Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Wonderful Plain Tailors

Wonderful Plain Tailors

Weefox Tailors - 267 N. Shirk Rd. New Holland, PA 17557 phone 1 717 354 8933...

What a joyful find! I find myself thanking Ammon, at Good's Stores again, to begin this story. Ammon is the salesman on the floor for the plain section at a Good's Store in Lancaster County, near to New Holland. He is the reason I keep going back to Good's. I find that the plain section at Good's generally has clothes made in China of Polyester, but I always find something there, besides good advice, even if it is only wool socks, just as a thank'ee to Ammon!

Ammon told me about Weefox tailors and gave me excellent directions to find them. Well, he did, then, as it was ME, he also patiently gave Genie, my wife directions so that we could actually get to Weefox tailors, and not go around in circles for several hours!

Well, back to business. At Weefox Tailors a very nice group of Mennonites make Plain suits and coats at VERY reasonable prices. Upon visiting them, I felt real fellowship and warm. I can say I will wear their clothes in the comfort of that fellowship in the light. They have a mail order form they will send to thee, with measurement instructions. I saw the clothes being made on site, so thee is assured the clothes are made in good conditions.

Thank'ee Ammon and thank'ee to the lovely folks at Weefox Tailors.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Anonymous "Quaker" Emails

Anonymous "Quaker" Emails

Well, my New Year's resolution is not to go off an a rant ... so I have a week to go... (no rant on thee, Quaker Ranter Friend Martin!)

How can we be present to each other when one of us sends anonymous emails to folks in the meeting? Here at 15th Street, some Friend sends Friends emails with questions signed only "Whist" (Be Quiet! in Gaelic, and not a polite way to say it, it is the equivalent of saying "Shut up" used in Irish Pubs). I've asked this Friend for a name before answering questions put, and the reply was, "There are reasons I have to remain anonymous!" HOW can there be clearance when someone hides behind a mask? I must say, I am at a loss at what some people follow as leadings... spy's for God?

End of rant,
and love to thee, Whist
where ever thee is...
who ever thee is,
what ever thee is...
I hope thee finds the courage to live in the light with other Friends.


PS In Truth, I know I will not keep this resolution anyway... ranting on...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Opposite of War Is Not To Do Nothing

Having read the piece in the First Month Friends Journal about Fox and the use of violence by the state, (suggested in the comment to the post below...) I have a few observations.

First, since that time we have learned a lot about the intention of states regarding war. We have seen the Gulf of Tonkin, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to keep Russia from invading Japan from the North, and heard the Nixon secret tapes ... it is more apparent that few wars are fought for the reasons given to the soldiers. We must weigh the stated reasons for war against the failure to bomb the rail lines to the concentration camps.

But, more, we are not practicing Foxizm, we are Quakers. In Fox's day there are examples of the success of nonviolence in the face of terror. I follow this with a ballad I wrote from a letter of Thomas Lurting, a contemporary of Fox. I must also state that I was amazed that a Quaker would think that the opposite of violence is to do nothing, as the article in Friends Journal intimates.

The Ballad of Thomas Lurting

Words Lorcan Otway Tune Traditional, all rights reserved.

Oh my name is Thomas Lurting, and a press gang has taken me
on board of a well found vessel, to fight the Irish on the sea
It being in the time of the long Parliament,
I, but a lad of fourteen years
and amid the smoke and the thunder,
I became a man immune to fears

I became a Bos'uns Mate and, two hundred sailors were at my command
'til we pressed some Quaker fellows while fighting in a distant land
They would not conform to worship,
when called upon to sing and pray
and I was told to beat them,
but a voice within me my hand did stay

And so it was I became convinced, and even my captain's sword I faced
But I was so changed completely, I was discharged with some small haste
for fear our gentle leadings, would spread like vines amongst our crew
and I was placed ashore then, to find my life had begun anew

