A priest I know enjoys laying it on really thick when people step up on Ash Wednesday. Some walk away so sooty that they look like they’d spent the afternoon sweeping chimneys. It’s one of the odd customs we Catholics cling to — and today it may be more poignant than ever. It’s a way of boldly declaring your faith at a time when many people have turned away from the Church.
But just the pandemic has changed everything, it’s changing Ash Wednesday.
This year, instead of receiving a vaguely cross shaped schmear on the forehead, ashes will instead be sprinkled over the heads of the faithful. That sounds unorthodox, but Father Anthony Barratt, director of Prayer and Worship in the Diocese of Albany, told the Evangelist that it’s in line with tradition. “There is a very ancient, biblical and scriptural way of having ashes for repentance (and) to have them sprinkled on your head. Its roots are deep in Scripture.”
My wife has described this like a sprinkling of fairy dust, but a Twitter friend came up with a better comparison: it could be like Emeril Lagasse, slinging the ashes at your head and yelling, “BAM!” You gotta admit, that would be pretty great.
So, what about having people impose — that’s the word the Church uses, not me — the ashes on themselves, or have someone in their social circle administer them? Lay people may apply ashes to each other as long as the ashes are blessed. And as for doing it yourself? That would certainly result in the funniest As Wednesday ever, unless we have people do it in from of a mirror.
If there’s one good thing about this coronavirus mess, it’s the way that it’s brought us together. That’s ironic considering how we’re being told to stay away from one another.
But let me ask you a question: Did you expect this thing with the toilet paper?
You’d think that certain food staples would be scooped off the shelves, but now we know that people are more concerned about wiping their ass than they are about eating.
This turns everything upside down, including what we know about dealing with a crisis. And zombies.
In The Walking Dead, you sometimes see the characters foraging for food and weapons, but toilet paper? Never. I argue therefore, that the Walking Dead is not realistic, because people are not obsessed with toilet paper. Yes, I know, the whole thing about people coming back from the dead is also unrealistic — but the toilet paper!
Art imitates life, so zombie stories will probably start including some toilet paper sub-plots, and you know what, it’s something we’ll all relate to.
Meanwhile, continue to ration and wipe with care. Me? I’m waiting for the bidet I ordered from Home Depot. The key to survival is self-sufficiency.
I was about to peek in the oven when I noticed them, the raisins on the counter that were supposed to be inside my soda bread. Oh, shit.
This was in the middle of a busy morning of baking for the annual soda bread contest at the Irish American Heritage Museum. This loaf, one of two for the “family style” competition would not do. I needed to start over.
My wife was like, what? How could you forget the raisins?
I didn’t have a good answer for that one — and I hustled into mixing my ingredients.
Everything was under control — until later in the morning when I got a sick feeling about my traditional loaf. I peered in the oven and saw that things were not right. I forget to add the baking soda to the soda bread.
These traditional loaves only have four ingredients — flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda — and without the baking soda, you have something that’s inedible, like a big white hockey puck. What kind of idiot leaves out an ingredient that’s right there in the name?
This kind of idiot.
The wife eyed me suspiciously. Was he finally losing his shit, she must have thought, giving in to the early effects of dementia?
I assured her that I was not incompetent — or senile — and pushed ahead. Even with the delays, my loaves made it into the contest with five minutes to spare.
They say all’s well that ends well, and after all the trouble, my family style bread won second place. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to think that I may need to keep better track of what’s going on while cooking, the way I always go to the grocery store with a list these days. When I remember to bring it.
Well, I haven’t written about poop in a while, but this one caught my eye. From the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, MA:
At least eight times since early December, the owner of the Natick Outdoor Store made an unpleasant discovery when he arrived at work – a pile of human feces. On Wednesday, Natick Police arrested Andrea F. Grocer, 51, of Ashland, in the parking lot of the store at 38 North Ave. where they found her getting ready to use it as a toilet once again, authorities said.
A related story says that Ms. Grocer claimed to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, but she could not explain why she would not simply poop in one of the many public toilets that were nearby. It’s sad — shitty, really — especially when you see her mugshot, which I won’t re-publish, but you can look at here.
However, the real reason I wrote this was to point out a remark from Natick Police spokeswoman Lt. Cara Rossi:
“At first, they thought it was an animal but then they noticed toilet paper and other wipes – items animals would not have access to.”
I can’t tell if Lt. Rossi is being a wiseass or inintentionally funny, but either way, she wins the award for quote of the week.
If you type the word “poop” into the search box on the right, you’ll come up with page after page of results. Dog poop, cat poop, picking up poop, stepping in poop, throwing poop, even eating poop. For the record, The eating poop post was about dogs eating cat poop.
But friends, this isn’t a story about dogs and cats, the poopers in this tale stand on two legs — and wear running shoes.
