As war clouds settled over Sarasota I decided that perhaps it was time to go to church. But which one? St. Martha’s was out of the question; the Pope’s views on U.S. policy-he doesn’t like it-would have made me too uncomfortable. Those poor priests must be going nuts preparing their homilies. The Boss wants it one way, the congregation another. That’s a no-win situation.
So I carefully looked over the Protestant selections. Episcopal was out-too much tension between the liberal and conservative members. Baptist-well, I knew what to expect there. Methodist was starting to look pretty good, particularly when I recalled that President Bush is a Methodist. Yes, most people think he’s a Baptist and I think he was for a while, but after his marriage he adopted his wife Laura’s religion, that of Methodism. But the Methodist church downtown just doesn’t have good parking.
Then it hit me-the Center for Positive Living. It’s the hip new church for Baby Boomers who are searching for more peace in their lives. I’ve been hearing about it for years. Lots of people I know have joined-it’s very popular with second-tier realtors-and they rave about it at cocktail parties. Well, like St. Paul when he fell off his famous horse on the road to Damascus, I decided the time had come.
CPL, as they call it, doesn’t have a physical church. They use the Beatrice Friedman Center at the Symphony. As a cost-cutting measure, I applaud this. And I know God resides everywhere. But, still-you want a little of the visual. Stained glass windows, perhaps, or a soaring nave. All the Bea Friedman Center has is white walls, perfect for the contemplation of great music, perhaps, but not inspirational in itself. Before the service began, I made a mental note to myself. If I ever start my own church, it’s going to look terrific. At the very least I’ll get some ferns.
The congregation was white, middle- to upper-middle class, and rather informally dressed. A lot of people came alone, and it was interesting to contemplate what tsuris in their lives had brought these successful single yuppies to get out of bed on Sunday morning and go to church by themselves. Not that I wanted to think about this too hard, as I was sitting amongst them.
The women were particularly interesting, as many of them had remarkable heads of hair. Just in my immediate vicinity were at least five women with beautiful "crowning glories"-a redhead whose Titian locks descended to her shoulders and several with that gorgeous premature gray hair-you know, like Graci McGillicuddy has.
Isn’t it weird how women’s hair has become so entangled in religion? In many places in the world a woman can’t show her hair in public for moral reasons, and I can remember that when I was a kid a woman didn’t dare enter a church without a head-covering of some sort-even if it was just a hankie with bobbie pins. Well, the women at CPL have turned a new page in this age-old religious issue.
The minister at CPL is David Owen Ritz, who was here back in what I am beginning to refer as "the old days"-circa 1990-and recently returned to town. He adheres to the doctrine of New Thought, which seems to be the best parts of various religions from all over the world, with the icky parts deleted. I came away with two important lessons: You have to look for peace within yourself (hard to find in my case), and you have to grow and evolve. As for how to deal with the war, well, he left that a little vague. I didn’t get the magic bullet I was looking for.
The most remarkable part of the service was the music. They had four or five musicians who gave the experience a sort of pop flavor. The best part was when the vocal soloist came out-it was Sharon Scott! Yes, the beloved star of local stage. She sang From a Distance and I wondered, is this a statement or not? Still, I plan to go back. Imagine-a church where Sharon Scott sings Bette Midler. For free. I think I’ve finally found true religion.
For a while the breakout of war cast doubt over whether the Oscars would take place, and you know what this means: Would the Kanes have their annual Oscar party? Well, they did and it was great, if a trifle muted.
The war hung over the proceedings like a distant thunderstorm, it was true, for it had been a bad day. American troops had been captured and shown on TV. You were afraid to mention the hostilities because you were uncertain as to who was gung-ho and who was against the fighting. Under the circumstances Sarasotans did the logical thing-they gossiped amongst themselves about everything but.
Foremost on the agenda were the forthcoming nuptials of Emily Walsh and Mark Famiglio. Yes, they’re getting married and I hope it’s not just because I said they might, right here several months ago. I heard the ring described three times. One partygoer told me Emily was still having trouble lifting her hand from the weight. The estimates ranged from four to seven carats, and one insider squashed a pea on her plate to show me exactly how big it was. Pretty impressive, but it still can’t hold a candle to Elaine Keating’s nickel-sized diamond, or all-time grand champ Charlotte Vick’s 17-carat iceberg. And while neither of these ladies was at the party, every other major diamond in town was. It was like the coast of Maine-everywhere you look, rocks.
As befits us in a time of war, everybody looked like they had lost weight. Carolyn Michel is thinner than she’s been since she was 11; and Katherine Harris-well, all I can say is that they must have a fabulous gym in the Capitol Building. She’s never looked so svelte. Even Howard Curd has lost weight-or I should say, especially Howard Curd. Sources tell me he’s dropped 50 pounds.
I spent some time commiserating with Bob Turoff from the Golden Apple, who now has to cancel all the French musicals he had lined up for next year (Gigi, Can Can) and then I had a little chat with Marvin Eichenblatt. He owns the Lamplighter Shop, across from the Ritz-Carlton. It’s truly a landmark of Sarasota history, as it was previously owned by Milt and Judy Rubenfeld, the parents of Pee-wee Herman. Just imagine what a source of inspiration all those lighting fixtures must have been for the young Pee-wee, as he literally grew up in the place.
I inquired discreetly if Marvin had been in the Army; and he said he had, but that it was at a time when nothing was happening and even the Jews and Arabs were speaking to each other. Talk about the old days. Marvin was one of the lucky ones, I mused over my dessert, Oscar by the Seashore, a white chocolate nautilus shell filled with berries and garnished with a tiny milk chocolate Oscar and a line of blue gel. It’s a new world being created by the war; let’s just hope we can all keep up with it.