Showing posts from September, 2009


My next visit on my pilgrimage of Rothko’s work was to The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art today which cost $15 to gain entrance.
They have a number of Rothko’s but only one on display unless I missed a room. Here is a link to the one I saw ttp:// . The main dominant colour is orange hovering above a blue block all placed on a deep red/maroon. It was the only Rothko in the room sharing a space with other modern art. This piece on its own seems not so boastful as the clutch of his work at the LA MOMA. In total I spent about 30 mins in front of it which was rewarding. I am unsure what it meant spiritually. But as I pondered I was joined by two other people. We were united by the work the silence and the experience we seemed to be informed enough without engaging with each other. I was wondering how different an experience this was in comparison to church for many people. We were after all in a new sort of cathedral. Here the gods of the art have…

Two conversations from two very different places

I was looking in a very swanky art gallery this morning the sort of place you are supposed to buy the stuff. I have a wide ranging conversation with the manager about art which is for another time but he says that in divorce 50% of everything is a lot.
Latter in the day as I come out of the local store there is a man, always black, holding an empty paper cup and he is not looking for coffee. The black man and the paper cup have become for me the very image of broken American capitalism, not because of this one single smelly human being holding this cup but because there are so many of them. I place a single dollar bill into the empty cup to buy his story. I ask why he is not working, I presume the story is not unusual and here is the link with the start. The answer to my single dollar question is, my wife left me. For this man with the paper cup it seems that 50% of everything is a 100%. The art dealer believed that giving half your kingdom away for something was not worth it, whatever…

SF 3 Roomies

I come to the last night in SF before Erin comes.
My four bed dorm has been a place of change we started off with 1 Minnesota man, 1 French man, 1 Australian man and me. Then we lost Minnesota man, then Australian went to LA, in comes a man from Australia I think, I only hear him arrive during the night and see him when I get up, oh yes and his girlfriend. So sometimes of four bed dorm is more. Then comes Hong Kong man whose opening question me is, have I seen cockroaches? I give him a firm no. He seems to boast tonight he has seen a cockroach in the room. I tell him I did not need to know that and thank God I am on the top bunk unless these little buggers can fly jump or climb I am safe for the last night. If I am not mistaken Frenchman is still with us, I never know until 1 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Tomorrow English man leaves and will be replaced by .............? The Common Room here is like a multinational student room and most people have a lap top of some description. They sp…

SF 2

This sort of community living in a hostel is something fresh for me. This morning I made my usual journey to the bathroom which is a shower, not the rest room which is the toilet, which you don’t do much resting in, when I saw rest room I imagined a group of people relaxing after a tough day but it was just me not resting. Anyway back to the bathroom which is the shower. I strip to my fine shower physic and look into the cubicle and before me is a disappointing sight. Where the empty shower tray should be is a shallow pool of used water. I could tell it was used because all of the different coloured hair floating lazily in the pool. This has gone beyond the odd pubic hair this is like a hair revolution below me. So I retreat in search of another shower which I find successfully.
The common room here is a bit like the United Nations with people from all over the world. There is the man who always wear’s cycling lycra which he designs himself. Then there is a man with tattoos who is a ve…

Oh what a night SF1

Do you remember the song from I think it was The Four Seasons Oh what a night? Well for me it is the same expression for a different reason. Made it to San Francisco 10 0clock at night and chickened and got a cab to the hostel. I am in a four bed dorm with three other guy’s they also have mixed dorms but Erin said No No No. Who do you think uses the prayer Please God don’t let me fall? Mountaineers, wire walkers scaffolders, no me lying on the top bunk I am last in the room so I get a top bunk. The last time I slept on the top bunk I was 8 years old now I am like granddad in the room they are so young I am not sure whether to go to sleep or read them a story. At some point in the long night alongside the fear of falling out of bed I loos my pillow, it has fallen to its death thousands of feet below it is my only comfort apart from second hand sleeping bag. I think I am the only one in the hostel in a black two piece pair of striped pyjamas. Not sure if I will have to go and get a pair…

