Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sometimes I Just Say, "Oh, shut up."

I am a censor.

There were some comments made over on the Piker Press forums that were replied to, back and forth, until finally it was insinuated that Piker staff were Homophobes and Against Freedom, the usual whine attackers use to insult and paralyze people who try to defend Catholicism. I've heard such insinuations all my life, lo, even when I was seven years old and classmates told me that John Kennedy shouldn't be elected President because he was Catholic and therefore, the Pope would try to rule America through him. No, really. That really happened in grade school. Homophobia wasn't the popular label then, of course -- back then it was "Your Church says everyone who isn't Catholic is going to Hell!" And then, as now, no matter how many times I explained that, no, it doesn't, the response always seemed and seems to include that because the Church has Beliefs and Rules, then it must condemn people who don't have the same Beliefs and Rules. "But your Church says you have to go to Mass every Sunday! That means it's a dictatorship and is Against Freedom to do what you want!"

Anyway, no one was allowed to reply in defense of Catholicism, not even to a socially graceless post, because such replies showed clearly that Catholics are Homophobic and Against Freedom of Thought and Deed.

Alex tried moving the posted conversation to a more appropriate thread, and then not only were all Catholics Homophobes and Against Freedom of Thought and Deed, so was the Editor and she was suppressing Freedom of Speech, as well.

All right thinking people, therefore, must tally up how many gay and lesbian and bisexual friends and relatives they have, proclaim it to the world, and stomp off in a huff.

I didn't find any of the posts offensive, per se. But for once, I just didn't feel like hearing how Homophobic and Against All the Right Kinds of Freedom anyone is who doesn't jump on the band wagon and squeal about Benedict XVI's orthodoxy.

When I woke up this morning, and re-read the gasps of "oh, how can you tell me how to think" I just got tired of it, and having the power of Moderation over the Forum, I pushed the little button and became a tyrant, a murderer of words, an oppressor of freedoms, a stifler of creativity. Whoops.

This proves once again that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Caged and Wakeful

There comes a certain point during the night when you wake up and you know that either you're not going to be able to go back to sleep, or if you do go back to sleep, the next time you wake you're going to feel like hell because you really didn't need to go back to sleep. I hit that one at about 5:30 this morning after a mangled dream that compressed past and present, failure and success, and was starting to turn into little anxiety scenarios. Screw that, wake up, get up.

Part of the problem was that we were back indoors last night, after a wicked little wind storm blew through with patches of rain. The previous two nights I slept like I really knew how to do it, and had interesting (if peculiar) dreams from which I was reluctant to exit. Outside, it's so easy to relax, the blankets don't try to wrap around your neck and choke you, the angels don't sneak in and turn up the heat in the room until it seems like a furnace.

Yesterday morning when I woke at seven (to the sound of finches and distant magpies) it was a blissful 47 degrees outside -- perfect for snuggling under a quilt. This morning, by comparison, it had to be 65 degrees in the house. That's almost repulsive.

We've been looking around for a replacement tent; the dome tent we bought back in '01 is starting to break down, but the problem is that no one seems to be making tents with see-through mesh on sides and top. They're settling for "skylights" and "windows." How dull. If one is going to sleep outdoors, doesn't one want to see the outdoors? It looks like we're going to have to break down, buy tulle again, and make our own. (Last year's tulle was from Wal-Mart, and was very cheap. It simply didn't hold up, and so only lasted one summer.)

Or maybe I'll go back to saying "I'm not going to sleep outside this year."

Yeah, right. Just like I said, "I'm not going to wear a watch any more." But that's a whole 'nother story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ah, how could I not?

In spite of repeating the words, "I'm not going to sleep outside this year" to everyone who asked if we'd set up the tent on the patio yet, last night I was seized by an irresistible wild urge to get out of the stuffy house and stay out.

Certainly the move was not planned. I wasn't even aware that I would be overtaken by wild instincts when Bernie called on his break; after all, for the past two days I had been shivering and grumpy with the incessant wind, unwilling to walk out to the garbage can to throw the trash out let alone spend the whole night listening to the roar and rattle of the neighbor's huge poplars and palmettos. But then rather suddenly, the wind dropped. The sky was deep blue, and peacefully sprinkled with the last birds headed for shelter. Looking around at the overgrown shrubs and smelling the rich scent of recently-watered earth, I was ready to ensconce in the bedroom with a notepad and pen, take some notes for future projects, maybe read a little.

