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GROWING UP

BY:  JAMES F. O’NEIL

“. . . yet in these days, when an extended curriculum tends to curtail considerably the amount of Latin read, it seems to me that anything which may help boys to some knowledge of Latinity in a short time is not wholly useless.”  –Preface, Latin Phrase Book, Trans. H. W. Auden, 1894 [Reprint 1990].

How much Latin should a person remember who has studied the classics and languages, say 25, 35, or even 50 years ago?  Quis curat?  (“Who cares?”)  Does it matter anymore that a person study Latin at all?  Humerus is the humorous bone.  Why know differently?  Funny, no?  Make no bones about it: Don’t forget the radius and ulna, too.

I have many semesters of Latin (and Greek) noted on my transcripts, high school and college.  I have sung in Latin, prayed in Latin, translated into Latin and Latin into English.  I have even had the good fortune (Deo gratias!) to pass the Latin examination as part of my Master’s degree program (M.A., Magister Artium).  Years of daily study, from basic rex, regis (as in “king” and “of the king”) to the study of Thomistic philosophy and theology in Latin, prepared me for a three-hour written translation of some classical piece of Cicero, without a dictionary.

I am still Latinized, cannot avoid it in my life, nor could not avoid it as an English lit/humanities major: Never would I have been able to manage my way through the works of Chaucer nor those of John Milton without some Latin.  Moreover, Latin even contributed to the success of one of my previous blogs, “HOW’S YOUR LATIN?”  OR, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY: https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/11/08/hows-your-latin-or-sleeping-with-the-enemy/   This gave a bit of my Latinity, and my living with a Dead Language.  Nor can you avoid it–even if you have not studied a classroom word of it.

Yet you have: “Vocabulary test on Monday, don’t forget!” your teacher says as you begin to race out the classroom door on a Friday afternoon.  You know you had to study, memorize, and remember.  And the SAT, the PSAT, the ACT vocabularies: lists of roots and prefixes (like pre-fix: “before”) were the fundamentals (fundus: “ground, earthy, foundation”).  Recall now: anti-, ante-, intro-, extra-, inter-, ad-, mal-, mel-, etc.  (Oh, that’s one: et cetera: “and so forth.”)  You studied from morning to night, a.m. and p.m. (ante meridiem: “before noon”; post meridiem: “after noon”; “before”; “after”; diem: “day,” as in per diem: “per-day” expenses).  Some of you studied long and hard, to illness (perhaps even to “mono” illness) requiring medication PRN, or BID, or TID.  Huh?  Every eight hours?  Ter in die.  Every twelve hours?  Twice a DAY is bis in die.  Maybe for that serious pain, hydrocodone pro re nata, as needed, or whenever necessary–when the Tylenol does not do it!

Ergo (“therefore,” those three dots used in geometry, or the conclusion in philosophy or logic: “Therefore, all men are animals.”), it may not be so easy to be without Latin in our daily lives.  Medicine, geography, law, politics, religion, everyday living, literature, movies, sports, etc.–each contains various Latin expressions as part of the vocabulary of the subject, i.e. (id est: “that is”), particular words recognized by users in that area.  Usually one has to first begin a study of a subject by studying the vocabulary of the subject.  (I cannot forget those long lists of vocabulary in Latin classes, every week.)

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.  —Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  This is how my formal study began, in 1955 or so.  Church Latin began years before that, however: reading, singing, and listening to Latin at Mass and at Church services. 

I am certain that most of you reading this blog now can look at the Latin of Julius Caesar and guess at a few words, can even recognize a few meanings.  And in this very paragraph, look to see some Latin (not “paragraph,” however: that’s Greek: para-: “beside”; graphein: “writing”: a short stroke or mark was made alongside text to indicate a new “section”).  Look: “certain” (certus: “sure”) and “re-cognize” (re: “again”; cog: “knowledge”).

