Monthly Archives: April 2013

Programming note

My friend John Anneken will be appearing on “Jeopardy!” on Wednesday. Check your local listings for time and channel. Will this be his first of one or first of many games? We’ll have to watch to find out.

Congrats, John! Getting on the show is a heck of an accomplishment in and of itself. Here’s hoping you do simply fantastic.

UPDATE: He won! That means he’ll be on again on Thursday’s episode.


Playing, um, hurt

OK, it’s not exactly Kirk Gibson on “two bad legs” or Curt Schilling playing through a clearly damaged ankle, but I got through a recent weekend’s Masses with a totally serious injury, guys.

It was during the homily at Spanish Mass. I always have a bottle of water at Masses I’m playing, and I was thirsty. So I got out my water bottle when the fateful moment happened: I cut … my finger … on a rough edge of the bottle. (Thanks for nothing, Aquafina.)

Cue Dramatic Prairie Dog!

Now, I’m bleeding. And the offertory hymn is coming up shortly. And bleeding all over the piano is considered bad taste. I had two options:

  • Get to the back of church (the piano’s in front) and get a bandage from the first aid kit. I knew for sure that there were bandages there.
  • Go into the sacristy and look for a bandage. I did not know whether there were bandages there.

So I tried the sacristy, which was closer. Nothing doing. Did not have time to get to back of church before offertory hymn.

So I played it without my index finger. Turns out that’s not easy. Put simply, that extra inch from the middle finger to the index finger makes it a lot easier to play chords. Also, having your index finger raised to avoid bleeding on the piano extends the hand in ways it does not want to go. But I got through it. And I got through the Sanctus, as well.

At this Spanish Mass, the congregation comes up around the altar for the consecration. So they, for the most part, wouldn’t see me sneak to the back. I looked for a good time to go. Out of respect for, say, God, I didn’t go during the consecration itself. But after that was over, I could go.

Cue Dramatic Prairie Dog to that dramatic music from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail!”

So I got to the back in the usher’s space, found the bandages, and got one on. Then, before the Amen, I was back and in position, with the bleeding stopped and no one the wiser.

The finger had to stay wrapped up the rest of the weekend. I had three more Masses to play and needed all 10 digits working. The offending index finger held up, heroically.

On  a serious note, a cut on the finger actually can be bad news for an organist. If the finger swells at all or is tender or the cut is worse than paper-cut deep, it can be very hard to play anything with that finger. Luckily, this time, it wasn’t.

And I have played through worse. The week prior, I played with a heat wrap on my elbow because it was badly aching. (It was fine the next day.) It’s just part of the job.

Then again, maybe Kirk Gibson and I have something in common.

7 quick takes: After the birthday has ended

— 1 —


My birthday was Monday. I had done all my celebrating over the weekend, so this Monday was a normal day for me. A normal, quiet day. On the way home, I stopped at a local park, still with slightly swollen waters from last week’s flooding, and I took this shot (and Instagrammed it). It was a nice, quiet, beautiful ending to a nice, quiet birthday.

— 2 —

I bought myself a housewarming gift, even though I haven’t actually bought a house (still working on it):


They were selling their wares at my main parish one weekend. Supposedly, these works are made in the Holy Land. I cannot verify that independently and have to take it on faith, though I will say for certain that the wood of this crucifix (for wall adornment) is quite solid. There’s more from this company here.

— 3 —

I’m playing a grand total of zero Masses this weekend, because I’m heading out of town for my friend’s bachelor party. It’s my first full weekend off since January, so I’m planning to enjoy it. I need to take more time off, so weekends like this are really crucial.

— 4 —

In music-related stuff, I had the choir at my main parish learn this one for entrance:

Usable anytime Psalm 118 isn’t the responsorial, it lasts plenty long for the extended entrance the priest does in Eastertide.


— 5 —

I missed this piece by Msgr. Charles Pope about not being a liturgical music snob. I try, and sometimes fail, to live by this, but it does line up with what I’ve been saying. Obviously, I have my preferences for what should be done at Mass and what shouldn’t. But I don’t make the rules, and the rules, wisely, don’t force much on us.

— 6 —

 Good job, Cardinal Dolan. The man has an impossible job, but he lays out, quite correctly, how we’re supposed to live our faith. 

