Category Archives: Just Plain Stupidity
From November 6, two years ago. Is it better or worse, do you think?
“I was in the car a while ago, and I turned on the radio for a few moments to listen to a bit of music. The station was set to the one I have christened , only slightly sarcastically, as the “Communist News”. You are right if you thought, “A PBS station.” I listened briefly as an advertisement/cum program announcement caught my attention.
The bright young voice, a male one, enthusiastically informed the listening public of an upcoming story, announcing an exclusive on a couple somewhere who had arranged for another woman to share custody of their infant child with them. “This,” said the bright voiced young announcer, “is a new thing!” A “cut” from the story itself was next played in which another young male voice enthused about what they had just done, and how it would make life easier, and everyone happier, and life, in so many ways better, and, of course more fun. It is, of course, fun that is the best thing to have.
As an example of the wonderful benefits of this shared custody, he said, he and the mother of this, their child, would now be able to get away more often for lunches at their favorite place and not have to worry about their child.
I wondered what was their primary worry beforehand; the one that precipitated this move:
That they could not “get away” from their child?
That the child, if along with them, would act like a child?
That other couples similarly getting away would be upset by a child nearby?
That the management had rules about bringing a child into a “favorite place”, requiring that children be left outside with the dogs?
And I thought how terribly uncomfortable children were, after the first few minutes of coition; wondered further why we even bothered with them. I went to the library and borrowed a copy of “Brave New World”. I think I shall read it to see what advice it gives about children and favorite places.
I am convinced this couple could benefit from it.
Quite possibly, everyone reading this might benefit.
In one way or another.
There was no such thing as a Government Plan when I was a much, much younger person.
One’s eyes, one’s hopes, were not directed toward the SOG wherein all hope is now supposed, perhaps soon to be required, to be placed. No such thing was bethought as cradle to grave care from it. It all began to change shortly before my arrival when two cars, garages, pots and chickens were first promised us, and it was hinted in speech and song that woe, worry, sickness and ignorance would give way to Heaven here at last.
Happy Days! But, not quite yet. We had not that what? That purity, the “election”for the gifts to be ours ahead; for that thing called Health Insurance, or Auto Insurance, or, for almost every family I knew in my part of The Bronx, Life Insurance. Nor were the thought to be quite needed by most. We still had feet to walk with, hands to work with. But, we would learn. We would learn…and want.
Not that it matters, but I remember as a young fellow first hearing the term Life Insurance and being confused. You may think about my reason for confusion.
Bank accounts, if they existed, rarely amounted to more than a few hundred dollars. Shoe boxes under the bed, or in your mother’s bureau was what mattered most when it came to family finance. And, as far as I knew when compared to now, problems were fewer. I wonder why, sometimes.
Now, the shrill voices of discontent and the fraudsters (and people beaters) of progress, the elevaters, the redeemers, of the race, the species, the world, the cosmos, by God (those among them who believe there is one), like wild horses in a Western (are they still made?), stampede ahead on, to take a line from a once popular Irish song, “on the road to God knows where…” Driven by only God knows what. Though I suspect it is the conviction that they are god. And most of the grimy believers in the dry dust behind plod grimly on.
I read a short thing the other day, a kind of comparison between how two Englishmen thought the world might turn out: the guy who wrote 1984 and the one who wrote Brave Knew World. The one looked into the future and saw what the Soviets were doing; everything in shades of grey, way beyond 50, which has been realized in North Korea, in China. Other forces proceed in their own strange way to their own version of a parousia places like Afghanistan, where that strange and terrible phenomenon called islam has taken hold; and whose thousand years plan is to take over everything, or kill it.
That other was perhaps a bit more correct, seeing into a future like ours, a place where no one matters but “ME”. but with a much more invasive and evil genetic twist, which we seem to have changed into simply medically induced death at both ends of natural life. And that, for no other reason it seems than “Because”.
I am about a third of the way through a book by a little, old and frail German fellow, Joseph Ratzinger. He’s a a good fellow, sharp as a tack, who dresses funny. That may be why a lot of folks don’t take him seriously. But, despite his decidedly Medieval sense of fashion, as is said, “Good things, etc.” This book I mentioned? This little thing is good. It’s full of stuff some people call, “Money Quotes”. Here is one. It’s near the beginning. Hell, everything is near the beginning in this book. You could take a flight across the country and you’d be finished before you reached Illinois. Anyway: “From the very beginning Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to be a religion in keeping with reason. When it identified its forerunners, these were primarily not in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which cleared the road from the various traditions that cluttered it in order to turn to the search for truth and to turn toward the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. “
This whole thing, this “mishegoss” which is a polite Jewish word for the madness, or better yet silliness, now going on, which most of us think is civilized behavior, began a couple of hundred years ago in France with the Enlightenment and such silliness as that very stupid little slogan about us and how many things we can measure. Every time I think of it I get a picture of five year old boys out behind the barn measuring their “dinkies”.
