Saturday, April 30, 2011

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MORGAN: Part 5 in an ongoing series

First things first:

On with the rest of the programming:

So, maybe the cold weather has dissolved my plans to go walking today. It hasn't put a damper on my Wii Fit and the ever popular digital hula-hoop. Don't you just think it is twisted that Wii Fit is pronounced "We fit" as if it is a declarative sentence? Or, equally as twisted, that it could also be interpreted as a French statement "Oui, fit!"

Today is Blog Sunday. As soon as this missive is put to press, the TV goes on my drill sergeant avatar will be screaming my name. So, without further adieu, Part 5 in the continuing posting of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MORGAN. Soon to be a made for TV series starring Ruth Naginnarb as Scoop Murphy.

Morgan as a soloist for Sacred Heart Church
      Of course, sometimes we fall prey to other people making us angry. When that happens, you cease being logical because your thought process has been taken over by the ever absorbing dynamic of anger. One can mirror anger from some else or be deliberately goaded into losing control by someone with negative ulterior motives. By losing your self-control, you give up command of your senses to welcoming anger or, worse yet, allow yourself to be manipulated. Have you ever lost your temper only to regret it? Have you ever been able to remember what you said or did in a fit of anger? We all have done so, either partially or completely. All this proves is that we have relinquished control of ourselves.
       Instead, try being a calming and productive influence and leave behind a better situation. A side benefit is your blood pressure hasn't been elevated and your nerves aren't a wreck. Instead, there is more than one winner.

     This is a good one to go with the last point: say a short prayer for the angry person. If you aren't in the mood for that, saying one in thanksgiving for your own well being. The positiveness of this action will be a plus in your life. It will also be a plus to an angry person too in that you are holding a good thought for them. They may not change immediately and that is okay. If you see them once they are calm, you can tell them you prayed about the situation, which should be a plus for them.  They may even decide to emulate you if you truly believe in the efficacy of prayer.

     For a large portion of our daily lives we are assailed by negative imagery. On TV and radio we are told we have bad breath, are in dire need of deodorant, and have feet that smell like a buffalo.  Is it any wonder we suffer from a lack of confidence and feel that people might not like us?
Morgan in St. Mary's Grade School
    The secret is to think of what we want: money; a new car; a bigger home; a different job. Dwell on this goal until we can see ourselves having it. Do that on a solid basis and pretty soon good things will start happening.

    That is right. Know yourself first and then like it. Pretty easy, sweet, and short. Take stock of your good points and, above all, be honest about your bad points too.  Don't ruminate on your bad qualities. Use your good ones to minimize the bad ones.

     Think of the good feeling of helping others. You've had that experience, right? It is exhilarating. Always keep in mind the feelings of others and experiment with making people you come in contact with feel better for having known you.  If you have made another life better or have made them feel uplifted about themselves, you have succeeded in life.  Remember: if you are not sanctimonious or judgmental, instinctively people will want to be with you.

Thus sayeth the Morg.
Stay tuned for this limited series of life skills brought to you by Morgan James Brannigan. Last week was the 21st anniversary of his passing. Unbelievable how fast the time has gone, in some respects. He was so thrilled seeing the Berlin Wall demolished in his lifetime. He would have relished the Internet for all it is worth.

That's all, folks, at least for today. I've enjoyed visiting with you. Thanks for the coffee and the swell company. You know I love you madly.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Gospel According to Morgan: Part 4

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MORGAN continues with a blockbuster. This one is such magnificent advice; but, for as elegant as the message might be, it is equally difficult successfully putting it into play.

One more warning: this one, much like the cheese, can stand alone but in this missive you will actually receive two passages.


Unfortunately, ours is not a world in which everyone is happy at all times. We may meet someone who is in a foul mood. It is quite possible that we many encounter someone who is sharp or curt in their manner toward us.  Now, they might not be feeling well, just had a bad experience, or had an unpleasant discussion just prior to meeting you. Regardless of all this, they are the only person responsible for their poor behavior.

If we are being too sunny, too happy, too content, just seeing us may be fuel for a negatively postured person to detract some of it from us. Some people actively search for another to take things out on. They could be resentful of our status and want us joining them in their discomfort. After all, misery does love company.

Whatever their reason, regardless of their incentive, they are spewing the equivalent of poison in to the air that can be nearly tangible. This poison can make someone quite ill and actually become deadly.  Knowing this, avoid, at all costs, assimilating any of the poison.  Absorbing poison can cloud your thinking and, if allowed, will consume us and cause physical illness.

Instead, be polite and courteous displaying understanding, compassion, and love while taking care of yourself.


I have a technique I employ as a means to achieving my goals: visualizing. That is right, I practice seeing myself being successful just as if my accomplished goals are on the television screen.  Try it. Once you have the perfect image, hold it in your mind’s eye.  Focus on it and, after a while of viewing, your subconscious and other unknown factors will begin contributing and making your dream a reality. Example, if you want to be popular, image it and eventually you could become successful with it. Your personal demeanor and the positive image you project will attract others to you and good things will begin to be yours.

Two of Morgan’s passages are all you are getting today, my friends. That is it. You are shut off until a slightly later day. Never fear, there are many more of these to come. As a matter of fact, check out the rule on the right hand side. Makes me wonder what their position is on straws and napkins.
Love you all madly,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Gospel According to Morgan: Chapter 3

And even if it is requested, be gentle and ease into your message if it is harsh. Overall, personal opinions should be offered and not forced upon another. As a subset of this, be aware that everyone needs to be alone and given time to accept their own counsel.


Morgan in his smoking jacket accompanied by Blarney
 The corollary to this is Kissing and Hugging need not lead to sex. They can also satisfy our need to love and be loved.  If you love someone and you have problems with a simple touch or a quick hug, then they may not seem "real"  and then they can be hurt emotionally without us feeling any guilt. You may have an issue actually loving them, even as a friend. The Viet Nam War was the first war televised nearly real-time into our homes with all its killing and carnage. Because it was on the TV screen, it didn't seem "real" and so we were not as affected personally by it and didn't feel the sense of loss or actual sorrow. Be careful when feelings like this are muted or horrible acts like murder become dehumanized and "normal."

Here is an example: instead of asking "Is everything alright with you?" change your approach to "I can see you are doing well for yourself" or "You look so good and fit, how are you doing it?"  If everything is less than perfect with your friend, this gives them the opportunity to let you know their status. If they are a little down, you just may have uplifted their spirits and ensured a positive subconscious association with them and they'll be encouraged by your company and counsel.

Thus, sayeth the Morg.
Have a great week and see you soon.  Love you all madly, Scoop

Thursday, December 30, 2010


This morning I sent a dear friend an email and part of it expressed how magical the time was when we grew up. As we are on the heels of a new year, a new decade, I am taken back to the days when days were more streamlined. Oh, it was just as stressful back in the good old days, but for a much more limited number of reasons. Frittering your time away didn't involve software.

We grew up in a neighborhood with Victorian era homes populated with neighbors who owned matching mentalities. The times were busy reflecting images in the shiny surface of Sputnic I. It was not without its flaws, but it was a magical time.

