Tag Archives: traditional catholic

Counter-Revolt HARDER… Why Dressing Like a Real Man is Easier (and Way Cooler) than You Realize

This afternoon I was doing my daily “research”. This entails sitting on my Texas front porch, sipping my gin and tonic, and thumbing through my phone catching up on all my trad goings-on.

I came across Ann Barnhardt’s latest post. I wonder if I can call her “Miss B.” like Non Veni Mark does? In any event, click here to read that post. It is one million per cent magnificent in its truth and timeliness. Here’s the quick synopsis. Ann argues the point that women need to start dressing modestly for obvious virtuous reasons, that doing so is not hard and in fact can be inexpensive, and that she herself is doing her part to get the trend of “these girls walking around almost nekkid, or in uber-expensive designer trash” reversed by, surprise, dressing amazingly. First sidenote: Going from Miss B. to Ann might be a bit too forward. I’ll return simply to Barnhardt. Second sidenote: Barnhardt has just upped the game for all of us. She’s wearing white summer gloves everywhere.

This all evoked incredible memories of my dad. I’ve mentioned him a few times. He was an honest-to-goodness real man and we were all blessed to have been born of him. To describe my dad accurately would take volumes so I’ll just give a sartorial overview. My dad wasn’t a hulking huge guy. He never played sports to my knowledge, though he did enjoy a game of frisbee or backyard volleyball with the kids in the summer. When you’ve brought a literal army into the world (there are 16 of us), you tend to do these things with and for your kids. Dad was incredibly smart. He was an actuary. He had a wicked sense of humor. He once told me (I was 6 years-old) that an actuary is a place where they bury dead actors. I believed him. He was a man of incredible faith and great dignity – at home with rich and poor alike. A daily mass-goer, a family man extraordinaire, a gentleman, and a scholar. And all who ever met him remember his class and style.

Barnhardt mentions that she was “born in ’76” and thus after many of the trends she’d like to bring back. Fair point. I was born in ’77. My parents, however, were born in the late 1930’s. They lived through the upheaval and the revolution and all that jazz. Dad never stepped out of the house unless properly attired. That meant, most days of the week he was in a suit. He’d tell me, “Son, you can never go wrong with a dark suit and a white shirt.” His shoes were always polished. He always had his pocketwatch tucked neatly into his watch pocket. He wore this to daily mass, to work, and finally, sitting in his chair at night watching TV with us kids. On Saturday he might be found in a polo shirt and navy trousers but always with a sportcoat and always a very nice looking one. I never saw the man wear shorts, sneakers, or a tee shirt. Every September he would grow in his goatee and every March he would shave it off. Even in his retirement, he still came to the breakfast table in a jacket. And he loved covering his head when he stepped outside. From the occasional Irish motoring cap to the wool fedora (to match his trench coat, of course) to my all time favorite – his 1910-era boater hat.

The man had style and a ubiquitous pipe from which he let out billows of beautiful and aromatic smoke.

More importantly, he respected others. He made a lasting impact. All looked up to him. He represented an ideal of manliness one hardly sees anymore. He placed my mom on a pedestal, honored his marriage vows for close to 60 years, brought many souls into being for God, took care of his family, and went to his reward buried in a dark suit. And a white shirt.

Over the years, although I’ve inherited some of his fashion sense, I’ve fallen into the terrible trap of the modern world where dress is concerned. As I write this I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt. Granted, I’m sitting inside my house and it’s late at night. But just like everything else the man taught me, I’m learning more and more everyday that he was right. That post from Barnhardt brought it home.

Now…

I dress the part. To every daily mass I wear a dress shirt and jacket (if not a full suit and tie). I will not ever again run out to the store late at night dressed like I do to work out. And I will be working harder to set those trends back in the right direction. A man who dresses well according to his state in life is a man who cares about others.

We tend to think that modesty isn’t so much of a problem among men but it surely can be. And on that point, I come back in my mind to the question of my PE wardrobe. You know, I live on the surface of the sun in Texas and by necessity I work out outside. OK, I will continue to wear gym shorts and sleeveless shirts when I’m lifting or jumping rope. It’s 14 million degrees here and I sweat. A lot. I also work out in the middle of the day when no one in my neighborhood is even home. But, as Barnhardt says in her piece, we need to lead the counter revolt and we can do it simply enough by how we dress. So, I’ll be thinking twice before running out to the liquor store in my “Biden can’t ban these guns” tank top. Come on, that’s pretty funny.