It is exactly the same thing as is taking place today in DC, and in every other legislative body in the country, at any level, especially the lower ones; but most publicly, and tragically in the SOG because of its influence and effect on the rest of us. And, neither do I wish to pass over the, what were once called for some too long ignored good reasons, the institutions of higher education; and our information sources, all of them which, with the exception of a few dozen Catholic schools and publishing establishments have relocated to Gommora, and are, in the very same way a totally drunk idiot may be said to be doing it, printing junk. And teaching it..
This ain’t a Gloomy Guss talking. Nope, it’s me who has seen and been in the middle of, for my working life, the incredible mess we are in. The only way out is what the little German guy suggests at the end of his book: “Begin with the folly of faith, and you will attain knowledge. This folly is wisdom, this folly is truth.”
The only truly happy, and wise people I have ever met are former drunks, former drug addicts and and former Democrats. They may be best compared to the folks who made it into the lifeboats as the liner went down; or had decided on a walk in the country the day the bomb fell. That kind of happiness is more than happiness. Thankfulness.
I read an article this morning about the state of the nation, more or less, in which the author, a former newspaper man, mentions meeting a young girl long ago, a runaway; who responded to his cautionary words about the perils of being so young and so alone in the wide world, so at the mercy of its less than honorable denizens, with, simply, “I knowed that.”
Why are runaways so damned smart, or desperate?
A long time ago in New York City my partner Richie had an informant; a tall slim fellow, more a wolf than a fox or coyote, who had moved down from deep in the wilds of Harlem to the newly target rich environment of the East Village. It was the “Summer of Love” and a great migration of runaway fools, in spirit and intelligence more resembling sheep, or better yet, Al Capp’s “Shmoos”, than human beings, had come down from Westchester, Greenwich and other rich enclaves in and about “Near Connecticut”. They were the acolytes and devotees of Timothy Leary; tuning in, turning on and dropping out in slums and hovels and , well, “shit holes”; once occupied by their European immigrant grandparents, and now probably owned by a few of their enterprising uncles and cousins or their business partners.
I suspect many of them never made it back home, dying in one way or another in what was then a wasteland and is now, in all probability, just a more expensive and “trendy” wasteland, with better drugs, and better dressed wolves.
The Shmoos who survived are today’s mayors, congressmen, film producers, authors, entertainers, TV hosts and editors; the rat tailed elders of the tribe. There have been several generations of Shmoos since, many of them available for viewing nightly; running around lighting fires and throwing things when not screaming obscenities and demanding absurdities.
We moved among them, my partner Richie and me, in part something like Game Wardens, something like herd dogs, and, in the end totally ineffectual. It is hard to keep the flock safe when it insists on bending it’s neck to the wolf.
Anyway, back to the Wolf from the ‘Hood. I cannot remember his name, but Sylvester keeps presenting itself. So, I will call him Sylvester. He is more than likely dead. Wolves have short lives.
Sylvester became Richie’s informant because, well, wolves are clever animals, and becoming an informant is, really, only a part time occupation. Most of the rest of the time, one is free to be a wolf and do what a wolf does; look for sheep to eat. We know that. The wolves know it, too. They know it very well. In fact, “wolves” become informants to thin the pack, and from no humanitarian motive, no feelings of charity for the sheep at all. Sheep are merely prey.
In the course of our association with Sylvester the Wolf (he would be very proud of that name) he gave us enough information about other wolves to remove some of them from circulation for upwards of five years; which made Sylvester happy and satisfied our supervisors and several prosecutors. But, there came a time when we needed to “straighten Sylvester out”. He was complicating the intricate and delicate arrangement we had with him by becoming more than a “source of information”, a term we actually used to describe cooperating wolves. He was , we learned, actually participating in “Pack” activities.
And so, we called him aside, tightening his leash so to speak, and training him to be a better wolf for us. Part of this required us telling him about the word “conspiracy” and its meaning; that one could actually gather with other members of the pack, and learn what they planned to do with the sheep nearby, and when; but one could not actually do it. To know when and how something was to happen, and who was going to do something was what we wanted. To do anything that would help it take place was to be an active member of the conspiracy, and that was something neither we nor the wolf we had wanted. After long instruction the light dawned, and Sylvester understood; as much as a wild animal was capable of understanding
“Conspiracy,” he said. “That be when you knows knowledge!” Well, yes, we told him; and then tell us. He smiled a wolfish smile. I shuddered, at the grin and what I imagined was going on in his wolfish brain.
I was not too concerned that Sylvester would be reduced to penury because he could no longer do what he “knowed” would happen with the other pack members. He had other means, which involved other forms of sheep hunting; particularly among the young ones who “knowed that”.
After a year or so we lost track of Sylvester. Maybe he was killed by another wolf. It happens.
