I write songs, I sing them... I play the piano and a little bit of the guitar.. I've released 5 albums of music, I love the scent of freshly fallen rain and the scent of lavender on bedsheets. I would drink tea all day long if the caffeine didn't keep me up at night. I hate driving in L.A traffic. I would love to one day catch the squirrel that steals the plums from my tree and make him a pet. I don't watch TV anymore. My 3 year old daughter is more entertaining than any TV show could ever be :)
Lovely, puffy-grey-white clouds in the sky... and the sun is bright yellow...I'd say, canary yellow.
Looks like I've found a nice spot for future lunches. I'm here at the Artisan Cheese Gallery, waiting for my Duck Confit Sandwich. It's a place with cream cheese coloured walls, a sprinkling of wooden tables and chairs. Cheese from all over the globe is displayed on the counter, wheels wrapped in shrink wrap, imported pasta and sauces displayed on wooden shelves. Really pleasant. Black and white pasta ribbons, lavender and rose jellies, artisan salt packaged in square bottles, varieties of honey in jars.
The Duck Confit Sandwich tastes good, albeit a bit too sweet because of all the fig jam they layered on it. The duck meat is juicy, the bread is just the right thickness and it's nice and warm. MMmm.....
Now here at Peets. The weather has gotten rainy and grey.
Oh, a rainbow briefly appeared, in the midst of grey rain clouds... it's gone now, but it was beautiful and it reminded me of the promise that God had made to his people so long ago, that he would never again flood the earth as he did in Noah's time.
I pointed the rainbow out to the two people sitting outside of Peets, an older gentleman and a younger pre-teen of about 12. Both were wearing yarmaulkes and the young boy was reciting something, presumably scripture in Hebrew and the older gentleman was his teacher, I presume, because he was correcting the boy as he read.
The boy read the scriptures, perhaps just like our Lord did, so long ago, reading the scripture of his Jewish heritage as a boy in the temple, elucidating awe from his elders at the wisdom he had beyond his years. --------------
Three little seagulls soaring in the sky. Where do they come from? We're quite far, I would think, from the sea, yet these seagulls come by pretty regularly.
They give glory to their creator in the way they fly, soar. flap their wings, for they do what they were made to do, and they do it beautifully.
So, I had a beautiful birthday. I'd been going back and forth about whether to go for the 'Walk For Life' and I'm glad that I did it.
After all, what better way is there to celebrate my 35th year of life than by taking part in a pro-life walk, a walk that calls to mind the need to cultivate a culture of life, especially during this, the 35th anniversary of the Roe V Wade, U.S Supreme Court decision to legalise abortion in the US.
It is well worth reflecting/contemplating on the fact that I was born, 35 years ago, just around the time when the Supreme Court here chose to allow people to legally abort the unborn for whatever reasons, whatsoever.
The babies aborted around that time would have been my age this year. In taking part in the walk, I felt that it was one way I could help to give a voice to the voiceless, to make a stand on behalf of those who did not have a choice to keep their lives.
In place of a birthday dinner celebration as usual, or a birthday cake, or birthday cards, I broke bread and shared the feast of Christ's body and blood with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ at mass at St. Patrick's Church, I had the pleasure of enjoying the candles lit at the Tabernacle and I had a placard to hold 'Women Deserve Better Than Abortion' during the Walk For Life.
Yes, it took 6 hours to drive there and 6 hours to drive back to LA, but it was a journey not made in vain. After all, no life is lived in vain.
It was a celebration of life. The life that is given to all of us, the life that only He can give, or take away.
Walking for Life on my birthday in San Francisco, CA
photo by Gerald Augustinus
Saturday 19th January 2008
Woke up at 8.50 a.m. By the time I left my hotel room it was about 9.20 a.m and I made my way across the street to the Ferry Building to check out the Farmer's Market.
Lined up in a row alongside the water were blue tents where stores and vendors had set up their wares. Vendors were selling everything from breakfast platters to skillet potatoes to Lavender Sugar, Oysters, stalks of Cherry Blossom and organic fruits and vegetables.
