By popular demand, I'm writing today about what's been happening in my life these past few weeks. Although I'm technically retired, I've made my life busier than ever, and a heckuva lot more fun than when I was practicing law and making 26 bi-weekly payrolls every year.
I've finally made my decision known that I want to join Zion First Black Baptist Church. I've been going to services and participating in the life of Zion since early July of this year. Many parishoners had thought I'd already joined the church, but I haven't. I was waiting for a propitious moment to make a public statement of my wish to become a full member. And that moment was last Sunday. Rev. Giles' home church, the black baptist church of Bridghampton, Lone Island visited Zion last Sunday, which was our Mens' Day. The men of our church were responsible for the worship service. I've been attending the monthly meetings of the mens' group at Zion and participated in planning for Mens' Sunday.
Last Sunday morning, the church was packed to overflowing. The east half of the church was Zion members, with the first two pews occupied by the men of Zion, including yours truly. The west half of the church was mostly the Bridghampton congregation, but some of our women sat in the first few pews. The Bridghampton mens' spirit choir sat in our choir loft, next between the piano on the west and the organ, guitarists, and drum set on the east. Their mens' choir members all dressed in black suits and bright gold ties. Two of their singers were classic doo-wop style singers, one a bass and the other a high barritone. I've been listening to a lot of old doo-wop from the 40's, 50's, and 60's on my I-pod, mostly in my car, and these men were classic doo-wop singers. The only difference was, their music was spiritual doo-wop, not the secular stuff we're all familiar with from our teenage years (The Spaniels; The Velvetones; and other similarly colorful names).
Rev. Frank Bryant, the Bridghampton minister, is a light-skinned man in his late 60's. He has a doctorate in theology. One of his parents was white, the other black. He's married to a very lovely black woman who was, like all the women in black services, including ours at Zion, very stylishly dressed. They have 7 grown, successful children.
Rev. Bryant gave a humdinger of a performance in the pulpit. He preached, he sang, he stomped, he danced, he spun during the sermon. By the end of it, he was fairly sweaty and a woman dressed in what amounted to a nurse's white dress and hat had rolled a white towel up and draped it around his neck. This left the preacher looking like he had just won a heavyweight bout.
During the service, a man in his late 30's was suddenly moved by the Spirit to get out of his pew, dance to the front of the congregation, ask for a microphone, and deliver a kind of homily about how he's been diagnosed with dementia but the Lord healed him. He stomped and danced in a circle up in front of the pulpit. A woman in the front left (west) pew, from Zion, became overcome with emotion, praising God and Jesus for their divine power. The women of Zion rallied around her with fans, the ones with photos on the back of Dr. King and President Obama, to try to cool her off and bring her down emotionally.
The Zion liturgy includes a moment when anyone moved to declare his or her committment to Jesus and wish to join the church is invited to come forward to make this known to the congregation. And Sunday was my time to do this, so I moved forward stood on the right side of Deacon Bob Bailey, who was standing next to Deacon Curtis Cockfield. I felt humbled and bowed my head. Bob put his arm around my shoulders and listened as our minister, Rev. Giles, asked Deacon Bailey what was the pleasure of the congregation about my wish to join the church. He also informed the congreagation, mainly for the benefit of the Bridghampton visitors, that I'd been coming to Zion for a few months. Deacon Bailey then announced that Zion welcomed me to become a member and, with that, Rev. Giles said that Minister Toler would be in touch with me after the service to arrange to meet with me for instruction in the ways of the baptist church. Rev. Giles also said he saw no reason why I couldn't be ready to be baptized by full immersion in the church in early December.
After the service there was a big meal in the parish hall, below the sanctuary, planned and implemented by the Zion mens' ministry. Being part of the mens' group, I removed my double-breasted dark suit jacket and re tie and stood in the serving line to dish out the ribs and the chicken, beef and pork ribs and baked chicken. The church service had started at 11 a.m., finished at 1:30 p.m., and the dinner was over by 3:30 p.m. A long but very satifsfying and spiritually-rich day.
I love opera but don't like paying the Met ticket prices, parking, meals, and driving costs to and from NYC, just to sit in the last row of Orchestra and watch the action through binoculars and switch between binoculars and subtitles on the back of the cramped seat in front of me. So upon the recommendation of my sister Carol and bro-in-law William I go to some of the Live at the Met HD performances at theaters in Manchester or North Haven.