I do not mourn him.
From time to time, though, I think of him and I wonder if he is in another place and finally “knows knowledge”. I presume the what he has learned has not been good news for him. And, you know, I sometimes wish it hadn’t turned out the way I think it has. Sylvester the Wolf had not a few redeeming features. So do we all, even Shmoos.
I will reserve my opinion on mayors, congressmen, film producers, authors, entertainers, TV hosts and editors; the rat tailed elders of the herd.
Here is a link to the article I read this morning: The Catholic Thing
Here is a letter I have written to Fr. Robert Shanley, President of Providence College, and who is currently presidentially presiding over the very dignified and collegial lynching of a great scholar, a devout Catholic defender of the Truth, and a good and decent man. I imagine him in his robes of office: aloof, yes, compassionate, of course, aware of all the necessary facts, without question, and deeply concerned for the lives, and souls and the, well, the reputations about to be supported or sacrificed for the greater good of the school and benefit of all mankind. It is what presidents do…when not playing golf or hosting benefactors, delivering speeches and looking magisterial and compassionate, wise and consoling, boundlessly merciful and intuitively practical; when being, in a word, godly:
Rev Robert Shanley, O.P.
1 Cunningham Square
Providence, RI 02918 USA
Dear Father Shanley,
You have been described to me by people better informed than I am as a philosopher, an art of which I have only a passing knowledge. And as a priest, and a Dominican at that, I am reasonably sure that you are more than well versed in Catholic theology. Indulge me in a little bit of my own background, stories from my youth about philosophy and theology.
Father Anthony Rubsys, who went to Heaven, I am sure, in August, 2002, was a refugee from Communism who came to America during the Hungarian uprising. He was a biblical scholar fluent in seven languages, a good and gentle, a loving, man. He taught me in class and counseled me out of it. He was extremely intelligent, extremely gentle and deeply concerned for The Good. Why else not, I have often wondered while thinking about and praying for him; a man who saw and suffered much, all of it the result of when and where he lived before coming to this country, through the horrors of Nazism and the Second World War and the soul sickening weight of post-war Communist rule.
As an assignment in one of his classes, I wrote a paper on Thus Spake Zarathustra. I was taken then with the Strauss tone poem, and stupid student stuff. So I wrote the paper and handed it in. Several days later Father Rubsys returned it with this note in his handwriting above my title, which was something like Superman, “Why do you waste your time on this when the faith has so much more to offer, to study?” I cannot remember much beyond the title of the thing I wrote about. Nor can I remember much about the music, except what bit of it opens that film by Stanley Kubrick. Few, I suspect, will remember much about it, if anything at all in another hundred or so years. Almost no one knows the film’s music’s title.
Harry Blair was a much decorated World War II veteran, a tank commander in Gen. Patton’s Third Army, a tragic man, and a Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar. I took every class of his that I could and got to know him very well. He drank too much; but, I suppose, he had every reason to do that. When he taught King Lear his classroom was filled beyond capacity. His rendering of the King’s speech in the storm on the moor brought more than one student to tears, myself included, as we listened to an old man pour out his grief at having given his life to his children and been misunderstood, spurned, betrayed, cast away.
I once had a letter published in the school’s newspaper…the editor was a friend of mine…and Harry read it, of course. The letter called for the “aggiornamento” underway in Rome to be extended and applied at the school, for there to be a radical change in, well, just about everything. I remember I called not only for windows to be opened but walls to be demolished and ended with “I would have no church at all!” Brave words, I have thought more than once since. Brave words for the inferno we face, now. We sat together, Harry and I at the bar in the Pinewood drinking an afternoon beer and he showed me the issue of the paper with my letter, quietly asking me what had possessed me to write it. Seriously I answered at length about all of the things I saw that were wrong and needed changing. “You are very young,” he answered, and then we went on to talk of other things, though I do recall him wondering aloud about the lady I was soon to marry and asking how she felt, how I might feel when I was a father. But, there he left it.
Bear with me, please, Father. I do have a point.
There is no doubt that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a philosopher like yourself, and a great and good man. Were he a Catholic, I suppose his cause would already have been introduced. In many ways he was a martyr for the truth, and a lover of the beautiful in people, in society and in all of creation; even when found in the Gulag, anterooms to hell built and maintained by hell’s servants here on earth. Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but, nevertheless… Joseph Pearce, who wrote an excellent biography of Solzhenitsyn, has written his own story, and a fascinating one it is. He calls it Race With the Devil, and discusses his descent into violent racism and hate, and ascent from it through the grace of God. Indulge me in a quote from Pearce’s book:
“My descent into delinquency was aided and abetted by the progressive philosophy adopted by the school. No effort was made to impose discipline, which resulted in the triumph of anarchy in the classroom… (The) disruptive elements made it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to teach and for students to learn.”
