Archive for February, 2019

Letter from a Vagabond 26 February 2019 Gob smacked by it all…

February 26, 2019


In the middle of last night, I started, sure I heard a woman screaming.  Sitting up in bed, I realized it was the fierce night wind screeching through some crack in the house where I am staying.  Rolling over, I went back to sleep, choosing not to be disturbed by several more hours of wind roiling Martha’s Vineyard.

This house looks over Edgartown Harbor to Chappaquiddick, beyond that to the Atlantic. The harbor is choppy and white caps dot the ocean past Chappaquiddick.  The threat of wind disrupting ferry service is the reason I came to the island a day earlier than planned.  Here for a few days, I am manning Edgartown Books while Lisa, the year rounder, goes on vacation.

It’s been a pleasant day.  I reviewed films for the Wilbur Awards, given by the Religion Communicators Council, answered some emails, prepped for a couple of conference calls, went grocery shopping [and it is SO true, you should not grocery shop on an empty stomach! I have food for two weeks when I will be here for one].

It is the dead of winter. Outside the wind is still roaring, sounding like nothing so much as if I were inside a jet racing somewhere.  When friends phoned me while I was in my car, I thought the car might actually be tossed over while we chatted.

The world is rocked by the sexual abuse scandal of the Roman Catholic Church.  Cardinal Pell in Australia has been convicted.  Cardinal McCarrick has been defrocked.  The Church held a meeting at the Vatican about sexual abuse – a landmark moment that has been derided by some for doing not a lot.

Long ago, I joked I hadn’t been abused because I wasn’t cute enough.  But then, when I was kind of cute, I wasn’t abused.  When I hear some of the stories from the Catholic past, I shudder and am grateful I escaped it all, for reasons I am not quite sure.  And am embarrassed by my joke.

Had I been, would I be alive today?  I wonder.

There is a man I knew, god rest his soul, who spent his life tormented by that abuse.

The Catholic thing troubles me, circles back every time I read another article and wonder how I had missed seeing it?  Because all through my Catholic life, it was happening, only learning of it when, in my adulthood, friends have spoken of it, carefully.

Brother This did that.  Father That did this.

It has been a very long time since I have thought of myself as a Roman Catholic.  Being a gay man and being Catholic doesn’t mix so well and so I retreated, finally attending Episcopal services in Hudson where I felt community in way I hadn’t before.

All of this is closer to the surface of my life than it usually is because of the events of this first part of 2019.  Participating in the Lokahi Foundation event in Beirut, opened, again, all the questions about the role of religion in our lives and the upward battle so many are fighting to make things better in the world because they have faith.

My wonderful brother is in Honduras, giving medical care through a Catholic organization.  An incredible Sunni Muslim is devoting his life to helping restore the Yazidi Christian homeland.

The good and the bad done by believers belies our ability to understand it.

ISIS has killed, tortured and raped so many.  And there is a woman of faith I know who goes to help them, every day, the victims of that horror.

To this day, I remain, gob smacked by the wonders and horrors done in the name of religion.

And the abuse and horror done by men and women of religion to their fellow congregants because they felt they had the power.

Sitting at this table, darkness having fallen, still feeling as if I am in a seat on a plane because of the roaring wind, I am doing my best to come to terms with the dichotomies we exhibit in the way we live.

God forgive us all.





Letter From a Vagabond 02 22 2019 Even if I started out cranky…

February 22, 2019


              Had I been a journalist in the 1940’s, I would have ripped my piece of paper out of my typewriter and thrown it disgustedly into the waste basket this morning.  I am not; all I had to do was drag my sheet into the garbage can on the lower right hand of my screen and hit the quick command for a new digital sheet of white paper and I could begin again.

This morning, I was grey and cranky.  Unusually cranky.  It’s not a state I find myself in often but reading the morning news set a sour mood and I didn’t bounce back with my usual élan.

