Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Operation Greatest Gift - Freemasons of California

From the California Grand Lodge website:

World War II ended in 1945, but it wasnt until 2004 that a memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. to the 16 million who served in the armed forces during that war.

Health and financial obstacles have prevented most surviving veterans, now well into their 80s, from taking the long trip to honor their fallen friends and their years of service.

Operation Greatest Gift, the Grand Masters Project for 2009-2010, will make this dream come true for hundreds of California's World War II veterans.

We will organize several three-day trips to Washington, D.C. designed to provide what many veterans cannot provide for themselves: an assisted visit to the memorial, at no cost to them. Because of our support, they will have an opportunity to say goodbye to fallen friends, be recognized for their service to our country, and come to terms with an important part of their lives.

The Grand Masters Project will also raise funds to support the work of the Masonic Hospital Visitors Program Committee. This committee of dedicated Masons ensures that there is always a presence at our states veterans hospitals by providing friendship, social programs, and regular visitation.

Together, we can show our veterans that their service has not been forgotten.

Supporting Operation Greatest Gift

We expect to raise $400,000 to make this dream a reality. The Grand Master will be traveling throughout the state, and will be honored to accept gifts from both lodges and individuals.

Please contact the Grand Lodge Office of Philanthropy at 415/292-9117.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Grand Lodge – Day 2:

I woke up early, as Grand Lodge was supposed to start at 8:30am today (Saturday). I again, took a cab to the Masonic Auditorium, and ran into R., Mission #169's Secretary again. We had just enough time to get a coffee & danish when we had to go into the main hall for the meeting.

Shortly later, we were joined by most of the officers, including the Worshipful Master, and our most recent Past Master (now an inspector). The best thing, was that R. sat right next to me & was there to answer any questions that I had & could explain what & why certain things were happening.

There were a number of legislative items that were voted upon, and it reminded me a lot of watching C-SPAN, with people speaking for & against certain measures.

We then broke for lunch, and all of the people from Mission Lodge were treated to a meal over at the Fairmont Hotel.

*** OK, I have to say that this was really overwhelming for me. The Fairmont is one of the most exclusive places in SF; and I was feeling out of place. I mean, rich people stay & eat there...

OK guys...

Do you remember during the 1970's on 'Sesame Street' that they had a song about “One of these things doesn't belong???”

Yeah, I felt a little like that... LOL... I know we're all on the level & everything... But, DAMN!

I had a great time & just basked in the moment. I also got to talking with a couple of members of the lodge whom I had a periphery acquaintance with, but have become good friends with them.

These are self-made men, and this was a perfect example of how being associated with types of guys can teach me how to become a better man. ***

As the lunch was finishing, the Worshipful Master said that Mission #169 was going to be recognized at Grand Lodge on Sunday, due to the fact that we gave a $10,000 gift to the “Grand Master's Project.” So, that was a huge honor for us, getting recognized like that, and our own Worshipful Brother K., ended up representing the whole Lodge up on stage in front of the whole auditorium.

After lunch we went back to the Lodge Auditorium & they finished doing all of the legislative processes, and proceeded to elect next year's Grand Lodge officers. R. gave me a play-by-play on exactly what was happening & who was what & what their story was, so I understood what was going on.

We then finished the proceedings for the day (2 hours early!), and R. & I did one more once-through the exhibition hall before he drove me home.

I changed my clothes, plopped on my bed & took a nap until about 9:00pm.

Long day, but it was awesome!

Stay tuned, Grand Lodge ends tomorrow...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Grand Lodge – Day 1:

So I've been a Master Mason for a whole 72 hours... What's a new Mason to do first???

I know! Go to Grand Lodge!

I took a cab to the Grand Lodge building & there was already a large group of people hanging out out front of the building. I went in & it was sensory overload... So many people, exhibits everywhere: From the Masonic Homes, the Shrine, Eastern Star, Amaranth, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, National Sojourners, Job's Daughters, Rainbow Girls, DeMolay, and various other people selling Masonic items, including LA Fraternal and The Master's Jewel.

Thank God that I got a tap on the shoulder & it was R., our Lodge Secretary. I registered, and hung out with him, walking around to all the exhibits. We eventually ran into Worshipful Master B., and subsequently ran into the majority of the officers of Mission #169.

After a while, it was time to go into the main hall for the opening of Grand Lodge. Check out the link here to get an idea of what what it looked like inside.

