Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘1970s’ Category

 
For years, I have been answering the question, “Why go to Mass?” for myself and others. You probably have, too. It  tends to comes up.

I answered it for high school students. I discussed it with adults. I talked about it, wrote about it. I answered it for my own children, and I contemplate it myself.

The answers we give teens and young adults these days – and let’s focus on them –  tend to flow from a particular focus: YOU.

Go to Mass because you will get something out of it. You will be happier. More at peace. You will feel closer to God. Your week will be off to a great start! It’s awesome!

There’s nothing (not much) wrong with this. Taking for granted that the salvation of one’s soul is, indeed, about yourself, other self-centric concerns aren’t ignored even by spiritual writers from the past. Francis de Sales:

Strive then to your utmost to be present every day at this holy Celebration, in order that with the priest you may offer the Sacrifice of your Redeemer on behalf of yourself and the whole Church to God the Father. Saint Chrysostom says that the Angels crowd around it in adoration, and if we are found together with them, united in one intention, we cannot but be most favourably influenced by such society. Moreover, all the heavenly choirs of the Church triumphant, as well as those of the Church militant, are joined to our Dear Lord in this divine act, so that with Him, in Him, and by Him, they may win the favour of God the Father, and obtain His Mercy for us. How great the blessing to my soul to contribute its share towards the attainment of so gracious a gift!

Introduction to the Devout Life

From a 1958 high school textbook:

His goodness to us in instituting the Blessed Sacrament is beyond measure. He comes to the altar at the call of the priest and comes to dwell in our souls and in our bodies, transforming us, comforting us, bringing that ‘peace which the world cannot give.’

Of course this is why we go to Mass. God graciously created us for life with him, and after Baptism, this is the core of it. Everything is there in Him, and there it is we find our true selves, which means we find peace and yes, happiness.

But when it comes to encouraging young people to go to Mass and like it, by George, I tire of the appeal to the self. I tire of the appeal to the self in relation to all contemporary spirit-talk, as a matter of fact.

For in a culture dominated by economics and the market, the line between evangelism and marketing is quite thin. It is challenging for evangelizers to make their case without thinking of their listeners as consumers who must be sold on the personal benefits of their product. Impossible, apparently

But the appeal to the self and its feelings is not enough, and it’s not true to authentic Christian spirituality, which is rooted, not most of all in how our spiritual acts will make us feel, but how they reflect our duty to love God and neighbor, since that is where authentic peace is found. The spiritual masters know a lot about the mystery of emotion, most of all that emotions can reveal, but emotions can also distract and conceal. Our emotions can tug us forward and lead us to a real place with God, but just as quickly, they can mislead us into thinking God is present where He isn’t – or absent when he is quite near.

So I am afraid that if I were to ever return to the classroom, my patience with coaxing, marketing and promising good feelings as a selling point for Mass would be shot at this point.  I wouldn’t even bother. As I have gotten older, as one does, and witnessed more and more suffering in the various circles of my life, near and far, the reasons for going to Mass have flipped. The urgency I feel (ah!) about me going to Mass, about my kids and everyone I know going to Mass is not about inspiring or soothing feelings we might derive from the experience.  After the basic, no-other-reason-is-necessary – duty to give thanks to God and join in Christ’s sacrifice, I really just want to say…….

the world needs prayer. You need prayer. I need prayer. Your friends need prayer. So many sick people. Have you heard? Violence. Despair. People afraid and lost.

How about we try to stop being so lazy and self-centered  and pray for each other?

You didn’t make it to Mass this week? Forget about yourself..don’t you care about anyone else enough to get out of bed, turn the phone off, put some decent clothes on and bring all the people you say you care about into the presence of the only One who can give any of us real peace in our suffering?

We are all so scattered, we are all so busy, and even when we take the time, our spiritual and corporal works of mercy reach one person at a time, for a moment.

Our hands, no matter how expert, can heal and cure, but not for all time, and only until the next pain strikes. Our understanding words can help, our contributions can turn life around, our time can save someone’s sanity. All of this is true.

This is what we can do, what we are called to do, what we are mandated to do.

But as we know to our frustration, even this, even at the level of the saints, is only so much.

