Sts. Peter and Paul in Tacoma, WA

Sts. Peter and Paul is a Polish parish in Tacoma, WA. I went to a mass last Sunday. I am not catholic, or Polish, or even religious, but I did want to check out the cultural values and traditions at this site, and see the insides of the church.

The English mass is at 9:00 and the Polish mass is at 11:00. I went to the Polish mass, because I want to practice hearing Polish. I studied Polish in the Army Language School back in the 60's, to become a language "specialist", even though I never became a super-linguist. I can read a Polish newspaper or simple book, and I can pronounce pretty well, but understanding spoken Polish on the spot is more challenging for me.

This church is well cared for. Once inside, the first thing I admired were the stained-glass windows. I'm guessing that maybe these windows predate the existing building, and were originally in some other structure, e.g., the old building nearby which apparently serves as a church-hall. (That building still has the original cornerstones, proving that this is a long-standing Polish community.)

It seemed like the mass was very traditional. It proceeded very formally and no-nonsense, though, predictably, I could not understand much of what was said. Only a couple of times I heard the words "na wieki", and a few numbers that were apparently dates that the priest was citing in announcements. Other than that, you could have told me it was English spoken backwards and I would have believed you. I'm so gullible.

There were no books in the pews to follow the liturgy, but there were hymnals provided, with the words only, so I did my best to sing along with the hymns. My vocal powers in this scenario are pretty weak. I have played in Polish masses and concerts back in Buffalo, and I have especially good memories of playing concerts of Polish and other European choral music under the baton of Tom Witakowski, a professor of music at Buffalo State College. So it's embarrassing that I can't sing very well.

Once the parishioners departed I was able to take some pictures as mementos. It was serendipitous that the weather brightened up just as the mass ended. In fact, it was a balmy 56 degrees outside and when the sun is shining in Tacoma this feels warm.

The hills in Tacoma are high, like San Francisco. Outside the church and up a short block, the street ends, and there is a old cement staircase rising up a high hill, which looks to me like it should lead to some outdoor shrine. But once at the top, there is only an abandoned school building.

A Digression

Although I am not religious, I am aware that the Polish Catholic church played a significant role in ending Communist domination in Poland. And I remember also that Catholic priests and nuns in Latin America gave their lives for the cause of social justice.

That is why I am particularly disturbed by the spread of right-wing extremism in the Catholic church.

For decades, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has worked to empower people in low-income communities. Despite CCHD's successes, the Catholic Right is now trying to discredit the program and take away its funding. Just last week, a coalition of anti-social justice groups launched a petition campaign calling on the U.S. Catholic Bishops to suspend all national CCHD grants.

Right-wing propaganda is spreading lies at an alarming rate, and not just within the Catholic Church. Recently, I learned of an upcoming "History Channel" show on the Kennedys that grossly distorts history with the intent of trashing the Kennedys and their Catholic faith.

Words matter, and so does history. It is this type of media hate-mongering that lead to the slaughter in Rwanda, and it can happen in this country too.

Przeziębiłem się

Przeziębiłem się. Ale to było dawno temu. Kiedy jesteś młody, to się dzieje bardzo często, zwłaszcza kiedy żyje się na zimnym terenie, jak w Detroit, gdzie ja wyrosłem, --- czy w Buffalo, gdzie mieszkałem przez trzydzieśći lat, prawie połowę mojego życia -- dłużej ni? w żadnym innym mieście.

Ale teraz ja nigdy nie przeziębuję się, -- tylko zostaję od dnia na dzien troszeczkę starszy, i od czasu do csasu bardziej zmęczony.

Żona wkłada dużą nadzieję we wnuków i wnuczki, i ja przyznaję, iż to dobry pomysł. Żona również dba o wszystko, jeżeli chodzi o rodzinę i przyjaciół -- ona wierzy w odwiedzenie wszystkich krewnych, -- jak na przykład mojej matki, ktora ma 94 lat. Na tym żona ma rację, ja przyznaję.

Czasami ludzi nie wierzą w odwiedzenie krewnych. I zdaje mi się, że taci ludzi często mylą się. Albo nie mogą znosić tego.

Ona lubi podróżować. I my wędrujemy razem.

Żona zawsze ma rację, i ja zawsze chodzę za nją, -- jestem zwolennikiem jej. Najczęściej.

New Year's Message

As of New Year's, we had turned a corner. Christmas was over. Some of my gifts went over well, others not so well. The card on the left I made for my wife. This was the only Christmas gift that I made myself, from my own mind. Originally I thought it was going to be the Christian fish symbol, but then I digressed from there.

My wife gave me a new capuccino steaming cup, which works a lot better than the last one. I remember my brother gave us our first espresso maker back in the 90's, and it took us three years before I figured out how to use it. Helps to have capuccino around in good times and bad. Like the Beatle lyric, it takes a sad song and makes it better.

In that spirit, here's a little Violin Duet of Mozart (Violin Duo 11 from KV Anh. 152/153) that I offer as a New Year's tune. This is by far the most demanding home-recording project I have worked on to date.

I hope that you may find some enjoyment despite and along with the human imperfections -- or, as Dylan said, "And if you see vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme, to your tambourine in time, I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a ragged clown behind, it's just a shadow that you're seeing that he's chasing."

Note that in the final bar I removed the G (the dominant 7th) from the first violin part. The G and the lower E, when played together, sounded out of tune, even though each note sounded in tune when played alone.

Has anybody had that problem?

