Donald ... Duck!


You know how Donald Duck died? An accident. And, his own foolishness.

A piano was falling down, soon to drop right on top of him. 

Seeing this, someone yelled, "Hey, Donald ... Duck!" 

Proud Duck! He turned and waved. 

And ... missed the point.

Gravity Ace


"Balancing the Body with the Gravitational Field of the Earth" 

— Stacey Mills, Seminal Master Teacher of Rolf Structural Integration


"Gravity Ace" is a term of art of peers in the Structural Integration community. It refers to the one who holds the creative tension toward the goal of establishing Structural Integration as a recognized and sought after approach to human health and performance.

Specifically, the intention to see the field accepted in its own right. And, on its own terms: that is, the central benefit of balancing the body with the gravitational field of the earth.

The benefit of Rolf Structural Integration is bodily balance. It's an important and too often overlooked aspect of  balance in the definition of health. Balance along the same lines of gravity which we know is necessary for soundness in all physical structures. The kind of balance inherent in the anatomical design of the human body. Balance which is in keeping with the Laws of Physics.

Such bodily balance supports health and top performance. Full creative expressiveness. Quality of life. Effortlessly upright, unstressed, easy. Present. Peaceful. Powerful, graceful, capable.

Beginnings

Though it probably predates even the great Imhotep — among his many accolades, Imhotep is known historically as the designer of the very first pyramid — the idea that constructed things endure when they are built plumb (vertically centered) and level goes back to the beginning of human history.

Even in his personal bearing, representations of Imhotep depict him as a human being who embodies those essential design principles in the very makeup of his body. A visual proof of why he was called "the one who comes in peace ... is with peace."

Consider, the great Imhotep must've — nay, had to have — a plumb line and level to build such an enduring structure. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a curiosity for its being off kilter. Just know the folks there in Pisa take a lot of pains to make sure it doesn't fall down.

And, that's the point we're making here, really. It takes pains to keep a structure from falling down when it's off balance. Our bodies are no exception. Pains. And, you can imagine associated limitations on performance, creativity, general effectiveness. 


The idea that things stack up vertically is something we all learn implicitly in early childhood playing at stacking stacking blocks. In architectural design and in the construction trades plumb and square is the rule. Never mind the so-called "deconstructivism" of architect Frank Gehry. You better believe at the core of all that non-rectilinear dislocated distortion there's a stable center of plumb and square around which all that beautiful helter-skelter is balanced. 


Now What?

Simply put, the next step is to do something about the balance your body. It does take doing. 

The pattern of your body has taken its shape over a period of time. It shows a history of learning and use. Most likely mixed in with bad habits, accidents, and traumas. In respect to the balance of our bodies, how structurally things fit and work in relationship, in this area we are mostly self taught. Our models of adequate bodily balance were those figures around us, many not good exemplars of correct arrangement.


What To Do?

We know from our Mother's knee what to do. Sit up straight. Walking, point your toes to the front. (You would be off in a jiffy to the repair shop if your front wheels were out of alignment.) At work, keep your posture upright on a supportive chair. Make sure the computer screen is at eye level. That smart phone or tablet, raise it to eye level; not looking down at it, straining your neck and shoulders. 

Those are things we all know to do. Now, go do it!

When you take stock of your own situation, and you want to really get back to where you belong. Help is at hand ...

Rolf Structural Integration offers personalized assistance to transform the level of balance of your body to a vertically upright, unstressed, easy stance. 

In Conclusion

So what the heck you ask does this have to do with the "Gravity Ace" business? Well, this message has been brought to you by Gravity Ace. (And, you are welcome.)

Any Certified Practitioner of Structural Integration who wishes to use the appellation "Gravity Ace" is qualified to do so after taking this lifetime pledge:

"I promise to hold the intention to keep the idea of balance in gravity central to my work with clients for Structural Integration, and in all my communications about this peerless and definitive approach to human health and performance."

