style, the product descriptions alone were of great interest – as far as the theology here, you’re on your own.  A sampling (verbatim; all misspellings, etc as I found them):

‘Countless millions have followed the age-old practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph with the hope of selling or buying real estate. Practitioners say that petitioning St. Joseph for help brings almost immediate results.’

‘You can bury the statue upside down, in the back yard, in the front yard, near stj3the “For Sale” sign, in a flower bed, or even to bury him exactly 12 inches deep.

Kit is 3.74″H x 0.98″W x 0.98″D, and includes 3.0″ RESIN St. Joseph figure, prayer to St. Joseph, and instructions.’

Grammar not their strong suit, but they have the specs aspect nailed. On the other hand, these folks cut right to the chase:

‘Bury it next to your for sale sign & say the included prayer. It’s a tough economy. Get every advantage available.’ 

Indubitably.

 ‘In more recent times it has become common practice to bury a St. Joseph statue to help sell your home. Pray to St. Joseph daily and witness the power of prayer! Results not guaranteed.’

Results not guaranteed, but the product itself?  Yeah, not so much on that front, either. Ah, ye shoppers of little faith.

This version seems to be the spiritual equivalent of a Yelp review:

‘It is important to proudly display your St. Joseph statue and share your story with others if your prayers are answered’  

Befitting the price range, there are many different forms available for St. Joseph statue buyers: wood, stj7plastic, resin, pewter.  And while you can certainly purchase the statue, why not just buy the full kit: statue, instruction manual, prayer card. Again, there are…options.

There are also multiple cultural kit options; instructions and prayers in different languages, and this cultural visual:

‘St. Joseph House Home Sellers Kit Deluxe Italian Picture, Selling Instructions BEST KIT ON THE MARKET IT WORKS ! Exclusive Copyrighted xxxx xxxxx xxxx

Can one copyright a prayer?

My St. Joseph Amazon adventure was an eye-opening reminder of how even the most basic of ideas takes on a whole different aura in our Internet age. Amazon being Amazon, most sellers also offered bulk-pricing options.stj6

Not a fan of Amazon?  No problem.  Modern-day accouterments to the ritual of selling your house via burying a statue are available all over the Internet, and can ebb-and-flow easily from the ridiculous to the sublime:

Various religious supply companies (though interestingly, a few specifically state they do not stock St. Joseph kits) and other retailers of note?

• TrueValue Hardware’s website offers a ‘St. Joseph Statue For Home Sale Practice’

• On the WalMart website, they have the green kit. (Biodegradable, in case you leave the statue when you move).  But wait, there’s more!  Thanks to WalMart’s helpful algorithms, you are also shown the ever-popular  ‘Customers also viewed these products’ feature:
stj5.jpg

’16 inch Buddah statue, Design Toscano Aloha Hawaii Tiki Moai Haku Hana Statue, a $149 Venus of Pietrasanta Statue (nude! at WalMart!)  and (my personal favorite product non-sequitor) Loonie Moonie Bare Buttocks Garden Gnome Statue: Medium’
(thank you Lord, that there is no ‘large’ version of Loonie)

Of course, you can also find a variety of new and used statues and kits on eBay.

Michaelangelo

My personal St. Joseph-statue-on-the-Internet favorite? The ‘plaster, paint-it-yourself St. Joseph’ available on Etsy.

Don’t laugh; it’s how Michelangelo got started.

And man, that dude had some really big holes to dig in his yard.

By the number

33 is my number. Not my lucky number, not my magic number, and there is no numerology, or other mysticism-related mystique surrounding it. But it is my number. And no, I am not an athlete – at least in any sort of organized, uniformed way – though I have worn the double-three on my back for various softball teams and radio station flag-football retinues. Even when it doesn’t go with an actual jersey or t-shirt, 33 is written in Sharpie marker on the inside brim of most of my baseball caps.

It is, after all, my number.

And yes, I know my sixth grade English teacher is rolling over in her grave seeing me not spell out ‘thirty-three’ but when you are writing a story about a number…

33 it is.

