Archive for April, 2010

Okay, one more time… 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution: 

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

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Jeri and I just got back from visiting our daughter Christina in France (thankfully, as the Iceland volcano cramped our style a bit).  I landed in Brussels, Belgium just as they were closing down airports all over Europe (managed to get on a train to Paris, found a bunk bed in a hostel, and hopped onto a TGV  train (200 mph) the next morning for Aix-en-Provence.   Jeri had flown in via Munich and got to Aix on time, but was delayed a day on the end of the trip. 

Other than that all went well.  Hundreds of thousands of people were much worse off than we were, some stranded halfway around the world from their homes for a whole week.

The peace and beauty of Provence made up for the stress and chaos in Brussels.  Here is an email hastily dispatched (on a foreign keyboard with letters where they don’t belong) as I was trying to get out of there.

im getting on a train to paris  dont kno from there  all flights from  bruss cancel yil tommoro nite

(I never use lower case and I’m a good speller.  This was panic in progress.)

Christy’s response that night:

>Glad you’re ok! There are plenty of trains from paris to marseille or aix. So hopefully we’ll see you tomorrow! Hang in there! You’ll be here soon!
>And you’re making history too. this is nuts! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8623534.stm

(There weren’t plenty of trains.  There was a rail strike…  But there was at least one, and that was enough.  Here are excerpts from the following email that night.)

Hi, Christy and Jeri.  I’m in Paris at Hostel Blue Planet, near the train station Gare de Lyon and as seen in Lonely Planet.  NO other hotels available.  Hostel clean and cheap, shared room, shared bath.  Josh from the UK is in my room, he’s stranded trying to get to Geneva. 

Chaos. Chaos.  I got here after ten PM, got a shower and feel better.  Can walk to the train station, leaves for Marseille at 6:14 AM,  IF IF IF it leaves because of the rail strike.  Conflicting info on that.  I could be here for a few days. 

I stood in lines for about 3 hours in Brussels, either trying to get a hotel (airline would have paid, but all booked up in Brussels, they would have shuttled us to Antwerp), and finally a train.  Then they got word that all flights were cancelled until at least tomorrow night.  Then some? Depends on the ash cloud.  So I got a train to Paris.

It’s been an incredible struggle but I’m well and it’s warm and the kindness of strangers is phenomenal.

I like that last line:  “The kindness of strangers is phenomenal.”  Blanche DuBois would have loved this escapade (but then, she was insane).  Everybody was sharing information, helping with language.  Nobody in charge knew quite what to do (don’t they have snowstorms over there?)  but at least they were polite and tried to help. 

I was in line with a businessman from Berlin, another trying to get to Prague, a man from Delhi who was handling two  calls at the same time on his cell phone (not much help to anyone else), and a man named Laurent from the Mont Blanc region of France who helped me very much. 

Many of us didn’t have enough Euros for a train ticket, and the credit card system was out of order.  Nor was there any way to get money changed while standing in lines, and some of us don’t speak French (!).  Fortunately, enough others spoke English to help, and we got a subway to the next train station where the credit card machine could get us onto a train to Paris.

Ah, Paris in the springtime.  But all I saw was a couple of Paris train stations, the urine-smelling subway between them, and a bunk bed in the hostel.  Maybe next trip.

The bunk in the Blue Planet, however, was literally an answer to prayer.  By ten PM, wandering around finding “no room in the inn” because of all the other stranded travelers, I had visions of sleeping on the floor of the train station.  I recommend that hostel when you’re passing through.

The experience in Aix-en-Provence made up for the “welcome to Europe” entry.  Very relaxing, warm, friendly, ancient buildings and art, lilacs in bloom, vineyards, strawberries in season, and when you order a cup of coffee they bring you an espresso, no questions asked.  Very civilized.

And Christina bought me a chocolate-filled crepe.      

Beautiful area, the south of France.  Go there in April next year if you can, but try to dodge the volcanoes.

