Monday, January 26, 2009


Those of you who have been in my company for more than one hour know it is imperative that I have my coffee. The right coffee too. Flavored coffees are good as long as it is something relatively basic such as hazelnut, cinnamon, mocha, vanilla: all good selections. You can keep those wacky blends featuring pumpkins, blueberries, pineapple: they just ain't fittin'. No old coffee either, thank you. If it isn't fresh, then save it for your next cup, but brew a new pot for me.

Cups are so very critical. As in boating, the vessel makes the trip. Such is true with coffee. The cup will make or break the brew. Styrofoam, plastic, glass, ceramic and thermal all bring their own experience to the counter. Shape, yup, it is just as important. Tea cups and breakfast cups are both co-dependent with saucers, so I am prone to avoid them. Too much juggling and dripping for me. GIVE ME A MUG.

The best mug I've had in a long time is a Starbuck's product. It answers the mail in functionality and serves to keep my caffeine warm. The problem: I BROKE IT YESTERDAY AND I AM CRESTFALLEN. Not only did it do the job, it also brought fond memories of my hometown of Pittsburgh. Starbuck's has a line of architecture mugs featuring major cities in the US and Canada, but this particular mug was one of a kind (sort of) since it is the only NON city one in the collection. It proudly displays the words SCHENLEY PARK and holds silhouettes of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning and the Mary Schenley fountain, designed by the same man who created the Lincoln penny design.
Why else am I in love with this cup's artwork? The vantage point of the artist's view is from the old Forbes Field Ballpark's left field wall, which is the only part of the park still in existence. Well, okay, Pitt's law school building immortalized home base in the lobby. It is so easily missed by those of us who remember that historic ball field AND DON'T KNOW IT IS INSIDE THE STUPID BUILDING. My Dad directed traffic near that spot during game days. I'd give him a kiss before charging in during 7th inning stretch and he'd slip me some change for a treat.

Some of the best days of my youth was spend in the shadow of one and the waters of the other. We were city kids without the benefit of a backyard swimming pool, so creativity was crucial. The Central Carnegie Library was near these two landmarks, so you could check out a book and then hit the fountain for a cool splash. Following that, if there was a day game, an elevator ride in the tallest educational building in the world (42 floors, thank you very much) would literally offer you a bird's eye view of the Pirates at Forbes Field, just behind the fountain. All you needed was a transitor radio with a fresh 9-volt so you could hear the scores from Bob Prince. I remember my beautiful cousin Carolyn's photo was in the newspaper standing in front of the Cathedral of Learning. She is tall. It is tall. 'Nuf said. Study in comparison. Her very sweet baby sister, Joan, was in the paper shortly after demonstrating the art of brushing teeth. I thought they were celebrities and wondered how they could both be so lucky.

So, folks, if you are in a Pittsburgh Starbucks and you see one, please snag it for me. I'll pay the freight and collect it next time I'm in town. I'm just concerned I'll miss this limited edition. Meanwhile, I am going to do my best with glue and hope it won't fail me when its filled with hot coffee.

On a more serious note, today is January 26. Not too noteworthy, except it marks the 19th year of my dad's passing. Morgan James Brannigan. His birthday was Bastille Day. It was the greatest because he never wanted a cake. He delighted in banana cream pies and it was the only day of the year he ever had one, at least at home. He loved my mom, Mary Lou, forever; but, there was always another girl in his life: Mary Jane. You know, the candy that Bit-o-Honey wishes it was. He always had a private stash hidden in a paper lunch bag in an end table or dresser drawer.

Dad in the Army Air Corps during the GREAT War
Morgan attended Central Catholic High School, but never graduated. His family's support was required, so he went to work at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. From there Morgan went on to the U.S. Army Air Corps. You'd better not refer to it as the Air Force to him as he'd blast directly into a detailed history that the Air Force didn't start until after 1949. Right: Dad and his friend Red Butler in Italy. Following that, he nearly thought he was Italian if you checked the dishes he loved cooking.

Following the GREAT War, welding was his first profession. He loved it and always had positive memories of his time with Wiggins Electric before it moved to Mississippi.
Dad always regretted never graduating. So, in the late 60s he sat for his G.E.D. test and proudly scored the highest in Pennsylvania's testing history at that time. Certainly his record has been surpassed, but it can't dilute his thrill at that claim to fame.

His sense of humor was infectious, sophisticated and silly all at the same time. Although he didn't do this often, it was noteworthy when he'd ask Mom to dance. We may have just finished dinner or it could have been in the middle of Saturday afternoon chores when the urge would strike. She'd say NO and he'd start without her, to our amusement, following her through the dining room and maybe into the next. He'd get wilder the more she'd avoid him. One time summer day he "stripped naked to the waist" as the good nuns would say and threw his arms straight out to his sides, just like Christ on the cross. From there he bent his knees and started to shimmy, laugh, and sing "Why Don't You Kiss Me Like Your Sister Kate" to my mother's sheer disgust. It was confection!