NOTE TO CERTIFIED PRACTITIONERS: 

We understand, in the contemporary demand for health services, balancing the body along the lines of gravity is not on the tip of just about anybody's tongue. In practical terms we must meet our clients where they are; not just where we want them to be, or where we think they should be. Yet, in actual situations serving others, it is possible to water down our essential benefit to a point where it gets lost in the focus on symptom relief. Not just in terms of having body balance be an item of conversation. But, in terms of actually having body balance as an applied intention in our goals with our clients. 

Be that as it may, according to the Standards of Practice in the field of Structural Integration, Certified Practitioners should  1) disclose to their clients when actions and/or procedures are not "Structural Integration", and — according to the best tradition of "Gravity Ace" — 2) be sure those we serve understand the goal of our work is first and foremost the balance of the body in gravity. Symptom relief, stress reduction, and improvements in performance are by-products of that whole-body balance. The latter point, not just in actual practice, but in all communications.

That's what "Gravity Ace" is all about!

And ... You are welcome!





My Shaman Days


I once lived in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida in the early 1980s. That was just before the time when it got moy trendissimo. The Cardoza Hotel on Ocean Drive had been renovated; but that was pretty much it.

Collins Avenue in the South Beach area was a bunch of gone-to-seed storefronts. The art scene was just in its infancy on Lincoln Road. The hotels were full of retired old Jews. A dying breed.

There was a health food store on Collins run by an old lady. She and the store looked like they had both been there forever. One evening I strolled by and stopped in for a visit. It turned out that the old women died. Her daughter was there that evening, seemingly to wrap it all up and clear things out. There she was smoking behind the counter. A health food store!

Now, I took her smoking to be a clear statement that whatever that store and the business had meant to her recently departed mother, it didn't mean any more to that girl than the steam off her sh*t. If that.

I observed to her that if her mother could see her here smoking, she would be spinning in her grave. Didn't budge the twit one iota. Whatever.

I bought a bottle of that proven dispeller of bad juju, Florida Water. The go-to solvent for spiritual cleansing. Then I opened it in the store and proceeded to bless the area liberally with spritzes from the bottle.

The girl went ballistic. Summarily threw me out of the store.

Time passed.

The new tenant was a storefront church.

You do the math.
Just Try to Top This One!



Way back awhile I heard a song on the radio. I loved it. Never heard it again. I did remember some lines of lyrics; but nothing about the title, or performer. From time to time I've attempted to find it with an Internet search. 

Today I found it!

One Saturday I was driving home to Brooklyn from the dealership in New Jersey with a beautiful brand new 1972 Citroën D Special. Just like this one.


On the radio is playing a very catchy Cowboy song. Ever since after that one and only time hearing that tune, I've kept a mental note to find it. Somehow the stars were in alignment today. Here it is. After 43 years. A circle is closed. Auspicious, don't you think?

The song is called When I Was a Cowboy, written by the great Ralph McTell. He also wrote that wonderfully sentimental famous song, Streets of London.

Please take a stroll with me down memory lane. Enjoy ... (After that, Streets of London.)





CONFESSIONS OF AN ALTAR BOY

(My downfall was trying to be a "Good" boy)*


*("They stone you when you're tryin' to be so good." — Bob Dylan)

Where to start. Let's start at the end. Near the end, anyway.

During my time in the parochial school ... "barrel" — referring to being raised like a "veal" in a time when "Children should be seen and not heard" — I attended the Immaculate Conception parish grade school in the once Poletown neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. Immaculate Conception was Ground Zero for the protest and resistance to razing the surrounding neighborhood to make way for a factory to make Cadillac automobiles. Even Ralph Nader was involved. It's a story in itself. GM is now pressing out Cadillacs on that holy ground, as I write.

Immaculate Conception Church and School with Surrounding Neighborhood — Poletown, Detroit, Michigan

One thing I remember about those years at Immaculates was the near-life size statue of Crucified Jesus at the front right side of the altar. I used to cringe and mentally flagellate myself contemplating such suffering and realizing that I would not want to — could never — ever, ever go though something like that. Those were not times for me when there were adults anywhere with whom you could raise such subjects. Just be good!
 

There is a lot to tell. But this is just my own one small piece of that rich and colorful time and place.