On New Years, our family always celebrated together. December 31st, was accompanied by Mom reminding Dad to start cooking the January 1st dinner of pork roast with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. It didn't take much urging since he so thoroughly enjoyed cooking. For them, good luck started with a small taste of the New Years dinner immediately after all the fuss associated with the clock striking midnight.

As an added treat, we kids were permitted to take naps and were warned to stay in good humor if we wanted to stay up late to ring in the New Year. Not being in bed by 9 o'clock was wild enough, but we also became full participants in the festivities when the clock struck 12 and couldn't hold the excitement of it all.

As the clock hands moved to meet, we armed ourselves with pots, pot lids, serving spoons, and large cooking utensils. Then we'd poise ourselves between Mom at the back door and Dad at the front door.  She would open the back door as we would bang our equipment, yelling at the top of our lungs for the old year to leave. We didn't need it any longer and all the baggage it brought. Then we'd run through the back hallway to the vestibule and front hall, banging our pots with all we were worth traveling the entire path. Once we joined Dad, he'd open the door with a sweeping gesture befitting a queen's footman, greeting the New Year, welcoming it in. A New Year: it was brimming with hope, opportunities, and clean slates.

One might think that enough, but why stop there? Dressed in our finest plaid flannel jammies and house coats, leather soled moccasin slippers (or penny loafers if need be), we'd march down the steps of our porch, onto the front sidewalk, down a few doorways (to old Mrs. Gallagher's dismay), and back up the steps for the original metal band's finale. A few years we had other acts which followed. Periodically, Dad would fire his Colt pistol up in the air over the densely wooded valley behind our home overlooking the site where William Kelly invented his version of what became known as the Bessemer process of making steel. William Kelly and Steel Making

Then, if the wind was at our Irish backs, Dad would produce a brown paper bag from the restricted top shelf of his closet where it had been secreted away since July. It was usually full of M-80s and other fire work wonders. Dad's closet was always forbidden territory because we knew it held his guns, a service revolver, bullets, and FIREWORKS. The only time this area was willfully opened to visitors was when our cat, Puddy, delivered 12 kittens there, one in every shoe the poor guy owned. That day he had to wear his slipper to the store and buy shoes so he could go to work.

Once the last of the explosions and flared lights illuminated the back yard, and Mom stopped grasping at her throat, yelling to be careful punctuated with refrains of "OH MY" and "MERCY"  we'd retire to the dinning room for our taste of Dad's pork and sauerkraut.  Life was good. It was difficult falling asleep after such excitement and it was an event I looked forward to each year. 

Magical doesn't do the days then justice. I think you had to be there. HAPPY NEW YEARS, MY FRIENDS. May 2011 bring you everything you need and most of what you want.
See you in the next few days with installment 3 of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MORGAN.


In view of ushering in 2011, it is good to take stock in ourselves and see where we are with regard to the quality of our lives. In keeping with what I've started, here is THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MORGAN, CHAPTER TWO.

Give them a chance to change their standpoint or view. If that can't happen, try letting them off the hook. Allow them to save face.

And sometimes, express amazement at another person's achievements. Once again, people like recognition.

Just think about the Golden Rule.

If a person you are meeting is late, try being understanding. Clocks go wrong. Things happen. Plus, some day it may happen to you. If they make a habit of it, talk to them and let them know your time is as valuable as theirs. If they still keep it up, let them know you will only wait for 10 minutes and then you will leave. This way you are being respectful of them and yourself.

This is an old show biz dictum, but it works well in everyday life also. Vaudeville performers often cut short their act only to be asked for an encore. They felt it was better to have people say something like "Gee, I would have liked to have seen more. We'll have to come back."  In other words, never overstay your welcome. People might be wishing you would go home and are just being kind or polite. If they do wish you would stay, then you will be asked back sooner.

This not only indicates interest, but it also makes you alert and looking for clues as to the sincerity in the other person's eyes and body language.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Gift That Keeps on Giving: The Gospel According to Morgan

MORGAN, my dad. What a guy. As his Christmas gift this year, he is still chasing me with his advice even though he came to terms with his limited engagement here on Earth in 1990.

Photo: Dad imitating Bing Crosby. Favorite buddy Blarney at his side. Circa 1979.

While doing some holiday related tasks, I rediscovered some of his papers in a file. I have a treasure trove of some of Dad's writings, mostly dealing with family history and lore. But today's papers are a different variety in that they are Dad's advice to his family.  That is right. He's been gone 21 years and yet he still isn't finished passing along juicy tidbits. Luckily, I have his personal recipes, two or three cookbooks, and a few of his prized possessions such as his ravioli maker and his harmonica. Both are still producing beautiful treats. I nearly forgot about this document and all his great lessons

Remarkable that he guided me to the filing cabinet and folder reminding me at Christmas that his advice is still there for the taking. What a gift. Seven pages of deliberately printed rules of engagement with living, all in single spacing. Each page chalk full of solid state, 100% organic, homegrown, verified and tested, world-class advice according to Morgan James Brannigan. 

Stay tuned as I share his thoughts with you over the next few blogs:

Rule 1: KEEP  YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW REGARDING FRIENDSHIP    People may surprise you and be great, but remember that they are only human. 

When you are a member of a church or a club, wait to be asked to do a job. When you volunteer you can sometimes be thought of as an interloper. When you are asked, you are given the license by your group to do a job. They will be happier with you for cooperating than they would be thinking you are a know-it-all or bossy.

When you listen to others, remember to show your interest in what they are saying. Don't force your conversation and views on people. They will resent it and not really listen to you if you do.

Your time is much better spent becoming adept at subtly praising others. Now, don't over praise them or they won't believe you, but do praise people often. Everyone likes having their accomplishments noticed.

Give your side of a topic, but also tender agreement with others, even if/when your point is more qualified.

Well, that is all you are getting today. Please stop by daily and check to see how well I am keeping up with this daily blogging thing. Stay tuned for tomorrow's dose of The Gospel According to Morgan.

I'd like to take this time to thank him for the time he took on this project. As an added bonus, I will be featuring his advice as I blog. Dad's sage advise will be here for your consideration as well. Don't thank me, thank him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Students, Shoes, and Shows

This morning a student bestowed one of the best gifts I've received from one of them: A PREGNANT GOAT. She and her family gave me a Christmas ornament of a pregnant goat which was utterly pronounced. The accompanying tag stated: "Merry Christmas and thanks from the families of Pignon, Haiti, for the gift of a pregnant goat."

Chocolates and bubble bath be damned! This goat is the greatest. I wish I could see its kid and the benefits it will have on the Haitian people in Pignon. Everyone should have a gift that keeps on giving like this.

Right up front I am going to reveal something that some of you already may have guessed:

YES, I ALSO BOUGHT THE BLACK AND WHITE OXFORDS AS WELL. And NO, I am not sorry or repentant about it in the least. No mea maxima culpa here, my posse. I love them. They are the most comfy things gracing my toes in a long time. So, there. Go get your own like Kathy S. did. She couldn't allow the days to tick by without snagging a pair either. Just call us the Star Dust Twins.

