Spring Cleaning

Things to be glad about this month:

366478-757422-thumbnail.jpgWatching my son's practices in person.

Listening to play by play of opening day's Baltimore v. Minnesota game on XM Radio.


Finally breaking into the digital age with a DVR and HBO just in time.  Just in time.

A small refund from the taxman.

All told, it's certainly better than a stick in the eye!


Manifest Destiny: Remembering on St. Patrick's Day

One Hundred and Twenty-Five Years ago this week...
A branch of my family tree arrives in the United States.

ss celtic.pngSteam Ship Celtic (Manifest)
Arrival, Port of New York: 13 JUN 1881
Port of Embarkation:  Liverpool and Queensland

Name:     Age:     Sex:   

Hanora     50        F     Widow
Mary        23        F     Spinster
James      20        M    Laborer
Margaret  17        F     Spinster
Bridget     16        F     Spinster
Patrick     14        M     Laborer
Arthur     11        M
Timothy    8        M
Peter        7        M     Child
John         6        M     Child
Catherine  5       F       Child
Honora     4       F       Child
Ann         3       F        Child

The Ballylanders Baker's Dozen

This Baker's Dozen from Ballylanders hit the Battery at Castle Garden; four years to the month ahead of the Statue of Liberty; 11 years before Ellis Island was opened.  How it must have looked!

366478-367076-thumbnail.jpgJohn, my Great Grandfather, was known as Jack, as he was the  second son to bear the name.  The first boy christened John was among two older siblings who died in infancy.  So Jack was one of 12 (of 15) surviving children who, with their widowed mother, first set foot on American soil 125 years ago this week. 

The following is an account of his sister Nora (Honora), who later became a Nun at the age of 36.  She died in November 1947, which is interesting to keep in mind as you read her account of life then, and "now."


"My father died in 1977, that left my mother with fifteen (two had died in infancy) in the midst of very hard times.  Hard times were caused by the failure of low market prices for all farm products.  Four years after my father's death, having sustained the loss of four coes and with the poor crops and bad times generally, my mother became discouraged.  In strong opposition to her father's will, she decided to sell out and come to America.

"When my mother had won her battle with her father about immigrating with her family, she set to work to sell out the farm, farm implements, cattle, and on a certain day everything was sold at auction.  The times were so bad and everyone around us so poor, no one who wanted the place could afford to buy it, so it went to Richard Oliver, a miller in Kilfinane from whom my mother bought flour and feed for the cattle.

"My Oliver didn't want the place, but he bought it to help my mother.  He got the place for a very low price.

366478-367086-thumbnail.jpg"The business disposed of, my mother secured passage for us in the steamship Celtic.  After a voyage of nine days, we landed in New York.  My mother planned to go to Boston, but during the voyage some of the passengers who took an interest in the big family questioned her about her destination; advised her to go to Waterbury in preference to boston, so to Waterbury we came.  Some relatives took us in.  I remember five or six of us young ones with blankets around us.  They couldn't supply beds for us all.

'My God they'll pull down the house!'

"In a short time, we found a tenement about half big enough.  The landlord was greatly worried about the damage we were likely to do to this property; my mother worked for its safety.  While we lived in the tenement, the other tenants used to be scared, especially old Peggy Shearow.  When the huskies downstairs begahn to dance, poor Peggy would run and hold her little stove pipe, and screech, "My God, they'll pull down the house!" 

My mother wat treated with great respect by everyone, but all looked suspiciously on the "Kids."  No wonder.  We had to see and handle everything; we were like bees around.  The older ones who danced and caused Peggy some anxious moments, promised themselves to dance as much in their new house, which they did faithfully.

85 Charles Street

"As soon as possible, she bought a building lot and our new house began to take shape.  It was ready for occupancy within a few months.  We arrived in this country in June and moved into our new home in late October 1881. 