Out of LA

$1.15 gets me out of down town LA on the bus. I am pretty certain it’s the 333 I need to get to The Amtrak station. So up comes the bus and I better ask the driver, are you going to Amtrak? It’s says Union Station on the front is the quiet and impatient reply. I dare to try one more time. So that is where I get the Amtrak line? It says Union City on the front of the bus. To put this encounter into perspective I have spent a good amount of time this morning committing the day to God in prayer, give me eyes to see and ears to hear; people and land to engage with, you know the everyday stuff you all do. But now I have a tension within me I am contemplating poking him in the bloody eye and hoping he has hemeroids. But I duly offer my $1.25 into the machine (by the way that gets you any were in the city one way, you do the math). To balance this event another story that might help reflect the difference between NY and LA. On the subway in NY I swiped my subway card and realised I was on th…

LA Metro

I found the metro today so I took off to Hollywood. If you are ever given the choice of going down Hollywood drive or saw of a toe of go for the latter.
On the metro came 3 young girls with their children all between 3 and 16ish (age). It is my presumption they were related but I could be wrong. But I imagine when the older girls were say 3 years old their mommy must have taken them to one side and said. You need to speak up, speak loud, speak without taking a breath and don’t mind whatever anyone else thinks. They invaded the carriage and drowned out the sound of the metro. It was like towing an empty skip behind the train. The younger girls looked at their moms and i could imagine them thinking how am i going to do that for the rest of my life. I got off the metro and I could still hear them as the metro pulled out of the station.
Down the road from where I am staying there making a movie. The road is closed biker copes at all points and numerous of film wanabees with radios telling y…

Rothko on the train

Once again as predetermined the daylight has disappeared from view. All the references points of the day have disappeared, it is nothing new it. The deserts are still there as are the mountains this action of diserpierience is not recorded on the news. The clouds still do their lazy work unseen by me. All the signs and information that help frame our daily lives are now hidden by the darkness. The darkness in itself is not bad it is what is carried out underneath its cover and that we are foolish to believe God is blind in the night desert.
This is Rothko’s trick and I use the word trick in a positive fashion.
When my wife and I went to Amsterdam to visit some of the museums there I used the word trick for the first time. I felt that a small number of great artists discovered a trick with their profession and used it, perhaps the use of light. Others artists would then follow mimicking the trick within these great masterpieces. I digress to demonstrate my ignorance and foolishness sugge…

leaving Houston

Leaving Houston sorry i missed this one
As we left Houston last night the lights of the skyscrapers stete themselves against the darkness of the Houston night, and playing on the MP3 Tom Waits (see Mike O for recommendations ). When I enquire in Houston where the Amtrak train station is people looked blankly. Bus drivers had a vague idea it was somewhere in that direction. It was the same situation with church on Sunday. But here is the rub on both occasions you could see the church and the station from the bus stop i got off from. A geologist from Venezuela informs where the train station is, he thinks.
The train station is like an old style petrol station on an A road in England and this for a city the size of Houston. They tell me the old station was a fine place, pulled down for the new Baseball stadium. So w here have a station that only gets 6…


I spent most of today at the museums first the MOCA The Museum of Contemporary Art. The main reason for going was they had a collection of Rothko paintings all gathered in one space. My first encounter with the work of Rothko was a mistake I wandered into the Rothko room at the Tate Modern in London, never been the same since. You can look them up on the internet to see them. But I sat looking at this work and after about 30 mins I thought something was going on. You know that deep down tingling or striering sensation, like when you are connecting with something bigger than yourself. That feeling you find it difficult to put into word, a piece of music, a view, looking at one of your children doing nothing but being. Knowing that the person you are with has made you more than you would be apart. They don’t make much sense on paper but they are the moment. My experience with Rothko at that point in time fell unplanned into one of those categories. I am not one of those arty type…

