Monday, November 30, 2009

Karan Casey, Brilliant Irish Singer

This past Saturday I was listening to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion radio show (I hear it at 90.3 or 89.7FM in Northeast Ohio) and heard the beautiful voice of Karan Casey, accompanied by a haunting cello. She sang a fascinating cover of Joni Mitchell's song "Fiddle and the Drum" as well as a traditional tune. She has one of the greatest voices I have ever heard. I'm going to find the recordings of the Irish-American group "Solas" and listen to her work.

Garrison Keillor's programs can be found at this link:

Keillor, of course, is an American Treasure. He's always bringing great artists like Karan Casey into the public eye. Thanks, Garrison!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dawn Landes, Singer Song-Writer, and "Straight Lines"

There's a Chrysler Town and Country tv commercial that has attracted my attention because of the beautiful song being sung in the background. The song is called "Straight Lines," and it is performed by Dawn Landes (who wrote the song). Dawn Landes is from Louisville, Kentucky, and now makes her home in Brooklyn, New York. The Chrysler ad can be seen at this link:

Here's the official video:

Here's a cute cover version:

The lyrics are very poignant and make one think about the passage of time and growing up:

Straight Lines

By Dawn Landes

[some of these lyrics might be incorrectly transcribed]

Remember when we were young
How you asked everyone to marry you
All of those songs we sung
Changing all the words you used to make the heroine die

Remember when we were right
God threw his darts at stars in the night
I had a kite
You had a trampoline and a BMX bike
You didn't even like

I don't want to say it's breaking my heart
And I don't know where to start
Old friends are falling apart

??Time like the name of a man
Covered and we both can whine [???]

[??Write your name over mine
cover them both in wine[??]

I miss the straight, straight lines

The old times

Remember when we got caught
Dirty hands and make-believe drugs
We never got
Give me all your money
Bank robbers and cowboy cops
Make-believe rocks

Remember when we held hands
Red rover and marching band
You had a tan
Staying outside that long's gonna make you man
Never going back, never going back again

I don't want to say it's breaking my heart
And I don't know where to start
Old friends are falling apart
Time like the name of a man
Covered and we both can whine
I miss the straight, straight lines

The old times
The old times
Remember when we were young
Remember when we were young

Where Is Dick Crowley? VISTA in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine

Today I was thinking about AmeriCorps and the VISTA program because my daughter Carolan has interviewed with AmeriCorps State and National and, we hope, will soon be offered a position with them. I don't know the history of VISTA, but think it is a kind of natural growth from the Peace Corps program that John F. Kennedy established--possibly coming out of the LBJ years and the "Great Society" programs of the mid to late 1960s. Of course the roots of VISTA must go back long before that! One need only to think of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA projects of the FDR presidency.

So thinking about VISTA led me to thinking about Dick Crowley, a VISTA volunteer in Cincinnati in the early 1970's. Dick was one of several VISTA people I met in Cincinnati near the Mansfield House commune and the Orchard Street house in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine community. Another Cincinnati VISTA name that comes to mind is John Thornton (and his "Thorntonisms"). Dick was a great guy, a giant of a man perhaps 6'5" tall (at least he looked that tall to me!). I'll never forget how Dick recited a Pablo Neruda poem at Chris Cotter's wedding ("I, body of a woman . . .")--slightly under the influence. The recitation was great fun, greeted by hoots and hollers.

In recent years I have found out that I am a direct descendant of Mary Crowley, my great great grandmother, who emigrated from West Cork, Ireland with her husband Daniel Coghlin and her four children, Jeremiah, Bartholemew, Catherine, and Cornelius. Maybe Dick Crowley is a relative--one who got the tall gene. I wish I knew Dick's whereabouts!