In the Mass, those walls crumble. We enter into the Presence of Infinite Love poured out on Calvary for every person in the entire world. We are right there.

Knowing the hurt, confusion and fear, knowing the physical suffering, knowing the spiritual isolation that haunts the world, how can I say no to the chance to bring this mystery of human suffering into the presence of the greater Mystery of Love?

So there you go. My new pitch to the Kids:

Try to stop being such a selfish jerk. Go to Mass and pray for your mom. She needs it.

You think it will sell at youth group?

Read Full Post »

Well, here’s what’s up.

We have been “in session” for a couple of weeks now – ever since brother trotted off to start high school.  There are a couple of missing pieces, and only one of the extra classes (boxing) has started  – the rest won’t begin until mid-September.

There are two events next week – a rock-climbing training session at a park about an hour away and an Asian water-color class at the museum of art. And of course, piano has started back up on a regular basis. Social? Good friend down the street. Two hours of play tonight with another good friend while I was at a meeting.  An hour of boxing. Tomorrow: Seeing friends at and after the Mass for homeschoolers, and then another couple of hours with a friend…etc. In case you were wondering.

So….

  • Religion so far is daily prayer focused on the saint of the day and Mass readings, and discussions regarding saints and Bible that spring from that. We’ll start the 5th grade Faith and Life volume next week.
  • (To see how this works – today was the feast of St. Louis IX.  This led to a bit of discussion about Louis XVI and the French Revolution. Then we learned that he died in Tunis, so we pulled out the map and saw where that was, and then reviewed all those north African countries, saw that if we’d gone to Africa when were in Sicily, it would have been Tunis.  Then we read the Mass readings, reviewed Paul and why he was writing epistles and where Thessalonika and Philippi are. Then the Gospel, which led to a discussion of both its meaning and a bit about 1st century Jewish religious structure – what are scribes, Pharisees & Saducees. Etc. See how that works?  It’s that way with everything.) 
  • Math:  Beast Academy 4D, waiting patiently for new of 5A to be released.  We’re on decimals, so it’s easy to supplement, right now, with material from Math Mammoth, Pearson (the most commonly used school math program around here – I just grab worksheets online where I can find them), various Scholastic books (digital editions that cost a buck each during sales – watch for them), and Khan Academy.  But…hurry up, Beast Academy!
  • We are just now starting history for the actual year – he has been finishing up reading and discussing this book up to this point.  Now we’re going to mash up Hakim’s History of US and the Catholic Textbook Project From Sea to Shining Sea. 
  • We started by me giving him a blank US map and having him label all the states, which he did, almost all spelled correctly.  I was kind of amazed. Then he reviewed capitols via Sheppard Software, and will review geographical features via the same, so the basics are done.  Geography is a strong point over here, and doesn’t require a lot of reinforcement.
  • Latin for Children is going well.  It’ s not the best ever, but at this point, I prefer it to the Memoria curriculum, which I had used with another of my kids way back when. And it’s more substantive than either Visual Latin or Getting Started in Latin. (If I had to choose between the last two, I would choose the latter. In fact, I would say, don’t spend your money on Visual Latin.)
  • Continuing with writing. We are behind, grade wise, on this. I wanted to start from the beginning of the series when we picked it up last year when he was in 4th grade, and the first volume is grades 3-4.  We moved slowly through it, not because it was hard (it’s not) or because we don’t like it (we both do), but just because…well, because Rabbit Hole.  As usual. But we are trying to hit it hard right now and get up to the actual 5th grade books by January.  Let me repeat: I like this program quite a bit – the way that it teaches summarizing, amplification and just general stretching of the writing brain is very engaging and this interesting, effective combination of simple yet complete.
  • But also still trying to incorporate aspects of Brave Writer. 
  • I said before that we don’t do spelling, but in order to address his occasional concern about “keeping up,” I this week did the same thing I did last year, but earlier in the year this time – I downloaded and printed out all the year’s spelling words from the curriculum his former school uses, (also one of the worst reading programs I have ever seen.  They are all mostly bad anyway – this one weirdly managing to both dumb down material and ask impenetrable questions about same material…so strange)  and we just go through them orally, checking of the ones he knows and working on those he doesn’t. Which has been three total from the first 75 words.  Started yesterday, and we try to do a couple of lists a day, give or take, so we should we be done w/”5th grade spelling” by the end of September.
  • Understand that etymology is one of those things that we talk about all the time. 
  • Handwriting – daily cursive.  Goal is for all work to be done in cursive by January.  If he goes to school in 6th grade, which he will if he wants to, the school he’ll attend will expect that, so aside from all the other (good) reasons, there’s that.
  • Music:  his piano lessons are fairly demanding.  At home we listen to music all the time, talk about it, watch videos of performances, particularly of pieces he’s working on.  We’ve also been getting back to Classics for Kids, which is a great website – so far this year, we’ve done Joplin, Bach and John Philip Sousa – the latter because earlier in the summer, we saw a (great) local production of The Music Man, so I thought I would try to make sense of “And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Pat Conway,The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day!”
  • And science:  We are doing Biology for the Logic Stage, but have hardly actually done anything, because of the press of the
    "amy welborn"

