Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Vatican, the LCWR, and a heaping helping of wrong from Nick Kristof

When I wrote a teen column for my local paper, I used to try to limit myself to writing on stuff I actually knew stuff about. It kept me from sounding like an idiot, even though I was one.

So when someone like Nicholas Kristof doesn’t follow that simple maxim and tries to write on Vatican insider stuff, the result is a terrible, awful mess, such as his column dealing with the Vatican’s work to reform the largest organization of U.S. nuns, the LCWR. In fact, it’s actually hard to address his column, a combination of half-truths, misreadings, rhetorical questions, and cheap shots. But I’m going to try anyway, because people are, sadly, taking this column seriously.

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The paper chase

My favorite sheet music store is closing.

This is not insignificant. Almost every single piece of sheet music I’ve bought in the last three years came from this store, and there isn’t another in the area. That means I’ll need to start looking online for my sheet music, and that’s bad.

When you’re evaluating whether to buy sheet music, you need to look at it to see whether it’s at your ability level (if it’s too easy, it sounds stupid; if it’s too hard, you won’t play it because it’s too hard). The page turns need to be right (sometimes, the pages are put together weirdly, and trying to get back to a previous page if the music calls for it is tricky). You need to see if the size of the notes are such that the music is legible.

This is difficult, if not impossible, online. Some companies that are nice allow you to look at at least a portion of the music to try to evaluate whether to buy it. But others are not, and you have to guess as to whether you can use that music.

Guess I’m making a run over there today. But after that, we’ll chalk up another win, alas, for what seems like the conveniences of modern life.

Update (5/6): Hey Googlers! I only used the name of the store in the tags and in a link, but yes, this post refers to Brookdale Music in Naperville. The store is closing, according to several emails and snail mails they’ve sent out, and “store closing” signs were in the windows last time I checked.


Update (5/30): They’ve taken it back and intend to stay open.

For just 35 cents a day, you too can feed a starving church organ

So the organ at church is working again, Deo gratias.

Problem is, fixing that motor is just the start. The organ still has several issues. Keys don’t work or get stuck on. Pipes get clogged or fall out of tune. Key covers fall off. And worst of all, one of the air reservoirs has come loose — if it’s loose, the volume goes down because less air is going through the pipes — and we use duct tape to try to keep it on.

That’s right: the organ is being held together with duct tape.

Oh, there's tape in other areas. But I have to retape this part every week.

It almost feels like we should have a fundraising drive, because these fixes aren’t cheap, and the parish doesn’t really have the money to get all this taken care of.

For just a dollar a day, you, too, can fix the broken key on the choir manual! That’s less than a cup of coffee from the vending machine, and it will ensure we always hear that D.

But wait! There’s more!

For three bucks, we’ll name a key after you. Yes, you can make the lowest F sharp the “Larry Jones F sharp.”

In reality, I’m thinking, quite seriously, about setting up a concert that would raise some funds for the next time the organ kerplunks. Or the piano, which has a key I’ve broken two years in a row, where it plays both G and F sharp at the same time. That sounds perty bad.

But getting this stuff taken care of is about more than simply having good sounding music when you’re at a Catholic church. Every week, we praise God with some pretty darn good music. With a little bit of planning and some resourcefulness, maybe we can keep it that way.

Will their house ever be home again?

When I come home in the evenings, this is generally the first thing I see when I step out of the car:

Although not with the Instagram treatment.

But rarely, these days, is anyone home next door. Two cars sit there, undriven. The garage is rarely opened. The lawn, which they used to mow meticulously, isn’t as well maintained as it used to be.

Suicide is hell. Not for the victim — his suffering has, we hope, ended — but for his family, his friends, and all those who knew him.

On an otherwise quiet morning, the woman next door opened the door to her son’s room to find him dead. He had become addicted to drugs and found himself unable to kick the habit. His life had spiraled out of control, from a job loss (maybe related to his addiction, maybe not) to having to move home out of a house he owned to an arrest for impaired driving in our front yard.

And one late night, not long after the arrest, he determined he couldn’t take it anymore.

He was 24.

