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rue-madame's Diaryland Diary

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SPQR

John-Paul II been on tv a lot lately because tomorrow marks the anniversary of his papacy. He’s been on top of the Catholic heap for 25 years.

When he became pope, I remember my father being very, very angry. He felt that J-PII was going to set the Catholic church back hundreds of years and use his position as leader of the church to take conservative political stances. My father wasn’t too far off the mark. He (my father... coincidentally, also named J-P except the French version) was madder still that the cardinals had selected a Polish Catholic and not a French or Italian one, but that says more about my father’s post-WWII xenophobia than anything religious.

Anyway.

I saw the pope when I was in Rome in 1997. He wasn’t looking too good. These days, he’s so doddering and frail that he just schlumps on his throne, barely able to hold his head up under what must surely be the crushing weight of that ridiculous hat and his raiments. Raiments! I love that word.

After the ceremony, J-PII will beatify Mother Theresa. Don’t even get my actual father started on that one.

Every time I see a photo of the pope, I say something like, “Stoke those fires for the papal smoke signals!” and Terence always laughs. Y’all know about the smoke signals, right? That’s how they announce important papal news like “He’s dead and we’re voting for a new guy!” or “We’ve finally got a successor!” The cardinals burn their ballots, and the smoke comes out of a chimney in the Sistine Chapel. A true Vaticanisto can tell what the message is by the color of the smoke: if it’s black, there has been no decision; if it’s white, a new pope has been selected. That’s the only way the cardinals communicate with the public during the transition.

Another cool ritual (that J-PII abolished a few years ago) involves a little hammer. When the pope dies, the Vatican chamberlain taps him on the forehead 3 times with a little hammer to ensure that he is indeed truly, completely, utterly dead. I guess J-PII didn’t want anyone knocking three times on... the ceiling if you want me!

In other news, there are two strikes going on down here in LA. One is being conducted by the bus drivers, the other by workers at supermarkets. I am undeniably the child of union members and the product of a French socialist upbringing. I can’t drive by picketers without honking or shouting “Right on!”. I’ve got a few years before completely morphing into my loca mother, who spent the 1970s rolling down her window, screaming “ˇViva la huelga!” to any field worker in Northern California who would listen.

Ai ai ai.

2:38 p.m. - 2003-10-15

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