    Spore print

    Teachable Moment.  This week, it’s been two things:  mushrooms & hummingbirds.  Our yard sprouted with mushrooms, so we took an afternoon and examined them, discussed fungi, read about them in our main resource and on the internet, and then swung back to taxonomy – he memorized the basic categories of taxonomy (Kingdom, phylum, …etc) and then the five kingdoms.  Memorized the characteristics of living things. (Which take us back to what we should have originally been working on)  Did a spore print. Then started two long-term experiment/demonstrations:  a mold terrarium with 8 possibly moldy things, and then two pieces of bread, sprayed with water and put in plastic bags, one rubbed on the ground outside, one not.  Hypothesis formed, observation sheets printed, etc.

  • Then, the hummingbirds.  Of late, the hummingbirds coming to our feeder have been crazy.  There are three or four all afternoon, most afternoons, and they are apparently at war.  No more than one can be at the feeder at  once, and we have spent a great deal of time watching them fly from one tree to another, wait each other out, then dive
    "amy welborn"

    Also a quick trip to the zoo

    bomb as soon as one of the others makes a move for the feeder.  We can stand pretty close to the feeder, and they will still streak right by us, chirping angrily at each other and, yes, wings and little bodies humming as they speed by.

  • So, much research on hummingbirds, going over the taxonomy, watching slow motion videos on their wing action and articles about how they actually use their tongues to get the nectar.
  • Oh, and the spider.  So three teachable moment living things over the pats two days. A huge spider built a web outside the front door last night, and it was gone this morning.  Someone had told me before that the spiders actually take their webs back up in the early dawn, and I believe it – tonight, as I write, the spider is right back in the same spot, enormous web intact.  I will try to get up super early and take a peak outside to see if I can spy it retreating. So he researched what kind of spider it was and we watched it for a long time last night, just talking about spiders in the dark with his brother and sister, too.
  • One new (used) book that has come in very handy in all of this is this one.  I had read about it on some homeschooling board, and it lives up to the hype – it’s really good, and great for the budding naturalist.
  • As I said, there are missing pieces.  Shakespeare, an ongoing “school” novel aside from the books he’s already scarfing, and art.  Next week. Next week. But rock climbing and art at the museum, next week!  Argh.  Nope. NEXT WEEK.
  • Haven’t actually watched any of these, but this channel looks like it will be good to add to the video lineup.
  • One thing I’ve started doing this year is having him do a “learning journal” each day (or every couple of days) – he writes down what he learned about that day.  It made more sense to me than either:  Me doing it or him planning what he would learn about.  It made a lot more sense for this to be something he does after the fact, at the end of the day. It’s his learning, his brain, his mind – he’s the one that needs to mull it over and make sense of it, not me!

amy_welborn amy-welborn

"amy welborn"

Friday was a light day. Obviously.  We did prayer/religion and math, and then I told him the rest of the day was his.  So he spent time digging in the back yard and figuring stuff out about roots and ants, doing some trivia on the computer (starting with reptiles and somehow ending up at Star Wars, apparently)  and drawing a picture related to the Maya & 2012. 