The bus

The bus
I have spent quite a lot of time on the bus whichever city I have been in1 and most of the time I am the only white guy on the bus. The bus is the next step up from those guys and gals who live on the bench’s or push a shopping carts. I have to say i never felt threatened o the bus here but yu do travel with God’s interesting people. The very poor who should not on the bus get on at the back so they don’t pay.
The drivers are interesting and come in all forms the women are usually matriarchal powerful types who need the big bus to carry the ego and personality they dominate with a sense of power and bueaty. Asked one just to make sure does this bus go to the concert hall you know the Disney building. Now if you know anything about building this one you will have seen and if you don’t know anything about buildings you will fg o ho that one. It a large concert hall build of twisted steel it is a world class magnificent building. Back to the bus so i ask does this bus go past this…

Venice Beach

Venice Beach
Venice Beach reminds me a little of the scene from the film Apocalypse Now were Martin Sheen makes it to the top of the river and finds all the solders that have just dropped out of the war. Here it seems like all sorts of people who have dropped out of life alongside the beautiful people of course. I want to throw something into the sea as a marker of the furthest point of my journey but not sure what, I seem to need everything I have. Advice, always on a journey pack something to throw into the sea as a symbolic action of leaving something of you self behind and moving on. (Not the laptop). A middle age man passes me on a child’s bike holding a sign saying ‘for sale for weed’. As I walk I take a photo of another somebody but now a nobody on a bench wrapped in a sleeping bag and it must be a 100 degrees something today . Out the corner of my eye I notice an orange dress pushing a bike there are so many bikes here. I kneel, take the shot and move on. The nobody is comple…

LA 1

just arrive in LA. let me tell you the difficult bit of travel always seems to be getting from station to hotel on public transport. arriving at the hostel/hotel i discover i have lost a sandle i must have had them 5 years. i was trying to be cool and straping them the back of my rucksack.
im thinking of lobying Birmingham city councuil to plant palm trees on the Tyburn Road they transform the landscape and we could all listen to Hotel California in the 67 bus.
room is not ready yet the loby is trendy and has a young feeling abut it hope the room lives up to the entrance.
now let me see i have two priorities
1 find a church
2 find where the womens voleyball is playing tomorrow
better get a shower first

leaving Houston

Leaving Houston
As we left Houston last night the lights of the skyscrapers stete themselves against the darkness of the Houston night, and playing on the MP3 Tom Waits (see Mike O for recommendations ). When I enquire in Houston where the Amtrak train station is people looked blankly. Bus drivers had a vague idea it was somewhere in that direction. It was the same situation with church on Sunday. But here is the rub on both occasions you could see the church and the station from the bus stop i got off from. A geologist from Venezuela informs where the train station is, he thinks.
The train station is like an old style petrol station on an A road in England and this for a city the size of Houston. They tell me the old station was a fine place, pulled down for the new Baseball stadium. So w here have a station that only gets 6 train a week 3 to Los A…

my life is not about me

My life is not about me
There is a story doing the rounds that is something like this.
An Australia priest was walking down the road approaching the church, dog collar a glowing. Someone shouts across the road to him “say one for me father”. Before the possible humorous request had finished it plea the priest responds “say one yourself you lazy bastard”. I must try that in Pype Hayes.
The other night i had dinner with someone on the train we exchanged emails and latter in the week i receive an email (which is more than i am getting from my family). Anyway part of it contains a request to pray for someone, to which i do and are.
Richard in his chapter you are not in control uses the phrase ‘My life is not about me’. This phrase seems to make sense of a prayer request on a sabbatical.

Highs abd oh so lows

Highs and oh so Lows.
Before I got on this train I have been having just one meal a day. And have felt great. I could tell you about the highs like people i meet scenery which is amazing but I should also tell you a little about the lows.
Because I have booked a bedroom on the train I get three meals a day as part of the package had something to eat last night I the dinner not sure what it was, but. I have been to the loo this afternoon and blocked it up. These are nice clean usable loos. So I am faced with a dilemma get out of there quick and blame someone (obviously and American) else or try to move the situation on. I choose the latter and have been in there so long I think we passed through a good part of Texas. I hope there is enough water left on the train for the journey.
Wonder what’s for dinner.

