#821 – Dick Bernard: A thought to help make a Happier New Year in 2014

My friend, Bruce, following up on the December 29 post on the Homeless Guy sent along a note with his own link earlier this evening, a “pay it forward” story: “It’s better to give than receive” here.
It’s a neat story.
About the same time, Molly sent along a neat Australian “flash mob” video, saying “oh I do love flashmobs, and, don’t miss the little boy at the end (watch ’till the final credits pop up). Enjoy, and a Happy New Year!”
And to you, too, all of you. Happy New Year.
I wrote back to Bruce that his piece reminded me of an incident I had experienced on Christmas eve a week ago at the local car wash here in Woodbury.
It was a terrible day to get a car wash, with snow accurately predicted for the next day, but I had finally reached my own limit on how dirty and for how long I could stand my little car without at least having a rinse.
So, I got in the very short line at the car wash I normally use. This would be easy: I had one coupon left. And all I had to do was to wait for the black SUV in front of me to finish its own wash.
I did as I normally do, but this time the check in pad gave odd instructions which I hadn’t seen before. I thought there was a malfunction. When the SUV finally pulled out, the auto-voice told me to drive ahead, and wouldn’t accept my punched in password or coins.
I was thinking that, for sure, I would end up stranded inside the car wash. The doors would close, and nothing would work.
Voila, I got the car wash for free.
The only logical reason for the freebie was that whoever was ahead of me had paid for my wash – sort of an early Christmas present from a stranger.
It was, certainly, a small deal. Just a tiny act of unnecessary and unexpected kindness.
The happening has stuck in my mind, along with the other extra small kindnesses that seem to happen a bit more often during this season than as a matter of course.
After reading the link, I wrote back to Bruce, as follows: “Neat story, and it’s true. It has occurred to me (may end up a year-end blog) that if each of us did, each day, a single unnecessary kind thing for somebody else, the country would be a different place.
I didn’t relate to Bruce my own ‘trigger incident’, the one I’ve just described, that led to my observation.
So, in a few hours a new year starts here. And my simple proposal is to consider doing something unnecessary and nice to/for someone who’ll not be able to pay you back.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal thing: most any little thing will do in this too stressful world in which we live.
Nobodies keeping score.
Have a great New Year.
from Lydia, Jan. 1
Wonderful story of “pay it forward” man pretending to be homeless. It was a few years ago that one heard of (or saw a button proclaiming) “Random Acts of Kindness & Senseless Beauty”.. How would the U.S. be transformed by more acts such as these? if nothing else, a person doing these acts is changed.
Thanks for the reminder!