"My mother was young and vigorous at that time, so she took up the task of furnishing the house with the ardor of her nature; beds, tables, dishes, a big cooking stove and all the pots and rattles that go with it were soon assembled.  She had brought from Ireland enough feathers for six beds, besides the heavy home made quilts, sheets, and bolster covers.  She had selected a beautiful set of china dishes; cups, saucers, plates, and a large beautiful platter, all which were common enough to be broken now and then.  We got a red table cloth with fancy figures on it for the sitting room table and a hanging lamp with prisms around it; we felt sure no one else had one like it.  When she bought a parlor set and carpet for the "Front" room, our pride and joy knew no bounds.

"Waterbury was then a city of about 30,000 inhabitants.  There were six policemen, a Mayor, alderman, and Common Council.  There was a high school and a convent, Notre Dame.  There were five fire companies and a hook and ladder company.  At that time, where were a number of small industries owned by families; there was the button shop, buckle shop, ring shop, jewelry shop, pin shop, clock and watch shop.  It was all brass industry.  It was a growing city and soon the population was over 100,000.  It is much more now.

"Looking back now and considering the many great improvements in our standard of lving, it must be admitted that conditions were quite primitive here at the time we came to the country.  We thgoutht it a great advance over conditions in Ireland that we didn't have to use candles for light.  There were several lamps to be taken around for lighting; we never saw candles used in the homes here, they had progressed beyond Ireland in discarding candles.  It was some function for the one who took care of the lamps, a long row of them on a shelf to be cleaned and filled every day.  In the matter of toilet facilities, one had to go out to the back to a little house, such things as bathtubs were quite unknown.  When compared with all the conveniences we enjoy today, it must be admitted that living conditions in the homes have come up one hundred percent before our eyes."

'Qui transtulit sustinet'

366478-367094-thumbnail.jpgIn April, we took the kids to Castle Garden, and as I walked I strained to listen and see through the wrinkle of time.  Quite a bit has changed.  There's a green lady in the Harbor, Ellis Island has opened, closed, and opened again as a museum.  And amid a skyline that still bears the scars of September 11, and in a City that I've only begun to discover, I found the first few steps of the Ballylanders Baker's Dozen. 

And chose Father's Day to pay tribute to my Great-Great Grandmother, who defied her own father to transplant our family tree... in a state whose motto is "He who transplants still sustains."



Let's go driftin' through the trees

366478-675943-thumbnail.jpgLet's go sailing on the sea
Let's go dancin' on the juke-joint floor
And leave our troubles all behind, have a party

-Keb 'Mo

So easily forgotten, are the most important things...  Which is why the good Lord invented the Nikon!  Come on over to my Photos and see some images taken in Pacific Daylight Time.


I was just wondering...

Do college professors have the nightmare about showing up for finals after not having been to one class all semester??  And if not, what is their version of that dream??


As I was saying...

Well, it's Groundhog Day, and I'll be damned if it doesn't find me three time zones Westward from Punxtawney, Pennsylvania.  Don't know if the Groundhog saw his shadow, but I sure as hell know that if there are six more weeks of winter... it will mean the last six weeks were the first six weeks--I hear it's finally snowing.

Been away for awhile.  Mostly because most of the writing I've done lately has been all in the manner of "2006 Accomplishments" and "2007 Goals" blah, blah, blah.  After writing, revising, submitting, discussing, and all that jazz, it's just left me totally spent.  For the record, I like this writing better, but can only do it if I've got something to say.  So I've been away from the blog, and just plan away.

finnertys beacon.jpgI've spent most of January on the road, and will log some air miles every week of February except one.  Seven days in Texas, then five in San Francisco, two in Tampa up next, then three more back in Sacramento.  I'm feeling like Kevin Finnerty again.  I have mixed feelings about the man shaving in the mirror these mornings.  And I sure as hell will be glad to be shaving in a bathroom without a coffee maker and non-dairy creamers on the counter, and not wake up every half hour from 3am to when the wakeup call comes. 

I've ate and drunk like Bacchus, (That's the right tense, right?  Drink, drank, have drunk??)  I've gained five pounds or so, and although I'm getting some kick-ass things done for the job, I miss home and am growing weary of my traveling companion... me. 