I learned from my father that men who are bold set trends, they do not follow them. Dad had no shortage of courage and just a dash of “I’m not concerned with what you think”. In the late 1980’s he and my mom headed out to his office client Christmas party. It was a big deal. His bosses spared no expense and hired incredible entertainment. Dad wore his tuxedo. Mom got after him a bit. “Honey, it didn’t say it was black tie.” He replied, “Doesn’t matter. It should be.” He was the only man in a tux that night. Within five years, it was mandatory. The entertainment that year? Dad came home and when asked who had performed said, “Some no talent clown named Michael McDonald.” And everyone in the audience was in a tux.

I started dressing up for daily mass and I’ve noticed other men doing the same. The world already marks us as different. Heck, the institutional Church marks as different – “those trads”. Do it. What do you have to lose? Your wives will respect you for dressing like men should dress. Your sons will copy you because boys want to be like their old men. Your daughters? Oh man, they already think you’re Superman. Wait until they see Clark Kent! And pro tip: suits are designed to be as flattering to the male form as possible.

So thank you, Miss Barnhardt, for starting this conversation. I’m happy if I could offer my insight on the male side of things.

So, putting a hat on this discussion, Barnhardt has a great line in her post:

“The more I see fat, naked slobs walking around and rolling into shops and restaurants in slovenly garments that I literally would not sleep in, the harder I COUNTER-REVOLT. Hence the white summer gloves.”

Fellow trad men, we need to lead that counter-revolt. God made you male for a reason. Dress like men. Act like men. Lead by your example to show the world there are only two genders. Wear the literal pants in the family. And the tie, and the jacket. And don’t forget the hat. I wear one now just so I have something to remove should I hear the Holy Name of Jesus when outdoors. And the hat I wear to Sunday mass in the summer?…

Just a little something I picked up from my old man.

Severe Abnormalities: Fetal and Papal

The heat broke temporarily here in Texas. Last night the collapsing remnants of a cold front dropped the temperature from 103° to 74° in a matter of thirty minutes. This is Texas, after all. So it seems that our sufferings do come to an end, albeit for a short period only. The hundreds are roaring back in the next few days.

I mention the weather because it has shaped me over these past eleven years of my life living in the Lone Star State. I recently watched Hillbilly Elegy, the autobiographical story of JD Vance. In one of the opening scenes, an old woman sits on her porch, toothlessly mouthing the word “Amen” while listening to what I imagine is a Billy Graham sermon wafting from her radio. I still have most of my own teeth. Swap out trad YouTube videos and stick a gin in my hand and I could be that old woman. It’s the weather. It’s too hot to do much else.

The Fetal Kind

In the course of my day of “research” I came across several news items. They all focused on the supposed rage felt by the child-sacrificing Molochian class in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision last week. Would you believe that, among other things, these woketard monsters are furious that states would even consider passing legislation to outlaw baby murder but not make a provision for a case involving a child with “severe fetal abnormalities”?! The horror!

Let’s cut right to the chase.

What they are arguing is that a child who isn’t “perfect” should be slaughtered.

One of my sisters gave birth to a baby girl about 14 years ago. The baby was diagnosed with anencephaly midway through the pregnancy. She lived five beautiful days on this earth. She was baptized. She was perfect. In no universe would any mother or father in their right mind have wanted her dead.

We cannot engage with these people. Someone so vile as to argue for the murder of a child because “Oh my goodness! She isn’t perfect”… That person lacks any intellectual capacity and is likely a sociopath. Pray for that person, yes, but have nothing to do with him.

The Papal Kind

Then there is the matter of a certain Italian-Argentine and his (and his cohort of groupie bishops) refusal to comment (or to comment directly) on Dobbs. Look, it’s not my fault you weren’t cast in the lead role of Evita but don’t take out your troubles on the rest of us.

Under English Common Law, there is a maxim that states “Silence is assent.” And so instead of statements that what the Court just handed down is a good thing because it advances the cause of saving babies and thus saving souls, we get more tired seamless garment crap – heavy of the social justice nonsense and completely silent on what counts.

I’m terribly sorry to have to point this out to some of Your Eminences and Excellencies but… I can be grateful that the slaughter of children for the sake of convenience will grind to a halt in half the country without also getting my rochet in a ring because “we’re still executing wanton criminals!” They do not now nor will they ever equate. This is called Catholic teaching. If you had taken your nose out of Gustavo Gutierrez’s rear end when you were in seminary, you’d know that.