I apologize for the size of the quote. I cannot figure out how to change the font. Nevertheless, it’s the sad truth and the tragic cause of the matter at hand, and the inevitable result of the choice in this matter (and in how many others?) you and the faculty quislings who brought this complaint against Professor Esolen to you seem, for all of your wisdom, training, education and Catholicity, to have made. That the “death” of one man is necessary.
And, I cannot understand why you did what you did; a great disservice to the students , confirming them in their stupid and uncharitable, selfish and infantile behavior…at the same time causing pain, anxiety and worry to not only this good man and his family, but thousands of other people who have never yet met the man face to face but know and treasure him through his prolific good works, his brilliantly clear and consistently charitable mind, and his reliably masterful scholarship.
You are a priest and pastor, too, finally much more important callings than mere president. Have you acted in this instance as either one?
I expect that Caiaphas was thought a wise and good man, a president, so to speak, who gave no help when help was needed. And, of course, we all know what to think of Pontius Pilate, who simply gave up before the angry mob.
Which of the two should one say best describes you in this matter?
PS: I only know of one other person named Shanley, a fellow I came across many years ago when I was working. He was a Wormtongue, covert slave to Saruman. In other words a coward and a traitor.
Good Morning Sunshine(s):
I remember the famous quote from someone getting his head handed to him: “Why can’t we all just get along?” Or, it was something along those lines. Whatever it was, it’s become more or less a New Commandment; as in “I give you a new commandment! You shall get along with everyone! You shall be tolerant, and diverse, and non-judgmental of your neighbors. You shall not think their behavior savage, profligate, illegal, immoral or fattening lest you cause them to feel bad! I am the, umm, the Happy Face!”
It was something along those lines that I woke up thinking about today, remembering the recent accusations of treasonous behavior directed at a group of senators from the opposite party here in these Untied States who wrote a very public letter warning a very public enemy about the life expectancy of a deal in the making. A deal which a lot of folks, including the letter writers, not only think is not good, but is downright bad, not to say stupid, wrong and jejeune. But, we have come to expect such things from certain folks over the last half dozen or so years.
So, they think the deal’s wrong, all wrong, and said so. Well, at least we know where they stand on that issue. At least, too, they don’t meet their opposition, who was one of their own, on the porch of the Senate and stab him to death to preserve the Republic. But, it isn’t yet March 15th.
Some folks, not yet at the “calling someone treasonous” stage, lament such public displays of differences of opinion uttering versions of the “Why can’t we…” plea for harmony, unity, peace and good will. Being right (not politically, Dear. Puhleeze!) and acting that way causes disharmony. Being polite does not.
Well, sometimes polite is wrong and right is, well, honorable. I mean, it wasn’t right for former Rep. Wiener to show his naughty bits to a lady, even if some folks would say he had a right to do it…which I do not think he did, being after all married even if it was(is?) to a lady who works for a lady who has long thought it’s always right for her not to do the right thing (but what difference does that make?). But it was right to say, and that loudly, that it was wrong, that HE was wrong, even if some folks would have preferred to “avert eyes” from the rude behavior, and to reach the conclusion that his wrongness was much wider and deeper than a mere matter of dressing or not. Are you still following?
Stuff like this upsets a lot of folks. They want everyone, like the fellows above, the Senators of Great Discord, to just get along; because, after all they say, it’s the right thing to do. Families get along. Don’t they? They’re not polarized. Neither are countries; or they shouldn’t be. A nation needs to stick together and follow one leader. “My country, etc…” So they did in Rome, as recently as 70 years ago…and look what’s happened since. And, they did it in places like Germany, Russia and China which were paradises and thousand year empires, for a while. Then other folks started thinking it wasn’t right, more or less, not to be polarized about some things…most things…everyone said should be right, including, most importantly, a bunch of Dear Leaders, and Uncles. How else, one reasons in these cases, can Great Leaps Forward be accomplished unless everyone at all times thinks; nay believes with heart and soul, that all is right, and just, proper and helpful toward salvation?
While I continued thinking about this, I came across an article by a fellow with the odd sounding name of Hadley Arkes. He wrote about polarization, a bad thing to have say the right believers in this article; worse, I suspect, than Ebola, because it has proven fatal in many cases among the polarized. And Prof. Arkes concludes that it just might be right; despite what all of the folks who want us to have and exercise our rights in an atmosphere of smiling tolerance and agreeable silence say; vigorously exercise them, including the new ones which have been hiding in closets and shadows until coaxed out into the light by judges and oddly dressed or undressed people.
But, he, being a well educated fellow, and a real live professor of something, somewhere, says it much better than I ever could here.