366478-659698-thumbnail.jpgStill, I'm seeing the sights of the most beautiful state in the Union, and I'll be out tomorrow with my trusty Nikon.  But, I was in Napa Valley today.  No, not that NAPA.  And here are some clips from my travel notes thus far:

  • The housekeeping lady is a very quiet knocker, or I'm going deaf.  Either way, she caught me on the way to the shower this morning, in all my glory.  Because of where the bathroom is, I was walking toward the door as it opened.  I didn't flinch.  Just said good morning.  It was over in a second, but... she laughed.   She laughed.  Then closed the door. 
  • I've only ever seen Fox and Friends hung over.  In fact, it's the only way I can bear to watch it, as I rehydrate and the headache wanes.
  • Not that it's bothering me or anything, but Dude.  She laughed.  What the heck is that all about??
  • There's free wine/beer hour at my hotel, and a woman who'll read my Tarot cards.  The first two cards are for free, then it's $20 bucks.  Since my only experience with Tarot is from watching Jane Seymour on Live and Let Die, I'll pass.   



Saint Scooter, Pray for Us (Or: The Vatican and the Infield Fly Rule)

"Daddy, can I ask you a question?"

My favorite time of day is "Question Time."  In our house, Question Time is bedtime, when the kids are tucked in, and I make my final rounds. 

Saint Francis
Of our three children, our eldest--who is now 10--has owned Question Time, with gems that I've written on before like this:

  • "Daddy, what's a question." 
  • "But why, Daddy? 

After a barrage of "Whys," one night, I resorted to honesty: "I don't know, son."  His reply:

  • "But what do you think?"

One Saturday night, after a day that had ended with going to 4:15 mass, my son had eternity on his mind.  And the question came to saints... not the Saints of the Big Easy and beignets, but the "communion of saints" of Patrick, Teresa the Little Flower, and Francis of Assisi (my personal fave.)

"I always thought that Joseph was as big a deal as Mary," he said, after asking me the difference between the Faith of my Fathers (Catholic) and that of his Mom (Epiccopalian.)  So I touched on the similarities first, skipped the difference of the fact that Episcopalian priests get to marry, and on the Catholic church's devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.  [This is NOT becoming a Baltimore Catechism post, I promise.]

"So what is Joseph, then?" 

"Well, he's a saint... the patron saint of the family, in fact.  He was the only man that God trusted to help raise Jesus on earth."  [My mother was devoted to him, although I found that her way of showing that devotion, by burying his statue upside-down in her garden to help get our house sold, was a bit odd.  Thankfully, she found other ways to show her love for my siblings and me.] 

"Oh.  Well, how does a saint get to become a saint?"

"Well, honey, I don't know exactly, but saints are very, very holy people who lived lives devoted to God and bringing Him to other people.  In fact, some people say that Pope John Paul should become a saint." 

"Who gets to decide?"

"Well, the Vatican, which is the headquarters of the church.  They examine the person's life to see whether the person measures up."

Saint Scooter
"Do you have to be dead to be a saint?"

"Yes, I think so.  They pretty much wait until you've finished."

**<SNAP!>**  An epiphany.

"Oh!" he says, eyes suddenly wide open.  "Like the Baseball Hall of Fame!"


[This lad's going to be just fine.]


Someone took the words away

Berry Bridge.JPG


Gnarls Barky.JPGRock Lobstah 2.JPGChurch and Gate.JPG


Church and Gate 2.JPG


Dwight wants you to know...

To learn more about it... go to Leezer's.  And when you go, stay and read awhile.  Because the more you know...


Thank you, Mister President

Letter to a 10 year-old boy:

A1813-5.jpgThe White House

September 5, 1975

Dear Brian:

Thank you for your letter to President Ford inviting him to visit your hometown during his campaign. Although we do not yet have a schedule of his proposed trips, it is sugggested that you watch your local newspapers which will not doubt carry an account of the President's plans.


William W. Nicholson
Deputy Director
Scheduling Office


Letter to that same boy's Mother, who had written to tell the President she would do what he asked: Keep him in her prayers.


