Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Given that today is the Feast of the Visitation, it seems appropriate that the provincials of the Chicago and Detroit provinces were here today for their yearly visitation of the novitiate. During the visitation, each provincial meets individually with the novices from his province and both speak to the assembled community about the state of the Society. In a meeting yesterday afternoon, Father Provincial told me that he had decided to approve my application for First Vows. Needless to say, I was elated with the news - I'd been told ahead of time by the director of novices that I was likely to be approved, but it's still another thing altogether to hear the provincial actually approve me for vows. I suppose I'll feel even more "official" when I receive the provincial's letter formally notifying me of his decision - it's great knowing I've been approved, but seeing the news in print will be even better. Then again, I'll feel better still when I pronounce First Vows on August 13th. Right now, however, all that is in the future. For now, I'm content to pray in thanksgiving for having been approved. AMDG.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

WWI soldier, at 110, among last survivors of an era.

Today's Boston Globe has a story on Antonio Pierro, a Swampscott, Massachusetts resident who fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the closing months of World War I. Still spry at 110, Pierro has vivid memories of combat experiences that took place nearly ninety years ago. As the Globe reports, Pierro is part of a small and rapidly vanishing brotherhood:
A U.S. Army private in the 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the 82nd Division in France in 1918, Pierro is one of about two dozen still living of the 4.8 million who served in the U.S. military during World War I, and one of a handful of living U.S. veterans who survived the battlefields of the Western Front.

Two other World War I veterans living in New England, Russell Buchanan of Watertown and Samuel Goldberg of Greenville, R.I., both 106 years old, served in the United States during the war. Buchanan also is a veteran of World War II.

"They're the last of a breed, and of an era," said Chris Scheer of the Veterans Affairs Administration in Washington, who tracks U.S. veterans of World War I.

Scheer's list of 18 includes Pierro, Buchanan, and Goldberg.

He said it is impossible to know how many are still alive.

"Last year we were pretty sure we had at least 50, and this year we're guessing that we're down to about 25," said Scheer, who adds that seven receive compensation pension benefits.
Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that I have a great interest in people like Antonio Pierro. One reason for this is that I enjoy stories and love storytellers, especially those who excel in recreating lost worlds. Another reason for my interest is my belief that that events remain current as long as individuals who experienced them firsthand remain alive. In a sense, long-ago events become part of history only when the last person who took part in them passes away. If our consciousness of the past is not to be lost, we must take the time to listen to people like Antonio Pierro and record their stories. Though I'm still very young, I can recall a time when World War I veterans were still numerous enough that some would march (or more often ride) in local Independence Day parades, and I have vivid memories of a speech that a ninety year-old veteran of the Great War gave at a Memorial Day assembly at my junior high school. Experiences like these have given me an appreciation of the reality of World War I, an appreciation that young people born as little as ten years after me won't possess in quite the same way. As the First World War quickly recedes from the consciousness of the living, I hope we take the steps to preserve the recollections of that war's survivors. Historians will be telling and retelling stories about the past until the end of time, but even they have but one opportunity to record the data that provides the raw material of historiography. I hope that we are all up to the task. AMDG.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day.

Because my birthday usually falls on or close to Memorial Day weekend, today's holiday is one I always look forward to. Like many other American households, Loyola House traditionally celebrates Memorial Day with an afternoon cookout. The tradition continued this year, with the novices and staff (as well as numerous invited guests) gathering in the backyard to enjoy barbecued pork ribs, bratwurst, linguica (my contribution) and assorted side dishes. Despite sweltering heat and oppressive humidity, a good time was had by all.

