BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

 “. . . I’ve been to the mountaintop.”  “I saw beautiful spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!”

July is nearly over.  Some summer vacations have finished, some already begun; all the same, some are still being planned.  “Beginning in October 2018, there will be direct flights from TPA/TIA [Tampa] to Gatwick [London].”  “I cannot wait!  I’d go in a heartbeat.” “But there is so much to see and do yet in the United States, why travel overseas?”  “There is also direct flight service by Icelandic Air to Reykjavik.”  Someday, maybe.  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” says Rick Blaine in Casablanca.  Something like that, I say, “of all the Oh!-The-Places-You’ll-Go places I have been, including Hurley, Wisconsin (pop.  1540); Fargo; Raymond, Mississippi (pop. 1933); Bethesda, Ohio (pop. 1256, more with fracking crews); Las Vegas; Yeehaw Junction, Florida (pop. 240), I’ve been to more than others have; others, for certain, out-place me.  However, I’m not in any way in contention for a carbon-platinum Frequent Flyer Rewards Card in my wallet.

Getting from one place to another, nevertheless, has always distressed me, sometimes when I was younger, to the point of actually fainting before a trip, in anticipation.  (I do recall a near-meltdown not too many years ago while frustrating with packing a very large suitcase that would not hold everything, including my large bicycle seat.)  I hate packing, hate to pack.  I’d like to go, to arrive with my toothbrush and shaving kit–and with my medications, of course.  No luggage.  No carry on.  Maybe a book (paperback Proust, probably–or congested Kindle).  Then check in, relax, afterwards to see whatever I came to see.

What have I seen, from the top (35,000 feet: clouds and oceans, lakes and mountains) to the under (Eurostar–London to Paris–under the English Channel; the Metro; the “L” under the Chicago River)?  I have fashioned a memory-filled checklist, culled from journals, from Day-Minders and ticket stubs, in no particular order, priority, or chronology.  I am sure that as I write this (and later edit and revise) I’ll remember something, like “I forgot Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, in West Virginia, the center of the Hare Krishna movement,” or “Remember that really great Cajun restaurant where we ate crayfish down by the bayou in Savannah?” “Yeah!  That’s when they were filming Forrest Gump outside our hotel.” 

“How old was I when . . . ?”  “Were the kids with us when we drove to . . . ?”  Our first trip (in 1977) to Florida, to Disney World, to Cape Kennedy, our first “grits.” “What are they?”  [NOT, “Girls Raised In The South.”]  “Oh, that’s Cream of Wheat.  Butter, please, and maple syrup, too.  Thanks.”  So, “Once upon a time,” [read aloud]: “I have, we did, we have . . . traveled to, stayed at, climbed, flown to, rode, ate at, moved to, drove, watched, swam in, driven along, peeked over, touched, walked the, accelerated in, viewed, sped upon, stopped, adored in, looked upon, rode in, stood beneath, rushed, stepped over, rested, visited, stood before, paused, leaned over, slept in, toured, crossed, ran alongside, wandered, cruised, stalled, transfixed . . . .  [Pick a verb.  Find a place, setting, activity (surely your mind’s eye already sees, the heart already races, the memory is activated).  Locate a picture or photo to accompany a special memoryofatime.  Open up a box of Nostalgias to munch on.  Have fond, sweet (though maybe icy, rainy, cold, slippery?) memories.]

For one, Stonehenge: BIG ROCKS, and Salisbury Plain, and the Romans in Bath.  On Chesil Beach (with Ian McEwan, no doubt, having walked upon the same stones), putting a few in my pocket for my travel collection.  And stony Hastings Shore, the English Channel lapping upon the feet of the bathers in the cold water, my thinking about Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle and World War II.  One warm July Sunday, while on a noontime walk, seeing Stephen Hawking on a Cambridge street.  Three summers in Cambridge: university library, along the Cam River, bicycle riding to Grantchester, studying and tutoring, Selwyn College, trains to London for excursions, Globe Theater, writing, awe-ing, and . . . . 

I have also looked out upon the Pisgah National Forest, from the parapets of one of America’s finest castles, the Biltmore House.  The view was holy, overwhelming, awe-some in the glory of the Creator. 

However, most breath taking for me in life was standing alone before my trek up the dunes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. 

SAND DUNES BY JEFF COTNERCOM

GREAT SAND DUNES by JEFF COTNER

There I stood, amazed, a people-ant to those looking down upon me; yet from my perspective, those specs beyond, above, showed how insignificant I was, am, in relation to the forces and effects of time and Nature.  So I climbed and climbed.  No steps, like at Ephesus.  Steps.  To the Parthenon.  Huffing and puffing, like climbing those steps inside the Washington Monument many (younger) years before, or those leading to Monks Mound, “at one hundred feet, it is the largest prehistoric earthen mound in North America”: Cahokia, near St. Louis.