You can see it’s a living language for me, not a dead subject.  I can watch George C. Scott, the actor, in the movie Patton, walking in the silence in North Africa among the ruins of an ancient city.  I realize what he is there for, portraying this warrior general, George S. Patton, to annihilate (nihil: “nothing”) the enemy.  And I recall my Latin heard, learned, from somewhere, CARTHAGO DELENDA EST!: “Carthage must be destroyed [deleted]!”–now an expression of total warfare.

patton patton

General George S. Patton, U.S. Army

DELENDA.  A keystroke.  Delete: A key on my computer keyboard . . .  (Thirsty here, I take a sip from my bottle of Aquafina [“water”; “pure”] . . .) Now I don’t go around in my life obsessed with Latin or searching for Latinity.  It comes about, comes to me.  It excites me to remember something I learned long ago, still remember, have memoriesofatime, or still use.  Well, maybe not necessarily “excites,” but just makes all that previous effort so worthwhile.  That I did learn something, that I do remember something, that I can read (or hear) and make some kind of living connection somehow with ex officio, vox populi, habeas corpus, ex cathedra, fiat lux, extempore, semper fidelis!, dexter, semper paratus, ad astra per aspera, sine die, de fide, in loco parentis, sinister, gravitas, aurora borealis, summa cum laude,  contra, Taurus, ad hoc, bona fide, placebo, ad nauseam, etc., et al., ad infinitum . . .  You do get the point.

And thus, my friends, SATIS (“enough”).  My revels now are ended.  My Little Living Latin exercise ends; I make my exit (exit: “he leaves”; exeunt: “they leave”).  For certe, Toto, sentio nos in Kansate non iam adesse.  

ADDENDUM

CAESARCommentarii-de-Bello-Gallico

Books and sources abound for further study of the Dead-Living Language.  A Google search (or Amazon quest) reveals copies of major works in Latin, often with English translations (q.v.: quod vide: “which see”):  http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/index.html

Latin is still being taught in many secondary (and primary) schools, and in programs in higher education, here in the United States and in Europe.  So much the language of medicine (anatomy), law, and science, Latin is useful also in the study of words themselves, etymology, from Greek to Latin to French or Middle English.  Useful, fun, T-shirt-able, important, serious–whatever the need: “What good is Latin?”  Well, for one, it’s to help us understand our view of things, to help us “get” it, to even ponder how we think about . . . life itself?

carpe diem t-shirtCARPE DIEM T-SHIRT

. . .

**Latin for Dummies (2002) “makes learning fun and brings the language to life.”

**Latin for the Illiterati (2nd ed 2009) is a reference to common Latin words and phrases.  Not a dictionary, but rather “a compendium of words, expressions, familiar sayings, abbreviations, with an English-Latin Index.”

**More Latin for the Illiterati: A Guide to Medical, Legal, and Religious Latin (2003).

**Latin Phrase Book (1990 Rpt. of 1982 ed.).  A Longwood Academic reprint book I found is a translation (1894) from the sixth German edition of Lateinische Phraseologie by Professor Carl Meissner, organized into seventeen topics, with Latin and English indices.

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“I think I have serious latent Catholic guilt issues.”  –Grimes (Brainyquote)

A grey rainy late winter day in Chicago.  My dad and my sister are in the car (our ’37 Plymouth) waiting to pick me up from school.  I was in 2nd grade at St. Jarlath’s, near our apartment on Van Buren and Ashland (long gone now, concretized by the Congress Street-Eisenhower Expressway). My dad worked nights but came to get us home for lunch in bad weather.  What was the delay?  I’m inside the classroom, sitting under the teacher’s desk.  What was happening then in 1949?

Born in April 1941, I have few memories before 1944, though some child development specialists have told they could unlock the drawers holding those before-memories.  How many “major” memories do we get to keep?  Memories are the captured ones, say, the ones not ever forgotten, those “memorable” thoughts and stories that unfolded becoming our lives.  Choosing which ones to share, or to organize those recalled from time to time can be a daunting task, albeit a rewarding one (cathartic one?).  I am certain there were, in my first three or four years, those first baths, and birthdays–complete with cake and frosting in hair, or on the high chairs, and thrown about the room.  Perhaps early birthdays with games and balloons and smashed cake really do form the basis for celebrations of all kinds that come at later dates.

But the memories of our first three or four years?  I delight in all that is forgotten: the pain of early ear infections, of being one gigantic chicken pox when all the pox-dots are connected.  Scarlet fever, insect bites and stings, broken favorite toys, cough medicines, penicillin injections, Vicks-covered wrapped-chests, and more awful things that should remain in those memory drawers, not needing to be unhoused.  For what real purpose?