Instead I nearly ran for the closet where the tent was stored, grabbed an old sheet for a ground cloth, and bolted back outside, with Howie panting and prancing at my heels. He trotted triumphantly around the tent when it was spread out, getting in the way as I inserted the long support rods. When I crawled inside to settle the foam mattresses, I had to shove him back until I had the sheet and blankets spread. The minute, the second the quilt was flat he hopped in and curled in a ball -- not on my mattress, but on the other one, just as he did last fall.

Some time after midnight, I woke, wondering why the light was on in the bedroom, realized it was the moon, and smiling, went back to sleep.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Time Capsule: 1993

The Rosemary Box coughed up a number of sheets of paper
with printing on them, done on a word processor, not a typewriter.

The sheets of paper contained a commentary on injustice in the work place, specifically my workplace, and specifically the hell that I was experiencing just trying to get through each damned day. I had written the commentary in vers libre, a la Don Marquis.

What was that, fifteen years ago? Well, okay, maybe fourteen. The point that was driven home to me was not that fourteen or fifteen years ago life sucked, but that in those days, there was no blog to report the incessant abuse by a psychotic and indefatigable co-worker. How secret life was! The nature of my job meant that I could not in good conscience blab to all and sundry in the community what an asshole was viciously and maliciously undermining my position on a daily basis, lying about me to our boss and our associates. There was no one to tell, no venue for venting. Except the secret-keeping white paper that printed out of my StarWriter. Those black and white letters detailed a desperate heart, a disillusioned heart, a heart that would have longed deeply had it known that not so many years in the future, it could have blogged daily about the hateful sabotages and deceptions.

I tell you, I'm tempted to divulge, lo, these many years later. At length. But maybe I'd be better off writing a book, with a very thinly veiled antagonist ...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Time Capsule: 1968

What's astonishing is that I didn't seem to have a clue about my talent as an artist when I was in high school.

In the Rosemary Box I found a stack of tablet covers that I had illustrated compulsively -- en aquellos dias (Once Upon a Time) we were issued paper tablets and a pencil every six weeks, so there were quite a number of the covers. Each had small drawings of a myriad of recurring characters, interacting, commenting, musing. If one knew the secret code of who the characters stood for, then each cover was like a gossip column about personal relationships.

I don't remember who a lot of the characters stood for any more. But I stand in awe of the kid who drew those clever little cartoons that said so much in gesture and posture -- in one inch by two inch increments. If that. The Kid is gone, and so is the ability to draw like that. My Fever Dreams cartoons are lame by technical comparison; my hands no longer know the shortcuts and procedures that were used. I remember that I preferred blue Bic pens (Bic Stic?) and I liked them "broken in" so that they could trail globs when necessary. (And just a side note here: nearly 40 years later the damn cheap-ass Bic blue is just as vivid as it was when the pictures were drawn. So much for the attitude of "if you can't afford professional quality materials, you might as well hang yourself")

That poor Kid should have been sent off to study with the art teacher. Instead her future was to take chemistry, physics, trignometry, advanced math. What she did so well was not of value. She was taught that it was not of practical value and she went on to other things.

And while the other things were interesting and worthwhile in their own time, from 2005 I look back and think, "Look at those lines. Why the hell did she let that fall by the wayside?" Not that she then or me now had/has the thought that becoming a successful artist was the desired object. That was never a goal. Just -- she/I should have continued playing that game.

Well, at least the Rosemary Box is still there, a monument to the talent that was lost.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Time Capsule:1974

I met Bernie in 1974.

In those days, I was kind of a bad actor. Not a nice young lady at all. At 20, I was already bitter and sick of life. My childhood had been frustrating, my adolescence as awful as anyone's, and I was attending college to stay away from my parents' house and because that's what everyone wanted me to do. That fall, I had one steady boyfriend, and three other steady on-the-sides. The other guys I dated once or twice in addition don't really rate a mention. They were all furniture, they were all tiresome, and my heart was as dark as a cave at midnight.

I may even have had bats, but I wasn't introspective enough to find out.

Bernie walked into my line of sight as I sat sulking in my apartment window. His hair was golden and he was built very, very nicely, with wide shoulders and narrow hips. I thought he would be a nice addition to my collection, and so I began my campaign. I would meet him, flirt with him, beguile him, use him, dump him. The usual.

