A little over 12 years ago I bought a Toyota Prius. Since I drive for my job I needed a car with good gas mileage. By any measure I got that: it took me 270,000 miles (for a perspective it’s only 238,900 miles from the earth to the moon). A few weeks ago I learned that repairs on my car would cost $3,300 and it was only valued at $3,000. It’s time had come. Yesterday I picked up my new car: a Honda Clarity plug in hybrid. I hope I get as much satisfaction with this car as I did with my Prius.
While Nancy attends the conference I get to play. Most years I walk enough to nearly offset the calories I consume at various restaurants, and this year was no exception. Here’s what I want to share about this trip:
- If you have a choice of airlines, don’t choose Air Canada Rouge. It isn’t Air Canada and it’s not even close. The crew is fantastic and food is passable, but “rouge” doesn’t mean “red” as much as it means “slave ship.” The seats were so close that none of us were able to move. On the way back we paid enormous bucks to upgrade to a seat next to an emergency exit. Those seats were good but expensive.
- Toronto is a beautiful city. If you’re willing to walk there’s more to see than you can do in a week. While Nancy was in meetings I had the pleasure of exploring not only downtown but also Cabbagetown and its annual Forsythia Festival.
- I belong to the community of people who photograph gravestones and it took a few hours but I found and photographed the grave of Fr. Joseph Basil Doyle CSP (1893-1969).
- The people of Toronto are wonderful and welcoming. Without exception everyone I met went out of his way to make certain my visit was a good one. I only hope I present San Diego as well as they present Toronto.
Next year we meet in Baltimore and it’s likely Nancy will retire before her convention returns to Toronto. But if our wandering returns us to Toronto I’ll be happy.
As readers of this blog know, Nancy and I travel to Yosemite National Park every winter. We began this in 2000 when we stumbled on what was called then “Chef’s Holidays” but is now called Taste of Yosemite.
It’s a magical time as we avoid the gridlock that happens most of the year but it’s also terrific for Nancy who attends several cooking demonstrations (and Tom who gets to eat the recipes she brings home).
We also enjoy hiking the valley floor and taking pictures of what we see. But several of the last few years we’ve been concerned over the effect of climate change and this year was no exception.
I recognize that many of you who read this blog live in areas that would love warmer temperatures in the winter but that misses the point. Yosemite thrives on a weather pattern that is not affected by human interference. This year we heard the sound of chainsaws and learned that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of trees were cut down as a result of drought and infestation of bark beetles.
Climate change harms all of us, but not right away and not all at once. We who love Yosemite and other national parks fear that the things that make these places magical are in danger. In addition to drought and beetle infestation, Yosemite has also endured fires that scar it for decades.
We pray that 2019 is more like 2017.
On the morning of May 14, 1994 I was ordained a Catholic priest as a member of the Paulist Fathers along with Fr. Paul Reynolds, Fr. Don Andrie, and Fr. Jerry Tully. By the way, if you click on Jerry’s page he talks about his ministry in Tennessee but he’s now assigned to St. Paul the Apostle in Los Angeles.
Alas, a little over three years after my ordination I fell in love and left the Paulist Fathers to get married. But I still celebrate my ordination and still think of myself as a priest. As a hospice chaplain I’ve celebrated the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing when a local priest was not available.
I don’t regret my seminary formation, and Nancy and I continue to support the Paulist Fathers financially. I don’t know how the Paulists view me, but I continue to keep in touch with several of those I met as a Paulist. I hope they celebrate with me.
I’ve filed this post under both “celebrating” and “ranting” and with good reason. Two hundred and twenty one years ago Edward Jenner (1749-1823) began to explore smallpox, a virus that devastated populations at that time. Thirty percent of those who came down with the disease died of it and many of those who didn’t were scarred for life. Mr. Jenner noticed that those who suffered from a much milder disease, cowpox, appeared to be immune to smallpox. He suggested that if he could give people cowpox (which was virtually never fatal) he could ensure that they would not be in danger of contracting the much more dangerous smallpox.
He was right. And more to the point, he gave birth to the vaccine movement. Today we see vaccines as a treatment, a way to introduce something into our bodies that will protect us from dangerous diseases.