Dad was cool too. He'd sachet through the house channeling Bing Crosby while crooning his hits. He'd shoot his revolver from the back porch on New Years; taught me how to write with 4 pencils at one time when I needed to copy "I will not talk in class" 100 times in fourth grade; took us on picnics; let us sleep on the porch on a hot summer night and polished World War II adventure stories making them both fun and historic, deftly omitting the horrific parts he witnessed.
Dad with Blarney at 4010 Lees Corner Road, Chantilly, VA

When we'd "come of age" he'd sit us down and pass on his Golden Rules. My version included the instructions that I could do what ever I wanted; but, what ever it was, I'd better be able to get myself out of it. It worked. Since he was a policeman, there was a corollary: Don't embarrass him on the job. If you did, you'd wish you were dead, because he promised to kill you. Again, it worked. Probably because I was basically a good kid, I loved him too much to offend him and when I was young I could run fairly fast. He also backed my mother down when I told her I wasn't changing my name when I married back in 1975. He thought it was best thing ever; she thought it was horrible protocol breach. In the end, it saved extra paperwork.

Morgan was a hell of a great father, friend, brother, son, worker, musician and chef who took on all his roles with a tireless energy, even in the face of exhaustion. Lung cancer proved to be his last battle, but he relinquished to it while projecting faith in our future and that he'd be joining other loved ones who were waiting. I know you are there for us too.

Thanks for everything, Dad. You are gone from here, but certainly not forgotten. My cup runneth over for having you as long as we did.


After clearing out every misty eyed Barackophile in the known world AND cleaning the National Mall one might thing that would be enough for January. How wrong we both are! As soon as Amtrak, Greyhound, airports and every major highway carted everyone home, 200 thousand Right-To-Life supporters marched on the capitol.
Following them, people who had tickets but didn't make it in to the inauguration stood as a collective gazing on the seat of the federal government as if it was an amusement ride. Even in the cold winter weather, people are pouring in here as if we're giving away money. ;-} In the 70s, during Watergate, I wore a T-shirt that read "I'M NOT A TOURIST: I LIVE HERE." All that bought me was lost souls asking for directions. For all the inconveniences, it is so wonderful people come here to speak their voice and lodge their opinion.

Have a great week and stay warm and healthy.
And so it goes... Scoop


  1. Irene, You aren't alone. He did too. He always would imitate him and his style of singing. Then when he found out about "the other side" he said he was a bastard, but still a great singer.

  2. Aunt Ruthie

    I loved your blog about Grandpap. I cried. I can't believe how much I love him and how it feels like he was just here with me. It's too hard to accept that he's been gone 19 years. I feel like I've needed him and he's been there, even though it's just been through my prayers and dreams. Thanks for bringing him to me again tonight.

    Love, Lisa

  3. thinking of you and Morgan, whom I fondly remember. Ruth, is Mary Lou still w/us. Sorry for that question. I surely hope so.

    I enjoyed feeling your energy, honey. Same wonderful, brilliant, warm and of course funny Ruth.

    Love you and have a good day,

  4. I will keep my eye out whn Itravel to the burg for a coffee cup for you..the thing that I find interesteing IS I have to have my coffee in those kind of vessels too, I also drink the same kind...must be a CHS thing!! haha..Also I do you remember cutting class to go to the fist game of the season and ending up at Pitt and touring the whole place AND..I think that is how I got to meet some people at the radio station is it not?? from you right?? forgot about that until ya Ruthie...and miss your Dad too...KK

  5. Mary Lou is doing fine at 87 years young, as Bill Burns used to announce. She lives in an assisted living facility and loves it since she is still a social butterfly. Her hearing still presents a challenge, but she works around it. Memory issues are periodically more noticed, but we all work around that. So, everything is well considering her healthy history.
    Thanks for asking. I'll tell her you said hello.

  6. Ms. Kramer: Do you think it is finally safe for us to come out of the cover of darkness and admit to our challenging behavior? Oh, I remember cutting school for Forbes Field; getting free pizza from Flora Quinquae's father who ran the concession stand restaurant across the street; flirting with Pitt guys and using our middle names as an alias and telling them we were Mt. Mercy (Carlow College) English majors because that was the only thing we knew would transfer from our abbreviated database. As Mary Lou stated to Sister Marie Francis, RSM:
    "They are NOT evil: they are creative." And that is a direct quote. Hmmm, we could and should write a movie script. It would be a hit. Our antics could be a great blog, but then the Sisters of Mercy may send their attorneys.

  7. One more thing, Krissy, I also remember going to the Cathedral of Learning to see your Dad's brass plaque announcing he was the grand frommage of the Latin language.

    Labor omnia vincit, puella!

  8. What a beautiful and loving memories of your father you discribe. He was handsome and always sweet and funny the times I saw him Good memories indeed.
    Today 2-15-09 is the 5th anniversary of my mother's passing, and I miss her so much, but I know she is in the best place ever for eternity. Love ya,