Right’s never wrong. But sometimes, and lately quite often, “rights” are, and being polarized, even angrily so, about that is, to my way of thinking, right. The folks who argue against that, preaching tolerance of wrongs, will see nothing wrong, some sweet day, with putting people away who aren’t tolerant, diverse of opinion and supportive of one dear leader, a person not afraid of progress and change; a person to charge full speed ahead into the hope filled future. Dammit all! They’ll do it because they’ll say that those who don’t think right are wrong and have no rights, particularly the right to think the way they do about the right way of doing things, including such things as Prof. Arkes mentions in his little article..
They’ve done it before. And, they’ll do it again, to paraphrase a once popular song.
They’ll do it again.
No one likes a spoil sport, and it begins to look as though Washington, D.C. has become a town full of boys and girls who are just that. The playing field is empty. Everyone seems to have taken their ball and walked off the field to slouch around on the sideline, kicking stones and dirt and pointing fingers, calling names and trying to convince the helpless spectators (Us) that everyone else is at fault. But they? They are not to blame. Well, in a game this important, everyone not playing, everyone not willing to come out on the field and get it done, is in some part to blame.
What is really galling, though, are the attacks on the fans. You know what I mean?
The progress of events since this began is what I’m talking about: the barricades and closings of public spaces, even of the ocean, and the petty harassment of old and young is at once laughable and pitiful to witness, humiliating to live through, as if a close family member was a public drunkard, a child or dog beater. The venal attempts at humiliation of opponents, the snubbings and the kind of petulant silence masquerading as imperial, above the fray behavior on the part of the president haven’t been seen since Nixon, and surpass even his worst. To what good end are open spaces shut against men and women who have sacrificed much in service to the rest of us? What example does it set for our young people who most desperately need education and example in honesty, mutual respect, goodness and duty? Why are people offering services to hungry or tired travelers on federal roads prevented from doing so? Is it not just good for business? Does it not aid safety and could it nor be looked on as a work of charity? There’s Progress and Change that might bring real Hope to a bewildered and increasing frustrated and angry body politic..
But, the evidence so far suggests that no one inside the beltway really gives a tinker’s damn about anyone outside of it. It seems in some, or in all, of these cases that the “shut down” government has turned against the people whose government it is. It’s as if a kind of auto immune disease has infected us, or that DC is a tumor in our gut.
I am old enough to remember when we were shown the example of leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Wilson and Eisenhower (by God), and others, guys like Tip O’Neill, John Mc Cormack; men who pledged their lives and sacred honor to the life and honor of this once wonderful place.
Now what have we? We have a leaderless mob in government as out Chief Executive sits in his palace (when not somewhere playing golf) and refuses to come out to play…unless they use his ball. He refuses, even, to play unless he’s given a win before the game starts. Who plays like that? Caesars.
He is an intelligent man, I suppose, but he isn’t behaving as an intelligent man. His failure to “engage” with the other side on any level is more indicative of the behavior of a sulking child than an adult; a sulking child who wants his way in all things. One wonders if he actually indulges in infantile tantrums. It doesn’t take much to imagine him hurling White House china against a White House wall, kicking the dog, ripping up pictures of his political opponents. It probably hasn’t happened, but one doesn’t need much to imagine it.
Were he mine (my child that is) I would take the strap to him, and make him stand in the corner…or perhaps spend an hour or two in a bare closet. This is not an evil man, or a bad man. This is a spoiled and wicked child. I wonder, now, whether in years to come…when I will, God willing, be dead and finished with such stupidities as his (and everyone else’s in DC)…I wonder whether someone who saw him day in and day out will write about the dishes he broke, the furniture he tore up, the dogs he kicked during his childish and cruel snits. What a lamentably poor example he gives us of a “leader”.
Perhaps, and I have no way of knowing whether or not this is the case (and even less do I know if someone is smart enough to have thought of it), perhaps part of the Republican strategy included showing the venality and mean-spiritedness of the Obama Administration (and of the man himself). If so, they have done a masterful job of it. Open air war memorials, private business in or near public parks, the ocean(!!!???) closed or threatened to be closed. Religious services to the military forbidden and priests and ministers threatened with arrest. Tourists threatened with arrest for “trespassing” on public lands, among whom are elderly, frail and crippled veterans who may not live to get another chance to visit a place. Food stores on military bases closed. Sports shows to troops in combat stopped. These actions make Richard Nixon seem like someone’s kind and loving Grandpa, a seat of wisdom and cause for joy. It borders on totalitarianism.
Of course there is more than enough of stupidity on the other side of the dispute in this case, and more than enough arrogance. But no matter how one may wish it, that does not make it so that the Obama Administration, and ultimately the President himself, are not the ones responsible for such ill willed practices as I mentioned above, and for no reason it seems other than spite and a kind of vicious contempt. They are, and he, ultimately, is, no matter how cool and distant he appears to be, playing the hand dealt him by others he’d like us to see as slick gamblers and cheaters. That makes him a fool.
