Monday, May 21, 2018

In Front of St. Paul's

From the lens of Ryan Haggerty:

Thursday evening, May 17, 2018: Walking north on Columbus Avenue just south of 60th Street, in front of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, mother church of the Paulist Fathers.  At center is the amazing Jennifer Szweda Jordan.  Yours truly (with white temples) is at right.

Jennifer and Ryan were in the Big Apple to cover the Paulist Fathers' Ordination Mass and interview some of the padres for whom I am blessed to work.

Monday, March 19, 2018

In Memoriam: Tripp Zanetis, 1980 - 2018

The 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life" has been replaying in my mind over the past few days.

Specifically, the "Pottersville" scenes have been in my thoughts. These are the alternate-timeline scenes in which the film's protagonist, George Bailey, had never been born and was therefore not present at key moments to provide critical help for his family members, his friends and his town.

On Thursday, somewhere along the Iraq - Syria border, this kind of history-changing, vacuum-creating event took place in our real world when a military helicopter crashed, killing all seven people on board.

Among the lost was Tripp Zanetis, who I had known for about eight years through our common service on the board of directors of the New York University College of Arts & Science Alumni Association (of which I now serve as president).

I am worried that Tripp's death at the young age of 37 will leave a hole in our history similar to that experienced by the fictional Bedford Falls that never knew a George Bailey.

Because, I believe, if Tripp had lived into old age, he would have been a change-maker in our civic life. In fact, he already was one.

A member of the NYU College of Arts & Science Class of 2003, Tripp served as chair of the NYU Student Senators Council (a role which is basically NYU's student body president).

Almost immediately after his graduation, he became active in NYU alumni activities, serving as a faithful member of our various committees in between his tours of duty overseas and his work with the New York City Fire Department.

While earning his law degree at Stanford University in California, Tripp frequently called into our meetings, providing valuable insights of an active alumnus outside of the New York City area.

Be sure to read "Knock With Your Elbows," a beautiful tribute to Tripp by Michelle Wilde Anderson, one of his professors at Stanford Law.  This Facebook post by Tripp's friend Justin Fansler also is required reading. Michelle and Justin eloquently provide many more details on the impact of Tripp's life and service.

The last time I saw Tripp was at our "CAS Alumni Experience and Brand Ambassadors" committee meeting. I asked him then, as I always did, when he was going to let me run his campaign for Congress, only half-joking as we did expect him to run for office one day.

On that night, Tripp flashed his handsome smile and explained he was about to head back to Iraq so any thoughts of political campaigns would have to be postponed a little longer. (But, as you can see from Tripp's Twitter account, our current political crisis was very much in his thoughts.)

But now, that run for New York City Council or U.S. Congress will never happen.

And, Tripp will never be one of my successors as president of the NYU CAS Alumni Association.

And, and, and ... 

But, into this vacuum we must try to step.

In our own ways, we must try to do acts of service and acts of kindness to fill the void left by the tragic end of Tripp's wonderful life.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fly On

Tonight, Eric and I watched some of NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics in Korea.

During the figure skating team event, I was intrigued by the quiet Coldplay song to which Adam Rippon skated: "O" / "Fly On."

How is it possible that I've never heard this 2012 - 2014 piece?

Or, has it just never made an impression on me before?

Whichever, it's lovely and peaceful.

For a listen:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Folk Tunes

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend":

In this video, we hear a selection of folk tunes assembled by Béla Bartók that were presented during an installment of Noontime Concerts in November, 2017, at Old St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.

Cue Laura Griffiths on oboe and Miles Graber at the piano:

Video by Kevin McGlynn.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Saturday, October 28, 2017


I've shared the beautiful folk song "Shenandoah" in this space once before.

It's been a favorite of mine since I sang it with the community chorus in my hometown years and years ago.

Today, I came across a beautiful take on the tune by VOCES8.  Here it is for a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Friday, August 18, 2017


Others have already said this in recent days but it bears repeating:

For the sake of "history," we do not need statues of Confederate generals who fought for the right of some people to own and sell other people.