Back in October, I saw a wonderful production of "Don Giovanni" with our dear friends, Sandra and Donald Oliver-Olsen, at the North Haven cinema. DG was the first full opera I ever saw, years ago at the Met in NYC with Sandra. I loved it then, at the City Opera at Lincoln Center, and I still love the story of two kinds of romantic love. One of the males loves his woman with the kind of all-enveloping, fully-merged dependency in which there is no distinction between self and love object. The other type is embodied in the character of Don Juan, who is so afraid of total merger with the beloved (and feared) love object that he can't really love any one woman and has to "love 'em and leave 'em." This tableau plays itself out in a series of scenes of emotional turbluence, but above it all is the glorious music of Mozart. This miraculous score makes me think of God, as a steady presence, a kind of basso continuo, which floats above the sturm and drang of earthly human existence, in all its turbulence, drama, and, what else is there to call it but, OPERA.
Somewhere between the polarities of dependent love and independent love is a happy medium. Adult love. The love of a man, or woman, for the lover, which is not the love of a child for the parent, or the love of a lothario for the woman he uses for his own pleasure, but the mature love which knows its limits, its blessings, its insufficiencies.
During the intermission, Renee Fleming interviewed the stars of the production. In her talk with the star, Don Juan, the singer offers the insight that Don Juan's mania for lots and lots of women is born of depression. I found that most insightful. As I reflected on the story of the opera, it begins with the Don stabbing his new lover's father, the Commandantore, and fleeing the castle. This led me to the thought that perhaps Don Juan is the story of everyman's Oedpial struggle--horror at his wish to kill his father and be the exclusive love object of his mother. But this leads to another fear--the fear (and wish) to perhaps even sleep with his mother. To avoid that fate, Don Juan romances and sleeps with thousands of women, long enough to get physical pleasure but not long enough to get enveloped and, he fears, smothered by any one of them.
The Young Picasso exhibit at The Frick Museum in NYC
Last month I took the train to NYC to spend the day with my friend Nelson Horn. Nelson now lives in Surf City, USA, Huntington Beach, Orange County, California but his daughter lives in NYC and his son in Boston. So Nelson invited me to spend the say with him in the City. We went to the Frick Museum on 5th Avenue to see the exhibit of Picasso's work from the age of 9 on. It was extraordinary to observe the visual evidence of the developmen of an artistic genius. At age 9, Picasso drew a sketch in pencil of his left hand. At 10 he sketched a torso of an ancient sculpture. It was clear that he had a complete grasp of three-dimensionality from a very young age. He did have the advantage in life that his biological father was an art teacher. I'm certainly no Picasso, but I did identify with seeing the extant evidence of a developing talent. This resonated with my own process of forming a new personality in the world.
I also took the opportunity to speak French with some art tourists from Paris. And I did a bit of spontaneous stand-up comedy with a few groups of Dutch art students who were visiting the Frick as part of a trip to the U.S. with their art class, as well as with an older woman who happened to be from the Netherlands but I had a hard time guessing her nationality.
African drumming concert
Last Friday night, before I went dancing at the local dance clubs, I attended a free concert of the Wesleyan African drumming and dancing class taught by the Ghanian drumming and dancing guru, Abraham Adinijah. It was a free concert at Crowell Concert Hall. The concert lasted an hour and a half. During the first number I sat in my seat, right in front of Jeff Hush and Lucia DeLeon (my friends from Wesleyan--Jeff--and Mexico City--Lucy) and the Indonesian pianist and composer, Gayathri and her English fiancee, Darren. I moved to the music in my seat but refused to contain my wish to dance after the first song, so I got up and danced on the sidelines. At first I danced in the ramp leading from the area beneath the foyer of the concert hall so only the performers on stage could see me. But eventually a school newspaper photographer from Vietnam, a freshman, was dancing hip-hop style right next to me, so I came out of the ramp and just danced for the rest of the performance. When it was obvious they'd gotten to the last number, I sat down in my seat, all sweaty now, and watched as many people who'd been sitting quietly in the seats finally caught the spirit of the dance and went up on stage to dance for the final song.
Afterwards I went home for a snack and then down to the local dance clubs to dance away the night until closing time at 2 a.m. since it was a Friday night. The clubs close in Middletown at 1 a.m. on Thursdays. Friday and Saturday are 2 a.m. closings.