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 22nd and the Kennedy Family

Yesterday was a glorious November 22, 2009 in Northeast Ohio. The sky was cloudless, perfectly blue. The temperature was a mild 55 degrees. During the afternoon Linda, Emily, and I hiked the Pearson Creek and Old Valley trails at the Holden Arboretum (the Holden Arboretum is a world treasure, located in Kirtland, Ohio). I felt grateful that my heart, lungs, legs, and knees held up to the vigorous hike, up and down steep ravines. The ravines are full of gigantic hemlock, poplar, sugar maple, and other native trees (red oak, different kinds of hickory trees, beech, and understory musclewood, spicebush, etc.). And there were many varieties of fern still perfectly green. In the arboretum's gardens, a few blooms were still to be seen (especially roses)

The trails in other parts of the arboretum, especially in the open meadows, are lined with tall sticks so that when the heavy snows come (and that could be soon!), the cross-country skiers will be able to find their way. As we hiked around we kept thinking how unusual this warm and sunny weather was. Northeast Ohio in late November can be very dark, cloudy, cold, and snowy. And here was this perfect day!

So for a while I forgot that November 22nd is the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the saddest days of my life--and the life of our nation. I was in tenth grade at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland that day. Around 2 PM, Brother Stanley Matthews SM, our principal, came over the PA announcing the shooting. And then, about a half hour later, he brought us the sad news of JFK's death. To Irish Catholic kids like us, this was the most devastating news imaginable.

I've been thinking a lot about John F. Kennedy lately because I've been reading the remarkable memoir written by Ted Kennedy called True Compass. This is an interesting and valuable book, with the genuine voice of Ted Kennedy shining through. He loved and admired his oldest brother, who he always refers to as "Jack." The book makes it abundantly clear how unique and brilliant (and funny and courageous) Jack Kennedy was.

Last evening's news brought more Kennedy news. The bishop of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, has apparently banned U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion because of pro-choice legislative positions. I think this is a wrongheaded decision, though I myself am very much against abortion (with exceptions for a mother's health and in cases of rape or incest). Catholic bishops often don't seem to understand who their friends are and who their enemies are. Education, dialogue, involvement are the tools we should be using with those that disagree with us--not the sledgehammer of ex-communication. The Church's record with ex-communication is tragic and has often backfired or proven wrong in the long haul.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Lament for Art O'Leary" --in Irish and in English

Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, "Lament for Art O'Leary"

The following was found on the website of the Munster Literature Center (Cork, Ireland). Here's a link:

The famous 'Caoineadh', or 'Lament', for Art O' Leary was written about 1773 by O'Leary's widow, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill. O'Leary, who had served as a colonel in the Austrian army, was outlawed and killed in Carriganimma, County Cork, for refusing to sell his much-admired horse to a Protestant named Morris for £5 (at the time a Catholic was not permitted to own a horse of higher value).

The sixth to eighth stanzas are reprinted below, in the masterly translation of Frank O'Connor, followed by the original Irish. Other translations have been rendered by Elis Dillon, Patrick Galvin and Vona Groarke.

My Love and my mate
That I never thought dead
Till your horse came to me
With bridle trailing,
All blood from forehead
To polished saddle
Where you should be,
Either sitting or standing;

I gave one leap to the threshold,
A second to the gate,
A third upon its back.
I clapped my hands,
And off at a gallop;
I never lingered
Till I found you lying
By a little furze-bush
Without pope or bishop
Or priest or cleric
One prayer to whisper
But an old, old woman,
And her cloak about you,
And your blood in torrents ~
Art O'Leary ~
I did not wipe it off,
I drank it from my palms.

My love and my delight
Stand up now beside me,
And let me lead you home
Until I make a feast,
And I will roast the meat
And send for company
And call the harpers in,
And I shall make your bed
Of soft and snowy sheets
And blankets dark and rough
To warm the beloved limbs
An autumn blast has chilled.

Mo chara thu go daingean!
Is níor chreideas riamh dod mharbh
Gur tháinig chugham do chapall
Is a srianta léi go talamh,
Is fuil do chroí ar a leacain
Siar go t'iallait ghreanta
Mar a mbítheá id shuí's id sheasamh.