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Not much reading this week. In fact, I didn’t crack a book open at all.  Yikes.  Traveling, plus a work deadline which occupied me until this morning.  Well, I did start reading Jane Eyre, as promised.  Just got one chapter in before other concerns took over, though. I’ll get back to that, as well as a couple of books I checked out earlier this week, including Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle. It’s a subject that interests me not only as a writer, not only as a Catholic writer who was told she had to get ICEL’s permission to have the text of the Hail Mary and the Our Father in a book (to be fair, the fellow at ICEL’s response was the polite written equivalent of, “Er….sure. Wait, what?”, but also as the former editor of the Loyola Classics series.  One of my responsibilities in that was researching and obtaining permissions, a task I really enjoyed for some odd reason.  Librarian and researcher genes, I guess.

— 2 —

We saw a really excellent production of The Music Man this evening at one of our local theaters."amy welborn" Mostly great cast, including a Harold Hill who echoed Robert Preston rather brilliantly without slavish imitation.  Not that referencing Preston is necessary, but it’s probably a challenge to skirt his influence completely, since the identification between actor and part is so close in this case.  That imbalance between first and second act, though, in which the first act is stuffed full of non-stop great music, while the second act must pause and Do Plot so all can be resolved – it’s in The Music Man and almost every other musical I can think of.  Are there exceptions?

— 3—

It brought back a couple of memories – first, my daughter’s 8th grade class doing a “junior” version of the play (she was one of the Pick-a-Little ladies), and then at some point in middle school, I think, one of my older sons had to learn “Rock Island” for music class – I think all the boys had to do it or something, maybe? I was actually impressed with the assignment. And it’s certainly an improvement over the sight (and sound) of struggling through those high notes in “Both Sides Now,” which is one of my more vivid memories of grade school music class. That and the controversy aroused by having us sing “One Tin Soldier.”  Oh, the 60’s and 70’s. Much controversy.  And honestly, even reconstructing it in my hazy memory makes me laugh.  Imagine a bunch of ten year olds pounding out “Go ahead and hate your neighbor! Go ahead and cheat a friend! Do it the name of Heaven! You can justify it in the end!” Imagine some teacher who thought it was awesome and he was such an brave iconoclast.

People. So crazy.

— 4 —

Speaking of school memories, twice this week I’ve had the chance to share the Fun Fact that in my high school in the 70’s – a Catholic high school in the South – we had a smoking pit.  It was a corner of sidewalk where those of age – mostly seniors  – could smoke.  Of course, for most of us today, it’s difficult to imagine a time in which anyone could smoke indoors in any public space, but the concept of having a sanctioned area for high school students to smoke during school seems especially bizarre, doesn’t it?

Anyone else experience that?

(And no, I never smoked.  My father was a lifelong, heavy smoker, it killed him, and I always hated it.)

— 5 —

I had a strange spike in blog hits today.  I discovered that it was because  Fr. Blake linked to my years-old report of a visit to his parish, a visit I was fortunate enough to make during a longish layover at Gatwick. He offered the link as a response of sorts to a ridiculous, agenda-laden Ship of Fools report on the parish.

— 6 —

Today is one of my days in Living Faith. Look for another on July 5.

— 7 —

Speaking of today – it’s July 3 and the feasts of St. Thomas the Twin.  Speaking of St. Thomas, here’s Pope Emeritus Benedict’s General Audience talk on him from 2006. 

Then, the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said:  “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20: 25).

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus’ identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

St. Thomas July 3

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Read Full Post »

amy-welborn4

— 1 —

Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

— 2 —

Podcast listening?  Not much of great interest this past week, since I’m mostly concentrating on that Couch to 5k thing.  I’m up to Week 8! 28 minutes! (But that’s on an indoor track – we’ll see what happens when I am able to go outdoors again, given the harder surfaces and more, er, varied terrain outside.

So, Melvin lost me this week with Phenomenology. I tried – I really did, but listening to philosophy talk about Husserl, Heidegger and meaning through earphones while running with youth basketball going on below was pretty much a lost cause.  What was interesting was this program on Zola in England.  After the Dreyfus trial, Zola fled to London – by doing so, he enabled keeping the case open.  While in England, he began work on his last series of books, the first of which was called Fecundity or Fruitfulness – and, although Zola is a hard slog (I read Lourdes – barely), the premise is fascinating and timely – in which Zola blames oppressive social and economic systems for discouraging the lower classes from reproducing, decrying contraception, abortion and child abandonment….

