PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Dead Senators

When I’m subpoenaed to testify before congress, as we all know is inevitable, my plan is to don a nice suit and come with prepared statements that I deliver with complete earnestness. But deep down in my heart I’ll be totally goofing on the senators interviewing me.

Because who can resist goofing on senators? Not even God can’t resist goofing on US senators.

Did you know that when US senators die they start making their way toward the gates of heaven, but instead of being greeted by a tipsy Saint Peter dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and drinking from a hollowed-out pineapple, they curiously find themselves alone in an old cemetery at dusk with the wind howling, a rusty old padlock securing the wrought iron gates?

What the heck! I wasn’t so bad, was I? What, just because I killed a gun bill or two? Or ten? That means I go to hell?

As darkness descends, pitchfork-wielding demons emerge, surrounding the dead senator. Before being fitted with a suit of flames, the old stodgy white male is brought to a podium, where he is forced to answer questions from an unrelenting British press.

But suddenly the lights come up, God struts out, and a studio audience applauds. It was all a joke. It turns out that God doesn’t send anyone to hell.

Sounds awesome, until you realize that this means that everyone you’ve ever met on earth is in heaven. Major design flaw!

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Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's 'Hood

I’ve looked at a lot of real estate ads over the last couple of years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that some neighborhoods are highly coveted. You may think you live in an unnoticed little neck of the woods, but it turns out that everyone is salivating over your school’s MCAS results. Whether it’s Revolutionary Ridge in Concord, or Prospect Hill in Lexington, or the Bates neighborhood in Wellesley, you might as well face it that people have an unhealthy and maybe even sinful longing for your leafy streets.

I was commanded as a child not to covet things like wives and asses and other “possessions” of my neighbors. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by wives – I mean you can’t imagine how many wives there were in my neighborhood when I was a kid! – I managed not to be covetous of them. (As it was a suburban enclave, there were no asses to be found, though there was a fair bit of random asininity). However, I don’t recall any directives about not coveting the school district in which one's neighbor resides.

Real estate agents must believe that a neighborhood cannot be classified as something its inhabitants “possess,” as they keep trumpeting which streets and school districts and neighborhoods are coveted in an effort to get you to covet these places as well, the implication being that if God didn’t want you to desire living on a certain street, he’d have etched that information into stone tablets.

Rest assured that I have little desire to possess that 3-bed, 2-bath split-level home on half an acre that’s for sale in your exclusive gated neighborhood. On the other hand, I can’t help but covet that Belgian ale you’re about to uncork.

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The Gospel According to San Marco

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).

Fried Land

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Remember, Woman

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.

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