Monday, August 28, 2006

Fire island Pines sojourn

Just returned from a few days spent with L&L at the Fire Island Pines. We stayed with friends who own a lovely beach house on the Great South bay side. For those of you unfamiliar with Fire Island, it's a long sand bar running along part of Long Island's easterly side. Properties on Cherry Grove and the Pines are pretty much gay,lesbian and liberal-straight owned--the likes of Calvin Klein owned beach houses in the Pines at one point in their lives--while properties at Sunken Forest, etc are owned by others.

On our first evening, we went for cocktails to Sharon and Michelle who'd rented a gorgeous house on the Great South Bay for a week, though given its high rent, they were very annoyed--and justifiably so when they showed us the shabby state of them--that the furniture covers were badly stained in places. In the end, they resorted to covering the sofa and dining chairs with beach towels. I mean, it doesn't take much for homeowners renting out their homes at top dollar to bleach a few chair covers once or twice during the season, does it? All that's required is not to be so goddamned greedy.

As I sipped on their ice-cold Chardonnay, I watched the sun dip ever so slowly in the sky, turning the placid waters of the Bay into a huge navy-blue blanket that seemed made of velvet and liberally crisscrossed in places with shimmering stripes of molten gold. Thereafter, we all went to one of two restaurants--in actuality, a pizza joint--in the Pines, which proved sadly (although Sharon and Michelle had pre-warned us) to be mediocre with pretensions to being an expensive Italian restaurant in possession of a spectacularly impoverished wine list. (The following evening L&L, Larry and I went to the second restaurant at the Blue Whale, which proved to equally mediocre. (The friends we stayed with informed us that there used to be a brilliant restaurant called Marco's which closed last season.) Given that the Pines is decidedly upmarket--the homes are whimsical, elegant or boastful, and the small supermarket stocks quality foodstuffs--it was surprising that the homeowners and renters would accept such shoddy offerings.

Unfortunately, the weather proved churlish and we only got to bask at our friends pool for one day. I managed to get a mild sunburn that has already begun to tan. I was looking forward to strolling along the beach--truly pristine and full of gold sand--but in the end had to settle for glimpses of the ocean from underneath the shade of my umbrella. The rain was torrential and unremitting. For a few days we read, played the game of 'Yatzee', watched videos, ate and drank cocktails. I was disappointed I hadn't brought along my laptop because I could have done some writing, but I've always been lucky with the weather on vacation and figured it would be a waste of time dragging it along.

One highlight was the tea dances which took place on Friday and Saturday evening where we danced to great music or simply chatted.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Beryl Singleton Bissell

Beryl Singleton Bissell is an author whose memoir The Scent of God (Perseus Books Group/Counterpoint Press)is doing very well in the United States. In the near future I plan to post a review of her book and Beryl has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions which will accompany it.

Beryl was born in Saddle River New Jersey, grew up in Puerto Rico, and entered a cloistered monastery the day after she graduated from high school. She left religious life fifteen years later. She now lives on the North Shore of Lake Superior and has a son and three grandchildren. Her 24-year-old daughter died in 2001.

She has a website ( and runs a blog, which you can check out as I am posting the link on my Author Blogs sidebar.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

The encounter

An episode from my trip to Europe--nearly verbatim.

I was coming out of the hotel restaurant when I saw the attractive, impeccably dressed Ms. X and her (I think) second husband, whom I think may have been a jewish convert to evangelicism. I'm not certain of that though, and can only go by his
surname which, of course, in Northern Ireland instantly tells one a person's religion and can in the wrong circumstances get one shot.

"You're coming up to my part of the country for a wedding soon, arent you?"
"Not for a wedding," said Ms. X. "For a christening."
"My grandson is getting christened."
"Very nice."


"Damian, you don't know what it's like when you have grandchildren who don't walk with the Lord. Thankfully, my daughter has come around and is christening my grandson who's five now. We've been trying so hard for this. So hard."
"I...I see."
"I have four children and I thought I brought them up well, but none of them walk with Jesus or allow their children the pleasure,"she says. "It's devastating."
Hubby cranes his neck in my direction, looks moist and sad about the eyes, and says, "It's so sad. We all need Jesus in our lives."

I recognize his look--it's the look that says 'You will burn in the hot, eternal flames if you do not have Jesus. Get saved.'

Silence as my mind whirls.

"Well, I'm Catholic, but I would never presume to say or require that everyone needs Jesus as their personal Lord and savior. (Having been brought up in fundamentalist Northern Ireland, I know the code words to invoke by now as they are posted on telegraph poles, tree trunks, sides of barns, etc.) God comes in many forms, Ms. X. For example, the Buddhists, Jews and Muslims have a different concept of God and none of them subscribe to Jesus."
Hubby cranes again and says, "Everyone must have Jesus."
"These people are equally as right as Christians," I say. "We are but one form of belief and God planned it this way."

Ms. X has a beautiful smile and I see her lips curl up slightly and I am given a sad puppy dog look. She shakes her head knowingly. "Damian, only Jesus. Only Jesus is king."

I have just been canvassed and my mind is strong and we have reached a stalemate. Stalemate for me, at least. More likely for them, "He's so nice but doomed to writhe within the eternally scorching flames."

Gosh, Ms. X, it's very late,"I say. "I really must go to bed. Good night now."

In case you're wondering, yes, I forgive them for the approach.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mel Gibson: In vino veritas

Mel Gibson (and his father) would appear to be hypocrites and I am saddened that they have some Irish blood coursing through their veins. I've often wondered how Gibson reconciles the violence and darkness in his movies--especially the Mad Max series--with his current pious, right wing attitudes. Moreover, they cannot legitimately call themselves Roman Catholics as they practice a form of Catholicism--including, I understand, the celebrating of the mass in Latin--that is no longer countenanced by the Church of Rome. In other words they have in a way voluntarily excommunicated themselves from the official Catholic church, if you will. (I doubt of the Pope will go public and confirm that, though.) Gibson is, I understand, building his own Catholic Church in Malibu at a cost of 4 million dollars.

I believe Gibson is also bigoted--he made outlandish and gross statements about homosexuals on Spanish TV a few years ago. He has many children and I feel sorry for any child of his who, later in life, may find he or she is growing up homosexual or different in any other significent and unorthodox way.

With regard to the claim of anti-semitism, I feel I need only refer to a maxim of the ancient Romans. In vino veritas is the maxim, which translates as 'Truth in wine.' The Romans knew of what they spoke.

It is laughable to watch Gibson backtrack and apologize. I must say galloping off to an alcohol treatment center is a bit of a cliche, even by Hollywood standards. He sounds like an old woman trying to get all her sins expunged in confession. Mea aculpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. These shrill acts of contrition are nothing other than slick PR counselling at its most ridiculous. If he truly wants to repent, perhaps then his apology and offer should be backed with the commitment to give a very large part of his net worth to the Bill Gates Foundation or some other charity.

Time will tell the quality of his repentance.

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