We hardly also remember all the good times, for they were not so traumatizing on the psyche.  Yet I would not mind the good memories that could be released: memories of first beach day (not a sun burn, of course, but the eternal sand castle building or perfect water temperature), train trips or miniature-train rides in parks or at carnivals, parties and Christmases and Easter egg hunts, and A&W root beer floats, and .  .  .  Release might involve the “good” with the “bad.”  (Personally, Dr. Jung Freud, I like it the way it is–as if I have slept through most of those first three or four years.)

Therefore, my life story begins in 1944: I was three.  That is a good start for my history.  My baby pictures tell enough of that, especially those with my favorite cousin Marilyn on one side and my sister, Janice, on the other side of me–all with our little knees showing.  Three joined at the hip, as it were, on Grandpa Schuma’s front porch.  THAT is the memory, the picture I want to keep alive forever as representative of my early-early life, the “good life.”

jimmy on GRANDMA'S PORCHTHE THREE OF US ON THE PORCH AT 5644 SOUTH SEELEY 1945

It is my school life, though, that has always been a nine-month chunk of my life cycle.  So much of my time, my daily life, was spent in school or around school or going to/coming from.  The summers, then, were sacrosanct with a life of their own.  That is why we probably use the expression so often “School Life,” from pre-K, or even nursery school, to whatever graduation point or final degree.

Overall, I grade my “school life” in the range of “good” to “above average”: C to B+, from first grade through my advanced degree programs.  In “My Life Story: Early Life in School: 1947-1949,” there exist a few milestones, like Baltimore Catechism (and hating–forever–memorization); First Holy Communion (and that dark blue wool suit seen in pictures);

jimmy's First Communion May 9, 1948

JIMMY’S O’NEIL’S FIRST COMMUNION MAY 9, 1948

a Confessional, for the first time.  The Milk Break: I loved milk breaks–any grade.  (And I wish I had gone to kindergarten to have had a blankie and a nap.  My vivid memories center upon “chocolate”: for morning milk [in glass bottles in metal cases, ordered a week ahead].)  Nuns-as-Teachers (I cannot remember their names or their faces, but I do have a picture of 1st and 2nd grade blackness.)  And, finally, the memory that I cannot ever eradicate: Being Late:  A rainy day when my dad was able to pick us up for lunch.  I was late.

Let me back up now.  Earlier that morning, I got myself into trouble.  I was talking to the kid across the aisle from me, no doubt my friend Peter Mendoza.  Now what do 2nd graders have to talk about in 2nd grade in mid-morning after Milk Break?  What is so important that is worth violating the Silence Rule?  (We had no Smart phones to keep us occupied.)

I cannot recall nor remember.  “I have no recollection of the event or the conversation,” politicians say.

Whatever it was certainly drew the attention of Sister Mary of the Rosary Beads, our nun-teacher.  My nun-teacher called a name-not-mine.  I thought I heard her call my name, “Jimmy O’Neil come to the front of the room.”  (Caught!  I was probably talking.)  Guiltily I stood up and accepted the punishment.  So I walked to the Time-Out spot near the blackboard.  A classmate was already there.  “Did she call your name?”  Soon I began talking to one rightfully punished standing by the blackboard.  “Jimmy O’Neil.”  This time I was called out for talking by the One-in-Black-Who-Saw-and-Heard-Everything, and told to go sit under her desk–a Final Punishing Place!  My memory of pulling away the teacher chair and crawling under the drawer and skootching next to the “modesty panel” still hurts.  And how was I going to explain my situation to my dad if I did not come out for lunch on time?  Fear of the Lord.  Guilt.  Crime and Punishment.

I was wearing a flannel plaid shirt.  Brown and white.  I happened to be wearing one of my collectibles: a metal pin-back pin found in cereal boxes, pins of railroads.

Vintage-1980s-Prr-Pennsylvania-Railroad-Train-Logo-Pinback

PENNSYLVANIA RR PIN-BACK PIN

I took off my Pennsylvania RR pin and played with it while listening to nun and students.  I began to formulate my excuse: The Lie.  I would lie and say I hurt myself and had to stay after for help.  I managed, at eight years old, in 1949, to plot a lie-story that would save me from home punishment for the double-punishment of the 2nd grade classroom.  I would show my injury on my hand.  I had to create an injury story.

I picked at the wrist of my left hand with the pinpoint of the Pennsy RR button.  I picked and picked until I began to bleed and open a wound.  I felt no pain.  No guilt either.  Time passed quickly.  The class continued its lessons without me as I picked and poked and bled.  Then the bell.  I heard all leave the room; the door shut.  All left except Jimmy O’Neil, forgotten under the desk.  Everyone forgot me.  I crawled out, with my bloody sore already scabbing over.  It was much smaller than a dime.  I went to the cloakroom for my coat.

