Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THEY BROUGHT THE BABY TO THE BUCKET!


I want to write about a Visitation   in the Bucket yesterday.

I had been reading about recent discoveries about the Irish and  ancient  Celtic DNA.  Some  of it just showed up on my doorstep yesterday. MICKEY COLEMAN --He sent me an email and then a phone call saying that he was  coming to Providence from NY  and wondered if I would meet him on such short notice.  He had heard of me in Ardboe --the site of an ancient HIGH CROSS planted by Saint Colmain and the original home of my mother's parents, Joseph Coleman and Jane Conlon. It seems that  his great grandfather John Coleman was the brother  who did not leave Ireland in the  first part of the 20th century when Joe Coleman and his brother Big George  left Ardboe and sailed from Derry to  Boston.  I  agreed to meet and he showed up yesterday with his wife Erin and their 11 month old son Micheal,  He is a musician and he  gave me his CD which has a song that he wrote and sings about  my grand father's trip from Ardboe  it is called THE PATH TO PROVIDENCE.
We talked for a couple of hours and  I  felt so  happy to have  a new  and younger connection to  that half of my heritage.  He is only 30 so he never met  Margaret and Uncle Joe when  they re-discovered their family in trips that I took with them to  County Tyrone in the 1970s.  But he knew  about me and then he saw a picture that my mother sent to the Lough Shore News that showed her father Joe and George and their  friend Peter Coyle n Cumberland.
He is a person who takes an interest in his ancestors and  is moved by all they  suffered and endured to try to find a better life.
So it was very moving to me.  I had met so many of the old timers in  my visits in the 70s that he never met because they were  no longer alive.  I mentioned names  that I could recall and he filled in their details and was so glad that I  met them and could tell him how they had  seemed in their last years.  He is a writer of his own music and he  left some  copies of the CD with me. He has a website  www.  MICKEYCOLEMAN  
I do feel grateful that  he sought me out and I saw so much of  Margaret Coleman and Johnny Devlin's curiosity and ferocious intelligence and spirit in him.  
This seems  like a fine New Year's harbinger. Especially when they handed me the  baby boy--it felt like he  represented the  light that all babies bring into  the world and the special light of the Christ Child.  Also he seemed in his baby strength and energy to be a  signal of the possibilities of the NEW YEAR 2016.  After all the  New Year  is often shown as a baby in diapers chasing out the old year.
It reminded me of that lovely image from the poem of Sir Patrick Spence
Yestreen, I saw the  new moon
With the old moon in her arms.
So the young  usher us out --if we are lucky. 

 I also  got a call from my best friend  in Ireland Christine Hobson--so the  Gaelic  ghosts and  connections are gathering for the NEW YEAR,

Strangely  about three weeks ago I wrote a poem for the online Wisconsin poetry workshop  that surprised me 


I KNOW MINE


Fingers of ground fog
pushed through the window
seeped into my dream

like the miasma
of the bog
where I once
stood to dig peat
with my cousin Gerard,
who chortled as he showed
the visiting Yank
how to cut and stack the ancient fuel.

That wet wind cracks the code
of sucking mud, mold, compost,

waves of earthy decay

wash away the lingering undertone
of last night's
passing skunk.
Eyes wide open now
I inhale the scent of sod
that covers my dead.

It seems  this  writing and  recalling and honoring  our ancestors is in our DNA 

We know that the Coleman's are descendants of Saint Colmain of  Ardboe and  were a sept of the O'Neill clan. They were the  advisers to the Chieftain and also the bards who celebrated the victories and lamented the death s and defeats of the clan.  So we  know this  urge  even duty to write has  persisted for centuries we see it in John Coleman of Mullinahoe  a poet in the late 19th century, in Margaret Coleman,, in me, -we share a bardic hereditary tradition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wonderland to LaSalette

Last Friday I drove with my husband and my two cousins Louise and Frank  through the Winter Wonderland  at Slater Park.  They are older but much more nimble than I am.  One small limitation they have is that they do not like to drive at night.  I am not yet bothered by the  night driving and I wanted to share the  display of lights and family devotion that is WINTER WONDERLAND in SLATER PARK.  We drove through and even in the slight drizzle the air was warm and we enjoyed seeing  the  hundreds of  decorated trees.  
Since my cousins are both long time Pawtucket residents, they  recognized many of the family names that are memorialized with the placard and  the pictures that some  families attach to the trees.

