The Pensacola Trip

Suppose you have to get from New York to Pensacola, FL to give a 7:00pm lecture at First Baptist Church (which I did).

“You’re flying to Pensacola today?” the Delta agent asked.

“Probably not,” I said. “But I’m certainly going to try.”

And suppose there are no direct flights (which there aren’t).

And suppose there’s a freak winter storm in the deep south that covers the area with ice and snow (which there was).

And suppose the storm also shuts down the whole city of Atlanta (which it did), the obvious choice for an airport through which to transfer (which it is).

What do you do? (Hint: you’ll need volunteers to fly one of the planes.)

Here’s what I did.

  • I got on the phone to Delta right away when they called at 7:00am to tell me my flight from White Plains to Atlanta was canceled. Were there any direct flights to Pensacola? No. Was there another multi-leg combination? No. What about from another airport? LaGuardia? Kennedy? Newark? No. What if I drove for a few hours? Boston? Philly? There must be something. There wasn’t.
  • I looked at a map. Could Delta get me to Mobile? No. What about New Orleans? No. What about a direct flight to Tampa or Orlando, and then a flight to Pensacola. No. All sold out.
  • I went on-line to buy a ticket on another airline. Still no joy. It was all sold out.
  • I called Delta back. Can you fly me anywhere in the south? Yes! To Panama City, FL via Atlanta, arriving at 4:29pm. Check Google Maps. It’s a two-hour fifteen-minute drive to Pensacola. That would give me a 16 minute margin of error. I’ll take it! Delta changed my itinerary free of charge.
  • I drove to the airport, where I learned that my flight to Atlanta was delayed. I wouldn’t make my connection. It was already almost noon.
  • I begged my way onto the 7:30am flight to Atlanta, which hadn’t left yet. I made it onto that flight and landed in Atlanta.
  • In Atlanta, I ran like a mad-man to try to fly stand-by on a much-delayed flight to Pensacola. I got there just in time. “But your ticket is to Panama City,” the agent told me. “Yes. I know. But I’m not going to Panama City. I’m going to Pensacola. Really.” Only a manual-ticket-change agent could reroute me. There was a 40-minute wait for such an agent. I missed the flight.
  • I bolted back to the gate for my flight to Panama City, which was listed as leaving in 20 minutes. But it obviously wasn’t. There was no plane.
  • I called Delta to rebook me on the 5:30pm flight to Pensacola. I’d arrive at 5:45pm with plenty of time to get to the church by 7:00pm. An hour phone call did the trick. I was set. I was at the gate. We had a plane. We had a take-off slot. We had a flight crew.

    We didn’t have a pilot or co-pilot.

  • I boarded the plane with everyone else, assured by Delta that the pilots would arrive from Minneapolis at 5:30, get to our gate by 6:00, and be ready to fly the plane by 6:30. With the one-hour time change, I’d still make my lecture. I didn’t want dinner anyway.
  • I almost gave up when I learned that our pilots had been re-routed to a flight that Delta loved more than us. Our new pilots wouldn’t arrive until 10:00pm.
  • I couldn’t believe my ears when the flight attendants told us that two volunteers on the flight would fly the plane! It just so happened that among the passengers were two Delta pilots, both certified on the Airbus 319 that we were flying. They would fly us to Pensacola. And they did.
  • I ran through the Pensacola airport, hailed a cab, and told the driver “step on it!” I arrived at 7:30pm.

Nothing to it.


Dr. Joel M. Hoffman talking about Bible translation in First Baptist Church, Pensacola, FL.

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman talking about Bible translation in First Baptist Church, Pensacola, FL.



Dr. Joel M. Hoffman talking about Bible translation in First Baptist Church, Pensacola, FL.

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman signing copies of And God Said at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL.

Hot Springs, AR

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman lecturing on Bible translation at First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, AR

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman lecturing on Bible translation at First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, AR

I’ve just returned from a delightful trip to Hot Springs, AR. Though I’d been to neighboring Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, this was my first time in Arkansas, and I’m pleased to say that I was greeted very warmly.

The trip was arranged through the ISJL, and my lectures were sponsored by the Rosenzweig Fund For Interfaith Activities.

As is common when I do interfaith work, I presented Friday night at a local temple (this time on the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Saturday night at a local church (on Bible translation).

From start to finish, the people I met in Hot Springs were warm, welcoming, and engaging, and I hope I have the opportunity to return soon.

Teaching Rabbis at Woodloch

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman Teaching Rabbis at NJWHVARR Retreat

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman Teaching Rabbis at NJWHVARR Retreat

I’ve just returned from a thoroughly enjoyable few days teaching rabbis at the annual NJWHVARR retreat, held at Woodloch Springs in the Poconos.