On to other items. Christmas music has been dancing through my brain like no tomorrow. Commercials get me the worst. They plant a seed that grows all day sometimes. This last week I've attended two wonderful holiday concerts: The Leahy Family Christmas and The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington.

LEAHY FAMILY CHRISTMAS: Canada's greatest family export. The entire group is made up of brothers and sisters, although they are bringing on their children in kind. These wee ones can do the Irish jig and prance like River Dance nearly as well as the adults. At this last concert, a two year old in diapers was up there doing his dance and was relentless and, considering his age, very dedicated to hopping in place and competing with his younger family members to some quick tunes. Their music is 100% wholesome and well presented to a packed crowd at George Mason University's Center for the Arts every year. If you are fortunate, you may see one of their specials on a public television channel near you.

GAY MEN'S CHORUS OF WASHINGTON: What an absolute blockbuster this one was. The first half presented a rich selection of seasonal music sung by 288 strong voices, including my great friend, Chris. One song which wasn't seasonally related, but just a powerful, was a tribute to Mothers of gay men. During this tune a slideshow was broadcast composed of candid photos of members with their moms. Some where from the time they were first born all the way to present age. It evoked an emotional response which caught me off guard.
The 2011 schedule has been released with the titles of their concerts:
For the Boys; Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Crazy Little Thing Called Love; and last, And Now I Am Telling You which features the one and only Jennifer Holliday.
The ENTIRE subscription is $110 for all performances. That is nearly as cheap as a movie with popcorn and much better for you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

English Channel and Its Islands

Hello, Folks

Reading an interesting book: THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.  It is a wonderfully written quick read in epistemological format, and I love a voyeuristic peek...even if it is historic fiction. 

A London-based author becomes interested in the World War II reminiscences of Guernsey Island during Nazi occupation. After an initial introduction, our author begins a letter writing exchange with villagers who reveal their most intimate look at the hardships, heartache, and resilience they all experienced.

DON'T LET THE TITLE BE OFF-PUTTING. It made me want to dismiss it as silly and overly cute. As it is, the story is not well represented by the title at all by adding the words "and Potato Peel Pie" and would have done better sooner without it. (They would have saved so much if they would have simply asked me.)

I was introduced to the existence of the English Channel Islands last year during my visit to Normandy. While trying to find a water taxi over the channel, I was checking out a map and saw them. It tickled me seeing islands named Guernsey and Jersey. "Don't they know they are cows?" I thought before realizing within a split second that the cows were probably named after the islands.

What amazes me is that they are part of the  United Kingdom rather than France. Believe me, I don't begrudge the Crown any, it just seems to make more sense for France to have them since they are so close. Then the thoughts of the Philippines enters my mind and I move on to other related topics.

Remember this red hot tip: if you find a great book to read you won't think about what is going on on Capital Hill....or at least you'll have a break from it for a little.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Status Report

Don't have a big concept to report today aside from the fact that it is cold. It is really cold. Not as bad as it is in some other parts of the country, to be sure. There were some snowflurries, but they were nothing but show. So, a full day of school is in my future tomorrow.

Tonight I had a wonderful time at my friend Mark's Christmas party he holds each year for his school's staff. This year, as with several others, it was held at Maggiano's on Wisconsin Avenue, NW in DC. Very fun people. Great conversation. Fabulous food.

The best part was the "gift exchange" that takes place. It is one of those swaps with convoluted rules on who gets what selection and someone else can "steal" it during the next round of swaps and still make it to their car. The other years I was the consumate guest being polite and deferring to his school's teachers and staff with regard to wrestling for the high-end gifts. This year I attended with Mark's approval and insistence that I take my gloves off and go for the jugular. Yes, I stirred the pot and made no bones about going for the best items available. Yes, someone took them away from me. It was all good though and in all good fun.

At one point I had a Keureg coffee system (-5 for spelling). Another round found me the proud, and temporary, owner of a NanoPod thingy I'd certainly lose in less than 15 minutes. Actually, I think I "owned" that twice. At the evening's end I walked out with a tasty package of Godiva, a $25 Macy's gift card, a lovely seasonal floral arrangement, a valet parking ticket, and a full belly. Not too shabby for a cold Monday. I hope yours was half as good.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


      What is two-toned, come in a pair, and can take years off your life faster, and considerably cheaper, than plastic surgery?
Saddle shoes!
      Those of you who Facebook read my recent announcement about my intention to outfit myself with what just might be my last pair of saddle shoes. The very thought of these shoes is like butter. I don't like them, I love them. When I saw Ellen sporting a pair on TV, it was all over, Rover. They would be mine again.
      Shopping with my buddy, Lytle, I considered all the available Bass options at the store. They had black and whites, which were adorable. They had the light tan suede with dark leather; but, then I found the last official pair of mirror image dark suede with light leather. They seemed more appropriate for me to wear during my academic experiences and about town. With a long pant leg, they somewhat look like boots. LOVE THEM. As a matter of fact, I may marry them or at least sleep in them.

        My first pair were purchased at Littles Shoe Store in Squirrel Hill. The shopping trip was an incredible production which included 2/3rds of my nuclear family. Mom, Dad, Patrick, and I all piled in another love of my life, my Dad's 1965 screaming cherry red Chevy Biscayne. That bad boy auto featured Fingerhut waffle patterned plastic seat covers that left permanent impressions in your skin whether or not you were wearing a snow suit. It also had a manual transmission you don't see much these days: a "three on the tree." To the uninitiated, that translates into a three-speed with the stick shift on the drive column. The other incredible feature was the transistor radio Dad insisted sliding all over the dash board rather than having a built-in radio. Mom hated all that noise.

        In less than ten minutes we were in Squirrel Hill, Dad was swearing at other drivers and we were all scouring the street for an unmanned parking meter. Eventually, we strolled down the wide sidewalk and window shopped before walking into this elegant shoe store. 
        I first spied them in the window that August day while preparing for my freshman year at St. Paul Cathedral High School. Breaking one of my first commandments, I coveted them at first sighting. Then, as if by magic, Dad said yes! He agreed. There weren't any negotiations. I didn't need to promise anything. THEY WERE GOING TO BE MINE. My heart was singing. Those sweet black and white shoes were going to be on my feet and my feet alone.
Then it happened and the day's events took an unforgettable turn: DAD STARTED BARGAINING WITH THE SALESMAN.  He wanted a discount since he was "shoeing" his entire family. (They didn't know Mike and Kathy weren't there.) It made me want to crawl under the paisley carpeting and slime my way back over the welcome mat. Was Dad kidding me? HOW could he do this to me and my new image? You know what happened next? They ended up calling the manager over. Would it ever end? Dad shook his hand, talked some sort of animated chat, pointed at the boxes on the counter, and then he was offered a 20% discount.
         It was mortifying. It was not the only time Dad wrestled the price point in my presence. Those tales are for another time, but lets suffice it to say that I wasn't wild about any of those events either.
      I don't think I said a word going back to the car. To tell the truth, as soon as I turned the handled on the Ford gumball machine and started chewing on the rock hard ball, it was relieved to escape the store. At my advanced age I "get it" now. Morgan, you are clearly understood. However, I still can believe you did it and were successful. Moreover, I'll never forget that day's transaction. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Yesterday's Message

         Intuition is a powerful tool, if we heed its message. Sometimes that little voice in our head is a faint whisper we are not too sure said much of anything until events fall into place. Other times it is an audible message that addresses us like an old friend, reminding us to act or to sit back and witness rather than be a participant. Next voice is a loud shout mimicking a town crier announcing the edict we must obey. After that, you may experience hearing a message from your board of directors. They are all business and read to you as if it is a segment of an annual report. The final voice is more along the lines of Verdi's Anvil Chorus and it all together impossible to ignore.

