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That Was the Week That Was

| July 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

Francis Kilvert was a priest in the Church of England, assigned to a series of small parishes in Wales, until his death at age 39.

And?

The only reason I know about the Right Reverend Francis Kilvert is because he kept a diary, which was published in 1938 – 59 years after his death.

His diaries became famous because he provided an extraordinary window into the rural life of Wales in the 1870s. His writings stand as witness to the means whereby a country priest in a small corner of Great Britain would one day emerge more famous than many priests who went on to become Archbishops of Canterbury.

But what follows not a diary as such but an accounting of a week in my life, June 17-23; my own “That Was The Week That Was” (with apologies to the 80s BBC television show by that name).

I am fully cognizant to share a week in my life is presumptive, knowing no one need be interested in my life beyond family and a few close friends (and, even here I may presume too much).

With that as caveat, here’s how my week unfolded:

The morning of Friday, June 17 I flew to Washington, DC. Our son, Tim, met me at Reagan National. We drove to his home in Arlington, where we picked up his wife, Lisa and their daughters, Jessica and Juliette, and went to dinner at Pie Tanza, a family place with terrific pizza.

Saturday I went with Tim to Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia. It may be the world’s largest shopping mall, but if you arrive before noon you have a decent chance of finding a place to park. I went with Tim because the battery in my 2007 Boston Red Sox World Championship watch (a gift for my work as chairman of The Great Fenway Park Writers Series) had died and I needed a new one.

Once in the mall I walked into Lenkersdorfer, the first jewelry store I found and asked one of the sales people if they had a battery for my watch? He told me his name was “Charlie” and he was a Yankees’ fan, so it would be best if Amanda Galanis, the store’s Red Sox fan, waited on me.

When the comely Amanda saw the watch she was ecstatic. She turned her back, flipped her long red locks above the nape of her neck, revealing a Boston Red Sox “B” tattoo.

I know the Padres have devoted fans, as do the Cub and Cardinal, the Braves and Brewers, and here and there along the way you may find one or two Yankee fans, but no team in professional sports has a greater following than the Boston Red Sox. Can I prove it? No. But neither can you disapprove it.

On Sunday, the 19th, I was the guest preacher at St. Luke’s Episcopal in Washington, an historic black church. Granddaughter Jessica told me the day before she wanted to come, that when she told her friends I was speaking in a black church they told her they were “jealous”, that it would be “really cool” to worship in a black church. (“Jessie”, as she is lovingly known, has since turned Sweet Sixteen.) But a black Episcopal Church is still an Episcopal Church, and whatever Jessie’s ideas were about an African-American worship experience, this may not quite have measured up; except the passing-the-peace moment was the longest I’ve experienced, finally ending when the altar boy rang a bell signaling it was time to return to worship. It was memorable.

The Rector of St. Luke’s, Kim Baker, a former lawyer, is hugely impressive, and when I finished my sermon, “Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones”, she asked the congregation to join her in applauding my efforts. That probably wasn’t very Episcopalian either, but I was grateful for the gesture.

Black congregations are wonderfully welcoming. St. Luke’s was no different. (Of course, all Christian congregations should be “wonderfully welcoming,” but, sad to say, some are not.) Tim, Lisa, Jessie, Juliette and I were invited to stay for lunch, which had been prepared by the ladies of St. Luke’s, and it was wonderful.

St. Luke’s was a great experience. I felt privileged to have been the guest preacher, to have worshipped among such lovely people. They said they would invite me back. I hope they do.

Sunday afternoon I flew to Boston, where that evening a private dinner was held for Channel 4 San Diego’s Jane Mitchell, who was speaking Tuesday at The Great Fenway Park Writers Series on her book, “One on One.”

The dinner in The Gallery at the Hotel Commonwealth began at 5:30 pm. It ended at eleven o’clock. Five and one-half hours for dinner? Yes. Which means no one present was bored (I don’t do boring). But with Charles Steinberg, the longtime aide to Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, now in the Commissioner of Baseball’s office, at the table, there’s was no chance anyone was leaving early, because Dr. Charles, a dentist by profession, is a master storyteller.