A good time was also had by me and my parents during their three-day visit to the Motor City. Over the weekend I took Mom and Dad to a couple area attractions that neither they nor I had never seen, the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The small but attractive Chrysler Museum is home to a fine collection of Chrysler vehicles dating from the early 20th century to the present. The much more expansive Henry Ford Museum (part of a even larger complex that also includes Greenfield Village, the Automotive Hall of Fame, an IMAX theater and a public charter high school) contains an eclectic, exhaustive and very well-curated collection of historical objects. The Henry Ford has an appropriately large collection of machines - not just cars and trucks but trains and airplanes - and many items associated with the development of American culture and society. The breadth of the Henry Ford collection is remarkable - the museum has the chair President Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot and the limousine President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot, the city bus that carried Rosa Parks into history and the plane that Richard Byrd flew to the North Pole, as well as a cornucopia of other artifacts both famous and obscure. Currently, the Henry Ford is also hosting the exhibit Baseball As America, a look at the cultural and social significance of America's national pastime. All in all, I found the Henry Ford Museum an enjoyable place to spend a Sunday afternoon. More importantly, however, I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Mom and Dad. AMDG.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Today the Church remembers Augustine of Canterbury, the Italian monk sent by Pope Gregory the Great in the late sixth century to evangelize the people of England. A reluctant missionary, Augustine so feared the daunting task ahead of him that during the long journey from Rome to Canterbury he turned around, went back to the Pope and asked to be relieved of his mission. To Augustine's chagrin, Pope Gregory refused his request. Ordered to persevere in his mission, Augustine ultimately enjoyed such great success that he became known as the "Apostle of England." Augustine's episcopal career was relatively short - he spent only about eight years as a bishop - but in the brief time given him he baptized thousands and established several new dioceses. Augustine faced the extremely challenging task of establishing unity between Anglo-Saxon converts and Britons who had been Christians since Roman times. Given the feelings of self-doubt that Augustine wrestled with on his way to England, I can't help but wonder whether he struggled with similar qualms as he dealt with the challenges of being a bishop. A saint who accomplished great things in spite of personal doubts about his own abilities, Augustine of Canterbury deserves our attention and admiration.

I'm sure I could write a lot more about Augustine of Canterbury - I find his story intriguing on a number of levels - but I'm not going to. Why not? Partly because today happens to be my birthday and I have celebrating to do. Another reason I'm going to hold off is that my parents are in town for the weekend and I want to spend time with them. In the absence of posting further reflections on the person of Augustine of Canterbury - if you want to read more, see what English Dominican novice Lawrence Lew has to say on his blog - I'm simply going to say a prayer for his protection as I mark the 26th anniversary of my birth. AMDG.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Way.

Today's memorial offers Jesuits an opportunity to remember one of the Society's earliest corporate apostolates, the Church of Santa Maria della Strada in Rome. Even before the Society of Jesus won the approbation of the Holy See in 1540, Ignatius and his companions were admired for their apostolic zeal and performance of good works. One locus of the early Jesuits' ministry was a small church dedicated to Our Lady of the Way (Madonna della Strada), where Ignatius and several of his fellows would often preach and celebrate Mass. One of Jesuits' admirers was a secular priest named Pietro Codacio, who in 1539 became the first Italian to enter the Society of Jesus. Father Codacio became the pastor of Santa Maria della Strada the following year, and at his request the church was formally placed under the Society's care in 1542. As the church's patroness, Our Lady of the Way attracted the devotion of the early Jesuits as well as many of the faithful. When the Church of Santa Maria della Strada was razed to make way for the monumental mother church of the Society, the Church of the Gesù, the image of Madonna della Strada enshrined in the old church was preserved in a chapel adjacent to the sanctuary. As the Society of Jesus spread throughout the world, the image and name of Madonna della Strada spread as well. Many Jesuit chapels have been named Madonna della Strada, helping to further strengthen the Society's bonds of devotion to Our Lady of the Way. Today's memorial helps remind Jesuits that we are pilgrims, inspired by a founder who chose to be called "the Pilgrim" and following a savior who had no place to lay his head. Our Lady of the Way, pray for us. AMDG.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Technical difficulties.

This post will primarily be of interest to those readers who customarily contact me via my e-mail address. If you're not in this category, feel free to disregard this e-mail - or, if you prefer, regard it as an opportunity for bemused head-scratching. (Most readers of this blog probably don't have my address, since it isn't one I make publicly available.) For the past forty-eight hours, I've been unable to access my account. I don't know the nature of the problem, but Richard suspects that the server is down. Given that my address is the one I check most often and use for most of my correspondence, I hope service will be restored soon. In the meantime, if you normally contact me via I urge you to use the Yahoo address on my Blogger profile as a substitute. If you wouldn't use my address in any event, just do what you would normally do. We now return to our regularly scheduled program. AMDG.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Goodbye, tertians. Welcome back, primi. Welcome, Lukas.