        Once my blog on The Importance of Doing Something was posted and read on December 9, I received an interesting response from a good friend and fellow blogger, Ms. Irene McQuillen. She was not my intuition, but measured somewhere on the message scale of between that of an Old Friend and the Anvil Chorus.
                       "So.......Ted made and honorable mention and 
                        The Madonna and I didn't????????????
                       Don't we do something print worthy???????"
        The Madonna is her sister, Mavrene, who was named that by her grandmother as a child. Her granny was of the sainted opinion that Mavrene somehow resembled the Blessed Virgin Mary. The verdict is still out for the rest of us, but we all have nothing but respect for Grandma.

        My answer to you, Irene and Mavrene, is a resounding YES. It would have been impossible listing all my friend's virtues and talents in yesterday's posting and, more importantly, I needed to save some material for other days. After all, I am going to try posting everyday for the next while (or until I forget). Please know that proper disclosure urges me to include that although you follow in your sainted mother's footsteps with regard to creativity, your sister is not gifted in that department. We will see if she really reads this blog when I check my email next. Is that a fair statement?
        Mavrene and I were roommates, you will recall. She was great at laundry while I excelled at ironing. So, being cutting edge gals, we job shared. The same with the kitchen: I cooked to her cleaning. She typed the term papers while I created artwork. That worked out quite well; but, I think you will readily acknowledge that you "have the knack" but, sadly, she does not. She never could make candle sticks from recycled baby food jars and ash trays. Wall sconces of spray painted egg shells just weren't her calling. With regard to the play dough floral arrangements, it is believed that her product didn't resemble the model.
        Before closing I would like to stress that Mavrene has other admirable qualities which will fit into future blogs. Your level of creativity can be examined by readers at your blog site: Anger Management Girls


Thursday, December 9, 2010


 I know, last time it was all about doing nothing. Now, here I am proposing the other end of the spectrum -- THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING SOMETHING.

Yesterday I was dinking about the internet as I am prone to do and stumbled upon an acquaintance’s writing. It had been awhile since visiting her site, so off I went for a reading reunion.

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin is delightful fare. Her premise is that for a year, she documented following the advice of many well know, and some lesser known, “authorities” on how to be happy. As she puts it, her writing focused on time “spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy--from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah.”  Lady, I like your style.

In a recent article, GR wrote on Huffington Post, she writes about being creative and suggests that sometimes you have to force the issue when you hit the proverbial wall. Periodically, you need to go guerilla. A book that was out a few years ago, The Artists Way, was of some assistance to a friend of mine whose well had gone nearly dry. I do not have a lick of experience with it, but she swore by it.

With writing, one method I learned years ago to battle writer’s block is to write badly on purpose. That is right, write badly. You can only keep it up for a length of time before it becomes better. It did the trick when I worked on contracts specializing in keeping the Russian army from your front doors. I dare say that it was successful, although limited in the creative department. If anyone is out there with an unexpected tent in your backyard emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, please speak up.
One of my last 45s: Instant Karma
(On a totally unrelated point, but a clear demonstration on the associative powers of my brain, please allow me to brag.  Years ago, a military friend gave me a chunk of the Berlin Wall. It is in my desk and I look at it every day. Okay, it might be a forgery, but, as they say in Pittsburgh: “I don’t EVEN care.” It is a reminder of reaching success if you keep trying. Hey, maybe there is a relationship after all.)

Back to doing something: There are clearly points in my life when doing nothing is the order of the day (and usually a weekend at a monastery). Given that, there are more times when I really need to be all about doing something. Something particular. Something that makes me a better Scoop Murphy. Something that engages me and makes me a better person.

My friend Kate has a beautiful singing voice. Although it has been years since I have heard her, she is fully engaged in the practice. She is in a powerful choir and sings regularly, putting on stage performances with her friends. Another friend, Joe, is deeply involved with his church choir and their weekly mission of practicing on Wednesdays and magnifying the Lord on Saturdays. Angela dances competitively. This, too, I wish I had started earlier in my life. It is a difficult art form being deliberate about physical movement like this. I can do a great “white person’s gyration” but it takes effort being exceptionally graceful.

Another friend, Sandy, has a wood working shop in her basement that is enviable. So are her skills. As if that is not sufficient, she is now taking serious cooking classes well beyond Betty Crocker. Ted plays his instrument like a professional. Get out of the gutter. They are musical instruments. His flute graced my daughter’s wedding. Robbie is a naturalist in the outdoors. Yes, she keeps her clothes on. She is the most well versed person I have ever met on the environment and the great outdoors. It is impossible for her to see a bird and not identify it to you. Launching into an explanation detailing indigenous plants and geography during a completely different conversation is second nature for her, if you will pardon the expression.

What drives these people to do their something? I am going to guess my thing is writing. I might be flawed, but I thoroughly enjoy it down in my marrow. Louisa May Alcott inspired me as a wee tyke sitting on my grandmother’s front porch swing. To do what she accomplished and still drives home is so impressive. Perhaps I will not reach her heights, but I can keep trying.

Therefore, I am going to post on a daily or nearly daily basis, if only to turn the faucet and keep the water main of creativity flowing. It may end up being a trickle or the main just might burst.
Either way, it will keep me writing my other stories and attempting to reach out in print.

Wish me luck and let me know what you may do in this area yourself. Check out THE HAPPINESS PROJECT for some inspiration to call your own.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


From the frequency of my postings here, one might think I've cornered the market on doing nothing.  Well, that might be true in the digital world as of late, at least with regard to this blog. I apologize. Facebook has syphoned some of my energies, and that is a pity on some levels and an absolute joy on others. *FB* has reunited me with kindred spirits from a planet far away. I am back in touch with friends from several former lives ago and it makes my heart sing. These are people who know ME. These are people who love ME even though they know me. These are people who have their umbilical connected to the same collective memory as me. What is not to love?

To those folks, I am indebted as they keep me honest and traveling forward with their support. I can't thank you enough. In my Windows world, you are my DOS.

Last weekend I went on retreat again. Silent retreat, and yes, I managed to find someone to talk to anyway. Usually it is a priest or a friend who is on the journey with me. We'll steal away into the conference room designed for such things and chat up our experience for 15 minutes or so as if we are criminals. We love it. Then, it is back to pulling "hard time" by keeping silence and walking the walk. We love that even more.
We pack wine and relax in the knowledge that we are not saints. That presents its own level of freedom, my friends.

