Tag Archives: Pop culture

True love lasts a lifetime

True love lasts a lifetime, Emma Thompson declares in Love Actually, (my second favorite movie) referring to her love of Joni Mitchell, a love I share.

My favorite movie, though, is Dirty Dancing, and I have loved it since it was first released in 1987. Dancing-in-the-basement was part of my teen years in my working-class neighborhood in Detroit, and, well, Patrick Swayze as a dancing, working-class hero hooked me.

Soon after the movie was released, a woman I knew through work wanted me to apply for a job in Atlanta, where she lived. Atlanta didn’t particularly attract me, but this woman had grown up in Houston, near Patrick Swayze, and had taken dance classes with Patrick’s mother. She actually knew Patrick Swayze!

I said that if she could arrange lunch with Patrick I would move to Atlanta (my decision-making criteria was fairly superficial). She could not pull that off, but a few months later, this picture arrived in the mail.

travel-Italy-Patrick Swayze
The inscription is faded; it reads “To Madeline, Best wishes, Patrick Swayze.”

I was in heaven. A signed photo from Patrick Swayze. I have carried this picture with me through all my moves and placed it on my desk at every job. True love does last a lifetime.

All of this came back to me when I was in Lucca, Italy, buying a scarf at Zazzi Dalamano. Vladimir is one of the company’s owners, and he was in the store the day I bought my scarf. When Vladimir discovered I was from Michigan, he gasped and said his favorite singer is from Michigan.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“Madonna,” he said, with a sigh that reminded me of how I say Patrick Swayze’s name—somewhat dreamy and wistful.

The person I was travelling with, also from Michigan, actually lived near Madonna and went to the same high school although not at the same time. This information brought another gasp from Vladimir—his connection to Madonna had just gotten closer.

He then told us the story of how he has loved Madonna since he was eleven years old and how he took the train to Rome (about three hours away) to see Madonna in concert when he was eleven. He didn’t say he used his First Communion money, but where else would an eleven-year-old get money to buy a train ticket and a concert ticket?

Anyway, he told his mother he was going to Rome to see Madonna, and she didn’t believe him. I can imagine her rolling her eyes and saying, “Of course you are going to take the train to Rome to see Madonna,” her voice dripping with skepticism.

But he did it, and he has not missed a Madonna concert since then.

I offered to try to connect with Madonna and have her visit his store the next time she is in Italy.

“Oh, no, don’t do that,” he said. “I would have a heart attack and die if Madonna walked into my store.”

Okay, then, I will try to get a signed picture.

True love does last a lifetime.

Telling stories

Recently, a friend and I had breakfast with a man I had worked with in the 1970’s. His wife was also with us, and she told my friend the story of how I had left that job.

When she finished, I said, “That’s a good story. It’s not what happened, but it’s a good story.” Then I added, “Never let a few facts get in the way of a good story.”  

I love stories and storytelling. The Moth Radio Hour is my favorite story-telling venue, and I love their disclaimer: Moth stories are true, as remembered by the storyteller.

If memory is a muscle, mine is the most underdeveloped muscle in my body. I grew up in a home where we worked to forget, where we denied unpleasant experiences and just got on with life. Don’t remember was the takeaway for me.


In my twenties, I used to joke that when I got old, no one could say old age was the reason my memory was so bad, because it was bad even then.

Culture Shift, a public radio show about the local music scene, recently did a shout-out for stories about meeting famous musicians. I don’t remember ever calling in to a radio show before, but I called in that day to share a story.

The story, as I remember it, is that in 1977, I was living in Allentown, PA, and working downtown. The hotel across the street had a pool, and that summer, I went for a daily swim during my lunch hour. Usually, I had the pool to myself, but one day several guys were there I did not recognize. I was twenty-five at the time, and they were around my age.

One of the guys came over, introduced himself and asked what there was to do in Allentown. I said I had only recently moved there, so I didn’t know.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Detroit,” I told him.

“Bob is from Detroit,” he said and then he called Bob over and introduced us.

We had the usual where did you go to school chat and talked about our favorite places in Detroit. Then I went back to work.

The next morning, my local newspaper featured a front-page photo of the guys from the pool. Their band had headlined the music festival the previous night. I had no idea who they were—even after reading the article.

I shared on Culture Shift that I live under a pop-culture rock and always have. I would not have known Bob Seger from Bob Dylan. I wondered if the Bob I met was shocked that I had no idea who he was or if he thought I was playing it cool by not fawning over him.

The Culture Shift host asked if there was any musician I would have recognized. “Paul McCartney,” I said without hesitation.

I hope someday to get up the courage to pitch a story to The Moth. Until then, this is my stage.

God-hope-letting go

Holding on and letting go

A woman I know became sick a few months ago—suddenly. I learned about her illness through social media. Her family asked for prayers and said she was “gravely ill,” but it was not until they used the word “hospice” that I realized how gravely ill she was. In a matter of a few weeks, she went from posting pictures of her husband, children and grandchildren on social media—to dying.

Life is so fragile.

When death is near, what is happening in the rest of the world seems distant and unimportant. The passing of a loved one becomes the most important thing and offers great clarity about what really matters.

I try to remember those moments—the times when I had great clarity about what truly matters in life.God-hope-letting goThese thoughts came back to me while reading the Gospel of Mark. I wonder if St. Mark had clarity as to what was really important, if he had a sense of urgency about spreading the story of Jesus’ life and message.

I thought of how God uses us to spread the Good News. Was Mark a writer? Or was he just compelled to write the story of Jesus? As I pondered Mark’s mission, I was reminded of some notes I received when my friend Jim was dying from brain cancer.

Several friends wrote to me during Jim’s illness reminding me that we were living the Paschal mystery—facing death and resurrection every day. It was true that we knew Jim would die soon and yet every day we found a way to laugh and every day we recited our litany of gratitude.

Jim was unable to read for most of the time he was sick, so I read his mail to him, and I also read any notes I received. One of the notes about the Paschal mystery sparked a conversation about the everyday deaths we faced.

Jim’s physical decline was an obvious death, but there were others that seemed as significant. We kept being faced with situations where we needed to let go so that we could truly live.

Holding on and letting go was part of our daily conversation.

At some point, I realized that it was not just at the time of one’s death, but that living the Paschal mystery was a continual invitation to see things in new ways, to look from different angles and to be open to change.God-hope-letting goAs I reflected, the words to Unsteady by X Ambassadors, popped into my mind.


Hold on

Hold on to me

‘Cause I’m a little unsteady

A little unsteady…If you love me, don’t let go.

Holding on can offer a sense of security and stability, but there’s always the question, What am I holding on to?

While our world may seem to be spiraling out of control, Christians are called to remain “steadfast in faith” (1 Peter 5:9), not caving in to popular culture or the “prowling Satan” but holding on to Jesus’ message of hope.