If you are one of the fellow denizens of the Denver South High Class of 1977, you may remember the number as having nothing to do with me, but rather as the number indelibly rumbling through our collective mind’s eyes on the broad, muscular back of Johnny Wilkins – our star fullback, BMOC, genuinely one of the nicest guys ever.

And a guy who was taken from us much too soon.

Johnny died before reaching his twentieth birthday – felled by a virus that attacked his heart. Johnny was a close friend; my locker partner, protector – and verbal foil. We laughed a lot, screwed around in ways that were at times less than appropriate in some people’s eyes. We liked playing off the personal disparities that skewed how others saw our relationship: our size, demeanor, race. We had fun making fun of ourselves on those levels and more.

“Seriously?” Johnny’s reaction to all of this, as imagined by me.

For the nearly forty years since Johnny’s death, his 33 has become my 33. I have used it on the aforementioned softball jerseys, employer t-shirts and the like, but 33 also shows up in more esoteric ways – part of my ATM PIN or computer passwords, online login names – that sort of thing. When I am simply reheating something in my microwave, I reflexively zap in 33 seconds. I just do.

33 has become ingrained. My number.

This past weekend, my wife, youngest son, two dogs, and I were out killing time, driving around while our realtor showed our house to prospective buyers. We have gotten used to this routine over the past few weeks, and between having two old dogs with us, and the heat index around 100, there are not a lot of comfortable options for the five of us. So, we usually grab a bite to eat, have a quick picnic someplace in relative shade, then drive around in air-conditioned, vehicular comfort. Besides, showings don’t take all that long.

Except on Saturday, one did.

We had driven around after having lunch (in our own yard, oddly, between two showings) and my wife sent a text to our realtor asking if it was okay for us to return. the response was ‘Nope. People still looking.’ Figuring it wouldn’t be too much longer, and not wanting to get too far away from the domicile, I decided to stop and put gas in our car at our neighborhood, self-serve gas station. I got to the pump, used my credit card, put the pump nozzle in, cleaned the windows on the Pathfinder. The pump clicked off, so I went over, returned the nozzle to the pump, put the gas cap back on, pressed the button to get the receipt. It printed, I looked at it, did a double-take, just shaking my head.

I got back into the car and proclaimed to the assembled masses (all four) that the folks currently looking at our house were going to make an offer on it. My wife, looking dubious, said, “Ohhhhkay. Because…?”

I handed her the receipt. She laughed: $33.00 even. Not a pre-pay, just a nozzle in, let it flow till it stops on its own. I started the car, still shaking my head and chuckling – a bit.  An incredulous bit.  We drove off to cruise the neighborhood a bit longer.

Not five minutes later came a text from our realtor: ‘Done. They are definitely considering an offer.’

Again, 33 is not my ‘lucky’ number – it is just a figure that means something to me. Do I take it as a sign of some sort? Yes, and no. Is it some sort of divine pronouncement? Maybe, though I don’t see it in the clouds-part-and-harp-music plays vein.

If anything, this 33 is G-d showing his sense of humor and whimsy…

With maybe just a little prompting or cajoling from an old football-playing friend. I’m pretty sure that somewhere close at hand, Johnny Wilkins was laughing like hell.

I’ll keep you posted.

Everything is on the table

Our kitchen table is an heirloom in training.

Sitting alone at this table with open notebook, a pen, and a fresh cup of coffee in the early morning light of day I can, with an angular glance, see the extensive preparation and practice for remembrance that it has already put in. At a mere sixteen-years, the table is hardly an antique – yet its smooth, blonde-maple surface is already pockmarked with the memorable nicks and ruts left by stray utensils and homework-prodding pencils – stray treatises to family,  assorted Christmas cards and letters.

All embossed in memory and maple.

My wife and I assembled the table the first night we lived in a rural, southwestern Minnesota Victorian we had just moved into from big-city Minneapolis; a new board-with-legs for our small-town fresh-start. The nondescript table fit perfectly in our new, multi-windowed, breakfast alcove; perfectly seating the four members of our family.  While we read the instructions, inserting the right bolt into the right hole, our boys, then seven and three, were tucked soundly into sleeping bags in the bare living room, as our furniture still in transit. We labored to assemble the table, determined to have a place at which to properly commemorate our first meal together in our new home and community.