I think at this point I need to disclose that I am in no way, shape, or form an "uber" Catholic. Far from it. If anything, I am what I term a Renegade Catholic. When even this level seems to fail my heart and head, I switch into "Rutheran" mode. This monastery doesn't force feed you beliefs or liturgy. It has a zen posture and welcomes everyone, regardless of your religious leanings. It isn't structured. You are on your own and welcome to take anything your little spirit needs in an effort to refresh itself.

Through the years I've gone on retreat a few different spots, but the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA has my heart. It offers me the experience I need and as I drive back out to the highway from the Revolutionary War era farm settling, I am, once again renewed, forgiven, and uplifted.
Try it sometime:    They also have other monasteries, if you are interested.

Coming here 25 years ago introduced me to my spiritual leader, Father Mark Delery. What a renaissance man. Physician. Psychiatrist. Poet. Author. Abbot. Funny Man. Mark passed earlier this year. I've been here twice since he moved to the pasture, literally, and God knows I miss him. His words are still with me and that is what makes the difference. His spirit is still very much here. One of the biggest honors was receiving his personal phone number. We'd call each other to say hi or talk about a good book. We were pen pals as well, mailing quick notes and ultimately moving that through email. It was a debate who enjoyed the *fun*Valentine cards more. His were religious. Mine weren't.

One of the articles I read this time is also available online. It is  THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING NOTHING  by Fr. William McNamara. Let me quickly add that you shouldn't let the fact that he is a priest hold you back from enjoying it. The fact that this man looks like he sees life a touch differently from the rest should prove appealing to many of you. He knows how to present an issue. He has many writings I've enjoyed through the years.  They've helped smooth out some of the totally unrelated problems, challenges, and anxieties I wrestle with by letting me know it is okay to dismiss them, if only for a while. William McNamara is much older than the posted photo. He has enjoyed better health. The world will lose a great philosopher once he joins Mark.

Read his article...the entire article. Then do nothing. Give it a try. Do nothing. I dare you. Perhaps you scoff at the idea and probably think it is an easy thing to do. Do be hasty. It is one of the hardest things in the world to just BE. To sit and just think and watch the little details unfold without hastening them or assisting in anyway. I'd love hearing how you do and what you think of his article.

Until we meet again, stay out of the middle of the road. ;-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today and Every Labor Day

Today: The end of World War II took place today…September 2… and what a progression from that 1945 milestone 1945 until today. Our USS Missouri’s deck must have been a grand place standing silent witness to that event. As a special turn, The Dream Foundation earned its name today. It ensured a 90 year old former Navy crew member’s return to that very deck where he saw the magic first-hand. Today, he arrived just in time for a special ceremony and posed in the same spot where he stood 65 years ago.

Today: The day the U.S. Supreme Commander, General MacArthur signed Japan’s surrender agreement, the Missouri was floating in Tokyo Bay. Today, it sits majestically, and fittingly, ensconced in Pearl Harbor. Stories about the “Greatest Generation” never cease to impress me.

Today: It is also one of those numerology days. It is the second day of September in the year of our lord 2010, so, it is 90210. Get you stamps canceled now. Only 26 more shopping days until the Feast of Good King Wenceslaus, and Scoop's birthday.

Today: Another oil platform has major problems and the Gulf is bracing for further damages. This time all the people survived the fire and escaped into the Gulf of Mexico with floatation devices. Two questions I have: how many of these platforms exist and how many prior locations have been capped? Wait, let me sneak in a third: Who takes care of these caps if they happen to uncork?

Today: Listening to oil rigs stories brings me to a small, but distracting misuse I need to do my best to remedy.
During news coverage, you’ll hear that oil wells are going to be filled with CEMENT. Reassured? Don’t be. CEMENT is the powdered silica mixture which, when added to a few other elements becomes CONCRETE.
Brother Darryl: We’ll need 5 sacks of cement to patch the sidewalk.
Concrete....and a tree
Other Brother Darryl: When it is cured, we’ll have a swell concrete path for walking to Larry’s.
Get it? Call the major networks for me. Please.

Today: Is just another day where my thoughts are directed southward to the Gulf of Mexico and the beleaguered Louisiana coastline. It wasn’t until my daughter married her Cajun husband that I really became aware of Louisiana beyond studying Jefferson’s purchase, Mardi Gras, and Johnny Horton’s hit tune “Battle of New Orleans.” Now, it seems, that I can’t escape the daily mention of it in some way, shape, or form.

Today: Our hurricane “man” Earl is making his way up the coast. Several friends of mine were part of the evacuations from different locations. Even more friends live in the predicted path and are just hunkering down for the potential beating. Hurricane parties are great fun, I suppose. My recent memory pops up an instant image of twisted trees, damaged homes cleaved with the trunks of healthy trees ripped, torn, and thrown onto roofs. That was just from a minor micro-burst during a good old fashioned storm. I can’t imagine a full force hurricane. Best of luck all you home and business owners near it. Best of luck to all you emergency personnel and crazy weather people in slicker suits. Best of luck to all you temporarily hired FEMA workers who will process even more paperwork.

Today: Should you be feeling sorry for yourself and believe your life is on a downward trend, listen up my posse. You are about to be upgraded to 1st Class. Remember hearing about the miners who are trapped underground in Chile? Well, rescue workers have estimated that they might be freed around Christmas. It is HOT, stinky, humid, dark, clammy: you name the negative environment and it is there. One of these unfortunate men, stuck a half mile down into the bowels of the Earth, is probably the only one who might not be looking forward to daylight. It seems his wife AND his mistress met each other while crying and wailing his name topside. His days are numbered no matter which way you count. Maybe he is the one whose request for bourbon and cigarettes was declined by workers.

Right Now: As this sermonette comes to a close, I want to take a special moment to reassure everyone that I will remember you once I am in the lap o’luxury. This status is rapidly approaching because my new best friend, Melissa H., has promised to show me how to make millions on the internet as soon as I fork over my banking information and password. It is going to be sweet, boys and girls. How frequently does a change like this happen upon an unsuspecting, gullible person such as moi? It is kismet!

So: while I am on my way to instant wealth and daily manicures, please stay out of the surf until Earl whips up the sand and puts it back down.

PS: Happy Labor Day. Go celebrate. Join a union or guild. Shop for school supplies and sneakers. See a movie. If you have the day off, make sure someone else is working.