Dinner with the cops

Just got into El Paso and found wi fi on the station
Dinner with the cops
They announce on the train they will be offering ‘community seating’ for all meals. That means if you don’t bring your friends or family you share a table with any psychopathic murderer. in reality you get to meet some nice and interesting people. Last night was dinner with the cops. My community eating partner was a retired policeman who spent a number of years on those iconic Harley Davison’s. He was the guy in the cool shades who would switch on those flashing lights and zap you with the siren and would announce in reality what we have heard a hundred times in the movies “step out the car sir”. He did not mind that he carried a gun but seemed more accomplished by the fact that he had never had to use it. As an officer he has escorted 3 Presidents and a king. He was taking the train to LA and back to see his beautiful country.

Houston 2

Houston 2
I feel I have to qualify my narrow and short observations of Houston. The streets are wide and straddled by enormous skyscrapers whose reflection from the sun blinds you. With very little human activity on the streets and the whirr of the metro it is sort of futuristic without soul. So I go to Maces and then I find a tunnel. And lo and behold there is a whole section of Houston interconnected by a series of tunnels; it is a bit like what the American army found the Vietnamese had dug beneath them. It is possible to move from one sky scraper to another from one district to another via a series of air conditioned tunnels lined with places to eat. I know I sound a bit like a boy up form the country for the first time shouting ma ma they have electricity and toilets here. But the rub is you drive to work in your air conditioned car into the car park (which I don’t think is air conditioned) thru to the air conditioned office. You then take your break walking the interconnected tun…

Houston Evening

Houston Evening
Went to the Episcopal Cathedral of Houston for worship this evening, not a bowling alley in sight. But what is interesting is I have been to church each Sunday of my sabbatical and only twice have i received communion. It was an all woman lead service. We 20 or so gathered in the side chapel sang 3 Hymns but only 2 verses from each hymn. A large happy smile appeared on my face when we prayed for Rowan William’s it reminded me of the unity and difficulties we have in the Anglican Church. I thought of the times i would pray for him in my chapel in Pype Hayes, you know he is a very prayed for person.
In all my born days i never thought I would write this next bit. The liturgy of the evening was an antidote to the thin vocabulary I have experienced in my own life and on my travels during worship. At one place we sang Jesus is my friend over and over again like a football chant. Friends; we forget them, disappoint them, lie to them, avoid them, use them, keep them at a dista…

Houston Morning

Houston morning
Getting out of the station was a bit tricky it was one of those dark late nights in a town you have never visited. I eventually shared a cab to my hotel with some guy going my way.
The experience of the morning tells me the city is a soulless place with streets as wide as the Aston expressway and far too straight for far too long to be interesting. You think why did they not put a bend in the street? Then it struck me there was nothing here before or nothing of any note so you don’t have to go round it. The lady on the hotel desk tells me no one is born here they just end up here. It is not completely true but it feels right it does not feel like a town you want to be born in. Interestingly it is the only city I have been asked for money by people on the streets, and felt somewhat threatened by their poverty and request.
Before I came away I did some research for a church to attend and I found Houston’s First Baptist Church, look them up if you like …


Hotel rooms
Chocolat hostel is where we stopped in New York for $64 a night twin room. Picture that room you have somewhere in the house you think if you clear, it paint, and put up shelves you could store stuff in it. That’s our bedroom without all the work but with a steel bunk bed and window that does not close. The hall to our suite reminds me of a scene from the film Taxi Driver where Travis Bickle lives. We are on the 6th floor the lift only works 50% of the time. its really student accommodation so what a 50 year old is doing hear i have no idea apart from not letting the daughter get above her station to early in life.
The bathroom which is shared with half of the 6th floor is interesting. Margaret Thatcher was recorded as saying “if you’re still on the bus at 40 you have not made it in life". Well here is a new take on that view. If you are in a shower that is not yours at 50years old and you’re not sure who that pubic hair belongs to, reflect on life. But having said that…

