21 APRIL 2016



Taurus Astrology: April 20–May 20: Dependable, Persistent, Loyal, Patient, Generous.  Perfectly fine on being alone; this way things are done the way they want them to be done.  Fiercely loyal to friends and family–and dependable, but deeply sensitive.  They do not express their feelings openly.  Have immense perseverance, even when others have given up.  Very responsive to their surroundings.  They like decorations, color, or anything that appeals to all the senses. 

Taurus like possessions, with the Taurus home nicely decorated with lots of things.  Taurus are down to earth, do not like gaudy, flashy or over-the-top-things.  They prefer comfortable and creative settings and objects.

When Princess Elizabeth of England became queen in 1952

[Credit: Dorothy Wilding Estate. lethtemgrumble blog]

I was a paperboy delivering newspapers on the South Side for the Chicago Herald American.

I do have memories of folding papers for my route in February 1952.  I do remember those headlines,

though I hardly knew her, and knew but a little more about Great Britain.  Yet I soon learned that she and I were related–both born under the sign of Taurus!  I was smitten. 

I began clipping newspaper articles, pictures of her, and reading of her in TIME.  I was a loyal subject, following her LIFE events.

Always, though, to this day, the occasion of her and my birthday brings a smile and a thought of her, and maybe something memorable.  This year our birthdays are special: a big one for me (75), but a bigger one for her: (90).

So, here’s a shout out HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  to two special people born on 21 April.

Baby Jimmy 8-9-41

 ©   James F. O’Neil  2016/2022


Linguist Robert Hetzron offers this definition:

“A joke is a short humorous piece of oral literature in which the funniness culminates in the final sentence, called the punchline.  In fact, the main condition is that the tension should reach its highest level at the very end.  No continuation relieving the tension should be added.  As for its being “oral,” it is true that jokes may appear printed, but when further transferred, there is no obligation to reproduce the text verbatim, as in the case of poetry.”  (Wikipedia).

* * *

“You’re a joke.”  “What a jokester you are.”  “That’s quite a joke!”

* * *

I heard, learned, was told that a person studying a foreign language really knows the language if he or she can tell a joke in the foreign language, or could understand jokes told in a foreign language.

“Did you hear the one about the . . . ?”

* * *

I’m supposed to have a pretty good memory for details if I can remember them.  I cannot tell jokes, or remember punchlines, or remember those details that make a joke “work.”  That “punchline” eludes me, so I have historically been a very poor joke-teller.  I’ve neither comedic tendencies nor gifts for telling.

* * *

“The Story of Mel Fami”

Once upon a time, there was a great baseball pitcher, Mel Fami.  He had a powerful left arm, but he had two major faults:  He drank too much beer; and when he did, his pitching was wild and erratic.

A new, fresh young batter came up from the Minors and had to face Mel Fami for the first time.  Pitch one: “Ball!”  Pitch two: “Ball!”  Pitch three: “Ball three!”  Next: “Ball four!”  So the young player made his way to first base. 

The next batters were up, and walked.  Bases loaded.  Mel Fami was pulled.  And the rest of the story . . .  Page Two.

As the young player made his way across home plate, leaving the field, he noticed a pile of empty beer bottles close near Mel Fami’s dugout.

“What’s that all about?” he asked a teammate.  “Oh, that’s Mel’s beer.  The beer that made Mel Fami walk us.”

* * *

Remembering jokes is a skill and an art.  I’d never make a stand-up comedian.  Nevertheless, teaching, my career, has often afforded me the opportunity to be a ham, a play actor, whether in the Head Start classroom, or in a graduate class.  I even was a clown. 

“Standing before the audience, reciting his lines, he told them about R-O-Y-G-B-I-V.  Or about Pythagoras and his triangle, to demonstrate 127 feet from 1st to 3rd across the pitcher’s mound, or to explain the Oxford comma.”  The story continues . . .  Not too much humor there, unless accompanied by music”  “Conjunction Function”

So I have left the jokes to those who have degrees in the comedic arts, who memorize well (which I always despised doing), who excel in punchlines.  I, on the other hand, will continue socially, as best I can, in my humility, knowing my shortcomings, and that “Life is the search for the perfect night’s sleep.”

©  James F. O’Neil  2022


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” –Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

* * *

Carlos Ruiz Zafon [born 25 September 1964, in Barcelona, Spain] is a Spanish novelist who began his working life by making money in advertising.  In the 1990s Ruiz Zafón moved to Los Angeles where he worked briefly in screen writing.  He had written some young adult fiction and young adult novels.  Yet in 2001 he published his first adult novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind), a Gothic mystery that involves Daniel Sempere’s quest to track down the man responsible for destroying every book written by author Julian Carax.  The novel has sold millions of copies worldwide and more than a million copies in the UK alone.  Since its publication, La sombra del viento has garnered critical acclaim around the world and has won many international awards.

By 2017 he had completed four novels in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, the last being The Labyrinth of Spirits (original title: El laberinto de los espíritus), initially released on 17 November 2016 in Spain and Latin America.  HarperCollins published the English translation by Lucia Graves, releasing on September 18, 2018.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s works have been published in 45 countries and have been translated into more than 40 different languages.  [More in Wikipedia and found on Google Search]

* * * 

“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his [or her] heart.  Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later–no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget–we will return.  For me those enchanted pages will always be the ones I found among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.”  Daniel in The Shadow of the Wind


The first book that found its way into my heart is/was _____.

“Of all that I have read, . . . The Robe, The Human Comedy [8th grade]; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [high school]; Othello [college] . . ..”