The last screw was secured in the final chair leg just after two a.m.

Today, a decade-and-a-half later, when the southern sunlight of our now-home in New Orleans smothers it, you will see the signs of the life the table has nobly earned in service to our family. Worn spots mark each place setting. Plates and bowls of china, paper, and plastic have been repeatedly set down, slid around, eaten upon, picked up again – sometimes dropped. A knot on one end of the table has dried out, a small crack has now settled into a browned notch out of the edge. If you put your face close to the table’s edge and look at its surface, you can trace the hard-scrabble pencil indentations of the two boys who completed their homework each night 100_49891while mom or dad prepared dinner.

Look more closely and you can find a worn two-digit, kindergarten math problem overlaid with something more algebraic, far more recent.  The ancient nine-plus-three-equals-eight-no-twelve is still bold from the pressing of a hot dog-diameter pencil; the more recent equation made by a more elegant and confident ink pen.

The table has made its way south with us.

A million small lines zigzag the surface;  swooping in graceful curves atop the now-worn maple, resembling a vacant skating rink in January. Every member of our family has triple-axeled this table countless times to the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of each of the others. It is a spot of triumph, of place of individual and group confession, reflection, renewal. It has hosted countless meals, endless discussions, prompted numerous revelations; it has echoed the laughter of day-to-day  100_4986life, heard the solemnity of nightly prayers of thanksgiving and praise, sorrow and intercession. It has been spilled on, bumped into, lived on, all the while quietly, steadily. Always smoothly supportive.

It has served us well.

Some ten years ago, we uprooted our brood again – this time to New Orleans. The table that once bore mostly pedestrian, traditional Midwestern fare has become attuned to hosting more exotic and at times experimental and quirky meals of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish.  I am certain the resulting changes in dietary spills and slops has only served to enhance the preservation and aging process of the maple; it is a seasoned patina – the spice of memories – adding character to the worn, blonde, wood

The table is loyal; it has been almost exclusively devoted to our immediate family; guests have usually necessitated a shift to the more expansive, less lived-on, dining room table.  It, too, has stories to tell, but nothing approaching the quantity of those with that our kitchen table could regale us. And now, our time here is coming to a close; both boys have graduated high school, one has completed college as well,  while the younger begins his collegiate experience. We are headed off on new adventures, different adventures.

Our inexpensive-when-purchased, still not priceless, D.I.Y. table will accompany us.100_4979_00

Boys who once needed help to scootch up their chairs now find little elbow room to spare when we are all together. The table’s chairs creak a bit beneath their more considerable heft. Still, neither of them has asked if we will ever get a new kitchen table, or why we just  can’t eat in the dining room. The table has adapted nicely over the last few years from a haven of group work, to more solo time with family members; a boy with a bowl of cereal and spread out newspapers or school project is now more common than then the full-fledged mealtime family foursomes of the past.

The table also spends more time sheltering two aging dogs seeking the relaxing companionship of their boy’s stocking feet –  adept as each has become at absent-minded, foot petting.  Both dogs are equally content to lay there, just soaking in affection, less time frenetically awaiting dropped crumbs from younger, less observant boys,  who used to provide ample treat-pouncing opportunities.

Mealtimes are cozier than they used to be, though this is just a phase of sorts. Our sons have more hectic schedules, and sporadic all-of-us-home home evenings often find us in the living room, munching pizza and binge-watching Netflix – another family ritual once confined to Friday nights, now preciously savored whenever we can scrounge one up. One son still lives at home; mealtimes for three of us frees up some of that vaunted, and coveted, elbow room, though probably to some occasional chagrin on our part.

Soon, the table’s adaptability will again be tested,  as the term ‘table for two’ will be de rigueur.

Someday the table may serve in an entirely different capacity – maybe a first-apartment-hand-me-down for one of the boys, or maybe someday many years down the road and to the 100_4977puzzlement of a spouse, a much-wanted keepsake for one of them.