Friday, August 13, 2010

He has slipped the surly bonds of Earth

Every so often, life delivers a blow which is difficult to receive, register, and repair from. Recently, my dear friend, Joe, was forced to redefine the word resilient when he found a huge tree dividing his lovely, painstakingly decorated home. It must have been and still must be devastating for him to process. 
Holy Cross Abbey grazing area in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Recently, I received a notice in the mail from Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virgina with updates on the Cistertian order living there.   This is a monastery where I have been attending silent retreats twice a year, if the wind is at my back, for the last 25 years. (Yes, I did write silent. It is glorious, even for me.) During that time I have gotten to know the physical and spiritual geography of this hallowed place.  I've also gotten to know the monks, who call their home this pre-Civil War farm poised on a bend of the Shenandoah River.
Many here have given me much direction and spiritual leadership; but none more than Father Mark Delery. I am not embarrassed to tell you I really grew to love this man. Father Mark died on June 29th following an illness. I wasn't aware, since his phone and email weren't answering, until the quarterly monastic newsletter from the community arrived. After reading it, I have to say, I sat and re-read it, hoping it wasn't true since I was so looking forward to his company this weekend. After confirming the news, I sat and wept. Not for him, but for me. 
From the retreat center viewing a field and the monastic center in the distance.
Mark has seen me through so much during a quarter century that it is too incredible to inventory. He was old. He shrunk and his dentures grew to no longer fit. They rattled some when he spoke in his soft Bostonian manner. His hearing was waning, so he couldn't hear his teeth and would whisper-talk, making people strain to hear him like he had to do with them. It was his way of leveling the playing field while having a little fun with you too. He had a private phone line and he and I would call each other chatting as best we could with his hearing and speech. I loved it and felt anointed being in his fan club. He told me once that although he had chased a "few skirts" in his day, that he had never received a Valentine. I cured that every year from that point. He sent a few back to me apologizing that his selection at the monastery's gift shop's stationery department was rather limited for Valentine cards. That made me laugh out loud as he was the king....strike that...abbot of understatement.
Father Mark Delery, O.C.S.O. (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance left this world an accomplished human. At 91 years, I would readily bow to his advice and direction based on his experience, education, and wisdom. When I delivered my worldly issues to him for examination I knew they were thoughtfully received. Mark had a number of feathers, eagle feathers, in his cap. He graduated from Boston College, and then attended Tufts Medical School. From there he served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps before opening a medical practice of his own. He became a Diplomate of the American College of Physicians and American Board of Internal Medicine.  
Mark entered St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, MA as a monk and then eventually became an ordained priest. In 1984, after transferring and living at Holy Cross Abbey, he was elected abbot. It was about that time when we met. He had taken the position of  "Confessor" at the retreat house where he spiritually counseled an incredible number of people, until his surgery for colon cancer in June. The recovery proved to be too much for this gentle man.
1784 stone hunting lodge, surveyed by George Washington.
About five years ago, while serving as a reporter for a local Alexandria newspaper, The Del Ray Sun, I wrote a cover piece on Father Mark. Spring was just around the corner at the time and he had written a beautiful book The Parable of the Cherry Blossom.  With D.C.'s annual festival, his book was a natural and had a fairly brisk sales record. It was a great article, if I say so myself; but that was because it was about him, his antics, accomplishments, and impact on an outside world where he really didn't visit all that often by choice. His next book was The Song of a Silent Stone about the resurrection of Christ which was incredible as well.  I am proud to know that my article is in the collection of remembrances of him at this as well as other Cistercian monasteries.
His last book is one I loved too, but for different reasons. Mark wanted to extend the lessons learned by a fellow monk, Thomas Whalen, who died after having suffered from alcoholism. This book is called Feet of Clay Wrapped in Love and details his misadventures traipsing all over the United States after Monk Whalen. Writing this book, Mark wanted to give something to the 12-Step programs throughout the country.  His book details how his friend had thrown in the towel and rosary beads on monastic living while taking the order's checkbook with him to liquor stores and hotels across America. Using his non-internet detective skills, he located his friend, and brought him back to sobriety and a useful place within the community. It is a sad and humorous book all in one.
The first time I met Father Mark, it is safe to say that, I was a fairly angry female recovering Catholic. Although I had been somewhat dutiful, I always felt a real sense of displacement and second-citizenry within the Church. My daughter had wanted to be an altar girl, and was declined because our diocese was one of two in the country opting out of allowing it. So, I entered the conference room and drew my sword with him, during a retreat, to settle matters for once and for all. He looked equipped for the task and I threw down my lead-lined gauntlet with a loud thud. He was a quiet, patient, and  empathetic listener so instead of the full thrust of my anger, I collapsed in tears, with my nose bubbling with snot, as I spewed my "stuff" all over the room like Linda Blair's spinning head. I wish I would have filmed it.
St. Francis, tending to his frozen animals.
At one point, he asked me if I was finished and I answered NO!, regrouped, took a deep breath and kept on turning that shovel, which was quickly turning into a back-hoe.  He asked again when I paused. Again, I firmly responded with NO! and reloaded.
The third time was his charm that day as I was finally spent. I sat with my crumbling, damp, shredded wad-pile of generic tissues (religious orders just don't go for any brand name products unless they are donated) in my hands, lap, and the antique trash basket next to the lamp table in his conference room. It was there he delivered the best and most startling spiritually directed message "Well, Ruth, that is the biggest bunch of bull shit I've heard in quite a while."   Then he laughed.  HE LAUGHED. After I replaced my eyes in their sockets, he went on to ask me the purpose of being bothered by all the noise of mankind when Christ's love was there for me for the taking.  The Church was as flawed as anything since it was man-based. God was there and held nothing but respect and love for me. There was more to his explanation and conversation with me that day. It was what I needed to hear: God loved me even if the Church was less than glorious with its expression and delivery.
Then he directed me to go sit by the Shenandoah River on the other side of the grazing field. I agreed and asked exactly what I should do once I got there. He repeated a little more firmly, with a smile "SIT, JUST SIT."  I still didn't get it. Finally he boiled it down some more and spoon fed me a task. "Go watch the ripples on the water."  "Okay. And then what?" was my response. He took my hand and walked me out to the appointment board and penciled me in for an hour the next day. "Report in then." Pointing to 8:00 a.m. was his last direction. "I'll be late for Compline if we keep going today." and off he went whipping the hood of his monk habit up for his half-mile trek to the chapel near the main manse.                 
The Shenandoah River near Holy Cross. February 2010
He flew down the road in his exceptionally old van which no longer passed Virginia state safety inspection and could only be used as a farm vehicle on the grounds of the monastery. In that same dramatic fashion, dear Father Mark is off on a new adventure in a fully functioning body deserving his brilliant mind and charitable heart. Certainly he is sitting on the right-hand side of the Lord and I can only hope he is saving me a seat in that pew.  Mark has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, as the old poem stated before television broadcasting ceased for the day, back in the day. He is certainly touching the face of God. 
If you don't enjoy poetry, stop right here.
For those of you who remember that poem being delivered, as U.S. Air Force jets flew in formation, just before the test pattern was blotted on your round screen until morning, I have posted it for your reading pleasure.
Written by the son of a Pittsburgher and member of the wealthy Magee family of Magee Hospital fame,
John Gillespie Magee touched my heart years ago with this piece. It has stayed with me for what seems like my entire lifetime. It is one of my all-time favorites. 
High Flight 
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Mileage Food or Hi, Mileage Food?

So, my pretties, you thought you had escaped the summer without hearing from me. Well, you can relax just like I did while flying recently.  Yes, yes, yes, you can thank me for keeping all those planes up in the sky. I am the one who takes the lead and employs the proper technique to ensure they stay aloft because there is no other way those big things arrive a mile high and propel themselves forward. It is a miracle.

