Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Melonheads of Kirtland/Chardon?

[Top photo: possibly "Heartbeat Bridge" near Kirtland-Chardon Road; middle: this might have been the site of Dr. Crowe's sanitarium, where the terrible experiments were conducted; bottom: near the Dr. Crowe site]

I know you believe in the Melonheads, just as I do. We know they come from somewhere near the Chardon-Kirtland border, where Geauga County meets Lake County. We even think we know the name of the road near their haunt. We know that old Dr. Crowe, with his evil brain experiments and genetic research, unleashed these monsters. We know about "Heartbeat Bridge," and how our hearts beat in terrible unison with the troll-like Melonheads that lurk beneath.

People often ask me if I have seen the Melonheads. The answer is not so straightforward. I began searching for them back in 1964, when I was 16 years old. Once, in the Kirtland woods on Halloween, I glimpsed dark, strange shapes hurrying through the forest near Heartbeat Bridge. I shined my flashlight on them and saw 4 pairs of red eyes and what seemed like gigantic heads. It's well known that Melonheads' eyes shine red in the dark (apparently a result of Dr. Crowe's genetic manipulations). So were these Melonheads? I think so, but I cannot be 100% sure.

Be careful around Halloween, my friend. Think twice about hunting for the Melonheads. We've all heard of the terrible things that have happened to those who hunt for the Melonheads and get trapped and tricked by these monsters. Take Care, my friend!

p.s. Is that Dr. Crowe's headstone in front of the house on Reynolds Road in Mentor-on-the-Lake (near Salida)? What other explanation could there be? How did the tombstone get there?
Astonishingly, there is a Wikipedia entry on the Melonheads. find it at this link:

The article mentions "legendary stories" of Melonheads from Germany, England, Connecticut, Michigan, and Ohio. These might be "myths" or "legends" in these other places; but too many people around Kirtland and Chardon have firsthand encounters to use the terms "myth" or "legend."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jack Pendergast's Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery

[Photos: top, the piper who played a slow tune after the military burial ceremony; middle, a view of the graves at Arlington National Cemetery; bottom, the caisson, pulled by 6 white horses in the procession from the chapel to the burial site.]

This past Wednesday, my daughter Carolan, my brother Kevin, and I drove down from the Cleveland area to Washington, D.C. for the funeral of my cousin Jack Pendergast at Arlington National Cemetery. Jack died in early August, but there is a long delay for burial at our nation's most famous cemetery.

The ride on the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes was beautiful. We exited the Pennsy Pike at Breezewood, and drove through the beautiful hills and mountains of northern Maryland--the hills dressed in their peak fall glory--to our motel in Alexandria, Virginia. I'm pretty sure my old Notre Dame-St. Mary's friend Rene Mirro lives in Alexandria; and I believe my new friend, Jim Sell, lives near there too. Jim is working on a memorial at Gonzaga High School for Steve Shields, my Notre Dame-Innsbruck buddy shot down in Vietnam in 1972. Unfortunately there was no time to visit with Rene or Jim.

We did get to wander around the old town and the Potomac riverside area of Alexandria Wednesday night. Everything there is so different from Cleveland. The area is very busy, very prosperous. Hundreds of people were out and about that night. Stores, boutiques, and restaurants were all busy. The city is dense, traffic is heavy, and there's an air of excitement in the air. All of this contrasts with current-day Cleveland!

In the morning we drove to Arlington National Cemetery and had quite an adventure just trying to get to the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer--just outside the gates to the Cemetery. The problem apparently involved security clearance and we were forced to drive several miles to a special gate where we and our vehicle could be searched. The delay made us almost late for the funeral mass.

The chapel is quite simple and is certainly used for many different faiths. This would be a funeral mass, celebrated by Fr. O'Brien (I think that was his name), probably a family friend of Vicki and Jack Pendergast. I did recognize some faces in the congregation--Vicki Pendergast; and two Hogan relatives who had come from San Diego (Nancy Hogan Acevedo and Kay Hogan Love). I had seen their photos previously, sent to me by my brother Denny and his wife Sher. I'm sure Den and Sher wish they could have attended this funeral!