Only this evening, as I finished errands in Hudson, did I find myself looking up at the sky as twilight began over the Catskills and think, at last, I have broken the mood.

Monday, I pack up my car and head for another week on the Vineyard, holding down the fort while Lisa, the year-round person, takes a quick vacation.  I will return then to the Hudson Valley and the week of the 12th go to Baltimore to see Lionel and Pierre and prep for what is looking like another summer on the Vineyard, reading and being a man about books.

It may have been that the morning was, once again, grey and foreboding, as it was through my time in Nashville and since I have returned.  Certainly, the tone of politics in the country, indeed, around the world, makes one think of nothing so much as fingers on a chalkboard.

Or perhaps it is the sore muscles in my chest from the fall in Istanbul, exacerbated by a bit of a tumble I did in Nashville when I didn’t see a box in my way. At the suggestion of my friend Medora, I went out and got some Aleve, taking a couple as soon as I exited CVS.  I am feeling some relief.

There are two windows in time before I go to the Vineyard for the summer and I am debating what I would like to do.  I could go to the Caribbean to see friends or travel to Oaxaca, which has been on my list or return to Europe for a few weeks.  Or something else…

My friends, Larry and Alicia, seem fine with my being at the Keene Farm and I will be gone when the parade of friends and family take over during the summer.  I could linger in Baltimore, or not…

There are a lot of possibilities; it’s just settling on what I would like to do.  Perhaps a visit to one of the lesser Keys?  I am thinking something warmish.

While I consider these possibilities, my brother is working in the clinic in Honduras and my conference friends from Beirut are about their business in Tanzania, Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon and other places.

Far off, down by the river, the train whistle blows its cry up to me, both a lament and a comfort as the sun skids down beneath the Catskills.

We are closing in on the end of February 2019 and my astonishment at life abounds.  I am living a day both unexpected and a treasure, even if I did start out cranky.



A Vagabond’s Valentine 14 February 2019

February 14, 2019


            It is Valentine’s Day and I am thoughtful as I begin writing.   I am in Nashville, sitting at the counter between the kitchen and the television room of my friend Tory Abel’s home, where she lives with her wife, Pamela.

Tory and I have known each other for thirty-four years come this fall, a long time, by any accounting.  I knew her before she met Pamela.

Friends have been on my mind a lot of late.

Last weekend, I spent with Jerry May and his wife, Gail Worthen, and I have known Jerry longer than I have known Tory.  He was my first client when I was at A&E and we have stayed in touch, looping loosely in and out of each other’s lives, ever since.

He recalled a day some years past, when, after finishing a dinner at Robert in New York, we were about to part and I told him I loved him.  I thought he should know.  He responded by telling me he loved me, too.

There is a gratitude I have when I wake up in the morning, knowing the number of friends who love me. And I am grateful I am aware enough to recognize it.

Today my brother arrived in Honduras, poised to go to the back of beyond, where he helps provide medical care to a village that has seen no medical services since last they were there.  His work there is an act of love.

In Lebanon I met a group of people for whom their lives’ work is also an act of love and I am in awe of that.  And a Valentine to all whose lives are works of love, to the caregivers, like my friend Debbie Dier, to the social workers, to the medical people, to those who, like David Larkin, man food kitchens, for every human act of kindness to other humans.  To Tom, my high school best friend, who made me a gift of asking me to godfather his son, Paul.  To Sarah, who has been my friend since we were three and whose son is a light in my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day for the love you give to me and everyone.

When Jerry and Gail and I were together we talked about how quickly the years have gone, slipping down into eternity, youth becoming age, seeing children grow and have children.


I wrote the following lines on my phone:


Time wracks us all,

even when we’re aware

and watching.


Slips up, an indiscriminating thief,

pickpocketing our youth

and our flurry, good times and all.


Though older, I am enjoying this time of my life, time for reflection and gratitude.

