Hospital poetry, t-shirt quilts, a theology of advertising + a call for singers

Our email blast-administrator at work would nag me for the odd inconsistency, but I experimented a little with formatting this time. Let me know what you think.

Earlier this week, I finished reading physician Victoria Sweet's book God's Hotel, about the lessons she learned as a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, before and during the almshouse's transformation to a "modern center of care." It's probably the best, most moving book I've read so far this year. I wept aloud at one scene, but laughed and sighed and longed for more doctors like her at many other times.

One of the many patients whose story she tells is a man she calls Mr. Zed. I don't remember the background on him, but as a reward for those who carefully read the footnotes, she included this extra poem of his. I kind of want to memorize it.

Letter needing no stamp
To His Supreme Holiness, the Lord:
I sometimes wonder how you can bear
The dreadful burden of knowing everyone's thoughts.
The anguish, the heartbreak, the agony.
How can you even relax?
Maybe you try not to get too involved.
Or maybe you spend all night, weeping.

Why did you create such a sad world?
Why do infants die?
Why do honest people get cheated?
Why do the poor get crushed to the wall?
Personally I would turn down your job in a second.
You can't buy a pie or go to the movies.

And there are always people denouncing you and cursing you.
Some say you had a crazy son who said
I am the Way and the Life.

We must all pray that you never resign or become bitter.
As sad as things seem to be here
Without you they'd be infinitely worse.
Thank God for God
Stay in there buddy
Have a martini once in a while
Create a new universe.

"Mr. Zed was part of the poetry group at Laguna Honda," Dr. Sweet writes. "There were some very good poets in it."

:: events ::
  • SF class tension and the church meeting, 3/28: If you've followed the ongoing tensions over tech workers' presence in San Francisco (high rents, Google-bus protests, etc.) and wondered how the church could respond, a few of us are having a dinner meeting tomorrow night (March 28) to discuss this. We plan to meet at Schmidt's in the Mission (2400 Folsom St.) at 6:45 p.m. Others are welcome to join, but let me know you're coming so we grab a big enough table. If you can't make it but would be interested in future discussions, let me know that, too.
  • Ozymatli in Oakland, 3/28-3/29: The LA band plays the New Parish in downtown Oakland. I'm really tempted to catch the Saturday night show. Tickets: $30 in advance/$35 at the door. Doors at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. show.
  • Project Peace at Richmond's Pt. Isabel, 4/5: For the first time I can recall, Project Peace has a Richmond site, right by the Costco. Sign-up's been so low, though, they may have to cancel if more people don't register. Can you spare a few hours that Saturday? We'll be working from 9 to noon.
  • Easter dinner at my place, 4/20: Due to my Facebook fast, I won't be announcing this there, but please let me know if you don't have other Easter Dinner plans. I'd love to include you in the feast.
:: tunes ::
:: adventures ::
:: visual art ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
All this reminded me again of the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE, whose work I was fortunate enough to see during a U.S. exhibition a few years ago. If you've missed my previous rhapsodies on his work, you can get a glimpse on his website. His work is best seen in person, though, so if ever you get a chance to see an exhibit, don't miss it. Few artists have inspired me to such wonder and reflection with the same piece.

And if you want to refresh your memory of some protest songs from the last century, my friend Enuma did a nice piece last year on "the women who sang out for civil rights."

:: food ::

  • Quick dinner: Ever since my move, I seem to be getting home later and later (work's partly to blame, too, of course), which means that if I get home close to 8 -- as I did tonight -- and then decide to cook a longer recipe like tuna-noodle casserole, I might not eat until 9. Or 10. Thus, I've made this great, quick, spicy broccoli pasta dish several times recently. Though it doesn't call for meat, I chopped up bacon the last time and sauteed the garlic and red pepper flakes in the rendered fat without marring the dish. Though I blush a bit to recommend her, Martha Stewart does have some good, basic recipes.

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