Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, January 26, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…

Sylvia McNair, the famous opera and Broadway star, was walking at the mall on Tuesday. I had never seen her walking at the mall before. I thought it would be nice of me to walk with her, to keep her company, since she was new to mall walking.

I don’t walk at the mall if I can avoid it. It’s a nice mall, and I appreciate the mall people having it open early so folks can walk, especially in bad weather. That’s when I’m a mall walker. Most of the year I walk outside, which I much prefer. But when it’s raining, or there is ice underfoot, it’s nice to have a clean and well-lighted place to walk.

It was cold and rainy on Tuesday, so there were more folks mall--walking than usual. That included Sylvia.

It’s not unusual to run into famous musicians in Bloomington. Joshua Bell. Carrie Newcomer. John Mellencamp. Johnny Cougar had Christie Brinkley on his arm the day I ran into him on the Kirkwood Avenue sidewalk. He gave me one of those “Don’t mess with my woman” looks, as men do when they recognize significant competition.

I have seen Sylvia several times before, chatted with her once, because we have a mutual friend in Linda Kramer Zimmermann. Sylvia knows Linda because she and her husband, John, are great supporters of IU opera. We know Linda because she is a former student and our financial advisor. And, of course, we recognize Sylvia by being regulars at her annual Christmas concert at First UMC, to benefit the Shalom Center for homeless folks.

But how do you approach a famous singer when she is mall walking? I could remind her that we both know Linda. I thought it might be more impressive, though, if I did my reprise of Pavarotti doing La Donna E’ Mobile from Rigoletto. But I really wanted her to talk as we walked together, and I feared that would leave her speechless. An alternative would be to croon “Fly Me to the Moon” as I walked up to her, since she uses that to start one of her TED talks, but it was likely to have the same result.

Or we could talk about the Shalom Center. Helen and I are major [for us] supporters of Shalom, and Sylvia has retired early from teaching at the IU school of music to devote all her time to volunteer activities on behalf of anyone in need. 

A good approach perhaps would be to talk to her about our older daughter’s second bout with breast cancer. Sylvia is a breast cancer survivor herself, and she and Mary Beth are only five years apart in age, so that would be a natural. But even though both Sylvia and Mary Beth are very open about their cancer experiences, that’s a bit personal. [1]

I finally decided she was just going to have to walk by herself. Following the lead of other courageous women who have at last been freed from fear and cultural expectations, she has recently accused famous conductor Charles Dutoit of sexually harassing her, [2] and I was afraid she might misunderstand my approach. So it was out of consideration for her feelings that I just let her walk in peace. Also there was no way in hades I could keep up with her.


I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.

1] Speaking of cancer, my book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them is published by AndrewsMcmeel. It is available in paperback, ebook, audio, Czech, and Japanese.

2] Dutoit has been accused by several other women, too. He has denied all of the accusations.

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