There were also a few musician street performers, including one dressed as a cowgirl, complete with cowboy boots and hat, but wearing a short skirt and checkered tights as well. She was playing the accordion, kicking her boots into the ground as a percussive instrument and singing 'What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor'. She did a very spunky rendition of the song and it sounded great. I dropped a dollar in her jar and went on my way.
I walked around, taking in the sights and the smells. The Bay Bridge was standing majestic against the light blue sky, waves gently lapping away at the pier and the morning sun was gradually turning up its intensity.
Sausages were sizzling on the grill, oysters napping on beds of ice-chips and abundant fruits and vegetables in a sea of orange, reds and greens. I made my way to the bakery inside the ferry building called the Frog Hollow Farm where I coughed up $4.50 for a Ham and Gruyere Cheese Turnover, basically a crispy pastry puff filled with ham and gruyere cheese.
I then made my way to the Peets in the building, but not before strolling around, admiring the seductive sights of stores specialising in cheese, and others specialising in caviar, mushrooms and artisan bread. It was a feast for the senses.
Daintily laid out treats from the Boulettes Larder
The Peets in the Ferry Building terminal was not ideal, ie. they had run out of ceramic mugs and were using paper cups, but the seating was great because the unfinished wood tables and chairs were placed next to a huge window that overlooked the bay waters.
I got my tea, settled in to eat my turnover and browse through the headings of the New York Times. The front page carried a story about how the cooking oil prices were soaring and driving up the cost of food globally. The story mentioned something about how a factory in Malaysia that had planned to begin a business converting cooking oil into diesel oil lays idle now because the owners can no longer afford the cost of the raw materials, ie. the cooking oil, to turn a profit in the making of diesel oil. Hmmm...I guess paying $4.50 for a small crispy puff pastry with Ham and Gruyere cheese will soon not be considered extravagant, but normal in the light of future spikes in the cost of food.
After my breakfast, I took another quick stroll around the stores in the Ferry Building marketplace, making a mental note to come back after the 'Walk for Life' to get a sandwich from Lulu Petite. (I'd read that their sandwiches, esp. the crispy chicken sandwich was good.)
It was about 10.25 a.m by this time. I quickly made my way back to the hotel. I had to pack, check-out, get my bags stored at the hotel concierge and then make my way over to the Justin Herman Plaza lawn for the 'Walk for Life' rally and I didn't want to miss the beginning. From the Ferry Building, I could already see a big group of people gathering at the rally area.
By 10.50 a.m, I was on my way, walking to the rally. Along the way, I passed by another rally gathering, although it was quite small and sparse, a small gathering of people for abortion had gathered and some were shouting some slogans that I could not make out.
Walking along to the Walk for Life rally, I was heartened to see so many people walking along with me to gather at the lawn.
There were already many groups gathered there, people from all walks of life, all colours and all ages, all gathered to make a stand against abortion. Many had come via church groups, college students groups...I saw banners for groups like the Trinity Students, Knights of Columbus, and the Paulists priests were on site too to take video footage of the event. Sign boards like 'Abortion Stops A Beating Heart' and T-Shirts sporting 'Pro-Woman, Pro-Child, Pro-Life' were worn.
I saw a man distributing 'Women Deserve Better Than Abortion' signboards and I asked if I could have one sign too. I wanted to have something to hold, to show my solidarity for the cause, to make a stand in as much of a way as possible.
The rally soon began. A welcome address was given by the founders of the 'walk for life' two women, Eva and Dolores.
A lady called Francine led the crowd in the singing of America's national anthem, and this was followed by a prayer by one of the bishops who was there. Following this, Alveda King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece walked to the podium to share her witness to the truth. She herself went through two abortions and experienced first-hand how abortion hurts women. She gave a very moving speech.
Next up was a lady called Gianna Jessen. This woman spoke very powerfully. She had survived a saline abortion. Her mother had tried to abort her via a saline abortion (read more about it here) but she would not die. In a twist of irony, she was born in the abortionist's clinic and the abortionist had to sign her birth certificate! I thought that was amazing. As a consequence of her near-death experience, she suffers from cerebral palsy and walks with a limp but she is such a spunky individual, and she spoke with such humility, yet with such power and conviction. I was really moved by what she said and the manner in which she conveyed it.