This morning, Loyola House bade a fond farewell to the six Chicago Province tertians who have been based here since January. After five months of prayer, classes and apostolic work in the Detroit area, these six Jesuit priests - Pat Fairbanks, Bob Finn, Bob Flack, Tim Howe, Rick Millbourn and Dave Meconi - are now heading in different directions, some returning to previous commitments, some starting new assignments and some awaiting new assignments from the provincial. Almost as soon as the tertians departed, the novitiate began to welcome first-year novices returning from their Short Experiment. Richard Beebe arrived from Washington this morning, followed in the afternoon by Chris Staab, returning from El Paso. When Tim McCabe arrives from San Francisco later this evening, all the novices will be back together again. On days like today, I'm reminded of the fluidity of novitiate life. The Loyola House community seems to expand and contract with extreme regularity. The first- and second-year novices classes seem to spend as much time apart as we do together, and the addition of the tertians for a large part of this year represented another shift in the shape of the novitiate community. In spite of the instability that comes with the frequent changes in the population of the house, this ever-shifting mix of people helps make Loyola House an interesting place to live. Adding to the mix in recent days has been Lukas Laniauskas, a second-year novice from the Province of Lithuania and Latvia. A Cleveland native, Lukas will living at Loyola House for the next several weeks and will continue his formation in the Detroit Province after First Vows. To those who left Loyola House today, I bid a fond farewell. To those who are rejoining the community or coming here for the first time, I hope you find a warm welcome. AMDG.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A. O. Scott on "The Da Vinci Code."

Ron Howard's film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code opens worldwide today. The controversy surrounding the film and the Dan Brown novel on which it is based almost guarantee that the film will be a blockbuster, and in common with many blockbusters The Da Vinci Code has already been panned by critics. Like many other Catholics, I've been chagrined by the credulous response that The Da Vinci Code's risible speculations have received in the media and on the part of many readers, but I'm content to leave the task of refutation to the pros. I confess that I haven't read Dan Brown's book - I generally don't go for pulp potboilers - and up to now I haven't had much interest in seeing the movie either. However, if reviews like the one A. O. Scott penned for yesterday's New York Times are any indication, The Da Vinci Code may be one of the most unintentionally humorous films of the year - provided, of course, that you accept that its premise is bunk.

At the start of his review, Scott admits he "lack[s] the learning" to discuss The Da Vinci Code's theology, which gives him the freedom to devote the rest of his review to the many quirks of "one of the few screen versions of a book that may take longer to watch than to read." Though Scott is no theologian, he knows enough to inform us that the albino monk (sic) Silas (played by Paul Bettany) "may be the first character in the history of motion pictures to speak Latin into a cellphone." The ubiquitous Jean Reno offers a "very grouchy" characterization of French policeman Bezu Fache - perhaps because Reno is sick of being typecast as a cop. Here's what Scott has to say about the performances given by the two leads, Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou:
Through [the film] Mr. Hanks and Ms. Tautou stand around looking puzzled, leaving their reservoirs of charm scrupulously untapped. Mr. Hanks twists his mouth in what appears to be an expression of professorial skepticism and otherwise coasts on his easy, subdued geniality. Ms. Tautou, determined to ensure that her name will never again come up in an Internet search for the word "gamine," affects a look of worried fatigue.
While I can't judge Ms. Tautou's performance without having seen it, I wonder whether there's a smile hidden behind that "look of worried fatigue." An actress who has proven her versatility by playing both an enigmatic French gamine (Amélie) and a weary Turkish refugee (Dirty Pretty Things), Tautou is generally selective about the roles she accepts but once admitted, "I wouldn't mind being in an American film for a laugh, but I certainly don't want to be in 'Thingy Blah Blah 3,' if you know what I mean." If Tautou chose to appear in The Da Vinci Code to get a few laughs, she'd be in good company - Scott suggests that the august veteran Ian McKellen may have chosen to appear in the movie simply to amuse himself at everyone else's expense. Scott's comments on McKellen's turn as "wealthy and eccentric British scholar" Leigh Teabing are worth quoting at length:
Hobbling around on two canes, growling at his manservant . . . Teabing is twinkly and avuncular one moment, barking mad the next. Sir Ian, rattling on about Italian paintings and medieval statues, seems to be having the time of his life, and his high spirits serve as something of a rebuke to the filmmakers, who should be having and providing a lot more fun.