MONKS MOUND WIKIPEDIA

MONK’S MOUND from WIKIPEDIA

Reaching the “top” of the Dunes, I became engaged with a sense of cosmic realism.  I was a part of it all.  I looked out upon . . . the waters surrounding Mont Saint-Michel in France;   mont saint-michelor came upon the Pacific Ocean for my first glimpse at Seaside, Oregon, with its Lewis and Clark Expedition history.  On Goat Island, visiting a few times the crashing and splashing and misting and forcings of the Niagara River at Niagara Falls. 

Sue and Jim at Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY

SUE AND JIM (YOUNGER THAN NOW)

Was I able to “slip the surly bonds of earth . . . And while, with silent lifting mind I’ve trod // The high untrespassed sanctity of space, / Put out my hand, and touch[ed] the face of God. . . ?”  

interior-hagia-sophia HAGIA SOPHIA

With God-places, I’ve stood within and beneath the great domed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul-Constantinople, have been shoeless in the Blue Mosque; prayed in Chartres Cathedral; knelt in Ely Cathedral, Westminster Abby, Notre Dame in Paris; walked the aisles of St Louis (Missouri) Cathedral and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. 

I have wandered in wonderment, showered so often with kaleidoscopic colors of light from the stained glass magnificently built by crafters in so many “houses” of worship, like Saint-Severin in Paris.  Glass in Saint- Severin by Jean René Bazaine 1970.JPG

Outside, I looked UP: “Up we go!” “Into the next car, please.”: The London Eye.  “Look up!”: The Eiffel Tower: “No, I cannot go.  You ride up if you want.  But I will walk with you on top of the Arc de triomphe.”  “Sorry.  The Arch is closed today.  High winds and a storm coming” the St. Louis trip frustrating, though we saw enough of the Ole Man [Mississippi] River.  In 1966, I looked up upon the Empire State Building.  That was An Affair to Remember, my first visit to New York City.  (I didn’t ride up.)  But I was never Sleepless in Seattle, looking up at Mount Rainier, a glacier, and viewing Mount St Helens (not a far trip away).

So I’ve come to the end of the “Rick Steves Road Trip for Jimmy O’Neil”: vacations, trips, travels, excursions, journeys, stays, visitations, visits, pilgrimages–all part of a lifetime of activity, though a small part.  But when I consider how much time is spent in planning and preparing, from initial thought or utterance–“Where should we go this winter?”  “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?”  “Should we go to . . . again?”  “How much time do we have to . . . ?”–to the final credit card payment for the last meal of the trip or something bought in the duty-free shop, a vacation takes a long time in a person’s life.  No wonder we are so worn out after we return home, to rest.

Sometimes, though, the vacation place is “restful” itself, the reason for the trip itself: no touring, no running around, no shopping, just being there.  A beach.  A mountain cabin.  A quiet Walden Pond.  A cave.  A cave?  A cave on Paros Island, in the Cyclades Islands.  In May 2005, five of us adults took a memorable trip to our Greek cave.

A non-stop overnight flight from New York to Athens.  (I hate packing.)  A long bus ride from the airport (schlepping luggage) to the Port of Piraeus in Athens.  Then a ferry boat ride–BIG ferry boat, with people, trucks, cars–in the late afternoon with a dark night arrival (nearly missing our stop), finding a rental car (four sardines, holding luggage, speeding along curves and hills on dark roads, black-black outside), arriving at a car park in an asleep town, almost midnight.  “We have to do what?  Carry our suitcases up and around the hill to get to our place?”  Cursing all the way, punctuated with laughter about how we found this place.  Dogs barking at us, disturbing them, cats hissing as we snaked around homes, through alleyways, on walkways, tripping occasionally on a front stoop in the dimly lit “neighborhood.”  Huffed and puffed (of course) to the top, at the end-stop of the street.

PAROS CAVE-HOME.JPG

VACATION CAVE-HOME, PAROS ISLAND, GREECE in the HEART of the AEGEAN SEA

“What is this, a real cave?” as we entered through the front doors.  A cave-home, a home carved out from the promontory overlooking the town (LEFKES/LEFKOS).  Modernized: plumbing, furniture, fireplaces, electronics, electricity, rooms.  “AWESOME!”  I said, as I put my suitcase . . . no closets.  Platform queen-sized bed with solar tube skylight through the mountain above us, allowing light in, allowing us to view stars all night.  Two baths and showers.  Lemon trees outside, with a spectacular view of the entire town, whitewashed-in-Greek.  A 20-minute walk up or down to the chemist or bakery with chocolate croissants daily, or fresh baguettes.  Or the market.  Or to the rental car.  (We did not remain cave dwellers for the week: we explored the island, did visit another island and old Portuguese fort, sat on a beach, ate in different restaurants, visited a famous Roman quarry, among other activities–and even made fresh lemonade daily.)