When the mass was over, the military procession to the burial site began. There was a military band, a caisson pulled by 6 white horses, and a number of soldiers or airmen in the procession. The march to the burial site was quite long, through the winding roads of this incredibly beautiful and holy place.

The burial involved Catholic prayers, songs played by the military band, taps, a 21-gun salute, and the folding of the flag draping the coffin and handing it to Vicki Pendergast. Everything was done with utmost care and respect. The ceremony was very beautiful, very moving. When this part of the ceremony was done, a piper dressed in kilts played a slow tune ("Going Home," I believe).

Three important aspects of Jack's life were honored at the burial: his Catholic religious heritage; his military career of 27 years in the Air Force; and his commitment to his Irish heritage.

After the burial I introduced myself to Vicki and she remembered me from my visit of 4 years ago or so when I met her and Jack for lunch in Baltimore. I then met Dan and Kay, the children of Jack and Vicki. I also said hello to Nancy and met Dan's wife.

Following the burial there was to be a kind of reception/Irish wake at the Dubliner Pub in Washington, D.C. It took Kevin, Carolan, and me a long time to get to the pub because of our inexperience in navigating the Metro subway system. So unfortunately we were late in arriving and I think we missed some eulogies. I'm very sorry that we missed that. We did arrive in time for some Guinness and food and to meet many of Jack's friends and relatives.

At the wake I was able to talk a bit with Dan and Kay Pendergast. Dan and I discovered we attended Ohio State University the same years. In fact, Linda worked at the Horticulture College when Dan was a student there! And Kay attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where my daughter Julia also went to college. I also discovered Vicki was from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, just outside Columbus, and Jack was stationed for a while in Ohio.

We met so many people at the wake my head was spinning and I couldn't keep all the names and relationships straight. We met a Mr. Smith from outside Dayton (Springboro, I think). I found out he is a professional golfer; I told him I was the worst golfer in the world! He attended Ohio University and lived in Reed Hall (and his son is currently at OU and in Reed Hall). My daughters Carolan and Emily both attended OU, and Carolan lived in Reed, and Emily, who's still at OU, lived right next door to Reed.

I also met two other Hogan men. One lives in Aurora or Auburn, New York, where the Coughlin family settled after emigrating from West County Cork, Ireland. This Hogan was surprised the way I pronounced "Coughlin" --as /COG-lin/. He said he pronounced it /COCK-lin/, which is much closer to the Irish pronunciation and the pronunciation of my father and grandfather. I also met another Hogan man, who, I think, lived in the South. I believe his name is Ed. I'm sorry I couldn't keep all these names straight!

After the wake ended at the Dubliner Pub, Carolan, Kevin, and I walked up to the Capitol and then the length of the Mall, stopping at the World War II memorial (which I think of as a memorial to my Dad, my uncles, and to my father-in-law, Art Sanders). Then on to the Vietnam Memorial. We found the etchings of Tommy Fitzpatrick, my cousin, who died there in 1969; Ray ("Buddy") Chasser, St. William's and St. Joe's classmate, who died there in 1967; and my Notre Dame/Innsbruck classmate, Steve Shields, who died in Vietnam in 1972. We rubbed our hands over the etchings of their names and said a prayer for them and for us.

All in all, the funeral and the events surrounding it were moving experiences that we will never forget.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let the Wolf Come Knocking

(“As John Ortberg said, the wolf knocks at the door of every little piggy.” From a sermon by Wendy Rawlins Tuck.)

There is no escaping this Wolf,
Who might be the Lord
Or might be the Devil
Or maybe both.

Just think of his (or her!) visit
As an opportunity for both fear and consolation,
Loneliness and Love,
Despair and Redemption.

Let the Wolf huff and puff all he wants:
You, my friend, are protected by the Spirit
And the Sign of the Cross.

[Robert M. Coughlin
October 12, 2009]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is is you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

This wonderful poem by Mary Oliver reminds me of the work of
Walt Whitman. We are very proud of Mary Oliver, a native of Maple Heights --a
Clevelander. She is one of America's national treasures.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two Haiku for the Coming of Autumn

Summer's End--Haiku

This wild lake whipping
Waves into a foamy froth--

Fall descends on Cleveland.