So I met him. But he didn't flirt, or even snort and paw the dirt like most college guys. Instead, he talked. About classes, about courses, about news and events and psychology classes. Now I don't mean for a minute that he was the speaker and I was the spoken to (that would have been the steady boyfriend) -- indeed, he absolutely astonished me by asking me what I thought, what my opinions were, what my linguistics classes comprised. We spent time together in conversation, and were becoming -- friends. Good God, he actually got me doing my homework for classes by inviting me to study when he did.

There came a watershed evening when I told him about something funny that had gone on in my Russian class, and he laughed out loud at my joke. He wasn't putting it on to impress me, either. It occurred to me that night that the relationships I had with my social group had no substance by comparison. They did not understand me; they did not have an interest in understanding me. They were interested in dating and mating and grade point averages, not people. Bernie was interacting with a level of Me that no one else had ever bothered to look at.

The following weekend I put the Steady Boyfriend to the test, and as we were headed out to dinner, I told him the funny story from Russian class. Three-quarters of the way through it, I could tell by his eyes that he was lost in his own thoughts. I stopped speaking in mid-sentence, and he never even noticed. The next voice that was heard was his own, telling me about what he intended to do with his practicum in Philadelphia, as though I had never spoken at all. The Steady fought as manipulatively as he could to dissuade me, but a few weeks later, I broke off with him for good, along with all the various side dishes.

To my surprise, the world wasn't a bad place, after all. Bernie and I fit together like puzzle pieces -- the right puzzle pieces -- and from that partnership, the world began to transform. A girl from the AFROTC Women's Drill team named "Sue" unexpectedly wrote a poem about Bernie and me. I don't remember Sue's last name, but the poem has always floated about in my head, all these years. In the Rosemary Box, I found her original typewritten sheet that she shyly handed me. It said this:

"And just like the fairy tale
They met and fell in love
Looking deep into
each others eyes

And their smiles growing
Bright like a sparkle on
a sunlit gem

Their feelings glittered around
And all those who
stood watching

Could hear the sounds
Of once upon a time
Coming true

--- Sue"

Yeah, Sue, wherever you are, you nailed it. Thanks.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Time Capsule

The last few papers to be cleared from my desk

included printed e-mails from my daughter, from a time when I never got to see her often enough, and missed her a lot. I'd collected the copies in a binder, stacked stuff on top of it, and forgot it as my pack-ratty paper stack grew to obscene sizes. Today was The Day I was going to go through the whole stack, file what had to be filed, and send the rest to the recycle box in the garage. All was progressing nicely until I got to the folder of e-mails, and decided that I would put them away with other memorabilia in what I call my "Rosemary Box."

I call it the Rosemary Box after a poorly-remembered segment of the lives and times of archy and mehitabel by Don Marquis in which the roach and cat and the Dalai Lama climb Mt. Everest:

not while i have this rosemary
it is for remembrance

I wish I could either remember the thing completely or find a copy of the book, for another character goes on to say "yes and rue is for you" and kicks the rememberer several thousand feet down the mountain, while yet another adds "and larkspur is for cooties" elevating the conversation to one of my favorite scenes in literature.

Anyway, I dragged the Rosemary Box off the back of a shelf in the studio, and pulled the tape off. I don't remember when I sealed it shut like that, by the way, but it was a good idea due to the dust in the air here. The first thing I saw were a couple manila envelopes marked "Rosemary" and then some copies of my high school "newspaper" with my illustrations in them, and then treasure upon forgotten treasure emerged from the box. Photos from my Air Force Cadet Drill Team days, pictures I drew for silliness in grade school and junior high, graphics that I did for a commemorative book about the 1972 flood, for a yellow pages ad, for newspaper advertisements. My high school diploma, cartoons sent to me by my friend Bill and more by my friend Melissa; a whole folder of cartoons from junior high, absurdly adolescent attempts at humor that made my old face blush -- was I ever that goofy?

I found drawings for a coloring book that I had illustrated for some fishing club that I had forgotten existed. A watercolor of a dog we had for a few days. An ABC book I had started for our daughter when she was an infant -- I don't remember if I never finished it, or if the pages were lost. I found a story I must have written in 7th grade, a hokey Western, and a partial poem of rollicking adventure on the high seas. There was a love note from my husband written during the early days of my pregnancy, as well as a skinny, sassy fellow in a photo -- with long golden hair.