Jimmy Morrison, of The Doors fame and a former resident of my community, used to sing that "You cannot petition the Lord with prayer." What a fool. He never did understand that three Hail Marys, three Our Fathers, and three "Glory Be's" are the absolute guaranty underscoring safety when flying. It isn't all that simple. Add to that the added spin of closing my eyes and resting my head back during take off and landing, and you have most of the magic. Feel free to help me and the airline industry by employing these steps when you fly. I'm keeping track and so far, it is working. Come to think of it, although I am not sure if this method can shift industries, but I just might see if I can apply it to deep ocean oil well caps. I'll keep you posted.

A few of you probably may think that protocol flirts with marginal behavior. I say to you that you have joined the ranks of Mr. Morrison.
People displaying hard-core aberrant actions abound and your thoughts need to be directed toward them. For this, I am just the person to help you.

Twisted Behavior Example 1: Last week, a 19 year old, Michael Jackson (no relative to the gloved one), somehow obtained (stole) a Metro Bus driver's uniform, hi-jacked a bus and wrecked it after collecting passengers. What should have indicated a red-flag to bus officials and consumers was that he reported on-time to the bus garage and drove the route courteously. More normal actions included him crashing the bus into a tree, inspecting the damage, and running into the sunset.

Example 2: Back in the day, Brian Highland had the slow-dance hit High on The Hill (song title and article on this topic)
He was early in a pronouncement of other actions here in DC. Now, my posse, who the hell would subject themselves to a high security search in order to enter "Our Nation's Capitol" seat of Government AND TAKE THEIR STASH OF DOPE WITH THEM? Yup, there is an entire list of folks who say, Please Bust ME! while entering the U.S. Capitol Building. Here is a helpful hint from Heloise: "Blowing smoke" is merely an expression referring to our Federal leaders and not a functional address. Yikes.

Example 3: Drilling deep water off-shore wells without a clue as to how to cap it. Happy Tar Balls, BP. Nuff said.  Oh, wait, can I add in LeBron James and Roman Polansky here without giving them the dignity of their own example number?

 One of the books I am reading is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It is by Barbara Kingsolver at her non-fictional best.

In this book, she weaves her family's tale of how they abandoned their Arizona life of siphoned water sources and trucked in food stores in favor of a smaller carbon foot print in rural Virginia on a farm inherited from family. It begs many questions and makes a reader wonder how the hell America has managed to arrive in the situation we are in with regard to food.

The oil crisis is magnified by the incredible amount of oil, required to truck food around the country. There are many sources for food far more localized than cross-country or another continent. Have a farmer's market nearby? Then there is a great place to buy what is probably fresher and healthier food than the genetically modified stuff (technical term) available at major grocery stores. Participating in a "CSA" or a community supported agriculture program is another path to travel. Here, for a modest money contribution, a nearby farmer will ensure delivery of his produce, eggs, and additional "farmerish" products to you on a weekly basis. Of course, as my friend, and occasional relative, Jazzy-Jenn says that she has "read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. It is a good book. That life style does require becoming good friends with your kitchen."  Perhaps that is the location of the rub for yours truly. Although I am a good (not great, just good) cook, I neglect that skill whenever possible.

Even though I love having tangerines in June, there was something to say for them being a substantial treat in the cold weather months.  When I was a wee tiny Scoop, they would actually appear in my Christmas morning stocking treasure inventory along with walnuts. I loved it. Seasonal food was, well, to turn a phrase, SEASONAL FOOD. That used to mean that certain things were only available during selected times of the year. They also tasted better because artificial scientific parlor tricks weren't being enforced to produce or store them. The raw flavor came through rather than the diluted variety associated with forced growth and production.  How do you structure a policy of delayed sexual activity with youth when we can't live without blueberries all year? It is all about more immediate gratification now with regard to everything. Food is just emblematic.

Can we return to a base of fewer chemicals on our plates and more nutrition and increased taste at the cost of having seasonal, local selections? You be the judge. Just go to your local web browser and do a Boolean search with the terms:  community sponsored agriculture AND (enter your geographic location here). One of my results was Graceland Farms in Midland, VA . They support Northern Virginia delivery. There are many others. As a matter of fact, I bet if Jazzy-Jenn reads this, she'll email me the link of the one she uses.

Meanwhile, it is time for this gal to prepare for the rest of my day. WARNING: Later this week I will be traveling. Oddly enough, BREEZEWOOD, PA will NOT benefit from my carbon footprint abuse this time. No, no, no. Nashville is the destination of choice. It is the home of loved ones AND country music. I am hoping to get my fill of both and maybe some Tennessee produce.

Permit me to leave you with a "puzzlement" for reflection: What is the difference between a GEEK and a NERD?  Many find them interchangeable terms and I say a resounding NO! They have definite differences in their application.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Stay cool, my friends. I wish you the best in your attempts to obtain and maintain air-conditioning. I'm in good straights, but financially impoverished from ensuring my home's internal temperature. It is a preferred status, believe me. Meanwhile, I'll be praying the Sorrowful Mysteries as I hit Interstate-81 South and wish you the best in safety as you traverse that ribbon o'highway in your search for Nirvana this summer. Stop at a roadside veggie stand and ask the people where they obtained their produce. Ask if those peaches, tomatoes, eggplants, and squash have high-mileage or not. Think local as you hit the road.  J'reviens and Happy Bastille Day and Morgan Brannigan's Birthday. Miss you, Dad. Hope you are having that Banana Cream Pie with Kathy.

Anonymous commented with the following:
        Great Country Farms, Bluemont VA (above Leesburg) does a coop program where you subscribe and they deliver out of their own fields. Also, nice field trip out to them (through Middleburg Wine Country) to pick your own on a hay ride...

        That said, just know some "roadside stands" are going down to the terminal in the a.m. and picking up trucked in produce... know your "farmer!"
       As for keeping planes in the air, my personal approach is to pray for "safe, scheduled landings" on the premise that it's the unscheduled, sudden stops that are the problem. (This all purpose approach covers the take off and landing in one convenient, all-purpose package!

------------------Lady Em from the Greek Islands writes:

Even this German can be creative!

Love you and as always inspired by you.  You are AMAZING!!  


----------------------And this from "Tuck Everlasting"
Loved this one as much as the others and it is true that the rosary is one of my most treasured items that I carry in my purse everyday.  It belonged to my mother and now I carry it and say it as well.
Loved your comments about road side stands.  Whenever Tom and I would go for rides we would stop at a stand and get whatever he felt we needed (since he was the cook for an while anyway) and we would enjoy and apple etc. going down the road.  Your ideas are great and I wish more people would listen and do just some of the things you have suggested.
Thanks for keeping me in your very special group of friends as you will always be in mine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Skoolz Out and Life's Poetry

Special Note:
As many of you know, I am currently celebrating this portion of the academic calendar. WooHoo.
Here I am, writing just a little early. Please know that I do it just for you, my sweet.

On with the show:
I saw a sign today that read "Poetry is everywhere."
I have to agree. It is in the written word, movements, and even the food we experience on a daily basis.