Thugas léim go tairsigh,
An dara léim go geata,
An tríú léim ar do chapall.
Do bhuaileas go luath mo bhasa
Is do bhaineas as na reathaibh
Chomh maith is bhí sé agam,
Go bhfuaras romham tú marbh
Cois toirín ísil aitinn,
Gan Pápa gan easpag,
Gan cléireach gan sagart
Do léifeadh ort an tsailm,
Ach seanbhean chríonna chaite
Do leath ort binn dá fallaing ~
Do chuid fola leat 'na sraithibh;
Is níor fhanas le hí ghlanadh
Ach í ól suas lem basaibh.

Mo ghrá thu go daingean!
Is éirigh suas id sheasamh
Is tar liom féin abhaile,
Go gcuirfeam mairt á leagadh,
Go nglaofam ar chóisir fhairsing,
Go mbeidh againn ceol a spreagadh,
Go gcóireod duitse leaba
Faoi bhairlíní geala,
Faoi chuilteanna breátha breaca,
A bhainfidh asat allas
In ionad an fhuachta a ghlacais.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin--Born 86 Years Ago Today

[ Photo: My Mother on her wedding day, August 1947. Mom and Dad were married at Immacualte Conception Church in Willoughby, Ohio]

Today would have been my mother's 86th birthday. She was born on November 10th, 1923, to John Francis Fitzpatrick and Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick, their sixth and last child. Mom first lived on E. 169th Street near Grovewood, not far from Euclid Beach Park. I'm not sure of the date, but probably in the early 1930's the family moved to Tarrymore, just off Neff Road, a couple blocks from Lake Erie. So Mom spent her infancy and childhood right near the lake. In fact, she spent almost the entire 80 years of her life within, say, a mile and a half of the Lake. First in Cleveland; then after her marriage to my Dad in 1947, in Willoughby-on-the-Lake (Windermere, near Lost Nation Boulevard and Lakeshore Boulevard); and then in 1951 in Euclid (East 266th Street). The last year of her life was spent in Mentor at my brother Kevin's house. She died peacefully on December 8th, 2003, surrounded by her children and many of her grandchildren, not long after receiving the Last Rites of the Church.

I cannot express or explain how important my Mother was (and is) to my life. I just know that she was central. I am eternally grateful that she was my Mother. I thank God for that great blessing. I still pray for her and for her entire crazy family, myself included. Eternal rest grant unto to her, O Lord. And perpetual light shine upon her!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Peak of My Football Career--Fall 1957

It's been all downhill since the fall of 1957 for my career as a football player--52 years downhill. I was the halfback on a St. William's [E. 260th Street in Euclid, Ohio] touch football team. I was installed as halfback, probably because I demonstrated good running speed in tryouts. And that fall I scored many, many touchdowns for my team, which played right behind St. William's School (now a blacktopped parking lot). As far as I know, the two best running backs in Cleveland that fall were me -- and Jimmy Brown. Brown is in the football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio; I am not.

This was the end of the leather helmet era. The kids on our team had the opportunity to pick over the old equipment used by St. William's CYO tackle team. I checked out an old leather helmet, but the stench (it smelled like vomit) changed my mind and I went for the plastic one.

I believe Mr. Rossa [or Rosa?] was our coach, and his son John was also on the team. I will post a photo soon that shows our team back in those good old days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sign of the Apocalypse: University of Cincinnati's Football Rankings

The University of Cincinnati's football team is ranked 4th in the country in the AP poll and 5th in the BCS poll. Ohio State is ranked 15th in the AP and 16th in the BCS; Notre Dame is ranked 19th in the AP and 22nd in the BCS.

I attended and have degrees from each of these schools. I even played football for Notre Dame (well, "Interhall Football," for Breen-Phillips Hall, coached by Terry McCarthy). I never would have believed that UC would be better in football than OSU and ND. I remember that when I attended UC in the mid '70's, you could have counted the football fans at home games on your hands and toes. You could even get into the games free of charge back then! The current football rankings are surely apocalyptic signs!

So go Buckeyes and Irish. And congratulations to the Cincinnati Bearcats!