St. Telemachus lived in the time of the Gladiators in Rome. He single-handedly made a difference by witnessing to the truth. In the arena of 80,000 people gathered to watch a gladiator match, St. Telemachus was the lone voice that shouted out to the Caesar to 'stop the killing in the name of Christ'. He was run through with a sword by the gladiator, but he repeated his plea with his dying breath, 'Stop the killing'. and after he died there, in his own pool of blood in the middle of the coloseum, caesar and his wife were so moved by his convictions, that he left the arena. 80,000 filed out of the colosseum and the game was never held. Subsequently, the Ceasar signed a declaration banning all future gladiator games. Truly one man can make a difference.
Rev. Clenard Childress was next and he mentioned how appropriate it was that Alveda King was there that day, because Martin Luther King Jr. too, was a fighter for the right to life and liberty for all.
The walk was soon to begin and the organisers told everyone to be respectful, to keep things peaceful, and not to engage with the hecklers along the walk. It was great to see too, that the San Francisco police force were out in force to help make the walk as safe for everyone as possible. It was real nice to have them there. There must have been about 25,000 people there at the walk.
Before the walk started, I had made the acquaintance of Diana Sheffield and John McRaven. They were both from Davis,CA and we started talking and sharing about the circumstances that had brought us there to join in the 'Walk for Life'. Diane and John had joined some 50 members of their parish on a bus from Davis,CA to be there. I told them that I had driven up the evening before from Los Angeles to be there and they were pleasantly surprised that I made the 6 hour drive.
The walk soon began and everyone followed along the path, along the Embarcadero. Traffic stopped whenever we had to cross a road, thanks to the wonderful police officers who were there to bring order to the event.
It was a good leisurely 2 and a half mile walk. There were people singing hymns, and we could hear someone else playing the guitar and a tambourine ringing out to keep time.
Others were praying aloud and many others, like myself, John and Diane, had a good time chatting. John, Diane and I had a good talk along the way, sharing our thoughts about everything from 'why don't people understand that life begins at conception', to discussing the topic of wine-making and physics, both subjects John and Diane were studying in college, and I shared with them my life as a singer-songwriter in LA. [Diane also talked about Pope Benedict and John Paul II and I shared my thoughts with them too about how I thought John Paul II really lived as he preached, ie. being a powerful witness to the cross of Christ as he bore the cross in his burdened body]
Along the way, various groups of people had gathered along the side to heckle and challenge the 'Walk for Life' participants. Carrying signs like 'My body is not an incubator' and other varied signs like 'Free Kisses', and another bore a sign saying 'Stop Home Abortions - Give Us A Choice', with a pair of clothes-hangers stuck to the sign. Yet another smaller group was carrying huge cut-out shaped lips. Dressed in predominantly hot pink and red colours, some with netted black stockings and pink ribbons in their hair and extra dark black-khol-lined eyes, they were quite a colourful sight. Along the way, the promise of 'Free Kisses' was seen being redeemed by various strangers kissing the sign-holders.
We soon walked past Pier 39, and the Fisherman's Wharf. Tourists stopped to take photos and restaurant cooks from the restaurants in the area stood by windows to take in the sight of the 'Walk For Life' participants walking on by.
Some pro-choice activists had grouped together as a small marching band contingent and were playing a fun Brazillian rhythm, complete with a brass section and a trio of college-age guys walking in front of me took the opportunity to sing along to the beat, 'Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole...Pro-life, Pro-life'.
Pro-Abortion supporters along the way shout slogans as the pro-life walkers walk by.
It was a beautiful day, clear skies, a light breeze, and the sun shone a warm golden yellow.
I looked around me at the people who walked along-side me. There were seniors with full heads of white hair, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics and African-Americans, toddlers being carried in arms, infants in strollers, young kids walking along hand-in-hand with their parents, and I saw two kids, a little girl playing with her gameboy and a 3 year old boy taking a nap in a little plastic wagon pulled along by their dad who was taking part in the walk.
It was inspiring to see just as many men as there were women. The myth is that abortion is a 'women's' issue'. But here, on this Saturday morning, standing all around me, were men of all age groups, and from all economic walks of life, the young, the teenagers, the young fathers, the grandfathers, making a stand, showing that this was an issue for all peoples. When life is being threatened, when the most vulnerable are being threatened, all should defend it.
