The Oscars and Canned Tomatoes

Last night I went to an Oscar party at the home of my friends, Amanda and John. It’s hard to believe I’ve known them for about 6 years–time flies. Amanda & I met in a writing class and we’ve traveled a lot of road together. She had just started a new job when we met–two weeks ago she began a new dream job that she loves. I was in the process of job hunting when we met and was interviewed and hired at St. Peter’s. Amanda and John were in the congregation on my first Sunday there. Amanda & I have been Weight Watchers buddies for years (where’s she’s a rock-start and I’m a tortoise). I preached at their wedding…I could go on. I feel unbelievably lucky/blessed/insert-over-used-word-here to have both Amanda and John in my life.

If the back story isn’t enough to explain how much I love these people, here’s another reason why: last night her house was filled with about 20 people. She had food for days, which she created with a joy and ease I simultaneously covet and admire. I walked in and put my stuff down, poured a cocktail glass of fizzy water (damn Lenten discipline) and was just about to sit down when Amanda said, with such excitement “come here! I’ve got something to show you!” She walked me to the foyer, where she keeps a homemade/makeshift cabinet, the contents hidden by black curtain. She pulled the curtain back: “Would you look at this!?” she pointed to 8 yellow cans of 24 ounce organic diced tomatoes. “79 cents on sale this week at Mariano’s.” “No way” I said. “Way. I knew you’d want to know.”

There is something inherently important and sacred about being known. We all seek it, I think–being known, being loved, being recognized. I remember when I got out of college, I moved to a small, horrific little town in Georgia where I had a dreadful job and was dating someone who was wrong for me on so many levels. It was a terrible time in my life. And I would come home and watch the TV show Friends. These 6 people would sit in a coffee shop all day long and loved each other despite of, or perhaps, because of their flaws and quirks. And I felt so damn lonely. Nobody knew me. And those who did were so far away. Things would get better (somehow, they almost always do, as life tends to be somewhat cyclical). But I remember, with clarity, craving friends who loved me and all my quirks and flaws (of which there are so many!). 

Many, many years later, when I moved to Chicago, while I had a great job and a great love, I still had that same overwhelming sense of being unknown, and far away from people who loved me. And then I met Amanda and John (and Chris and Stacy too, but this is a post about Amanda and canned tomatoes). And things began to change. I began to find my footing.

The power of being known and being loved is just that–power, powerful. Sometimes it’s the littlest of things–like a crazy good sale on canned tomatoes–that points it out. Other times is something deeper, something more. So today I find myself thankful for those places where, unexpected and delightful life dances into realms of longing, for friendship and love that abides, that gives life, that allows the creative to create.

I still watch re-runs of Friends. Central Perk was a great place. But as for me, I’ll take Oscar parties and canned tomatoes.

PS: This is Amanda and me. I won the Oscar party prize (the 2011 Best Film) by having the highest score on the “guess the winner” game Amanda and John had set up for us.  I won it because John gave me a copy of Entertainment Weekly, which featured the predicted winners. I hadn’t even heard of 3/4ths of the movies. And I have yet to see the King’s Speech. But I won–thanks John!

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Putting Whitney on the Prayer List

My friend and fellow priest called this afternoon. We talk enough on the phone that the simple pleasantries like “hello” and “how are you?” sometimes get bypassed for a more direct greeting. At least, that was the case today, when I saw her name flash on my phone. I picked up the phone and said: “I’m putting Whitney on the Prayer List.” She laughed (I knew she would) then replied “And that is just one more way our parishes are so very different” (she’s right). 

I don’t usually put celebs on the prayer list. (In retrospect perhaps we should’ve put Kim Kardashian on the prayers for those preparing for marriage, but I digress).  But I put Whitney on the prayers for the deceased. And not as a joke, or to be cute. But because she was/is an icon. Living in the heart of Boystown, where no one glances twice at a man dressed like a woman or two boys walking the street holding hands, it’s easy to forget that life for the queer community has not always been so welcoming or kind.

As we walked out of Bible study today, one of my parishioners told me of his grief over the loss of Houston. In the cruel world of high school, in the new stages of knowing what it means to be different, to not fit in, Whitney’s voice sang out a language, a song that spoke to him. Other parishioners have told me how she was part of their coming out, how they would sing to her music and it was one place to be safe about who they were.

So we’ll pray for Whitney. And each other. And we’ll keep singing.