Carefully folded into a photo folder is the very first real drawing our daughter ever made, a drawing I've sighed over many times in my life, thinking it had been lost or destroyed in one of our many moves. There it was, precious and wonderful: a magenta creature that she told me was "a happy dancing frog."

The desk is now covered with stuff sorted into piles from the Rosemary Box, and the computer work area, and the dresser, too. I've been scanning the pictures that are too precious to leave open to the air, and some of my artwork as well before it goes into protective plastic sleeves. Maybe by tomorrow I'll be able to put it all away again, but not tonight. Some of this stuff bears more reflection.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Giddy April

The forums for The Piker Press were getting really too serious and boring, so I decided to post all my replies and comments in rhyme -- to kind of break things up a bit and also to tease Cheryl, who is our Poetry Editor. I don't think the idea went over too well, to be honest. People seem to be intimidated or annoyed by sentences that rhyme, Poetry Month or no.

Or maybe it is by people who talk in rhymes. I suppose that if I wanted to seriously discuss my hemorrhoids or ingrown toenails, I would get pissed if my listener blurted, "Your poor old ass, you sorry lass" or "No one ever said your feet don't look dead."

But on the other hand, it is April, and I think we ought to be hopping and kicking up our heels like lambs in a warm and sunny pasture. Spring is time to PLAY, and that goes for adults as well as kids. When we stop playing, we stop exercising those nerve synapses that need to be used. Certainly I can't leap about like my granddaughter does, but she's begun carting about the cheesiest successful poetry I know of -- Dr. Seuss. Those rhymes stink, but they're memorable!

It's one of the games that I can play, without worrying about what will happen to my joints.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Put a Tomato on My Coat of Arms

I planted my tomato plants today.

I think the only years I haven't planted tomatoes in the 30 years Bernie and I have been married were the first three, when we lived in apartments, and in 1986, because we knew that we would be moving before fruit would ripen. Tomatoes are an altogether agreeable crop to me. I love the taste of tomatoes right off the vine, hot in the summer sun; I like them in salads, I like them topped with melted mozzarella cheese, I can bliss out eating them in great juicy sandwiches with mayonnaise, so sloppy they must be eaten over the sink. What the genius Tomato does to the combination of bacon and lettuce is sublime. Great slabs of a sliced huge tomato with salt can evoke in me a fervent utterance of grace in thankfulness to God the Creator of Tomatoes.

The smell of the vines is also pleasing to me. As each plant begins to bloom, I tickle the modest little yellow flowers one after another to encourage pollination. My shins and ankles shimmer with faint green as I step carefully among the vines, snipping suckers (unproductive sprouts) with my fingernails (which also turn green). Brushing foliage aside, I sprinkle a little epsom salts onto the ground at the base of the plant and till it into the soil -- tomatoes love epsom salts.

My mother used to start her tomatoes in February in her greenhouse; she frequently grew a lovely patio tomato called "Pixie." Those were the only tomatoes I grew for many years -- the fruit was smallish, only about 3 inches across, but they fruited early on those greenhouse started stalks and I usually had ripe tomatoes by the first week of June, small tomatoes with a big tomato taste. I started my own tomatoes from seed last year, choosing to be experimental and try the varieties "Bush Big Boy" and "Fourth of July". The first was supposed to grow a determinate vine -- that is, it gets so big and no bigger; the second was supposed to produce very early small fruits.

Live and learn. "Bush Big Boy" produced about 5 tomatoes per plant the whole season; "Fourth of July" turned out to be (and taste) like slightly oversized mushy cherry tomatoes that just didn't produce much. What tomatoes we got were mostly off a neglected Roma tomato that I shoved into the ground at the last minute between the landscape shrubs. Back to basics this year, I bought four "Better Boy" plants, and a little sixpack of "Mamma Mia" (which is supposed to be just like Roma ... we'll see) and if I can ever find some Romas, I'll tuck them in somewhere.

After last year's dearth of tomatoes, I'm ready to plant a forest of them, and get the hives from eating too many.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Well, yesterday's blog entry disappeared into the ether like a fart in the wind. I suppose it doesn't matter, but I did have several paragraphs of stuff that I wanted to say that I didn't even manage to copy to a text document. I tried, but all of it flashed the message, "This document contains no data." Of course we all know what my reply to that was. So all that I had to say ended up being distilled into a single gesture with one finger, and what insight there may have been was lost.

