Nerissa Keeps Her Mouth Shut Sometimes

posted September 24, 2004

September 23, 2004 Birthday of Ray Charles, John Coltraine, Ani DiFranco and Bruce Springsteen.

“It’s a great morning,” Katryna said. “The polls show Kerry behind by just 3 points! And the Red Sox won last night! And Jon Stewart is on the Today Show!”

For once, I knew all this since I was sitting in the Comfort Inn lobby eating my breakfast and watching TV–to be specific, I was looking at video footage of someone named Laci whose husband, Scott Peterson apparently maliciously murdered her and her unborn baby. Katryna had called me on my cell phone from the room we were sharing. Just before she called, I’d seen my first Kerry ad on TV followed by my first Bush ad. We’re in the suburbs of Philadelphia this morning, about to perform at a school. Since we live in Massachusetts, not a swing stage, we don’t get commercials. I can’t say I miss them.

I am encouraged by the polls; ridiculously so, if you must know. Good news buoys me and energizes me. Being an optimist is an act of true courage, because that which I fear greatly is the direct consequence of optimism: appearing to be a fool.

We heard Kerry last night on NPR; his voice is shot, and somehow it makes him sound more compelling and down to earth. To me, he makes perfect sense, and I have no qualms about his ability to lead us for the next four years. But 48% seem to disagree, although only 9% of REPUBLICANS think GWB should continue to govern the way he has been. Not much of an endorsement.

I’d like to tell people, “Just because Bush is a better campaigner than Kerry doesn’t mean he’d be a better president.” But since no one who’s never won a presidential campaign has ever gotten to prove that, I keep my mouth shut.

So Jon Stewart said something like, “I don’t know why people are so unhappy with Bush. I mean, sure, we invaded Iraq because he told us they were harboring Al Quada and had WMDs, and they didn’t; but look! Iran has Al Qaida fugitives and weapons of mass destruction. So really, Bush was only off by one letter.”

About the wedding dress. Katryna and I went down to Virginia to see my parents before our Jammin Java gig on Friday. My mother took us out for dinner and then we decided to shop.

“Girls’ Night Out!” hollered Katryna.

“White,” I said. “But it doesn’t have to be a wedding wedding dress. It could be a flapper dress. Or a big white coat. But I want to wear white. White’s a good color on me. And I need to be able to spill coffee on it and not feel too terrible about that later. Those are my top criteria.”

We found a really nice dress, but it was basically a slip. I don’t think my Catholic future mother-in-law would be too impressed. So the search continues.

Speaking of Catholics, now that I am kind of one by soon-to-be-marriage (though they’ve got all sorts of rules and tests that I don’t pass, so I won’t be converting anytime soon; plus I don’t believe in that whole blood and body thing); I wonder what the Catholic priests say behind closed doors about the fundamentalists. I mean, we know what the Fundys say about

Catholics,right? “Papists.” “idolatry.” “Truly tasteless possessors of baroque icons.” But what do the Catholics say about the Fundys? Do they call, for instance, call them “Fundys?”

I want to know. When Tom and I go to the Catholic Church in Northampton, there is a lovely, smart and kind priest named Father Gene. When I come up with the others for communion, I fold my arms across my chest to indicate I’m not taking the Host. So Father Gene blesses me in this lovely way: “May the God of your understanding bless you and help you to know your true gifts to the world.” Isn’t that cool? And he gently touches my forehead. It’s kind of amazing. I leave feeling totally blessed. But sometimes Fr. Gene is on vacation, in which case, I may face the Bopper. The Bopper kept trying to stick the wafer in my mouth when I approached, sort of as if I were a soda machine and the wafer were a quarter. “The BAHHHDY of Christ, the BAHHHDY of Christ,” he kept saying. Resolutely, I kept my mouth shut; no easy feat, mind you. Finally I hissed, “I need a blessing!” He looked at me indignant and whapped me firmly on the head. No words about the God of my understanding. Just a nice corporal punishment.

About this blog: Oh my GOD! I LOVE you guys! What fun! What have I been missing all my life?

The Comments

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  1. Nerissa, as usual, you have me laughing uot loud. As a Catholic (we’re not all bad, though I guess you know that, you’re marrying one!), I apologize for aggressive Eucharistic Ministers! How cool is Father Gene though?!

    As a girl who went to college in MA (Holy Cross, we love Woosta!), I understand the whole “what, there’s a campaign going on?” aspect…the Republicans just surrender MA.

    And, as a girl who now lives in the DC area, I too am disturbed by the Grovesnor stop…I prefer Dupont Circle, Farragut and my personal favorite, Foggy Bottom.

    ~Kris (who is not only looking forward to Jammni’Java, but is considering celebrating her return to the East Coast by driving to the Tin Angel on Saturday!)

  2. It’s nice to hear something good about caring Catholic priests here in western MA. The scandal of late surely must be a huge cross to bear (ahem) for those decent, honest, and loving priests that I’m sure comprise the majority.