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Sacred and Secular Music

I missed out on the Grateful Dead until I was in my thirties.  For years I thought Jerry Garcia was a flavor of ice cream.  What went wrong?  Why were none of the top-40 stations playing the Dead when I was a teenager?  

Because they’re top-40, that’s why. 

The big mystery is why the guys in the dorm weren’t playing the Dead either.   We all played Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Rolling Stones.  Not to mention the Beatles and Bob Dylan.  And Joni Mitchell. 

Ah, Joni.  She’s for another post. 

The first time I heard the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” I thought, “That could be a hymn.  Just tweak the lyrics.” 

So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when I was playing “Ripple” (more or less) on the piano and my wife said, “Oh!  I know what you’re playing, but it sounds like that Gaither hymn, what’s the name?  ‘Because He Lives.’” 

Hmm.  Let’s compare first lines:

Jerry Garcia: “If my words did glow…”

Bill and Gloria Gaither:  “God sent his son…”

Second lines:

Jerry:  “With the gold of sunshine…”

Bill and Gloria:  “They called him Jesus…”

Coincidence?  Maybe.  So the next question was which came first.  I pulled out the hymnal from First Baptist and looked at the date on “Because He Lives.”  1971.  Then my American Beauty CD.  Released in vinyl in 1970.

Jerry had them beat by one year, and this begs the question: 

Are Bill and Gloria Gaither closet Deadheads?

Would it matter if they were? 

Check out the following videos.  Ripple, in this bootleg recording, is performed not by the entire Dead but by Jerry Garcia with David Grisman on mandolin.  Grisman was on the original recording but with this lively interpretation he makes the mandolin an act all by itself–the mandolin is talking to Jerry and cheering him on–yet without detracting from Jerry’s vocals and guitar.


The second video is by the Gaither Vocal Band.  The similarity in the two songs starts to break down after the first lines, but here you go.  It’s Easter all year.  Enjoy.  “Let there be songs to fill the air.” 

Hmm.  Didn’t Martin Luther say something like that 500 years ago?  “Let’s have all the music in the world, that the devil not have all the fun.” 

Does that make Jerry a closet Lutheran?

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Our daughter Christina is over there in France.  I like to think of her sipping espresso and nibbling croissants, but she’s busy studying and producing art, as well as having a good time. 

She’s likely in a good place for art.  Cezanne was born in Aix-en-Provence.  Picasso bought a home there just so he could paint Cezanne’s mountains.

Here is Christina’s recent painting entitled “Sainte-Victoire avec le pommier epanoui,” or “St. Victoire with apple tree in bloom.” 

As you can see, spring in Provence is way ahead of the coast of Maine.  But how seriously can we take their winter when Christina also sends us photos of newfallen snow–on palm trees?

We’ll find out in a few days.  See you on Thursday, Christy.       

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I’m a Dylan Thomas fan by default, if only as a fan of Bob Dylan who borrowed the name. 

After losing three friends to cancer in the past two weeks, I’ve resorted to reading this poem.  Thomas seeks to get even with death, very much as the apostle Paul does, and I think echoes these verses from the Bible:

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV)

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9, ESV)

See what you think of Dylan Thomas’s version of life (or death) and try to muster an “amen”:


And Death Shall Have No Dominion — Dylan Thomas 

And death shall have no dominion.   

Dead men naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,   

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;   

Though they go mad they shall be sane,   

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;   

Though lovers be lost love shall not;   

And death shall have no dominion.


And death shall have no dominion.   

Under the windings of the sea

They lying long shall not die windily;   

Twisting on racks when sinews give way,   

Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;

Faith in their hands shall snap in two,   

And the unicorn evils run them through;   

Split all ends up they shan’t crack;   

And death shall have no dominion.


And death shall have no dominion.   

No more may gulls cry at their ears   

Or waves break loud on the seashores;   

Where blew a flower may a flower no more   

Lift its head to the blows of the rain;   

Though they be mad and dead as nails,

Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;

Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,   

And death shall have no dominion.


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