I spent most of Monday, the 20th, at Fenway Park, including having lunch at Game On! with Adam Jacobs of the famous Jacobs family. Adam graduated from Cornell (as did his grandparents, Joan and Irwin) and played baseball for the “Big Red.” He’s a catcher, and in the Ivy League you play Saturday/Sunday doubleheaders, and most of the time he caught all four games. That can beat even young, strong bodies down, and it took its toll on Adam, as he lost playing time dues to injuries. But he wants to play professional baseball.

So, in a serendipitous moment, Theo Epstein, the brilliant young general manager of the Red Sox, walked in to Game On!, and I introduce him to Adam. From that brief encounter Theo said he would arrange a tryout. I am certain that will occur, and maybe Adam will become the next Mike Pizza Story, as Adam’s father, Gary, believes may happen. (Mike Pizza, a major league all-star with the Dodgers and Mets, was a 62nd round draft pick.)

That night at Fenway the Padres were bombed 14-5 by the Sox. It was ugly. My brother Mike reported that some Boston sports writers were twittering during the game and asking one another whether there should be a mercy rule. But our hometown nine came back to win the next two games, so maybe the mercy rule isn’t such a hot idea after all.

Tuesday, the 21st, was the day of The Great Fenway Park Writers Series luncheon with Jane Mitchell in the State Street Pavilion at Fenway. More than 100 people heard from Red Sox first baseman, Adrian Gonzales, Padres first base coach, Dave Roberts, Red Sox president and CEO, Larry Lucchino, and Boston icon, Dick Flavin, who brought the house down with a dramatic recitation of the poem he wrote celebrating Dave Roberts steal of second in the 2004 playoff game v the Yankees, a steal that would turn the series around and start the Sox on their way to their first World Championship in 86-years. Flavin introduced Roberts, who received a three-minute standing O from the audience. (Ted Leitner, who was there with Mark Grant, said of Flavin’s reading, “It gave me goose bumps.)

I stayed that night with Harry and Cynthia Sherr in Wellesley. The next morning, Wednesday, the 22nd, Cynthia drove me to Logan Airport for my flight to Denver. During the drive in on the Mass Pike Harry called to say I had left my boarding pass inside The New York Times. I hadn’t done that before, forgotten my board pass, but I knew American Airlines would print up a new one. Upon arriving at Logan I asked a skycap if he would do that. He asked for my identifications. I reached into my briefcase for my wallet and driver’s license but couldn’t find it. Then it hit me, I had left my wallet in my blue blazer, which was hanging in the closet of the Sheer’s guest room.

I called Harry and told him my tale of woe. He said there was time for him to bring my blazer, wallet, and boarding pass (my flight was still 90-minutes away). With 35-minutes of waiting time I asked the skycap if he would loan me $5.  He said, “Sure,” and handed me $5. I picked up a copy of the Boston Globe, bought a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and read how the Padres had beaten the Sox the night before.

I knew Harry would deliver, and he did. I gave my new best friend, the skycap, my driver’s license and $12 for his $5 (Harry wanted him to have a new $2 bill, because he said it would impress him). But I also knew the chances were this story wasn’t going away. It would be told and people would say, well, you know, Mitrovich is getting older. True, but I also had moments of forgetfulness when I was 15. Didn’t you?

In Denver that night there was yet another private dinner. This time it was for John Aloysius Farrell, the biographer of Clarence Darrow, who was speaking Thursday to The Denver Forum, the sister organization of The City Club of San Diego (where John was speaking Saturday).

Eleven of us dined together at the Oxford Hotel. John and his wife, Dee, were there, along with special friends of The Forum. Greg Moore, the editor of the Denver Post, also joined us (John Farrell had worked for Greg at the Post).

Again, a terrific time, filled with talk of politics and sports and history. Assemble a thoughtful and intelligent group of people around you, and you can’t miss. However, unlike Boston on Sunday night, this dinner lasted only three and one-half hours.

Thursday, the 23rd, John spoke to The Forum over lunch in the Sage Room of the Oxford. Every seat was filled, and his presentation on the life of the great Darrow was exceptional. I knew from previous experience he would be wonderful, having first heard him speak two summers ago on his book about Tip O’Neill at a Great Fenway Park Writers Series event on Capitol Hill in Washington).

At two o’clock I left the Oxford for Denver International Airport (DIA) and a flight home. I was tired, having dragged my aging carcass across the USA and back, but it was a good “tired.”

And, “That Was The Week That Was.”

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"Mine Eyes Have Seen"