Teabing, who strolls out of English detective fiction by way of a Tintin comic, is a marvelously absurd creature, and Sir Ian, in the best tradition of British actors slumming and hamming through American movies, gives a performance in which high conviction is indistinguishable from high camp. A little more of this - a more acute sense of its own ridiculousness - would have given "The Da Vinci Code" some of the lightness of an old-fashioned, jet-setting Euro-thriller.
Scott concludes that he "can't support any calls for boycotting or protesting this busy, trivial, inoffensive film. Which is not to say I'm recommending you go see it." On principle I can't agree with Scott on the "inoffensive" part of his evaluation, but if The Da Vinci Code is as bad as he says I wonder how any fair-minded viewer could take it seriously. Then again, not all viewers are fair-minded, nor are most likely to have the time or interest to read the many books and articles that have been published to refute The Da Vinci Code's far-fetched contentions. However, when one considers the many challenges that the Church has overcome in the past, the hoopla over The Da Vinci Code seems pretty insignificant. A generation from now, will anyone remember Dan Brown's book or the film on which it is based? My guess is that no one will, outside of a small circle of trivia buffs. Sic transit gloria mundi. AMDG.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006.

Returning from my retreat at Colombiere, I was saddened to learn that Jaroslav Pelikan died on Saturday. The Ohio-born son of a Slovak Lutheran pastor, Pelikan earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago at the age of 23 and spent the better part of his sixty year career in academia as Sterling Professor of History at Yale, turning out scores of erudite tomes on diverse topics in the history of Christianity. A brilliant synthesist, Pelikan is perhaps best known for sweeping survey works like The Christian Tradition, his five-volume history of the development of doctrine, and the much more concise but no less learned Jesus Through the Centuries and its sequel Mary Through the Centuries. At the same time, Pelikan also produced masterful studies on specific topics as diverse as the theological underpinings of J. S. Bach's music, the ongoing relevance of John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University, and the life of Ukrainian Catholic prelate Josyf Slipyj. The editor of many volumes in the collected works of Martin Luther and a Lutheran pastor himself, Pelikan raised a few eyebrows when he was received into the Orthodox Church at the age of 74. Pelikan's decision to become Orthodox followed decades of reflection and writing on the works of the Greek Fathers; though the learned professor never publicly revealed the exact reasons for his conversion, he reputedly joked that in making the move he went from being "the Lutheran with the greatest knowledge of the Orthodox Church" to "the Orthodox with the greatest knowledge of Luther." Pelikan continued writing and publishing into his eighties, and his death leaves a void that won't soon be filled. I regret that I've read only a handful of his books, but in the coming years I hope to read more. Though his pen has been stilled, Jaroslav Pelikan's works have earned him a place in the pantheon of intellectual immortals whose influence lingers long after their death. In blessed repose, grant, O Lord, eternal rest to the soul of your servant Jaroslav, and remember him forever. AMDG.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Refugee MP loses citizenship, resigns seat.

A Somali refugee who was elected to the Dutch parliament and attracted global notice as a critic of Islamic fundamentalism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has resigned her parliamentary seat following revelations that she lied about her past when she applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. Hirsi Ali, who initially claimed that she had fled directly to the Netherlands from Somalia to escape an arranged marriage, now admits that she left Somalia as a child and lived in Kenya for several years and spent time in Germany before her arrival in the Netherlands. Hirsi Ali also acknowledges that she falsified her name and birthdate on her asylum application in an effort to obscure her identity and prevent her family from discovering her whereabouts. Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk moved to revoke Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship following the revelations, leading her parliamentary colleagues to file two motions urging Verdonk to reconsider the move.