What a unique opportunity that I will never forget, what an experience like no other in my entire vacation-ing life.  “Where ya’ been?” “I have been to the mountain.”  I have.  At the very top, UP, far beyond our cave, topped with giant (dormant) wind turbines.  I have been to the top of the mountain.  And it was good.

LEFKES on PAROS 2005.JPG

LEFKES on PAROS ISLAND, GREECE, 2005

 …

ADDENDUM

The Summer of 2018 will be memorable for no vacation.  Foot surgery instead forced an in-bed holiday.  Four to six weeks of no weight bearing, occasional icing, and some few hydrocodone tablets kept down travel costs considerably.  However, the electric bill may have spiked due to an overuse of audio and video, like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. 

© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

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BY:  JAMES F. O’NEIL

NAIVENESS = “an artless anglicization created by simple, unaffected people deficient in worldly wisdom and informed judgment.”  –Bryan A. Garner Garner’s Modern English Usage.  New York, Oxford 2016.

The title here is a throwback.  A sudden reminder of the past–for some.  Someone or something that seems to belong to an earlier period of time or that makes you think of an earlier period.  Now I have done it: I have made it come alive!  Memoriesofatime.  More specifically, it usually means something that is nostalgic, with memories, something back in the day, something old school, say Animal House?  1978?  animal house“A lot of his work is a throwback…”  “Nostalgia does not have eternal life.  I use nostalgia when I’m in a bad situation, when I’m feeling stressed, or when the world is an ugly place to read about or to watch on television.  I use nostalgia to escape.  But my own kids are not nostalgic in the same way.  They’re nostalgic if something is trending.  And then they’ll go back and look it up and learn about something that happened a long time ago.”  –Steven Spielberg.  “A New Reality Reveals Something Classic” by Stephanie Zacharek.  TIME, 9 Apr. 2018.  48.

How naive was I?  Was I a naive naif?  [naive adj. naif noun.]

Once upon a time, years before I became a high school classroom teacher, I was doing a course research paper on metaphysical poets and the Bible’s Song of Songs, the Song of Solomon.  There I sat, often for hours in the library, without Google or the Internet “back in the day,” my self surrounded by stacks and piles of books, reading, copying, digesting, writing, taking notes, formulating, explaining, preparing a paper.

library research bright-student-reading-in-cozy-college-library.pngStudent doing research

I learned that Song of Songs has a long history of interpretation.  The Song of Songs can be a challenging read, like the true poems of the metaphysical poets whose words are read on different levels of understanding: meta-physical.  How does one explain “Batter my heart, three-personed God . . . / . . . ravish me”?  (John Donne)  Imagine being ravished by God?  Researchers know how “one thing leads to another,” one topic moves, suggests, or links to another.  Soon, a researcher might be “off topic,” but is enjoying the readings that have now melded into a new area, causing research-distress: “Should I pursue this?  This is really interesting.”  Soon time becomes an enemy as it presses-presses-presses to get something done before deadlines are missed.

“Cavalier” poets and metaphysical poetry and erotic Bible verses and commentators, who, “seeking the literal sense of the book of Solomon, have explained it as a celebration of conjugal love in marriage,” then little by little began to touch on the topic of censorship.  I was writing about a love song in the Old Testament, simple enough, so I thought. 

song of songs

Occasionally, though, an article would refer to the erotic nature of the work–and how it was censored, forbidden, removed from a certain edition, or “emended.”  On the other hand, Jewish and Christian scholars often took an allegorical view of this book of the Old Testament as a mosaic of love poems that has a loosely defined plot.  (The “literal” subject is about love and sexual longing between a man and a woman–and it has little [or nothing] to say about the relationship of God and man.)

Nevertheless, I was slowly being drawn into the censorship issue, about which I knew so little, was so “naive.”  I wanted more time; I needed more time for this “sidebar.”  NO!  I completed my poetry paper (B+/A-), and thought no more of

censorshipCENSORSHIP

“And as you prepare your lesson plans and syllabus, please do remember not to say anything about or even mention the book The Catcher in the Rye,” my department chairman cautioned me during our first meeting: new teacher (naive naif), teacher-boss.  So I did not, and Holden Caulfield stayed under wraps–until I had to read the book for a graduate course later that fall in contemporary American literature.

catcher in the rye 2014

For the three years I taught at the all boys-to-men Catholic high school, I followed and selected from the prescribed readings lists, including Life on the Mississippi, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Red Badge of Courage, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  I/we did all right with the reading lists while I taught grades 9, 11, and 12.  No troubles.  The troubles came from elsewhere: the radio, school dances, record stores, The Top Ten.