I joined a Quaker vessel, and was bound out from Venice Town
while off Spanish May York, by Turk corsairs our Katch was found
we offered them no battle, but welcomed them as a Friend to me
and they ordered us to sail for, Algeria and our slavery

At length they grew to trust us, one night they all asleeping lay
And I crept amongst them all, for to take their knives and swords away
we locked them in the cabin and, set sail upon our former course
but soon there came a great wailing,
and their captain comenced this grim discourse

Should you take us to your home, Englishmen,
there hanged we all will surely be
of this we are well frightened and beg of you some small pity
we spoke our crew together, and then in spite of all our fear
we would return our captives, to their own shore which they called Algere

We soon lay off their homeland our eyes searched for their men of war
Myself and two others chose to row the Turks to their bleak shore
We reached those stranger's sandy beach, and feared we all seize-ed would be
for there were ten Turkish pirate men, and far from our ship we were but three

But we set them on their native land, and they embraced us with tears of joy
and waving as we rowed away, such was the love we did enjoy
we set our sails for England but our story had before us flew
and Charles our King, and the Duke of York, awaited us, I tell thee true

King Charles viewed us darkly, "Why did you not bring these foes to me?"
Said I, "I thought, it better they dwell in their own country.
"The king gazed at we Quakers as grim and stern as he could be,
then laughing he embrace-ed us, and here I will end my tale for thee

So rest in that which can do good, when evil shall show a face to thee
let this be the way of all true Friends, when thee confronts adversity
fear not upon the wildest shore, but lovingly look in the stranger’s eye
and remember thy Friend Thomas Lurting, for now in my final peace I lie.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Peace as a Friend

Peace for a Friend carries with it a lack of judgmentalism which makes it a very special witness. I write this in reply to the kind posting of Friend RW Spryszak on Fox and Terrorism, (comment to the last post).

Thee may consider the story in the my post Friday, December 10, 2004 A STATEMENT OF URBAN PLAIN about the Palestinians and Quakers meeting in Washington.

At the outset, let me say that the story does not equate Palestinian politics with terrorism. There are terrorists on both sides in that conflict and people of great heart and will on both sides as well. But, this is a story about love in the face of great anger. BUT Love fills that void of evil that is hate and nothing else will. Thee cannot stop enough hearts to make yourself safe, but thee MAY heal enough hearts through love.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Quakers and Peace

Quakers and Peace

At least one of the web sites in the links on this page, raises questions of war and peace, and I am led to offer the following. Quakerism is not an outcome, it is a journey. There is much -- much, MUCH in my life which is unfinished on the path. I am totally convinced of peace. Why. (period not question mark)!

I have come to this separately as a tactic and a matter of faith. Every war humans have fought, most people have been led to kill for one reason while their leaders hold secret their own reasons, mostly a large scale mugging.

This has not led to a world of peace, but a world of more and more war. In order not to fall for this lie, as a tactic I will not fight. The method for this tactic is to see that of God in each other so fully that we cannot, more than may not fight.

A dear Friend and friend after the event of the ninth month and eleventh day a few years back, said that he had lost his certainty of the Peace Testimony, as -- "the world has changed forever." Having seen war up close, I assured him that the world is the same, it is only come to New York, and now we are called on to be the Quakers we expected people in other lands to be.

War has never done more than continued the cycle of revenge.

The time to stop war is before the war begins.

Once the shooting starts, humanity has lost the war.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Quaker Business meeting or Pharisees and Sadducees at War?

Quaker Business meeting or Pharisees and Sadducees at War?

Field Theory of Politics and Religion part 1

All human organization falls into one of two categories which I refer to by their equivalent in Judaic history as I understand it two thousand years later. The first, Phariseean: The Relationship dictates the Rule, the second, The Sadduceean: The Rule dictates the Relationship. There we are - a black and white dualist model which is, at the start wrong, as nothing is all one thing and not the other in life (as Amanda and I were musing the other day about the error of nillism [wish I could spell that...]). So, in broad strokes, conservatives are Sadducees, Liberals are Pharisees. Marx was a Pharisee, Communist Parties are made up of Sadducees. Jesus was a Pharisee (he REALLY was)! Christian fundamentalists are for the most part, Sadducees.