What does it advance to do those things? Who benefits? I’d rather a few golf courses be closed than food stores on military bases; a few lunch rooms in government buildings shuttered and cooks sidelined than houses of worship and their ministers threatened with jail, a few art museums locked than memorials to dead and living heroes blockaded. I suspect the majority of the people in the country would readily agree. This has become a worldwide embarrassment.
I am not on the other side of this thing. Neither Republican, Democrat, Liberal nor Tea party am I. I’m just one of the gob smacked millions wondering what the hell is going on down there, and not a little appalled by what we see. There ain’t nothing “masterful” about telling the truth. And truth is, Pilgrims, that truth is a commodity in short supply on the shores of the Potomac.
Oh, yes, and while this goes on, and the Chinese prepare to foreclose on our mortgage and dispossess all 350,000,000 of us, including illegals, Benghazi, where an invasion of US territory took place, and an Ambassador was murdered along with three brave men…remains forgotten.
Catherine Ann Fanning was born on June 18, 1883, in the little town of Leighlinbridge in Cty. Carlow, Ireland. She left at 16 and came to New York City. She went immediately to work ten hours a day in the laundry of a large convalescent home in the East Bronx. It’s still there. If you use the Whitestone bridge to get to Long Island you’ll see it, the large red stone building, on your left as you approach the toll booths. It borders St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
I don’t know how many years she worked there. I do know that she worked in similar places until she was in her seventies, nearly, and began to lose her mind.
She was my father’s mother. She never went home.
Years later I was there, in the little town she left, with a cousin. We went to a low hill in a cemetery overlooking the river Barrow and the lovely plain beyond. He told me a few stories of my grandmother’s family and the conditions in which they lived. While he spoke, I remembered her own stories, of one meal a day, and that cold potatoes or oatmeal, on land her father farmed for someone far away. “It’s our own land once again,” my cousin said. Listening quietly I knew why my grandmother never went home.
Nothing was there.
Ella McGowan was born in New York City very near the same date as Catherine Fanning in a place that used to be called The Five Points. Her father had grown up there, and she spent her young years there. She married a fellow named Downs and bore him four children in the first years of the 20th Century, the Edwardian Age to some; a time of elegance and excess. Mr. Downs? He fell in love with long distance and left her and the kids in The Five Points, a place a slum dog millionaire would avoid.
She was my mother’s mother. She never went home, either. What use? It was demolished to make way for court houses and skyscrapers.
In their own way they were each as soft as kittens and as fierce as tigers. They both spent much of their day in prayer when I saw them on visits, or on longer stays at our very crowded apartment in Kingsbridge. I loved them both.
Ellen Frances MacAuliffe was my wife’s mother. Born in Ireland she left at 16, too, and came here. She had her own stories, about beatings and shootings in the street from the Black and Tans. But she never said a word about them, nor about her husband, who came home from two years in combat in Europe a wasted man, who abandoned her and her two children. She was a quiet, happy woman. Neither did my wife breathe a word, aside from the occasional, “When life gives you lemons…” kind of observation.
I loved them both.
There is a publication called Rolling Stone that appears regularly on the newsstands and is read by enough people to warrant the expectation of those who publish it that they can do it again, can feed themselves on its income. I wish they weren’t so full of hope. I had never read it until a day or so ago when I was interested enough to do it because my granddaughter , a journalism student, gave it what is called now a “shout out” for a story in it.
You have probably heard of the story. Desiring, I suppose, to place the story before the eyes of as many as possible, and to make the story’s point even more graphically, the cover of the issue was filled with the face of a doe eyed, soft faced young man. Framed with wavy black hair, the face could have been the subject of some Renaissance master, either in stone or oil; another David. The rest of the issue was mere filler to the young fellow’s story, the story of a cold blooded killer and the people who loved him, the story of a kid who had a difficult time not being “the best he could be”…and the people who knew him, helped him, befriended him and whom he betrayed. Some of these people, fellow students, were the ones who helped him by hiding the elements of his crime; accessories after the fact to bloody terrorism.
That was almost more disturbing to read about than the portrait the author painted of this fellow. In five or so pages, she detailed a life of woe and disappointment, frustration and discord, all endured while the young fellow and his family were well cared for by the state. He went to school, became a well liked athlete, earned the respect and fellowship of his peers, was a darling to his teachers. In the end, he was unsatisfied, though. So he became a terrorist.
Yesterday, while spending a quiet afternoon with some people I know who have had their own share of “bad times” I learned something. In the hospitals across Boston on the day that this nice young man and his brother set off their home made WMDs men and women with their own tough stories were picking nails and bits of metal from the shredded skin and burnt limbs of hundreds of victims of his bad mood.
There are other pictures to appear on Rolling Stone covers, and other stories to be written I suppose. And, well there’s really no sense in getting personal about this, but I can’t help wondering what in the world was so interesting about this kid killer’s life that required the time needed and the space devoted to telling it? You want to write about people whose lives were tough? Why not write about Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman or George Washington Carver? Why not tell the story of Elie Wiesel or Alexander Solzhenitsyn? Why not speak of Saints Josephine Bakitha, Kateri Tekakwitha or of Pierre Toussaint.