“What was that dirty song we’ve been hearing about?” parents asked.  “Did you play that song at the school dance?”  “Louie Louie, me gotta go. . . .”  “Who are the Kingsmen?”  So there was going to be a Parents’ Night in the school cafeteria to discuss the song and the music, assuring them that the lyrics were dirty and should be banned (CENSORED) and re-assuring those parents that the music would never be heard in the school.  “Louie Louie, me gotta go / Me see Jamaica moon above / It won’t be long, me see my love. . . .”   

Whatever made this song the victim of censorship was a cultural phenomenon.  It is a mystery.  The song has remained a cult favorite since it was top-o-the charts from the ending months of 1963 through 1964, then continuing with its revivalism in the rebelliousness of Animal House, with John Belushi and Company, in 1978.

belushi toga party

“Louie Louie, me gotta go / Three nights and days me sail the sea / Me think of girl constantly. . . .”  “Slow down the record!  Hear the dirty lyrics, the dirty words!” “Iiiii taaaaakke herrr innn myyyy aaaarrrrrrmmmms aaannnnnnddd thhhhheeeeeennnn / Meeeeee teeeellllll heeerrrr I’llllllll nnneeeeeevvvvvveveeeevvvrvrrvvrr llleeeeeaaaaaavvvvveeee aaaaaaggggggaaaaiiiiinnnnn / Looooooeeeeeeee Looooooeeeeeeyyyyyy, meeeeeeee goooooottttttaaaaaaa ggggooooooo.”

The nearly unintelligible (and innocuous) lyrics were widely misinterpreted as obscene, and the song was banned by radio stations (and in Catholic schools).  The FBI concluded, after thorough investigations, dragging on through 1965, with each laboratory examination of the record deemed inconclusive.  “Oh, oh, me gotta go.” So the record couldn’t be declared obscene.  Nearly four hundred versions of the song have been recorded since then, many easily found in sing-along versions on You Tube!

Its original author, Richard Berry, who wrote his song’s lyrics in a fake Jamaican vernacular, attempting to benefit from the American calypso craze of the mid-fifties, could hardly have predicted the longevity of “Louie Louie” as a rock-and-roll anthem.  “In 1955 I was performing in California with a Latin band.  While in the dressing room, I heard instrumentals.  I took a piece of toilet paper and wrote the lyrics on the toilet paper. . . .  The singer is a sailor, and he’s talking to Louie. . . .  I never could understand the popularity of it.  [And the comma?]  Louie Louie.  No comma.”richard berry louie louieRichard Berry [1935-1997] died in his sleep; he was 61.  He had sold the rights to “Louie” and other works for $750.  In the mid-1980s, Berry was living on welfare in South Central L.A.  A drinks company wanted to use “Louie” in a commercial, and needed the rights.  Through some legal help, Richard Berry was able to obtain royalties worth about two million dollars. 

I still have some of my old censorship notes, and notes from later incidents of censorship that I became involved in: library banned books, classroom books, elementary school sex education programs, videos and films, and even the topic of censoring works of art while I was teaching humanities and art history.  And what about 1984Brave New WorldA Handmaid’s Tale?  Also, even, Song of Songs?  But it was the ‘60s culture, my being right in it all, that “Louie Louie” survives as part of my memoriesofatime of censorship.

I sat through the Parents’ Meetings, keeping my mouth shut, keeping quiet.  This storm will pass, I thought.  It did.  And the last week of school, in 1966, at the Senior Class Party, “my” seniors played me a post-teenage-alienation song, against a very restrictive society in thought and behavior and dress.  They knew I would like it: built on variants of the “Louie Louie” riff: “Get Off of My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones.  Oh, oh, me gotta go. . . .

 ©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

—Bob Greene.  “The Man Who Wrote ‘Louie Louie.’”  Esquire (September 1988).

—“Writer Couldn’t Grasp Popularity of ‘Louie Louie.’”  Chicago Tribune (19 Feb. 1997).

—“Richard Berry, 61, Wrote ‘Louie, Louie.’”  Associated Press Service.  L.A. Times.  23 Jan. 1997. 

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?  Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten…”  George Orwell, 1984

Newspeak influences and limits thought by decreasing the range of expressiveness of the English language, by eliminating ambiguity and nuance from the language, and so reduce the language to simple concepts.  The user’s range of thought is diminished, realized with a minimal vocabulary of limited denotation and connotation.  This is done chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remain of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.  [Wikipedia]

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more or less.”  “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”  “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”  Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass 

TBT on FB?  Any photo captioned “throwback” and posted by one whose memories are still live, and the feelings wanted to be expressed.  Throwback indicates the time which has passed, or things which happened in past time.  Now it is a time for re-feeling.  