The walk soon made its way along the waterfront where seagulls were scattered en-masses along the water and I joked about how it was good that they were not starting a seagull formation to crap on us.
We soon walked up and along a little winding path through a canopy of Eucalyptus trees and downhill towards the Marina Green.
John, Diane and I were astonished to see that a big crowd had already gathered at the Marina Green, the end-point of the walk. We did not realise how big the crowd was. All behind us, and up half a mile ahead of us, stretching as far as the eye could see, were people in the 'Walk for Life', forming a continuous human chain. Truly there is strength in unity and solidarity.
It felt good to reach the end of the walk. It was the furthest that I have walked in a while and my feet and calves were starting to ache :)
It was also great to see Fr. Frank Pavone, the national director for 'Priests For Life' there at the podium on the stage at the end. He told the crowd to keep striving to make a difference and encouraged everyone in their fight to defend life. He has been a very passionate catalyst in the pro-life movement here in the US, and he was one person that I was hoping to say hi to and to share my music with, so it was good to go up to say hi to him.
I soon bade farewell to John and Diane, and decided to give them a copy each of my cd as a token of my appreciation for their company along the walk and in hopes that we would keep in touch.
I decided to walk back towards the starting point of the walk where my hotel was, but I was unsure if it was the fastest route back. Spotting two men walking along the way back, and overhearing them talking about the walk, I asked them if they knew the fastest way back to the Justin Herman Plaza.
They mentioned that they were walking back to the Bart station which was where the Justin Herman Plaza was, and said that I could walk along with them. It was about 3.25 p.m by this time How wonderful is God's providence :) I had come alone to this walk and had found companions along the journey both to and fro!
Brendan, Steve and I introduced ourselves to each other and had a good chat along the way back. Brendon and Steve gave me some tips on where to go the next time I was back in SF (St. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach, Telegraph Hill) and Brendan mentioned how music could be a really powerful tool for good or bad and I agreed with him. He started mentioning Wagner, and how Wagner had inspired Hitler! Oh my...must see if it's true. It made the walk breeze by and soon, we were back at the Ferry Building, close to the hotel and the Bart station. It was 4.30 p.m by now and we bade each other goodbye.
I made my way into the Ferry Building Market. I was starving and had only had a bite of the tonkatsu that i had picked up from the Japanese deli earlier on that morning. I made my way back to the Lulu Petite deli. I weighed in my choices : Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Duck Rillette Sandwich or the enticing Tomato and Blood Orange Braised Pork Sandwich.
I picked the pork sandwich. It was so delicious. Moist, tasty, and it had a really good flavour to it. I savoured every bite and chased it down with a sip of Darjeeling tea. (yes, I'd gone back to Peets too to get another cup of Darjeeling Kalimpong Tea.)
It was close to 5.15 p.m by then. I had planned to visit the Notre Dame Des Victoires church for mass, but it was a little too late now, since mass started at 5.15 p.m there. I briefly considered not attending mass, but I knew that if I didn't attend mass on my birthday, if I didn't partake of the feast that He had prepared for me in the Eucharist, it would somehow, make my birthday feel less complete.
Fortunately, I found out from the hotel concierge that there was a church just about 10 blocks away, on Mission and 4th Street. St. Patrick's church. Hmmm.....I wondered if it was going to be as architecturally beautiful as the Notre Dame des Victoires church that I had read about. It was about 5.35 p.m by this time and i worried that I would not be able to make it on time for the Euchastic part of the mass if I were to walk there. I hem and hawed on my decision for about 10 minutes, before I decided to take a cab. Just at that moment, a cab pulled up in front of the hotel and I jumped in. It took about 5 minutes and i was there.
The church looked small but majestic on the outside and even more beautiful on the inside. I was pleasantly surprised. Statues of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila stood along the side, silently praying.
Thankfully, the congregation were in the midst of the prayers of the faithful, so I had arrived just in time to catch the liturgy of the Eucharist.
It was so good to receive Him again in the Eucharist. It was the best birthday feast I could have wished for.
After mass, I wandered around the church, and knelt for a while before the tabernacle.
