Sunday, December 9, 2018

Religion and Constancy

The feast day of Immaculate Conception was yesterday, it also happens to be by birthday which I was named Mario (for Maria.) There is a lot of rituals around this feast day. It is a popular feast because it is the only one in winter. Most feasts take place in summer when they can predict balmy dry evenings. At the height of the feast, at 6pm, the statue of the icon is carried on the shoulders of men out of the alcove in the church and they take a tour of the city. The statue although sculptured from a carob tree, was in 1905 encased in 30 kilograms of silver and other precious metals and gems. Originally sculptured in 1680 by Suor Maria de Domenicis a Carmelite nun (buried int he chapel  of Santa Katerina in San Lawrenz church in the neighboring city of Birgu.)

The hierarchy of the church are there in their fineries, together with the sceptre bearer. The sceptre (known more commonly as a Mace and more accurately as a Stave) defines the authority of the church. It usually rests high on a cabinet in the sacristy where the priests and the altar boys prepare for mass. I love the sacristy. I used to help with early morning mass before heading out to school. I do not remember much, but I loved my time helping with mass. I even entertained becoming a priest, but that is for another time and a much sillier story.

Together with fireworks, a band and a singing couple (a tenor and soprano singing Ave Maria) all to herald the emergence of the statue. With great pomp and circumstances the statue slowly makes it way around the city. Four hours later it re-enters the church and is cocooned again into its resting alcove on the right hand side of the church for another year. Somehow this ritual has been going on for centuries. An annual feast to honor the Immaculate Conception, the patron of the church, was recorded as early as the seventeenth century. 

For the locals, this is a time to visit relatives and have a drink or two. When I was younger this was an excuse to drink beer and buy hotdogs from the many kiosks that line the streets of the city. For me yesterday, the highlight was doing laundry on the roof with the view of the Grand Harbor. This never gets old.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Home Town /Bormla

It is the feast of my home town Bormla on Saturday. The 8th of December which is the feast of the Holy Immaculate Mary aka Virgin Mary aka Jesus's mother. It also happens to be my birthday. Growing up I viewed the celebrations purely solipsist--about me--supporting my misguided belief that everyone was acknowledging my birthday. And a remnant of that hubris still exist today as I walk around the city looking at all the decorations for my birthday.

My family home faces the main church, the parocca (par-oh-cha). A tall narrow house that sports a banner across the street during the feast. They renamed the street from Santa Theresa to the Street of the Pilgrimage after the Pope came through the street in his popemobile.

But there are many changes to the city that have nothing to do with the locals. We have multi-million dollar boats moored on the quay of the harbor. Boats that look like multi-storied building on their side. Some are just beyond ostentatious. Take the 6711 Geo. That is the name of the 28 million Euro Netherland-built boat that sits at the end of the dock in Bormla (technically this is part of Birgu). This boat hosts a helicopter, a submarine and all the toys needed to enjoy the sea. It holds all the toys for rich people who are on another yacht at sea. A 28 million Euro toy storage.

There are many incongruities in Bormla and surrounding areas. The three cities that make up part of the Grand Harbou (Bormla, Birgu and l'Isla) share in this character.  But we have always been places of contrasts. The fortifications and palaces that are dotted across the three cities are quiet reminders of past expressions of wealth. Now we have very expensive deluxe apartments, hundreds of multi-million Euro boats and restaurants that cater for the rich.

Monday, December 3, 2018


I went to renew my Maltese passport today. Needing a witness to verify my renewal my father and I walked across Valletta to another city Floriana to see the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market Chris Agius. Without an appointment he saw us straight away and visited with us for 45 minutes before signing as a witness to my passport application. Only in Malta. We walked back to the passport office with all the documents, signed in less than two hours, including a ferry trip across the harbor and back.

Returning back to Cospicua passing by my apartment in Senglea, a stone throw across the creek (top right hand apartment).

As I left my dad to rest and have an early sample of mum's vegetable soup, I headed out for a walk to get some running shoes from the town of Rahal Gdid. The ostentatious Baroque architecture becomes background noise once you live her long enough. But for visitors, this is a cornucopia of artistic wonders.

Malta is truly an island of Baroque architectural heritage. The influx of both European Union funds to restore older buildings matched with the astronomical inflation of realty prices have converged to revitalize this heritage. There are two stark omissions in the benefits to this growth. House prices have started to become unattainable for the average person and because of all the density and lack of pedestrian walkways it is impossible to get around in a wheelchair. I have seen people in wheelchairs in every city around the world. I have never seen one on the streets in Malta, ever. Even in Mexico City in the underground railway system, although there are no elevators those that use a wheelchair balance on the escalators. No such options exist in Malta as even the escalators tend to be too narrow for such acrobatic proficiencies.