Not that they are likely to ask about its eventual fate now, but if they do I can just tell them, to their confusion and my satisfaction, that this little kitchen table is, indeed, our heirloom in training.

Shakespeare: tragedy, comedy…and this.

william-shakespeareWhile getting my sophomore English classes ready to tackle Julius Caesar, we spend time wrapping up our unit on poetry with some Shakespearean sonnets, and then dive into a two-day crash-course in Elizabethan English, in part using a series of Elizabethan-to-Contemporary English ‘cheat sheets’. It makes for a nice segue from unit to unit and I have discovered that a few days focused on learning the language is worth the effort from a comprehension in reading plays standpoint.

Some classes really get into it, some don’t – but there is one particular phrase that we always have some issues with: ho.

From one of our Elizabethan-to-Contemporary English glossaries:
ho—hey (roughly equivalent). “Lucius, ho!” [Brutus calling his servant]

There is, of course, some tittering the first couple of times this is said, but it is a very common phrase in Shakespearean language, and very soon the snickering becomes a natural, more comfortable, street-inflected ‘Hoe’ as opposed to the Elizabethan ‘Ho’!

juliuscaesar1953“Lucius, ho!”
“Lucius! Hoe! Come hither”!

The distinction is not very subtle, and adds a whole different layer of linguistic oddity to my sojourn through the Bard, as there is a vast difference between summoning someone and calling someone…

something like that.

Thou hast noooooo idea.

I always end our pre-Caesar week by having my students rewrite one of their daily start-of-class journal entries into a Shakespearean epic – and the efforts are, frequently, epic in nature. The rewrite comes from a prompt I use where I have students imagining or remembering a weekend outing with a friend, including a lot of dialogue. After the writing, we then share some of the results out loud – usually to a mixture of laughter and bewilderment, whether they read what they have written or have me do it.

Here are some of my favorite dagger-stabs at Shakespearean ignominy and glory – verbatim from student papers.


“I stood wall-eyed, “Whence did thee get that zany idea” I said, lapsed. “Thou art mad” I informed him. He discourses. “Thou shouldntst hark. I woo her”. I cursed him. I shook my head. “What are thee going to dost? Thee have a foe”’.

Heavy, he said “I know, come hither. Thou art verily something”. Balked and mated, he didn’t have the addiction of discourses words such as these”.

I am quite sure of that, actually. I think.

edwinbooth“Today, Friday the 13, my friends and I heard tidings that we had to go appoint to the mall for some hours”.

“My best friend hark me Friday, doth thee went to hie eat out”.
“Perchance, an I doth not have anything

 

 

 

to doth”.

For which we can all be grateful, I suppose.

This next one is from a kid who rarely writes more than a sentence or two…again verbatim:

“It’s Friday e’en, methinks perchance I should call my friend to see an thee wants to skate. Methinks also about thee girlfriend.  An thee hie hither, thee nots going to have a ride back home. I should privy the mom for a ride back home, but that’s too much. Adieu that idea, so thee calls my friend to come over. Soft, I left thee board in thee mom’s car”.

Hopefully, she’ll find it and give it back to the kid.

Some stray entries from our you-have-to-admire-the-honesty (HATH) department:

HATH #1 “Oft my morrow I am alone and maybe retired because I am an introvert. But were to I discourse and visit with my friends, we off hie to World Market and Barnes and Noble”.

HATH #2 “Today I shall couch. I fancy some chicken for today. Perchance even some tacos. Were I for my dad wrought me the money. I don’t want to woo a job with my friend”.

HATH #3 “Twas a quaint morrow and methinks of a cunning idea. The idea was to mate with a friend”.

The writer of HATH #3 and I had to have a little, um, sidebar conversation.

Moving on, and as many of my New Orleans students and colleagues frequently say, “We were conversating”:

We couldn’t think of anything to do. So finally something came to me.

Hitting a bowling strikeCarla: Natalie, I thought of something
Natalie: Aye
Carla: Hark, the bowling alley.
Natalie: Perchance.
Carla: Okay because I couldn’t think of anything.

 Later that e’en we got dressed and my mom brought us.

Natalie: I bet I can rap a strike before thee
Carla: Methinks not.