Dad and my sister were waiting in the car, in the rain.  As I ran to the car, I let my courage come unstuck from somewhere.  “I’m sorry I’m late.  I was kept after for talking.”  (No mention of being forgotten by everyone, including my teacher.)  No more was said.  Moreover, no one asked about the sore on my hand; I didn’t tell any more than was required.

That’s it.  My brain, learning, and memory cells increased proportionately after 1949.  I know I learned the basics of how to count, to use the alphabet, and how to tie my shoes–even at school.  And, I’ve forgotten so much–trivia, irrelevancies, factoids.

Yet I cannot ever eradicate this one 2nd grade anecdote.  I want to keep it, not tug it around to depress me, but not throw it away either.  It’s a story by a little boy about a little boy.  Maybe it has some Catholic guilt within, maybe some fear of disappointing a dad (or worry about some punishment), or maybe it has a small step in my growing up.  For sure, though, I made certain I never ever had to sit under a teacher’s desk again!

. . .

“Every person’s autobiography is both unique and usual, the story of an individual life and of all mankind.  We are shaped by an inescapable human condition which dictates certain events and themes that will figure prominently in every life story.”  –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey (1989)

©  James F. O’Neil  2018

 

 

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

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.

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

PART III: AUTOMOBILES

“I’d ban all automobiles from the central part of the city.  You see, the automobile was just a passing fad.  It’s got to go.  It’s got to go a long way from here.”  –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

* * * *

A.  Driving My Mom: My mother worked at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Chicago. This was one of her jobs I can remember.  She worked from 11 pm–7 am.  She didn’t drive to work.  She didn’t drive–ever.  And no one ever let her take a bus or subway at night.  So, someone had to drive her to work each night, leaving at around 9:30 pm.  For years my dad did this while I was in high school.  When I earned my driver’s license, I became the chauffeur, even on some school nights, most of my duties coming in 1958-1960, with our 1956 Chevy.  What great driving experience, learning city streets, unencumbered by daytime traffic.  And, in the spring and summer, what beautiful rides home, windows down, radio-for-teen-driver blaring along the Outer Drive.  Home from college on vacation, I assumed my duties once again as she continued to work.  (She always took public transportation home in the mornings.)  [My fiancé and I did enjoy making some off-to-work trips for my mom.  On the return, we had a chance to stop at Oak Street Beach or some other beautiful place to spend some quiet time together.] 

* * * *

No doubt each of us has stories–memoriesofatime–we can relate about our automobiles or driving habits and incidents or how we first committed “vehicularism”: “steering any automotive vehicle in a proper and correct manner; learning to drive a vehicle appropriately.”  My enumeration of vehicles I’ve had and used, from my “First,” a 1950 Ford to my current 2016 KIA SOUL, may be longer than some, shorter than others.’  But with each car or auto, there goes at least one anecdote, or several stories, that could go on for pages of memories.  A few, however, I highlight as part of my trilogy “Are We There Yet?”

* * * *

When young, growing up, I never played cops-n-robbers.  I never played cowboys-n-Indians (though I did have a cap gun six-shooter).  I played Soldiers at War.  I crawled through bushes and along city sidewalks and through alleys, skinning my knees, carrying my Thompson “Tommy” gun–or I would set up the “50-cal” on its tripod in the front yard.  In the house, I played fighter pilot or bombardier.  Mostly Flip Corkin of Terry and the Pirates, or Steve Canyon–or John Wayne as a Flying Tiger.   

terry_pirates

The elevated, behind our apartment building in Chicago, ran parallel to Van Buren Street.  Under that dark brown rusting structure, my sister and I played.  When the family’s ’37 Plymouth was parked there, we drove for miles and miles in our imaginations, swinging around the steering wheel, working the pedals.  (Did we have anything to do with the clutch going out, and the purchase of that sleek black ’49 Ford?  Hmmm.)

els bad name alleyElevated Tracks and Alley

Our first “big people” car was the two-tone Our Family Chevy, 1952.  I thought I could drive that car, bold and brassy “big people” that I thought I was becoming!  However, of course, I had to wait awhile…for the Chevrolet 210, new, in 1956.  This was to be my real learning-taught-mobile.