  3. In 20/20 hindsight, all those pre-song naughty bits about “Seasonal Catholic Family Drama,” Part I (or II) are beginning to look eerily prescient. In the pilgrimage of life, there are occasionally little votive shrines along the way, bedecked with the remnants and relics of others who have already gone before us. That’s what religions are too: well-trodden paths still being newly trodden, as if for the first time, by each of us, today.


  4. Yay for Fr. Gene! Sorry the substitute priest was so clueless about giving a blessing during the eucharist. It’s surprising that he tried to make you have your “First Communion”, and didn’t realize what your folded arms meant (but maybe he was new…).

    My church is a rather progressive Catholic church in Ann Arbor. In fact, the conservative churches sometimes refer to us as St. Scary’s (instead of St. Mary’s). All of the young children, and those adults who are abstaining, approach the eucharistic ministers the way you describe. The Diocese tried to change it so that only the priests could give out blessings – not the lay ministers. However, we ingnored that rule, since there can be no harm in giving a blessing to another person. Besides, as you noted, receiving the blessing makes you feel special.

    Good luck finding your wedding dress. Congratulations!

    PS If you come to Michigan before the election, don’t even bother watching TV. It seems like we have non-stop campaign commercicals. If I hear “I’m George W. Bush, and I approve this message” one more time…..

  5. Dear Nerissa,

    I have been a Catholic my whole life and I find it difficult to the whole body & blood thing. (Just don’t tell my priest.) I see it as more of a reminder of Christ.
    So what do we think about fundamentalists? Well I can’t say for all Catholics, but I tend to view them as uptight, whacko, conservatives who lack the ability to read figuritively into written text and who are convinced that their view is the only right one.
    By the way, I also wanted to say that I loved your show at the Children’s Museum in Boston and I’m sorry I had to leave in the middle. I would have liked to stay for the whole thing, but I needed to get back to work. I hope you and Katryna weren’t offended.
    Good luck planning for your wedding! I’m getting married next year so I know how exciting it is! Go Red Sox! Go Kerry!
    Feel free to e-mail me at or check out my blog at

    Peace and Love,

  6. Nerissa, I am seeing you (and Katryna!) play tonight.

    And I am SO PSYCHED.

    Thankyouthankyouthankyou for traveling a little ways *down* the East Coast.

  7. Oops, I meant to say I find it difficult to BELIEVE in the whole body and blood thing. I hope you knew what I meant!

    Peace and Love,

  8. I remember that special feeling of being blessed when I was a kid and wasn’t old enough to take communion yet. Something about Father’s Lane’s fingers brushing my forehead always excited and calmed me at the same time. I don’t really do the church (or believing thing for that matter) anymore, but I still remember it fondly.

    nichole (from buffalo, ny)

  9. The post title, “Nerissa Keeps Her Mouth Shut Sometimes,” reminded me of the Smiths song, “Big Mouth Strikes Again” from The Queen is Dead album. That song (along with “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” also from that Smiths album) has been one of the unofficial theme songs of my career in Nields World. I may (or may not) have Tourette’s or some other compulsive disorder, but my inability to shut up has certainly gotten me in hot water at times, especially in Nields World.


  10. Nichole wrote:
    “I remember that special feeling of being blessed when I was a kid and wasn’t old enough to take communion yet. . . I don’t really do the church (or believing thing for that matter) anymore, but I still remember it fondly.”

    Beliefs can be such an obstacle. I often think, the less beliefs, the better. ISTM Nichole you were experiencing the unconditional love of a community of faith, of a church family, when you were a kid and weren’t old enough to take communion yet. Then when you come of age, the *condition* of believing this or that (pick a church, any church) shoots the “unconditional love” part all to hell. Then you have to toe someone else’s line in order to be acceptable to THEM. FWIW Nichole you are blessed, even if no longer in a church setting. IMO the unconditional love part is primary and foremost. The important thing ISTM is for each one of us to find a loving community, a virtual family, a place to belong, a place where we are loved “as we are” and accepted with no strings attached, a “Mercy House.” My view of the church is that it should be a “Mercy House” like that.

    We can create a “Mercy House” like that too, in a non-church setting, in any setting. We can try every day to show kindness and mercy to others, and help to make a loving community, a virtual family, a place to belong, a place where people are loved “as they are” and accepted with no strings attached, wherever and whomever we are. Church or no church!

    “Mercy House” = the Church of the Easy People, with Nerissa & Katryna as high priestesses and celebrants of the Peace of the Heavenly Jerusalem 🙂


  11. “I never could learn to drink that blood
    And to call it wine…”
    – Bob Dylan “Tight Connection to My Heart”

    🙂 Stephen

  12. As a Recovering Catholic(tm), I think I can comment on the question of what Catholics think of Fundies.

    My mom, who still very conscientiously goes to church every Sunday (and bemoans that fact that I do not), has always said “If Jesus of Nazareth and the ‘Christian’ Jesus were to meet on the street, they wouldn’t recognize each other.” I think that about sums it up.

    Incidentally, my parents both use the term “Christian” (said with some derision, so you can hear the virtual quotes around the word) instead of “Fundie”. But the two terms refer to the same people.

  13. At 2:03 PM, meredith said…
    Incidentally, my parents both use the term “Christian” (said with some derision, so you can hear the virtual quotes around the word) instead of “Fundie”. But the two terms refer to the same people.

    No, I disagree. Catholics are Christians, too. A Christian is anyone who believes that Jesus is the Savior, regardless of church or denomination.

  14. At 3:01 PM, Anonymous said…
    No, I disagree. Catholics are Christians, too. A Christian is anyone who believes that Jesus is the Savior, regardless of church or denomination.

    Oh, I (and my parents) know that. But there is a marked difference between a Christian (regardless of denomination) and a Fundie. It’s hard in a visual medium to represent the differences in how the same word can be expressed to have two completely different meanings when it’s said in different ways … but trust me, we know the difference. 🙂

  15. Nerissa–amazing piece in the New Haven Advocate. Looking forward to the Plastic Angel books and The Big Idea!

    Most of all looking forward to seeing you tonight *and* tomorrow night–yes, I’m driving round trip to Philly tomorrow night!

  16. Meredith wrote:
    “It’s hard in a visual medium to represent the differences in how the same word can be expressed to have two completely different meanings when it’s said in different ways…but trust me, we know the difference.”

    I knew what Meredith meant. It’s like the difference between the person named “Jesus” and the televangelist’s personal “JAY-ZUZ!” 🙂

    It was such an eye-opener for me personally, when I realized that characters like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart don’t represent all Christians, and don’t stand for the values of all Christians. From my own personal POV, the Unholy Trio just mentioned are a *caricature* of the values for which Christianity stands. And fortunately, there are a lot of us “out there” who feel that way too and who know the difference.

    IMO the reason so many people are hoodwinked by creeps like Bush and his Gang of Four and will be voting them back into office for Four More Years is that either 1) many, many people can’t really even tell the difference between a Big Phony and the Real Thing, and/or even more sadly and tragically, 2) many, many people actually PREFER Big Phonies like Reagan and Bush to the Real Thing.

    IMNSHO Big Phonies like Falwell, Robertson, and Swaggart are NOT the “real thing.” Why let the wormy bad apples spoil the whole bumper crop of the harvest for everyone. When it comes to “Christians,” accept no substitutes.


  17. Hello Dear Nerissa,

    Your bopper story reminds me of when I was a child and hungry for God with liberal parents who didn’t want to “expose me” to Him to that early, I went with my best friend’s family to become a Lutheran. Every time at church when it was wafer time, everyone would rush forward and all of the adults who didn’t know me would physically force me into the line even though I knew I had to stay in the pew because “Jesus hadn’t come into my heart yet.” and I hadn’t been baptized. I had arguments with women who held my wrists tight thinking I was just a sinful little child unwilling to participate. Now I’m a Jewish Buddhist but occasionally I figure it’s worth asking Jesus to come into my heart. And I go to the Catholic churches every so often instead of Luthran because they’re pretty and I still have to fight with old ladies about not going up to get my helping of body and blood.
    -And you look better than ever, so healthy and calm on the cover of the advocate. And I’ve been out of touch with the Nields for a while but I am thrilled about your upcoming marriage.
    – And I’m sending you (to the petquince email) a story I wrote about mentorship, which I titled “Gotta Get Over Greta” last night because she’s actually “a Greta” whose name is Greta and I need to get over her.

    (pps. Yay for you on blogger! Now all we have to do it get you on FRIENDSTER! ( Though, friendster is really ridiculous because when someone asks you to be thier friend and you don’t check your friendster messages, they often get mad and think you’re refusing thier friendship. And I have a friendster account but I still really don’t get the point of adding up how many online friends you have.)

  18. Word, Nields. Word.

    The blog is brilliant. You’ll be linked on The Noodle Incident (my blog, specializing in innovative ways to drive up Bush’s unfavs) in the morning, when I’ve learned to type.

    Seeing y’all at FR was really, really cool – a nice reminder of a great life that I’ve since moved from. But I’ve got a glow-in-the-dark-plastic angel on my computer at the newspaper and This Town Is Wrong legally ripped to iTunes, (from my press copy, natch).

    Full-band, Crackerjack, duo, trio, solo, side project, whatever – if there’s a Nields involved, I’m going to check it out. Even if it’s a Chalfant, like Kathleen on Law and Order.

    One last thing – Do you guys hate me for asking for Mob Zombie? I know the mere mention is like a dirty word and I’m sorry for that but if it’s really that annoying I’ll stop.

    Good night.

    = The Guy In The Flag Bandana On The Back Of Live From Northampton

  19. Re: Communion: My partner Fran is Episcopalian and when I go to her church, I take Communion because I am an “invited guest” at the table, so to speak. For me, Communion is about fellowship….Deb

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