Vaccines stimulate our immune systems to protect us from dangerous diseases. You can find the list of these diseases here.
That’s why I’m celebrating. But I’m also ranting because in 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published and article in The Lancet that claimed there was a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism.
As you can imagine this created incredible anxiety among parents of infants. Nothing frightens parents more than the idea that they are doing something that will harm their children.
In the immediate aftermath of Wakefield’s article, the percentage of children who received vaccinations plummeted.
But on further observation it became clear that Wakefield lied. Other doctors replicated his experiment and none of them replicated his results. The Lancet withdrew its support as did everyone who partnered with him and in 2010 he lost his license to practice medicine.
I’d like to tell you that Mr. Wakefield’s fraudulent claims had no traction and that parents once again vaccinated their children, but this is simply not true. The combination of Mr. Wakefield’s lies, his influence on American celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, and the general belief in health conspiracies leave us with the reality that thousands of our children are not properly protected from easily avoidable diseases.
Some of these parents mean well and are overwhelmed by bad information from sources who capitalize on their ignorance. Others find misinformation an easy way to punish the other parent in custody disputes.
Regardless, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children place them in needless harm’s way. They claim that vaccines are “poison” that will harm their child when in reality vaccines make their bodies work better. Vaccines have our backs in the sense that they make us stronger.
This week, if you’re the parent of an infant or know someone who is, please encourage them to keep up with their vaccine schedule. When these infants are old enough to talk they will thank you (and so will I). While I didn’t like getting shots as an infant, toddler, or child, I’m grateful to my parents that they protected me.
We live in a time of “alternative facts” and conspiracies, where bloggers and (so called) journalists find an income stream in lying. I don’t begrudge their income stream, but I do wish to call out plan to put children in danger to make a buck.
Don’t believe them. Vaccinate your children.
Eleven years ago today I bought a brand new Prius. As I drive for my job it’s important that I get a car with good gas mileage. Today it has a few dings and I had to replace the battery 3 years ago, but with 242,040 miles on it it’s doing well. Happy birthday Prius!
Each year since 2000 Nancy and I have driven to Yosemite National Park. Each year nearly 4 million people visit but most people come during the summer; they don’t know what they’re missing.
In addition to Yosemite being magical in the snow, we also attend a wonderful event. It used to be called “Chef’s Hoidays” but because of a trademark dispute the event is now called A Taste of Yosemite. Each year they bring in gourmet chefs from around the country. Anita Lo topped the bill for our session. Nancy attends cooking demonstrations while I hike and read (and we both hike).
A few years ago I bemoaned the fact that the weather was getting warmer and I feared it was getting worse. It was better last year, and fantastic this year. A few days before our arrival they received a nice coating of snow and it snowed while we were there. When we left yesterday morning we needed to leave by a different route because of the snow, but it was well worth it.
And finally, we had several wonderful conversations with Gayle Pirie and John Clark, the owners of Foreign Cinema in San Francisco. I’m not dropping these names to puff up my importance, but to encourage anyone who lives in or near New York, San Francisco, and Los Gatos, you should eat there.
The only blemish on this trip was something I foreshadowed last year. For the past 20 years or so, much of Yosemite Valley was contracted to Delaware North but starting last spring it changed to Aramark. We noticed a few differences, including the dinner package itself. The crowd was much smaller than we remembered, and we were told that Aramark did very little marketing and we found the web page much harder to navigate. Hopefully by next year they will have learned how to do this.
In any case, we’ll be back in 2018.
Ten years ago today I drove off with my brand new Toyota Prius. At the time I wasn’t sure how long I would keep it, but I generally keep cars for as long as they last. Ten years and 218,860 miles it’s still getting me where I need to go.
Three years ago I had to replace the large battery and that was a few thousand dollars. But other than that, a few minor repairs, and routine maintenance, it’s been great. The first battery lasted seven years and when I replaced it I assumed I’d keep it for the life of the second battery. There’s no way to know how long this battery will last, but assuming I have four years left, that may do it.
