The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Western Trip Part 2: Go West, Old Man

I meant to post yesterday, but my world became far too crowded with tasks and other demands to do much of anything else. By the time I had time, I was too tired to think, much less write. Of course, this morning wasn't much better. After 8 a.m. Mass I facilitated our weekly parish Bible Study, then attended a clergy meeting, followed immediately by a liturgy committee meeting, and finally got home at about 1 p.m. For some reason I just don't feel retired. But as Dear Diane is fond of saying, "For someone who loves what you do you sure do complain a lot." And in truth I do enjoy what I do, since being a deacon in our parish is a joy, especially now with our new church almost finished.
Yes, we're building a new church that will seat 1,100 people. Our current building, which began life as a small mission church, seats only about 500 people crammed together in less than moderate comfort. Since over 5,000 people now attend Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses during our peak (winter) season here in central Florida, we must schedule between nine and eleven Masses every weekend to handle the crowds. Once we move into the new building, sometime in late July, things will improve drastically. But before then there's a lot of work to do, a lot of preparation to be made. It's all very exciting, though. God has certainly blessed our parish, this wonderful community of believers. May He continue to do so.
I'll include some photos of the new church in a future post.

Now, back to our trip West...

After our brief stay in Tombstone, Arizona, Dear Diane, Maddie and I continued West, heading for San Diego. We made our way across the desert and then over the mountains just east of San Diego, amazed at all the wind turbines strung out across the landscape. (Warning: editorial comment follows) It will be interesting to see what happens to this government supported industry if the tax credits it has reaped for years actually expire and are not renewed by Congress. This subsidy costs you and me over $6 billion annually and really does little to encourage the development of more efficient sources of energy. Anyway, I really don't support the idea that the federal government should be picking winners and losers in any industry. After all, these are the same folks that brought us the efficiencies of the Veterans Administration. (End of comment)

It was wonderful to once again find ourselves in San Diego and we enjoyed our drive through the city as we let our GPS take us straight to our hotel, the La Quinta Inn in Old Town. (The inn allows dogs and all three of us were ready to get out of the car and relax a bit.) Once checked in and recovered, we called our dear old friends, Sally and Chuck Smiley, and firmed up our dinner plans for the evening.

CAPT C.B. Smiley, USN (Ret.)

Dear Diane and I had been married for only a few short months when we moved into our first home together in San Diego. That was in January 1969. Actually, that first home was in Chula Vista, a San Diego suburb not far from my duty station, a Navy helicopter squadron based at Naval Air Station Imperial Beach. It was there that as a young Lieutenant (j.g.) and fledgling pilot I met then-Commander C. B. Smiley, the squadron's executive officer, and later commanding officer, who for some reason known only to him, took me under his wing and taught me how to be a good naval officer and an even better human being. The student, however, never matched the high standards set by the teacher's own example. And today, when I mentally flip through the pages of my internal encyclopedia and find the entry for "A Good Man", Chuck Smiley stares back at me in my mind's eye. In the same way, his wife, Sally, became Diane's mentor and taught my 22-year-old bride how to survive and flourish as the wife of a naval officer. Sally could do no wrong and there were many conversations in our new family that began with the words, "Well, Sally says..."

Sally and Diane

Early that evening we met Sally and Chuck at their fabulous downtown condo and together made our way to a nice waterfront restaurant, the Pier Cafe, that offered pleasant outdoor seating for both humans and dogs. The seafood and service were quite good, the conversation even better, and the company the best. It was a perfect evening and the USS Midway, now a remarkable naval museum, could be seen from our table.

Chuck, by the way, was a key member of the team responsible for bringing the USS Midway to San Diego and turning it into the city's greatest tourist attraction. If you go to San Diego, be sure to spend some time aboard the Midway. You can't miss it: it's the big aircraft carrier right off Harbor Drive. Check out the website here

Midway from the San Diego shoreline
Here's a photo of Chuck, me, and our two crewmen, Mike Longe and Glen Slider shortly before we flew the mission to recover the Apollo 13 astronauts when they returned from their ill-fated trip to the moon and back. We were all a lot younger back in 1970.

The next morning we drove up the coast, marveling at the growth of what were once little seafront towns between San Diego and Los Angeles. After an hour or so of off-highway driving we arived at beautiful Laguna Beach and the hillside home of other dear friends, Darlene and Warren Aut. We've known them both since those early Navy days in that first squadron. Warren was Chuck Smiley's executive officer way back then and went on to achieve flag rank and become Admiral Aut. And Darlene was one of Dear Diane's very best friends; they were loyal Navy wives who supported each other and raised families on their own while their husbands were away for months at a time, flying off of ships in the Pacific Ocean.
View of the Pacific from the Auts' living room
Darlene and Warren have a new dog, an Australian Labradoodle named Sally Benjamin. A bouncy, fluffy little thing, about twice the size of our dog, she and Maddie seemed to get along well during our two-day stay. Diane and I needed the non-hotel rest. After a week of cross-country driving, their lovely home overlooking the Pacific provided the perfect therapy. Thank you, Darlene and Warren.

Sally Benjamin and Maddie enjoying each other

Darlene and Warren join us for lunch in Laguna Beach
We left our friends and made our way inland so we could visit Sequoia National Park and be humbled by its huge, ancient trees. I'll have to tell you about it tomorrow. The evening Bible Study session is fast approaching, so I must leave.

But before I leave today, let me say only that memory is a wonderful thing, one of God's splendid gifts. Through it we can relive those meaningful events of past days and revisit all the good friends who did so much to bring goodness into our lives. 

God's peace...

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