Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Waiting for Smoke Signals

Once again my insomniacal tendencies are present in full force. At least I'm not recovering from the aftermath of a nightmare or night terror, and so no one is proposing -- at least yet -- to drug me. although I'm at least as sleep deprived as I would be if such were the case.  It'm basically jumping from one cable news channel to the next, looking for the one that has the best view of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel.  The printed headlines on every channel indicate. "smoke could come at any moment." I suppose that's true, but it then again,squirrels could make their way out of the Sistine Chapel chimney. What, exactly, would that signify?

Right now CNN is playing last night's late night pope jokes. I can't recall what Jimmy Fallon had to say on the topic, which is how memorable his joke was, but David Latterman quipped that , forget  about the smoke , Michelle Obama would be the one to announce the next pope. I couldn't bear to process  "funny "things"  the "Fox and Friends" talking heads  would have to add to the discussion.  (They're not charged with being as rip-roaringly side-splitting as their "Five on Fox" counterparts, but still, a bit of levity is expected  in starting the morning.  You could give those "Fox and Friends" pundits  scripts co-written [posthumously in his case by]  Samuel Clemens AKA Mark Twain,  Woody Allen, and Tina Fey,  Jon Stewart, and Jared Hess ( The co-author of Napoleon Dynamite).and they would manage, with their stellar delivery, to turn the script into the equivalent to Ben Stein reading Moby Dick  in his most deadpan voice imaginable.  Humor and Fox News do not belong in the same combined thermosphere/ exosphere/ mesosphere.

Pardon my irreverence in critiquing things that are traditional, sacred, and holy, but has anyone else taken a good look at the Sistine chapel chimney lately? Couldn't the magnificence of the structures of St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, among other buildings, have been taken into consideration when the chimney was designed and placed atop the chapel?  That chimney looks like the one that was on the house that my Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph moved into temporarily on their dairy while they were awaiting completion of their more permanent house. Prior to that, they had lived in a small city near most of their diaries in a home my aunt had bought before her marriage with her earnings as a Pacific Bell executive. Their house in the city had been a nice tract home -- extravagant by probably no one's standards, but it was adequate in every way. It had a number sufficient bedrooms and bathrooms, all in a decent state of repair,  the flooring was in acceptable condition, and there was a nice fireplace in the combined living / family room that connected to a nice brick chimney.

When my aunt, uncle, and cousins moved to the dairy house while waiting for the house they intended build to their expectations and to occupy for a longer time, what really struck my cousin Philip was not primarily that there was no bathtub and the only shower was located outside (there was, thank goodness, a toilet located inside the house). The kitchen was not connected to the rest of the house.  I suppose it might have been a token of recognition to back in the day when so many kitchen fires occurred. Sometimes at least the remainder of the structure could be spared if the kitchen were detached from the rest of the house. My Uncle Ralph, while acknowledging that his wife was and is an exceptionally fine cook, noted that she had been responsible for her share of kitchen fires since they had been together, and wondered if maybe they shouldn't  include the detached kitchen feature in the more permanent house. The dining area was in a covered breezeway between the kitchen and the rest of the house. On temperate days, this  was workable. On excessively hot or cold days, however, meals needed to be eaten on TV trays in the living room.

The master bedroom was roughly the size of a Taco Bell restroom. The restroom itself (remember, the shower was outside) was smaller than the entryway closet in any home in which I've ever been. The only way to wash one's hands in the bathroom was to do so while sitting on the toilet.  The other bedroom, which the two boys would need to share (thank God and the efficacy of modern birth control that there were only two of them) would hold two beds only if they were bunk beds. My Aunt Victoria had a bit of a phobia about bunk beds, as she'd heard once (I'll have to check it out on, because it reeks of urban legend status to me) about a top bunk collapsing on a bottom bunk, smothering the kid in the smaller bunk. Even with the bunk bed accommodations, there still was no room for a closet or a dresser. The boys' clothing was hung in the entryway closet, and foldable  clothing was placed in a small chest of drawers, in what was euphemistically described as the hallway. Phillip, then three years old,  could extend his arms and simultaneously touch the entry point of the hallway and the  the hallway's ending point, which was his parents' bedroom door.

The house had many other quaint features. Children, being young children, even though they had lived in more standard if not necessarily  luxurious accommodation, tend to go with the flow in regard to such matters. If they had been told that they were to move to Big Foot territory in northern California  and camp out in the forest, where the only bathrooms were trees, with the intent of catching the big, furry Sasquatch, Michael and Philip probably would have looked at the prospect as an adventure.  There was only one significant problem young Philip had with the dairy house, though, which was the chimney. "How in the  hell will Santa come through that chimney?!?!?" three-year-old Philip demanded tearfully.  The boys spent vast amount of times around men who lived their lives in the world of agriculture, and their vocabularies tended to reflect their associations. Their mother knew a Miss Manners vocabulary was a lost cause. Her goal was to teach her sons to censor their vocabularies at school and at church.  What profanity that was uttered in the privacy of their home and on the dairies was the very least of her concerns.

Anyway, the chimney that caused three-year-old Philip such heartache was nearly identical to the one on top of the Sistine chapel that sends black or white smoke signals to indicate the success or lack thereof in voting in a new pope. It'sone of the least impressive chimneys I've ever seen, and that includes the one at my cousin Philip's house that he knew through which Santa could never strangulate himself.  If a chimney is too ghetto for the worst dairy house in the foothills of Merced County in central California, does it truly belong on the roof of the Sistine Chapel?  I understand about the vow of poverty all the servants of God have taken, but the vow of poverty didn't seem to impact the construction of any aspect of any of the other buildings in the Vatican City.  Why did those in charge of construction decide to make the Sistine Chapel chimney their sole concession to the vow of poverty? I don't get it, but then again, there are a whole lot of things about the church that I "don't get."

My dad is now up with me. We're watching the smoke together. It looks white to me, or light gray at the very worst, but the talking heads are saying it's black. I  believe them, as the whole thing is probably orchestrated, and the talking heads  probably knew an hour ago that at a precise time, black smoke would be released from the chimney.  The smoke is starting to look darker.

Are the actual results of the various votes announced to the cardinals, or are they merely told what color of smoke is coming out of the chimney of their building where they are being sequestered?  Do the cardinals politely (or impolitely) debate and/or discuss the relative merits of each candidate, or, once again, do they "discuss" merely by voting? If they discuss, in what language(s) do they discuss? Are there rules or polite protocols as to what languages may be used. Is Latin the language of the Cardinals, or is ot becoming so obsolete that even the cardinals barely speak it conversationally anymore? Are there factions based in language, with cardinals feeling free to openly disrespect other cardinals because they know they're not understood..

My dad correctly predicted that the early morning smoke would be black. It's too early for them to agreeon anything, he said, and besides, luxurious accommodations and lack of expenses spared notwithstanding,  there's probably no Starbucks He thinks it will be white either later this morning of this afternoon, but thinks it will be more interesting and


  1. We will be in Italy in May... wonder if it'll be weird there because of the brand new Pope!

  2. Request a private audience. You never know unless you ask.