New Orleans

New Orleans
Ok i need to trust you not to tell Erin the next bit of information, it’s not that she will mind but she will want it as part of her trip and i am not sure there are any left. After my interesting night on the train from NY to NO I have booked a bedroom on the train for the Houston to LA trip that’s 2 nights. I am too old and disorganised to be sleeping in a chair with older ladies from the south or the north or anywhere I suppose.
A friend of a friend Gary meet me at the New Orleans station and took me to dinner so first I want to say thanks to Gary for the southern hospitality I had gumbo for starters and catfish and shrimp aren’t I a brave boy. We walked Bourbon Street, viewed were the slaves gathered for their day off, went to the cathedral; saw the Great Mississippi steam ships and all. To give it a contemporary feel you can also see the Navy ships re stocking for the troops to go out to the gulf. Gary tells me this is the only catholic city in a Bible belt enclave of t…
NY to NO

Leving NY felt a relief to leave behind the chaose and consumption
The train travles thru a long tunnel and its like being on a Disney ride, from the darkness being ejected to the outskirts of the city and all the mess and poverty that is the make up of many city edges,

The night was poor. As you leave Washington you see the usual landmarks seen so many times on the tv. Then it’s just hour after hour of darkness and small towns without the aid of the lights of Times Square. The beauty of North America is not to be seen on this portion of the trip.
I have dinner in the dining car southern fried chicken seen as I am travelling to the south. I am placed with an Australian couple they have a bedroom. It is not until about 3:30 in the morning that I am jealous. Train seats are good but a lie down bed they are not. I am seriously thinking of damaging the budget and trying to get a bed for Houston to LA trip that’s 2 nights. We chatted about the difficulties both countries seem to face …

the bridge

The bridge
Well my week in NY is over and iv begin my trip round the USA on Amtrak. When i ask myself where am I going? I think Boston is only 4 hours up the track. So why should it take 5 weeks? Perhaps I will find out, maybe I will not. I did toy with the idea of going to Europe not USA but i realised without Erin’s bit of French I would be lost, literally. I am not sure I am any less lost now. So many people in the service industry seem not to be able to speak English, and of course I don’t speak American.
Last night I handed over Ruth my daughter into the hands of BA for her flight home. This year has been a year of privilege for me. In February I came to NY with Daniel my son for a few days. I suppose you can go anywhere but just to be away from what you do and asked to be for a while with someone who is precious to you is a privilege. And I have had the time this year to do that with Daniel and Ruth my daughter. I am more aware of the memories I have when I came with my father man…

Rugs are Mountains and caves

Rugs are mountains and caves
I was in a rug store once, it was sort posh for us.
We were doing the adult thing ruling the rugs in by style, size, colour and desire. Then ruling them out by price, we have found it a good efficient process. Perhaps Erin and I should keep this as one of our values of life. We were asking very practical question of each other and the staff. Rugs were in piles of perhaps twenty or more. So if you like the one at the bottom the staff would flip them back and pull out the one you were going to rule out by price. But in these situations I am easily distracted and my eyes began to wander to a young child perhaps 4 or 5 years old. This child knew nothing of rugs; hand tied, colours, size, durability or price. But then that is not what the child saw. He saw mountains ranges. He struggled to the top of the mountain and expressed to the whole of the rug department he had conquered the mountain. With his newly discovered confidence in his mountaineering ability witho…

New York Sunday more

Sunday after noon
Its Monday labour day and im in Bloomingdales coffee shop writing while Ruth shops
Let me give you some figures on Brooklyn Tab church as we New Yorkers call it. Started 12 noon finished 2;15, more than 3000 people, choir 120 people with 2 leaders 5 people co lead the service 1 preacher. We worshiped in song for 45 min then the notices. Preacher started 1;15 then finished with an alter call at 2;15. This was the second service of the day the 1st at 9 and then back at 3 for a lady teacher and a gospel service at 6. We left exhausted at 2;15 to buy the music from their bookshop.
As I sit in Bloomingdales someone on the staff asks is this a return item? The lady in charge is a beautiful greying black woman and from across the shop floor orders the guy to put it down , three times . She carries this out in such a commanding manor I almost wet myself and throw myself to the shop floor and own up to her everything I have ever done wrong in my life. There are so many New Yo…

