Thomas Geoghegan  

Day Three
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 1996
       Long talk last night with B., who is looking for a “typical” Catholic parish.
       “No such thing anymore,” I say. The United States now has such wealth extremes: What would typical be? In the city, a mix of yuppies, immigrants, blacks? “Median” it might be, but not “typical.” The median, alas, is now a freak: Unhappy country in which the median tells you nothing about how most people live.
       What if, tragically, I lived in Sweden? Any social democracy? What would become of my moral character?
       Of late on Sundays I have trespassed into an odd parish, far from Lincoln Park. Blue-collar, immigrant, even poor, but the pastor may be an academic. A different priest at 12:30 every Sunday.
       Had already gone once to a Holy Thursday Mass. Three languages. St. Paul in Tagalog. Because the priests are from universities, the homilies are pitched at a high level. Doubt anyone in the pews ever saw a college. One Sunday, a young Irish priest told a grad-student joke about Americans tackling German theology. He heard it when he was a student at the University of Tübingen. I burst out laughing. Only one. Around me: stone faces. Filipino, Mexican, Lao. Not a smile.
       Next Sunday, a Nigerian priest, fervent, but with a thick accent. I could follow, but could others? Of course some of them have thick accents too. To them, do I have a thick accent? Between the Nigerian priest and me, whose English is stranger? Not a place I’d try a joke.
       I dream of this church: Holy Spirit descends, tongues of fire, miraculously we begin to laugh at each other’s jokes.


       At the Red Lion (a British pub) I relish with L. our crisis with France. Update: Warren Christopher goes to sub-Saharan Africa. A French deputy minister sniffs (as I recall the quote in the Times): “He would go to Africa, wouldn’t he, a week before a U.S. election?”
       Sure. Christopher, in Africa, electrifies black America, they swarm to the polls. Clinton landslide.
       Dole: “October surprise.”
       For once, some U.S. official, instead of biting his tongue (“you little French twits”) actually replies: “The French still think Africa is their ‘sphere of influence.’ “
       L. laughs, then some more French-bashing.
       What of men in French movies? Do the auteurs, et al., grasp the extent to which the men are narcissists? Are they criticizing implicitly? Or do they just not notice?
       What does the actress Julie Delpy think? In American films (i.e., Before Sunrise) she seems aware of the problem. In French ones, she seems oblivious