— 3 —

I’m currently reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai. The origins of the place are so sad, an example of incompetent and deceptive government action in the face of tragedy.

Related, but somewhat contrasting is this fascinating story that provided me with a brief excursion down the rabbit hole this past week:

In 1803, King Charles of Spain ordered an extraordinary expedition: Smallpox was, of course, taking a terrible toll on the Spanish colonies so…..

On September 1, 1803, King Charles IV of Spain, who had lost one of his own children to smallpox, issued a royal order to all royal officers and religious authorities in his American and Asian domains, announcing the arrival of a vaccination expedition and commanding their support to

  • vaccinate the masses free of charge,
  • teach the domains how to prepare the smallpox vaccine, and
  • organize municipal vaccination boards throughout the domains to record the vaccinations performed and to keep live serum for future vaccinations.

The expedition to vaccinate the population in South America against smallpox was a public health undertaking of staggering proportions. A small group set out by ship and horse to traverse present-day Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, carrying the vaccine and administering it in villages and cities along the way. The territory was not only vast but also brutally harsh, with precipitous mountains, dense jungles, and uncharted rivers. The expedition traveled in primitive riverboats and on mules when the terrain was too rugged for horses.

First Destination: Puerto Rico

The María Pita left the Spanish harbor of La Coruña on November 30, 1803, with the smallpox vaccination expedition team consisting of a director, Dr. Francisco Xavier Balmis; an assistant director, Dr. Jóse Salvany Lleopart; and several assistants and paramedics. The ship reached Puerto Rico in February 1804 with its cargo of vaccine serum preserved between sealed glass plates; also onboard were 21 children from the orphanage at La Coruña who carried the vaccine through arm-to-arm vaccinations performed sequentially during the ship’s journey, and thousands of copies of a treatise describing how to vaccinate and preserve the serum, recounts José Rigau-Pérez in an article on the smallpox vaccine in Puerto Rico.

More here and here. 

— 4 —

I’m going to try to do a learning post tonight, but in short, this week was a week of lots of science (properties of matter, heat transfer), art (printmaking) and puzzles (logic chapter of Beast Academy)

"amy welborn"

Also, here’s a fun thing:  Hit the Lego store when the staff is unpacking a shipment and you just might find yourself the recipient of big bags of random pieces they don’t have room to stock in those bins on the back wall….and it might be your lucky day.

— 5 —

Through reading H. Allen’s Smith’s The Pig in the Barber Shop, I discovered a book called Father Juniper and the General, "amy welborn"written in the late 50’s by another American ex-pat in Mexico named James Norman.  It’s in the Don Camillo – Father Malachy genre – priest does battle with and outwits local civil/social authorities, and it’s amusing.  I’m surprised I’d never heard of it, considering I thought I’d read or at least heard of every vaguely Catholic themed middle-brow book published in the US in the mid=century when I was editing the Loyola Classics, but apparently not!

— 6 —

I actually accompanied my kids to the movies the other day (they are old enough to go on their own, together now) – Big Hero 6, which was…good!  As usual with movies today (get off my lawn!) the climactic battle goes on waaaaay too long, but the setting – a mythical more Far Eastern version of San Francisco – was fascinating and the animated characters were surprisingly well individuated.

Speaking of movies: over the holiday weekend, we watched Strangers on a Train, which I enjoyed for some fantastic set-pieces and Robert Walker’s compelling performance, and didn’t enjoy for the mostly-stiff other performances and off-putting amoral tone surrounding the murder of Granger’s wife and the “happy ending” of him and his paramour.  I just thought that was so weird.

Also, The Trouble With Angels, which I hadn’t seen in a while, but is so good. Still. I had remembered the Hayley Mills’ character’s embrace of religious life as more of a surprise, and while it is a bit of a twist, the really observant viewer can see it coming, and her spiritual discomfort and awakening is sketched rather well, as she confronts her own fears about getting old and dying , encounters mercy again and again in the Rosalind Russel’s Mother Superior, and observes the ties of family among the sisters, a kind of family she’s never experienced herself.  It’s based on a memoir called Life With Mother Superior by Jane Trahey, a female pioneer in advertising, and the Hayley Mills character is based on a friend of hers who really did go on to become a Dominican Sinsinawa! 