Believe me. I was in seminary. South American Marxist “theology” was our course work. Rather than studying De Deo Uno or Liguori, we read Beth Johnson’s classic She Who Is. It’s a classic alright. A classic piece of garbage. And Latin? Heh! No sir, we never touched the stuff. But Pastoral Spanish I and II were required.

I have such PTSD from my seminary days I’m adopting this ditty from a 1970’s hymnal as my anthem.

All things being equal, I haven’t heard anything from the pope about recent news. His Holiness Benedict XVI, although still wearing white, giving Apostolic Blessings under his own name and hand, and also being the actual pope, has also remained silent.

Perhaps we will suffer longer under the sweltering mess of this situation. Or perhaps as the Texas weather has shown me, it might all just break one day.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!

Imitation of Christ: The Most Sincere Form of Flattery

On my nightstand sits a tiny leather-bound book. This book was first published sometime around the year 1418. It features print appropriately small enough to match the 3″ X 5″ dimensions of the book itself (and just small enough for my aging eyes to strain each time I look at it). The size of the book is useful, though, in this one regard. It can easily be taken wherever one goes as it fits in most pockets.

The book, of course, is the classic Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

I first came across this book for use in my own spiritual reading about three years ago. I had just recently started attending the traditional mass when a student of mine mentioned that he had been given a copy of the book for his birthday. He thought I would find it insightful. I’m very grateful he suggested it.

Yesterday I mentioned that I would be looking more in-depth at seminary formation over the past few decades. I figure this is as good a place as any to start. In my own time in seminary, the devotional life was never discussed. I recall that things of this nature were understood to be between the seminarian and his spiritual director. In fact, the then-prevailing thought was (at least it was understood to be) that devotions as such were gifts giving by the Holy Ghost to each Christian. In other words, if you didn’t have a particular devotion, it probably wasn’t a devotion meant for you and that was apparently fine. And while I am sure someone with a much higher intellect like, say, a Fr. Ripperger, could expound upon that statement and parse its meaning in such a way that it might line up with a traditional Catholic understanding of charism, the statement itself is misleading. Devotion itself is a hallmark of the Catholic faith. More to the point, the devotional life must be fostered. How can anyone be expected to have any devotions at all if they are not taught, nourished, and fostered? I still remember my parents teaching me the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be as a four year-old child on our front porch one summer evening. Guess what three prayers are still my go-to for every moment in life? And that’s because the people I love and trust taught me to love and to trust in this manner.

But that’s how it was.

And for a long time after leaving the seminary I did not give it much thought. I knew what my own particular devotions were and I saw them as gifts from God. My dad taught me by example to go to mass every day. We had our family rosary. I have a strong devotion to St. Rita of Cascia. To each his own, I thought.

Then I began to meet some truly holy priests – mean who love their spiritual sons and daughters.

Statue of the Blessed Mother giving the rosary to St. Dominic, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, San Francisco

Through the proliferation of materials online in videos of conferences and sermons and retreats and of course through exposure to traditional devotions and classics of spiritual reading, I was exposed to a kind of piety I had only rarely encountered before. I do not mean to imply that only traditional priests possess this piety at all as I do know some truly holy priests who have not yet discovered the great blessing of the ancient mass. But it became obvious to me that the priests of tradition had been formed differently certainly than I had been.

Then I came across the following from the New York Times from 1977. A mere decade after the close of the Council and the effects were clearly being seen in how priests were being trained. The article is about the seminary I would come to attend. For context, in 1977 the seminary was on a beautiful country estate. A few years later, due in part to dwindling numbers, the seminary moved to the main campus of the diocesan university. Then-rector Fr. Ed Ciuba, is quoted here breathlessly exuding his joy that men were no longer trained as they had been in the “dark ages”.

“To dramatize the change in preparing men for the priesthood, Father Ciuba cited two books, “Imitation of Christ,” which was used when the “rugged individuals” of the 1920’s and 1930’s were seminarians, and “Spiritual Renewal of the American Priesthood,” which is used today.

“Imitation of Christ” stressed “a very strong personal relationship with God,” Father Ciuba said, while the current text takes into account “how culture influences our spirituality, how the seminarian finds his relationship to God in and through his relationship to his fellow priests, his relationship to his friends and to lay people.”