That's why we have books and films and audio recordings.

We don't have statues of Hitler in the United States of America.  We don't have statues of Emporer Hirohito in the United States.  We don't have statues of Kaiser Wilhem II in the United States.  We don't have statues of King George III in the United States.  All of these men once waged war again our country.  And none of them have been forgotten to history.

But, history does demand this: remembering that Robert E. Lee and every other Confederate general and soldier waged war against the United States for the right of some people to own and sell other people.

These men were defeated by the Union Army. They were enemies of the United States. They were fighting for an evil cause.

And anyone who defends or seeks to honor them today is on the wrong side of history.

P.S. If you call yourself "pro-life" or "pro-family," and you defend the men who fought for slavery, you're neither pro-life nor pro-family.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


For Christian traditions that follow the liturgical calendar, today is the first day of Advent.

It's a special time of prayer and reflection that prepares us to celebrate Christmas.

It's a time when we think a lot about why Jesus came into the world. It's a time when we contemplate our belief that humanity's relationship with God became so broken that God had to come to earth physically and be with us for a time. (Think of your mom yelling, "Don't make me come down there!")

This concept of "broken relationship" has been on my mind a lot lately. It sure does seem like something is broken right now. There's something broken in our country. Something broken in families and among friends.

The presidential election demonstrated that so many of us are not on the same page when it comes to values and priorities.

The election demonstrated that some of the things that really bother me are not the same things that bother some of the people I love. And, as something of an OCD control freak, this bothers me!

I'm also troubled by the extent to which I didn't know this chasm existed. I'm troubled by how out of touch I was, not only with millions of other Americans, but out of touch with the true thinking of many of my own family members and friends.

On Wednesday, November 9, in my anger, I unfriended and blocked on Facebook anyone I saw cheering the election of Donald Trump. Family members, childhood friends, high school classmates, longtime political allies, people who attended our wedding. If you voted for Trump, I was done with you.

And, then came good Pope Francis and some of the priests with whom I work, reminding me that I need to forgive and listen sincerely — that I shouldn't oppose the great orange wall-builder by building walls of my own. Ugh.

All of which brings us to the video below from Sojourners. It's a bit on the dramatic side for my taste. But, it's good for thought in this season of discontent and on this first Sunday of Advent 2016:

Friday, October 02, 2015

How High The Moon

This year, Eric's dad and stepmom are both marking major birthdays as well as their 25th wedding anniversary in December.  Two weeks ago, to help celebrate their milestones, we spent a fun long weekend together in Nashville, along with his Eric's two sisters and their husbands.

That Saturday evening, we went to the Grand Ole Opry.  Among the many performers were the Quebe Sisters (described as "triple-threat fiddle champions").  I was very happy to hear their cover of the '40s jazz standard "How High The Moon."

I've loved "How High The Moon" since I first heard it during the opening credits of the 1988 film "Biloxi Blues" in a lovely slow (even mournful) take by Pat Suzuki.

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here below are both of those renditions.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Silent Wish You Make

Recently, I have been doing some research on the work of lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman.  (Marilyn Bergman is a fellow graduate of NYU's undergraduate liberal arts college.)

While going through the many songs for which the couple has created lyrics, I came across a gorgeous rendition of "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" performed by Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson.

Here it is below as a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


P.S. This song was written for the 1969 film "The Happy Ending." But, I'd say it fits perfectly with the current-day #LoveWins hashtag.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Respect It So Deeply

Two weeks before Eric and I married in June, 2013, I received an email from a friend who is a Catholic seminarian.  In the message, my friend urged me not to proceed with the wedding.  His concerns were strongly-worded but heart-felt.

My friend's message forced me to spend extra time articulating the "why" of our wedding and our marriage.  Amidst the execution of a million last-minute details of a Manhattan wedding, that email compelled me to articulate how our big day was not the repudiation of my faith but the fulfillment of it.

