Category Archives: American Culture

No Brakes, But a Bell

After a few rainy days down at the shore, with our time there drawing to its close, the clouds finally broke, and when we saw the sunlight streaming through, my husband and I quickly borrowed a couple of bikes. Our kind hosts loaned them to us on short notice; they were serviceable seaside bicycles, scratched and a little rusted, with fat, full tires. The plan was to take them to the very end of the beach boardwalk, then turn right around for the return ride. It seemed a straightforward enough route. Continue reading

Sermon in the Streets

Supply preaching is a strange phenomenon, but I gladly provide the supply myself. I have decent tolerance for strange situations, and I’ll include last weekend in that. I was supply preaching at a former church of mine, the one where I’d served as Intern and then Summer Minister, the same church that later became my ordaining congregation. I have a great fondness for it still. It’s located in midtown Manhattan, a place rarely crowded on a Sunday in summer. Unless – and this is a considerable exception to that generality – that Sunday comes at the end of June, when the Gay Pride Parade marches down Fifth Avenue.

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Strangely Silent Years

March on Media: Part II in an Ongoing Series on the  Place of Technology in Our Lives

Once upon a time, when a mariachi band or barbershop quartet or stray female vocalist stepped into the subway car, we passengers had strong, palpable reactions to the sounds that were about to come streaming into our midst, the positive as well as the negative variety included. No longer. Nowadays, nearly everybody is wearing headphones as they ride the rails. The equanimity commuters seem to display in the face of such performers is just them failing to notice the music spilling out into the tight spaces we’re all traveling through. New Yorkers already have the soundtracks set to their days; they’ve got their own private playlists on a perpetual loop. Isn’t that the way to keep pace with progress? Continue reading

Somebody Else’s Holy Day

In my youth, my friends held far stronger opinions than they do today. One of the most fervent and unusual debates between two of my friends centered on the otherwise benign topic of holiday cards. Who even remembers how it got started? Continue reading

A Sinner in Macy’s

At an intimate dinner party some while ago, close friends and I were discussing the trials of city living, common enough in a number of locales but especially troublesome here in New York. New Yorkers recognize how easily their nerves can get frayed, and I am no exception. Over dinner, I recounted a particularly illustrative incident involving another woman and myself in an express elevator at Macy’s in Herald Square. She behaved quite badly when she got in, but I think I evened the score by behaving pretty badly in response. It was not a pleasant ride for anyone headed to the top floors, least of all me.

In a confessional mood, I told my friends, “Ah, well – I’m just a sinner. We’re all sinners.” Continue reading

Miss Newport 1938

My grandmother firmly believed that loose lips sank ships. I’m not sure if that attitude suited her for Navy work or if the Navy work instilled that into her, but either way it was deeply ingrained. Ironically, she loved celebrity gossip and even subscribed to the National Enquirer; she could dish with any stranger in a check-out line. But anything involving real people, real circumstances, real issues in our own lives was met with her circumspect silence. Why discuss? Continue reading

Everybody Has a Prayer Chair

If there was ever any doubt that Oprah Winfrey wanted America to get religion, I think the Sunday programming on her new television network has quickly dispelled it. Each week, her show ‘Super Soul Sunday’ starts at 8:00 — in the morning. Not only does it air on Sunday morning, but it also stays on for three straight hours. Those of you familiar with church services will know: that’s much longer than a Catholic mass; that’s practically Baptist worship. It requires a serious standing commitment. Continue reading