While Minister Verdonk's decision has been met with protest, no one denies that Hirsi Ali broke the law when she lied on her asylum application. As controversy continues to swirl, I hope the reasons why she lied are not ignored. Working with refugees in San Jose and Windsor, I got a vivid sense of the pressures that can compel some refugee claimants to embroider their personal stories in an effort to strengthen their applications for asylum. No one really chooses to become a refugee, for a refugee is a person who has been deprived of a meaningful sense of choice - a refugee is a person who, for reasons beyond his or her control, has permanently lost the ability to live securely in their own country and culture. To become a refugee is to lose one's natural sense of identity and to be forced to reconstruct one's life in an alien environment. On the basis of my experience, I believe that very few refugees lie in their claims. Nonetheless, in an effort to persuade government examiners and judges that their fears of persecution are well-founded, refugees may change some facts without altering the substance of their claims. They do so because they genuinely - and, typically, quite credibly - believe that terrible things may happen to them if they return home.

To protect their own lives - and often the lives of their loved ones - some refugees will lie if they believe that doing so will improve their chances of being granted asylum. As the Hirsi Ali case shows, getting caught in the lie can have devastating consequences. Therefore, those who help guide refugee claimants through the asylum process have to be very forthright with their clients about the need for honest and accurate reporting. At the same time, it's important to recognize the sense of fear and desperation that can cause the temptation to lie. In my work with refugee claimants, at times I felt tempted to harshly judge clients whose truthfulness seemed suspect. I came to realize, however, that it wasn't my place to judge - the government board hearing refugee claims could do that well enough on its own. Unable to rule on the fate of the needy human beings before me, all I could do was try to help them navigate the system and show them the mercy and compassion that had been denied to them in the countries they had come from. As I read news reports on the controversy surrounding Ayaan Hirsi Ali's asylum application and citizenship status, I can't help but be reminded of this valuable lesson. AMDG.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

An Octave (?) at Colombiere.

At several points over the course of the novitiate, Jesuit novices make a three-day retreat known, appropriately enough, as a 'triduum.' After making the 30-day Spiritual Exercises as a novice, every Jesuit is expected to make an annual eight-day retreat, which is what my fellow secundi and I spent the last week doing at Colombiere. This begs the question: if a three-day retreat is a triduum, what should one call an eight-day retreat? Until I find the answer, I'm going to provisionally refer to this experience as an 'octave.'

As far as I'm concerned, the octave went well. Under the able direction of Father David Meconi, I repeated many of the key meditations of the Spiritual Exercises. In the process, I acquired a deeper understanding of the ways in which I've grown over the past year and a half. In some instances, I found that I approached the material of the Exercises in pretty much the same way I did when I made the Long Retreat at Gloucester in January of last year. In many other instances, however, I could see how my experiences in the novitiate have deepened my spirituality. That's not to say that I'm perfect or that I 'get it' in an exceptionally profound or unique way, but this octave gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and appreciate the graces and challenges of Jesuit life so far. I'm grateful for the experience, and I look forward to my next octave. What graces will my next eight-day retreat uncover? God only knows. AMDG.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Novitiate interlude.

Being back in the novitiate after more than four months away can be very disorienting, a bit like traveling from sea level to an elevation of over ten thousand feet in one day (and I'll find out what that's like in Peru). After a couple days getting somewhat reacclimated to Loyola House, getting reacquainted with one another and getting to know the tertians, my fellow secundi and I leave this afternoon for an eight-day silent retreat at the Colombiere Center. Your prayers for us and our directors are greatly appreciated. Hopefully, I'll have a report when I get back - and hopefully I'll be a bit less disoriented. AMDG.

Last Titanic survivor to remember sinking dies.

I always feel a tinge of melancholy when I learn that the last survivor of a long-ago event has passed away. As I wrote in November when the last soldier to participate in the World War I "Christmas truce" died, stories of great significance can be lost when the last person to witness or take part in an important phase of history passes from the scene. Such a passing occurred yesterday when 99-year-old Lillian Gertrud Asplund died at her home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. As a five year-old girl in April 1912, Miss Asplund joined her parents and four brothers on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Asplund, her mother and her younger brother Felix all survived the Titanic's disastrous sinking, but her father, her twin and two older brothers did not. Lillian Asplund was the last living Titanic survivor with memories of the sinking; two other Titanic passengers remain alive, but both were only a few months old at the time of the sinking and neither remembers the event. A reticent but good-natured woman who lived alone and never married, Miss Asplund seldom discussed her experiences on the Titanic and refused to give interviews. Many details of her story died with her, as seems to have been her wish. Requiescat in Pace. AMDG.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Time takes its cost, I'm still the same.

Today was the last day of my Long Experiment at St. Ignatius College Prep. Tomorrow, my fellow secundi and I return to the novitiate (Pat Fairbanks and his fellow tertians will be on hand to welcome us). Leaving SICP, I feel somewhat as I did when I finished previous experiments at Catholic Charities in San Jose and at the Windsor Refugee Office. I always find it hard to say goodbye to people and places I've come to care deeply about, but it's especially hard when I realize that I'm seeing some of the people I've gotten to know for the last time. Many times over the last few days, I've heard variations of the same question I always get at the end of experiments: "When will you be back?" Trying to be optimistic, I usually respond "as soon as I can," even though it may be more accurate to say "I don't know." Parting under ambiguous circumstances is one of the peculiar realities of religious life. When I take my leave at the end of an experiment, I often don't know whether "goodbye" will mean "farewell" or just "see you later." Tonight, as I prepare to say goodbye to the Jesuits I've lived with for the past four months and pack for the journey back to Berkley, I'll be praying for the grace to be at peace with the ambiguity of Jesuit goodbyes. AMDG.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Field trips.

I always enjoyed going on field trips when I was in high school, and I've enjoyed chaperoning them just as much during my time at St. Ignatius College Prep. In March I joined a group of first-year Latin students on a visit to the Field Museum to see the justly-acclaimed exhibit Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption. Today I accompanied a group of freshman world history students to the Art Institute of Chicago. In preparation for the trip, each student researched a particular work in the Art Institute's collection and prepared a short oral presentation explaining the work's artistic and historical significance. Upon locating his or her work of art in the museum, each student delivered his or her presentation in front of the class and other museum visitors. The Art Institute of Chicago never fails to impress me - each time I go to the museum, I've had the experience of stumbling upon a famous painting or sculpture and thinking to myself, "I didn't know that was in Chicago." Today I was equally impressed by the students' excellent presentations, which reflected careful research and keen insight. After finishing up at the museum we went to Millennium Park, where the kids took advantage of a fine spring day to eat their bag lunches near the Crown Fountain and where some had even more fun by throwing a frisbee around. There is much I will miss about St. Ignatius, but I suspect I'll miss experiences like this the most - experiences that manage to combine academic excellence, the advantages of being in downtown Chicago and simple fun. AMDG.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker.

One of the advantages of sharing a name with Jesus' stepfather is celebrating your name day twice a year - first on March 19, the date traditionally known as St. Joseph's Day, and then again on May 1, the date designated as the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker by Pope Pius XII in 1955. This second annual commemoration of St. Joseph owes its existence to Catholic anti-communism and Cold War politics. Irked by the popularity of socialist-inspired May Day celebrations in many predominantly Catholic countries, Pius XII established a new feast honoring St. Joseph as a model for laborers. Considered in the context of Catholic social teaching, today's memorial offers us an opportunity to reflect on the dignity of work and its necessary place in human life.

In Chicago's Little Italy, where I presently live, May 1 is also noteworthy as the date on which a legendary Taylor Street institution opens for the season. Regardless of what the calendar or the weather forecasters say, many believe that spring begins today when Mario's Italian Lemonade starts serving its celebrated Italian ices to an eager public. I made my maiden visit to Mario's tonight, minutes after watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees 7-3 in a game that marked turncoat Johnny Damon's first appearance at Fenway in pinstripes. (If you want to know how I feel about that, this article from my hometown paper should give you some idea.) For all of a dollar, I got a generous serving of cherry slush that offered a tasty treat as well as an opportunity to participate in a venerable local tradition. If my opening night experience was representative, Mario's deserves its reputation as a simple no-frills neighborhood joint that does one thing and does it very well. Though I return to Loyola House at the end of this week, I'll be sure to return to Mario's a few more times before I leave Taylor Street. AMDG.