Yes, it means something from the past.  More specifically, it usually means something that is nostalgic, something with memories, something back in the day, something old school.  

Throwback could be a sudden reminder of the past–a person or a thing–that seems to belong to an earlier period of time or that makes one think of an earlier period of time, not always necessarily in one’s own experience, like “a throwback to the 1950s when he saw a [1954] picture of me in my blue suede shoes.”

Blue Suede Shoes 1954

Perhaps it is simply a decorated birthday cake, or wedding dress–designs or “a reversion to an earlier ancestral characteristic.”  “Those tail lights on the new Ferrari remind me of…”   “Don’t her melodies remind you of early Joan Baez?”  “He stands like Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

A person or thing that is similar to an earlier type, like a…throwback.

interrobang

           

Having eaten our supper of hot cocoa and bread and watermelon, we soon grew weary of conversing, and writing in our journals, and putting out the lantern which hung from the tent pole, fell asleep. 

Ultimately, many things have been omitted which should have been recorded in our journal; for though we made it a rule to set down all our experiences therein, yet such a resolution is very hard to keep, for the important experience rarely allows us to remember such obligations, and so indifferent things get recorded, while that is frequently neglected. 

It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.

‑‑Thoreau  A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers  

 

interrobang

 

thoreau

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

I have done the “What walks on …?  four-, two-, three-feet bit,” as I put my cane into the corner.  (I use it for short walks.  I do have a four-wheeler for longer jaunts.)

Born in 1941, retired now, after nearly fifty years in academics and education, I find myself more often asking, “Is that all there is?”  Rarely, “What’s next?”  Well, it has been quite a ride, when I consider how my light is spent, bumps and all, roller coaster and carousel, too.  Mostly, mostly enjoyable, some fascinating journeys and trips. 

What has been important in these years has been success and money.  As a teacher, I always had the first, never the latter.  Seriously?  No: Family and health, with some good fortune and luck added for good measure.  Looking back upon 77 years, I can say, realistically, “It all worked out.”  “There are no accidents.”  “It was meant to be,” I was often told (or, read, “It’s God’s Divine Plan).

So let me report, let me give an AAR–After Action Review: My Various Systems.  HEALTH: I don’t exercise (as I should).  Walking hurts.  I’m not at all motivated, this coming from a guy who smoked Camels a pack a day for 12 years, then quit, cold turkey; a guy who has been clean and sober for over four years (15-year-old-scotch…ah, memoriesofatime), but who is certified addicted to chocolate.  And it shows…  Perhaps too much dark chocolate as I am trying to keep myself “heart healthy”?  Dove, Sport, M&Ms, Fannie May dark-chocolate-covered orange peels: Celestial.

I am READING less and less, having discarded more books (donated and trashed), hardly any fiction, but filling my Kindle (catching up on some classics, like Proust, Joyce, Dos Passos, and Dreiser; Wolfe, Farrell, and Dostoyevsky.  I even captured some Dickens, Conrad, and Anna Karenina, to name-drop a few!)–forty-one classics now, just in case I cannot carry any magazines or books with me into the hospital, should I fall ill. 

I am subscribing to TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Handguns.  I do have an un-read biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and the latest book of essays by my favorite, Joseph Epstein, The Ideal of Culture.  (Epstein suggests name-dropping when possible.)

My semi-sedentary retiree retired life is fertile ground for movie watching.  Not too much “real” TV (Jeopardy, Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley, unbiased factual truthful news stations, like…), but Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO–gifted by kids and grandkids–provide the viewing pleasure to supplement our personal DVD collection of favorites.  Rarely do we step out into the dark of a movie-theater-eating-experience, unless for some blockbuster.  Rare.

The AIRPLANE COLLECTING I began in 2004 has come to a taxied halt.  No more new models have interested me for over a year now.  Cost of metals has made collecting a sophisticated hobby; fewer models are being produced.  I have enough, a good representation of those I value for their history or their particular insignia markings.  (My collection peaked at 125 large models; 50 remain.)

My BLOG (htpps://www.memoriesofatime.blog) postings are becoming less frequent–and take much more time than when I began in 2013.  Not that I have no available topics, but just concentrating–and finding retirement time.  TIME, for retirees, is elusive, not what it is thought or imagined to be: Too many doctor visits to make me in perfect or better-than-normal health. Other things keep coming along that take up time: laundry, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, sunset watching, listening to Pandora while relaxing, naps (a MUST daily), journaling, and even time with a great-grandson.