 

Hair is always a popular topic with my students. ‘going Shakespeare’ changes that not.

hair“It’s like this every Saturday night. Addiction hath I curl my hair. We go out after about two hours of unpregnant babbling”.

“This Friday I’m going to doth my best friend hair
It’s going to take all day but I don’t care
Thee will hie to the movies
whence everything is groovy”.

 

Stupendous efforts, all. But nobody else went quite in this direction:

One young woman, a very good, prolific writer, allowed me to read her lengthy and detailed entry, which centered on her mother, who suffered from a long-term illness,  giving her and her friends money to drive to a neighboring community to run an errand.

“Speaketh to Mary, Liz, Kenny and Jame” I told her as we got onto the bus. Charlene nodded, pulling out her cellphone and texting all the names listed. I called mother telling her we’ll clean the home, also that we made plans for the morrow. Mother insisted we’d deliver money to Sir Bradley for some of his homemade brownies”.

 

She went on, making good use of ‘forsooth’ and ‘hither’ among others in describing their nervousness in being followed (innocently and coincidentally, it seems) by a police officer as they returned home with the purchased baked goods from a neighboring suburb.

I read the entire piece, looked at the girl, asked if the story was true. She nodded. “Really? YC&Cfiberonebrowniiesou drove that far for brownies? Those kind of brownies”?

“You knew what I meant”?

“I grew up in the sixties and seventies. I know exactly what kind of brownies you meant.”

“Cool”.

Verily. Shakespeare with my students always is.

Making my best pitch

I have a dead file, and it is in need of its annual updating.

The file dangles in the front of our family filing cabinet, a red hanging folder filled with all of the important stuff my family will need for when I depart this mortal coil: the songs I want played, the songs I wish to have sung – the how-I-want-them-played-and-sung at my memorial service – dead-file-e1327109698717along with the scripture, quotes and poetry I want to be read, and what I want printed on the program.

Pretty basic, but important stuff.

My wife and kids know where this file is, they know that all that key info will be right there, as I am trying to be proactive, not controlling.  They are mostly okay with this arrangement, and though they don’t know what’s in it, they figure they will deal with that if and when the time comes.

Or, hopefully, my children will simply be able to pass on the whole thing to their adult children under the banner of ‘you cousins can all take some responsibility for grandpa/great family-tree-relationship-chart-free-pdf-templategrandpa/great-great grandpa here.’

Good Lord willing, that’s the way it plays out.

As is my custom, I review the file at the beginning of the year – though not as some sort of resolution ritual, or anything like that. I am always reminded to do this by all of the year-end/year-beginning, tax-and-estate planning reminders from every direction and the television commercials featuring thought-dead-already celebrities touting ’providing for your family’ with mail-order life insurance. Though sometimes I get those commercials confused with those of some other thought-dead-alreadys and their reverse mortgage ads.

Now there is a spiritual analogy post just dying to be written.

This year, as I reviewed the tattered red folder, I added a note about where the baseballs are – and nobody has to look far: they are right next to the folder.  Nice to have a decent file cabinet wide enough for legal files – I can have my letter-sized files, and room along the side for a half-dozen baseballs, in their boxes. Where they will hopefully remain for a long time.

Yeah, the baseballs.

Anyone who knows me and my family will attest to our love of the game. My wife Amy and I began dating late summer, 1991, as our hometown Minnesota Twins were en route to their second World Series championship, and let me tell you, World Series victories are great new-relationship aphrodisiacs. The following year we got married and had a Twins-themed wedding reception, followed up by family members and the wedding party (60 of us, all told) going to the Twins-Brewers game the next day, after which we (just Amy and I) followed the Twins on the road to Chicago and Milwaukee for our honeymoon

So yeah, as a passionate aficionado of all things America’s pastime, baseball will certainly be as much a part of my departure from this world as it is in my existence on this rotating-like-a-fine-change-up celestial orb.  My immediate family understands that, and figures they will deal with whatever zaniness I have in that red file folder when the time comes, though the one particular aspect they do know of gets the ‘hot potato’ treatment amongst daughter Lindsay, and sons Will and Sam. (Amy wants no part of my baseball bequest and has long since informed all the kidlets that this one will be totally on them.)