 

1956-Chevy-210-ORIGINAL-SURVIVOR-TRUE-BARN-FIND

1956 Chevrolet 210

In this car, my dad taught me his Rules of the Road: charity (“Give ‘em a break and let ‘em in), and his sometimes “Two-Right-Turns-Are-Better-Than-A-Left” philosophy.  He taught me well, to stay in my lane (while he would have small heart attacks as I drove down the boulevard’s middle lane), and how to “play the lights” to make all the greens.  He helped me pass my license test on the first solo.  “Of course,” he said.  Then I began the drive to the Bank, taking my mom to work (not alone, bringing along my little brother sometimes). 

* * * *

B.  The Korean War. A long, long time ago.  Well, in my memory years, not too too many years, you could have found me on South Marshfield Street, on a warm Saturday morning.  In the alley, I’m there washing and polishing a beautiful 1950 Plymouth convertible.

1950-plymouth-special-deluxe-convertible-2

I had been taking good care of this car.  I was like the Neighborhood Helper: shopper, babysitter, sidewalk-snow-shoveler, car washer, paperboy.  I was eleven and twelve then.  Even a good, successful Boy Scout (Senior Patrol Leader, no less). 

The mother of a young man off to war in Korea had asked for some help with the car, and I had obliged.  Such a beautiful machine!  I worked to make him proud.  We prayed for his return, his mom and I, to be healthy.  And “If he doesn’t come back from Korea,” she said one day, in a moment of deep sorrow and emotion, “the car will be yours.”  Amen!  Oh, how I prayed.  And prayed.  “Please, God…” I tried to pray.  “Dear God . . .” God must have heard my prayers, for he returned–and often gave me long rides for my hard work.  “O God!”

* * * *

“Seventy-five dollars!”  All mine.  My First.  The 1950 Ford.  Fuzzy-brown upholstery (including the headliner), manual shift, in-line 6, 4-door Ugly. 

1950_Ford_Custom_Fordor-maroon-m.jpg

My friend, called “Betsy” (last time I ever named a car), was good transportation, better in the cold.  The engine just quit in the hot weather.  I was learning something about cars and engines when I threw a rod, and had a classmate rebuild the engine.  Then I grew into a ’54 Ford, my Mechanic-Me machine.  A V-8 that got my hands dirty: I did brakes, new spiffy grill, and installed a Holley 4-barrel carb.  Sweet!  I did all that while keeping all my fingers and thumbs intact.holley 4-barrel carburetor

“Will you marry me?”  I asked in my black 4-door hardtop ’57 Oldsmobile.  Oh, that was My Beauty, the Loveofmylife.  Like no other.  My “wooing” machine. 

57olds98.jpg

And after that “Yes,” My Automobile History becomes a catalog of special machines, with special stories: travel, vacation, auto accidents, blizzards, camping, broken bones, emergencies, and other illnesses.  The machines were athletic (Sportage); creepy-crawly (Beetle and “bug”); Arthurian (Avalon); class standing (Squire); and metaphysical-theological (SOUL).

Cars come and go.  Miles and miles.  Bought, sold, traded, leased.  Oil changes, maintenances, contracts, extended warranties, license renewals, sales taxes, repainted, detailed, egged, hailed upon, bird-shat upon, iced and salted.  And sales personnel.  Those sales personnel.  “What will it take to make the deal?  To make you walk out of here happy?”  Some buyers thrive on haggling.  Some would rather have a root canal without Novocain than buy a new car.

However, when all is said and done, the papers are signed twenty times or so, that new car smell: nothing else like it.  Some dream of their dream car for years; others, it’s merely a “thing” to worry about and get washed once in a while when it looks dirty.  I have had my favorites, have drooled on many a steering wheel at auto shows in my “salad days.” 

packard 1955 auto showSmall Demonstration at an Auto Show

It has been a fun run, and yet a stressful one, too, at times, without maps or directions (GPS and Garmin have helped).  I’ve enjoyed the rides, the miles; I have been avoiding trouble, while having fond memoriesofatime, though witnessing some horrible accidents.

Yes, I’ve run out of gas, have broken down, needed towing, gotten lost (but more often than not, asked for directions), had my own accidents–and, yes, had a few traffic tickets/citations of my own, don’tcha know?  My share.