And “So it goes!” wrote Kurt Vonnegut.  So it goes, another year in Paradise (the move to Florida in 1980 was best).  Another year closer to 80.  That’s really a Big One, some believe.  No doubt, I’ll have another Great Reflection at Turning 80.  Why not?

A writer I do read (name-dropping Joseph Epstein) wrote that he made a pact to give up smoking in return for good health, and wished to live to eighty.  Then he would start smoking again.  He has made it; he’s been rather healthy.  Yet he has not started smoking again.  Makes perfect sense to me.

I have an occasional cigar, on my way to 80.  Chinese food almost monthly; Chicago hot dogs (NEVER ketchup!) whenever; Greek; Italian; pizza and wings; and Cubans, maybe too often.  Of course, along with Sonny’s and Texas Roadhouse, and Ale House.  Yet the home chicken and rice recipes also keep us in good health, with good cholesterol levels!

And so it goes, towards “Happy Birthday!”  You will not, however, hear from me, “Pack of Camels, please!”

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  21 APRIL 2018

 

jimmy 8-3-41

BABY JIMMY 8-3-1941

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

CHARISMA: Synonyms: allure, appeal, attractiveness, charm, glamor, magnetism, pizzazz (or pizazz).  Example: Her acting skills were recognized and her significant screen charisma widely acknowledged.

I was told in speech class that from Ancient Greek χᾰ́ρῐσμᾰ (khárisma, “grace, favor, gift”), from χᾰρῐ́ζομαι (kharízomai, “I show favor”), from χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris, “grace”), from χαίρω (khaírō, “I am happy”) is easily translated for speech or drama as “ham,” as in “hamming it up.”  Some have it; some don’t.  It’s a divinely conferred gift or power.  Yet it is luck, too.

A drama can be “a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue or pantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage,” known as “a play.”  Simply put, and easy to remember, it is “character portrayal in action.”

We’ve all had or have basic Aristotelian dramatic lives, with beginning, middle, and–of course–The End.  Some lives are more dramatic than others–cover life-stories on People or Time, historical, political, religious lives.  Some longer than others; some “snuffed out,” like brief “candles in the wind,” sadly “before their time.”

Yes, our lives are a series of ups and downs: Rising Action, Falling Action, with Complications and Crises and Climaxes–and Denouements, for good measure.  As Kurt Vonnegut put it so well, “So it goes.”

Therefore, aside from the “usual” “dramatic” entrance at the “miracle” of birth most of us make, and then our daily living, careers, jobs, opportunities,  few of us have or have had the actual opportunity to play out a drama or two on a stage, to “tread the boards,” before an audience.  “LIGHTS!”  “CURTAINS!”  –complete with rehearsals and line readings and memorizations, greasepaint, and costuming.

I never had a burning desire to have my name in Broadway lights or my name in Playbill.  Yet I did have some exciting times with theater/theatre and drama, both teaching and acting.

What did I know without ever having had an acting course?  Where did it all begin?  How does it go, “Once upon a time…”?

Doing puppet shows for the kids in the neighborhood when I was in elementary school, I was known as a “ham” for some time.  I remember in 7th grade being in the front of the classroom, sitting on a wooden stool, dressed in a fuzzy men’s bathrobe (my dad’s): “Bah!  Humbug!”  My lines uttered in my first great “stage” production!

scrooge

My career took off!  Smaller roles were offered me as I progressed, a few high school plays, bit parts, minor roles.  (I did have trouble with memorization, a definite downside for one seeking a stage experience.)  Roles in college were limited, though I performed in at least one theater-in-the-round production, and in the musical Oklahoma, when I was a junior.

One important dramatic lead I had was in The Potting Shed, a 1957 play by Graham Greene.  The psychological drama centers on a secret held by the Callifer family for nearly thirty years, a mysterious moment that occurred in the family’s potting shed.  Family members recall the event, but “vital lies, simple truths” left a son rejected by his father, alienated from his family, and alone in the world.

Potting Shed cover

I had the good fortune to play Father Callifer, the whiskey priest.  No other part has moved me more or had a greater effect on my later life.  [Some other acting I also did as a member of a folk-singing group.]

And then it was over, I thought.  College ended.  “English-Philosophy Major seeking work”: My jobs included hospital orderly, parts-man for a large electronics company, and USPS mail-truck driver.  Then the big break, not at all planned as part of my “career goals” (my Uncle Bill thought I would make a great salesman): full-time teaching, with benefits and perks.

My first teaching job in 1963 paid $4500 a year and “Have you any drama experience?”  “Of course.”  “That’s another $250.  We have a new auditorium and stage.  You’ll be the first drama coach.”  And into the fire of the crucible I went, to be tested.