When we got started, this was a fully Tyled Lodge of Master Masons, so all the ceremony was done by the book. One of the coolest things I witnessed was a room filled with approximately 700 men giving the due guard and sign, in unison. Too flippin' cool.

I won't talk any more about what happened in the Lodge, but suffice it to say it was very cool.

It's funny; to think that this was the first lodge meeting of Master Masons that I've ever been to; outside of my raising 3 days ago.

We finished up around 4:45pm, and I walked down to a pizza joint near Grand Lodge. While I was sitting there waiting for my food, two very cool guys from Southern California sat nearby. I ended up talking to T. and R., and the three of us ended up at a bar around the corner from the pizza place & threw back a couple of drinks.

I ended up leaving at 7:45pm, going back to Grand Lodge for Chris Hodapp's talk. I walked in, started schmoozing & introduced myself to Chris, his wife Alice, and a number of other brethren there. We were all corralled into the lecture room where Chris gave his talk on the Masonic influences on the designing of Washington D.C.

One thing about Chris; if you've read Freemasons for Dummies, then you know his writing style. Very smart and informative, but not stuffy nor boring. In person, he's the same way. He has such a great knowledge of Masonry, but isn't big-headed about it at all. He jokes, and doesn't take himself tooo seriously.

Afterwards, T., (a visiting Mason from Denmark – check out his blog), and I walked back over to Chris & got our books autographed. I also got a picture with Chris:

I also met the guy who runs The Master's Jewel, and found out that he is also the same guy who runs Masonic Ink (the best resource I have ever seen regarding Masonic tattoos...) I also met the guys who run Golden State Masons.

I ended up taking a cab home, plopped down in front of my computer & started writing.

I'm tired, I'm going to bed.

But I'll keep you posted on what happens tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Raising:

Tuesday came, and I tried to get some work done, not very successfully. All I could think about was what was about to happen that night. Instead, I updated this blog, bringing it up to date, and started getting ready for L. to come by & pick me up.

We got to the lodge around 5:45pm, and our parking lot was already filling up fast, so we decided to drive around the block to look for parking. It was a really great coincidence that we ended up parking in front of the metal grate at the Lodge's front door, as that was where my odyssey began with Mission #169. We walked around to the main entrance (in the back), walked in, and I greeted the brethren I saw, and their wives as well.

At the end of each month, we have a dinner & get-together for lodge members & their families, so that's what was going on tonight.

We had Chicken Shish-Kabobs (kudos to the cooks!) However, I joked that it might've been funnier if we had goat-kabobs.

*** For the Record: THERE WERE NO GOATS! ***

We were also hosting our brothers from Oakland-Durant-Rockridge #188, and my degree was to be the highlight of the night. The wives ended up watching National Treasure in the Friendship Room, while we did our thing in the main Lodge Room.

An aside about the O-D-R guys: These guys are awesome! Man, I would love to hang out with these guys in general! They'll keep you laughing the whole time, and the constant joking & bantering with these guys made the dinner absolutely great...

K. was there, as well as M., but they couldn't go into the lodge ceremony, as being a 1st Degree candidate and 1st Degree Mason, respectively, so they hung out for a bit, then took off.

I sat outside the lodge talking to the Tyler, (whom I have really enjoyed getting to know). At that point, one of the O-D-R guys came out of the Lodge, and a new O-D-R guy entered the building. Unfortunately the new arrival didn't have a coat & tie, so the Tyler couldn't let him in. The two O-D-R guys and myself walked over to the coat room, found him a jacket & tie when I heard someone calling my name. It was the Stewards; I think they may have thought I'd flown the coop! I came back to the Lodge entrance, they escorted me to the preparation room, and I started getting ready.

The funny thing about this, is that as I was getting prepared, I was checking everything over to make sure it was right. The Stewards said, “Hey, you're not supposed to know how to do that yet!”

I half-smiled & said, “Oh yeah, that's right... I don't know this yet...”

Again, I knew (mostly) what was about to happen, but just hadn't experienced it for real.

The Stewards finished preparing me, and then...

=== snip ===

OK, it's over.

Wow, what an experience. Yes, I knew what was going to happen, for the most part, but there was one section where ____________________ happened, which I didn't expect. I kind of chuckled to myself saying 'that was cool.'

Another thing that happened was that Mission #169 gives you a lot of gifts when you become a Master Mason. People joked beforehand that I would need a bag to carry all of the cool stuff home.

They weren't lying.

