Jesus and the Easter Bunny

How did we go from the Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to a bunny hiding eggs – chocolate or decorated – for the delight of children? You may not not recall any mention of it in the Gospels.

The two major Christian holidays coincidentally are observed on the change of seasons, times of celebration for much of humankind: Christmas at the winter solstice when the sun starts its return and Easter at the spring equinox, recognized from antiquity as a time of fertility. What follows may or may not be true.

Whence came the name “Easter?” It is thought to derive from a pagan figure known as Eostre who was celebrated as the goddess of fertility by the Saxons of Northern Europe. She was represented by that symbol of prolific breeding: a rabbit. There is, however no historical evidence for this.

Or maybe it’s because rabbits were thought to be hermaphrodites, able to reproduce without sex. Hence a connection with the Virgin Mary.

Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life and have been part of spring festivals for millennia.

Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’s emergence from the tomb.

Eggs were considered forbidden during Lent. Christians decorated them to celebrate the end of fasting and ate them on Easter.

What is probably true is German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century brought with them stories of egg-laying(!) hares. Children made nests for the “Osterhase” to lay colored eggs. The Easter Bunny story expanded from there.

So honor the holiday that is the basis for Christianity but whose symbols have few documented origins and only the most tangential relation to Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Taxpayer First Act (Irony Alert!)

If you are near despair about the divisiveness of our body politic, take cheer in the rare bipartisanship demonstrated by the “Taxpayer First Act.” The 2019 measure, introduced by John Lewis (D-GA), co-sponsored by Mike Kelly (R-PA) and nine other Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats, passed the House unanimously by voice vote and now awaits action by the Senate. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had already introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

"The first IRS reform legislation since 1998 ... would recast IRS as a service-first agency to better serve American taxpayers."

Legislators from both parties are boasting that this Act safeguards innocent taxpayers from abuse by the Internal Revenue Service. And, oh yeah, it also permanently prohibits the IRS from developing a free tax-filing service for taxpayers with low-to-moderate incomes, as some other developed countries do. H&R Block and Intuit (TurboTax) spent $6.6 million last year lobbying for this outcome. Coincidentally, sponsors of the ironically-named bill received campaign contributions from them.

H&R Block and TurboTax, part of the “Free File Alliance,” offer – and lightly promote – free-filing services. They mostly use it as a come-on to leverage clients into fee-for-service products.

The IRS, with taxpayers’ income information already supplied by employers and banks, could easily send out pre-filled forms for taxpayers with simple returns to make corrections or adjustments to and sign and return, and probably at less expense than the current system. But that would be socialism and we can’t have that.

Son of a gun… big fun on the bayou

Visiting a “New Orleans Bistro” in a gentrifying neighborhood gave me another reminder that I have gotten too old. I ordered Jambalaya (it was delicious) and added “But no crawfish pie or filé gumbo.” The server’s face was a big question mark, perhaps wondering if unlocking the front door that day had been such a good idea. When I rambled on with something about Hank Williams, she forced a sort-of smile, saying something about putting in the order as she backed away from the table.
It had not occurred to me that not everyone – especially in a Creole/Cajun-themed dining establishment – knows who Hank Williams was.

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo

Johnny Otis at the Powerhouse

The Powerhouse Brewery in Sebastopol California – so named because the building was originally a power-generation plant — had a succinct code of conduct posted on its wall: “Be nice or leave.” The Powerhouse had a ten-year run beginning in 1994. Along with good beer and food, it was also a fine live-music venue. (It was sold in 2004 and became the HopMonk Tavern. HopMonk has since expanded to four locations.)

Johnny Otis for a while broadcast a Sunday-brunch radio show from the Powerhouse. A live audience ate and imbibed while he acted as disc jockey, telling stories about the music he was playing. He retired from this final gig with the closing of the Powerhouse and perhaps his failing health.

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Fifty Years of Snoopy’s Home Ice

Santa Rosa, the largest city between San Francisco and Portland, has been home to celebrities Dan Hicks, Robert Ripley, Luther Burbank, Guy Fieri. (And me for 20+ years.) Sightings of Tom Waits are occasionally reported. Probably the most celebrated is Charles M. Schulz.

The Peanuts creator moved to Sebastopol in Sonoma County in 1958. A decade later he moved eight miles east to Santa Rosa where he worked and lived until his death in 2000.

Travelers today fly into the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport and visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum. (Highly recommended by me.) Across the street from the museum is the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, built and owned by Schulz. He regularly ate lunch at the Warm Puppy Cafe while watching the skaters. He met Jean, his second wife, when she brought her daughter there. (Jean Schulz’s home was one of more than 5,000 burned in the 2017 fires. Lost was Schulz and Peanuts memorabilia.)

The arena, popularly known as “Snoopy’s Home Ice”, is celebrating its fifty-year anniversary. The festivities include a day of skating at 1969 prices: 75¢ for children and $1.25 for adults. The Warm Puppy Cafe will serve its 1969 Snoopy Special (hot dog, chips and jello) for 75¢.

Making America Great

I keep reminding myself to not write about politics. With 24-hour cable news and social media inundating us with politics, there’s no point in adding more to the pile. But, jeeez…

News flash: the federal deficit increased by 77% in the past year. A favorite conservative trope has been that Barack Obama increased the federal debt more than all previous presidents combined. Well, okay, but in fact the deficit went down each year Obama was in office. (You do know the difference between debt and deficit, don’t you?)

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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