A year later, another visit

A year ago today I spent the afternoon at Hollywood Beach while I waited for friends to join me for a visit to Ben Novak in Ave Maria ninety minutes west. And a year later I’m back where I was, having flown into Fort Lauderdale and enjoying a beautiful day. This weekend I’ll be in Ave Maria with Ben again, along with Alex Smith from Philadelphia and Kevin Horne from State College. I sat beneath a palm tree, leaning against its truck and drifting in and out of sleep for a little while; woke up at one point to capture this scene:

A visit to Old Heidelberg is in the calendar for this evening.

Wrigley Field, Cubs v. Brewers

I’m at Wrigley Field this afternoon for Cubs v. Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee is about 90 minutes north, and we drove into Chicago the other day. Basically the equivalent of New York/Philadelphia. It felt like a neighborhood game, and was nearly a thrashing except for the Brewers late-effort to bring it from 13-1 to 13-6 in the 9th inning. Beautiful but somewhat chilly day. Lakeview immediately around Wrigley is changing quite a bit.

Dissonance in Milwaukee

I went for a run in Milwaukee the other day. Along Lake Michigan’s shore the Milwaukee Art Museum stands out, suggesting itself as a symbolic anchor of the city skyline. It seems to me like the boldest declaration of a post-20th century reinvention of Milwaukee as a great midwestern city. The Art Museum’s “wings” appear to “flap” over the course of each day. It’s a fanciful and striking structure both from afar and close up.

As you come upon the museum however, you find a startling and depressing piece of public art: a literal wreck.

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I thought about searching online for the story of this wreck, if there is one. But I realized it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it’s supposed to represent, it’s just a wreck. I have hope that it’s meant to speak to something like the need to prevent auto accidents. Maybe even that’s wishful thinking.

In any event, is this the best the Milwaukee Art Museum has to offer? There will always be a higher number of people visiting the courtyard of the museum and enjoying the shorefront like I was than there will be actual visitors admitted inside the museum. And with that in mind, this is what was chosen as the most prized and most visible piece of art the museum has to display:

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In its own way, it’s perfectly symbolic of so much of the artistic sensibility of our time: a grand and boastful exterior that–whatever it contains in its interior–makes no attempt to compliment the beauty of its surroundings or console the common person.

Tombs

I’m in Washington for a couple of days this week. One of my favorite places here is the Tombs. It’s a cozy little Georgetown bar with its own $3 “Tombs Ale,” just light enough that you can have plenty of them without feeling much. The posters on the wall, the bricks in those walls and the conversations and time that they bear silent witness to, the brass of the bar railings and the little plaques commemorating people past and still among us, the booths where the little conspiracies of life are still sprung—this place is the sort that allows one to feel like they’re living with a coherent tradition, even if they’re just passing through.

The Tombs is just above the “Exorcist steps” on the edge of Georgetown’s campus. Trinity Church is just around the corner, and Wisemiller’s deli is next door.

I’ve never lived in Washington, and I’ve only spent passing time in this neighborhood, but the Tombs and its immediate surroundings are an example of the sort of place and neighborhood feel that Jane Jacobs celebrates for their unplanned diversity, their history, and their value as gathering places amidst the newer and less human-feeling parts of a place.

Until next time…

EWTN

I spent yesterday at EWTN, Mother Angelica‘s “global Catholic network,” near Birmingham. I visited EWTN almost exactly a decade ago on a road trip, but this was the first time I had a real reason for being there. We celebrated 7am daily mass with Archbishop Chaput in memory of Terri Schiavo, which was broadcast a few times later in the day. The homily is available below:

Afterwards Archbishop Chaput, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, and Bobby Schindler, who I work with at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, sat down for an hour-long conversation that will air later this year. It was a good, wide-ranging conversation about the best way to honor the dignity of our brothers and sisters throughout their lives.

I was supposed to fly out of Atlanta last night, but my Delta flight ended up being swept up amidst hundreds of cancellations and delays; some of the people at the airport have been there for days waiting for a flight. After Ubering into downtown Atlanta I stayed the night at the Inn at Peachtrees and am now at the airport ready to fly out on American, since my rescheduled Delta flight wouldn’t have left until early Sunday morning.

This was a good and worthwhile trip. We’ve got to do more to speak coherently and comprehensively about human dignity from the beginning to the end of life, as well as throughout life especially for medically vulnerable, disabled, elderly, and other persons who are victims of indifference.

Anticipating the Hyperloop

I’m writing this while standing in line for my zone to board a Delta flight. I’m in Atlanta, connecting to Birmingham. The flight’s been delayed more than an hour, and now a hundred or so passengers are standing in their line because an optimistic gate attendant thought their administrative problems were going to be fixed in short order. They’re still not fixed, and now dozens of people ate getting edgy because they were delayed and now they’ve been standing a while.

First world problems, but that’s not the point. Delta flights have been cancelled and delayed across the country this week—3,000 or more. Why? Thunderstorms and wind grounded Atlanta flights earlier in the week and the ripple effects of that are playing themselves out as planes have been separated from crew members necessary to fly them. 

I know the data says something like 90 percent (or more, maybe) of domestic flights are on time and have no problems. But even a small percent is still millions of passengers. I’m not particularly bothered by it—I’ll still get where I need to be with plenty of time. 

All of this does have me realizing how likely it is that the Hyperloop (whatever it ends up looking like) will very likely replace huge swaths of demand for domestic travel—an incredibly fast, ground-based, and weather immune transport system that will be fast than flying in most cases. 

I hope it arrives in earnest in my lifetime.

Ave Maria for a week

I’m writing from a rocking chair in the Philadelphia airport, waiting for my phone to charge before heading into the city. Just getting back from a week in Ave Maria/Naples, where I was fortunate to meet, reconnect with, and speak with many good people.

It’s now been five years that I’ve been visiting Ave Maria, and the town seems to be developing nicely, overall. It’s growing in earnest—about 4,000 residents live there now, according to one long-time resident. Ave Maria University doesn’t seem to be growing in a substantial way, but it does seem to be more or less stable. Its identity is evolving, though. A major drama a few years ago was dropping Latin as a requirement, and now a somewhat subterranean drama involves an attempt from the administration to do away with a focus on great literature in favor of a more technical focus on composition.

“If you want to be a great writer you’ve got to learn how to be a great reader.” These words aren’t the unique property of the high school English teacher whom I so vividly remember uttering them, but I think they resonated with me because they speak to the truth. I can’t imagine Ave Maria University will be better or more distinctive if it moves away from its great literature professors.

In any event, I was fortunate to spend the week there amidst work, meetings, planning, and very good friends and people I love.

(I took this photo from the beach in Naples when I arrived last Sunday.)