Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fr. John Coleman, St. Joseph's Catholic School, Satchmo at the Waldorf, John Douglas Thompson, Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters, Echo Brown and a poem by Lito Tejada-Flores about Doug Tompkins

Honoring a holy man of the cloth
Fr. John and Bill Murphy at 90th Birthday Lunch
(Photo by Patricia Murphy Hardy)

FATHER JOHN … It’s almost a given with modern American life. We change our situation. Move away from home. Lose touch with old friends. Rarely do we get a chance to reconnect with our past lives from 50 some years ago. But thanks to cyber connections with members of my grade school class from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in California, I got to do just that this past week … Our local parish priest – one of those selfless Catholic holy men for whom Christ’s gospel was about serving the poor not beefing up the collection plate – was celebrating his 90th birthday. So classmates Ray DiFazio of San Francisco and Gary Shara of San Jose assembled a dozen or so former altar boys and a sprinkling of Catholic school girls from the our old Mountain View days (circa 1952-59) to take the good padre out to lunch at the Bay Café beside the Palo Alto Municipal Airport … It was a beautiful meal, with a lot of reminiscences and catching up and memories relived. Father John Coleman was alert and as kindly and admirable as ever, ministering still to a mostly Hispanic flock in his East Palo Alto parish … “Arthur McArthur” he used to call me, and he did again. Talking of the days when my Dad was altar boy director and all of us were idealistic young people, with our lives ahead of us -- before we’d gone off in different directions. Had become lawyers, teachers, politicians. One a falconer, another a college provost, another a jazz musician. Most retired, or soon to be. But Father John’s loving example had brought us all together for a moment once again, where it wasn’t so important what we were, or what we’d done, but how we all still honored where we came from and how we’d helped shape each other’s lives.

Young Fr John in the sacristy at St. Joseph's Mountain View (Photo by Ray DiFazio)

SATCHMO AT THE WALDORF … It was a homecoming of another kind with my oldest daughter Iris Willow and my son-in-law Bertrand Fan. My dad was in theater and I’ve always loved attending theatrical productions. So this visit to San Francisco the three of us took the time to attend some plays … The Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theater is one of the nation’s premier theater companies. And we were extremely lucky to catch the amazing John Douglas Thompson in Terry Teachout’s one-man show, Satchmo at the Waldorf … Thompson took us backstage of Louis Armstrong’s public persona to reveal the racial struggles, personal betrayals and musical brilliance of Armstrong and his rise from New Orleans poverty and obscurity to world class fame. It’s a bittersweet story that makes you cry as much as laugh and cheer … And Thompson won a standing ovation at the end of the show -- for good reason. It was a tour-de-force performance. Highly recommended.

Echo Brown in performance (Courtesy Photo)

BLACK VIRGINS ARE NOT FOR HIPSTERS … As luck would have it, Iris, Bertrand and I caught another one-person show. But the situation couldn’t have been more different and yet, for all that, eerily similar. Instead of the gold leaf opulence of ACT’s Geary Theater, we squeezed into the drab, working-class Marsh studio theater in San Francisco’s Mission District to catch the phenomenal Echo Brown unveiling her life story as a coming-of-age young woman. It was sassy, sad, sexy, and at the same time a supremely moving performance. Where Thompson told the tale of black male experience in America, with all its racism and injustice, Brown did nearly the same thing for black female experience – only with a more contemporary spin. Down to earth and in your face … Again, you were made to run the gamut of emotions and feel deeply what it was like to be oppressed and to rise above that oppression through sheer will, humor and life’s dawning revelations. It was another standing ovation evening … I’m hoping Brown brings her marvelous show to Colorado. Highly recommended.

TRANSIT AUTHORITY … Great to see all three major local governments working together so well in Telluride, finally, and making some headway on getting a Regional Transit Authority on the ballot for this coming November. It’s an exciting time for regional cooperation.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “Going from big to little regions, going from capitalist to socialist, going from patriarchy to matriarchy – as long as the discourse remains merely secular and merely scientific, I think it’s doomed. I mean, if it doesn’t kindle us up to singing, if it doesn’t quicken us to dance, to gratitude and praise, what kind of knowledge is it?” –Ronald Goodman, Planet Drum Pulse, Fall 2015


Doug Tompkins

Not enough time
Not enough time to
save the planet
Not enough time to
reseed all those grasses
But the hills are greener now
Not enough time to
restore those jaguars
to their rightful place
But the world is
a little wilder now
Not enough time for all
his ideas, plans and projects
schemes and dreams
But enough
for the most important ones
Never enough time
But enough time to love Kris
Always enough time for friends
And enough time to
change the world
Thanks Doug

-Lito Tejada-Flores
Mountainfilm Co-founder


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