Does this man really need make up to impress you?
I'd like to start this blog with a quick nod to one of my favorite poetic interpreters: Alice Cooper.
Let's review class:
"School's out for summer       (Mr. Cooper is pushing the apostrophe usage here: poetic license is at play.)
 School's out forever
 School's been blown to pieces   (Figurative expression. Please don't report me to Homeland Security.)
 Well we got no class
 And we got no principles         (I would spell it princiPALS like Sister Regina suggested as a memory trick.)
 And we got no innocence        (Sure, go ahead and remind me AGAIN.)
 We can't even think of a word that rhymes (Quite possibly my favorite line in this piece.)

Thank you, Alice. Now take a seat and get your homework and notebook out. Opps, sorry for the seasonal slip. It takes about a week for any teacher to physically unfurl and to mentally shift gears.

Years ago, back when the Earth was green and oil-ball-beach free, a dear friend of mine, who will remain nameless (Kae Lewis) moved from the Keystone State's Steel City (back when it earned its name with belching chimneys) to the Golden State, and all that the 1969 Western Expansion program promised. A few years following, and when the airlines were permitted to have "youth" fares without being accused of age discrimination, two of us followed suit just to do a quality check.
Disney's frozen bananas were met with great trepidation at first; but after a taste sample, it was adopted as a new favorite, but VERY unconventional, treat. Cuisine was much less exotic in those days. Bananas had only been witnessed in cereal bowls, ice cream splits, or directly from the peel. This was a culinary awakening at the time. Look at our clothes folks. We needed an awakening. And I needed to return the altar boy's smock to the church where I stole it. God help me, who let me loose back then?

Through the years, many other Pittsburghers moved. Some went west such as Miss Lewis ( left, center, Photo credit: Constance Lewis) and her family. Some of us scampered south-bound to Virginia like the carpetbaggers we are. Some were off to, well, you spin the globe and point your finger. We, the people from Pittsburgh, are everywhere you can name. Most of us participating in the search for economic liberation and gainful employment.

We search for each other and seek reminders of our home with the reliability of a Garvin GPS. Decades later, our necks reflexively snap at the very sight of the black and gold color combination. We love the Steelers. We worship the Penguins. We even pretend to still like the Pirates, especially if a non-Pittsburgher is talking smack about them. If you follow baseball, you know that we needn't go further to pledge our allegiance. More importantly, every town has a Pittsburgh bar. You can depend on it. Next time you travel, ask the concierge and they will direct you for a small fee and you won't need to go all that far.

Example: Enter Mike and his shop in Warrenton, Virginia.  Check out a map to see where this is located. Hint: it isn't near Pittsburgh.
On The Run Sports and The Iron City Hot Dog Shop 
The text color doesn't fully indicate that this is a link to his web site. [Please scan down Mike's web page for a view of current western expansion results.]

 Once you cross the threshold of ON THE RUN SPORTS or THE IRON CITY HOT DOG SHOP, you're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the STEELER NATION!

Mike has a fantastic sports store on one side of his enterprise and a Pittsburgh style "hang out" on the other, complete with an extensive inventory of black and gold gear. [Sorry Digital Ghost, I thought this one photo of you in disguise would pass muster.  By the way, Troy Polamalu wants his hair back.]

Talking with Mike over an authentic chipped ham bar-b-q sandwich, and a cold beverage, he waxed poetic (see it fits into today's theme) about the town we love. His philosophy is that none of us really WANTED to leave; we all were pressured into it for the love of an income. We didn't hate it. We didn't leave because we were angry. We left because we were forced during the tremendous economic shift that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is when the gun fired for the state of the race to search for a new home. It marks the time when America, as a nation, started losing its industrial base as milked factories were closing in favor of golden parachutes and foreign profit margins. That was the last decade when the news reported on the Gross National Product. In a service-based economy there really isn't a product, so that isn't reported. We use unemployment to gauge things now. To me, it is a scary proposition for the U.S. to not have more manufacturing and be able to be more self-reliant for raw goods. That is a blog in and of itself.

But as Mike waxed, it is why we have the STEELER NATION. That is why we are still so incredibly loyal. It is why we still proudly sport black and gold well into the territory of other gang colors. We do so with the confidence that we will meet members of the cavalry who will readily back us up. Our tribe is there, flying the colors and sending the safety signal. Once we see and greet each other, we are home again, if only in our hearts.


Mike proudly serves nothing but products created in Pittsburgh. He has a secret recipe for his bar-b-que sauce for his chipped ham sandwiches served on potato bread buns. His preference is the classified blend of ingredients passed on to him by his parish priest at Holy Trinity Church in McKeesport, Father Bunchek. It is sinfully delicious. (you saw that coming, didn't you. I mean, really.)  Well, Father, if Mike is true to your recipe, I worship at  your altar.

This is where we come nearly full-circle with our little story. After receiving an emailed copy of the pink notice on the left, Kae, now residing in Cally-four-knee-a, decided to gather her posse and give them a taste of her home town. It was a resounding success.

If I may, I'd like to quote Ms. Lewis: "We got inspired by your Isaly's memento (in pink no less) and Greg decided to best ol' Fr. Bunchek (our very own) in the kitchen. We gathered friends and family for chipped ham BBQ samiches, slaw and the works.  We all toasted you with a beer or three (but alas not Irons). And attached is the evidence.... Here's pal, Kansas-Sue, ready for her finger-lickin treat!!"

Even at a distance of 2,737 miles, it is apparent Mr. Greg nailed the sauce. If you check the strategically placed dribbles on the plate just near "Kansas-Sue's" right thumb, you can see it had reach the right consistency. Quite properly presented too, Mr. Greg.... Heck's Kitchen would be proud of you, my brother.

My last entry in the Food Poetry Segment can be found on the outskirts of Luray, VA, just near the amazing Luray Caverns. It is the one and only Flotzie's Soft Serve!!!! No, that is not me at the counter window; but that is not to say that I haven't frequented it.

As you head further west from Mike's Steel City Hot Dog Shop in Warrenton, VA, traveling about 35-40 more miles, you will probably be ripe for a cool confection and Flotzie's is the place. As you can see, they are no strangers to the art of marketing. Okay, so they aren't the only raconteurs to put the "e" in sundae, they are the ones angling those bargain hunting consumers out of their pews and into their line. I'm impressed that they go the distance to ensure that you are worshiping God as you know her that day as they check the date on your bulletin or it is no discount for you, you sinful loser. You just might have to wait until Tuesday when we're not sure if you are just glad to see us or if you are only interested in a split of another kind. (Photo: my design consultant and niece, Kerry)

My buddy and monk, Father Mark told me that "People are hell. You don't have to wait to die and go anywhere. You deal with hell right now." To that there is a corollary: Perhaps heaven is here and you needn't wait to die for it either. Sometimes people are heavenly. Special among them are card carrying members of the STEELER NATION.

Thanks for your time reading my poetic missive. If you need directions to any of the locations mentioned, try Mapquest.Com.  As for me, I'm heading west, young man. Straight on to Mike's, making a right to Flotzie's, on to the third star on the left and then going straight til morning. See you next week, unless I am inspired to be in touch earlier. Of course, if you need to reach me before then, call the switchboard and leave a message. Gertrude, our trusted operator, will help you the best she can until I can return the call. God bless and Go Steelers.