Wedding Music - Eclectic

This has to do with the music at a particular wedding -- my daughter's. I've spent a lot of time responding to opinions or answering people's questions about the wedding music, and now I've decided that I want to tell the narrative of how we did it.

"the musicians ... expressed their appreciation."

Susan booked the music for the reception, and I was in charge of the ceremony music. The added challenge for both Susan and me was that we lived on the West Coast and the wedding was to take place in Buffalo, NY.

The groom was from Puerto Rico, and the ceremony was to be bilingual, at a Catholic church with a large Puerto Rican membership.

Susan decided to use bagpipes to lead the processional. Since Salsa music was planned for the reception, this was to represent Susan's Celtic ancestry.

Let me say that this is something I didn't need to be talked into. As a musician, I am entranced by the spell-binding thrill of bagpipes, with their otherworldly, mixolydian sound. Susan decided that there would be no prelude music, so that the processional would be more dramatic after the silence. I think this was a good instinct. She also wanted Irish drums, but the piper resisted this idea, so it was dropped.

That didn't matter, because there was no need for drums. The piper was very talented, and a multi-instrumentalist as well. During the ceremony he also played a cello solo from a Bach partita. His presence really enhanced the ceremony. All the musicians who were there expressed their appreciation.

I am glad that I was able to locate the right musician and help plan the music. I am also glad we chose to have bagpipes. Of course, this has been done at many weddings, but not often enough to be a fad. They lent a real pizazz to the ceremony.

So all went well. A couple of months later, we did hear a rather disparaging remark about bagpipes, in reference to Susan and Pedro's wedding. It turned out that the person who made the remark had not been at the wedding. But he took strong exception to the presence of bagpipes at any wedding ceremony, ever.  He is not a musician.

Remembering Marek Edelman - Tough, courageous ghetto fighter dead at 87

Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent

Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising recently died in his Warsaw home at the age of 87. A supporter of the Bund (Jewish socialist party), during the Nazi German occupation of Poland, he helped set up the leftist Jewish Combat Organization (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa).

Following the suicide of its commander Mordechai Anielewicz, Edelman took over the command. He survived the crushing of the ill-fated rising and the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, which the Germans reduced to rubble. After his escape, he joined the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa) and the following year fought in and also survived the Warsaw Uprising.

Since he had been born in Homel, Poland (now Belarus), located in the one-half of Poland annexed by Stalin and never returned, after the war Edelman gave his place of birth as Warsaw to avoid being sent to the USSR. He studied medicine, became a medical doctor and spent most of his life in the central city of Lodz.

Although communist Poland claimed to be building socialism, of which Edelman had been a life-long advocate, he soon became disillusioned with life in a totalitarian state. When most of Poland's surviving Jews left the country in the wake of the communist party's 1968 anti-Semitic purge, Edelman stayed put. "Nobody is going to tell me what to do or where to go,"

Proof of Citizenship

Who said I wasn't born?

(But I'll be lucky if I figure this out while I'm still alive.)

Detroit City

I came from Detroit City,
Who knows where I'm bound,
Is the name of a street in my town,
My wardrobe it was simple,
The color army green,
It kept me out of trouble,
Or so it was supposed to have seemed.

When I finally got back to,
The place where I came from,
They said that they would not hire,
I started to feel like a bum,
Some strangers tried to help me,
They offered me advice,
Seemed they were only waiting,
For me to slip on the ice.

Well I went to work at a graveyard,
I dug with a shovel and spade,
Many is the poor soul,
That in the ground I laid.
But the weather's always changing,
And it's hard to close your eyes,
To the light that shines upon you,
Or the clouds in the skies.

Well my head reads like a textbook,
With all the problems inside.
File through my pages,
There's always plenty to hide.
This wind just keeps on howling,
Some day it's gonna blow me along,
Cat's outside screamin',
I hope that I finish this song.

Salsa Reception

"Previously unreleased" footage from the wedding.

Everybody had a good time. The music was enjoyable.

Though not pictured, I was on the floor. I must've looked odd, though, because some people tried to coach me. So I gave it up: It's not worth the embarassment.

I loved the other dancers, however.

For the father and bride dance, Uncle B. did a nice rendering of a Dylan ballad which I wish I had recorded.

Better Keep Working

M.E. has said that she never knew that I drew pictures. To me, that's like someone saying they never knew that I played the violin. Art is supposed to be part of my identity.

True, I haven't kept up with it like I "should" have; I don't have a workshop..I just dabble in it. I'm really an amateur.

But amateurs can do stuff.

This picture is dealing with the decorative triangles that I have been interested in. What started as a triangulated stovepipe on the left emerged as a faux-exotic column with striped crown.

I seem to be avoiding a deeper impulse that has been stifled or perhaps has lost its significance.

If I practice more, will I get better? Years ago, one teacher, looking at my gimmicky imagery, said that it was going to be a "struggle".

The String Quartet: August 29th, 2009

My black tie was perfectly straight. I had lined up all the songs to knock them down, as we like to say in the music business. We started the prelude music at 3:15. I had enough music for three hours, but the wedding was expected to take only an hour or so.

For me, weddings are always exciting, and something odd always happens. This time, some of the guests got lost on the way to the ceremony, and we had to "stretch out" the prelude music to fill in the time. The other musicians agreed to stay on past their contracted time.

When we finished, around 4:45, I noticed that I was tired -- probably because I had skipped lunch. Next time I'll bring a piece of fruit along.

Illustration: Lost Bugles -- Bartley

Susie and Pedro's Wedding, July 25

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