That day I will never forget, from when my dad woke me up early to tell me what happened, to watching the cops, ambulance, and coroner come to the house, to seeing a truck with “Aftermath” on the side pull in front of the house, to watching the body (which was covered) wheeled from the house, to saying a prayer for the kid’s soul, to seeing friends and family come to the house to console the mom and dad, to asking everyone I knew to pray for him.

Over two days, the “Aftermath” people stripped his room completely bare. No curtains. No carpeting. No anything that might have had any part of his remains on it.

And since then, his family’s barely been there. I don’t know where they’re staying or, really, what they’re doing. They drop in sometimes on weekends and do yardwork or cleaning in the garage, and his friends drop in occasionally to let his dog (who isn’t staying there either) wander around the yard, but otherwise, next door is vacant.

Though it’s been more than a month now, the whole mess haunts me. It’s not as if the kid and I were close, but still, we’ve lived next door to that family for 17 years, from when he was about 7. He was a good kid, not that the drugs cared. His parents are good folks. And he lost his job at around the same age I did. I think of when I got hurt, not long after the job loss, and had to go on painkillers. His fate could have easily been mine.

I wonder how his parents, who tried to get him the help he needed, get through the guilt and pain and anger, the feelings that they should have done more. I wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in that house again — and if they can’t, I wonder who would want to live in a house in which a suicide has occurred (and they’ll have to tell prospective buyers, too).

I wonder if they’ll ever know normal again. I pray they well, but suspect they won’t. I pray they find peace, but I fear they won’t.

Meanwhile, the house next door is silent. No family. No dog. No life. Just the kid’s car, his dad’s truck, the closed-up doors, and the eerie feeling that on any given day, at any given time, what happened to them could happen to you.

Quietly, a happy birthday

My birthdays don’t always go well.

Last year, it was on Good Friday and I couldn’t eat much. In college, the Cubs game my friends and I went to was rained out. And there was that particularly tough one where I was laid off from my job, then got really drunk. Not to mention that awful one in 1994 where Richard Nixon died.

So here’s what I’m doing today, my birthday: not much.

I have a Mass to play in the morning. I’ll watch some sports on TV. I might hit the gym. Spend some time with the family. And that’ll be about it.

That’s not to say I won’t be doing anything. I will be getting drinks with friends a few days after. But I’m OK keeping things nice and subtle, just in case.

POST-MOST OF BIRTHDAY ADDENDUM: I also watched “The Muppets.” It was funny. Now you know.

The fix is now in

So a time or two ago, I noted that the organ at my regular church wasn’t working because its motor broke. I am told now that the organ is back and working.

I am happy. I think I’ll play this as a postlude tomorrow (and, in fact, that’s me in the video):

Yes, indeed, for me, it’s a time of rejoicing.

Old friends

“See, the thing is that you never were a good friend, and despite what I thought, you weren’t my best friend. You may have tried, but at some point, you simply didn’t care. Really, more often than not, you were so self-absorbed that you managed to anger an incredible number of people and not care about it, then not understand why they were mad at your inconsideration. I made excuses for your behavior, instead of acknowledging that you simply weren’t as good of a person as you thought you were. I should have known, and understood, when I told you I had what sure seemed like a dream job, but your reaction was muted, then jealous. And when my real friends finally got all that through to me, I realized that I deserved a hell of a lot better.

“And let’s face it, my life’s a lot better without you. I have friends from both my old job and my current job who are wonderful folks. They supported me while I was unemployed and congratulated me when I finally got to where I was now. And my lifelong friends — and you could have been one — kept me grounded and hopeful and able to recognize the blessings in my life.

“Without you in my life, I know I’ve changed for the better. Of course, there’s plenty about my life that still needs improving, but I know I’ve improved my life over the last few years. I hope you can say the same — but somehow, I doubt that’s the case.”

*            *            *

I could have said that all to her, perhaps not using the same words or the tone of voice I would have preferred. But I didn’t. Instead, when I saw her, walking toward me but talking on her phone and not really looking in front of her, I simply, and probably wisely, walked by.

I doubt she noticed me. Who would expect to see someone they didn’t want to in a city of three million? I didn’t plan on it, myself. But I saw her, and she didn’t notice me. And yeah, that was fitting.