Like I said, I was an Altar Boy. It was an honor. My mother made sure I would always have an immaculately clean and heavily starched white surplice to wear over my cassock. There's an angelic picture of me somewhere in the attic showing me in that outfit with hands folded in prayer, professionally photographed by one of the local portrait studios on Chene Street. They stopped short of the eyes raised to heaven and the retouched-in halo.

It didn't last. I got kicked out of the Altar Boys. Instead of a full term limit through to 8th grade graduation, my career as an Altar Boy ended late one summer morning sometime around 6th or 7th grade.

Here's the story. As was expected, Altar Boys served year around, during the summer school recess too. Not the most wonderful thing for a boy to have to get up early on a balmy summer morning and slog to church to serve at Mass. I was dutiful, and took it in stride. But, something went wrong at the service one fateful morning. I got sick. Felt faint.

ASIDE: This was not the first time I felt sick at the altar. Maybe overtaken with the Spirit? Too much grace for one small body to contain? God working in mysterious ways? It happened to me reliably at those special occasions where all the Altar Boys were assembled and knelt piously at the altar railing on a narrow step of hard stone tiles hands in prayer position in front of the entire congregation. Midnight Christmas Mass, a prime example. I would start to feel sick to my stomach and have to excuse myself, mortified in front of everyone. Those were also the days when you fasted before Mass if you planned to receive Communion. And, you better be in A STATE OF GRACE, buddy! God must've had me singled out for such embarrassing situations. Like the time I was the only boy in the entire school to have to wear short pants for a Marian Day parade, also in front of the whole congregation. Mother was proud, and the ladies gave their ooh's and ahh's. Now do you get the reference to "raised like a veal"?

I may have also been the only boy to have been kicked out of the Altar Boys. It was on a summer morning during Mass being offered by Pastor Cendrowski. I got sick. I was in a quandary over whether to tell Father, or not interrupt and just leave. I was too shy to interrupt, so I left. Later, he sent Dennis Sheida, Dr. Sheida's son, on his Schwinn Phantom to let me know not to ever come back. Talk about a double whammy. Getting kicked out without any recourse; and then there's Dennis on the Phantom anyone would covet. [BTW, seeing his dad, Dr. Shieda, for check ups was a treat. He kept a lower drawer in his desk chock full of candies which he offered kids after visits.] And I got the bad news without explanation. Apparently Good Father Cendrowski thought I was being just what he probably thought all boys to be down deep ... A BAD BOY. I was too mortified and shy to go and confront Cendrowski. As Jerry Seinfeld used to say ... "NEWMAN!!!"

CENDROWSKI!!!

For all the boys in us, here's a nice shot of that Cadillac of bikes, the Schwinn Phantom. Electric horn button on the side panel. Spring shock. Light. Back rack. Key lock for front fork. Killer paint job. Plush leather seat with springs. White walls. Streamers! Chrome fenders. Real chrome. Lots of chrome. You wanna talk about bad. That's what I call BAAD!


Continuing. And, more on "That Cendrowski" later. That's him in the opening photo montage. It's an image lifted from a 1964 group photo of the graduating class from Immaculate Conception School. As he signals in the photo, he was strict. One friend revealed to me he was known as "Fr. Cinders" in her family. Now, why he was so strict, I have no idea. I would bet, though, that it had nothing more than to do with his own experience being raised by a strict parent(s). Also, maybe multiplied with the conviction that children (all people) were devious miscreants who needed a firm pastoral hand to keep them on the Straight and Narrow. Just to say on this subject, some people should not be put in positions of authority. Seriously flawed individuals projecting their own conflicted neuroses onto everyone they see and everywhere they go. You think the news would be as exciting even now if our so-called leaders were whole human beings?

But, I digress.

Altar Boys are, well, boys. And, boys being boys we have a special sense of participating in the rituals of life. At Mass during my time of serving at Immaculates — it was Old School at that time, with the priest facing the altar, his back to the congregation — the priest offered Mass at an altar platform raised exactly three steps up. The Altar Boys knelt on the first step. Those who served "first" that is. Other, secondary servers — when there were any — knelt at positions slightly behind on a single stepped platform in the sanctuary. At Immaculates the sanctuary itself was raised two steps up from the church floor. Step up and meet your Saviour. And his Mom. I did that there just then to be, well, a naughty boy. Actually, the statue of the Blessed Virgin was the centerpiece of the whole altar presentation. Since the church was going to be razed that most beautiful and grace filled statue was removed and now resides at nearby Saint Hyacinth Church at a dedicated chapel. Flanked by her faithful angels, also from Immaculates' altar.


Below is a photo to show the entire altar. This image shows the updated setup with an altar for the priest offering Mass facing the people. But you can see most of what I'm talking about there.


Even the floor tiles were special. Locally made Pewabic Pottery tiles I suppose. Variegated and with  shades of golds, black, browns, umber, copper, orange. Lots of multi-color fading in each tile.


If you were serving "First", of the two boys given that responsibility, one got "Bells"; the other, "Book". The "Bells" boy started off kneeling to the left on that first step to the altar. The "Book" boy knelt on the right. I recall there was some complicated switch with the Altar Missal. It started out on the right side of the altar, then at some point the "Book" Altar Boy would bring it down the steps from its place on the right side of the altar, then up to the left side. That was just before the reading of the Gospel. So, not to belabor the intricacies of Altar Boy procedure, the "Book" Boy would start off on the right, "Bells" Boy on the left. Got it? After the switch of the Altar Missal the boys would then be in their final places.

"Bells" at Immaculate Conception were a push button electronic affair. There was a little metal door flush on the right side of the second altar step. Open it and there were five columnar buttons. After Consecration, just before the Elevation of the Host and Adoration, the bells were rung. 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5. That was the sequence.

"Bells" was the best. When I got "Bells", sometimes I rocked it. Rather than the solemn cadence due the occasion, I would press them at rocket speed. Thought that was pretty cool. Bing Bang Bong ...Bang Bong Boing ... Bong Boing Blam!!! Never got called on it. Strange to me even then, because it did warrant giving someone a good talking to.

Also with that "Book" / "Bells" switcheroo. Since the boy on "Book" started on the right, but arrived on the left, his missal had to be handed over after he changed the Altar Missal. And vica versa with the boy on "Bells". Those step stairs leading to the Altar were covered with panels of carpeting. We would send our books gliding right to left, left to right, along that carpet strip. If you were listening for it there was a whizzing whoosh sound. Again, I remember, once or twice I rocked that too. It was an Altar Boy arcane skill. I raised it to high art. Instead of pacing the slide to arrive to a nice stop at my partners position, I gave it all I had, and it went flying, shooting past the boy and landing way over in the sanctuary. Loud whizz, and a thwack! Never heard about that either. Remembering that now, it's no wonder I got kicked out. Cendrowski was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was also a rather cheeky lad. One priest in particular was a favorite. Rather more accessible and modern compared to those other old school "staddy giats" (phonetic spelling = old fogeys). I suggested he buy a Volkswagen as his daily drive. But, he stayed with the conservative Chevy or Ford. Black, of course. Stripped down model, of course. I liked to joke with him too. Suggested he was going to the "Cooler" once when he was going to hear confessions in those chilly confessionals set into the side wall of the church. Shortly after, a Nun took me aside and said I wasn't to joke with Father. I didn't get an explanation. They just gave you the orders, and you obeyed. (Veal.) I was once again mortified. Now, with all that has been going on with priests and children, maybe she saved me from some real upsetting stuff.

Priests! Some of my best friends are. In college I was rather religious. In the Sodality a lay religious club, the mentoring priest was rather a strict one. Once we went off on a task to do something charitable; something extra, above and beyond, not in our usual pattern. I decided to say hello to people I usually didn't say hello to on campus. Father didn't consider that all that much of an effort. And, said so. In front of everyone in the Sodality meeting. A handful of years passed, and who do I see in a Time Magazine article. Our dear strict moderator. He got married! As they say, the greater the piety the bigger the pretense. Priest! Not all. But enough to get the Church Hierarchy to — finally — do some house cleaning.

Being an Altar Boy had its perks. Serving at funerals was a special treat. Treat? Hey, you have to put your boy-brain on. For funerals you got to ride in a big plush limousine with the officiating priest as he made his way to the funeral home before Mass, back to the church, then to the cemetery and back. You got to miss a whole block of morning class time. And, you got a nice cash tip for your trouble. Hey? Here's a photo of the Smigielsky Funeral Home just down the block from Immaculates. It saw better days. The photo was taken during the time of the razing of the neighborhood.

Smigielski Funeral Home Photo Credit: Jim Sczytko Kanter Street/Poletown Facebook Group 

On to more depressing experiences.

By the way, my very first more of less direct encounter with Reverend Alexander Cendrowski (1901 - 1991) was during my very early pre-Altar Boy days in school. We were sent away with homework to make butter. My mother got some cream and I shook it in a Mason jar until butter formed. She neatly put a sample in a shot glass (shot glass!) covered with wax paper held down with a rubber band. Pre-plastic wrap folks. Am I dating myself? My sample was chosen to be given to Father Cendrowski. I don't recall how it transpired, whether I took it over, or just let one of the Sisters trot it over. Never heard a peep. I know it was good. I didn't need a priest to confirm that fact. Just would have appreciated an acknowledgement. The die with me and Cendrowski was set.

Some time later in my grade school days like any young boy trying to be good, I was beset with impure thoughts. Mostly of the kind like wondering what the heck those girls had that made them, well, girls. Of course, this was a mortal sin and if you died without having been absolved you know where you would go. If I have to tell you ... that would be ... HELL! So here I am in the confessional, 10 years old or so and somewhat embarrassed to be talking about my nascent sexual history. It wasn't Cendrowski, but the priest somehow interpreted that I was confessing to f**king some lady. I was too shocked by that to even try to correct his impression. I took it like a man. I was now in the eyes of the church a bonafide fornicator. 10 years old, mind you. Heck I didn't bust my cherry until I was eleven. Just kidding.

COMPLETELY ASIDE ... The Cardinal is very sick. Doctors come from all over the world to try and diagnose his illness. And finally a little Jewish psychiatrist finds the cause of the problem. He tells the cleric, "Your Eminence, because you have had nothing to do with women all your life, your hormones are unbalanced and there is only one possible cure. You must make love with a woman." "No, no!" cries the Cardinal, "I can't. All the vows I have taken ... I just can't!" "But, Your Grace," replies the shrink, "you must or you will die, and this too is a mortal sin." The Cardinal retires for a few days to consider his fate, and then calls the psychiatrist again. "Okay, okay" he says, "I have reached my decision. I will do as you ask. But please, be sure that the girl has nice, big tits."

I got my licks in with Pastor Cendrowski during my 8th Grade year, 1957. Just before being released from his clutches with that rite of passage, graduation from 8th Grade. It was at the 8th Grade class play.

By the way, I was the President of the class that year. During the election period Sister Maximia — she was great, but she did live up to her name — said to the class in her usual emphatic tone, something like, "You should vote for someone capable, like David". That was my entire campaign. Of course, we were obedient students. I was voted in. I did feel capable. But, with a dose of self doubt for good measure. And more than enough a peppering of guilt. It was a grace that she acknowledged me that way. She also encouraged me to go to Jesuit Prep School. Thank you eternally, Sister Maximia. Also, just to toot my horn a bit. I was Captain of the Safety Boys. We stood at assigned corners before and after school, and before and after lunch periods to make sure our fellow students crossed safely. I was demoted from that job because I wasn't tough enough with the troops. Frank Dolenz was enlisted. He didn't mind some hands-on pushing and shoving to get the job done. I think I could have been Captain of the Altar Boys too. Of course, you know how that went.

I must've been a contender. I was also the lead in the 8th Grade class play. I have no recollection what it was about. Just that I couldn't take the whole thing seriously, so I was shunted off to a lesser role. I would play the role of the priest. You should know Father Cendrowski, besides his reputation for gaunt strictness, he was a confirmed cigar smoker. It was a trademark fixture with him. I think I can still recall the smell of it now. So what did I do to bring some style to my role as the priest? I walked out on stage during that one and only performance with a big stogie in hand. I think it got a laugh. Cendrowski didn't say anything. Maybe even he was amused. But I doubt it.

I went to the University of Detroit High School. A Jesuit prep school. Sister Maximia, my 8th Grade teacher recommended that another boy and I apply there. That was a real grace. A significant life experience for me. But, Father Cendrowski was not pleased. Suggesting I was not supportive by not going on to Saint Stannies, the nearby parochial high school. I took it in stride, but got the solid impression Father Cendrowski was a Nazi; or at least had a Fascist mind.

During those high school years we went to Mass on Sunday's faithfully. After Mass periodically there was a Father-Son breakfast sponsored by the Holy Name Society. Just what they did completely eluded me then. I had no interest. Father Cendrowski summoned me and suggested I join. I flatly told him I had nothing in common with those fellows, and that I had no interest in being a part of that group. That was what was so for me. Cendrowski used that exchange with me and built a sermon around it. Retelling the story of his encounter with a callow youth who was too selfish to participate in the Life of the Church. Well, he didn't mention me by name. But, you know how it is when you feel guilty; all eyes are on you. That was quite the Mass. God works in mysterious ways. My middle name is Daniel. It serves me well when I find myself in difficult situations.

Last meeting with by now Monsignor Cendrowski was at Saint Mary's Academy, Orchard Lake, Michigan. My older brother graduated high school there, and now his son was also graduating. Father Cendrowski was there. Apparently retired to the seminary there. I approached. "Hello, Father Cendrowski. I'm David Wronksi. Remember me?" Flatly, I mean flatly, he responded ..."I remember you." Hey, how about that little thing called forgiveness? Truly, I realize that the crux of it is that any forgiveness is self-forgiveness. If I hadn't a guilty bone in my body, Father Cendrowski's coldness would have been an opportunity to strike up some real rapport. Like, "Hey Father, I see you still have that stick up your ass!" Instead, I removed myself from his judgemental presence.

God bless Father Alexander Cendrowski. And, dear Father in Heaven, would You and Your Son and His Mother give him a good talking to?

You might also like to know I named my dog Alexander in memory of a certain priest who made quite a lasting impression on me.

Father Cendrowski was not very nice to me. Consistently. Yet, he must've been a good man. In his heart. By his own lights. Here is a link to an article entitled, Poletown: Community Betrayed. It's definitive about the history of the razing of Immaculate Conception Parish and the heart of most of the Poletown neighborhood. In fairness — and I was moved after reading the article — Father Cendrowski did some good deeds. When the I-94 Expressway cut through our neighborhood, Father Cendrowski is cited for persuading the City of Detroit to build foot bridges so that children across the expressway could walk to school. I was one of them. Also, when there was an influx of immigrants from many different countries into that mostly Polish neighborhood, Father Cendrowski led outreach, offering English classes and getting furniture and household item donations from parishioners.

Once again, Father Cendrowski would not have approved of some of my other mischief. When the overpass directly to the parish was finished we boys would gather there to watch the cars whizz by. More than a few spit balls were dropped onto oncoming vehicles. Where else, pray, could a boy learn the exquisite art of timing?

Father Cendrowski! Pray that my time in Purgatory is short. I'm sorry. Really!

PS

Remembering yet another mortification of my Altar Boy youth. On special occasions, Feast Days, the whole parish would gather for evening Mass. There would be a procession around the aisles inside the church. The officiating priest or some invited higher up, lots of Monsignors, Bishops, maybe even a Cardinal, and loads of priests. The whole Altar Boy contingent. The Blessed Eucharist in a fancy monstrance under a silken canopy held aloft by poles at each corner balanced by four bearers . All stops pulled out. Full regalia.

My job on one such occasion was to light the charcoal for the censer. Such and other supplies were kept in the room to the right of the altar. At a prescibed time I went inside there to ignite one of those self-lighting charcoal discs. It just would not light. I emerged with a cold censer. No incense that time around. Holy Smoke! Never heard about it though. Do you suppose no one noticed?

Now you know.

Comments invited ...