Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dear Diary

It's 10 PM as I sit down to write.

My day began, as usual, when the announcers on the local NPR station told me it was 7:00 AM. By that time I had already reached over groggily to push the Snooze button five times. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

It's fund raising week on public radio, so I push the Snooze button yet again (not my usual custom) and turn my attention to morning ablutions and getting dressed. About thirty minutes later I make my way downstairs, check my email and glance at some of my favorite blogs and websites (more on that later). At about 7:50 I sit down to read today's edition of the Stockton Record, my only source for local news. I always scan the obituaries carefully. Parishioners have been known to die without telling me, and I like to be ahead of the curve on such things. (If you're wondering, I'm not a coffee drinker. Pretty odd for a Brazilian, I know.)

By 8:15, I'm in my Ford Escape for the five minute drive to St John's. Just enough time to make my entrance into the office, greet the Parish Administrator, who is always there by 8:00, and get my laptop plugged in and turned on. By the time Windows and Outlook are launched, the five-minute bell is ringing from the lantern tower of the church. (I had to disillusion an employee at the Chinese fast food restaurant on the next block last week with the information that there's nobody climbing several flights of stairs and pulling on ropes--it's all electronic.) Time to go over for Morning Prayer.

I am joined by Kim, the Parish Administrator, and Jim, a man from the neighborhood who made his appearance for the first time three Sundays ago, and has been at every daily service since, as well as the Sunday liturgies. I can't remember noticing in previous years that the Epistle passage from Galatians quotes a long section from the Old Testament passage from Isaiah. The lectionary is proceeding through those two books in course, so the concurrence is purely coincidental, I would imagine.

After Morning Prayer it is my habit to eat breakfast at my desk (sliced Parmesan cheese, an Atkins low-carb bar, and lots of water) while, once again, looking at my email and habitual websites, including the three listed as links from this blog, plus Stand Firm and Drell's Descants. In order to keep up with what the worthy opponents are up to, I regularly take a peak at Praeludium, Telling Secrets, and Father Jake. Now, at this point, I should probably acknowledge that I may be addicted to the internet. I've not done a rigorous self-diagnosis, and I'm certainly not ready to go into recovery. But I'm definitely not in denial either.

After some brief exchanges with Kim and the Junior Warden (who was in the office in his capacity as assistant to the newsletter editor; it's that time of the month) over some administrative concerns, it's 9:30 when I settle in to finish writing the sermon I will deliver this Sunday afternoon (yes, right at kickoff time in the one Super Bowl I was actually planning on watching since, when they're winning, I'm a Bears fan) at the institution of a new Rector in a nearby parish. But I don't get very far, on account of the aforementioned addiction. The little beep from Outlook that tells me I have a new email message diverts my attention, and I see that a friend wants me to look at an article he has written, hopefully for publication, and give my constructive feedback as soon as possible. The subject matter is interesting, I'm flattered to be asked, and I feel I owe it to him as a friend, so I drop my agenda and look at his article.

By the time I finish reading it and inserting my comments, it's nearly 10:30. I bang out two or three more sentences in the sermon, but then I have to head off to the Stockton Rural Cemetery for a graveside service. The guest of honor, represented by her cremated remains, is a woman whom I am told by the friend of hers who made the arrangements was baptized and confirmed at St John's, where they were best buddies. Then she went away to college at Stanford and never returned to live in the city of her birth. She became a reporter for the Washington Post and eventually was more or less the dean of journalists covering the U.S. Senate, and was quite well known, though I must confess never having heard of her. She was an only child, never married, and her only living relatives are distant. A group of about ten of her contemporaries gathered for the brief graveside rite from the Book of Common Prayer. I tried to pad it with some impromptu opening and closing remarks, and speak slowly, so as to make it seem a respectable length. (By the way, I'm not completely joking when I say I have more parishioners at that cemetery than I have in church--the place, like St John's, is as old as Stockton, over 150 years.)

I return to the parish office and report on my interesting time to those who are there, now including, in addition to Kim and the Junior Warden, the editor of our newsletter and the Associate Rector. I then create another two or three sentences in the sermon before heading home for lunch. (OK, if you must know: Sliced deli turkey with shredded Parmesan cheese melted on top and a slice of sprouted whole grain bread.) While I eat, I watch part of a DVD episode of the first season of 24. I know how it all turns out, of course, but now that I know who the bad guys really are, I'm looking for telltale clues that I missed the first time around. That's pretty silly, because there aren't any.