I’m coming up for another license renewal in a couple of years.  I’m not worried: I’ve been at this for a while.  Yes, the bright night lights now do bother my surgeried-cataracts, so I won’t be on the road much after dark (when the monsters come out anyway).

So please watch out for me: I’ll have my blinkers on.  I’m slow (always following the speed limit) in the left fast lane.  I try not to hit squirrels and other rodents.  Oh, did I mention? My driver’s license is stamped SAFE DRIVER.  ORGAN DONOR.  O+

©  JAMES F O’NEIL  2018

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

PART I: TRAINS

“One of the things the government can’t do is run anything.  The only things our government runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are bankrupt.”  — Lee Iacocca

***

Once upon a time, a long time ago, after my Grandpa Cummings had retired from many years with the Pennsylvania Railroad, pennsylvania railroad symbolhe took me to visit a friend of his at a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.  The three of us walked through the roundhouse, walked among the rails, and even watched to see the railroad turntable in operation.

In rail terminology, a railway turntable or wheelhouse is a device for turning railroad rolling stock, usually locomotives, so that they can be moved back in the direction from which they came.  Railroads needed a way to turn steam locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not railway turntableconfigured for extended periods of running in reverse, and in many locomotives the top speed was lower in reverse motion.  In the case of diesel locomotives, though most can be operated in either direction, they are treated as having “front ends” and “rear ends” (often determined by reference to the location of the crew cab).  When operated as a single unit, the railway company often prefers, or requires, that a diesel locomotive be run “front end” first.  All this is visually and masterfully shown in the movie with Denzel Washington, Unstoppable.unstoppable train of denzel

So, the three of us, walking up to a diesel whose engine was running, climbed aboard.  I sat on my Grandpa’s lap for a bit, then stood at the controls.  And he moved the control my hand was on.  We moved.  Forward, ever so slowly, down a length of track.  Surely, I did not wet my pants, but surely, my rheumatic-fever heart was racing in excitement.  Yes, I sat at the engineer’s controls, with my grandfather standing next to me, and we powered the engine forward.  Slowly, I pushed the control lever forward (or sideways).  I was eleven or twelve, maybe 1951 or 1952.  Those ages and dates are not part of the details.  I was there.  The smell of fuel, the motors’ noises, the motion of the train engine I cannot forget.  How many young boys have had such an experience to talk about?  (Don’t tell Homeland Security that I actually “drove” a diesel engine in a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.)

Pennsylvania RR diesel by RRPictureArchives Net Kim Piersol Pennsylvania RR diesel

I have had an on-again, off-again love affair for trains.  I did have a Christmas-present American Flyer electric train set that never seemed to work properly: maybe parts, maybe the rugs or the floor or the connections.  Lionel-boys always had more success with theirs; we Flyer-types were not as lucky with our two-track system american flyer track from ebay (though that was not always the problem).  Lionel had the heavier three-track, more expensive gauge sets, parts, transformers–all the right “stuff.” lionel on ebay.jpg So my frustration abounded, as trains were taken out and put away; I never had a basement with a large open space for a board for a train layout.  [An interesting bit of Wiki-history: During the 1950s, Lionel outsold its closest competitor, American Flyer, by nearly 2:1, peaking in 1953.  Some Lionel company histories say Lionel (more than just trains) was the largest toy company in the world by the early 1950s.  The 1946–1956 decade was Lionel’s Golden Age.  The Lionel 2333 Diesel locomotive, an EMD F3 in the colorful Santa Fe “Warbonnet” paint scheme that was introduced in 1948, atsf-347c-emd-f7a-santa-fe-diesel-electric-locomotive-wernher-krutein became the Lionel company icon and the icon of the era, yet Lionel declined rapidly after 1956.  Hobbyists preferred the smaller but more realistic HO scale trains, and children’s interest shifted from toy trains to toy cars.  Efforts to increase train set profitability and/or sales by cheaper manufacture (largely by replacing castings and folded sheet metal with unpainted injected-molded colored plastic) were largely unsuccessful; 1957 was Lionel’s last profitable post-war year.  In 1959, the business direction of the Lionel company changed: it added subsidiary companies unrelated to toy train sets.  The company lost more money. See more in Wikipedia.]

Trains have continued to be part of my transporting life.

