Mission Hill

After a misinformed trip to see Status Quo turned into a trip to get ice cream atJP Licks, I can now add Mission Hill to my list of Boston neighborhoods to which I’ve sojourned. I’ve driven through before, but never stopped to say hello. Centered at the corner of Tremont St and Huntington Ave, it’s got a nice combination of brownstone apartments, small businesses, chain stores, pubs with names like The Squealing Pig, and the beautifully imposing Brigham & Women’s Hospital. I’d like to go back sometime and go to Flann O’ Brien’s pub, if anyone wants to come along.

In other news, we cleaned up Ronan Park yesterday, followed by a barbecue with the neighbors. We ate burgers and hot dogs with dirt all over our faces and prickly burrs stuck to our shirts. Then a few of us dashed off to UMass Boston to drop off some of our old electronic devices at an e-recycling event they were having. The operations were squeaky-clean: all we had to do was drive through a line of volunteers who took our stuff out of the back and sorted it into different piles on the parking lot. Then it was off to our inaugural church ensemble practice. The ensemble consists of 2 sopranos, 2 altos, and 2 baritones. I love being in a grassroots choir! (I wonder if this term has ever been used before?)

Oh, and last night I played Guitar Hero for the first time. I can see why Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya got hurt playing this game. It is painfully addictive.

Preaching [from] the choir

Last night I went to see the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College give their annual spring concert. Amid all the gospel music, spirituals, folk songs, dancing, colors, and laughter, it struck me how every single song was about God. Not some pantheistic force or distant deity, but the Christian God who is our “hero” who “came and saved the day” as the Kirk Franklin song goes (which they performed). This particular choir was formed to celebrate black creative expression, which has historically been informed and inspired by the Christian faith. When it comes to choral music, at least, black composers and performers have been unabashed about expressing their faith and their creativity together. I’ve been a part of a lot of discussions about how to engage the culture while keeping the faith. I’ve analyzed this issue a lot. I’ve read H. Richard Niebuhr’s five relationships between the Christian and culture. I’ve struggled with these things in my own life. And yet, when I go to hear choir music such as I heard last night, it all comes together quite beautifully.

Why such beauty? To be sure, it’s because faith has always been a huge part of black history in this country. But it must be more: of all the choir music I have sung in my life, the best music has been sacred. It doesn’t matter whether it was black gospel, classical pieces, Renaissance music, or any other genre. I may have enjoyed singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” in high school choir, but only in the way I enjoy a piece of frozen pizza after I’ve forgotten what Mario Battali’s pizza tastes like.

I’m reminded of a time in high school when my sisters and two brothers and I were asked to sing an ensemble piece at an interfaith fundraising dinner. There would be Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths there, as well as people of no faith, so we were asked to sing a non-sacred song. We had a difficult time finding anything good that wasn’t sacred, ending up with a Josquin de Prez piece about a cricket’s love story. It was pretty, but the subject matter was uninspiring and even cheesy.

The best choral songs to sing are the ones you want to believe while you’re singing them. Group singing is a communal effort, and it’s an added benefit when you have belief as well as music to bind you together.

A Saturday without tourism

I’ve decided that I can’t understand British humor. At work I keep my mouth shut except for work-related things, unless someone asks a polite question about America. But I don’t even attempt to joke around, because nobody gets it, and I don’t get their jokes either. I suppose it’s all a part of living in a tolerant society – you tolerate others’ sense of humor along with their religion, race, etc. I can’t pinpoint what exactly is different about British humor (or humour), but it just is. I am differentiating this everyday joking around at work from internationally renowned British comedy such as Monty Python and The Office. That stuff I get, for the most part.

Even as I type, Laura is curled up in the stairwell reading Deathly Hallows. I’m waiting for her to finish so I can read it. Last night we went to check out the happenings at the Natural History Museum, where J.K. Rowling was giving her moonlight reading. There wasn’t much to see except for a crowd of eager fans and the well-guarded entrance to the museum, glowing mysteriously red.

(Okay, not really, there was just a red curtain behind the doors).

Other tidbits:

– I just want to say that I’m glad that Daily Show/Colbert are back on after a two-week hiatus. Now I can catch up on my American news!