“Mahwah Seminary Marks 50 Years, James Lynch, NYT, 1977”

Folks, if you want to know anything at all about many of the priests ordained from the 1970’s onward, just re-read that quote. Their formators decided it would be better for these young men that they develop social skills than develop a “very strong personal relationship with God”. And because God knows how to work even with these worst of intentions, some solid men still made it through. Perhaps they were reading one of these tiny copies of Imitation of Christ on the sly. They do, as mentioned, easily slip into one’s pocket.

I am happy to have been exposed to such devotion myself. I’m happy that kid told me to get a copy of Imitation of Christ. I’m happy my parish priests tend to the devotional life of our parish, for devotion is nothing more than an outward display of love, and love for God is the first commandment.

In the seminary, devotions were not taught. They were not nourished. They were not fostered.

Don’t even get me started on the optional once-weekly rosary. Not kidding in the least. Today, many years later, I have learned once again to carry my beads in my pocket at all times so that this symbol of my love for the Blessed Mother and her love for me is always on my person.

It’s almost as if this was all but one pillar in a larger plan to destroy the priesthood and then the Church radically transform the faith to make it more accessible to the modern world (and less in love with God).

Corpus Christi – Yet Another Reason to Trad

I have just returned home from one of the most edifying experiences of my life – a sung mass and procession for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

*A note for the unfamiliar: in the traditional calendar, this feast is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday (not on Sunday as in the NO calendar).

I wish I could accurately describe to you my experience tonight but words fail me; and I never have a hard time with words.

There were a number of First Communions. There was a procession. The gold vestments, the incense, the chant… How does one put into earthly language the presence of the divine? And it’s really no different at every other mass. There was something about the solemn focus tonight that really drove home the point.

Our Lord, like the “good pelican” (see Barnhardt’s latest for the reference), feeds us with His Body and Blood. The Communion verse taken from I Corinthians tells us that “As often as you shall eat this Bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”

And that’s the difference between trad and non-trad.

The focus must always be on commemorating His Passion and Death until He returns to us in glory. Why? Because it is His Passion and Death that is the Sacrifice by which we are saved. Hear that? The Sacrifice. Nothing else is or could be acceptable to the Father. The Second Person of the Trinity became man to die and to offer Himself as a recompense for our sins.

And He renews that sacrifice at every mass.

It is not a recreation. It is not a representation.

It. Is. Calvary.

And the Bugnini rite, for whatever reason, ok let’s not pretend… It was nefarious. The Bugnini rite obscures that sacrifice. The venerable mass of the ages exalts and explicates it.

Not sure what I’m saying or if tradition is “rite” for you? Take the challenge. Find a TLM. Commit to going for a month. Follow the book or don’t. Let your senses inform your soul that Our Lord’s selfsame sacrifice is unfolding before your eyes.

Go to confession. Receive Him worthily lest, as St. Paul assures us, you eat His Body unto your own condemnation.

And when He is enthroned in your own flesh as King of the hearts of all poor, struggling sinners He promises to be, tell Him you desire to love Him with all your heart and ask Him to look upon you as though your love for Him was already perfect. Whisper your innermost thoughts to Him. Give Him thanks. Ask Him to draw you up to His cross with Him.

He Is Truth.

He has promised He will.

Then proclaim with all the saints and angels and Mary, their Queen and ours the words of Aquinas:

“Down in adoration falling,

Lo! the Sacred Host we hail,

Lo! o’er ancient forms departing

Newer rites of grace prevail;

Faith for all defects supplying,

Where the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father,

And the Son Who reigns on high

With the Holy Ghost proceeding

Forth from Each eternally,

Be salvation, honour, blessing,

Might, and endless majesty.”

Amen!

English translation, Tantum Ergo, Aquinas, 1264

Dispatches from the Ninth Circle

My friends, to say it has been hot here in Texas these past two days is an understatement. I have lived in Texas for eleven years now. I moved here at the height of the hottest summer on record. It was so hot that summer that when our moving truck arrived I almost decided to leave all of our belongings on the truck and send it back rather than exert myself by unloading it.

This weekend has been something else. The high humidity played a factor. That’s not too normal around these parts. We routinely see temps in the triple digits for most of the summer but never with this much moisture in the atmosphere. Stepping out one’s front door becomes something akin to stepping into a blast furnace. We sought relief at a friend’s pool. The water was 90 degrees.