#820 – Dick Bernard: The Homeless Guy

UPDATE: This commentary has several comments. They can be found both in the Responses section of this post, as well as directly below the content of the originating post. One of the last updates, from myself, includes a few paragraph comment made in in 1982 by the then-Director of Catholic Charities of St.Paul-Minneapolis, Monsignor Jerome Boxleitner. It is an especially power commentary on the issue of the homeless and society at large. You can read it here: Mgsr Boxleitner 1982001
We’re accustomed to street folks at Basilica of St. Mary, so when I saw the guy standing in the parking area this morning, it was nothing unusual. What was unusual was that he was standing in the line of traffic into the church. He had a cardboard sign that said “Homeless”. I had to pass by him going into the church, and I said “good morning”, and didn’t leave a dollar.
I rarely do.
It was cold, zero degrees at church time, but sunshiny and calm, and this man was dressed for the weather.
This was not a desperate time for him.
I walked on towards the church, and the guy caught up with me and passed by muttering something about going to jail, which seemed directed at me, but he just walked on, catching up with some other guy with a backpack and the two disappeared towards nearby downtown Minneapolis.
There was a little twinge of guilt, but, honestly, not much. Basilica has a very active social justice ministry with a broad range of programs to assist the disadvantaged in many ways, and this man was within a block, or less, of a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the rectory, or coffee and donuts in the lower level of the church, and he wouldn’t be considered a nuisance, in fact he’d be welcomed. And the downtown Minneapolis Branch of Catholic Charities, that deals pretty specifically with homeless is three short blocks away. And we contribute a lot to both the Church and Catholic Charities.
Basilica is very heavily involved in helping those “down on their luck”.
Inside the Church, it was the Feast of the Holy Family, and the celebrant, Fr. Graham, preached a most meaningful homily about Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger at Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Most everyone, Christian or not, knows this story. Today, Fr. Graham put the scene in clearer context talking about what society was like back then: hierarchical and male dominated, women and children exceedingly vulnerable, an entire people essentially subjects of an alien government, nobody safe and secure. Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a smelly barn, as it were, surrounded by barn smells. No room in the Bethlehem “Holiday Inn”….
Fr. Graham didn’t know what I had experienced a half hour or so earlier.
The two experiences caused me to think a lot, today, about this entire issue of people and society.
At Basilica, it is recommended NOT to give money to the occasional panhandlers outside. It might seem a surprising position, but apparently is shared by other churches similarly situated: to give is to in effect enable unproductive behavior by such entrepreneurs as the man who I’d passed by. Charity is easily available, and given without question or judgement, but the movement to justice for such folks is not helped along by encouraging a career of begging, or so I remember the surprising column in our Church newsletter some months earlier. [NOTE JAN 2, 2014 see comment and link from Janice Andersen, and my comment, at end of this post]
But this day, my thoughts were also impacted by the sermon about the old days of 2000 years ago, augmented by the news of the previous day, announcing the cutoff of long term unemployment benefits by the Congressional Budget Agreement in Washington.
Was Basilica’s recommendation the same as the policy of Congress? How did these fit with the norms of the harsh society of 2000 years ago?
The man who was cadging me would have been pleased to get a buck. I don’t know if he was “homeless” – all I know is that he had a sign so announcing – an advertisement as it were. I also knew that he knew something about marketing, where to set up his temporary business for greatest likelihood of success.
How did he differ from other entrepreneurs, including those who’ll make a billion dollars this year alone?
Probably no difference at all: just a matter of number of zeroes following the $1.
Will we ever end the problem of stark inequity? Probably not.
Should we stop trying? Certainly not.
Is there a legitimate need for a social safety net broader than simply the man’s family? Of course, there is. Children and women are most often the victims of disequity; Vets, addicts, mentally Ill often fall through the cracks. And that’s where government, the private sector, and institutions like churches and ourselves come in. All are needed on the team.
Did I act appropriately, not giving the guy a buck? I don’t know. I think I pay for this guys care in other ways and I can understand and appreciate the Church’s position on the matter of discouraging panhandling.
But maybe I’m wrong.
POSTNOTE Jan. 2, 2014:
from Janice Andersen of Basilica of St. Mary: Attached (Janice Andersen Sep 16, 2012) is something that was published in September 2012. I am not sure if this is what you were referring to in your note. This basically states the guidelines that the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness agreed upon.
I would put a stress on the preamble, which invites people to follow their heart and conscience. There is no black and whit in this, for sure. Also, I put a stress on the first point, which encourages relationship.
Thanks for your thoughtful communication and dialogue!
Peace, Janice
Dick to Janice: The attachment is what I referred to. Thank you. Very helpful. This is a vexing issue, as can be noted by the additional comments. Lurking not far in the background for any Christian, of course, is the message that the divine manifests in the sick, the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, etc. Then the issue becomes how best to help, when you know that some (many?) are simply masquerades?
It has been a good dialogue, and I hope it continues.
In addition to the following, there are comments made directly to this post. Click responses tab at the end of the post to see those.
I have not yet found the originating commentary from the Basilica Sunday newsletter, but did find an e-mail I wrote about a meeting I had attended at Basilica nearly five years ago which speaks for itself. You can read it here: JaniceAndersen022209 (Janice Andersen, who authored the commentary I speak of above, directs the social ministries at Basilica of St. Mary. She is a Saint, highly respected. “Families Moving Forward”, referred to in my letter, gives emergency housing to homeless families, and is a shared venture between about a dozen Minneapolis downtown churches.
from Carol T: Interesting, Dick. I understand how you felt. My son and family live in So. Minneapolis, and we take the Cedar exit. There’s almost always someone standing at the bottom of the ramp with The Sign. You don’t know my son, but honestly, he and his wife are some of the kindest people I know (and what a warm feeling to be able to say that 🙂 Both of them work in senior care, and are involved in more neighborhood helping projects than I know about. So I was as surprised as you were about your church’s position when my son lectured me long ago NOT to give to those on the ramp. He claimed that if you do, and then watch, they just head across the street to the nearest bar.
I think it was last winter when I was on my way to their house and it was below zero. There was actually a woman standing at the bottom of the ramp. Big sucker me – I stopped and gave her a little money. When I told my son and hubby, they both jumped on me…
My son knows the neighborhood, and I respect what he says. However. Once he was talking about someone they knew who they found out had fallen on the proverbial hard times, and they actually saw the guy standing on an interchange ramp… What hurts is that somewhere there may be that one deserving person.
Here’s what I did once. There was a young man (but already minus several teeth) standing on Robert Street with The Sign. I stopped and said that I was going to go eat across the street at Taco Bell, and if he walked over there and met me, I’d feed him. He did, and I did. He told me a story of how he was living in the woods with some people somewhere near Robert Street, in a shack which included an illegal heater, etc. He said he was looking for work but didn’t have a resume or any way for someone to reach him. I was teaching an ESL class near there on Robert Street at the time, and I told him if he’d show up at my next class with any info, I’d print him up a resume. Of course he never did.
Now there’s sometimes a guy in a wheelchair on the Cedar ramp. If I get caught by a red light, I busy myself digging in my purse or whatever – and of course feel really guilty. But also. If you watch how many drivers actually do “donate,” even if they are only handing over a dollar, those guys are definitely making more than minimum wage…
One other observation: Over the years I think only once have I ever seen a misspelling on one of those signs. Now, the general run of the population (I’m sorry to say) has a much worse record than that… Political protests and such – misspellings all over the place. I have this vision of them scheduling their shifts (there’s never more than one on those ramps) and then handing off those signs at the end… :\
But still it hurts – and it probably should. Maybe next time invite him to church…
PS from Carol: link here.
from Lydia H: Here are some of my thoughts re:your experience w/The Homeless Guy & its larger context from my own perspective.
For most of the 25 years I’ve been in Minneapolis, I’ve lived within a few blocks of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. It’s a regular part of everyday life for me to be asked for money when I;m waiting for the bus or walking somewhere. Sometimes I give money, sometimes I don’t.. Sometimes I feel guilty about not giving, sometimes I feel intruded upon by those who ask for money. As with your experience, sometimes “panhandling” feels like an “enterprise” —not desperation. As a low-income person myself, I think I have some “intuition” on this. Sometimes I don’t give simply because I don’t feel safe pulling my wallet out on the street with a stranger.
Over the last 25 years what I’ve noticed most—both “on the streets” and in the upper levels of “power” in our society (government & media) is an increased MEANNESS. Those at the top demonize the poor more & more, snipping away at what;’s left of the safety net. The latest attack is cutting $40 Billion from FOOD assistance, but, Minnesota hasn’t raised the welfare grant for families on the bottom in 27 YEARS—so,, while certainly still better than my home state of Texas (which is currently REFUSING to accept federal govt money to expand Medicare for healthcare for the poor)—something has shifted. And that means it’s also shifting at “street level”, too: random violence that makes no sense reported to regularly on the 6 o’clock news or considered “fun”, like the rampage of hundreds of teens (organized through Facebook) in a NY shopping mall.
Is “inequality” the reason for these things? In significant part, yes. But, I think it’s also a fraying of SHARED social expectations–whether to care about each others well being or that some behavior is simply totally UN-acceptable–regardless of one’s economic status. The Wall Street “banksters” felt no shame at robbing the nation blind and street thugs seem equally blind to conscience.
Yes, we must reverse the widening chasm of inequality. But, we must also close the gaps in connection and compassion. Raising the minimum wage or demanding a stronger safety net and more job creation is a lot easier than deepening our connections and compassion.
from Madeline: I don’t trust the motives of panhandlers, and have often thought, if anything, one should hand them a card telling where help is available. A buck plus a few others wouldn’t solve the problem of homelessness, unless this a very successful panhandling entrepreneur, which perhaps a few are, and if it is that lucrative, it really wouldn’t be legitimate need, but rather a scam. More likely, the few dollars received in this way would go for alcohol or other drugs.
from Jeff P: I always struggle with that, but we also give to local charities that help the homeless.
The one thing the billionaires and the panhandlers have in common, the income ends up tax free, the billionaires thru loopholes in the system, the panhandler as it is Cash. That is not a value judgment, just an observation.
Response to Jeff from Dick: I have a friend, who at the time was a Priest in an impoverished area of a major city. One time he told me about the ‘circuit rider” charity folks, who did the circuit of churches for handout, say, enough money for their family to spend the night at a inexpensive hotel. The pastors who knew each other knew these folks, since they were regulars. My friend said that some of them were really good at their pitches, and could really have succeeded in regular jobs, but for whatever reason they stuck with their street trade.
The essential difference between millionaires and the rest of us is, in my opinion, that they have (and know how to use) the power to make the system work in their behalf. The rest of us – the so-called 99% – have even more power, but for assorted reasons, like failing to vote, etc., don’t exercise the great power we possess.
from Judy B: I’ve often thought about the issues you raise in this excellent commentary. For years, I would give money, because need might exist — especially if children were involved. In recent years, I’ve walked by panhandlers without guilt. But I’m starting to feel guilty again. I don’t like my callous self. The other day, when a desperate-looking woman approached me outside [a major store] and said she needed money for food, I told her we would go into the store together and she could pick out the food she needed. She refused, but I’m going to try that tactic again.
from a person who prefers name not be used: One time [then-MN] Gov. Pawlenty wanted them to register as panhandlers??? So Nick Coleman, who wrote for the St. Paul paper, went down to Hwy 55 and asked a woman about her typical day. She said they work in groups, one on the street the other 3 women under a tree. By the end of the day they hope to be able to buy one bag of pot, one bottle of wine..and if they are lucky a sandwich. [Twin Cities homeless advocate] Mary Jo Copeland says not to give money send them to her.
from Peter B: More people should read Richard Wolff and Howard Richards on economic issues. My take is that unless there is a change in the cultural norms, anything we do perpetuates the status quo.
This doesn’t mean don’t give people money, etc., but it does mean that these are conscience-soothing but futile gestures. ON the other hand, the homeless guy can’t be making much even if he is merely an “entrepreneur,” so no harm in playing into his game.
Where we need to put our energies is behind substantive change of the rules of the game, which under capitalism are: private property is sacred, contracts must be fulfilled, and investors are free to put their money wherever they like.
If you look at these, they mean the following: if a person has nothing to sell that anybody wants to buy, that person is soon to be homeless, and subject to arrest and indefinite detention. All people, communities, states and nations are at the mercy of the “law” of supply and demand, so they must cut taxes, give away infrastructure, and do whatever the corporations like, or the owners will invest their money some other place where the labor is cheap and the regulations as thin as smoke. Moreover, people are essentially enslaved by this system as life-long workers with no hope of escape.
These cultural norms are totally made-up fictions. There is no “law” of supply and demand, no “invisible hand,” and no reason why a few men in some boardroom should get to decide what to produce, and what to do with the profits. It is a complete scam.
There are many surprising examples around the world in which people have taken over the management of their factories and shops, and manage the distribution of profits in an open and democratic process. But we don’t hear much about them, as the corporate powers that be fear them more than anything, and will stop at nothing to prevent more such successes. It’s why we’re supposed to hate the South Americans and the Europeans and so on.
Meanwhile, those places also enjoy healthcare and unemployment and retirement benefits just for being alive in this world.
So, I guess my take is that the presence of the “Homeless Guy” is a shameful thing, not on him, but on all Americans who have bought this bad deal.
from Dick, Dec. 31, 2013:
It appears that the comments have run their course, as always. As always, there is something to learn from each, whether agreeing or disagreeing.
The most powerful comments, doubtless, are those unexpressed: too close to the surface, too painful, too personal. There was one such comment yesterday at the end of which were some powerful words: “don’t print”. I didn’t, and won’t….
The homeless issue, like any issue, is not simple, and the closer one gets to the day-to-day work with it, including within ones own family, the more complex it gets, though the simple part is always the business of relationship, sometimes impossible to maintain.
I had no relationship context whatsoever with Sunday’s panhandler. His was the “storefront” I didn’t enter, but he did cause me to wonder.
Neither did I relate, as an usher, with the drunk street person who showed up at Mass on Christmas morning, full of Christmas cheer, there to celebrate some long ago memory, but by all appearances likely to interfere with a thousand or more others in the church in one way or another. The gentleman had no boundaries.
What to do?
Everybody was courteous with the gentleman, but one minute I looked and he was gone, most likely ushered out. For every one like him are a large number of others, seeking some kind of personal solace in the church, some very well disguised; some like the guy who quietly sat at the very back of the church, apart from everyone, his apparent wish, standing out, but not outstanding.
In my personal end analysis, with the homeless and the like, it comes down to trying to do a decent job of helping those who need help, wherever they happen to be on their personal journey. Top of the list has to be the most truly vulnerable, the children, and their mothers, and the mentally ill. But there are more as well for whom the family has to be “society” at large (it is called “government”): the people who have no lobby.
Back in 1981, when I was on the Board of Catholic Charities in the Twin Cities, I heard the need powerfully expressed by the then-Director and legendenday Fr. Jerome Boxleitner. I and likely others thought his message was so powerful that it was reprinted, and I’ve kept a copy in my file ever since. Here is what he had to say, then: Mgsr Boxleitner 1982001
Have a Happy (and contributing) New Year.
from Kathy M, Jan 1:
The ramps off 35W to St. Joan’s are “staffed” regularly with a revolving group asking for money. I frequently feel conflicted…randomly though seldom give a dollar.
Good discussion with comments and your wrap up. Anyone must be fairly desperate. I always think it would be humiliating to beg.

#819 – Dick Bernard: The Book Thief, book and movie, a recommendation

Yesterday we took our 14 year old grandson to see the film “The Book Thief”.
All of us had read the book: Ryan, two years ago in 7th grade; ourselves, much more recently.
We’d all recommend both the book, and the movie, still in theatres, certainly to come in assorted ways to your home.
The story is set in small town Nazi Germany, beginning 1938, and follows a young girl, Leisl Memminger, orphaned by circumstance, living with a poor couple who haven’t joined the Nazi party.
The book is narrated by the Angel of Death and is highly readable. The movie faithfully tells the story. I’d easily give the film four of five stars.
This is a story about War, and a lesson in how Wars impact on innocent persons.
War is not a single dimension, us versus them, as Death reminds us.
That 14 year old Ryan was with us at the movie helped to give us context with Leisl, of similar age in the movie.
And it especially helped, in our case, that our friend Annelee Woodstrom, who gave us “Book Thief” in the first place, was a 12 year old in 1938 Nazi Germany.
Annelee was born in 1926 in a small town in Germany, and grew up in Nazi Germany, leaving Germany only after the war was over, in 1947. And Annelee’s book about her growing up, War Child, published 2003, has a similar narrative. Annelee was under those Allied bombs in Munich, and almost under them at Regensburg. Her War Child, too, is well worth a read.
War or Peace is a choice we humans make. It makes sense to choose Peace. Too often, we choose War.
(click to enlarge)

Dove, original painted by President Jimmy Carter

Dove, original painted by President Jimmy Carter

from the 2013 greeting card from the Carter Center
WW II Poster

WW II Poster

from a card published by the Battle of Normandy Foundation. The card is “an authentic reproduction of a historic U.S. Armed Services Recruitment Poster fro World War II Artist: Smith and Downe.

#818 – Dick Bernard: A Christmas Tree Decoration. Some thoughts about Christmas time.

Directly related posts to Christmas 2013 are linked here.
Each year my spouse, Cathy, enjoys decorating our Christmas tree, and every year one of the first decorations up is one of the most plain, made by myself, some years before she and I even met.
Here’s both sides of the decoration:
(click to enlarge)

1977 Christmas Card

1977 Christmas Card

I remember all of the details surrounding this small card. It came to be during a difficult period in my life.
Back then, I had a printer do about 50 of these cards, and I used the U.S. mail to send them to a select group of family and friends.
The homemade card became a tradition for me, continuing in one way or another for, now, 36 years.
But it is a difficult tradition to continue.
At the beginning, the process was very simple and straightforward: you did something, and either hand-delivered or U.S. mailed it using addresses in your address book.
By the 1990s e-mail became common; and then came the present day explosion of means of communicating with the frustrating outcome that most of us have experienced in one form or another:
Fewer and fewer use U.S. mail and traditional cards exclusively. Each year there are fewer of these arriving in our mail box.
There’s e-mail, and assorted internet options, such as this delivery means, or others like Facebook, Twitter, and on and on and on.
Most people come to have their own personal preference for receiving/sending messages…and (probably) dislike other means.
I’m one who still likes letters, but most of my letters, this year, will happen after Christmas responding to others who sent cards, notes and Christmas letters.
Then there’s the Facebook crowd – I have lots of “friends” there, but I have never gotten comfortable with how best to use the medium, and as a consequence rarely even visit my Facebook page.
It’s my loss, I know, but I have only so much time.
Then there’s Twitter, Linkup, and all the rest. Great tools (I hear) if used.
Years ago I seem to have coined a phrase that remains true today: “there are more ways to communicate less”. This is enshrined on the internet going back to Nov. 2008, but it actually has its origin for me several years before that.
Christmas Day is now about over in my part of the world, so once more to everyone who might possibly be in reading distance, I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and that you have a great New Year.
When I did my card in 1977, there was no thought of including or excluding the Christian idea of Christs birth as the origin of Christmas. I was and remain an active Catholic; I noted just now that Kahlil Gibran was a Maronite Christian from Lebanon.
The Christmas tree apparently has Christian origins. Initially, the personal tradition was to cut a genuine tree, and suffer through the latter days of needles on the carpet, etc.
For the last many years, the tradition here has been an artificial tree, fancily decorated by Cathy, who will continue looking for new and unusual ornaments. She does good work:
2013 Christmas Tree at the Bernard home.

2013 Christmas Tree at the Bernard home.

We accompany the tree with a traditional nativity scene, carved olive wood, which I purchased in Israel, from a Palestinian merchant, in 1996. It is accompanied by Mary and Joseph carved by a Haitian ca 2003.


Some years ago my Uncle allowed me to borrow a collection of several hundred post cards sent to the North Dakota farm in the very early 1900s. This was a very Catholic family. I looked through the cards, and discovered the topic of Christmas, and other, greetings back in that period in time. You can read the entire article here. Of the 111 “Christmas cards” in the collection, less than 10% had a religious theme to them. This contrasted with Easter cards, which were about 40% religious.
We are and we have always been a diverse country in terms of religious beliefs.
“War” is a relatively recent construct, at least as it is played out in the media.
May there be Peace on Earth, and Good Will towards ALL.

#817 – Dick Bernard: The Eve of Peace as a real Possibility.

Yesterday as I leafed through the Minneapolis Star Tribune I noted the obituary of John Eisenhower, the son of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces at the end of WWII, and later two term President of the United States. John S.D. Eisenhower001
What especially drew my attention was this comment, made about young Eisenhower’s aspirations on graduation from West Point in 1944: “John Eisenhower hoped to see combat as an infantry platoon commander, but his father’s fellow commanders, Gen. Omar Bradley and Lt. Gen. George Patton, feared the impact on his father if he were killed in action or captured. He was assigned to intelligence and administration duties in England and Germany.”
That there was concern about Eisenhower’s emotional reaction if something happened to his son is not surprising. What did surprise me was the expression of very human feeling by two high level commanders about their even higher level commander was specifically mentioned in the obituary itself. Perhaps that is why the on-line obituary differs from the print edition linked above. We like our war heroes to have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.
But War kills, in more ways than just physical death.
All who have ended up in battle somewhere, or lost a friend or relative to war, know this.
Just last Friday, I had displayed models of the USS Arizona and the Destroyer Woodworth DD 460 at the local Caribou Coffee, and a lady came up and recalled her Dad’s visit to Dachau after the liberation of that horrible death camp at the end of WWII.
She said he never wanted to talk about what he’d seen.
I asked for her address, and later that same day sent to her a recollection of a visit to that same camp, at the same time, by another GI who, his niece told me some years ago, was tormented by the experience for the rest of his life. His writing and photographs are here: Omer Lemire at Dachau001
Within Omer’s text is this quote: “…we received word (posted on the bulletin board) from Generals Patton and Eisenhower, encouraging us to visit newly liberated Dachau Camp in order to witness for our children and grandchildren the horrible destruction between human beings…”man’s inhumanity to man”. I believed that we would be witnessing a historical event but had no idea what I was about to experience. This singular event changed me for the rest of my life….”
Tomorrow is Christmas, and celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
This season, for the first time in a long time, I see significant openings for the pursuit of peace, in small and not so small ways. I referred to this in my December 7 post, here.
The route to Peace is rough and ragged, but it is certainly a better option than staying on the rutted path of War, the practice to which we have too long been accustomed.
In all the ways you can, make this season truly a season of Peace.
Merry Christmas.
Today, relook, or look for the first time, at the recounting of the Christmas Day Truce during World War I. There are many writings about this. Pick one or more from this menu of choices.

#816 – Dick Bernard: A not-at-all-ordinary Christmas Gift.

Last Friday my friend Kathy gave me a plain unwrapped CD of Christmas season music: “Home for Christmas” by Susan Boyle. The CD is very good. That was expected.

CD cover, 2013

CD cover, 2013

Susan Boyle is known to me.
One of my first first blogs, mid-April, 2009, was about Susan Boyle’s appearance on the international scene. I saw the remarkable clip from her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent on CBS evening news, and listened to the YouTube clip over and over.
So did tens of millions of others.
The original 7 minute clip, referred to at the blog, is no longer available “copyright claim” it says, but there are numerous other existing clips of the same appearance. Here’s one of them.
At the time, I recall, there was ample skepticism about this remarkable performance by this remarkable lady. This was a “flash in the pan”, perhaps even lip synch. She said she wanted to be like the famed Elaine Page….
She won this semi-final, but ultimately another group won the finals of this round of Britain’s Got talent, and on life went.
A few months later, she did a duet, with Elaine Page, before a live audience.
About the same time, her first CD was released. I still have it.
But as with most everything in our lives, time passes by and Susan was “out of sight, out of mind”.
This years CD caused me to re-visit Susan Boyle – what was she up to in her life?
At the same YouTube, I scrolled through the possibilities and came across an extraordinarily interesting 45 minute TV show, released this year, about Susan Boyle today.
It culminates with her recent appearance in Houston at the first appearance on her first world tour.
I opened it yesterday afternoon, expecting to watch only a few minutes, but it was gripping, and I watched it all. She copes daily with life-long anxiety attacks, related to Asperger’s Syndrome.
You can watch it here.
I highly recommend it.
Susan Boyle is a wonderful example of tenacity and courage.
I wish her well. As we all know, from dealing with our own “disabilities”, whatever they are, you don’t just get over them, and they can be a lifelong issue to deal with.
Apparently, Susan conquered her Everest and even if this is her first and only world tour, she deserved congratulations. She’s an inspiration.
And, thank you, Kathy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

#815 – Dick Bernard: What we did on our vacation: A not-so-ordinary Road Trip from North Dakota to California, 1941

“We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last….”
Merry Christmas! This blog quite naturally follows two previous blogs about 1940: here and here. UPDATE Dec. 24 post, also related.
Today would have been my Dad’s 106th birthday (born Dec. 22, 1907). Today, his daughter, my sister Mary Ann, arrives on the Big Island of Hawaii from Vanuatu for a visit with her kids and grandkids and our niece Georgine and partner Robert. Her last 15 months in the Peace Corps is chronicled here, the most recent post, Dec. 18, at the end.
It seems a perfect day to recall a June, 1941, trip I took with my family from rural North Dakota to Long Beach California. The narrator is my Dad, Henry, RIP Nov 7, 1997.
I was one year old at the time. The travelers were Grandma and Grandpa Bernard, Mom and Dad, and I.
We traveled by car.

Here’s some background and the “cast of characters”: my parents were age 33 and 31 at the time of the trip; my oldest grandparent, Grandpa Bernard, was 69 (I’m 73, as I write); the youngest, Grandma Busch, was 57. Grandpa Bernard had a love for machines. Fixing a car enroute would have been no problem for him. Mom’s siblings, my Uncle Vince and Aunt Edith, were 16 and 21…. Dad’s sister, Josie, would have been 37; his brother, Frank, 25.
By 1941, Bernard’s were no stranger to travel: Grandpa migrated to North Dakota from Quebec in the 1890s, and in 1898, sailed to the Philippines via Hawaii to be a soldier in the Spanish-American War. Grandma and Grandpa had first gone to Los Angeles in November 1935 for daughter Josie’s wedding. They likely traveled by train, visiting people they knew in Oregon along the way. Beginning in 1937 they became a regular part of the North Dakota winter community in the Los Angeles area, living in Long Beach.
Josie’s husband, Alan Whittaker, had died after surgery only three years or so into their marriage, about 1938. In 1939 she took a major cross-country automobile trip with friends, documenting the route on a 1939 American Automobile Association road map (see below).
For the geographic inclined, here’s a map for reference. The Red and Blue lines are explained here: Josie Bernard trip 1939001
(click to enlarge any photos)

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

In 1940-41 Dad was a school teacher in rural Rutland ND. His parents home was Grafton, but since 1937 they had spent a lot of time in Long Beach/LA area where there was already a relatively large North Dakota population.
Mom’s parents lived on a farm near Berlin ND.
Invited by Dad’s parents to go west with them, the decision was made to go to California to visit their daughter and sister, Josie Whittaker, who had lived in Los Angeles since the early 1930s, and was widowed. An apparently unanticipated bonus was to also be able to see their son and brother Frank Bernard, whose ship, the USS Arizona, berthed in nearby San Pedro June 17 – July 1, 1941.
A first stop on the 1941 trip was at the farm of Mom’s parents, Rosa and Ferd Busch:
Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941.  Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right.  Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941. Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right. Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Dad, Henry Bernard, recalled the trip in a written memoir in February, 1981. Here is his recollection:
“The grandparents Bernard had not yet seen Richard so in the spring of 1941 they came from California to see us [at Rutland Consolidated school in SE North Dakota].
They spent a week or so with us and then said that they would buy us another car if we would drive them back to California and spend some time there. We were happy to get this gift so we managed to get to Fargo with our old ’29 Chevy and went to Ford and Dad bought us a ’36 V8 Ford*. It was used but in good condition. It even had a radio in it. [Note the so-called “suicide” back doors. This was our family car for the next 10 years.]
Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…then on through the Black Hills of South Dakota and then on through Wyoming where we saw our first oil wells, and continued on to Salt Lake City and I remember stopping at a motel at St. George UT. Early in the morning I could hear water running and I got up and behind the motel there was an irrigation ditch running full of water. That was the first irrigation I had ever seen.
We continued on and reached Las Vegas after dark. We saw all the neon lights of the gambling dens but we were interested only in rest. Had a good supper and then to bed. We had heard that the desert crossing was an adventure and were warned to get started early so we did and made the crossing with any great incident. I remember stopping at a filling station about the middle of the desert and among other things asked for a drink of water This was reluctantly given as water had to be hauled in from miles away.
We reached Long Beach in due time and stayed with the folks in their small apartment. I recall that it had three rooms and a bath and also a front porch. It was set in the alley and there were several attached apartments somewhat like the modern condominiums. It was about two blocks from the beach and we could put on our bathing suits and walk to the beach with ease.

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

[My sister] Josie was living in Los Angeles and we saw her frequently. We were surprised one day to hear that “the fleets in” [San Pedro] and shortly after my brother Frank [crewman on USS Arizona] came over. He had leave and several times he was in port we had a chance to visit with him and go on trips here and there. Little did we realize that Pearl Harbor was only six months away. [Grandma wrote on the back of the iconic photo of the trip, below: “Taken June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last. This is where we lived.”]
from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

I remember one time we were riding around the suburbs of Los Angeles that we came by an area of Japanese homes. Each one had huge radio aerials and Frank said that was sure they were in communications with the home land. he already felt that we were going to be in the war soon. Security was heavy with the fleet and we did not get a chance to visit the Arizona, the ship on which Frank was stationed. We would be just curious but not spies like the Japanese.
We left Long Beach on July 5 for the long trip back home. Up the California coast to Oregon and Portland where we visited the Krafts and also the Battleship Oregon [then in repair at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton WA] and on through Montana and then stopped at Amidon [ND] to visit people we had met there while teaching [1937-39] and then back to the Busch’s before getting on back to Rutland Consolidated where I would be teaching a second year.
I had a chance to do some shocking of grain and threshing before school started. This little bit of extra income was certainly welcome.”

Little more than three months later, Frank Bernard lay dead in the hulk of the USS Arizona.
War was on for the U.S.
Lives had changed dramatically, instantly.
How long a trip was it? Assuming Jamestown ND to Long Beach CA, Long Beach to Seattle WA, and Seattle back to Jamestown, and just doing Mapquest as a guide, that single trip was 4268 miles, under far different driving and vehicle conditions than we’re accustomed to today. It is unknown the exact number of days enroute, or in Long Beach, but the assumption is we were gone at least a month, at least ten of these days basically in the automobile, no air conditioning, seat belts, gps, automatic transmission, cruise control, four-lane highways…. It would not have been a simple trip.
Dad was 73, my present age, when he wrote his memoirs in 1981. If you’re thinking you should do something similar, it’s not too late!
Esther’s brother, George (not in the family picture), finished college at Mayville and became a Naval Officer on the Destroyer Woodworth in the Pacific 1943-45, docking at Tokyo Sep 10, 1945. Melvin Berning (the 13 year old to my left in the family picture above, double cousin to my mother, next farm over) saw his brother August off to the Army. August Berning became a Captain in the Pacific theatre.
Unknown to everyone in the pictures, the summer of 1941 was to be the last of peacetime for over four years….
Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 1966, my parents essentially duplicated the 1941 trip with their two-year grandson, my son, Tom. His mother had passed away a year earlier, and I was in summer school at Illinois State U (Normal), and my parents were the sitters-in-residence for Tom. They, along with my brother John and sister Flo, drove to LA (by a different route, if I recall right), thence up the coast and back to ND across Montana as before. Florence was about to begin two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, as her older sister, Mary Ann, is now past half way in her own later-life tour in the same Peace Corps.
George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944.  Vincent Busch, George's brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944. Vincent Busch, George’s brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch's ships in WWII.  The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch’s ships in WWII. The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

#814 – Dick Bernard: Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Windmill

As usual, I was lolly-gagging a bit behind the rest of the group as we toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin East near Spring Green WI on October 16.
Like the rest of my species, picture-takers, whether rank amateur (me) or professional, we tend to fall behind because we see this or that that would make, we feel, a good picture. Like a photo of those folks in the tour group I was now lagging behind who were looking at something as yet unknown to me.
They seemed to be a good picture:
(click to enlarge)

At Taliesin, October 16, 2013

At Taliesin, October 16, 2013

Maybe that’s why they don’t allow indoor photography on tours at Taliesin, which the brochure immodestly (and arguably, accurately) describes as “the greatest single building in America”. Taliesin brochure 2013001
And then I saw what the rest of my group was looking at: the most unusual windmill I had ever seen.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Windmill

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Windmill

Frank Lloyd Wright's Windmill

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Windmill

Coming from a rural background, I had plenty of familiarity with farm windmills, but none that looked quite like this one.
Our expert tour guide noted (as I recall) that Wright’s neighbors, way back when he designed this windmill, thought his was a dumb idea. Here this thing was, near the top of a windy hill overlooking the Wisconsin River, enclosed in a wooden structure.
Surely it would blow over.
Apparently the windmill proved everyone wrong: it survived a century. Yes, the original boards rotted away over time, and were replaced, but Wright’s windmill stood on, blended in with its environment. It was much like Wright, perhaps, a bit more classy (and much more quirky and famous or infamous) than its neighbor windmills up and down the roads of rural Wisconsin.
Wright was an obviously greatly gifted guy.
The very word “Taliesin” evokes Wrights philosophy, per the faq’s about Taliesin: “When Wright designed his own home in the valley in 1911, he gave it the Welsh name Taliesin, meaning “shining brow.” Frank Lloyd Wright placed Taliesin on the brow of a hill, leaving the crown, or top, open.”
Wright had his faults (don’t we all?), but I like his apparent philosophy of designs that blended with, rather than dominated, their surrounding environment.
At the gift shop, I almost bought a t-shirt (I didn’t. I already have too many of those, unused), which I thought was pretty neat:
Have a great Christmas and New Year in 2014.
Near the school of architecture at Taliesin, October 16, 2013

Near the school of architecture at Taliesin, October 16, 2013

#813 – Dick Bernard: The Archbishop [possibly] takes a fall.