– The rest of the fam is heading to Maine for vacation today, and they’ll be there for a week. Here’s a shout out to them, even though they won’t be reading this because they’ll have no Internet (ah, that sounds wonderful). Wish I could be there with ya.

– If anyone out there visits London and gets a chance to go up on the roof of Parliament, do. It’s well worth it.

– Singing favorite songs from musicals and Disney movies on the streets of London after eating sushi is about the most fun a person can have.

– Summer, you better still be there when I get back to Boston. I need to get my tannin’ on, cause it ain’t happening here.

Scattered abroad

I talked to Grandma Belz on the phone on Tuesday. It was her 88th birthday, and she sounded as chipper as ever. Talking to her is like reaching back to Earth after living on Mars for a while, just to remember what it was like. It gives new meaning to the cliche “down to earth.”

She shares her birthday with my mom, but I didn’t talk to my mom because she is in Budapest with my dad. Grandma and I conversed about the various relatives who are currently abroad and who are going abroad. Anna and soon-to-be-relative Lauri have been in Brussels for months. Emily Belz has been in France this semester. Max is going to Korea this summer to teach English. Cousins Sam and Drew are going to Kenya for three weeks with the Mac Scholars at Covenant. Cousin Julie is going to Ireland in July. Uncle Al and Aunt Julie just got back from two years in England. Laura and I are going to London this summer.

I don’t know why I’m saying all this, except perhaps to illustrate how mobile our generation is. We fly to Asia at the drop of a hat, almost. Meanwhile, Grandma has stayed loyal to Iowa for all these years, and I don’t think she feels like she’s missed a thing. (For one thing, a lot of countries come to her at Cono). Would that I could be that content at age 88, or even now.

While I sit here suffering from the travel bug, Boston continues to be sunny and warm. Evan, Bria, Laura and I went to the beach at midnight on Saturday, but we lasted about three minutes because of the wind. I would like to go again during the more appealing daylight hours. On Sunday, four of us from church are participating in the Mothers’ Walk for Peace to celebrate Mothers Day. We get to walk through 3.6 miles of Dorchester streets and support the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. Word.

bangers ‘n mash

On Monday, Laura and I are off to the land of the royal family, lashings of cream, and the Piccadilly line. I’ve spent three months there before, but that was in the dead of winter, when we trudged across the sheep pasture on cold nights, and then had to re-route ourselves after foot and mouth disease invaded the island. This time it will be summer, and we have these events to look forward to: Tony Blair’s standing down, Harry Potter #7, the Queen’s birthday, and Wimbledon. Not to mention the many gardens in full bloom. Oh, and seeing Anna and Lauri again. And Keri.

So even though I’m missing many momentous events in our church, possible trips to see family, and the nonstop party that is Boston in the summer, I have plenty to which to look forward. I’ll be taking classes, but will make time for Othello at the Globe Theatre, a trip to the National Gallery, a tour of Parliament, and church at All Souls. And much more, if I can help it.

Apparently the age of wisdom is 18

Or so they tell my at the oral surgeon’s office at Caritas Carney Hospital. At 18, the wisdom teeth start to grow in. And I, at 25, am getting them removed rather late in the game. But at least I’m not 30, because the teeth get much harder to extract after that age. I’ve never had surgery before, but people tell me it’s not so bad…just gotta keep taking the painkillers afterwards. Also, I will be stocking up on movies and books, since I’m planning on being laid up for a while.

I hardly ever blog anymore because there’s nothing much to report, at least nothing of interest. If you’d like to know, I am currently writing a speech about human trafficking, putting together a newsletter for BU’s international relations department, writing a 15-page paper about the First Amendment as it relates to the Falwell v. Flynt case, and working on a PR campaign for a local homeless shelter.

Oh, and on Tuesday night Laura and I will be going to hear Stephen Protherospeak at BU’s Barnes & Noble about his latest book on religious literacy in America. He has gotten a lot of media coverage for this book, which goes to show how prominent in people’s minds this topic is.

April showers bring May flowers

April snow brings…I don’t know. Hey, that works.

Yes, it snowed today. Yes, I am tired of hearing about my relatives in warm, sunny places like Chattanooga, Slovakia, France, and DC. Yes, I chose to live in Boston. Yes, I was warned about Aprils here. Moving on.

