Alleluia! Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Today is also the Second Day of the annual two-day Louisiana Sales Tax Holiday for Hurricane Preparedness. And since today is the day before Memorial Day, today is the running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Alleluia!) celebrates the Ascent of Jesus to his Father forty days after Easter. The canonical account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds contrasts with the gnostic tradition, by which Jesus was said to have transcended the physical realm and returned to his home in the spirit world. It also contrasts with the beliefs of Docetism, in which matter was intrinsically evil and Jesus was said to have been pure spirit. The Latin terms used for the feast, ascensio and, occasionally, ascensa, signify that Christ was raised up by his own powers, and it is from these terms that the holy day gets its name. The observance of this feast is of great antiquity; although no documentary evidence of it exists prior to the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine (died 430) said that the feast was of Apostolic origin, and he spoke of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. Our Gospel for this day is from Matthew 28:16-20: The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” I am not entirely happy with the decision of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1999 (in conjunction with most other Archbishops in the United States) to move the Feast from the Thursday forty days after Easter to the next Sunday (which to my mind, confuses the issue both of how many days are between Easter and the Ascension, and how many days are between the Ascension and Pentecost), but as a reasonably good devout Catholic, I accede to having the Ascension on Sunday. The annual Louisiana Hurricane Tax Holiday, which is held on the last consecutive Saturday and Sunday of May, allows shoppers to get ready for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1st, by purchasing emergency supplies. During the sales tax holiday, eligible purchases are subject to a state sales tax rate of only three percent, applicable to the first $1500 of the sales price of each eligible item. Eligible purchases include: Any portable self-powered light source, including candles, flashlights and other articles of property designed to provide light; Any portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather band radio; Any tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting; Any ground anchor system or tie-down kit; Any gas or diesel fuel tank; Any package of AAA-cell, AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6 volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries; Any cell phone battery and any cell phone charger; Any nonelectric food storage cooler; Any portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage; Any storm shutter device; Any carbon monoxide detector; and Any “blue ice” product. Sp go buy those hurricane supplies today! The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, also known as the Indianapolis 500, the 500 Miles at Indianapolis, the Indy 500 or The 500, is an American automobile race, held annually on the Sunday before Memorial Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. The event lends its name to the IndyCar class, or formula, of open-wheel race cars that have competed in it. In 1911 the winner of the inaugural race was Ray Harroun, with his Marmon Model 32 car, going an average of 74.602 miles per hour, the slowest winner in the race’s history; at that speed, it took him over six and a half hours to drive 500 miles to win the race . The race was not run for two years during World War I, and not run for four years during World War II (which is why the 2016 race was the 100th running of the race, but not the 100th Anniversary). A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears are tied as drivers with the most wins (with four wins each), and Team Penske is the owner with the most wins (at 16). Driver Louis Meyer requested a glass of buttermilk after winning his second Indy 500 race in 1933. After winning his third title in 1936, he requested another glass but instead received a bottle. He was captured by a photographer in the act of swigging from the bottle while holding up three fingers to signify the third win. A local dairy company executive recognized the marketing opportunity in the image and, being unaware Meyer was drinking buttermilk, offered a bottle of milk to the winners of future races. Milk has been presented each year since then (apart from 1947 to 1955). Modern drivers are offered a choice of whole, 2%, and skim. Four drivers (one in 1931, one in 1941, and two in 1949) finished the race without making a single pit stop; the highest finish any of those four cars made was fifth place. In 1966 only seven cars finished the race. The first woman driver in the race was Janet Guthrie in 1977. At the 1993 Indianapolis 500, winner Emerson Fittipaldi, who owned and operated an orange grove, notoriously drank orange juice instead of milk during the televised winner’s interview. He eventually relented and also drank from the milk bottle later in the post-race ceremonies after the broadcast was over, but the public relations damage had been done. The snub led to him being booed at the next ChampCar race in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the heart of dairy country, and by some, as late as the 2008 Indianapolis 500 in which he drove the pace car. The best place held at the end of a race by a woman is 4th by Danica Patrick in 2005. Tony Kanaan won the race in 2013, completing the 500 miles at an average speed of 187.433 mph, which sets the record for the fastest average winning speed.
Yesterday our #19 LSU Lady Tigers beat the #4 Florida State Lady Seminoles by the score of 1 to 0 in the second game at the NCAA College Softball Tournament Super Regional in Tallahassee, Florida, and we found that our #6 LSU Tigers would face the #13 Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC College Baseball Tournament Final game in Hoover, Alabama. And Richard went down to Wal-Mart and got a new air filter for the air conditioning.