Somebody is going to have to put me in the baseballs.

It’s pretty simple, actually, and far more feasible than other preferred options, like a traditional Viking viking-funeral-799141funeral.  The whole ship set ablaze and afloat (with my remains on it) while in keeping with my ancestral roots and desires, is impractical and expensive (EPA permits and whatnot) and maybe just a bit pretentious. So while the whole Viking ship thing would be as exciting as an inside-the-park home run, my baseball brainchild is an easy, knock-it-outta-the-park game-winner.

That I hope doesn’t result in me getting knocked around.

Upon my demise, after everything donatable has been donated, organ and tissue wise, the rest of me will need to be cremated. That will leave me as a nifty little pile of ashes, which will then need to be handled in some way. As I have never been one easily confined to conventional parameters (literally or figuratively) I don’t see myself as sitting in an urn or ornate box on someones’ mantelpiece somewhere.  Bor-ring.

Hence the baseballs.

It’s pretty simple, really. A set of regulation, major league baseballs has been purchased, to be autographed by me; some signed as ‘dad’ some as ‘grandpa.’ Then, when the time comes to stash the ash, each ball will have a small core drilled out of it, just big enough to contain some of my ashes. Once the ashes are placed in each ball, the hole will then be sealed up with the drilled-out core and some epoxy, and the baseballs will then be ready for distribution to the next generation(s).

The idea could catch on – a sort of national pastiming-on, if you will.

The great thing about me being ensconced for eternity in baseballs is not only will what’s left of me be suitable for display in a ball cube, on a mantle or in a memorabilia cabinet, I will also be able to remain part of the family in a tangible, practical way.

For years after I am gone, when my grandkids and great grandkids get together someone will baseball-ed3always be able to say, “Hey! Let’s go outside and play catch with grandpa!”

And we still can.

Ummmm….but please, no batting practice, kids.

“Because grandpa said so! THAT’S why!”

 

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B017LALIES

 

Listing, while shopping

New Orleans offers ample opportunity for St. Patrick’s Day weekend revelry – no big surprise: any given Thursday here offers the same. But for those of us of the middle age persuasion who no longer fit the ‘party animal’ designation, there are other, quite viable (and cheaper) options via which to get our ‘party on’.

cartsLike grocery shopping.

The Saturday before St. Patricks Day, I was out and about, and I needed to hit the grocery store for a few items, so I swung into a Rouses Market I don’t normally frequent, simply because it was handy, and I was there. As usual, I entered through produce and had to go through the liquor/beer/wine department on my way to frozen foods. While I was making my innocent swing through libation land I was accosted by the sampling women.

‘Accosted’ might be a bit strong.

Attractive, personable, young  women with the sweet, cooing-souls of carnival barkers made up the sampling force, their small tables were strategically stationed along main aisles and offering-up regulation shot glass size samples (none of this thimble/communion wine sip-size) of Bushmill’s Irish whiskey, three types of Guinness beer and ale, and Bailey’s Irish Cream – all of which are on special this weekend, of course. So much for my five-minute quick in/quick out – it’s like getting off the interstate and taking a scenic drive.  But instead of a panoramic view from an overlook, I became engaged in a couple of amiable product-virtues conversations with the aforementioned sample ladies.

It seemed impolite simply to chug-and-run.

It isn’t just at the locally-based Rouses that I have encountered this holiday weekend phenomenon, as Winn-Dixie offers the same holiday-themed samplingsampling opportunities. The Fridays and Saturdays before Christmas are a bonanza of eggnog and flavored rum variations.

It occurred to me that I had written of such a similar experience as this one and indeed I had – in a Facebook post last summer:

“I just got done with the pre-July 4th family grocery shopping excursion and must say it was quite busy and…festive. Got most everything on the list and enjoyed most of the samples. The margarita mix was good as was the tequila. Tried five of the eight available wines; one of the reds was particularly boring. Of the two rums, the citrus was very tasty. Also tried both vodkas, which took a little longer as there was a chatty woman with a product survey, but she valued my feedback and asked for more detail. For the record, the cherry vodka was very good, the sweet tea vodka…not so much.