Instead we got five pages of “the rest of the story”, a depressing tale of disgruntled and ungrateful people blaming others for their failures and angrily biting the hands that fed them. Are we supposed to sympathize with them all, the killers and the fools, the complainers and the complacent?
Someone said that journalism’s purpose is to bring the truth to light. But what is the point in telling anyone the “truth” about losers, abettors and their mentors and friends? The only truth that matters here is that this young man is a killer and some of his friends are ignorant enough to think that helping a killer cover his horrible crime is a good thing to do. That was mentioned but was not covered by Rolling Stone. Why it wasn’t may be a story worth telling. It’s certain it won’t be told by Rolling Stone.
This story may have been an exercise in public relations, and badly done at that. It was certainly not truth, or journalism – however one conceives that thing.
It’s finally stopped raining up here in Cow Hampshire, and the happiest guys around are the “spooks” on surveillance. They showed up in the middle of a rainstorm, black cars, black suits; right after this guy Snowden played kiss and tell over in Hong Kong just a week or so ago.
Been here since. A nicer bunch of guys, and the occasional girl, you’d wouldn’t want to meet. Just folks, you know. They spend a lotta time in their cars and suburbans checking equipment, raising and lowering antennas. Making coffee runs. Stuff like that.
It was real funny the first night they were here when Moe Gannon, the local cop who does steady nights here, started giving them a hard time about over night street parking. You see, there ain’t none allowed up here unless you call the station and let ’em know. Agent Ed, a guy from Kansas, had to use my neighbor Harry’s phone to do that. He said it would show up at NSA real funny if he made the call from his work phone, because no one was supposed to know they were here. They got permission, but they also got a visit from the Chief. He has a cousin in the FBI out in LA. Wanted to know if Ed knew the guy. Harry said he’s not FBI. “Where you from?” the chief asks. “Kansas,” Ed says. “No,” says the chief, “who you with?” Ed points to the five or six other black cars and suburbans on the block, and says, “Them.” The chief nods and says, “Oh, NSA. I heard you guys are gonna be all over. Just watching, I’m told. OK.” He gets back in his car, and as he drives off he rolls down the window and says, “Gimme a call if you’re gonna be here more’n a week. Parks and Roads is supposed to pave up here next week, and you guys are gonna have to find something do to somewhere else. Stay dry.”
Anyway, you’d think that the gummint would give these guys some protection from the elements. But, Obama’s on his way to Africa where all he’s got to worry about is stepping in some Hippo splat, I guess, and he don’t care. Never really did, I suppose. It’s an IVY league thing, I guess. Even though most of them work for the gummint, or work for companies that work for the gummint they hate the gummint almost as much as they hate the rest of us who don’t play golf, know how to sail, or wear docksiders.
Now that’s pure prejudice, but the surveillance guys told me I could knock the IVY league. Just don’t say anything bad about Catholics. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Or maybe it’s marriage. I get mixed up.
Poor guys these surveillance guys and their dark suits, Presidential junkets at 100 mil a copy don’t get bothered by a sequester I guess. (I mean wouldn’t you want to get as far away from your screw ups as possible if you was him?) But a raincoat for a team of guys spying on everyone up and down the block in case we become a threat…or already are…a raincoat’s outta the question.
Homer, the agent from Alabama that got stuck up in the tree because he’s been squirrel bit and’s afraid to come down has got himself a NAAAAS-T-assed cold. He ran out of tissues yesterday afternoon. They just turned to a soggy ball of rain diluted snot in his pocket. His hankie’s too wet and everything else on him is wet and real UUUGGGLLLYYY!; messed up as mud season in March. He ain’t sitting up in that tree, he’s just oozing on one of the branches. He used up all the leaves within reach blowing his hooter. ( Not a pleasant sound, lemme tell you. ) He’s outside now about 40 feet up with his snot locker looking like a fire hydrant going full out, and a puddle of goop forming around the tree trunk and running out onto my neighbor’s drive. That dries around his wheels and Mike’s gonna have a tough time moving his car.
I don’t figure that the NSA thought about the weather after Snowden lifted the lid and that they wanted to get a handle on what was happening all over this land that’s your land, this land that’s my land, as old Woody once sang about.
I’m expecting that my iPhone will come today. NSA insisted that I get one so they could tap into it and download all of my traffic. They’re sending me a 7 year old kid to teach me how to run the thing. They got a whole division of seven year old kids fanning out across the country for that.