Back in the ‘50s, our family vacationed for many years for a week or two at the Shubat’s Resort.  That was cabin livin’ summer cottage sisters lakes

though with indoor plumbing and beautiful water and great fishin’,

at Sisters Lakes, Michigan.  sisterlakesmichigan.jpgNot well known, but better recognized if I say “near Dowagiac,” or Benton Harbor.  Those were great growing-up summers with my cousins and siblings, and “friend-girls” from different neighborhoods in Chicago. 

One memorable summer of my hormonal youth, a sophomore in college, I was on a train, going to that Michigan Paradise with Laverne, meeting our families who were already there.  She and I had grown-up conversations; she was the grown up, the neighbor lady to my aunt, the Eloise to me-Abelard-sans letters, the Isolde to me-Tristan, my Guinevere, my courtly-loved.  She was married with kids.  I was young, naive, infatuated.  So much to think about on that train ride.  That so special train ride…from Chicago to Michigan.

During the summer of 1968, I spent time in Delta House!  On the campus of the University of Minnesota, taking a few post-grad grad courses.  Three courses, small room with bed and dresser, shared bath and shower and fridge and cereal cabinet.  Delicious library, smoking in the classrooms, considering how my light (time) was spent with John Milton and a totally delightful professor, but unfortunately also with a totally boring Shakespeare scholar.  The other peak experiences were the bus rides to the train station to board and train-ride south to Winona to visit wife and kids for a weekender, with them and no books.  And then back again on Sunday night or early Monday morning.  Those train rides that held the memories of the weekend activities, loving and familial.

Though my train-love has given way to airplanes, I still am fascinated by the sounds, and sights, and history, and large-sized picture books of trains.  And have still used the rails in my life of travel. 

I did have a horribly uncomfortable coach- ride to Richmond, Virginia, not many years past, S-L-O-W, CREAKY, AND UNSLEEPABLE.  “It will be some time before I board a train again!” you might have heard me say.  Those trains in Europe?  We’ve seen Jason Bourne speed across European countryside on the TGV.  TGV-Duplex-21.jpg Yes, I have done that too.  And the “Chunnel” Eurostar, London to Paris?  Yup, that too.  London to Carlisle, to Cambridge, to Oxford.  Never yet to Cornwall or Land’s End, or to see Doc Martin’s place.  Mostly–mostly–friendly, delightful, memorable. 

I’ve waited for a train on Platform 9 ¾ in London, at King’s Cross Station…and waitied…and waited…9 3-4 KINGS CROSS STATION

And in 2013, Paris to Chartres…  That’s  how I want to travel by train.  Maybe someday on the Orient Express?  Probably, not. 

However, I’ve heard the Canadian Pacific has a beautiful train route…  Canadian-Rockies.jpg

Perhaps…

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2017

 

 

 

 

 

[MOTHER’S DAY GIFT: REVISION OF MAY 2014 POSTING]

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

MOTHERS’ DAY: The current holiday was created in 1908 as a day to honor one’s mother.  President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914.

Have you ever been asked, “Who is the person you most admired from your childhood?”  I believed from once upon a time that everything “must be true.  My mother said so.”

Yes, that worked for me, with my religion of motherolatry.  I thought it was true: My mother was all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise–seeing all.

M-O-M = G-O-D.

Then it happened: 9th grade for sure.  World History.  Discussion question about . . . and my answer: “My mother said so.”  And the teacher’s response: “Your mother is not God!” shouted back by my man-teacher wearing his black cassock.  “NO?”

How could I have been so naive?  How did I ever make it into high school believing that my mother had the VERUM VERBUM, the true word?  When did I stop believing?  When did I come to that realization the Game of Life was changing?  That I had to learn for myself?

verbum-dei

Somewhere, sometime, I said, “NO!” to Mom-God.  There I was, probably shaking while or after the words came from my mouth.  My Act of Rebellion.

And so it goes in the Game of Life, as we grow through adolescence into adulthood (which my pop-psychology taught me.  Or was that Gail Sheehy: Tryout Twenties, Turbulent Thirties, Flourishing Forties, Flaming Fifties, and Serene Sixties?).

* * *

I cannot imagine not having a mother, losing her to disease [Steel Magnolias], in a car accident [Raising Helen], in childbirth [The Sign], to a hunter’s bullet [Bambi], or to the many other awful things that happen to mothers before their children know them. 

“I lost my mother when I was five.”  “I don’t remember my mother.”  “My mother died of cancer, when I was seventeen.”  “My mom never came home from the party.”