With any luck, Amy will discover she forgot to have me get something and I may have to go back to Winn-Dixie to get it.”  

So if you are ever in our town over a holiday – any holiday – party on. And don’t forget the milk and eggs. Or you’ll have to go back to get ’em. Maybe even in separate trips. To different stores.

It’s just something else to love about New Orleans: you can go grocery shopping and be half in-the-bag long before anybody gets a chance to ask, “Paper, or plastic”?

Word(s) of love

I am a writer and English teacher, and I do not consider myself a grammar fanatic, though I do of course love language, and am fascinated by all of its nuances. I am a firm believer in the idea that the American English language is a living, breathing, constantly evolving organism, and that what may have been true ten, twenty years ago, in some cases may have no place in the language today.

Don’t believe me?  Get ahold of any English textbook from fifty or one-hundred years ago, and do a quick compare-and-contrast.  Rules, especially in regards to language in all its permutations, are made to be broken. Not all rules, all the time, certainly – but many convheartsof them, much of the time.

Many of my fellow writers and (mostly) English teachers will surely disagree with my basic premise, but I ask for their indulgence.

Now that you know my baseline, let us partake in today’s lesson:
Valentine, Valentines, or Valentine’s.

In terms of proper use, this one is sort of the ‘their, they’re, there’ of romance, so strap in for the ride, kids.

First off, from the website Grammarist:

‘The standard spelling of the holiday that falls on February 14th is Valentine’s DayValentine is singular and possessive, so it takes an apostrophe s. This is how it is spelled in edited writing everywhere.

The day is named after Saint Valentine. It is his day, hence the possessive. Because there has been only one of him, it wouldn’t make sense to pluralize his name. Of course, one could argue that Valentine now has two alternative senses in which it can be plural—namely, (1) the person one loves on Valentine’s Day, and (2) a Valentine’s Day card—and in light of these, it might make a little sense to spell the holiday Valentines Day. Nevertheless, the form with the apostrophe is the more common one by a large margin.’

Ummm, I respectfully disagree with their logic, in terms of contemporary usage.

Let’s be honest: who is actually spending February 14th celebrating St. Valentine?

Yeah, I thought so. Both of you can skip the rest of my pseudo-tirade.

The possessive form (Valentine’s) makes sense if you are celebrating in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran traditions, and you are into the whole martyr aspect of good ol’ St. V – but f you are a contemporary, twenty-first century, Hallmark cards, candy-stvaland-flowers sort of person, the possessive form makes little sense for most of the populace. You give not a whit about the saint, but you damn well should about your valentine (Valentine?).

If you know what is good for you.

Because, you, my friend are actually celebrating your Valentine. Hence, ‘Valentine Day’ makes a lot more sense to me, linguistically and logically, than the possessive ‘Valentine’s Day’. Of course, you could argue that throwing that pesky apostrophe in there makes it all about the day being all about YOUR Valentine, and it being ‘his’ or ‘her’ day – but then, that leaves you out of the equation entirely.

In a (grammatically) and overly possessive way, anyway.

Then, of course, there is the also ubiquitous ‘Valentines’ day – no apostrophe, so no possessiveness implied, but a plural nature that screams, in a less-than-romantic imagery, ‘I’m a play-ah!’ If you consider yourself as such, that is all well-and-good, but making ‘Valentine’ into ‘Valentines’ thereby demotes your Valentine from singular, val1appreciated, lover to part of  a throng – not exactly romantic (in most circles) and not to be confused with thongs, which are reasonably effective gifts for your Valentine, not so much for all of your Valentines.

And if you are doing your February fourteenth shopping, in bulk, at Victoria’s Club, we will have to talk privately about a few other things.

And that is my case for the etymological superiority of ‘Valentine’ day over ‘Valentine’s’ or ‘Valentines’ day.

Eat your chocolate hearts out, grammar fanatics.

Antipasto!

Dinner with my Valentine;
wine and Sinatra
Fine haiku-be-do-be-do

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2018
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd