Thursday, October 7, 2010


I had intended to write something about my recent trip to New York City, and I'm sure I shall. But this morning, while reading the latest "Old Farmer's Almanac," I found a saddening bit of news. Andrew Rothovius died on 28 October 2009.

This is not, perhaps, a name that means much to my readers, but it does mean a lot to me. I first encountered his work about the time I discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft --- that is, in High School. Now, for those unaware of (or misinformed about) the oeuvre of the "Sage of Providence," suffice it to say that he was a master not merely of horror, but of atmosphere. He could conjure up the "Dark New England of the Soul" better than anyone since Hawthorne. Himself a "Conservative" unbeliever of the Sanatyana-Mencken variety, Lovecraft epitomised, for me, the spiritual fright that IS the world outside the Church. He had the old Puritans and their descendants down to a tee.

Having finished most of his own writings, I went on to various anthologies that Arkham House had produced of other authors' writings about or in the style of HPL. In one of these, I discovered an incredible essay --- "Lovecraft and the New England Megaliths," by one Andrew Rothovius. What a revelation! In this scholarly AND entertaining article, the author correlated a great deal of Lovecraft's background atmospheric material with authentic New England history, folklore, and archaeology. His sweeping and yet incisive treatment of a very wide and esoteric topic was one of the things that inspired me to become a writer.

Many years later, in the late 90s or early zeroes, I began writing for FATE Magazine. I do not apologise for this: they allowed me to write on topics that interested me; they paid on time (often a rare thing among Catholic publications); and the staff at the time were a jolly bunch, neither believing nor disbelieving in the wonders their writers submitted, but interested in a good story that was none too implausible (their reject file was a hoot!). In any case, one of my fellow writers for the mag was --- Andrew Rothovius. I asked the editor to put us in touch, and a correspondence ensued.

We wrote and spoke frequently on the phone for a few years; I made three pilgrimages out to his home in New Hampshire. I discovered the "Sage of Milford" to be what one might expect from his far ranging work. A little old man with a twinkling eye, half Finnish and half Old Yankee, he epitomised the New England amateur scholar. Mr. Rothovius dwelt in a little house filled with books and papers --- which, unlike most such (including my own!) was neat as a pin. He was a master of the kind of bizarre historical and legendary lore I have always loved, and published innumerable articles in many small journals in these areas.

A marvellous story teller, he regaled me with such anecdotes as the adventures of his cousin, who had been in charge of exhuming the bodies from the cemeteries of the three doomed villages which were submerged under the Quabbin reservoir. These sad hamlets, with their strange Calvinist sects and centuries-long inbreeding, were the actual inspiration for Lovecraft's Dunwich. The cousin was horrified to discover that the skeletal remains showed signs of definite degeneration --- refutation supreme, if any were needed, of Darwin!

He was also a recent and devout convert to Catholicism. Despite being a descendant of the Bishop Rothovius who imposed Lutheranism upon his hapless fellow Finns, he had long and gradually become more and more interested in the Faith. A chance encounter in a shop with a group of the Sisters of St. Benedict Center of Still River, Massachusetts convinced him that he must finally take the plunge, and so he did.

Alas, he moved into a rest home, and we fell out of touch --- for which I feel rather sad. But, I shall never forget him, and am happy to think that God took him just after his favourite time of year, when the leaves of New England are in their autumnal glory. May he too be in that glory of which all on Earth is a mere reflection. Of your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of Andrew E. Rothovius.

To see some of his work, go to:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Royal City

I am truly amazed, sometimes, at the richness of this City's and this Archdiocese's heritage. A stroll around the old plaza, with its statue of L.A.'s founder, King Charles III of Spain, never fails to remind one of this. Olvera Street, for all its touristy-ness, is always a pleasure for me. The old section of La Placita (the first parish, Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles, founded by Ferdinand VII in 1814) --- you can give the new part of it a pass --- with its Perpetually Adored Host---in---Monstrance (formerly flanked until recently by the Spanish and Vatican flags) is perhaps my favourite church in a city fille some really lovely ones. The Spanish heritage, expressed in Missions, Rancho Adobes, Presidios --- and the living expressions of fiestas, processions, and food --- are an enormous part of what I love about this City and this State.

Some of the newer churches --- from the sad bulk of St. Vibiana's Cathedral to so many others --- remind one of the hard work of our bishops, from Amat to McIntyre, in building up the Catholic presence here. Our Ethnic and Eastern Rite parishes, apostolates, and societies reflect the worldwide origins of the Catholics of this City, and the presence of St. Mary of the Angels, an historic Hollywood Anglican parish waiting for the Ordinariate, all reflect our "goodly heritage." The advent of the film industry coincided with a rush of extraordinary architectural styles; many old restaurants and bars reflect that era, and for all that seem to close one after another, there always seems to be one more to discover.

But City and State are broke (financially speaking), and social problems are immense; the Archdiocese has suffered doctrinal and liturgical blight since the 1960s --- indeed, in many ways that blight has determined the course of my life.

Nevertheless, it seems that our soon to be Ordinary, Archbishop Gomez, will be a worthy inheritor of this see. May he not only worthily preserve what we have, but use it as a stepping-stone for evagelisation, that the City of Angels may one day be worth of her name.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh Empire State!

Although this blog is intended to be Angelenocentric to a great degree, I was born in New York, and that City and its State have always held their place in my heart. Right now I am reading "The World of Washington Irving" by Van Wyck Brooks. Apart from once again marvelling over the sheer beauty of the prose, my mind is wandering back to the skyscrapers and the vales of the Hudson where my memories begin. As a boy I was thrilled by Washington Irving's tales --- had they not happened, so many of them, near where we were? And the stories and weird lore of the Dutch settlers, the battles of the Revolution, the Loyalists, Major Andre, the beautiful old mansions between Albany and the Bronx, the colonial taverns and cemeteries, and so much more! All of these remained firmly in my head when we came out here, and linger still. The memories of Autumn and Winter, Hallowe'en and Christmas, buoyed me up in the withering heat of an L.A. Summer.

But that sense of exile is, perhaps, an integral part of being an Angeleno. For people born and raised here, the Southland is simply their home. But for the millions more who have come from elsewhere --- or who so came in the past, to include the first settlers --- the sense of being shipwrecked on an island, so to speak, is a defining one. Our Autumsn, although lacking the brilliant leaves, are dreamy and mellow in their own way. Now that Autumn is here at last --- enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Well, ladies and gentlemen, behold my second attempt at blogging, launched on the feast of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion! What I will seek to address is whatever if find of interest in the City (in this case, the City of Los Angeles and its environs) and the world. We stand at a very bizarre and unusual time. Although the Recession has ended, as our government assure us, and prosperity is just around the corner, one might think otherwise given the reality in which most of us live.

The Pope has just completed a triumphant tour in Scotland and England, the snow of the White Witch is just beginning to melt in the Angeleno Narnia, and I turn 50 in November! Stay tuned!