There were many candles lighted in front of the altar, and I imagined that this, was akin to the birthday candles that I would have had on some birthday cake. I imagined that it was Jesus's gift to me, the blessing of the beauty of these candles, glowing and swaying in the glass jars, even better than birthday candles on a cake.
"Dear, Lord, Thank you for this, my 35th year of life. Thank you for all the blessings you've given me all these days of my life, for these 'birthday candles' lighted beautifully here by the altar. Thank you for your providence this day and all the days before that. I want to give you all the glory for the life that you've given me, for the body and blood that you've fed me with this day at the beautiful sacrifice of the mass, your birthday feast to me. So much has transpired today that has warmed my heart. Thank you for all the gifts of this day, for the beautiful clear blue skies and the comfort of warm sunshine, for the visual feast of the farmer's market, for the seagulls by the water, for the friends made, the moving speeches, the 'tour' of San Francisco with the walk, for your mother, for your providence in getting me to mass just on time for the Eucharistic celebration, for the beauty of this church. You've given me such a lovely birthday celebration Lord, thank you for helping me to celebrate this life you've given me. Amen."
I walked to the back of the church and read a bit more about the history of the church and browsed through the photos taken of the church throughout its history. I was surprised that this church, that I had almost passed over in favour of wanting to go to the Notre Dame des Victoires church, had a long distinguised history and was one of the first few churches in SF's history. What a blessing that He brought me there.
Pipes for the organ at the back of St. Patricks Church
View of the church's altar after mass
After mass, I walked back towards the Hotel Vitale. The moon hung, almost full, overhead, like a lamp shining over the high-rise office buildings. The stars though only a few were visible, added the sparkle to the indigo evening.
I drove back to LA soon after. The 5 and a half hour journey was pretty much uneventful and went by smoothly. The roads were not crowded, so that was good. By the time I reached back home, it was 1.15 a.m in the morning.
Altogether, a good birthday :)
P.S I found a nice video that kinda summarises the 'Walk For Life' 2008 here :
Travelling to San Francisco for the 'Walk For Life' 2008
18th January 2008
Finally set out at 1.45 p.m this afternoon for San Francisco. Stopped by Nippon Ramen for some Miso Ramen for lunch. It tasted better than I remembered it. Also stopped by Peets to get a Darjeeling Kalimpong to go. It felt so good to sip it in the car, with the sunroof open and the wind breezing through.
The 405N was pretty packed from after the 118 split, so I decided to take the surface roads and reconnect later with the 5.
Bessie (the name I give my car) led me through SF Mission blvd. to Rinaldi, to the winding roads going uphill on Woodley. Woodley turned into Balboa Blvd, then to Foothill Blvd. and I soon filtered into the 5.
The ride was surprisingly smooth going up north. I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I left the house later than I intended.
The hills were beautiful, like the furry paws of a labrador, or like hot cross buns dusted with cocoa powder, the setting, orange sun cast shadows deep in the crevices of the hills that brought out its terrain beautifully.
Wide open roads...
All throughout, I had my speakers tuned in to EWTN, Catholic channel and Symphony.
I listened to some programme on scripture reflections on St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chp 4 verse 17-21, as the hosts were talking about baptism and how it is a beginning, not a graduation as some people think it is.
Also heard a programme on Patrick Madrid's show where he talked with a listener who was questioning Mary's role in Catholism and whether catholics were biblical in their doctrines concerning Mary. Quite interesting. It inspires me to blog about Mary and what the bible says about Mary in a future post
Also heard him talking about distance learning ,eg. Catholic Distance University being one, and a website, ie. www.wdtprs.com ? 'what does the prayer really say' weblog on latin prayer translations,.
Anyway, I reached caught the tail end of the interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Mary's. There were some people at a reception and as I scanned the strange unfamiliar faces, I found myself asking Him if there was anyone he wanted me to meet.
All the same, I was starving, So I made my way to Whole Foods market on 1765 California Ave. and got white bean with turkey chilli, garlic mashed potatoes and a leg of rotiserrie chicken from the hot food bar. Too bad there wasn't much of a selection there. after all, it was already about 9.25 p.m by the time I got there.
There was a Peets there too! But it was closed. Sob.
Anyway, it's getting late, so I'm turning in. This hotel is lovely. yeah.