The Jewish pilgrimage feast of Shavuot continues, ending at sunset today. Today is the first weekday in the resumption of Ordinary Time after the Easter Season, and is the Optional Memorial of Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor (died 735), the Optional Memorial of Saint Gregory VII, Pope (died 1085), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin (died 1607). Since today is the Last Monday in May, it is also the date when (since 1971) we celebrate Memorial Day, remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. And among those who follow The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in whatever form (radio show, book, movie, what have you), today is Towel Day.
According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses being found among the bulrushes in a watertight cradle (Ex. 2:3) when he was three months old (Moses was born on 7 Adar and placed in the Nile River on 6 Sivan, the same day he later brought the Jewish nation to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah). For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the nation of Israel) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (God); the ketubbah (marriage contract) was the Torah. Some Eastern Sephardi communities actually read out a ketubbah between God and Israel as part of the service. However, the Vilna Gaon (died 1797) canceled the tradition of decorating with trees because it too closely resembled the decorations that Christians used for their holidays. Turning to our Saints, we honor Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor (died 735). Born in 672 at Wearmouth, England, around the time that England was finally Christianized, he was raised from age seven in the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life as a Benedictine monk and (after 702) as a priest. As a teacher and author, he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary. He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731) was of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII, and he is the Patron Saint of English writers and historians. We also honor Saint Gregory VII, Pope (died 1085). Born in 1020 in Soana (modern Sovana), Italy as Hildebrand, he was educated in Rome, became a Benedictine monk, and was the chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. A reformer and excellent administrator, he was the chief counselor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II, and in 1073 became the 157th pope. At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property. The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture, including the king, Henry did penance in the snow at Canossa (where Gregory was) in 1077, and Gregory lifted the excommunication. When Henry broke his promise about lay investiture once again, Gregory excommunicated him again in 1080, and summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory and returned him to the city; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove out them and Gregory as well. The Pope then retreated to Salerno, Italy where he spent the remainder of his papacy. We honor Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin (died 1607). Born in 1566 at Florence, Italy as Catherine, she received a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at age 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalen. A mystic, she lived a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Countless miracles followed her death, and she was canonized in 1669; she is the Patron Saint of the sick, and Co-Patron of Naples, and her aid is invoked against bodily ills and sexual temptation. Turning to today’s secular holiday, many people observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Since 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time; during this Moment, 200 Amtrak trains blast their whistles, approximately 500,000 Major League Baseball fans are joined in silence, and countless other participants make a vow to remember those who died in defence of our country. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at National Cemeteries. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars take donations for poppies in the days leading up to Memorial Day; the poppy’s significance to Memorial Day is the result of the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields.” In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also used as a time for picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and sporting events. Some Americans view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season, and if you are part of the Shoe Police, you know that one can only wear white shoes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (In SouthWestCentral Louisiana, summer begins around Mardi Gras and ends around Halloween, but that does not seem to extend White Shoe Season.) Finally, today is Towel Day. Two weeks after the death of author Douglas Adams in 2001, fans of his work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all of its associated media creations proposed that each May 25 be Towel Day, as Chapter Three of the book notes, “A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” The holiday is celebrated world- and universe-wide; in 2015 Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti read aloud a sample from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from the International Space Station.
I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and put on a patriotic T-shirt to wear to work in honor of the holiday (as approved by Table Gamnagement). Richard had gathered up the trash last night and put the ice chest in the back of the truck. I put out the flag, and Richard put the trash can out on the curb. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading, and posted to Facebook that it was the Observance of Memorial Day and Towel Day. Before we reached the casino Richard stopped at a gas station to get ice for the ice chest. Once we arrived at the casino, Richard waited for our co-worker Georgia; when she arrived, she brought the green deer sausage, which Richard put in the ice chest. Today was a Paid Holiday, so that we earned time and a half for our hours worked today; we worked our full eight hours, with Richard being on Mississippi Stud, and me being on Pai Gow.
When I clocked out the security person had some used dice for me, and I also collected a 30-deck pack of used cards (both for Liz Ellen). On our way home from work I read the May 25th, 2015 issue of Sports Illustrated. I also got a text message that our #1 ranked LSU Baseball team is the #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will host the Regional at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge (playing Lehigh on Friday afternoon), and if they win all of their games they will also host the Super Regional. We went through the drive through of McDonald’s, and when we got home I ate my McDonald’s burger and fries while reading the morning paper. The First Quarter Moon arrived at 12:21 pm. I then got on the computer and was able to connect my Galaxy S-4 and to upload all of my pictures, alarms, ringtones, and notification sounds that were on my SanDisk expansion card. The computer was giving me trouble in copying my music, so I just made a copy of the file already on the computer to the folder where (for now) I have all of my SanDisk information from the 64gb card. I then took a nap, and was at some point joined by Richard. I was thus asleep when the 3:00 pm National Moment of Remembrance occurred. I woke up from my nap to watch Jeopardy!, then I got on the computer to print out our pay stubs and PTO Sheets for the pay period that ended last week and to do today’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is the Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest. Being a Tuesday, it is our Friday at the casino. On my breaks at work I will call the Pharmacy to renew a prescription. I also have to call my oncologist’s office; I have an appointment scheduled with them for June 11th, but that is the day we are flying back down from Boston to Houston. After work I will pick up my prescription, and we will get some groceries and supplies at Wal-Mart. In the afternoon I will probably nap, and in the evening I will work on my weblog.
Our Parting Quote this Monday afternoon comes to us from Bertha Gilkey, American public housing activist. Born as Bertha Knox in 1949 in Round Pound, Arkansas, her mother was a very poor woman of African-American ancestry. In 1960 her mother relocated to St. Louis, Missouri and raised her fifteen children in a three-bedroom apartment at Cochran Gardens, the first high-rise project of Saint-Louis financed through the Housing Act of 1949, completed in 1953. Initially intended for low-income whites, the 704-unit block was desegregated in 1956, and Gilkey’s mother and her children were among the first black tenants. In 1969 Gilkey, now a divorced mother of two who called herself a Black Panther, led a nine-month rent strike of some twenty-two thousand public housing tenants in the Pruitt-Igoe project and in Cochran Gardens against mismanagement of municipal agencies and the intolerable living conditions of St. Louis highrise ghettos. The city replaced its Housing Authority board, and after six more years of activism Gilkey succeeded in persuading the city of St. Louis to surrender management of Cochran Gardens to an independent tenant management association. By this time the Pruitt–Igoe high-rise had already been torn down and Cochran Gardens, nicknamed “Little Nam”,was already been slated for demolition. Her mother, ex-husband and siblings eventually left Cochran for better places, but Gilkey preferred to stay. The Cochran Tenant Management Corporation became the first of its kind in St. Louis. In a short time the new management rehabilitated Cochran Gardens into a relatively safe and comfortable place. In 1978 the complex was modernized and outfitted with new engineering systems, owing both to Gilkey’s fundraising skills and to Cochran’s nearly downtown location that could not be ignored by city and federal authorities. Her experience fell in accord with the Republican campaign for deregulation and changing the rules of welfare administration. Gilkey, among other activists, was invited to join Ronald Reagan as he signed the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987. She personally managed the staff that reached 47 in 1991; only at this point did Gilkey hire a professional manager and accountant to run the operations. She was not ever paid a salary at Cochran (according to a 1992 source), making a living with consultancies and paid public speaking. Gilkey played a prominent role in an attempt by the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago to implement Tenant Management in Chicago as documented in a 60 minute documentary, Fired-Up: Public Housing Is My Home, directed by James R. Martin. The film was seen nationally on Public Television in 1989-90. Jack Kemp, Housing Secretary under George H. W. Bush, regularly cited Gilkey in an honor roll of civil rights heroes, alongside Abraham Lincoln, saying that tenant property management is “one of the most powerful manifestations of revolutionary ideals since 1776.” President George H. W. Bush visited Cochran Gardens in May 1991, commending tenant management and personally commending Gilkey and attacking “government bureaucracy” and the “solutions of the 1960s”. Federal supporters of tenant management did not publicize the fact that most of Cochran residents remained poor and lived on welfare throughout the decades of Gilkey’s tenure. According to 1990 figures, 85% of households in Cochran were headed by single women, only 27% of heads of households had jobs, and the vacancy rate in 1990 was on par with St. Louis average of 25%. Gang wars with drive-by shootings resumed in Cochran in September 1991, prompting Gilkey to lead a public violence awareness campaign. By 1992 Cochran had received $33 million in federal aid, twice as much as the second-ranking St. Louis project. As the co-chair of the New York-based National Congress of Neighborhood Women, Gilkey negotiated for government grants helping establishment of tenant management in New York and other cities. She was the subject of the 1993 NBC feature Fired Up! The Bertha Gilkey Story, produced by John Singleton. In 1998 city authorities took over Cochran Gardens, citing tax mismanagement by the tenant association. The buildings rapidly deteriorated under city management; by 1999, the vacancy rate increased to about 33%, and by the end of 2008 all but one of Cochran Gardens buildings had been demolished (died 2014) “When Cochran was all white, they didn’t refer to it as a project. It was called Cochran Gardens. As Cochran became more and more black, I began to see the services reduced. Once it became all black, there was no standards. It moved from being a neighborhood to a project. It became a dumping ground.”