My only worry was that after I get checked out, aside from calling to check the time, I won’t have any use for it. When I told the NSA guy in charge of surveillance of everything on my block about this, he said, “Don’t worry about it at all. We got two plans for you: Plan A is where you sign up for 100 phone numbers to call, or get calls from so we can put them into our data base. That’s our Basic, and it’s real cheap. Plan B, which costs a little more, is what we call our Automatic Plan. That’s where you get enrolled in our NSA Random Phone Call Program (RPCP), and we simply assign a bunch of phone calls from all over the world to you every month. You can pick regions and numbers of calls, but we won’t let you do cities or neighborhoods. It’s easier on you, but you do have to pay more.”
“How much,” I asked. “The cost of the call if you had made it,” he said Then he explained that both the IRS and FBI needed that for tax and evidence purposes. “If you were to get on Welfare, it would all be free.”
Late last night, my neighbor Kyle snuck into my house through an open window in my basement. “What the hell are you doing that for, Kyle,” I asked. “You could have just come up and knocked on the door…and at a more decent hour, if you don’t mind.” Kyle was just standing there covered with cobwebs (DUH, it’s a basement???). And all he was wearing was his underwear.
“You don’t have time to get dressed?” I screamed. The least you could have done was wear a damned bathrobe!”
I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. Homer’s screaming for help.
Somewhere around this time last year, as Mitt Romney was in the third year of his second run for the presidency, and the Republican field had been narrowed to the population of several states from a number just a few short of infinity I decided that it might be necessary actually to vote for someone who existed, who was a real person. And so, I thought about voting for Mr. Romney, tall, handsome, smart and honest.
I had not voted for a human being in the last two elections; choosing instead to vote for Michael Mouse. I had even dreamed up a slogan for the little fellow’s campaign: MY MAN IS A MOUSE! I spoke to my friends, and may have convinced one or two of them (which would have been, possibly, more than I had of friends) to join in with me and promote MM’s run for the highest office in the land.
But, then, I listened to other voices, people whose powers of persuasion moved me to reconsider my position. “It is silly,” they said, “you are just throwing away your vote by going into that booth and writing in the name of a cartoon character. It is a senseless and meaningless gesture.” I tried to argue that given the man occupying that office (who still occupies it) , and the fellow who had occupied it during the previous eight years, and the line -up of opponents/prospective candidates available, voting for someone who was a cartoon character seemed to me to make more sense than anything else.
In the end I caved, flipped a coin, sort of, and settled on Mr. America. I guess I was thinking of that old song by the Coasters, “Along Came Jones”, and hoping he would get elected and rescue Sweet Sue (that’s us) from the gunslinger.
Little did I know that I should have stuck with Mickey. At least I wouldn’t feel as if I had wasted a vote. Because the word filtering out from the folks who know is that Old Mitt didn’t want the job anyway. He tanked it. And, we know from sad experience that the guy who has the job really doesn’t exist. Oh, I mean he is there, all right, but he really has no idea about running a country, or doing much else than “chooming”, organizing a community (whatever in God’s name that is) or body surfing; or standing around while Ambassadors and other guys get murdered…and then not saying word one about it because the “investigation ” is still going on. I mean his most common vote anywhere was “present”. Well brain dead people are “present” too. So are ghosts according to some folks.
Turns out they both stink. If fact, they all stink, from Chicago Slim in the White House right down to the most junior jerk in the House of Representatives; where about the only thing they represent is their own wallet, I think.
Anyway, I’m back on The Mouse’s bandwagon and there I intend to stay. This morning I was having a cup of Joe with the Little Lady down at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. There were a couple of old guys over in the corner jawing about the, how many, damn near 500 stupid and selfish men and women we send down to DC to do nothing much good to or for anyone, and one of them says, “I’m 73 years old and I don’t think I am ever going to vote for another person for anything again. I’m just going to go into the booth and scribble down a name, any name.”
My heart leaped! If two old and nearly useless guys like him and me can have the same idea, what would it look like if 30 or 40 million of us went behind the curtain and did the same thing; if no one was elected, if the country actually followed the predictions of the polls and said, “None of the above?” For anything, even School Board President, Dogcatcher, Registrar of Probate, President?
Because, you know, none of the folks there now seem to want to do anything at all about anything, and the guy we just sent back to the Oval Office hasn’t got the faintest idea about what needs doing, except that we need more money to do it.
Actually, I take that back. It seems that one person does have a good idea, which idea won’t see the light of day down there. The junior Senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte says all of those dopes don’t deserve a pay raise because they haven’t done anything for it. That’s the first bit of sensible thinking I’ve heard come out of that swamp in about 12 years.
Now, if only they would return all the rest of the money we’ve given them for the past 12 years I might reconsider my support for The Mouse. I know all of that dough might make our fall from the cliff just a little bit softer, turn it into a kind of velvety “smoosh” rather than a granite hard “SPLAT” when we hit bottom.
One thing that can be said for The Mouse is that at least he works cheap; a couple of nibbles of cheese now and then and he’s good for a week.