Baseball season is here. Every opening day I’m reminded of when Uncle Jim pointed out the verse in “Our God Our Help in Ages Past” that says: “They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the op’ning day.” Hopefully this is not prophetic for the Cards this season. I don’t want any dreams dyin’.

I have to write a commencement speech in the style of how the President of the US would write a commencement speech. Not sure how to start it, but I know how I’ll end it: “God bless you all, and God bless America.” (BTW, this speech is not Bush-specific. Perhaps I should try to imitate Reagan? Or better yet, JFK?)

Lastly, read this debate between Rick Warren and Sam Harris about the existence of God. The most interesting line from Harris is this one: “How is it fair [for God] to have created a system where belief is the crucial piece, rather than being a good person?” An interesting question indeed, and during this Holy Week I am glad that I don’t have to find favor with God through my own goodness.


I stole this off of funke’s blog

I’ve never done anything like this before, so I thought I’d give it a shot:

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:30 am

2. Diamonds or pearls? Pearls

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Amazing Grace (I saw this with funke!)

4. What is your favorite TV show? Seinfeld for live action, Simpsons for animated

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? cereal

6. What is your middle name? Jean, after my grandmother

7. What is your favorite food? The sweet potato/butternut squash category

8. What foods do you dislike? Mangoes, sadly

9. Favorite chips? Tortilla chips with salsa

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Arcade Fire “Neon Bible”

11. What kind of car do you drive? Public transportation

12. What is your favorite sandwich? real turkey with goat cheese and avocado

13. What characteristics do you despise? Micro-managing, second-guessing, and long-windedness

14. What are your favorite clothes? My black shirt that goes with everything

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it
be? probably Thailand

16. Favorite brand of clothing? Anything at Marshall’s

17. Where would you want to retire? I’m not planning to retire, but if I do I want to be around siblings and cousins

18. Favorite time of day? Bedtime

19. Where were you born? Cedar Rapids, IA

20. What is your favorite sport to watch? Baseball, although basketball is a close second

21. Who do you think will not send this back? I am not sending it to any one.

22. Person you expect to send it back first? I am not sending it to any one.

23. Pepsi or Coke? Coke

24. Beavers or ducks? Ducks are cute

25. Are you a morning person or night person? I am a sleepy person, so neither

26. Pedicure or manicure? Pedicure

27. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share? Going to London this summer!

28. What did you want to be when you were little? A teacher or a writer (ha)

29. What is your best childhood memory? When my parents would go out, my siblings and I would put on the Mickey Mouse record and dance in the living room. We would turn out all the lights, one person would stand with a flashlight in the middle of the room on a stool, and the rest of us would dance in a circle around it. Or sometimes we would go play kick the can with the neighbors. (But most of the time when my parents would go out, I would cry because I dreaded the torture that would surely come from my older brothers in their absence.)

30. Piercing(s)? ears

31. Ever been to Africa? Yes, to Benin on Mercy Ships

32. Ever been toilet papering? Nope

33. Been in a car accident? Yes, several. One time when we were very little and driving through Iowa, we went off the road. Another time I drove into another car on a curve because of black ice. The most recent time I pulled out onto St. Elmo Ave when a car was coming and my driver’s side door got bashed in. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in any of these incidents.

34. Favorite day of the week? Sunday

35. Favorite restaurant? Hm. Right now it’s the Shanti Indian Restaurant down the road. I also like St. John’s in Chattanooga, but can’t afford to eat there.

36. Favorite flower? Hydrangeas

37. Favorite ice cream? Right now, Americone Dream. Generally I like pecan praline.

38. Favorite fast food restaurant? Subway, I guess. I hardly ever eat fast food.

39. How many times did you fail your drivers test? For some reason I can’t remember, but I think none.

40. From whom did you get your last email? Ben Kaufmann

41. In which stores would you choose to max out your credit card? Grocery store

42. Bedtime? 10:30 or 11 (I told you I like to sleep)
43. Who are you most curious about their responses to this? Nobody

44. Last person you went to dinner with? Laura, high school friend Elizabeth, and her friend Katie

45. What are you listening to right now? 95.3, Boston’s classical/jazz station

46. What is your favorite color? Sage green

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