I am about ready to change clothes for my Wednesday walk (my exercise regimen consists of two brisk four-mile walks and two Bowflex workouts per week), when the magnetic pull of the home computer sucks me in, and before I know it, twenty minutes are gone--mostly, though, because I had to restart in order to regain the seemingly lost DSL connection (thank-you, AT& T), and I did manage to get the dishwasher unloaded during the reboot wait.

By the time I take my walk (nothing eventful there), change, and get back to church, it's 2:30. Once again, I plow into the Institution sermon, but only after a somewhat lengthy conversation with one of our deacons about a less-than-happy pastoral situation with a parishioner that she has learned of. By 4:00, after having been diverted yet again by the newsletter editor's request for something to fill a blank column (I dig something up from my electronic files and edit it down to the required length) I've actually got a manuscript printed out and I'm over in the church standing in the pulpit delivering it (that's how I work out the kinks). When I get back I find that I need to return a phone call from a neighboring rector. He wants to schedule lunch this week, so we make it for tomorrow. He's a friend of long standing, but we are on opposite sides of the divide in the current unpleasantness.

At 4:30 I turn my attention to part of the preparation process for the sermon I will deliver on the First Sunday in Lent, some three and a half weeks hence. Yes, I know that sounds a little anal-retentive, but so be it. At any given moment, I have about six Sunday sermons in various stages of gestation. This generally keeps me from panicking about deadlines and makes my Saturday evenings more relaxed. I keep myself focused on this task and ignore the signals of incoming email and wrap it up just as the five-minute bell is ringing for Evening Prayer. My only companion in the evening office is Jim.

When I emerge from the church, I am met by a transient who requests help getting out of town--to Sacramento, specifically. He doesn't look familiar, but says that I had helped him (with cash) to get out of Stockton a couple of weeks ago. If he had known better, he wouldn't have told me that, since I don't encourage repeat customers for such assistance. I pretty much tell him just that, but I am bothered that he shows signs of mental illness (the "echo" is too strong in Stockton and hurts his ears; it's not so bad in Sacramento). He professes fear that he would be attacked if he went to any of the shelters (not an unreasonable fear, unfortunately). I try to sound as discouraging as I can, and allow myself to get distracted by the the Junior Warden and the previous Junior Warden who want to show me the progress they have made cleaning up a store room in the undercroft. When I get back up, "Ronald" is still there. I try to sound discouraging once again and go back into the parish office to take care of some routine end-of-month personal organization chores. I tell myself that if "Ronald" is still on site when I get out, I would take him down to Greyhound and get him a ticket. He is, and I do. This is tricky territory, because I'm not convinced I'm helping him. He needs to be in the mental health system, but I'm pessimistic about my ability to make that happen. So now at least he's off my turf.

It's 6:15 when I pull into my driveway at home. Brenda, as usual, is already into her evening round of piano lessons. I turn on the oven and start the task of sorting the trash (recyclables, green waste, and regular garbage) for tomorrow's pickup. Then I take some pork tenderloin I had bought when I did my weekly shopping on Monday, freeze half of it, take the other half and insert some whole garlic cloves into it, sprinkle it with a little salt and some BBQ dry rub, add a red bell pepper and a sweet onion, and put it in the oven, now at 450 degrees. I then start the evening's work--the semi-monthly task of reconciling credit card statements and paying bills. About ten minutes before the pork is done, I douse it with some garlic and habanero pepper sauce.

At 7:40, I take my dinner to my upstairs den and consume it in front of the last twenty minutes of a CSI:NY episode. Then, back to bill paying. About 9:15 I finish the trash chores and load the dishwasher. By this time, Brenda is off to do errands for and minister to her 90-year old ailing mother in an assisted-living facility. (She gets back close to 11 o'clock.) Then I sit down to write this post. That's my day.

1 comment:

CS Wells said...

Dear Dan,

Thank-you, this was great! I often wonder how my friends, particularly the ones I admire, structure their days.

Can I come over for dinner soon? We can do that pork again, or some other tasty treat. I'll bring the wine and my winsomeness.