Monday, January 27, 2014

Pismo Beach - Arroyo Grande - Coalinga - San Francisco - Castro Valley (all in California)

1/27/2014 Peace and Good, I have been in California all this week visiting the friars throughout the Central Coast up to San Francisco. Each of the apostolates is very different from the others. Pismo Beach is more a retirement area near the coast, Arroyo Grande is more a farming region just a bit inland, Coalinga is very much a farming zone, San Francisco is a rough neighborhood, while Castro Valley is in the suburbs outside of San Francisco. The weather all this week has been incredible, especially considering the freeze on the east coast. The one thing that they could use, desperately, is rain. This is the rainy season, and they have not received any rain or snow. They are hoping for a good rain this coming weekend, which would be an incredible blessing. This affects the whole country because so much of our produce is grown in the central valley of this state. Two of the places I visited are poorer areas. San Francisco is basically an African-American community that is slowly becoming Hispanic, and Coalinga is a very poor farming area with a large number of migrants (the second poorest counties in the country). The friars are doing fine work. It has also been good to be in the same time zone for a while. I will be flying to Reno for a few days later in the week where the friars take care of the cathedral. Then back to Castro Valley until I head back to Chicago on the 7th. Here is some of my reading: Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim This is the story of two men, one English and one German who studied with each other and encounter each other in East Africa shortly before World War I. They closely resemble each other, so the German hatches a plot to kill the Englishman and take his place. He fits perfectly into the personality of the Englishman and is commended by the Kaiser who is actively preparing for war. The book is written in the style of spy novels at the beginning of the 20th century (with many stereotypes of the honorable Englishman and the dishonorable German). The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory This is the story of a Princess, Joquetta, from Luxembourg who marries into the English royal family during the 15th century A.D. and her interaction with the king, Henry VI, and his wife, Marguerite. Unfortunately, Henry suffers from some form of mental illness which leaves him unresponsive for long periods of time. Marguerite and the king favor certain nobles to the detriment of others, which eventually leads to civil war. In the midst of all of this is the princess who becomes Lady Rivers. The title contains the word rivers because of a legend concerning the founding of the royal family of Luxembourg where the founding queen was a type of water goddess. This is where I have a problem with the book. It gets a bit into magic and the idea that men mess things up all the time and women are always put down simply because they are women. In spite of this, the book, like all of her books, is well written and worth reading. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux This was the second book by Paul Theroux that I have read. The first was the Mosquito Coast. I have to admit that I really did not like that one all that much. This one, on the other hand, which is a bit of a travelogue, was very enjoyable. It is the account of his trip from London to Vietnam and Japan and then back to London through Russia, all of which he did by train whenever possible. He has great insights into the character of various people. He speaks of the governments of certain where the people are currently suffering persecution from a tyrant. He reflects on certain authors and their works. I could easily recommend this book. Death in Breslau: An Inspector Eberhard Mock Investigation by Marek Krajewski This is a strange detective story that takes place in the city of Breslau in Germany (I think Breslau is now in Poland) just after the take over of Hitler. A young woman from a family of nobility is murdered in what is obviously a ritual murder. The story shows the decadence of Germany during the late 20’s and early 30’s (not unlike the film and play Cabaret). It also shows the gradual growth in power and violence of the Nazi’s as they grab control of the police force. Finally, it shows the decadence and the indifference of the nobility in Germany, a pampered and totally vile group of people. The story throws together Nazi’s, medieval Satanists and the KGB and CIA. There are many, many twists and turns, but the book is not for those who are looking for a comforting story. It is anything but that. Nevertheless, it is good, and gives one a peek at a certain period and certain country just before the boom fell. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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