Related: my Oct 20 2013 post, here.
For up to date information from the same basic source I’ll see about this situation, check the headlines here.
I am writing this intentionally before reading anything other than yesterdays 2:40 p.m. Minneapolis Star Tribune headline “[St. Paul-Minneapolis] Archbishop Nienstedt denies inappropriately touching boy in ’09”. This was later followed by an e-mail “headline” from a friend at 6:48 p.m. “All I can say about this is ‘WOW’. If the allegation is true, it explains a lot about Nienstedt’s demeanor. Even Jeff Anderson [litigator who has done well in representing victims of clergy abuse], has the good sense to not ‘pile on’ and let this ball of string unravel. How can [Nienstedt] not resign after this??”
Having said this, and freely admitting that I have had zero affection for this Archbishop since he came here about seven years ago – we knew what we were getting from his very public job performance in his previous Diocese – I urge restraint in rushing to judgement.
Personally, I thought since the beginning that this Archishop was a very bad ‘fit’ for this Diocese. He came in with a very aggressive and public agenda that played out in a potentially very negative way in the last election (only Minnesota’s voters thwarted his wishes to amend the constitution of the state.)
But my impulses to cheer publicly for his problems are muted. I’d rather he be gone but if he goes under this circumstance, a possible victim of a witch hunt, some misinterpreted touch, I will not be pleased.
We don’t need witch hunts. (And as noted above, I know nothing more than what is in the first paragraph.)
My concern here is born out of long experience representing public school teachers in this state (1972-2000). Some clients were “guilty as sin”. But some turned out to be not guilty of anything, other than an opportunistic complaint made about them by a student. And there were all shades in between. (There were few actual cases; they were very rare given the immense number of human interactions possible in public education, but once revealed they, like today’s likely front page headline, dominated the news, and sullied everyone around them, including the accused, whether ultimately guilty or not.)
The same is true when Priests and Ministers are accused: there are few, there is a rush to judgement, the reputation of their peers is also sullied.
Teaching, like ministry, is a very public activity with lots of human contact – a necessary part of the job – and when the Laws were passed codifying unacceptable behaviors, it was more than Priests and Ministers who were caught in the net. There were people from whom I, on occasion, received the first call including the first call from a jail somewhere.
It was never pretty, and even those accused who may have been guilty of something, were given at least due process protection, then quietly gone.
But at this moment I mostly think of the ones who I represented who were innocent, and were guilty only because of mal-intent of an accuser(s), or of a rush to judgement interpretation of someone.
That was never pretty, either, and false accusations destroyed some people I represented who I knew only in context of their particular cases.
They had been set up….
When you’re accused of a sexual offense in this society, there seems to be no “innocent until proven guilty”. You are presumed to be guilty.
And that’s what I worry about here: tried, convicted, sentenced…by accusation.
Next Wednesday, Christmas Day, I’m usher at the Mass where Abp. Nienstedt was supposed to be the celebrant.
Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to his appearance.
Doubtless, now, he won’t be there on Christmas Day, but I won’t celebrate his absence either.
There will be a great plenty of rushing to judgement in the next hours and days, that is for certain. A couple of hours from this writing I’ll be meeting with a good friend for a customary Christmas breakfast, and doubtless she and I will talk a lot about this case: we share background in representing those accused, and we share the history of some of the cases I once had to deal with.
Doubtless there will be restaurant table talk at tables around our own about the same topic.
The allegation will be the hot topic of discussion today.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Comments? Have at it.

#812 – Dick Bernard: The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra "Christmas Party"

The Musicians Website: here
The “filing cabinet” for all previous posts about the Orchestra Lock-Out here.
Sunday, we attended “A Tschaikovsky Spectacular, Eiji Oue Returns with Jon Kimura Parker, piano and the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra” at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium. Here is the entire program for this marvelous event: Mn Orch Dec 15 13001
At the conclusion of the afternoon, I tried to “catch” Maestro Oue at 1/30 of a second with my camera.
Such a feat was impossible. This was the best I could do:
(click to enlarge all photos)

Maestro Oue recognizes the musicians at the conclusion of the program Dec. 15, 2013

Maestro Oue recognizes the musicians at the conclusion of the program Dec. 15, 2013

Reflecting on that poor photograph, it probably catches the exuberance of the moment and, indeed, of the concert itself.
Maestro Oue was glad to be back in Minneapolis and Minnesota, visiting from the Orchestra he currently leads, the Barcelona Symphony in Spain, and the Orchestra was in great form.
Words tend to get in the way of the feelings of yesterday afternoon.
At one point, I was remembering the first “Locked Out” concert, in the exact same auditorium of the Minneapolis Civic Center, October 18, 2012.
That date seemed so long ago and far away. Then, near 14 months ago, I think all of us thought this absurd Lock Out would quickly be resolved and the season would resume soon, but it continues, with no end in sight.
For a moment, yesterday, I thought of titling this post, “A Concert by an Orchestra in Exile”, but that isn’t accurate: the Prisoner, now, is the entire Board of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, bunkered down in their fancy, newly renovated Orchestra Hall three blocks from where we were sitting, watching their beloved Pot of Money supposedly to guarantee the unknown future.
Perhaps, I thought, the Board had, rather than locking their orchestra out, locked themselves out, the end game as yet unknown. The band plays on….
At the end of intermission, Principal Cellist and Negotiator Tony Ross, rose to give what has become a customary report on where things stand at the moment, including the schedule of programs for the winter and spring, 2014: Mn Orch Wr-Spr 2013001
He noted that attempts to reach a path of resolution are ongoing, and every day something happens, much (as he said, “thank god”,) not appearing in the media.
Towards the end of his talk Tony said that Maestro Oue had asked him to stop by his dressing room before the previous evenings concert, and, he noted, that such appointments are seldom relished by musicians, who steel themselves to be reminded of some sour note or other…like being called into the Principals office!
This time, though, the meeting was different. Maestro Oue had a gold bracelet, given to and worn by Barcelona’s own Pablo Casals over 50 years ago at a White House concert. Casals daughter had (I seem to recall) given Oue the bracelet as a gift. The Maestro, in turn, loaned the bracelet to Tony Ross for the concert: a charm for the performances. Tony brought the bracelet out of his pocket for all of us to see. It was a magic, totally unexpected, moment, in a magic afternoon.
I wondered, as I have wondered before, where the exalted Orchestra Board would be now if they had decided, some years ago, to have intermission visits with we in the audience about their supposed financial plight, rather than doing their best to keep their real plans a secret from us in those crucial recent years.
But this would presume that they had an interest in saving their world-class orchestra, rather than replacing it with unknown fancies of their privileged imaginations.
The last chapter of this conflict is not yet written, and I am hoping that Tony’s suggestion that there are back-channel and serious talks going on between Orchestra negotiators and the Board is not a fantasy of mine. As witnessed by upcoming programs, the titans of the music world are wanting to come here, and perform with the Locked Out Musicians.
We have a treasure worth keeping; and these Orchestra members who are now doing double and triple duty, only one part of which is making beautiful music, are to be commended.
Play on!
And, audience members, contribute and support in all the many ways that you can, the restoration of this beloved Orchestra as an icon of this community.
Maestro Oue caught at a reasonably quiet instant at the conclusion of the concert Dec 15