GRF.jpgThe White House

May 28, 1976

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and encouraging message. I am grateful to know that I can count on your support.

The American people are going to be asked to make some very critical choices this year, choices which will have considerable impact not only on their imeediate future, but also on future generations. As President, I must make difficult and fundamental decisions which are necessary although not always popular. I am grateful that you support our efforts for a better America.

You and your family have my best wishes and appreciation for your prayers.


Gerald R. Ford

I felt for sure there'd be a "PS, say hello to Brian." No such luck.

I was captivated by politics by reading about JFK and watching the example of my best friend's dad and my own father. I was crushed when Nixon resigned. As John Chancellor narrated Richard Nixon's walk to the helicopter and that awful wave, I walked into my parents' den with a photo the White House had sent me when I had written to him... and without saying a word, tore it to pieces. At age 9, I knew nothing of what an Erlichman a Liddy or a water gate was. "Was that something like a dam?"

Yeah. Something like it. But I knew enough that he was the--no--The President, he'd betrayed The Country and that was bad--no--Bad.

GRFPortrait.jpgThis new President, though... Mom wept when he said our "long national nightmare" was over. He asked a nation that had not given him their votes to "confirm him with your prayers." And so we did. I'd never known anyone called Gerald before, but I invited him to come to town. In getting the brush-off, though, I gained a new portrait to hang on my wall. And so I did.  And there it stayed, until replaced by Jaclyn Smith (my favorite Angel).

In a tumultuous age when the suffix “gate” was first shackled to the notion of scandal, you said that “none of us are more than caretakers of this great country,” and you showed us that with honesty, courage, sacrifice, and what you called “the quality of the ordinary, the straight, the square” the Republic would endure. And so it did.

Now you have taken your leave of us in another tumultuous age. Two nations are burying former presidents, and the front pages are a study in contrasts between majesty and the macabre: grandeur for our former leader/the gallows for theirs. That is cast-iron irony—the kind that leaves a mark.

This morning, I showed these letters to my 10 year-old boy who is gaining his own awareness of politics, and I told him your story. We’ll get through these times, too. I sure as heck don’t know when, but you showed us how.

“The ultimate test of leadership,” you said, “is not in the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”

So thank you, Mister President. I guess it’s okay that you didn’t come to Watertown. Your letter did, and you are in the prayers of those “future generations” you wrote about—and worked to keep from harm.


The Brotherhood of the Christmas Pants

366478-610262-thumbnail.jpgOn Christmas Eve, I wore these pants... the red ones... and I did so freely and without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

And so did my brother, my uncle, four of my five cousins*, and my two brothers-in-law.

We all find our ways to rebel our elder generation... or turn into them.

It all started in the Ford Administration: That time of sideburns, "Sidecars," and sour mix.  Dad and Uncle Jack used to wear the goofiest pants on Christmas Eve.  Dad was all about the plaid (my favorite color).  And at some point, Uncle Jack happened upon corduroy... loud corduroy.  For years hence, The Five of Us (my sibs and I) and The Five of Them (our cousins) used to mock them.

Now we wear them. 

Thanks to Steve, we've all been in style and in these cords for about four or five years.  The latest addition was this year, when new bro-in-law Rob was initiated into the Honourable Order. 

Christmas Pants 06a.jpgCombined, we had four pair of Green/Canes, three pair of Red/Wreaths, one pair of Blue/Holly and one out-of-circulation pair of Screamin' Green/Sleighs.  Those would be Uncle Jack's.  He's got some deal with the Smithsonian and the folks at duPont that keeps them preserved.  Combined, we also had a blood/alcohol level that was off the charts!!

"Some day," I told my eldest son.  "You, too will act like us.  You may not dress like us, but the gene pool being the way it is, you will act like us."

"Can't I just get a tattoo instead," he asked.

Come to think of it, with a tattoo, he'd be much less in danger of getting beat up if stopping for gas on the way home. 

"Hmm.  Let me think that over, son."

Merry Christmas!


(*One Blue/Holly cousin was absent.)