“And the Winner, #1, is . . . no doubt: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce 

*** Please, refresh your memory, fill in the blank, have some great memoriesofatime.





“To Jim–Thanks for making me gramaticaly correct! Love, A– 8-18-98”

During my writing career, I have done some book reviewing for Choice magazine (a librarian’s magazine); I have also done some editing, for individuals, for friends. These books have become part of my memoriesofatime.

I’ve never had published a real book, one that I signed for followers while I was sitting at a table at Barnes & Noble, or in an easy chair at a small bookshop: “To Mary, Kindest regards”; “For Bernard, who will enjoy my stories as your mother did”; “Audrey, May you laugh and cry as you read.” These words I never inscribed in a novel or book of short stories I wrote.

However, two teaching colleagues and I did author A Bridge to Writing That Works [1995], for ENC 1101, a basic college writing course.


Not a best seller–but used as the required text for a few semesters with a captive audience.  (Is it ever ethical for a teacher to use his or her own textbook for a course? I thought about this often. We never received any kind of royalties for our work.)

Enviously I have attended book signings–or have had books signed after readings or presentations: at least one poet and short story author, Raymond Carver; Stephen E. Ambrose, American historian of World War II; Richard A. Clarke, (former) American government official. [I’m a real name dropper here…] James Dickey, American poet and United States Poet Laureate (author of Deliverance).


James Dickey: Probably one of the most memorable occasions of signings I can relate. I had attended an annual association writing conference, in Pensacola, years back. He was the dinner guest: speaker and reader, in a nice hotel setting. Cocktails before and after dinner. And the readings, “Kudzu,” for one, and talk of his poetry, and the Why of Poetry.

Dickey was always one of my favorite poets, with “Falling” –“A 29-year-old stewardess fell … to her death tonight . . .” a poem of great impression upon me. So, I sat, mesmerized, listening to him, waiting for him to finish, waiting for him to sign his novel Alnilam [1987] which I clutched tightly under the dinner table.

Then I heard him slur a few lines of poetry, then stagger away a bit from the podium. Ooops! Was he drunk? He thanked us, stopping abruptly, and moved to one of the small hotel rooms for book signings. I waited my turn in line. There he kingly sat, writing messages in books, sipping whiskey, comfortable in a lounge chair. Certainly inebriated, over the legal limit, DUI. I did not care. “To Jim, . . .words, words, words . . .” It’s gone. One of the many hundreds I donated to the library when I retired . . .

The next morning I met him in the small Pensacola Airport. We sat and chatted, small talk about teaching, and the Blue Angels (pictures on the walls), and other non-poetry topics. I do remember clearly his asking me whether I wrestled in school; he said he thought so from my physique and stature. [I did wrestle in high school.] He was quite sober when he left for his plane.

[In 1942 he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina and played on the football team as a tailback. After one semester, he left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Dickey served with the U.S. Army Air Forces as a radar operator in a night fighter squadron during the Second World War, and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Between the wars, he attended Vanderbilt University, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in English and philosophy (as well as minoring in astronomy) in 1949. He also received an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt in 1950. –Wikipedia]

Some of my friends have gone on to write, and my name might be mentioned in the acknowledgements. To me, it’s like a signing. I get a book with my name printed. Having helped these friends with their editing, I’ve even received an honorable mention (and pray there are no errors). I received a “Gentleman’s C” in Principles of Economics in college. Ironically, I edited an economics text; and edited a Western novel, and some first novels of action and adventure. That was then.

Now I have been working with an author “Margareth Stewart” [Monica Mastrantonio], publishing her eBook Open: Pierre’s Journey after War–a picaresque novel of one who looks for revenge upon those who killed his family in France during WWII. Her book has taken me on an emotional journey through her character’s eyes.

How much money have I made from my editorial adventures? $elf-Actualization, and a few dollars. And perhaps a copy of the edited book. Most likely that. Pro bono. I do understand the meaning of that phrase. A psychologist paid me a hundred dollars for my work on her book; I received $25 a month for editing a magazine article, for two years. Choice magazine sent a book to be reviewed, with directions, parameters–and deadlines.

Often, I had a deadline to meet a publishing date. Sometimes I was able to meet with an author, to make changes; most times I was on my own, receiving a manuscript text by mail or courier, to edit/revise then return by mail. This was detachment, impersonal.

One memorable time, however, April, a student of mine in a sophomore writing class, came to me after the course was completed, asking whether I would be interested in looking over a manuscript she had. “Of course.”

With all the writing/revisions and editing that I have done, AHOOTERS AND APRILpril Pederson’s Hooters story [1998] has been the most difficult yet most fun. The manuscript needed much editing, but the pictures of the girls needed no edition. April would take care of that. The format of the book was an ultra-unique project for me–cartoonish, manuscript fonts spread throughout, typed text, photographs, index, graphs, charts, menus. And all about Hooters girls and the working the girls do. Often, I found myself chuckling or laughing aloud. A notable task, a messy job, but somebody had to do it.

So, I made it GRAMATICALLY correct . . .

Once I read, “Self-deprecation is the sign of a massive ego structure.” Well, I’m no expert grammarian or copy editor. But I still do wince when I see errors–basic errors (principal/principle)–in a formally published text/book. I ask, “How did that get missed?” Then I continue to read on, mumbling something like “Well, you can’t catch them all.” That’s only human. But, some human got paid to catch that, after some machine proofed it. And so it goes. I have tried, with my favorite grammar books surrounding me–and with my Strunk & White handy–to be that good human who tries to catch them all, that Holden Caulfield Catcher in the Rye editor. I’ve been pretty successful, I must massively-ego say for myself.

catcher in the rye 2014


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