Maestro Oue caught at a reasonably quiet instant at the conclusion of the concert Dec 15

Comment from Jim F. Dec 16:
Sorry, Dick, but I think the musicians themselves have condemned themselves to failure. their last missive, at that meeting, said they are committed to working it out with the present board and getting back to work under that same leadership.
It will not happen. Will not. Will not.
The orchestra itself could be saved, but only if they recognize that fact — that there is no possibility of continuing a first-rate orchestra under that board and that leadership. That board and those leaders will accept nothing other than unconditional surrender, and failure to recognize that and to turn away from that leadership means the orchestra as we know it will die. Or has died.
It’s part of a syndrome that has overtaken the people of this country and is taking the entire country down. It is the belief that nothing can be done without the leadership and approval of the very rich rich. The whole damned population has become dependent on them, is paralyzed without their approval. “Oh, no. We can’t do anything without them.”
from Charles A, Dec 16:
Good morning Dick,
The view here is the the MOA [Minnesota Orchestral Association] and Mr. Henson have encountered a resistance stronger then they anticipated. This resistance might be an immovable force in the form of a musicians union. I have only encountered one published piece that addressed the broad union influence, but I think that it certainly deserves more attention.
I do not think that the MOA truly understood the collective and broad reaching influence of this form of labor organization. In this case, the union is not just a local seeking a contract, but a national and international organization representing artists world-wide.
Because of this lock-out, and until an agreement is reached …
… There will never be a union musician on the Orchestra Hall stage. This “never” includes jazz, Broadway, classical, international soloists and free lance musicians.
… Starting another MOA sponsored orchestra would not be possible should the current ensemble be disbanded. Any young and promising classical musician that would play for such an ensemble would be forever black-listed in a traditional hiring process elsewhere.
As the struggle has continued, this unexpected union presence has brought, and will continue to bring pressure on the MOA, and their ability to meaningfully sustain the newly renovated Orchestra Hall.
It is in this way as audience members that our support of the musicians is a major influence. Selling out their “indie series” concerts is a must!
Thank you for your continued comments and support.
a satirical piece from someone who wishes to go by “a Friend”, Dec 16:
A Satire (probably) (we hope)
Today, the Orchestral Association Management and Board responded to concerns of City Hall that they are not fulfilling their obligations to provide cultural programming per promises made when they successfully petitioned for a multi-million dollar bonding bill to renovate the Hall.
After months of locking out the professional Orchestra musicians because unionized labor would not agree to proposed radical artistic changes plus 30% salary cuts, Management announced a contract with a new orchestra. The Alt Kuhschwanz High School Band is eager to begin what will be a short season on January 10th and 11th. This breakthrough will allow music fans to hear the music they love once again! For their inaugural concert, the musicians are preparing a program made up entirely of the works of John Phillip Sousa, the respected American composer.
The Mayor and the City Council of Alt Kuhschwantz, a farming community in the Red River Valley, enthusiastically joined their School Board in supporting the offer to the High School Music Department. In a show of civic pride, the Council committed pay the Band’s school bus expenses for transportation to the Metro area for the entire concert season.
Rumors continue to swirl around the selection of the Alt Kuhschwanz musicians. Some critics wonder why a contract was not offered to one of the larger high schools or community colleges in the Greater Metropolitan Area–perhaps one with a music department large enough to support an orchestra, or perhaps one which had actually won some awards in the recent past.
In response, online social media sites indicate that directors of several orchestras from metropolitan high schools were, in fact, approached about possible contracts. However, deals fell through when directors insisted that they retain artistic control of the programs, rather than leave selection of music to the current Orchestral Association Management. In a Q & A on its website, Management stated, “We’ve already made that mistake with the previous Orchestra. We will design our own concerts to maintain our current audience, and to reach out to younger groups as well. Of course, maintaining artistic integrity is absolutely paramount. It’s the core of our commitment to our community, our patrons, and especially our donors. Our upcoming schedule and reset business model will also assure our return to a positive revenue stream.”
The January concerts will be followed by 4 more performances: February (Music of Rent), March (Miley Cyrus and Friends), April (Prince: A Retrospective), and April (Rap and Hip-Hop: Their Roots in the Baroque Tradition). Concert dates will be announced on New Year’s Day. Barring complications, a full 2014-2015 season is also foreseen.
The Orchestral Association Board has strongly endorsed Management’s solution to the ongoing, sometimes acrimonious impasse. “The money we save on travel, instrument maintenance, full-page newspaper ads of justifications, and soloists will easily allow us to schedule another season, beginning in September,” stated their spokesperson. Management and the Alt Kuhschwantz Band are already soliciting ideas for concert themes.
The Orchestra’s website has information regarding tickets, donating, or suggesting a theme for a 2014-15 concert. Photos & bios of the Alt Kuhschwanz young musicians will be posted soon.
from Maryann G of Save Our Symphony MN, Dec 16:
Thanks Dick. A wonderful, beautiful blog post. We will be posting your blog about the concert on our SOSMN FB page today. Thanks again.
from Andrena G, Dec 16: Wasn’t certain if you knew about this gig tonight.
from David T, Dec 16, re Andrena’s comment, etc: We were at the Dakota last night and the guy who introduced last night’s group was really talking up Peter Kogan. I’ve heard that one of the things that makes the Twin Cities a desirable place for classical musicians in the SPCO, the Minnesota Orchestra as well as other smaller classical ensembles is the opportunities to play other styles of music. Also, there are a lot of commercial opportunities due to the area’s advertising firms.
You just wonder how the whole Minnesota Orchestra thing is going to shake out. Clearly, a big step forward would be for the head of the association to step aside. He’s become the symbol of intransigence. You’d think he’d want to avoid becoming known as the guy who helped kill the orchestra.