New York Sunday

Part of the reason for this trip is to see and experiences new things. So this Sunday morning being a good Anglican Priest I went to the synagogue, yep Rabi Nigel. There is a whopping great building just down the street from where we are staying. I was unsure how I would be received but they were a welcoming lot. During the service they told me where they were in the book and the man sitting next to me was happy to explain what was going on. He told me about the use of the psalms to prepare for the main reading and prayers then leading onto to the conclusion. It was an interesting experience using the Hebrew scriptures (old Testament) and not just jumping to the conclusion that there were about Jesus. There were about 20 people in the congregation meeting in a room something like a lady or side chapel. I was there for 8 in the morning yes in the morning and after tea and croissant.
When were walking the previous evening I saw a couple coming out of an apartment and by the way th…

WBGO Radio Jazz

WBGO radio jazz
If you have internet may want to share with me a radio station i found WBGO Newark. This what i listen to trying to get to sleep. It a challenge when people are on the roof shouting about the ice cream they have eaten all this at 3 in the morning

I saw Linel Richie on the subway

I saw Lionel Richie on the subway.
We were returning to our luxury (more about that latter) today on subway 1 it takes us to 103 street. For one week we are upper west side people, not the bloke who lives by the Bagot pub. But I digress. Lionel gets on the train as we pull away from Times Square he introduces himself to us all. He does not own up to being Lionel R but he wishes us a good Labour Day break and begins to sing ‘Easy on a Sunday Morning’. His voice is not what it was back in the days when I desperately and inadequately would attempt to get to get a girl on the dance floor for that last slow grope I mean dance. Today there are no Commodores with him, it’s a solo gig. He is a bit less well presented than remember him on the TV, he is greying and is need of a shave. At the end of the gig which I may add was only one song, he reveals a small paper bag that once carried a burger and small fries. The only thing in the bag now is the smell and the grease of what was once a fine …

salty bacon

Salty bacon
My wife tells and also shows me this thing about salty bacon.
If the bacon comes a bit too salty, this is like a leg not a rasher you put it into a container of cold water and somehow the salt is drawn out of the meat, this allows the full flavour to be experienced. This action takes away that Pha tast in your mouth. I have to say that is how I have felt more than recently, like a salty piece of bacon. The last month of no parish responsibility has been a bit like being in a bowl of cold water. It has been a time where some of the bitterness has and is being drawn out this large piece of bacon. I did not plan to be salty or bitter it just seemed to happen over time, bit bit, sinew by sinew the salt and bitterness seeped into my life. I have concluded at this point in my life I am inedible. Nigel is not fit for human consumption. That makes me sad no proper sad. One of the spiritual strands of my life in Pype Hayes has been to try and flourish in the parish in the calling, …

Number 16 Red Brown and Black

Number 16 red brown and black RBB
Its Friday night and its free at the MOMA. This begins my spiritual pilgrimage of Rothko’s works In other words me arsing about in museums. I found three of Rothko’s works number 13, number 10 and Red brown black. If you go on the MOMA webb site they should have some images. In my dissertation on Rothko one of the reasons for choosing him was he belong to the Abstract Expressionists School of painters. The title sounded so intellectually up itself it thought i would explore what it meant. What i discovered is if the painting or the image is entitled “giraffe” you can be sure there is no giraffe, or anything like a giraffe anywhere in front of you. But back to Friday night in New York. There are times when i think Rothko is taking the piss and other times like the Red Brown and Black when i think he is onto something spiritually for me anyhow. Time in front of this RBB today made me smile. It would have been nice to do complin (night prayers) in front…

Why did we come?

Why did we come?
You know the old story for people of certain age you, get to the top of the stairs and could not remember why you went up the stairs. Well here is another observation i was walking through Heathrow Terminal 5 the other day passing the oh so many shops the only one being in my price range was WH Smith . it struck me do people really get the cheapest seats on a plan and then think oh I need a bag its only £500 or that shirt will be handy its only £200? I digress, as we made our way past the many shops Ruth observes that it does not seem obvious that we are waiting for a plane. Terminal 5 happens to be a shopping centre (precinct as we used to call them) were you just happen, if you remember, to leave in a plan.
In visiting 5 churches before I left for the USA I came away from almost all of them thinking and feeling, why did I go? It was like being at the top of the stairs. I write this not as accusation but observation of the church’s I visit but as an observation of my …