— 7 —

 

Better Call Saul actually looks like it might be…good.  When it was first floated, I thought, “Oh, no….” and when it was announced as a thing, I thought, “Not a good idea.”  But in reading about the show’s premise, in which there are actually emotional stakes at work and seeing previews, I’m getting excited.  I’ve read a couple of reviewers who opine that it’s better than BB…hard to imagine,but… Love the logo!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum

Read Full Post »

Just a reminder about pertinent resources:

First, this small rosary book from OSV.  They are telling me they are going to put it out of print, so get your copy now!

An excerpt:

The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it "amy welborn"would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].


As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.

Then, of course, my (definitely out of print!) book on Mary – Mary and the Christian Life – you can find information about it here and download/read it. 

"amy welborn"

While The Words We Pray doesn’t address the Rosary as a whole, I do explore the Hail Mary and Hail, Holy Queen in the book of historical and spiritual essays on traditional Catholic prayers. 

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

My daughter’s recent travels (she lives and works in Bavaria and last week took a short break in Verona with side trips to Venice and Mantua) and my two trips to NYC this past summer have brought to mind my first real conscious trip to the city,

She says this was horse.

many, many years ago.

And as I was mentally retracing my steps on that trip just now, I was just so amazed that I survived I thought I’d tell you about it.

It was 1978 – the summer before my Freshman year at UT.  I’d taken a couple of classes in my major (history)  during the summer, my dad taught at UT and I lived in Knoxville, so I wasn’t a hardcore, never-been-there Freshman, though. I knew my way around and wasn’t hugely stressed about the fall.

My mother was a New Englander – born in New Hampshire and raised in southern Maine, and because of that we spent about a month every summer up in Maine, at the home of the uncle and aunt who had raised her after her father died in a car accident and her mother went off to live in a rest home.

That summer, I had gone with them up to Maine, but because I needed to move into the dorm earlier than they’d be returning (my dad had a visiting year at the other UT in Austin that year, so I guess they weren’t having to head out til later for that reason too), I decided I would do just that.  I’d come back.  On the bus. Yes,  I’d ride the bus from Maine to Tennessee. And, since that route would naturally take me through New York City, I also decided that I wanted to see the place, so I arranged my itinerary so that I’d arrive (I guess) in the afternoon and then leave again late the following afternoon, taking a night bus down to Tennessee.

(First digression:  How did we make these kinds of arrangements before the Internet?  I’m at a loss. I guess I found a Greyhound or Trailways  schedule and figured it out? Right?  I have no idea.)

So far, my parents were totally on board, and didn’t seem to give the plan a second thought.  In fact, they never did, to my knowledge. The questions then became  – where would I stay or  that night?  My mother, being older – she was born in 1924 – and not having spent a great deal of time in New York City and still evidently having her vision of the place shaped by My Friend Irma and other tales of Smart Girls Alone in the City in 1952 said, “Well, of course you’ll stay at the Barbizon,” not understanding that the Barbizon was a residential, rather than tourist hotel and that, well, it wasn’t 1952.  I am not sure how we figured it out – that it was a residential hotel, but we did. Scratch the Barbizon.

Next idea? Well, of course, the fallback would be the budget-friendly travelers’ rest that everyone knows –

the YMCA!

Now, the Manhattan YMCAs – as well as others around the world – are indeed known for providing such hostel – like accomodations. I guess we knew they admitted women.  I guess.

(Okay – I did have a guide to New York City Hotels I had picked up in a travel agency – remember those? For some reason I can even remember the layout of the silly thing, all these years later.  I must have studied it so extensively – a premonition of hours  days spent in travel research to come. The YMCA must have been on the list.)

So, that was the plan, such as it was. The departure day came, I got on the bus (not sure where – Sanford? Portland? Portsmouth?), waved good-bye and off I headed back to the South, with a slight detour.

