Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

I came across this song just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Facebook friend Eric Gray, who had just organized a house concert by Chuck Brodsky in San Francisco. Eric is a music guy, as well as a baseball guy (powerful combo…), so I of course investigated Mr. Brodsky, went on You Tube, and here we are, with Brilliant Song #6 in this occasional series.

Ironically, I was moved to write about it when checking in, as a kind of pop culture imperative, with the Super Bowl halftime show the other day.

When a band I had never heard of, Maroon 5, and its lead singer started prancing around the stage, with the singer ripping his shirt off to reveal his gym physique and every-square-millimeter-of-skin-tattoos as the young ‘uns who were herded onto the field for the occasion jumped up and down around him on cue in the usual highly staged, ridiculous-looking scene, vapid, showy and just all around fake as can be, I thou...

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Everyday Ecstasy: A Mary Oliver Appreciation

When poet Mary Oliver died a couple of weeks ago, I suspect many readers responded much like I did: “Oh no!”

That’s an almost universal response when anyone we know well dies suddenly—and we are both surprised and crestfallen. If the deceased is just an acquaintance or a public figure whom we don’t know personally, our response tends to be more muted: “Gosh, that’s too bad.”

But Mary Oliver? “Oh, no!!”

Part of this, for those familiar with her work, has to do with the sheer fact that writers whom we enjoy and tend to go back to enter our brains and our consciousness and take up residence there like the very best virus. That rare kind that actually improves our health rather than decimates it.

These writers become like lifelong friends, with whom we carry on a dialogue of sorts...

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Nancy Pelosi Goes Mano a Mano on the Border Wall

In the runup to the mid-term elections last year, I was among many Democrats who felt a bit queasy about the prospect of Nancy Pelosi returning as Speaker of the House, assuming the Dems took control of the chamber. Fresh start, clean slate, she’d been so demonized by the opposition as the quintessential radical San Francisco liberal—maybe we should start anew with a younger face who wouldn’t be yoked to the past so we could usher in a less encumbered generation of leadership.

All of that was in the air, and I was breathing it in, not in great gulps, but tentatively, as through a straw.

Then I just happened to behold her in a “60 Minutes” interview they may as well have entitled, “Hear Nancy Roar.” 

What a beast, I realized. We’d be crazy to let this fierce woman’s cojones go to waste as just another representative from California.

In her interview, she emphasized, in pointed, don’t-mes...

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Grabbing Grace and Giving It a Shake

(A brief reflection presented at this morning’s service at my Unitarian Universalist church on the month’s theme of “Grace At the End.”)
It was my great privilege to accompany two people to their deaths from Lou Gehrig’s disease in my years as a Hospice volunteer. Their temperaments and response to their disease couldn’t have been more different.

Diane approached it with a kind of equanimity and a retained sparkle in her eyes, which were about the only body parts she could move anymore as the disease robbed her of all other bodily function in the surpassingly cruel way that it does.

Mike fought it all the way, refusing to go gently into that night, sticking up for himself to God and vigorously dissenting from the fate that would spiral him down to death at not even 40 years old, father to two young children.

The two of them put me in mind of that book title: “Grit and Grace.” Mike the grittie...

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Year of Decision on the Trump Presidency

Every day, a fresh revelation, a new indictment, an ever more outrageous, rudderless expression of falsehoods, disdain, and amorality. Nothing is stable, nothing true, whatever was done or said yesterday or an hour ago is inoperative, a passing wisp descending to a graveyard where words go to be drained of all their life-giving blood.

We live in an eternal, impulsive now of rampant, chthonic chaos, of bottomless depravity, of such clear danger to our national identity, our very character as a sovereign, self-examining people, that all else seems to pale in importance.

One summons the angels that still beckon in family, friends, the arts, the comforts of a long walk, a good book or a warming drink on a winter night. But increasingly, those comforts feel if not cold, at least clammy, begetting an intermittent case of vertigo.

One yearns for the normal, for norms that may yet be remembered and reasserted as g...

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