Bad bad bad badness can happen when you put Sadducees and Pharisees in a room together and propose, "Hey lets.... "

Pharisee's "Do nothing to another that is abhorrent to yourself, that is the Torah and all else is commentary..." (Hillel) The Torah was made for man, not man for the torah (David) The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Jesus)

Sadducees, When in doubt, follow the rule, when not in doubt follow the rule, when the rule will get you killed ... follow the Rule!

(About now you may guess, I am a Pharisee, thought I know we need Sadducees) Pharisees fly into new ideas and Sadducees keep out right anarchy from becoming rife...

So here we are, in Quakerism, seeking to find our common ground and love each other as ourselves, and yet, we are so offended by the other, if we are a Sadducee or a Pharisee that we can't let it rest ... can't get past the nagging itch of the other's point of view, though being Quakers, we eventually drag each other to some uncomfortable common ground. But, I think we can and should do better. We should be self aware enough to first look to love as the method to come to unity, and look to the intent of the other in order to temper our stand, not try and persuade the other enough to come to a compromise.

I am putting that inartfuly. Let me try a bit more ... we don't (or should not) contradict each other, but build on each other's light. We should assume the other is not in error, but that we are seeking to understand the other and in that way, adding our own light come to unity.

That's enough for now, before I become preachy, which ain't peachy.

(Be more than nice to each other...)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christian Patriotism vs. "Christian" Patriots...

Christian Patriotism vs. Christian Patriots...

On the site about which I wrote, it appears that they are advocating Christian Patriotism rather than the "Christian" Patriot Movement, which I hope is the case. I am less than comfortable with the outward expression of patriotism in the same way I am less than comfortable with outward showing of religious effect which Quakers referred to in the past as parroting. But, I am thankful that it seems that the plain clothes web site is not associated with "Christian" terrorism -- just a little flag waving.

(Thank'ee Amanda for careful reading!)

A message I delivered in meeting today

Discipline thyself to joy, and all things are bearable

Discipline thyself to love, and all things are new

Discipline thyself to faith, and all things are possible

Friday, December 10, 2004



I sum up my plain leadings (for none Quakers what I personally am drawn to, not what I lead others to...) as dressing as a witness for:




On truth, the difference between fashion and style. Fashion is dictated by the designer, the market, the common denominator. Style is statement. As an Urban Friend, I must be able, in my profession, to walk into a court room or a scholastic lecture and look different without looking out of place. I am not drawn to dress like a farmer, or in jeans and a workshirt... as if I am a laborer (done that loved it ... will always have Tar under me nails...). But, when I walk into a court room with my broad brimmed hat firmly planted on my head, and my letter from the Federal Court Administrative Judge recognize our right as Quakers to keep that hat on my head, I enter the court with the history of my faith in company. So, yes, the line of my jacket was lifted by Mr. Lal from an Armani suit (my kind thanks to Friend Armani for his good eye and talent), but that jacket is plain black cloth and with a classic Quaker small collar -- no lapels (what was once called a "Neru" jacket collar).

A surprising number of folks on the street recognize it as Quaker, and as one neighbor who does not have a roof over his head said, "Man! That hat WEARS YOU!" (Thank you Kore Stoltzfus).

Why is it important to bear witness to our Quaker history and Faith? Well, a good explanation may be an event in Washington, where a Quaker peace vigil coincided with a Palestinian protest. We were a few hundred Friends walking up Pennsylvania Ave. completely surrounded by Palestinians chanting death to one thing or person or another, and some other rather violent chants mixed in with their chants which expressed hope for justice. I began to sing in a rather ... well really loud voice, "All we are saying is give peace a chance" (thank you John Lennon). Other Friends took up the song. We began to be heard over the bullhorns.