— 7 —

If you haven’t seen this yet from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, do so:

And buy their CD when it’s out. Go singing nuns!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

The annual birthday reflection

That one bad birthday is, finally, slowly fading into the background.

It was four years ago on my birthday (which is today) that I was laid off, and that event has colored every birthday since. But I have, more or less, recovered from the whole ordeal. And it’s much easier to look forward.

I had a quiet evening out at the Billy Goat Tavern with friends on Friday, and my sister and her fiance took me out for a drink last night, and I was content.

I’ve had bad stuff happen. But, Dei gratias, so much of the time, things get better. Life goes on. The bad stuff fades away, and new, wonderful things take its place. My hope, put simply, is that it continues for me, and for all of you too. Thanks for reading, and God bless all of you.

What I played last weekend: 4th Sunday of Easter

Masses 1, 2, and 3: 

Mass 4: 


* Denotes something I’d never played at Mass before

A rain-soaked 7 quick takes

— 1 —

So we had about 10 inches of rain in less than a day out here, leading to some relatively nasty flooding on Thursday. Our street, which gets backed up semi-often, got backed up, indeed, but this time, the water went several feet up the driveway. We don’t think our basement was ever in danger (good, because I sleep there), but still, I had to work from home a second straight day because I couldn’t get out of the driveway. Around midmorning, I took this video of the water from my front porch:

— 2 —

I did get out during the evening to see how bad the flooding was. Well, in 1996, a major flood hit my area, with 17+ inches landing in 24 hours. I remember this because we were up all night moving stuff out of the basement, which actually was flooding this time. And this was the worst flooding I’ve seen since then, I think. The river was just below the viaduct, when it’s normally a good 12-15 feet below. It was rushing terribly fast. And all the river islands were well covered. Perhaps we were lucky that we didn’t get worse this time around.

— 3 —

We had a red sky at night, too:

Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy. Anyway, enough about the weather. Let’s move on to other stuff.

— 4 —

“Looking forward to your wedding!” the text read.

What the?

I was baffled. I’m not married. I’m not getting married anytime soon, as far as I could guess, as I’m unattached at the moment. But there was that text message, from someone I knew, no less.

Clearly, this was a mistake, right?

So I texted back, I fear you sent this to the wrong person.

Whew. She agreed. And a good thing. Because if I’m getting married, I’d rather be the first person to know about it.

— 5 —

Now mildly amused by item 1, I posted a shortened form to Facebook:

…just got a text from someone saying she was looking forward to my upcoming wedding. Wait, what? (I’m not. Unless someone knows something I don’t.)

The secretary of one of my parishes is an old friend (I think we went to kindergarten together in … 1990… yikes, I’m getting old) and liked it on FB. By coincidence, I had to skedaddle over to that parish for a seminar on its organ, which has a lot of digital bells and whistles and neato-torpedo extras. The choir director, when I saw her, congratulated me on my upcoming nuptials. I laughed, realizing my friend had told her what was going on. Explaining what was going on to the other organists present, however, was, er, a tougher task.

— 6 —

My former boss, who is now a friend, was shaken up (emotionally) pretty badly by the Boston bombing, as she had lived there for several years. I felt sad but couldn’t muster much else. It was the same thing with the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. I felt bad, but couldn’t feel much else. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, friends. As a journalist, I read and heard a lot of sob stories over the years, some real, some overdone. It all blurred together, and it makes it hard to feel anything during these sorts of events. I prayed for the victims and their families, of course. But I feel bad, even though I can’t control it, that my ability to really feel in these things is limited.

— 7 —

OK, one more weather-related thing. Because after taking the picture in #3, I immediately thought of this song:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

When you’re like everyone’s adopted son

Last Saturday evening, I went to a party right after my second Mass, the one in Spanish. I changed into my party clothes in a restroom and was on my way out when I saw one of the ushers and said hi.

“Tengo una fiesta esta noche,” I said. “Es en Chicago, y necesito manejar.” (“I have a party tonight. It’s in Chicago, and I need to drive there.”)

“No cerveza*,” he replied with a bit of a teasing tone in his voice. (“No beer.”)

Ah, adults. They’re the same in any language. Always good to know they care.

*It was a wine party, though. But I don’t drink much wine, so it wasn’t a problem.