As a Catholic Christian, having identified the other human being with whom I intended to spend the rest of my life, I was compelled to create a special time and place where our family members and friends would come to pray with us and over us -- while being uplifted by sacred music and hearing from sacred scripture.  (Our Liturgy of the Word purposefully began with the chanting of the Taize setting of "Veni Sancte Spiritus.")

As a Catholic Christian, I was compelled to make a public statement of lifelong commitment to the man I loved.  (We did so using the prayers and vows of the Church's Rite of Marriage.)

I never expected to find sentiments akin to this in a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.  But, there they were last week in Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges that has brought marriage equality to ever state in the nation:

The money quote:

" ... Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that the seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. ... "

Amen, Justice Kennedy.  Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jay Livingston's Centennial

Jay Livingston at a McDonald anniversary
100 years ago today, on March 28, 1915, American songwriter Jay Livingston was born in McDonald, Pennsylvania (my hometown).

Earlier this week, the Observer-Reporter's Brad Hundt wrote about his youth in McDonald (when he was still known as Jacob Harold Levison).

Together with Ray Evans, Jay Livingston wrote the standards ''Mona Lisa'' and ''Que Será, Será,'' the 1948 Oscar-winning song ''Buttons and Bows,'' "Tammy" and many other songs.

The pair also wrote the theme music for the television shows ''Bonanza'' and ''Mr. Ed.''

In honor of this centennial, here is a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" of Nat King Cole singing "Mona Lisa."


Flashback: "Hear Them Ring"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pittsburgh Poet


This week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Pittsburgh poet Billie Nardozzi (front page, below the fold).  I read it while riding the A train, loving the chance to learn about a quintessential Pittsburgher.

A bit of James R. Hagerty's story:

... His style is plain spoken, his inspirations diverse. He writes about anything from the comfort of a loyal dog to the pain caused by insensitive relatives. His verse tends to be low on angst. “I hate negativity,” says Mr. Nardozzi, who often writes his poems, longhand, on a lined legal notepad in his home office.

Some of his poems pay tribute to individuals. A recent one, for instance, is dedicated to Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto:

He’s great for this city

And he’s what we have needed

And his ideas for change

Should always be heeded

Mayor Peduto said he has a framed copy of the poem, mailed to him by Mr. Nardozzi, on his office wall. Representatives of the Queen of England, the Prince of Wales and Conan O’Brien all sent thank-you notes for poems dedicated to them.

Given his penchant for the Beatles, he once penned an ode to the people of the United Kingdom. That poem, called “The British,” reads, in part:

I think you’re the coolest people

Living on this earth

And honestly and seriously speaking

I really think it is there from birth

And you write the most beautiful songs

That I have ever heard in my life

For they speak of passionate love

Between a gentleman and his wife

Many of his poems are published online by the Arkansas Free Press, which welcomes contributions but doesn’t pay for them. “Billie is our most prolific writer,” said Tracy Crain, editor of the Free Press. “He has a very tender heart, and he really has a need to share.” ...
For more, check out this Tumblr page dedicated to Billie's poems.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Stefan Schack, 1972 - 2014

Back in my single days, I dated four people who had birthdays during this middle week of January.  I always wondered what it was that attracted these mid-winter babies to a summer person like me.

One of these old flames was Stefan Schack, whose birthday was today (January 16).  Sadly, this was a birthday that Stefan did not live to see.  He passed away on July 29, 2014.

Stefan had a beautiful, deep voice.  He was a man with devoted friends.  And, he had a keen photographer's eye.  (His Instagram account is a wonderful tribute to his love for architecture and the places he visited.)

Via Facebook, I still can read the messages that Stefan and I exchanged.  After Eric and I announced our engagement, he was so gracious, writing, "Hey stranger - heard you are getting married!  Just wanted to say congratulations - wish you the best ... "

I pray that you are resting in peace, Stefan.  The world is less for your early passing.

And, "Happy Birthday!" one last time.