A young Palestinian girl looked daggers at me and hissed, "I can't sing that song!" I smiled at her and said, "We are called to sing that as we are Quakers." She instantly broke into a HUGE warm smile and said excitedly, "I know about you! You have the school in Ramalah!" She pulled others of her friends around to introduce us to them. "It's all right, I know why you are singing now," she said. And that is it.

Our witness for peace is not like every other witness for peace. It is wrapped in our past of standing aside from all war, while loving the combatants equally. So, my public life is a statement as a Friend.

Peace. That is an easy one. A good story which goes along with this thought, is my friend and Friend John. John told me that he was running for a subway train and swiped his card at the turnstile and forged ahead. The card was not read, and he was hit rather hard in his lower middle by the turnstile which refused to turn. A rather vile oath was ready on his lips. He said he thought of how silly it would look, a Friend in a broad brimmed black hat cussing like a sailor, so the curse stayed put in his shocked and momentarily angry heart. Peace.

Fair labor is the hard one today. I try hard not to purchase slave made or prize goods. Plastic is a prize good, and it is hard to justify replacing it with Ivory again, though I understand North Sea dredging has now found so much Woolly Mammoth Ivory that there is now a market for it! (It's OK, the Mammoth is already extinct!) But, seriously, as in earlier posts, this is an aspiration and attempt, but still a witness. I hope we may urge other plain communities to stop production in China unless we can be assured that the Asian workers are well paid and not used to disemploy our sisters and brothers in the USA.

I must admit here, that one of my plain jackets from Goodes was made in China, bought it in a pinch and like Penn's sword, I labor over my comfort and discomfort in wearing it. I hope Amish Sisters and Brothers may be able to tell me of how and where in China and under what conditions Amish imports are made. I think that we should consider seeking an opening way to make our clothes here where we can oversee the fairness of its production.

I am also concerned of clothing made in association with the "Christian Patriot" movement. It has been my experience and their public writing that the "Christian Patriot" movement endorses violence and violence in the worst way, cowardly stalking and killing of those they perceive as "God's enemies." I pray we all hold them in the light and ask them to look deep into their souls to find God's love.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

To "Pants" Hitler at Nuremberg?

To "Pants" Hitler at Nuremberg?

Either Abi Hoffman or Jerry Rubin once said if someone had pantsed (come up behind him and pulled down his drawers) Hitler at Nuremberg there would have been no holocaust. Maybe. I must admit to often pantsing Hitler, well, more pantsing the party and embracing the individuals. But, is this fighting with outward weapons? Is it hard to love while laughing at someone. Well, I've work to do, I know, but to pants or not to pants

I just wrote a song, about the murder committed by members "Christian Patriot Movement" -- a rag tag army of ultra right wingers, ex Klansmen and well... I am struggling not to laugh in my rage.

An Unsent Letter

An unsent letter ... for consideration.

There is a plain clothes site, which also sells American Flag buttons, support the troops yellow ribbons, and nine eleven pins.

I am sitting and laboring, and considering this. I recall John Wollman's concern when he embraced the Delaware (I believe) warrior who ran at him with a tomahawk. He spent days after considering his motives in embracing the fellow -- spiritual bravado or true love. Where is my love in sending this, if their hearts are hardened to war? Are their hearts hardened to war?

To me, support for the killing of 100,000 men women and children of Iraq denies that we are one in God. Well, I'd appreciate anyone helping me in looking inside myself on this. Maybe, and I think this is likely, a letter is not the way, but rather I should look to finding a time to go, and labor with these plain Sisters and Brothers on this ... to ask them where God's love is found in their witness for patriotism...

My dear dear Friends and Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:
I have been looking to purchase a plain coat, and soon will be ordering a coat from you, when I have saved enough. It does a heart good to see clothes made as a witness for truth.