Brother Orchid was the first real play I ever “directed.” 

robinson-bogart-brother-orchid

Based on a 1940 movie in which Edward G. Robinson plays an orchid-loving gangster (!), Little John Sarto, who aspires to “real class.”  It’s a good ‘40s gangster movie, and a delightful play for an all-boys /men’s high school.  Our total budget was $100.00.  My wife was the make-up artist, using her best “putting-on-her-face” skills to a bunch of young men who probably have never forgotten the newlywed-wife of the newly-initiated English teacher/Drama Coach.

The play is fun to do and fun to watch.  Sarto the Gangster is being usurped by another mobster (Humphrey Bogart).  Not wanting to be “rubbed out,” Sarto escapes to and hides out in a monastery.  Pretending he would like to become a monk himself, with humor and plot twists and resolutions, the gangster who likes flowers decides to become Brother Orchid, and does find real class.

The play was a hit, with its good acting, homemade sets, and parents’ support and help in the wings.  Delightful.  And I was re-hired for another year, this time to teach juniors and seniors, and to do one major play.  So goes the history: Stalag 17.  Success, and more homemade sets and another $100 budget.  Then, my best production in my third year, mostly with seniors, many who were now “drama-savvy,” was Twelve Angry Men.

12 angry men cover

The father of one of the lead “actors” organized a party for cast and crew.  The seniors were moving on; I was leaving the school for a new adventure in college teaching.  My drama career was over.  Not a long run, by many standards, but a few opening nights and a few successes.

I’ve seen plays, professional and non-professional, fewer operas, and have watched many, many movies (visual cinematic screenPLAYS).  I have my favorites of each: West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), La bohème, Phantom of the Opera, Macbeth (dark and bloody-hell), Shakespeare in Love (a favorite, a love story about acting and drama and Shakespeare–and, of course, mystery); the movie and play-within-a play A Chorus Line; and my favorite?  Of all of Shakespeare?  Movie (and its versions)?  Othello: Ah!  War, jealousy, sex, intrigue, love, racism, murder, suicide–and that green-eyed monster JEALOUSY.  What great drama!

Looking back now at all my directing and acting, the happy and the sad, the fun and the serious–all part of my dramatic life–I reflect upon my brief tale, no woe, just good drama, and great memoriesofatime.  Because of all this, in many ways I do appreciate acting, plays, and movies more since I have been “there”–not making movies, but the acting part.  The hard work part.  And, that part that got me high school yearbook recognition: “DRAMA CLUB.”  Reward enough.

How to end here?  “Our revels now are ended”?  Or maybe, “All’s well that ends well”?  I thought I might end with Macbeth’s familiar lines: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player // That struts and frets his hour upon the stage // And then is heard no more.”  (Macbeth 5.5.23-26)  Powerful.  But not uplifting, though “dramatic” enough.

No, I thought I needed a real Swan Song, that which represented and summarized all my life and the liveliness of My Dramatic Life:

oklahoma

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!

OKLAHOMA!

YEOW!

[Exeunt]

© JAMES F O’NEIL 2018

 

 “The rarer action is // In virtue than in vengeance.”  The Tempest 5.1.27-28 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

WHAT’S IN A NAME?  O’NEIL, O’NEAL, O’NEILL, O’NIALL

Of course, we young Catholics growing up in Chicago learned of the exploits of “Uncle Hugh”: how he bravely fought the bloody British English Anglican Protestants of Queen Elizabeth I.  How he died bravely for Roman Catholicism and has been revered through the centuries in the Celtic-Gaelic rich hagiographical tradition of Ireland.  I always pictured him fighting Essex, Uncle Hugh looking like Errol Flynn, handsome as all get out, or Tyrone Power.  Those black-and-white movies fed my young imagination.  And on it went, wars and outrages, through the awfulnesses of Cromwell’s later reign and more, through “Sunday, Bloody Sunday…” and…

But for now, I want to share some bit of what is/”might be” the True Word:   Hugh O’Neill (Irish: Aodh Mór Ó Néill; literally Hugh The Great O’Neill;    c. 1550–20 July 1616), was an Irish Gaelic lord, Earl of Tyrone (known as the Great Earl and was later created The Ó Néill.  O’Neill’s career was played out against the background of the Tudor conquest of Ireland, and he is best known for leading the resistance during the Nine Years’ War.  Hugh O’Neill lived in England from the age of nine as a protégé of Queen Elizabeth I.  (Really!)  He was proclaimed Earl of Tyrone in 1585.  The crown used him as an ally in Gaelic controlled Ulster, warring against the Scots.  (Do the Scots know this?  The Scots-Irish folks?)  However, by 1595, he had issued a challenge to Tudor power. (What went wrong?)

