Wednesday, December 7, 2016


This week's arts and culture column is about one of the prison camps to which, to our everlasting sorrow and shame, the U.S government consigned those of Japanese descent during WWII.

Here's how it begins:

In 1942, the U.S. government ordered more than 120,000 men, women and children from their homes and detained them indefinitely in 10 isolated, military-style camps they called “War Relocation Centers.”

Manzanar — a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, through the Angeles Forest, the Mojave Desert and the foothills of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas — was one of them.

In 1992, the former camp was designated the Manzanar National Historic Site. Driving in, you still pass the sentry tower where armed guards stood watch. I spent three days there in September, perusing the superbly curated exhibits, wandering the extensive trails through abandoned blocks of barracks, praying in the derelict gardens. The contrast between the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the misery that had been borne beneath their shadow was stark.

In the wake of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove “any and all persons” of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

Notices went up giving Japanese citizens mere weeks or even days to pack up their belongings and report to be transported by armed train to internment camps.

Commercial fishermen who had been out to sea were detained as they stepped off their boats in San Pedro. U.S. citizens with no idea whether they would ever return sold their furniture and appliances for a pittance. Restaurants were closed. Pets were left behind. Prisoners were not allowed to ship personal items or household goods — they could bring only what they were able to carry.



Saturday, December 3, 2016


Yesterday I was able to steal away in the afternoon to the world-class Huntington Library and Gardens which is located a mere few miles from my home.

The place has to be experienced to be believed and bowls me over anew every time I visit. For years I've been meaning to set aside a visit exclusively for the library. And for years, every time I go, I'm sidetracked by the acres of gardens--roses, herbs, a Japanese tea garden, the Chinese garden, the California garden, the children's garden.

But most of all, and forever, the desert garden.

Much is in bloom and the coolish-for-Southern-Cal weather makes for perfect ambling. I spent close to a couple of hours peering, oohing, aahing, sighing, gasping in wonder, and giving praise.

I walked much of the rest of the grounds afterward. But a person can take in only so much at a time, and I came to rest on a bench beneath a tree near the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries.

What is it about this time of year that fills us with so much joy and makes us so sad at the same time?



Last night I attended Bob's Holiday Office Party, a play co-written and produced by my friend Joe, who also headlines as Sheriff Joe Walker. It's probably the 12th or 14th time I've seen the show (they're in their 21st year). It's still finny,  still opens my heart, and still somehow both fills me with joy and makes me sad after all these years.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


I welcome these early-dark days, and the winter coolness in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. Constantly seeking out quiet, I walk frequently to the chapel at St. Elizabeth of Hungary to pray Vespers.

Above is the doorway of the main church, and a shot of the Westminster Presbyterian Church just south of St. Elizabeth.

Thanksgiving day, before wrapping up my polenta pine nut torte and departing for my friend Julia's,
I walked up to the church as well. I knew the chapel would be closed but the walk was itself lovely, what with the changing leaves, brisk-ish for Southern Cal air, and smell of cooking turkeys wafting o'er the sidewalks.

I sat for a bit in the Mary grotto.

Then I walked around to this side niche and prepared my heart for Advent.


Sunday, November 20, 2016



This week's arts and culture piece begins like this:

William Griffith Wilson was born on Nov. 26, 1895. For recovering alcoholics the world over, the fact that the date falls near Thanksgiving is no accident.

Several years ago, California-based producer Dan Carracino and New York City director Kevin Hanlon became fascinated by Bill’s story and the phenomenon of Alcoholics Anonymous. Their documentary “Bill W.” was released in 2012 and recently aired on PBS SoCal.

ANGELUS: Neither of you are alcoholics. Why Bill Wilson?

Kevin: About 10 years ago I happened to be reading Ernest Kurtz’s book about AA history — “Not-God” — which I found to be a page-turner. It’s a fascinating story even if you’re not an alcoholic or don’t have people in your life who are alcoholics. Bill W. was on the precipice of destruction, of death, and found a way out that no one else had been able to find before, at least not on the scale that he did.

Dan: It’s just a fantastic story. No one knew how much was hanging in the balance that afternoon in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio, where, on May 12, 1935, Bill made the fateful phone call that led him to AA co-founder Dr. Bob Smith. The whole trajectory of the history and treatment of alcoholism changed that afternoon. It changed because Bill figured out that in order to keep sober himself, he had to help another drunk.


Thursday, November 17, 2016


I've been following along with the daily entries in a book I gather was wildly popular in its day: My Utmost for His Highest by old-timey Protestant guy Oswald Chambers (1874-1917).

The entry for November 16 reads in part,

"We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It's one thing to go through a crisis grandly yet quite another to go through life glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, 'What a wonderful man of prayer he is!' or 'What a great woman of devotion she is!' ...

To be utterly unnoticeable requires God's spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint's life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the level of human life."

To be faithful on the level of human life means that, long before a crisis arises, we have pondered the deepest questions of existence. We have already ordered our lives, hearts, bodies, and blood to the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, the discriminated against, the disenfranchised and all the powerless of the world--never forgetting that, left to our own devices alone, we, too, are powerless

We have one ear perpetually cocked to the Sermon on the Mount. Our routine of prayer, patience, gratitude, creative nonviolence, hope, and the seeking of beauty is in place.

We have a long way to go.
We continue our sowing.


Monday, November 14, 2016



From Fr. Ron Rolheiser's column this week, entitled "Our Resistance to Love:"

"Sensitive people, on the other hand, struggle with the rawness of intimacy because genuine intimacy, like heaven, is not something that can be glibly or easily achieved. It’s a life-long struggle, a give and take with many setbacks, a revealing and a hiding, a giving over and a resistance, an ecstasy and a feeling of unworthiness, an acceptance that struggles with real surrender, an altruism that still contains selfishness, a warmth that sometimes turns cold, a commitment that still has some conditions and a hope that struggles to sustain itself.

Intimacy isn’t like heaven. It is salvation. It is the kingdom. Thus, like the kingdom, both the road and the gate towards it are narrow, not easily found. So be gentle, patient and forgiving towards others and self in that struggle."

We resist love but we also ceaselessly seek love, insist upon love, blast through every obstacle to burst through with fresh love and new life.

Last week I hiked the Altadena Crest Trail in the San Gabriels, not far north of my apartment.

I was struck by these roots from some native bush--a kind of buchwheat perhaps--that were emerging from and growing along what appeared to be solid rock..

In spite of everything, heaven and nature sing.