October on Lake Erie--Haiku

Wind roils the wild lake
Gales blow from the west to east--

My soul is swept clean.

[Haiku often have three lines with syllable counts of 5-7-5 approximately. They usually present vivid sense images and a seasonal word or phrase. Often the poem is cut into 2 parts, a kind of juxtaposition. Sometimes at the end there is a sudden insight or epiphany. Haiku are really fun to write.]

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9th, 1982--One of the Happiest Days!

Happy Birthday, Julia! One of the happiest days of our lives was the day you came into the world, the 9th of October, 1982. Your Mom and I left Berea, Kentucky, for the 45 mile ride to Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington in the middle of the night. Mom was in pretty serious labor by then, and my job was to concentrate on the driving and to get us to the hospital safe and sound. It got a little tricky when Mom had strong contractions as we drove over the very high Kentucky River bridge on 1-75. The river valley was filled with fog and I kept my eyes on the road and tried to ignore the drama in the seat right next to me.

Of course, we made it to the hospital--you weren't born in that rest stop on the interstate--and your Mom gave birth to you, completely natural, no anesthetics at all, that morning. I was there, as was Dr. O'Neill (your Irish Dad and your Irish doctor were there at your birth!). We gave you a beautiful name, "Julia," Latin for "youthful" and the name of your Great Aunt Julia Fitzpatrick Brock and of your Great Great Grandmother, Julia Broughan Fitzpatrick. And the middle name "Rose," after your Great Grandmother Rose Huellemeyer Sanders, who had just recently passed away. We also snuck another middle name in there, "Sanders"; the officials in Kentucky in charge of birth certificates initially rejected a second middle name (think of it: in Kentucky this happened, where people are given astonishing names at times!). We resubmitted our request, noting that the wife of Kentucky's governor had just recently given her own child two middle names. And there you were, Julia Rose Sanders Coughlin, a new light unto the world!

Already, at age 27, you have given much to the world, to your family, and to your friends. Hurray for you, Julia Rose. And Happy Birthday!

Postscript. When we brought Julia home from the hospital, a beautiful crocus was blooming in our Berea yard. I had never seen a crocus bloom in the fall before. We took it as a special sign.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Best Beer in the World--Brewed in Cleveland

Cleveland always seems to be the butt of jokes by comedians (many of whom, by the way, are native Clevelanders themselves: Bob Hope, Jimmy Brogan, Drew Carey, Tim Conway, Patricia Heaton, Molly Shannon are names that immediately come to mind). What outsiders don't know is that native Clevelanders are even harder on themselves than national comedians--we have a wicked self-deprecating humor, stoked by our evil weather and miserable economic conditions, among other things.

We do have some things in Cleveland that are the best in the world, believe it or not. We have the best beer, brewed by the Great Lakes Brewing Company in the West 25th/ St. Ignatius High School/ Westside Market area of town. Try Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or Burning River Pale Ale or Eliot Ness Amber Lager or Commodore Perry IPA. Here's a link to their website, which showcases all their brews: http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Death of Bill Husic (William J. Husic, Jr.)

I opened up my Notre Dame magazine yesterday to absolutely stunning news--the passing of my first Notre Dame friend, Bill Husic. When I arrived on the fourth floor of Breen-Phillips Hall in September of 1966, one of the first people I met was Bill Husic, of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Soon after, I met Bill's roommate, Ron Weisenberger, of Fowler, Indiana. Sadly, both old friends are now gone. Bill and Ron's room was to become the main gathering place for the boys of the fourth floor of Breen-Phillips Hall. Some of the members of that floor included Warren Bowles (an actor living in Minneapolis now); Franny McArdle, a National Merit Scholar (at least that was the rumor) who stayed but a year at ND; Emil Collins-Cona, a crazy guy from Brazil, said to be the son of an important diplomat; Mike McAleer, who would go on to a Navy career; Rick Gross, a black student, one of the few at Notre Dame in those days, from Pittsburgh, who died in the Vietnam war [a recent visit to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington did not turn up the name of Rick Gross; maybe the rumor is incorrect!]; Mike McInerney, of the thick Boston accent, as blind as a bat; and a host of other fun, bright, and crazy guys.

