Winding through the cobblestone streets of Venice (no, not Venice Illinois, Nebraska, or Ohio), down narrow alleyways, across stone bridges, past gondoliers, one can’t imagine a place less likely to contain a water park. With water everywhere, we don’t need no stinking water park.
Instead, we go to tourist central to see of the Basilica and Piazza San Marco. While listening to an audio tour of the piazza, my American wife suggests to her American family (of which I am a principal member) “Let’s head to the canal – the water side.” My nine year old daughter hears this and remarks, “Huh. The canal has a water slide.”
Sounds absurd, until you find that greater Venice (Italy) does indeed have one of those. (Not to mention that they are such good cooks that they've succeeded at frying land here).
Over the several middle years of my life, during which I still sometimes identified as Catholic, it was fairly common for me to be interrogated on the streets, in bars, at work, etc., by people who’d pull me aside to say, behind a cupped hand, “Dude, you got something on your forehead.”
It was like my fly was down and I was about to meet the Queen of England. In reality, it was just Ash Wednesday and a priest had smeared the burnt remnants of palm fronds on my forehead.
I grew up in East Syracuse, NY, and if you didn’t have a gray-black cross of ash on your forehead you weren’t anybody. Everyone was Catholic, unless you had inadvertently stumbled into the neighborhood. There were no such things as Muslims back then. Instead, we had “Moslems.” Or, more likely, Arabs who were Christian, like the Gabriels across the street, and their cousins the Kamaars, not to mention my half-Irish, half-Lebanese cousins a few miles away – among the best people I’ve ever known.
Now I see people with ash on their foreheads and I wonder how many of them are secretively advised to go look at themselves in mirrors so that they don’t walk around looking like Cinderella, or Bert in Mary Poppins. Most of the people who take the brunt of such ignorant man-on-the-street counsel are the early morning mass-attenders; evening supplicants get less attention, as non-Catholic friends have figured it all out by six or seven at night.
But they will forget again next year, and will once again quietly make little “wipe your forehead” gestures to their office colleagues from across the conference room during 9 a.m. admin meetings.
Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Rare, true words spoken by the Catholic Church.
The New Look, Feel, and Smell
Suddenly, just when you were finally getting comfortable with my website, I go and reorganize information into 3 columns instead of just two, add links to other sites (right hand column, scroll down a bit), and install a tag cloud (just below it) that's claims to be unused. Why?! “The next thing you know he’ll be running ads!” Read On
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Produce This Audio Play!
Ever wanted to produce a radio play? Think you have the mettle? Read on!