Stories about runners stopping along the way to lower their shorts and drop a load have been trending lately. mainly because they haven’t been smart about it.
In my younger days, my body was geared in such a way that I’d regularly (no pun intended) get the intense urge to take a crap during my run. It was such an issue, that I’d always tuck a folded paper towel into my waistband for clean-up. Pro tip: Normal bathroom tissue doesn’t hold up well if it gets sweaty.
Unlike the people in these stories, I was always very discreet, and during most of the year it was dark out.
For some reason, the urge never overwhelms me anymore, butnonetheless, I’m always scouting private spots that would do in an emergency. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an endorsement of random al fresco pooping. The fact is, as much as you’d like to control your body, sometimes it will control you.
Oh, another tip: If you’ve gotta go, be stealthy. Cameras are everywhere these days, and this is not the sort of YouTube star you want to be.
The great thing about going to the doctor is the magazines. Sometimes I wish they’d never call my name and I could just sit and leaf through Time, Sports Illustrated and the New Yorker all day.
Anyhow, I was perusing Runner’s World at a recent doctor visit, a magazine I subscribed to when I was a serious runner, instead of a fat, slow old man who struggles through his morning jog. But there was an interesting story about the mental health benefits of running that got me thinking.
You always hear people talk about the positive energy generated by running, and this was a theme of the story, but in my experience running has been a time to stew over things that made me angry. It’s been a time to re-live incidents— very often work related — that pissed me off and to go through what I wish I’d done or said.
No, it’s not always negative stuff. Sometimes I’ve come up with constructive solutions to problems, and many times formulated approaches for creative endeavors — but there’s always a healthy dose of foot pounding over people and situations that I find vexing.
My knowledge of psychology is limited to a three credit course taken at SUNY Plattsburgh in 1979, but doesn’t it make sense that this is a good thing? It’s probably better to push through negative thoughts during a run that to bring them to work or into your relationships at home.
I’d be lying if I said that everything I’ve come up with while running has improved things — but how much worse would it have been without the running?
So there I was, sitting on a pillow in a quiet room, meditating. Well, trying to meditate. The instructor told us that we may find it hard at first, quieting our busy minds. He was right. We could expect to drift in and out. If something distracts us. Just go back to it. It’s OK.
He knew we all wanted a trick of some sort, a gimmick to push it along. He described that approach as aggressive. Hmm. Forcing your mind to do something is aggressive. That is… interesting.
Now If you’re my age, you hear meditation, and think of the Beatles sitting on a rug with a bearded yogi. Sitars, incense, chanting mantras — you get the idea. So I’m not sure what put the idea in my head to give it a try.
Maybe because the workday routine was rubbing me raw.
Oh, I could have talked to my doctor. That’s the advice you hear in so many drug commercials, and there’s a pill for everything these days.
It’s more than a month now, and I’ve come to crave the time out that meditation brings to a busy day. It’s a discipline that will take time to develop, but it seems to be make a difference. It may all be in my head, though I suppose that’s the point.
Quieting the busy mind ain’t easy. Just ask Don Draper.
Late one night I was backing up the ambulance at one of our fine local hospitals. Parked near the emergency department entrance was a dark minivan with tinted windows. I wouldn’t have even noticed it — but then a man emerged from a set of doors wheeling a cot. Even in the dim light, it was unmistakable that he was removing a body.
As we unloaded our patient, he was fetching a customer.
OK, they weren’t coming out the same doors we were going in, but it was pretty darn close. If this surprised me, imagine how you’d feel if you were on our stretcher and looked over to see the undertaker picking someone up. Not very encouraging.
Considering how busy these places are, it always surprises me how shabby emergency department entrances can be. Rather than projecting a professional impression, many look more like a place where the hospital brings out its trash. It would go a long way to have them clean and well-lit — and you’re receiving so many patients, why not have someone stationed to meet the ambulance and begin the intake process?
If nothing else, let’s move the mortician access to someplace a little more discrete. I think we all have enough reminders that our last ride is on the way.
Imagine what it must feel like to get another chance after a life-threatening health emergency. It has to be pretty amazing.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares has been very open about discussing his heart surgery in 2016 and the way it changed his life. Stories like this one in the Times Union, in which he tells what it was like to face down a disease that could have killed him. It’s inspiring. Honestly.
But I’ve got to ask a question: is it OK for a public official to appear in a TV commercial endorsing a hospital. I’m asking not because I want to be a wiseass (which is often why I ask questions), but because I’m genuinely unsure. Have a look.
Even a not-for-profit entity is still a business — and if you have any doubt that hospitals are a business, just look at all the competition between them that’s expressed in their advertising. And they do a LOT of advertising.
So, it’s something to ponder. Purists will say that an elected official like the DA should avoid anything that can be interpreted as showing favor. But on the flip side, is there really anything wrong with showing a little heart?