And on it went, as I read college essay after college essay, year after year, for over twenty years.  This question was my choice.  I wanted my students to do personal narratives by which they could express themselves–and do their best writing–I hoped.

As the semesters ended, I turned to my readings.  Often tired, I usually would become pensive while reading.  I tried to be an objective reader, weighing the writing against the grading standards.  Yet so often I was pulled into the story being told.  I think I was, at times, like Miss Lonelyhearts [by Nathaniel West], encountering sad story after sad story, truth stranger than fiction.  I could not help it.

Essays ranged from the “My mother took care of me when I was sick” to “My mom had it rough raising the nine of us with no father…or with a druggie father…or with an alcoholic father…or with a___ father.”  [How did she manage?]

While I was drifting off, and away from the papers, my own questions, my own answers snuck in: How did my mother manage to sleep, work nights (mostly), raise the four of us, and keep up with the household duties–and be a wife, too?

Doing the dishes was the job that fell to my sister, Janice, and me.  We learned–and were outstanding dish-doers.  “Glasses, knives, and forks.  Dishes, pots, and pans.”  That was The Sacred Order.  I learned that way, from Mom.  [Trait One: MANAGER]

Years before (maybe when in 9th grade?) as I was washing coffee cups after supper, I reached into the soapy water, reaching after a cup that slipped from my soapy left hand.  My hand went automatically to retrieve the cup, but the broken cup sliced into the fingers of my left hand.  Blood in the water.  Panic from the immediate intense pain, soap-in-cut.  My sister screaming for, of course, “M-O-M!”  [Trait Two: NURSE]

“Mom, can you read my story before you go to work?”  [Trait Three: GRAMMARIAN]  ‘Nuff said.

grammarian amazon

Mothers cheer us on: “You can do it.  Go ahead!  Go ahead!”  I remember vividly, her feeling good on a warm Saturday evening in Chicago.  She had just ridden the (used) small bicycle bought for me.  I ran alongside her with glee.  At the corner, she turned around, giving me the bike.  My turn.  My first two-wheeler.

“You can do it.  Try again,” I heard as I tried to gain balance, but fell into the bushes.  Getting up, scratched arms be damned!, I tried again.  Her laughing encouragement behind me grew as I cycled away from her.  At the end of the sidewalk, near the alley, I stopped (applying the brakes expertly), then fell over–and off.  I turned back to see my mom waiting at the end of the street.  I rode to her.  “Expertly,” of course.  Yeah, wobbling from side to side, houses’ steps and bushes on the right, grass-curb-city street on the left.  I pedaled the gauntlet.  To Mom.  [Trait Four: CYCLIST TRAINER]

50s bicycle

50s BICYCLE (CREDIT: LIVEAUCTIONEERS)

“What do you think I should do?”

If there is one question I ask, probably more than any other, it is “What do you think I should do?”  My kids do it.  My wife does it.  We all do it.

Looking over my Early Asking Age to now, I realize this has to be The Ultimate Question: Each of us is a Grand Inquisitor.  We seek answers.  I seek (and sought) answers.  However, the answers that come from “What do you think I should do?”, though not unique to kids asking moms, make us Deciders.  For the answer usually is, “You’ll have to decide.”  It means, “You’ll have to make up your own mind–and live with it.”  This is not cold, harsh, cruel, but is concerning, caring, and–when I think more about it–allowing the Inquisitor to grow and live.  Therefore, we talk and discuss and ask: “What should we do?”

Yes, just like a mom, she said, “Yes, you’ll have to decide.”  Just as I expected, not unexpected.  [Trait Five: NON-DECIDER/DECIDER]

Good move, for, as we all know so well, not just Mother Nature, but “Mother knows best” (often).

So I would search those student essays for goodness and admiration, stories that demonstrated “goodness” and “admiration.”  “All the good” moms do . . . “is oft interred with their bones.”

NO!  The good DOES live after them.  I CAN recall the good times, the admired times; memories of the hard times, the rough times; illnesses, job layoffs, or . . . .”

Too, from Trait Five, I learned: to be able to reach decisions, come to conclusions, after rational thought, not impulse thoughts, but rather, like a good Indiana Jones Crusader, to choose wisely.

 So, “The person I most admire from childhood . . . .”

 © James F. O’Neil   2014;  Rev. 2017

* * *

 ~Irish Proverb: “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”

happy-mothers-day shlomoandvitos.com

(CREDIT: shlomoandvitos.com)

 

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