In terms of reflection, let me guide you to my friend, Dalton Delan’s article, a rumination on time with his father that made my heart burst.  We all have our moments in time, where sweet and bitter mix together in a heady brew of nostalgia, even if the memories are hard.

All around me, my friends seem to be in similar places.  We are, mostly, of a certain age and are sailing toward our final ports,  few of us are raging against the night, even as we struggle through the roughish waters of our aging process.

While Valentine’s Day is usually thought of as a moment for romance, it is also a time to pause and to appreciate the love we have for friends, the non-romantic loves of our lives that far outnumber the romantic ones, the people who cosset us on a regular basis and buffer us when romance fails us or becomes the shoal upon which we are wrecked, hopefully for just a little time.

So, to all of you who have shared your love with me, thank you!  It means more than I will ever have words for, and I will sing your praises as I vagabond joyfully into the unfolding future.



Letter from a Vagabond 05 February 2019 Things for which to be grateful…

February 6, 2019

     Hudson River, 5 Feb 2019, around noon     IMG_5057As I begin to write this, the train I am on scurries north through the night; I have been in the city for the afternoon and early evening, a good meeting, followed by an even better dinner meeting.

Friday, I am off to Nashville to see old friends.

Jerry May and his wife, Gail Worthen, pulled off a great punk a few years ago and convinced over a hundred of their friends to gather in Seattle for a birthday party.  Gail told Jerry’s friends it was for him; Jerry told Gail’s friends it was for her.

In reality, it was their wedding and I still get smiles when I think of the wonderful day and breakfast the following morning, a bit groggy for some of us, warm and cozy.

They now live in Nashville.

As do Tory and Pam.  Tory, I met in 1985 at a dinner in the Hollywood Hills.  A week or two later we ran into each other at SFO, a few days later had dinner in Beverly Hills and have been more than fast friends since.  Pam entered the picture a couple of years later and they have been together since.

The timing of my visit is fortuitous as Tory needs cataract surgery, which I have had, and Pam has been planning a trip with her high school friend forever, so I will take Tory to and from the surgery and get her whatever she wants that day.

As I am riding, I am missing the State of the Union address and, I will be honest, I’m not sad.  It will be better for me to read about it in the morning than to endure it in real time.

It’s been a week of some reflection, some a little enforced, as I was struck with a 24-hour virus the day after I returned from Istanbul.  Got up Saturday morning, felt fine and then, suddenly, I wasn’t.  For about thirty hours, I was either asleep or in the bathroom.

Back now, in the world of the living, I am realizing how much I have to assimilate since leaving Istanbul and Lebanon.

The people with whom we worked in Lebanon were extraordinary.  There were five from Iraq, including three young women, all born about the time of “Shock and Awe.”  They are warm, caring individuals who are working diligently to bring more peace to their ravaged land – and it has been ravaged.

One gentleman, a Sunni, is working to help restore the Christian Yazidi homeland, left in tatters by ISIS.  Another bright young woman with a laugh that can fill a room, drives a half hour from her home into Mosul to work with women who were tortured and raped by ISIS soldiers, helping them recover from their wounds and shame.

One person asked me to help them envision how they could use social media to help raise awareness for a friend in Yemen and is now condemned to death by the Saudi coalition.  As she spoke to me, I thought: this is not the kind of request I have ever, ever had.  And I gave her the best advice I could:  tell his story.  Everywhere and again and again.

A young Dane is prepping to go into Syria to see, on the ground, the people who are working for his Danish based N.G.O., helping refugees within Syria.  We talked “Peach Tech,” an idea that his N.G.O. and the Danish government and others are thinking about.  How to use technology to make things better on the ground for peace makers?  Ideas?  Send them.

In Tripoli, Lebanon, a group of Christians, Muslims and Jews, have created a What’s App group to inform all of them of potential dangers.  And to exchange jokes. We are, above all, human beings.

There is so much for me to unpack from this trip.  And when I say my gratitudes tonight, I will count this journey as one of my blessings.