I’m not complaining. I’ve turned shades of brown that would make George Hamilton green with envy. And my hair (what’s left of it) has turned the most Nordic of blondes. My wife is even jealous. FYI my eyebrows have completely disappeared.

It’s so hot…

(How hot is it?!)

It’s so hot that I saw a dog chasing a cat. They were both walking.

Look folks, I told you I’m a dad above all else. You’ve just got to expect these kind of “jokes” and then roll with them. Admit it. You love it.

Speaking of cats and sodomites… Last week upon my return from a long cross-country road trip with the family, I discovered that a neighborhood stray had adopted my home as his new dwelling. For the past week, despite my best efforts at not caring in the least, a gray and white American shorthair has been calling my front porch his home. This is only slightly annoying to me as I typically call my own front porch my home. It’s summer in Texas. That’s the place where I sit all day long, musing on trad dad stuff, and sipping my gin and tonics. Also I have a dog who would under normal circumstances demolish this cat. Yet, when I brought the dog outside on his leash to “intimidate” the cat into leaving (I am from New Jersey), the two looked at each other, rubbed noses like Milo and Otis, and both laid down. Again, it’s the heat.

He would never advance the alphabet agenda.

I really don’t want this cat. However, I’m not cruel. I don’t want to see an animal suffer. I broke down and gave him or her (I’m absolutely not checking to verify) a drink of water. The cat refused. Seems he just wants to lay on my porch and then try to sneak in my front door, despite me shoo-ing him away.

This morning after the high mass, while my wife made breakfast, I attempted to retrieve something from our garage. I entered from the kitchen. Guess who was waiting there for me. He gained entry when my mother-in-law came for a visit yesterday.

I gave him a name.

Since he arrived during pride month, I’ve taken to calling him James Martin, SJ.

Fortunately, this James Martin hasn’t spouted heresy yet. Nonetheless, he will be making a trip to the animal shelter tomorrow where he will hopefully be placed with a loving family who do not own a schizophrenic terrier and who actually want the damn thing.

Perhaps all the other James Martin needs is a bowl of water, a can of tuna, and a flea dip and he’ll leave the rest of us alone.

Our Eucharistic King WILL NOT Be Mocked

It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I spend a decent portion of my online time scanning through the headlines on Frank Walker’s Canon 212 website. I first heard of Walker and Canon212 a few years ago. I had been in contact with writer George Neumayer (seriously not dropping names) and he mentioned the site as “the Catholic Drudge Report”. Having worked in news, I knew that the term had nothing to do with what has or has not become of Matt Drudge. Clearly he’s either sold out, been offed, or had a break with reality. No, about 20 years ago, I can attest that Drudge was THE homepage on every terminal in our New York City newsroom. If it was on Drudge today, it would be everywhere else soon enough.

So, first, a huge thanks to Mr. Walker! Ann Barnhardt, in one of her podcasts said of him, “the man has a work ethic beyond compare.” I’m paraphrasing but the sentiment is shared and it’s true.

This morning after I finished my workout in the blistering Texas sun – and it was only 10:30 AM – I opened the browser on my phone and looked at the top link. The headline read simply: “Crazy Tik Tok VirusChurch Francis Adoration“. Please only click that link if you want to be as nauseated as I was.

What the embedded video shows appears to be some hideous dance ritual performed with a priest and several vested girls. The priest is manhandling a monstrance. The monstrance has (what I must assume is) a consecrated Host in it. So again, that means Our Lord Himself was being gyrated, thrusted, and tossed about in some kind of bizarre pseudo-Bacchanalian routine for the social media camera phones.

Magdalene was despondent. “They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have placed Him.

I’m just livid. They have taken my Lord and treated Him like garbage.

I showed this clip to my wife who asked why this in particular would upset me any more than any of the other myriad abuses we’ve witnessed throughout our lives. We’re in our 40’s. I still remember Sr. Marie and the altar girls when I was a kid. If it hadn’t been for the solid faith my parents transmitted to me and the formation they gave me, I probably would have bailed loooong ago.

The reason why this one made me sick is because the more time I spend with my Lord – at mass, His sacrifice; meditating on His passion; simply staring at a crucifix; and yes, at Adoration – the more I love Him and desire union with Him. And I want that for my family. And tradition helped me understand this better than anything ever has. Connecting with the ancient worship of my faith – the one, true, faith – opened my eyes.

