Publications
In My Heart, I Hate It: Little Italy Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20180117(San Diego Reader January 17, 2018)

Like you, the Little Italy I love has always been its sumptuous food and sensual people, both of which, despite the gentrifying nouveau riche takeover of late, remain as present and prosperous as ever. That Little Italy is alive in Mona Lisa Italian Foods, the tang of Parmesan, the toasty fume of fresh-baked sourdough, the nasal snap of balsamic vinaigrette dousing a saucer of EVOO. It's alive in the cannoli, the crispy-shelled, ricotta-filled, sugar-fairy pastry, just out of the freezer at RoVino (shoehorned next to The Waterfront) and served by two generations of homegrown cooks, the Tarantinos.

On the other side of the cannoli are Rosalie Tarantino and her nephew Tom, the fifty-two-year-old owner of RoVino. The pair love parsing their shared history, all things Italian except the family meatball recipe. Rosalie, her features still fine-boned at eighty-four, has the face of a beloved kept in an oval locket. She, like Tom's mother and Tom's daughter, and his brother's daughter, are all Rosalie Tarantino. Of course, their friends and neighbors know by sight and sound who is whom. But this naming tradition is like a bulwark against the risk that their ethnic claim may be vanishing.

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Kneaded Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Sustenance Anvil Press 2017(Sustenance: Writers from British Columbia and Beyond on the Subject of Food December, 2017)

You don’t wet the bread board. You flour it, generously, as the Tassajara Bread Book says. Next, you splat-set the antsy dough onto the wood where it fate-flattens with a shrug. Already, you’re speaking up for the lump—to wit, its voice, yours for the taking, such generosity, indeed.

You knead the pile. The pile needs you, so much so that your push meets its fetal mass, serpent-bodied. Its bouldered build yeasts a gathering force, an orneriness that matches your provocation, hail batch, well met.You put your hands’ heels into it and the mass rolls its shoulders and spine back and the water leeches out, and with it the gluten, which sticks to your fingers, gums them up, and gloms onto your intent, hosts this transference, what the psyche of food plots in you, its host-maker.

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Review: Death & a Return to Wholeness: Joe Garrison's "The Broken Jar" Print E-mail
Criticism

22426581 368017880304136 934533691096048969 o(San Diego Troubadour November 1, 2017)

Few composers push so many musical moods onto their listeners—shifting from ecstatic to brooding on a dime—as much as San Diego’s Joe Garrison does. He interrupts his pieces with silence only to shock them awake with sonic surprise. His unconventionality is twin-engined: sound’s nature to vanish before us and music’s design to take us somewhere. We do get somewhere but Garrison stops regularly for coffee like a night-driving trucker. He loves studying the territory’s map, momentarily pondering the road he went down—and then, shifting gears, heading off in a new direction.

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Thomas Merton and the Language of Spirituality Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

T. Merton Foto Terrell Dickey(Berfrois UK October 17, 2017)

When I was growing up, I was uninspired by Christian dogma. Perhaps it was because my cradle-Catholic father became an atheist or my Sundays, by my choice, were spent singing (not worshipping) in a church choir. Later, after reading James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I knew that if I fell headlong toward any faith, I need only revisit that novel to keep me honest. The most frighteningly apostate fiction ever penned should disabuse anyone of holy orders. Joyce begins his semi-autobiographical work (made all the more powerful because it was semi) portraying the familial heaviness of his Irish Catholic family. He is further assailed at school where, via monumental sermons, he is enthralled by the Church’s vision of Hell. Post-grad, he begins to escape his indoctrination and adopt the life of an agnostic via literature. There, he cherishes those theological conundrums and literary questions Catholicism sometimes raises and sometimes won’t touch.

The rest of the essay is here: https://www.berfrois.com/2017/10/thomas-larson-thomas-merton/

 
The Reliably Spiritual Author Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

willner 02(Pacifica Literary Review Summer, 2017)

In Langston Hughes’ story, “Salvation,” from his autobiography, The Big Sea, he tells us that “going on thirteen” he was saved from sin—saved, “but not really.” At a special children’s meeting in the church, charged with the expectation that he would “see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul,” Langston waits while the minister asks the “little lambs” to come forward. Many do; a few hesitate. Most go to the altar. And there, by their voluntary presence, they are saved. But not Hughes and another boy, Westley. Neither budges; Langston is not feeling it. But, it’s hot, and the hymns keep insinuating, and the preacher keeps intoning, and the flock keeps expecting, until Westley finally capitulates: “God damn! I’m tired o’ sitting here. Let’s get up and be saved,” he says to Langston, and so Westly goes to the front of the church. And he is saved.

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Between Indifference & Hope Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20170628(San Diego Reader June 28, 2017)

It’s decision day in the City Council chambers, Two Broke Girls vs. Billions. Call it a classic smackdown between local architectural preservationists who want to save any Spanish Colonial Revival building (and think someone should pay) vs. the downtown developers who can’t wait to erect residential towers (and have investors ready and willing to foot the bill). It’s early April, and the horseshoe room is packed, its 53-year-old semi-gloss teakwood a kind of paean to the past. Backrow perched, I think of Pete Wilson’s wily quip from 1975: “The future of San Diego should have as much of the past in it as possible.”

I think as well that each city-adjudicated, skyline alteration rehashes our city’s core ideological battle—the geraniums of George Marston (guard the green) and the smokestacks of Louis Wilde (grow the gray), nearly a century ago. The way the pro-housing, pro-job, pro-business “special interest” typically wins is to outspend, out-own, and out-promise opponents, one 40-story, 282-unit glass spire at a time.

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One Smartphone, 100 Million Users, & Privatizing Faith Print E-mail
Articles

07jacoby-superJumbo(Free Inquiry June 2, 2017)

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So far, it’s been a tough start to the new century for Christians what with the growth of the new Atheists, the Nones, those disaffiliated with mainstream religion, a secularized culture, and a government unsure how to define “religious liberty” and “sincerely held religious belief.” And yet the faith shows no signs of succumbing to the onslaught—not by a longshot. It’s reprogramming itself with new transmedial wiring and reassigned roles. Corporate CEOs are the new clergy. Social media, the new church. Global warming is the latest plague of locusts, requiring God-like intervention to keep it at bay. Islam is reverse engineering the Roman empire, arriving inside the Trojan horse of Middle Eastern Muslim refugees. (I’m not sure to whom I can compare radical Jihadists: Yahweh? Judas? Gentiles? Centurions?). Pharmaceuticals, whether it’s the companies or their pills, are the new sacraments. Technology has become the new liberation theology. Google is God.

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