I’ve averaged 21,886 miles per year (and assuming all trends continue) the odometer will read 306,404 on March 17, 2020. At that point it will be a 14 year old car and I don’t imagine I’ll pony up for another battery.
But who knows?
As long time readers of this blog know all too well, Nancy and I make a pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park each year.
The last few years we’ve been concerned because it’s been too warm and too dry. California has been suffering a drought for a few years and we’ve noticed it in warm temperatures and diminished falls. This year we were more hopeful because this winter is turning into an El Nino year. Yosemite had several snowfalls before our visit and we were optimistic, and we were justified in being so.
We hit rain for most of the drive from Fresno to our destination and when we got to the valley floor the snow was not the fluffy, new snow that we like, but hard crusty snow and ice. That said, it was nice to see snow.
Over the next 2 days we hiked like crazy and (truth be told) I had two epic falls, both times on my right elbow. Ice is not forgiving. That said, it was magical to be surrounded by snow and the air was cold enough to make it feel like winter (OK, I get that many of you are digging out from 2 or 3 feet of snow and I don’t envy that, but living in San Diego robs you of a few experiences).
We also enjoyed being there for the Chef’s Holidays even if our chefs this year are from New York and we’re unlikely to have the pleasure of visiting them. But if you have a chance to visit Annisa or Dirt Candy, don’t pass it up.
For as long as we’ve been going to Yosemite, many of the employees we have interacted with have been employed by Delaware North. We’ve had some issues with them, but the employees have been second to none. This year we learned that the National Park Service ended their relationship with Delaware North and chose instead Aramark. The Park Service may have made this choice for economic reasons, and we understand this. But we fear that their choice may make customer service a lesser priority and that next year (and the years after that) will provide us with inferior service and lesser paid employees.
We are committed to Chef’s Holidays 2017 and we pray we won’t be disappointed.
Today my father in law, Al Graff, celebrates his 97th birthday. Here he is seen with Fr. Joe Carroll.
Al’s life celebrates the best of the 20th Century, the best of our immigration policy, and the best of what it means to be Catholic. Do you think I exaggerate? Let me give you some of the high points of Al’s life (so far).
His parents, Paul Graff (1882-1967) and Theresa Sailer Graff (1892-1977) were born in <a href=" were born in Austria-Hungary, now Austria. They both made their way to the United States in the early 1900s because their parents wanted a better life for them and their descendants. They were successful.
They met in Mandan, North Dakota and married on September 8, 1917. I have a copy of their marriage certificate. According to the laws of North Dakota at the time they had to swear that neither of them had more than 1/8th Negro blood; additionally a doctor found that neither was an “idiot, epileptic, imbecile, feeble minded person, common drunkard, insane person, or person who has been afflicted with hereditary insanity, or afflicted with pulmonary tuberculosis in its advanced stages, or afflicted with any contagious venereal disease.”
Al was born on January 23, 1919. He, his parents and extended family moved to Los Angeles in the early 1920s where he grew up. His cousin (Bob) grew up next door and they lived more as siblings than cousins. As parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, their pastor (Fr. Ford), recognized Al’s and Bob’s potential. He promised their parents that if they cleaned the church on Saturdays they would have their tuitions paid for at Loyola High School.
After his time there he returned to Los Angeles where he courted and married Marion Goetz in 1947. They had five children: Greg (1948), Mary Kay (1950), David (1952), Leandra (1954), and Nancy (1960), who I married.
They moved from Los Angeles to Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego in 1958.
As Al’s career began to unwind he increased his work with his parish, St. James and St. Leo Catholic Church in Solana Beach. This culminated in his ordination as a permanent deacon in 1983. To this day he feels his vocation as a deacon informs this part of his life.
In 1991 he and his best friend, Dr. Dick Wheelock founded a medical clinic at St. Leo’s to treat those who had no other choice for medical care. Dick died in 2014 but the clinic continues.
As we talk with Al, he looks back on his first 97 years with gratitude. His humble early life fills him, not with pride, but with an awareness of his good fortune. His greatest hope is not only that his children do well, but that they continue his ministry of generosity. He hopes that we all live our lives convinced that our gifts ensure that the generations after us prosper better than us.
Because his parents did the same thing. And they did.