Tabernacle, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Newark, NJ

You hear that Excellencies? For years we’ve heard you… “Who would want to attend this outdated ‘thing’ that they never even knew? We tried to kill it once before specifically for this purpose! Now go back to your Novus Ordo, V2 parishes with your dancers and bubbles and, and…” To that I say what I said to a priest who denied me Communion during the coof-o-rama simply because I knelt before him and stuck out my tongue. He demanded, “Stick out your hands! Your hands!!!” I replied softly…

“I can’t.”

My goodness… they pranced the Creator of the Universe around like He was a dime-a-dance burlesque showgirl. They tossed Him like He was a toy balloon at a county fair or Robert Preston’s baton in the final scene of The Music Man.

They treated my Lord like they just don’t care.

It’s almost as if they don’t really believe He’s Truly Present.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of Everlasting Glory, I desire to love Thee with all my heart. Please look upon me from Thy cross with mercy and love. Give me to atone for the abuses to Thy Sacred Body.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, miserere nobis!

Mother of Sorrows, ora pro nobis!

St. Tarcisius, ora pro nobis!

Life with Sister: Tales from the Great Texas Blizzard & Blackout of ’21 – Part 1

The following story recounts the past two weeks of my life. I am a husband and father to two wonderful pre-teen children. I live in a modest house in the Dallas, TX area. I intend no politics, am not assigning blame, nor am I writing to convey anger over the blackouts. I am simply a man who lives a bizarre life and likes to write. With that being said, here now, part 1.

Monday February 8, 2021

Perhaps the first thing you should know, especially if you are new to these pages, is that I homeschool my children. For over 15 years I worked as a high school teacher and later, a school administrator. Last summer, not looking forward to masks and temperature checks for myself or my children, I decided to take a shot at something I had always wanted to do. The moment was never going to be better than it was to treat myself to a year (hopefully more) of being the principal of my own school. Also, I kind of dig walking through my kitchen to get to my classroom. Another thing you should know is that my family and I are cradle Catholics. Some would even label us “traditionalist” Catholics. The Catholic faith and culture are as much a part of our life together as oxygen. True enough, we attend a Latin mass parish but that is what works for us. A final point of which you should be aware is that between my wife and me, we know thousands of people. I come from an enormous family (14th of 16) and my wife is just phenomenal at everything and loved by all. She could legitimately spend her days literally stomping on the knuckles of hangers-on trying to come within her sphere for warmth. She doesn’t. In particular, she has many friends with whom she has remained close since college. All of these facts will play a part in what is to come.

Several weeks ago my wife received a text from one such college friend. We will simply call her “Sister”. That’s because she’s an ex-nun. You’ve probably heard divorcees lament that “I didn’t leave my spouse. My spouse left me.” Well, Sister’s order left her. In fact, it disbanded, or it was suppressed by the Vatican. We’re really not sure. The point is, she’s not an “ex”-nun by choice. It was more of an indifference sort of thing. “My spouse left me” takes on a whole new meaning when one is a bride of Christ. Having spent the past fifteen years in complete silence, using only rudimentary sign language and finger puppets to convey her thoughts, Sister’s family forced advised her to take a vacation. Owing to the fact that every time we’ve seen her in the past few years we’ve invited her to come visit us in Texas, Sister’s first thought was to take said vacation in the Lone Star State. But of course, she would be our most welcome guest! Our preparation consisted of me 1) determining to “shuffle around some school work with the kids” to accommodate her visit and all the fun day trips we would make and 2) calling Alma. Who is Alma? Well, Alma is only the best kept secret in town. That may be because she is in the country undocumentedly. In truth, I do not know. What I do know is that she can clean a house like it’s nobody’s business. The process usually involves several unaswered text messages listing multiple potential days and finally a reply that says simply: “Yes.” I think she uses a burner phone. Having secured her scrubbing skills, I woke up early on this morning – it’s still the 8th if you forgot because of my verbosity – I unlocked the door and welcomed Alma. Alma politely brushed past me while looking over her shoulder. “Close door. I clean now,” she said most politely yet with a tinge of both fear and disgust in her eyes. “Also, don’t tell no one I’m here.” Looking at her earnestly I said, “But Alma, I don’t know anyone who knows you.” To this she replied, “Keep it that way,” and then she commenced vacuuming my drapes.

