Peter Cavanaugh

Merry Christmas

If time were a truck - it would get speeding tickets.

How can this be Christmas Eve? Thanksgiving was a half hour ago. Easter was yesterday. Last year was last week.

Everyone talks about it, but there’s nothing to be done. Being locked in time, imprisoned by existence, we all share an unavoidable consequence of our common humanity - uncertain, yet ever accelerating travel toward the unknowable.

Back in Ohio, the Shamrock Lounge in Perrysburg was only two blocks from where we lived and a mere 50 feet from where Ronald Reagan addressed a cheering throng in the fall of 1984. Perrysburg was the final destination on a whistle-stop train-tour through Ohio. It had been arranged to capture a nostalgic sense of traditional American political campaign history. There were Secret Service agents swarming all over our little town.

President Reagan’s last words were that Democrats always thought it was April 15, but Republicans wanted every new day to be the Fourth of July. Right on cue, fireworks exploded in the distance and a band struck-up “Stars and Stripes Forever” as Reagan’s train pulled away. Pure Hollywood. Even Sidewalk Joe agreed it was slick as hell.

Joe hung out at the Shamrock all the time, but you wouldn’t want to talk to him unless he wanted to talk with you. In his late 80s by then, Joe would lean forward in rumpled repose on the classically scarred mahogany bar (circa 1850) - an unfiltered Lucky Strike dangling from the corner of his mouth, slowly sipping a shot glass of Jack, tolerating no trifles - suffering no fools.

Joe had moved to Perrysburg to live with his sister several decades earlier. When she passed, he inherited her tiny yellow house across from the Post Office. Once every week, a chauffeured limousine would pick Joe up at the bar and transport him to Detroit, where he would play cards with masters of industry, champions of sport, and inheritors of great wealth. He was a master magician and card player, having been apprenticed for many years in his youth to Ehrich Weiss - The Great Houdini. I saw the press clippings.

One night just before he died, Joe dramatically whispered he had finally figured out something so plain and obvious he was horribly embarrassed such important a thing had taken so long. He wanted to officially go on record, solemnly stating: “Peter, listen to me. It’s all now. It’s always been now. There’s never been anything but Now.”

That following week, magicians from throughout the Midwest attended Joe’s services and burial in Fort Meigs Cemetery on the Maumee River just south of Toledo. In certain mysterious circles, “Sidewalk Joe” was more of a legend than I had ever imagined. I’ve never forgotten what turned out to be among his final words. And what they implied:

* To be anywhere is to be everywhere.

* To be anything is to be everything.

* To be at all is to be always.

Time is an illusion. So is space. I know that sounds weird, but it’s all part of now.

What does this have to do with Christmas time? Everything.

In the words of French philosopher/paleontologist/Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

* “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (1955)

* “The heart of Christ (is) at the heart of matter.” (1948)

* “Christ has a cosmic body that extends throughout the universe.” (1916)

So it was I thought of Sidewalk Joe and Father de Chardin during the Sixth Annual Community Christmas Program at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, a superlative presentation featuring the combined efforts of New Community United Methodist Church, Oakhurst Lutheran Church, Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church and the Sierra Chamber Singers.

Special congratulations are due directors Susan Moore, Monika Moulin, Mary Posluch, and Catherine Walker.

The production met and surpassed Broadway quality standards in professionalism, presentation and performance - with the voices of angels.

It was magically spiritual, and deeply moving.

Merry Christmas from Peter, Eileen and Fiona Cavanaugh.