It reminded me of the cool swag packages celebrities get when they go to the Oscars... A HUGE Masonic Bible, an trowel engraved with my name, date of my raising & Worshipful Master's name, books signed by all the attendees, my lambskin apron (signed under the flap by the Secretary & Worshipful Master with my entering, passing, & raising dates), a couple of cool gifts from the O-D-R Lodge, my dues card (which I will need tomorrow when I go to Grand Lodge), and a CD-ROM of all the Officer's Manuals, since the wheels are in motion to get me in the Officer's line.

On that note... Before the ceremony, the Senior Deacon for my raising told me that we'd need to get together sometime afterwards so he could explain to me what I would be expected to do next week at the stated meeting... Performing the role of Junior Steward!

OK... Within one week's time, I'll have been raised, gone to Grand Lodge, and performed as Junior Steward.

Very overwhelming, to say the least...

One of the most important things that I'd like to say, was that the performance of the Officers during the ceremony was superb. There were only a couple of times during the whole 2 ½ hour ceremony that anyone needed to be prompted, and the evening was all done in a dramatic, solemn way. My hat goes off to you guys; spectacular job.

Lastly, I would like to officially thank G. & L. for all their time & help to prepare me for everything. On that note, the day after (Wednesday), L. & I started working on the Master Mason proficiency... I don't have to have it done until I want to become Senior Deacon (at least 3 years from now), but getting it out of the way while the iron is still hot is a good idea.

Photo: My Raising 9/25/07, yours truly in the blue shirt, next to the Worshipful Master. Photo courtesy: Brother Sam Yee, Mission #169

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Informal Affair... 2nd Degree Proficiency:

So Monday came around and G. had set it all up with the powers that be that I could do my proficiency then. You see, all of the officers were having a 3rd Degree rehearsal that day, and they could just open the lodge “for real,” call down to the 2nd Degree, and I could do my proficiency.

L. came by & picked me up, and we went through the proficiency a couple of times in the car on the way over. It was really funny, as whenever I've seen the officers, it has been during some sort of Lodge function. But this was truly informal... (remember it was supposed to be a rehearsal) It was really strange putting on my apron over jeans.

I waited outside the lodge room as they opened the lodge, talking to H., the Tyler. Eventually they opened the doors, let me in and...


So there. Done. After the proficiency, I left the Lodge room & they continued with the... Well, whatever the hell they were doing in there. Both G. & L. came out with me & talked with me for a little while. According to both, they both believed it was a letter perfect proficiency. I'm not sure, I think it was, but I'm not positive.

Well, whether or not it was letter perfect, (I think it was), there's nothing left to do but wait 2 weeks to do the raising. It's scheduled for September 25th, a Tuesday.

< fast forward 13 days >

So I've been sitting here the past couple of weeks & I'm really happy with the way things have turned out. I have no pressure before the ritual to get the proficiency right, all I have to do is enjoy the process. Over the past week or so, I've been contemplating what they taught me during the ritual & what it means to be a Fellowcraft. I've always been a well-read guy... But I've taken it upon myself to read materials about history, science, sacred geometry, rhetoric, etc. I keep thinking of the principles of the Enlightenment and how through the constant seeking of knowledge and spiritual development makes you a better person. It's one thing to be a 'good person,' but when a good person strives to improve himself and make his world a better place, that's what separates a 'good person' from a leader.

That's another thing I've felt recently with my delving into Masonry; a greater sense of responsibility to my community, to my country, to the world.

In 24 hours I'll be a Master Mason.

Humph. 15 years waiting for it & here it is.

14 days and counting... Can I do this???

Cramming for my 2nd degree proficiency (full form).

Dear God. What've I gotten myself into?

I've done worse... I've prepared full operas in 2 weeks... I can do this.

Believe it or not, I've actually found learning stuff in foreign languages easier than this. When you don't speak the language, you can't interpret what's being said. The word is the word. But when you memorize something in English, it's too easy to put in synonyms. I found myself mixing and interchanging words like 'can' with 'could,' and 'try' with 'prove'... AARGH!

Well, thanks to non-stop coaching with G. & L., it all began falling into place. The first day (Wednesday) was rough; the second day, I had about 80% of the whole thing down pat. By Friday it was memorized, I just needed to keep running it over & over & over again until it was solid.

On Friday night I talked with G. and asked his opinion on how it was going. He said that we didn't need the 2 weeks, I was good to go right now. If I felt up to it, I could do my proficiency that coming Tuesday.

Holy crap.

I just learned the 2nd degree proficiency in 4 days.

Let's do it.