While Alma dusted and shined I suddenly remembered that one of my nephews – a young man in his early 20’s – had also asked to come stay with us this week. He had time off and wanted to visit one of my nieces – a young lady in her early 20’s who happens to live with us – and particularly to visit her lady friends. Ah, the mind of a young man… Always looking for, um, platonic friendship? Yeah, he wasn’t here to see us, to be sure. Nonetheless, I did have to leave Alma while I drove out to the airport to get the lad. On the drive I used my background in logistics to figure out where he would stay. I dropped him off at home, shoved him and his baggage into my daughter’s room, paid Alma her cash (unmarked bills), and watched her instantly vaporize through the chimney. “Don’t… tell… no one…” she said as she vanished. Boy she’s something else. Also, we don’t have a chimney so it was really magical.

Next up, I rolled a die to determine which of my children would be my favorite this day. Kidding. They’re both my favorite. The girl. Using reverse psychology, I took the boy and left daughter at home while I went shopping for Sister’s impending arrival. We went to a giant warehouse store. There are five of us normally under our roof and the one added guest has lived off of rice and donated donuts for two decades so this was going to be a challenge. I stocked up on cases of soda, mini quiches, and other things to make our exclostrated guest feel at home. Then I headed to my happy place, a liquor store called Total Wine, or as I call it, Wine Totale. I like to class it up sometimes. Sister had enjoyed her cocktails while we were in school. Let’s see if she can still hold her liquor. While roaming the aisles I overheard a customer and a sales associate discussing gin. And the fourth thing you needed to know about me is that I have had a love affair with Dutch Courage since college. I know my gin. And my gin knows me. The information being given the poor shopper by the young clerk was so wrong I absolutely had to interject. I told her about the wonders of gin, its history, and then helped her pick a bottle. “What are you making with it, might I ask?” I said. She told me it was for some “ancient cocktail” her husband had heard about called a bijou. The bijou dates to the 1890’s and contains equal parts gin, chartreuse, and sweet vermouth. I was intrigued enough to stock up on all of that. Looking into my cart at the already full supply of other gin, rum, and an assortment of Texas whiskeys, she asked, “And what are you making with all that?” My son, who is undeniably my son, shot back, “We’re not making anything. Just getting ready to entertain an ex-nun.” And we walked away.

Wine Totalé has a great gin selection. If you look closely, you’ll see this is their rum selection.

I stopped at daily mass, came home, and made some finishing touches to the house. This included assembling our traditional “Texas Welcome Gift Basket” for Sister’s room. My wife and daughter had even made Texas-shaped chocolates for her. Finally the hour approached to return to the airport and collect Sister. I entered the terminal and noticed how empty it was. Air travel has really taken a hit this past year. It was in that emptiness that I was able to hear the little things that make my life more fun.

THUD!

I turned around to see a middle-aged woman lying on the ground on top of a piece of rolling luggage. In her fall she had completely bent the extended handle of her suitcase. She came to rest in front of an elevator that I think she was attempting to board. I looked around, noticed two other people. We all looked at each other and then, out of a sense of human decency, approached the woman to assist her. As I got within a few feet I smelled the familiar waft of alcohol that has traveled through the bloodstream and, finding no room at the inn, decided to exit the body via the pores. This chick was sauced. My first guess was that she had enjoyed the hell out of first class and now could not find her way outside of a paper bag, let alone an airport terminal. We got her situated with some medical assistance and a bottle of water from a vending machine and I turned around just in time to see Sister walking toward the baggage carousel.

Sister is a character of epic proportions. She loves Texas, having spent some of her youth here. She is a bigger fan of pop culture, including the TV series Dallas, than even me. She loves a good meal, perhaps almost as much as I do. We got into my car. I connected my phone and the radio blasted the theme to Dallas. “So much fun!” she said. “Why don’t you go pick up Whataburger while I get my rental car and head to your house?” And that’s just what I did.

To close out day one, I offered Sister a drink. “Sister,” I said, “Let me fix you a bijou.” She looked at me like I had just announced the death of the Roman pontiff on state-run TV. “I’m game,” she replied. Here I set to work making a cocktail I had never made, nor did I know would be potable. I did this with all the swagger of a bartender who’s served up drinks for years at the same establishment. As in, “Trust me, you’ll like it. There is no other option.” I poured two bijous and we toasted Sister’s arrival and visit. Sister took a sip. Sister put her glass on the counter. Sister said the following.

“Tastes like a Yankee Candle. From the 1890’s.”

And that was day one. “Where’s the snowstorm? What happened to the blackout?!” you ask. Patience, friends. All will be revealed.