My presentations covered Bible translation, Bible interpretation, Israel, history, and my new research into alternative theologies that were cut from the Bible.

All in all, my time there was a wonderful combination of stimulating conversation prodded by excellent questions, a relaxing environment augmented by vivid fall colors, and a lovely sense of camaraderie and joy.

Woodloch Springs

Woodloch Springs

The Salinas Trip

I arrived in California a day early, which gave me a full day on Friday to explore the Coastal Highway. I’d been told how beautiful it was, but wow!

Carpet of Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway
Carpet of Flowers on the
Pacific Coastal Highway

Driving down the coast from Monterey, where I was staying, is like watching a highlights reel of nature’s beauty: cows grazing in lush fields, flowers carpeting gentle slopes, waves crashing into steep bluffs, redwood trees towering above everything else — all side by side in an almost impossible array of glory adorning the road that winds along the coast.

Pacific Coastal Highway

Pacific Coastal Highway

Pacific Coast

Pacific Coast

Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway

Flowers on the Pacific Coastal Highway

Canopy of Redwood Trees

Canopy of Redwood Trees

I was lucky. The weather was perfect. And with my jetlag, I was able to get a very early start. So I drove southward from Monterey, stopping frequently to appreciate each new vista.

One thing the road lacks is amenities. There are precious few gas stations (selling unleaded for over $5.00/gallon), and only a handful of restaurants. I had thought to bring a muffin with me, but especially after trekking through the redwood forest in Big Sur, I wished I had more. I stopped at a place that advertised “European espresso,” but I didn’t have high hopes.

The cafe was part of a complex that included a few art galleries, and the prices were what you’d expect from a tourist destination. I paid $17 for a hummus wrap and a bottle of water.

But unlike most tourist spots, this place had a talented chef preparing the food. The wrap, augmented by fresh vegetables and offset by a spicy dressing, was delicious. The staff was efficient and very friendly. And the view was outstanding. It’s hard to charge $17 for a wrap and water and have a customer walk out satisfied, but the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe pulled it off. If you’re driving down the coast, stop by. Look for the “European espresso” sign from the road.

Dining at the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe

Dining at the Coast Gallery and Coast Cafe

The next day I presented to the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, offering three back-to-back sessions on the broad theme of “Lost in Mis-Translation”:

  • “The Bible Doesn’t Say That.”
  • “What Did Jesus Quote.”
  • “The Ways We Read The Bible.”

St. Paul’s, the Salinas church that housed the event, boasts an impressive history. The author John Steinbeck attended as a child, and the civil-rights activist Cesar Chavez used the church as a base of operations. It was an honor to present there.

I found the audience friendly, welcoming, and engaging, so it was with reluctance that I left at the end of the event. I had to be in New York the next morning, so it was with equal reluctance that I boarded the red-eye that evening.

It was an exhausting trip, but rewarding in so many ways.

The Hingham Trip

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (Right) Signing Books in Hingham, MA

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (Right) Signing Books in Hingham, MA

The town of Hingham, MA, dates to 1635, when settlers from Hingham, England established the new colony in New England. Less than 50 years later, Hingham’s families established Old Ship Meeting House, a church still in use to this day, and, apparently, the oldest continuously used church in America. The rest of Hingham similarly retains much of its centuries-old feel.

Such was the setting for my recent visit to talk about Bible translation.

My first appearance was on Wednesday night, to a diverse and enthusiastic group at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, where I spoke about the material in And God Said and signed books.

Then the next day I met with an interfaith clergy group at Old Ship — not in the original structure, but in the parish house across the way. The topic was the surprising connection between the New Testament and the first rabbis, including the nature of prophesy. We started with lunch (which was particularly tasty) and then spent an hour or so in conversation.

I had a delightful time, and I hope I have the chance to return.

Dr. Hoffman, third from left, with (left to right) Rev. Paul Sprecher, Second Parish Unitarian Universalist; Rabbi Shira Joseph,  Congregation Sha'aray Shalom; Rev. Anne Emry, St. John the Evangelist; Rabbi Ben Lefkowitz, Temple Beth Sholom; and Rabbi Steve Arnold

Dr. Hoffman, third from left, with (left to right) Rev. Paul Sprecher, Second Parish Unitarian Universalist; Rabbi Shira Joseph, Congregation Sha’aray Shalom; Rev. Anne Emry, St. John the Evangelist; Rabbi Ben Lefkowitz, Temple Beth Sholom; and Rabbi Steve Arnold


(enlarge photo)

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