For some reason lost to history, we called Bill "Mad Dog" Husic (we all had crazy nicknames; I was "Wild Man"). Bill was going to major in chemical engineering, a tremendously challenging major at Notre Dame. I remember how hard he worked Freshman year, navigating courses like Emil T. Hoffman's famous workout.

I have a number of disparate memories of that Freshman year involving Bill: his tremendous athleticism when we played football in the field just north of the Notre Dame library (now an area of dormitories)--Bill could outrun, outleap, and outcatch anyone. I often thought he must have been a terrific high school athlete back in the Chevy Chase-Washington, D.C. area. I also remember Bill's odd ability to make perfectly round and hard snowballs, perfect for the many snowball fights we had that snowy winter of 1966-67. I remember visiting Bill's home in Chevy Chase, probably around Easter break of 1967, my first time in the Washington area. And I remember Bill's story about swimming a mile in the Chesapeake Bay when he was in Boy Scouts. In the middle of the swim he encountered a swarm of stinging nettles, jellyfish, yet was still able to finish the long swim.

That last point leads to the great irony of Bill's accidental death. On May 31 of this year, just days after his and Cathy's 38th wedding anniversary, he was swimming with some work buddies near Bahia Honda State Park, in the Florida Keys--snorkeling, I think. His friends lost sight of Bill around noon, and, alas, his body was found a couple hours later. Bill had drowned, but the exact cause is not known--a blackout, some sort of heart problem, muscle cramps--only God knows.

Bill leaves behind Cathy, two children, and several grandchildren (Bill had been recently teaching one of his grandchildren how to swim). Bill also leaves friends from Breen-Phillips Hall days, from Notre Dame, from back home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and from Michigan.

Blessings to Bill's family and friends. May perpetual light shine upon Bill. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The South Wind (An Ghaoth Aneas) in Gaelic and English

YouTube - Gerry Sings An Ghaoth Aneas (The Southwind):

"A ghaoth aneas na mbraon mbog glas
A ní gach faiche féarmhar
Beir iasc is eas is grian I dteas
Is líon is meas ar ghéagaibh.

Más síos ar fad a bhím féin seal
Is mianach leatsa séideadh
Cuirim Rí na bhFeart dod chaomhaint ar neart
Is tabhair don tír seo blas do bhéilse .

Dear South Wind of the soft green drops
Make every pasture sweet and grassy
Bring the salmon leaping up the falls
Bring the heat of the sun
Leave every branch laden with fruit

And when at times my spirit is low
It's your breath revives me
I pray that Almighty God may keep you strong
That you may always bring to this land
The taste of your mouth."

Mick Moloney and Irish Session at Hiram College

There was a wonderful Irish music session at Hiram College yesterday, featuring Mick Moloney, the professor, musicologist, and musician. About 15 people or so were playing music, with about as many people just listening outside the circle of musicians. I recognized a few people there, including Mike Mazur (who didn't play any music, but told a wonderful story, in Irish brogue, about the late Tommy Makem). Also there was Dermot Somerville, a talented musician and singer, who knows song after song by heart, and played Irish flute and guitar. Somerville is a north Dubliner who has lived in America some 30 years or so. I have a CD he made with his group "Shanua" called Salmagundi. That album has the best version of "Wild Mountain Thyme" ever recorded. There were also a bodhran player, two harpists (one of whom also danced near the end of the session), several guitarists, a few whistle players, two people on Irish flute, and a fellow playing a ukelele. Mick Moloney played 4-string banjo and guitar. Probably 3-4 people were playing fiddles (including Gordon Keller), and a man played the Steinway piano there in the recital room. I jotted down the names of some of the songs and tunes I recognized: The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Drowsy Maggie, Maid Behind the Barn, The Rights of Man, Rocky Road to Dublin, Road to Lisdoonvarna, Roisin Dubh, and The South Wind, sung by Mick Moloney in Irish-Gaelic.

Check out youtube for a performance of The South Wind in Gaelic: http://www.youtube.com/. Search for "An Ghaoth Aneas"