Today all I can do is marvel at the perversity of the weather; when we should be sunbathing, we're maintaining a fire in the wood stove and wearing sweaters. When we should be metering our watering systems to three times a week, we're trying to rescue plants from drowning. Oh, good, the several-years-worth of alleged drought have ended, but enough is enough. What is this, Oregon?

I wore my watch again today, while we went to a very shitty lunch at the local Applebee's. Their current kitchen maven (or their main supplier, I don't know which) douses almost everything in some spice mixture that burns my tongue and gives me heartburn. Most of what I ordered was only semi-edible. They ought to offer a side of Maalox with the seasoned food ... or maybe they're just trying to discourage older folk like me. Anyway, I kept an eye on the time so that Bernie wouldn't be late getting to work.

At four in the afternoon, I realized I'd checked my watch almost every five minutes for the past couple hours, and took it off again. I was sketching, and then doing final inking on a project. Once I took my watch off, I sunk into the savory sensation of seeing a shape come alive from a line drawing to a picture, and suddenly two hours had passed in delight, without some inner dictator saying that at such-and-such time, all this drawing stuff has to be done.

The picture was done when it was done. No deadline. No worries.

This morning at 3:30 am (mebbe) Bernie woke me so that I could watch part of the Pope's funeral. I didn't think I would be moved, as I had known that he was dying for weeks. But I was moved. He was such a cool Pope -- I remember when he still took skiiing vacations and his shoulders were straight and broad, and his grin infectious and uninhibited. The weight of the world's sin and waywardness broke him down, and getting shot in the guts didn't help him any, either. His body buckled and curved under the heavy load, but somehow, the strength was still there, still evident. At the end of his funeral, when his casket was taken through the veiled doors to be interred in the crypt with St. Peter (Oh, I know St. Peter will have a lot to talk about with him!) I remembered a World Youth Day long ago when the chant was born, "John Paul II -- we love you!"

And I was finally able to grieve.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Withdrawal Symptoms

I woke up at about 4 am breathing hard and shaking from experiencing a long and fairly linear dream filled with fear and fire and impending loss. This dream was truly one of the worst I have ever had, so vivid, so terrifying. I hope I never have to experience in waking life what I did last night.

Especially when my return to sleep about 40 minutes later allowed me to drop back into dreams that referred over and over again to the out-of-control and steadily encroaching fire. Death! Destruction! Anxiety! When I woke up again, that was it, I got up and stayed up.

I've written a lot about dream interpretation -- my book Dreamer relies heavily on that subject -- and although I didn't really want to dwell on the nightmares, they were so powerful that I simply had to examine them.

All the symbols in a dream are my own symbols; every aspect of the dream is an aspect of me. I am the people in the dream to whom I shout a warning and push out of the burning house. Efficiently I gauge my time against the encroachment of the fire and save my artwork, worrying about my creativity even before I count heads to make sure I saved everyone. But I didn't, and I am also the person still inside who sighs fatalistically at me when I return to the house to save her, a person unwilling to bother braving the mounting walls of flame, apathetically following me as I pick our way through the destruction. I am the fire, the out of control enemy that terrifies me and threatens all our lives.

Key Points: I save people. I save my artwork. I save even one who could care less. And possibly most significantly, the enemy is out of control.

I was competent in my dreams; both times I stepped past the fear and did what had to be done, and woke from the nightmares. But oh, that Out Of Control monster, appearing as fire and death. Now what in my life would spark fears of being Out Of Control?

See previous blog entry. After I wrote it yesterday, I took off my watch and put it away in another room. That damned watch and the micro-manager in my head teamed up to scare the crap out of me.

But now I'm onto them. And I'm still not wearing the watch.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Why do I wear a watch?

There was a time, not quite twenty years ago, when I did not own a watch. There was a clock in the bedroom, and there was a clock in the kitchen. (The one on the stove didn't count because we never bothered to set it.) The clock in the bedroom had an alarm; after all, the husband had to charge off to work for ten hours, and the daughter had to get to school on time. But the alarm rarely woke me up -- it was the desire for the first cigarette of the day that got me downstairs. Once the Other People were out the door, time was irrelevant. I got done what I thought needed to get done when it got done.