When I got up to get ready for work today, I posted to Facebook that today was the Second Day of the annual two-day Louisiana Sales Tax Holiday for Hurricane Preparedness, and that today was the Indianapolis 500. I did my Book Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Third Day of my Pentecost novena. Today was the Second Day of the three-Day Heavy Business Volume period for the Memorial Day Weekend, and the last day of the current two-week pay period. When we clocked in, Richard was on Macau Mini Baccarat; when that table closed, he became the Relief Dealer for Mississippi Stud, the second Mississippi Stud table, and Three Card Poker. I spent my day on Pai Gow, and did not have much in the way of guests until about 8:00 am. During my first hour, Surveillance called down on me twice – the first time to tell me to better staircase my player’s Pai Gow hands (which thump I deserved), and the second time to tell me I had played my hand wrong. I had both a straight and a flush, and in that case, you play whichever hand gives you the better two-card hand; playing my straight would have given me a 5-4 in the two-card hand, but playing the flush gave me an A-Q two-card hand, so I played the flush with the A-Q. They called to say I had played the hand wrong, then called right back to say I had played it correctly, so by my count, I was 1 to 1 with Surveillance today.
When we arrived home I made my lunch salads for today and Monday, and ate my Monday salad while reading the Sunday papers. Richard went over to Lele’s to see all of his cousins he had not seen in thirty years (I elected not to go), and I watched our #19 LSU Lady Tigers play the #4 Florida State Lady Seminoles in the third and deciding game at the NCAA College Softball Tournament Super Regional in Tallahassee, Florida. Our Lady Tigers won the game by the score of 6 ro 4, and will be playing the #8 UCLA Lady Bruins in Oklahoma City at the Women’s College World Series on June 1st. By this time Richard had come back from Lele’s, and we watched our #6 LSU Tigers play the #13 Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC College Baseball Tournament Final game in Hoover, Alabama. Richard went to bed, but I watched until our Tigers won the game (and the SEC Championship) by the score of 4 to 2; our Tigers will now play at the NCAA College Baseball Tournament on June 2nd, with an opponent to be named later. Takuma Sato became the first Japanese drive to win the Indianapolis 500. And now I will get ready to go to bed.
With no Saints to honor, as tomorrow is the last Monday in May, it will be the observance of Memorial Day. At the casino it will be the third day of the three-day Heavy Business Volume Day period for Memorial Day (and I will wear my red patriotic shirt), a Paid Holiday (so we will be paid time and a half for our eight hours), and it will also be the First Day of the current two-week pay period. In the afternoon I will try to do something productive.
Our Parting Quote on this Sunday Afternoon of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Alleluia!) comes to us from Maya Angelou, American singer, actress, poet, and author. Born as Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, of African-American parents; her father was a doorman and navy dietician, and her mother was a nurse and card dealer. She was nicknamed “Maya” by her older brother. In 1931 her parent’s marriage ended and their father sent the two young children alone by train to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, who kept a successful general store. In 1935 her father returned the two children to their mother’s care in St. Louis. At the age of eight Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou’s uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing that by speaking out she had caused him to be killed. It was during this period of silence that she developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and to observe the world around her. Shortly after Freeman’s murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother in Arkansas. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again, who had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, Angelou attended the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson). In 1951 Angelou married Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother. She took modern dance classes during this time, and met dancers and choreographers Alvin Ailey and Ruth Beckford. Angelou and Ailey formed a dance team, calling themselves “Al and Rita”, and performed modern dance at fraternal black organizations throughout San Francisco, but never became successful. Angelou, her new husband, and her son moved to New York City so she could study African dance with Trinidadian dancer Pearl Primus, but they returned to San Francisco a year later. After Angelou’s marriage ended in 1954, she danced professionally in clubs around San Francisco, including at the Purple Onion, where she sang and danced to calypso music. Up to that point she had gone by the name of “Marguerite Johnson”, or “Rita”, but at the strong suggestion of her managers and supporters at the Purple Onion she changed her professional name to “Maya Angelou”. During 1954 and 1955, Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She began her practice of learning the language of every country she visited, and in a few years she gained proficiency in several languages. In 1957, riding on the popularity of calypso, Angelou recorded her first album,Miss Calypso, which was reissued as a CD in 1996. She appeared in an off-Broadway review that inspired the 1957 film Calypso Heat Wave, in which Angelou sang and performed her own compositions. Angelou met novelist John Oliver Killens in 1959 and, at his urging, moved to New York to concentrate on her writing career. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild, where she met several major African-American authors, including John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall, and Julian Mayfield, and was published for the first time. In 1960, after meeting civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and hearing him speak, she and Killens organized the Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC’s Northern Coordinator. Angelou also began her pro-Castro and anti-apartheid activism during this time. In 1961 Angelou performed in Jean Genet’s play The Blacks, along with Abbey Lincoln, Roscoe Lee Brown, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Godfrey Cambridge, and Cicely Tyson. Also in 1961, she met South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make; they began a relationship, but never officially married. She and her son moved with Make to Cairo, where Angelou worked as an associate editor at the weekly English-language newspaper The Arab Observer. In 1962 her relationship with Make ended, and she and Guy moved to Accra, Ghana, so that he could attend college, but he was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Angelou remained in Accra for his recovery and ended up staying there until 1965. She became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana, and worked and performed for Ghana’s National Theatre. She performed in a revival of The Blacks in Geneva and Berlin. In Accra she became close friends with Malcolm X. Angelou returned to the United States in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward. Devastated and adrift, she joined her brother in Hawaii, where she resumed her singing career, and then moved back to Los Angeles to focus on her writing career. She worked as a market researcher in Watts and witnessed the riots in the summer of 1965. She acted in and wrote plays, and returned to New York in 1967. She met her lifelong friend Rosa Guy and renewed her friendship with James Baldwin, whom she had met in Paris in the 1950s. Her friend Jerry Purcell provided Angelou with a stipend to support her writing. In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. asked Angelou to organize a march. She agreed, but was unable to do so, and he was assassinated on her 40th birthday, on April 4th. Devastated again (she refused to celebrate her birthday for the rest of her life), she was encouraged out of her depression by Baldwin. Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans’ African heritage for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS. Also in 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969, which brought her international recognition and acclaim. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, parents and schools objected to depictions of lesbianism, premarital cohabitation, pornography, and violence in the book, and some were critical of the book’s sexually explicit scenes, use of language, and irreverent religious depictions. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings appeared third on the American Library Association (ALA) list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 and sixth on the ALA’s 2000–2009 list. Her poetry volume Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Angelou’s Georgia, Georgia, produced by a Swedish film company and filmed in Sweden, was released in 1972; it was the first original script by a black woman to be produced. She also wrote the film’s soundtrack, despite having very little additional input in the filming of the movie. Angelou married Welsh carpenter and ex-husband of Germaine Greer, Paul du Feu, in San Francisco in 1973. Over the next ten years she worked as a composer, writing for singer Roberta Flack, and composing movie scores. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts, documentaries, autobiographies, and poetry, produced plays, and was named visiting professor at several colleges and universities. She was “a reluctant actor”, and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her role in Look Away. As a theater director in 1988 she undertook a revival of Errol John’s play Moon on a Rainbow Shawl at the Almeida Theatre in London. In 1977 Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots. She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world. In the late 1970s, Angelou met Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was a TV anchor in Baltimore, Maryland; Angelou would later become Winfrey’s close friend and mentor. In 1981 Angelou and du Feu divorced. She returned to the southern United States in 1981 because she felt she had to come to terms with her past there, and despite having no bachelor’s degree, accepted the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was one of only a few full-time professors. Angelou taught a variety of subjects that reflected her interests, including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing. In 1981 the mother of her son’s child disappeared with Angelou’s grandson; it took four years to find him. Her fourth autobiography, The Heart of a Woman (1981), was picked to be one of the selections in Oprah Winfrey’s book club. In 1993 Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. The recording of the poem won a Grammy Award. In June 1995 she wrote her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth”, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Angelou achieved her goal of directing a feature film in 1996 with Down in the Delta, which featured Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. Also in 1996, she collaborated with R&B artists Ashford & Simpson on seven of the eleven tracks of their album Been Found. The album was responsible for three of Angelou’s only Billboard chart appearances. In 2000 she created a successful collection of products for Hallmark, including greeting cards and decorative household items, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts. She completed her sixth autobiography, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, in 2002. She was awarded the Lincoln Medal in 2008. Angelou campaigned for the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential primaries, giving her public support to Senator Hillary Clinton. In the run-up to the January Democratic primary in South Carolina, the Clinton campaign ran ads featuring Angelou’s endorsement. When Clinton’s campaign ended, Angelou put her support behind Senator Barack Obama, who went on to win the election and become the first African-American president of the United States. In late 2010 Angelou donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. They consisted of over 340 boxes of documents that featured her handwritten notes on yellow legal pads for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a 1982 telegram from Coretta Scott King, fan mail, and personal and professional correspondence from colleagues such as her editor Robert Loomis. In 2011 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Also in 2011 Angelou served as a consultant for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. The quote “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter” was paraphrased and engraved on the statue as “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” Angelou spoke out in opposition to the paraphrase, saying, “The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit…It makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was…It makes him seem an egotist.” She also pointed out, “The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely,” and demanded that the quotation be changed. Because there was not room for the original quote on the statue (which was the reason that the designers had opted for the paraphrase), in 2013 the paraphrase quote was removed and not replaced, and a new finish was made for the statue that would not leave an impression of an omitted quote. In 2011 Angelou taught her last course at Wake Forest. Her final speaking engagement at the university was in late 2013. Also in 2013, at the age of 85, Angelou published her seventh autobiography, Mom & Me & Mom, which focused on her relationship with her mother. At the time of her death she was writing yet another book, an autobiography about her experiences with national and world leaders. The week after Angelou’s death, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings rose to #1 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list. In 2015 a United States Postal Service stamp was issued commemorating Maya Angelou with the Joan Walsh Anglund quote “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”, though the stamp mistakenly attributed the quote to Angelou (died 2014): “I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”