Wesleyan Homecoming Weekend
Homecoming was a blast this year. My good friend from Class of '71, Leo Au, and his wife, Melina, came up from their winter home in Florida for the weekend. Susie and I got together with them for coffee at Javapalooza on Main Street on Saturday morning. Then we all looked at the old house and our new home. Leo and Melina liked the efficient, clean design and the "green" aspects of the construction.
Then we attended the reception for alumni who contribute regularly to the Wesleyan Annual Fund, at the new Usdan Student Center. Following that we watched the football game between Wesleyan and Williams, which Wesleyan won. During intermission we attended a party for alumni volunteers, which Leo was invited to and in turn he invited Susie and me to go with Melina and him over on Mount Vernon Street, within walking distance of the football field, which lies between Olin Library and the Usdan Center.
I then went by myself onto the grassy area outside the Usdan Center where members of the other Wesleyan sports teams were selling teeshirts and other merchandise for fundraising. I did some ad lib stand-up with these young people about whatever came to mind as I talked with them. The guys on the baseball team got a real kick out of the dancing I do at the clubs in town, at the black classic football game "happening" at Giants Stadium I've written about on "Bobs blog," and what it was like to go to Wesleyan when it was, in effect, and all-male monastic institution.
On Monday, I attended a lecture/discussion in Professor Bill Johnston's East Asian History class about the decsion to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I had never seen the formerly classified Top Secret memoranda among the WWII nuclear bomb decisionmakers. I had always assumed, rightly, that little thought was given to whether this was a necessary and "good" tactical decision. Americans assume, without studying the issue, that America "had" to drop the bombs to end the war and save "American" lives. The Japanese were already "suing" for peace in talks with the Russians. It the American demand for total and unconditional surrender which the Japanese balked at doing, which prevented the war from ending without unleashing that nuclear holacaust.
My defense of the criminal trespass infraction charge in New Haven with respect to the KKK (Koji Komedy Klub)
My trial on the trespass charge (reduced unilaterally by the prosecutor to an non-criminal infraction charge of simple trespass during my first court appearance on October 28, 2011) is still set for Tuesday, November 29, 2011 in New Haven. I had to make several phone calls and faxes, and an appearance at the courthouse, to finally get the prosecutor to give me the police report on my arrest. Although I will not publish the police report on "Bobs blog" until after the trial, nor write about my trial defense strategy, suffice it to say I am NOT GUILTY as charged and expect (and hope) for full vindication at trial. I have other legal avenues I am considering about this whole case, which I carefully have researched at our local library in the Middlesex County Courthouse Library. But I will not write about any of that, either, until after the trial.
If you wish to watch the trial, please feel free to go to Courtroom E on the third floor of the New Haven Courthouse, 121 Elm Street, New Haven, on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 2 p.m. Although the worst penalty I face if I am convicted (and if I then were to choose not to appeal) is $99 (ninety-nine dollars).
Meditation with TheMeditationMan.com
Susie and my dear friend, Lyn Shaw, invited us to go with her to the three-times-weekly silent mediation group at Starr Mill on Beverly Heights in Middletown. Susie declined, as the idea of total silence for an hour is not her idea of a good time, but I quickly accepted, despite the fact I love to talk and have an audience. Believe it or not, I also like silence.
The meditation group meets in the Starr Mill, an old brick industrial building on the banks of the Coginchaug River, right next to a dam which used to furnish hydroelectric power to whatever were the business establishments then located in the mill. The Vinci Family of Middletown has owned the building for years and now leases to a photographer, a high-end book publisher, a hair salon, and a yoga studio.
Bob Vinci is in his mid-seventies and is also known as The Meditaion Man, hence his web address. He's been interested in mediation and Bhuddism for many years. In the meditation room, on the ground floor, a window is left open a crack to let in the soothing sound of the continuously-flowing dam. Bob provides bottled water and, now, Halloween candy, to anyone who wants them.
The hour goes quickly when your eyes are closed and you're focusing on your breathing and your innner world of fantasy, memory, and tranquility or un-tranquiltity if that is your presnet dominant emotion. At the end of one hour, precisely, Gary gets up and softly hits a gong three times to let everyone know the hour-point has been reached. Then there is time to come back to the here-and-now and engage in a bit of small talk with the other meditators.
Life is good. I continue to enjoy retirement thoroughly. I dance in the clubs four nights a week. Below are a few photos I've recently come across from the clubs. It's great exercise and a lot fun.
Hope you're all enjoying your lives.
Miscellaneous Dancing Pictures