I am strongly led to address one more thing to you, not in the spirit of argument, but in deeply shared love of our common home in God. I am a plain Friend in Downtown New York. My wife and I witnessed the terrible day when so many of our nations children died. We know people who were killed, and I have heard that one attender of our meeting has been missing since that day and is thought to be among the uncounted, unfound dead.

On that day, as we sat in the gray ash, and ministered to strangers, Friends to our hearts, who were in shock and could not see the light ahead, nor could see God through the dark of that day, our feelings were feelings of profound sadness, not revenge. There is no end to a cycle of revenge. We Quakers, many like my family, came from Ireland, where wars of the justification of the last outrage lasted eight hundred years. The dark void of hatred can only be filled with love, love beyond the imagination of the mind, but so firmly born to heart by faith.

Peace is the greatest patriotism. We plain Quakers avoid the false gods of patriotic images. These may often obscure the truth. Born along on a wave of patriotism with flags and bunting generations have been led to die and kill for simple lies. But, not we Quakers, nor Amish, nor Mennonites, nor Brethren or Adventists. These, our grandparents were tortured in American jail cells for our witness to God's peace. After most wars we find that the reason given for fighting, was not the reason wars were fought.

I will not try to convince you, as I am convinced, that this is an evil war based on lies. I will ask you to consider that we have been lied to in the past about wars. We who choose not to fight, cannot make the mistake of murdering another because we believed a lie.

There is an old Quaker myth, that William Penn could not bring himself to stop wearing a sword, for fancy. He spoke to the founder of our faith, George Fox, about this, asking if he was wrong to do so. Fox told him to wear his sword as long as he could. In that spirit, I don't ask that you not sell patriotic buttons about the 11th day of the 9th month. But, I do ask you to search your heart for a fullness of love, that fullness of love that already leads you to say, "I cannot fight," and more that fullness of love that will lead you to gently take another's hand and say, "for love of our God and our land, please do not kill."

In the light of that love, we Quakers have maintained schools in places our nation tells us are full of people who will kill us because we are not sisters and brothers to them. We have not found this to be true. We have found that Moslems of all persuasions have welcomed us in the mutual love of one God, when we came as sisters and brothers to offer all we could in the face of need.
This is not only true of Quakers. When the UN office was bombed in Iraq, a friend who was close to my heart, a former friend, professor and mentor was killed. Arthur Helton devoted his life to bringing aid to all in need, often while wars were fought around him. He was a shinning example of God's courage to love. He was not killed by the Iraqi who planted the bomb anymore than he was killed by the soldiers who we sent to their land. He was killed by war. War is the enemy of God, not the soldiers on either side. We are commanded to love against all human reason.

In closing, I have seen war first hand. I went to war with a camera and an openness to learn. Much that I learned has a weight to bear. That weight is always lifted by God's love. It is our human instinct to want to stop the hearts of those we fear. It is Gods love that teaches us to take into our heart those we fear and in so doing melt their fear of us.

Yours in the light and with the greatest measure of FriendshipLarry Otway

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Nexus between Moa Tse Tung and Willam Penn...

Though I try to not buy things made by labour which is not paid well for their work, my watch IS, I am afraid, Chinese made, but it comes to me in a very Quakerly way.

I dislike wearing watches, and modern watches which tend to beep, bleat, honk or buzz, even during meetings for worship, can, should I allow them, make me nutz.

I have used old pocket watches, but their upkeep is pricey.Well, one day, a super right wing pal of mine, from Texas, (who shouts at me about politics so loud on the street, in spite of my patient quiet smile at him -- that on several occasions the police were summoned)! Welllll back to the narrative, Kim, had a friend who went to China and brought him back a Mao pocket watch. He tried to wear it, but as Fox said to Penn in the Quaker myth on the subject of swords, just could not wear it in comfort.