Warring followed; promises were made; treaties were broken.  Lands were bartered.  A queen died; a new king, and throughout a nine-year exile, Uncle Hugh was active in plotting a return to Ireland, toying variously both with schemes to oust English authority outright and with proposed offers of pardon from London.  It was not to be (but almost…).  Uncle Hugh O’Neill died in Rome on 20 July 1616 (probably).  Controversy still remains about his role in Irish history: what his ultimate goal was for the people or the land or for his own power.  (Talk with a British historian, for one.)

Today the ancient O’Neills flourish in Ireland, Europe, and the New World.  Clan organizations and meetings are held regularly, and the family organization is recognized by every possible Irish historical governing body.  As they were for over a thousand years, the O’Neill family has once again returned to a position of cultural leadership in modern Ulster.  The unique and difficult history of the family has allowed it to see beyond the sectarian divide of the recent past.  The clan’s goals now state that they strive for a future that prizes peace and economic development across Ulster.  [Wikipedia]

 oneil arms shield

It is a common misconception that there is one coat of arms associated to everyone of a common surname, when, in fact, a coat of arms is property passed through direct lineage.  This means that there are numerous families of O’Neill under various spellings that are related, but because they are not the direct descendants of an O’Neill that owned an armorial device, they do not have rights or claims to any arms themselves.

The coat of arms of the O’Neills of Ulster, the branch that held the title of High Kings of Ireland, were white with a red left hand (latterly, the Red Hand of Ulster), and it is because of this prominence that the red hand (though a right hand is used today, rather than the left used by the high kings) has also become a symbol of IRELAND, ULSTER, TYRONE, and other places associated with the family of O’Neills.  The red hand by itself has become a symbol of the O’Neill name, such that when other O’Neill family branches were granted or assumed a heraldic achievement, this red hand was often incorporated into the new coat of arms in some way. red handThe red hand is explained by several legends, with a common theme but of a promise of land to the first man to sail or swim across the sea and touch the shores of Ireland.  Many contenders arrive, including a man named O’Neill, who begins to fall behind the others.  O’Neill cuts off his left hand and throws it onto the beach before the other challengers can reach the shore, becoming the first to touch land and win all of Ireland as his prize.  These legends seem to originate (or to have been written down) in the 17th century, centuries after the red hand device was first used by O’Neill families. 

northern_ireland_ulster_banner_flag

Currently, the official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Flag of the United Kingdom.  However, from 1953 until 1973, the Ulster Banner (also known as the Ulster flag) was used by the Parliament of Northern Ireland; since its abolition, use of the flag has been limited to representing Northern Ireland in certain sports, at some local councils, and at some other organizations and occasions.  Despite this, the Ulster Banner is still commonly seen and referred to as the flag of Northern Ireland, especially by those from the unionist and loyalist communities.

* * *

The national flag of Ireland–frequently referred to as the Irish tricolor–is the national flag and ensign of the Republic of Ireland. 

255px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

 

The flag was adopted by the Irish Republic during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921).  The flag’s use was continued by the Irish Free State (1922–1937), and it was later given constitutional status under the 1937 Constitution of Ireland.  The tricolor is often used by nationalists on both sides of the border as the national flag of the whole island of Ireland. 

The green pale of the flag symbolizes Roman Catholics, the orange represents the minority Protestants who were supporters of William of Orange, who had defeated King James II of England and his predominantly Irish Catholic army.  (It was included in the Irish flag in an attempt to reconcile the Orange Order in Ireland with the Irish independence movement.)  The white in the center signifies a lasting peace and hope for union between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.  The flag, as a whole, is intended to symbolize the inclusion and hoped-for union of the people of different traditions on the island of Ireland, which is expressed in the Constitution as the entitlement of every person born in Ireland to be part of the independent Irish nation, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, or political conviction.  (Of course, there are, and have been, many exceptions to the general beneficent theory.  Green was also used as the color of such Irish bodies as the mainly-Protestant and non-sectarian Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick, established in 1751.  PROTESTANTS FOR SAINT PATRICK!)

So ends the Irish history lesson for this, Saint Paddy’s Day, 2018.  There will be no test, no quiz.  No papers are required.  Only remember some Irish Prayer, and  

 erin go bragh 2018

©  James [aka Seamus] O’NEIL  2018

* * *

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.
Go raibh cóir na gaoithe i gcónaí leat.
Go dtaitní an ghrian go bog bláth ar do chlár éadain,
go dtite an bháisteach go bog mín ar do ghoirt.
Agus go gcasfar le chéile sinn arís,
go gcoinní Dia i mbois a láimhe thú.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

 

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