© USA Copyrighted 2018 Mario D. Garrett

Sunday, December 2, 2018

In Search of the Magnificence and Banality of Humankind

In Alighieri Dante’s Divine Comedy we find the intrepid adventurer Ulysses (Inferno XXVI, 90-142) burning in hell while being questioned by Virgil on how he met his death. Ulysses replies that after escaping the clutches of Circe who held him captive in Gaeta, neither the love of his son nor his love for Penelope nor the reverence for his father Laertes could stop him from exploring the world and "to gain experience of the world and of the vices and the worth of men".  Ulysses eventually arrives at his destination an old man. Searching for an answer to what is our humanity, Ulysses risked everything including his life.

Unlike Ulysses I start this journey as an old man (I will reach my 59th in a few days) but I share his quest. To explore the magnificence  and banality of humans. What better way to start from at the beginning, with my family in Malta.

I left Malta when I was thirteen. We moved to England as  a family. My father as part of his duties with the Royal Air Force was "posted" to Hullavington in the heart of the West Country. Five kids ranging in age from 7 to 14 years shepherded by a mother who never flew before. As a motley caravan of immigrants we moved everything of importance in numerous small luggage. We also brought our own food, mainly Maltese bread. The immigration officer was perplexed by the amount of food we each were consciously smugly smuggling in and sneered at my mum as though to insinuate that they also have food in England, only to receive the wrath of my mum's maternal instinct.  He was informed by my mother that Princess Anne, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was marrying Mark Phillips and the grocery shops might be closed in response to the great celebration that such an occasion demands.   Which is how I remember the date...I can google this royal event since our exodus was not otherwise recorded in the annals of history. We each had two bags that we lugged from the airplane onto the minivan that our dad commandeered to drive us to our military camp house stocked full of freshly bought food from the 24/7 supermarket.

Ever since my family moved back to Malta, and I stayed behind in England and  I have been returning every few years to visit. First visiting friends, then visiting home, then visiting family, now visiting parents. For 46 years I have witnessed evolutions not just of geography but also of biology. Increasingly the world of my parents drifts away from the world of the present. This is a good way to start my quest to explore the magnificence  and banality of humans.

© USA Copyrighted 2018 Mario D. Garrett

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Aging In Montclair and bevival present

Aging In Montclair and bevival present

Oct 20-22nd
Cherry Blossoms
World's Fastest Indidan
Aging in Montclair and are proud to present the east coast debut of San Diego’s popular film event, Celebrating Aging In Film. Curated and moderated by series founder, aging expert and author, Professor Mario Garrett Ph.D., this three-day weekend event is designed to shed light on how the aging narrative is transforming our culture.

For film enthusiasts, this weekend educational series is an exciting opportunity to watch four iconic films and participate in illuminating, post-screening discussions with two fascinating educators. Themes include multi-generational relationships, humor, culture, romance, and the enduring creative spirit.

Screening venues were made possible through the generosity of Montclair State University, School of Communication and Media, and the Montclair Art Museum.

order your tickets now

Celebrating Aging In Film Series

and VIP Reception
Book Group
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Monday, January 23, 2017

Extraordinary “Make American Great” Circus

 After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have moved to the White House
This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family
From gold toilet seats and swoosh elevators to blue carpets and glass windows

White house staff adopted quickly, as attendance has been dropping for 10 years
Sean Spicer brought the figures up, small hands bore no reality in a 12-minute segment
This event was the longest segment—a tiger act—modified with CGI and alternate facts
A magician and a tiger, a new act with a roar and a growl to make attendance grow and grow

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows
Representatives for 126 scheduled days while the Senate for three weeks out of each month
But “days” may be half-days while weeks may be three, four or more rarely five days long
No animal cruelty, rest days are for their down time devoted to back handers and lobby gruel

But dark clouds emerge as Los Angeles and Oakland prohibited the use of bullhooks
Hooks that grab elephants by the mouth inflict pain and instill fear on its largest animals
No more oversight committees, ethics challenges and real facts to inflict pain and instill fear
Dipping dots cooling tempers by diverting attention away from the worries of the day

Owners say their existing animals will go to suitable homes.
Lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas
White House agrees as their aging lawmakers will also go to a home
Lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas

Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster
Then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app.
But it was not meant to be, the first female ringmaster did not fit into the White House
They jumped a step, and went straight into the interactive application on Twitter

Exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, a staple since the mid-1800s
A continuation of the circus tradition with exotic breeds Ryan, Cruz, Rubio, and McConnell
Death-defy feats in front of their peers, some by age some by arrogance, all by ignorance.
Come and see the greatest show on earth, facts optional, memory limited, but its gonna' cost you

Extraordinary plagiarism from Los Angeles times