So one day he took it out of his pocket and shook his head. "Aw, hell, I guess I just have to give this to you," he said. It has been running for years without loss of a minute of time. I never open the watch without thinking of Penn and his sword.

Ignore the first two comments... they're just me... this is what I was trying to post...

Well... I wrote the following in a recent email... it may be helpful...
Why do I dress plain in light of comments from other Friends along such as, "Hey Larry, WHAT CENTURY IS IT!?"
Well, here are a few quick jottings...

All clothing is speech. The message we send in dressing in other's fashion, is the message they write for us. In my collarless shirt, waistcoat, and jacket, my broad brimmed hat, I speak for myself. My dress is a witness against war, modern slavery, and towards truth.Much of what we wear today is made by children in other lands for wages and conditions which approach slavery. Much of this clothing is made from plastic fibers, which are, quite literally, prize goods, as the oil which makes the rubber for your sneakers or the plastic for your polyester is taken and controlled by the killing of hundreds of thousands of people. I'd rather wear a cow.

Now, I must admit, that as a folk musician and political scientist, that it is not possible to live today, devoid of the prize good of plastic. Oil today is the stuff which life is built around, including the machine on which I write at present. HOWEVER, in dressing plain, it is a witness and attempt towards creating a world where we can free oil from the bondage of war (Utopian hopes just under the surface of every one of us oft burnt and sometimes bitter Quakes...) . But, plain is at best an attempt. Let us say I leave the city and return to the land to grow cotton and wool and raise cows for leather. The land is a prize good, ask any one whose family has been here longer than 550 years or so.

But, as a witness nice things happen. There is often a small island of politeness and trying around me. Fellow musicians tend to watch their language. Now, I should say, that I am not easily offended, but, in the US today, there are a few words which are so over used one gets effing sick of hearing them. My witness causes people to think about issues that mainstream media leads them away from.

When I find myself in court, as good people are tried by a corrupt government (Lynne Stewart for example...) having identifiable Quakers in the gallery ain't a bad thing. By the way, hold my friend Lynne in the light, Friends. She is facing 40 years in jail, if convicted, for doing a lawyers job in the USA of the modern day. Her kids went to Friends School in Brooklyn, and she is the beez knees entirely.

How to dress plain when much of the Amish clothing bought in Lancaster today is made of Polyester or imported from China? Hats! Kore Stultzfuss (sorry for the spelling Kore if I got the last name wrong...) has a family company Flying Cloud Hats, Lancaster, PA. His hats are made in house and are just wonderful. Plain broad cloth can be bought from stores which cater to orthodox Jewish people. Indian and Bangladeshi tailors are used to making our traditional styles, so I go to the Jackson Tailors in Jackson Heights. They are very nice people and ask Mr. Lal to make your clothes, he is the one who all there say is the master at making plain jackets.

Funny things...

Well, ... let's see if this works ... the second post went to the first two comments ... so much for old guys using computers ... should get me niece to fix all this....

Funny things... Who no one takes notice of at a Friends Meeting:
... Middle aged fellow dressed in baseball team uniform ... folks in military camouflage (me wife always taps folks in camo on the shoulder in elevators and whispers in a conspiratorial tone, "Psssst... careful... I can still see you...") ... people sitting cross legged on the benches -- yoga style, people with their breakfast on the bench next to them who take a sip of coffee or bite of bagel as they wait on the Lord, travelers just in from the desert who would die of thirst during that long long hour but for their bottle of water...
Who looks SO odd folks have to ask, "Why the costume?"... anyone in traditionally Quaker plain clothes...
Go figure...

What Century is it anyway???

A Friend, on entering the meeting house, looked at my broad black hat, collarless jacket, waistcoat, and shirt, and asked me, "What Century is it?" Well, with slavery abroad in the world ... folks wearing clothes made by children ... and millennium myths tilting elections ... good question!

Well, then things get silly, the silly get singing...

Pics of the rest of the band to follow...