I disembarked at the Port Authority hours later – after witnessing a street brawl between two women through the window –  and yes, this is Times Square in 1979, and yes I saw it all, right there. Grime, porn shops, prostitutes (very aggressive prostitutes almost accosting men, angrily), the works.  A little bit of a culture shock, but I forged on, because I was going to the YMCA.

Without a reservation. 

Not one of us had imagined that such a thing would be necessary.  How crowded could a YMCA hostel in Manhattan be? I mean, isn’t that what the YMCA hostel experience is all about? Showing up and finding that Young Christian hospitality, just… there?

Hahahahahaha. 

So, yes, I was turned away at the front desk. They didn’t laugh,but I do think they were incredulous.

And there I was, an 18-year old girl from the Midwest and the South without theatrical or artistic aspirations… in Manhattan….without a place to stay!

I don’t remember my state of mind at the time.  I’m assuming I was upset and worried, but I also don’t remember it being overwhelming or throwing me into a panic.  I whipped out my hotel guide, found the cheapest ones that were nearest (I’m sure I was operating on a cash basis), and started to search.

I have absolutely no idea the name of the place I found or where it was – since this YMCA was on the East Side – near the UN, as I recall, because I remember seeing it  – perhaps the hotel was over there as well.   But I did find one – with a room the size of a closet with a shared bathroom down the hall.

(Do you see why I’m such a patient, tolerant traveler? THIS was my first big trip alone!)

What did I do that night?  What I remember doing is going to a deli down the street, getting a sandwich, being amazed at the size of it,  and eating it in my room while reading a book.

Some things never change.

Next day:

(Prelude:  I’ve never worn a watch. For some reason, I feel naked without a hair tie around my wrist, but a watch has always bugged me.)

I was awakened by the sun, and indeed, felt wide awake. Get up! Get out! Experience the city! Pack up your backpack, go down to check out!

See by the clock behind the desk that it’s 6:30 AM!

Gee, if only I’d been more sophisticated, I could have wandered to the right places and met Andy Warhol or someone emerging from their night partying….

Well, of course I was not going to say, never mind and slink back up to the room.  So I did what any good Catholic girl would do when faced with this situation at this hour: I went to Mass.

Again, I don’t know where I was, but it was not at a great distance from St. Patrick’s because that’s where I ended up for Mass.  After which it was still about 7:30, I guess, with no place open except breakfast joints. So I started walking.. And for the rest of the day, up until my bus left from the Port Authority late in the afternoon…I walked.

I took my scruffy self into Saks and for the first time in my life, felt quite out of place.  Looked at some price tags. Blanched.

I walked down, down, down, and around and around.  At one point, seeing little but empty storefronts and the homeless, I looked up and saw a street sign.  “THE BOWERY” it said, and once, again, having been formed in a milieu in which Tin Pan Alley and show tunes were the soundtrack, immediately thought: 

The Bow’ry, the Bow’ry!
They say such things,
And they do strange things
On the Bow’ry! The Bow’ry!
I’ll never go there anymore!

…and turned west, knowing that I’d hit the financial district soon enough.

Which I did.  I got there and went into the Stock Exchange – I had the leather souvenir key chain I bought there for years – then started walking back up north, hitting Macy’s, I think, and I don’t recall what else.  You see where I was, so I never did any museums or saw Central Park. It was all central and lower Manhattan, me, the 18-year old with the backpack, making her way back to the Port Authority to catch the night bus to Knoxville.

As I said, I don’t remember every being panicked or scared. I tend to take things in stride, and I guess that was part of my psyche then, as well.  What do I remember? I remember a contrast between scruffiness and sleekness, but I remember far more scruffiness. But nothing I saw that trip was a scruffy as what I saw a couple of years later when I returned with my father, who was attending a professional meeting – and as we walked down the street after dinner with some of his colleagues, a fellow standing in the street, needed to go, and yeah, whipped it out, and..went.

Awkward. 

Years later, I asked my dad…”Why did you let me go to New York by myself that time?”  He shrugged. “Everyone who doesn’t grow up in one need to do it – to go to the big city, deal with it, and discover that yes, you can handle it.”

Maybe with the slightest of plans, but definitely without a data plan.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: