The Blessing of the Olives in Sonoma

Father Kelly Blesses the OlivesFather Kelly Blesses the Olives – Photo: Russell Johnson

There is a wee bit of Pat O’Brian, Bing Crosby and Spencer Tracy in Fr. Kelly, a cinema-ready Irish priest with a lilt in his voice and, if we are to believe his sermon last weekend, a fondness for olives and the gin Martinis into which they are dropped.

Certainly none of the evil Father Merrin, played by Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist.

Father Michael Kelly blessed the olives, exorcised them from bitterness, offered the cure Saturday at Mission San Francisco Solano in the town of Sonoma, the northernmost of California’s missions.

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Christmas Chillin’ and Chocolate Fillin’ in Berlin (video)

Weinacht
Weihnachtsmarkt, Alexanderplatz, Berlin  Photo Russ Johnson

I am not a feral shopper, a pack rat ripping through the carrion at Best Buy on Black Friday or maniacally pounding a keyboard on Cyber Monday. I like to take the holidays calmly…and slowly. I would gladly become a standard bearer for a Slow Christmas Movement.

I can do this in Europe thanks to a glass of hot mulled wine or chocolate, a juicy sausage, a gingerbread cookie huddled next to a firepit at a Christmas Market.

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A Town Called Wingo

Wingo, Ghost Town, California
Wingo, California (c)2014 Russell Johnson

First it is there, then it isn’t. I have seen it on some maps but not on others. It is a town, I think, in the middle of a swamp between the wine-logged valleys of Sonoma and Napa.

I love its name: Wingo. Sounds like a badass western town full of mean hombres.

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On The Beach in Kochi, India

KeralaBeach600-2Kochi Beach – Oil Painting, Pat Meier-Johnson

They looked like confetti. Crowds of families wading in the shallow waters of Kochi, just a short distance from the giant fairy-blue fishing nets of this port city in southwest India. Holding their peacock-colored saris up just above the water line, women shared some time off with their boyfriends, children or friends.

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