18 March 2006

Broken Things

Well, the contractor came yesterday with the “unit cost estimate” for repairing my back porch and roof. $22,000 give or take. The tree removal will be another $4000. If all goes well, my piece of that will be between $500 and $1000. If not, more. I am encouraged by the fact that the insurance adjustor carries the same insurance I do.

The cost is enlarged by living in a historic district which requires replication of exterior appearances. I had to do the same thing when my fence blew down. It was not a historic fence, mind you. But the grandparenting elements of the law allow you to replace extant structures with identical structures without having to get major approvals. So my porch must be as close to the same as reasonably possible to avoid a long approval process.

I attended a benefit dinner Thursday night for a local ecumenical organization that does good things all over town. They were honoring, as they do annually, people and institutions that contribute to their goal of a ‘compassionate and just society.’ The institution was a church around the corner whose clergy are acquaintances of mine. I also ran into other familiar faces and put names to others. My ‘date’ for the evening was our administrative assistant who spends time on the phone with many of these folks and was in some ways better connected than I, though she too was putting names to faces.

I mention all this because part of my job is this sort of ‘showing the flag’ which I enjoy doing. Most liberal churches do poor flag waving. Part of it is old fashioned humility - that one should not boast. Part of it is snobbery - that we have nothing in common with the ordinary folk who believe in such fairy tales. Part of it is tunnel vision - being so absorbed in our own world of Sturm und Drang. Whatever the reason, it is bad practice. So I am glad to push the envelope a bit, which surprises both my church and the wider religious community.

Aside - I should note that we are not a member of this particular ecumenical organization because some communions are unable to join with non Christians for theological reasons. As we are one of but a few non Christian houses of worship, and they who cannot associate with us are many, the organization chose to include them and exclude us. It makes perfect sense and the work they do is good for the community as a whole, so I am glad to affirm it. But sometimes the liberal church’s sense of isolation is not wholly self-imposed.

On Friday, St. Patrick’s Day - which along with St. Valentine’s Day is now a wholly secular occasion here in the USA – I opened a package from Land’s End. I order custom chinos from them as I am not shaped the way most pants are made. And I like a cuffed pant, whether pleated or flat. I started doing this last spring, to replace aging chinos, and really liked the khaki and black ones I got. But what I needed was a pair of olive drabs, as my old ones were quite threadbare.

Now, you order these pants on-line, choosing waist and inseam and other aspects by ticking off boxes on your computer screen. This is what allows them to be sold for about $50. One of the choices is fabric and color. I saw something called light green that on my screen was close to faded olive. What the heck.

As I opened them, though, I found out they were really, I mean really, Light Green. Wendy smiled that chuckling smile when something is funny and sort of ridiculous. I frowned.

I was all set to return them as being not the color I anticipated, when she said, “Well, it is St. Patrick’s Day.” She meant it in a wry way. But then I remembered a well received sermon from last spring which included a reading of a favorite Dr. Seuss story. So I said, “Hey, they’re pale green pants with somebody inside them.” I had to keep them.

But I also have to admit that these mark my official entry into geezer wear, those loud golf inspired clothes that we associate with old men. When a man can wear embarrassingly loud clothing it means he no longer needs or spends much time being sophisticated or dashing. I am not there yet, but this is my down payment.

My financial papers are spread over my dining room table as I do my spring sorting. It is obviously part of preparing my taxes, but also a penance for not doing it more regularly. I shall return to that later today, and also ponder my Sunday sermon before heading out to shul around ten a.m. It is Purim week, and I missed the holiday because of a meeting Monday evening. Wendy, however, has been making hamentaschen all week it seems, as part of our children’s program at church. So I feel I have observed the holiday at least a little.

There is something about poppy seed filling (which is traditional for hamentaschen) that is old world and evocative of strudel and Austria and Germany and Switzerland, where I spent some time five years ago. And the mixed feelings I had, for this is my genetic homeland and the source of more ancestors than any others.

I felt a sense of at-home ness in the land, surrounded by people who resembled me or I them. I also felt a profound shame and dread, passing through the Viennese Judenplatz where a medieval pogrom wiped out that community. And again at Dachau, far more vividly of course. The terrific beauty of Salzburg and Munich and the Bavarian alps evoked a shiver of terrible recognition that this is the region where Wagner and Hitler and others like them formed their grandiose racial notions and the hideous plans to purify it and the world.

Perhaps this is part of why I worship with the Jews. I have a debt to repay, a disease to cure, a wound in my ancestral soul that needs to be healed.


Christine Robinson said...

I'm enjoying your site very much, Fred! It's got a lot more to offer than most of the UU sites.

Have you thought of syndicating? That would make it easier for those of us who want to follow your writing to do so. Blogger makes it very easy...check out site feed on your dashboard. Once you've got your feed established, you could submit it to uuupdates.net. One site shopping of UU blogs.


Your Colleague,

Christine Robinson

WFW said...

Thanks for checking in and checking up. I did as you suggested, and am now entangled in all sorts of cyrber weirdness about feeds and syndications and feedblitz and gods only know what else. i do not even have time to read my own stuff let alone others, but in for a penny as they say.