I ate when I got hungry. I napped when I felt drowsy. I worked obsessively on writing religious education courses until I was tired, and then switched to reading, reading, reading or went out to the garden and dug until I was exhausted.

The light of day was my "clock" -- at such and such time of the year, when the dark was falling, it was time to make some supper; the slippage down the sky by the sun might be an indication that it was time to welcome the daughter home from school.

Tortilla dough, once mixed, needed to "rest" -- the amount of time it took to enjoy a Pepsi and a cigarette. Bedtime was when I had read enough to feel as though my brain was "full." The dog had to be let out when he decided he needed to be let out and the cats didn't give a damn. Things were done when they had to be, and they were completed when they were, not by a deadline.

Although I still cook like that (my recipes don't usually have hard and fast measurements and they're done when they're "done") when I came to California to stay, in 1988, a watch grew onto my left wrist.

Suddenly, working 60 - 80 hours a week made every damn second matter. There were people to interview, consultations to schedule, seminars to plan. I wanted to be available to all my teachers -- but with so many of them, I had to limit the time spent with each, and started wearing a watch, wearing it with the face on my pulse point, so that with hands folded neutrally on the table before me, I could still see the time at a glance, to know when to wrap up without rudely looking at the back of my hand. My daily work log was an hour-by-hour notebook, and I savagely made every minute count. By the end of my sojourn in that job, I was down to 40 hours a week, even though my responsibilities had tripled. The watch embedded itself into my subconscious habit, and governed my every step.

If someone asks me what I'm up to for the day, I automatically look at my watch. The time on the face of the watch still determines what I'm supposed to be doing, even though I retired about four years ago. I don't have to get up at a special time, I don't have to go to bed by a certain hour; the only appointments I have are dentist-related. Yet I check my watch every few minutes to see what I think I ought to be doing.

Seasons are changing, and what can be done at whatever time of day should change, too. I don't have to go for a morning walk at 8:15 exactly; and who cares if I go to bed at nine or at midnight? All these years later, I think I'm ready to remove the watch from my arm, and at least put it in a pocket. The other day I was working on a drawing, and while I was enjoying the flow of creativity, I was still keeping an eye on the watch to keep track of time -- because we were to visit friends the next day and so I needed to dye my hair that evening and so I had to allow at least this much time for the procedure and I would have to get up early the next morning to put the finish coat on the painting and allow at least two hours for ...

Sorry, this is crap. The idea that it all had to be done by a particular hour is habitual, not factual. I think in terms of a schedule because I'm accustomed to thinking that way. But I don't believe that is really the way we were intended to live. That we have to do so, at times in our lives, I don't deny. Nevertheless, I'm past that time now.

I think this is one more habit I want to kick.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Update and grump

Update time.

Well, some, at least.

Back to the Unfortunate Situation with Idiots ... In the lawsuit in which Mrs. Jane accused the priest Fr. Fred of inappropriately touching her daughter (during a tickling fight which her daughters initiated) and the pastor, Fr. Jack of not doing enough about the alleged mis-touching. The jury aquitted Fr. Fred of any wrongdoing. (Let's send Fr. Fred to an Increased Awareness Class and hire a lawyer for him to sue Mrs. Jane for mental cruelty.) In the course of the trial, it was revealed by witnesses that Mrs. Jane was indeed trying (with no luck) to jump Fr. Jack's bones and was upset about her failure. However, the jury concluded that Fr. Jack didn't handle the situation as he should have (and I would concur) and awarded the traumatized girl something like $20,000. She should put it in a savings account for the therapy she is going to need in the future because of having to live with Mrs. Jane.

The Pope is dead. For many, this means merely the loss from the world of a charismatic religious leader who was clever at learning languages. He was the most-traveled Pope; he had the 3rd longest reign as Pope; he was possibly the most athletic Pope since Peter the Fisherman. For Catholic believers, the election of his successor is a matter for fervent prayer; in a time assaulted by abortion, by destruction of deliberately induced human embryos for stem cell experimentation, by euthanasia, by unlawful acts of war, by the unveiling of sexual predation by clergy, by the unwillingness to accept the consequences of wrongdoing whether in everyday life or corporate leadership -- good God, what will John Paul II's successor be able to do? The Catholic believers will have to rely on outmoded sources, such as prayer, and hope, and trusting in the will of God, a most unpopular course of action these days.

I've irritated myself enough tonight.