What a magnificent testimony that display is to not only  the real meaning of  Christmas which is to remember and   pray for all those who have made our lives possible and  love-filled--beginning  with the infant and his Holy Mother and leading up to our own mothers and fathers and all those  ancestors in between who  showed us the way  to eternity.  Christ famously said that in His Father's house there are many mansions.  And I think that he meant that there would be  a place prepared for all of us and that  is why the Xmas trees--so many and so differently decorated --reflect that spirit of inclusion.  There is an old Universalist Saying  GOD DID NOT MAKE SOULS TO LOSE THEM.  The mansions of   heaven will be myriad and they will be different but they will be there for each and every one of us--waiting for us. God must love difference because  He made each of us with our unique DNA and He wants  us to bring those diverse talents  tot he table of life.

After the joy of seeing Winter Wonderland I got a bit ambitious and decided to ask my cousins if they could also spare the time to   take a drive to the  shrine at LaSalette.  They agreed and with Frank's excellent directions we  followed back roads that were  new to me and we were there  in a short time.  We drove  into a dark parking lot and there were no lights. We could see  buses  lined up and some people were leaving their cars. I drove closer to one little family and  rolled down the window --
What happened to the lights?  I shouted  to them--they  come on at 5pm, they answered,
I looked at  my clock in the car and it read 4-48.  We counted down the two minutes and  suddenly the  old shrine was ablaze of light. And we  were struck with the beauty and drove around many times to see all the  nooks and crannies of that site.
It struck me  as an enactment of that night over 2000 years ago. It was dark and the  world was shrouded in longing  for its Creator and then it was a blaze of Light.  My Aunt Grace  displayed in her living room  that  famous painting of Christ as THE LIGHT  OF THE WORLD and here in our humble way  in Attleboro  we  saw it happen and  we were de-LIGHTED .

All the way home we talked about  the old days and the places on Main Street Pawtucket that we  remembered and  described.  How my Aunt Anna and her friend  Rita would go bowling and then stop at the  Windsor Diner.  Or Frank recalled Majestic Novelties -- a store  that he had  run. And I thought about  Thursday night Xmas shopping at Prescoe's and Shartenbergs and so many other details of our lives  filled with no cars-- just  bus rides and long walks--ALL IS CALM  ALL IS BRIGHT.

Monday, December 7, 2015

XMAS SPIRIT :LOST AND FOUND IN THE BUCKET

I guess it is no secret that I have been feeling a bit discouraged lately. As advent began I felt mostly grief and very little joy.What kind of  Xmas day could I plan? This time last year I was in the hospital and then rehab.  The two Christmas holidays before that I had spent having the  Xmas  meal--an excellent one--as it was prepared and served at the Linn Health Center  in East Providence with my Aunt Anna who was  a resident there. But now she was gone, and my neighbor and friend  Doris was approaching the first anniversary of the death of her dear daughter, Donna,  and my best friend,  Maureen was trying to imagine a Xmas without her  husband, Mitch,  I felt the weight of these losses and was weeping  way too easily when  I thought of them. I was feeling sorry for myself.

  That all changed a few days ago when I was making my daily drive through Slater Park with my husband. He loves to watch the geese especially when they take it into their collective mind to cross the street from the pond to the picnic area. This day as I entered the park I saw a new sign that said  No Thru traffic.  I drove  as far as I could and saw hundreds of people standing in line and cars parked everywhere. People were  moving as quickly as they could carrying huge  bags of what looked like  Xmas ornaments. The day was brisk and damp,  but they looked joyous--their  eyes were shining and their movements were full of purpose.  I went as far  as I could and turned around in the parking lot across from the Daggett House.  I could see a line of  young and old people that snaked a long distance and I could feel the charge of their excitement and delight.
What is going on--I wondered--and instantly my heart supplied the answer--. And I knew that in some way they were honoring their dead.  I stopped and asked a Park employee what was happening. And he said they were getting ready for WINTER WONDERLAND--  people lining up to get their placard with their family member's name and some  words about the person and then they can pick out the tree and then they can decorate it.  Their joy was immense and I caught some of that delight to see them and hoped I would soon have  the energy and health to  remember ANNA  with a tree   decorated for her at  Xmas.

It is one of the things that really  made Xmas and Advent real to me again, and it is one of the things that makes Pawtucket a good place to live. THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL AND BACK IN THE BUCKET!!.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Left in the Dust

On 16 November about 4 am Mitch left us all in the dust.That thought came to my mind this morning as I was reading a gospel text on Thanksgiving--
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus
So I am trying to give thanks in the circumstances of my grief for a dear friend who died -- I am grateful for his life, his friendship, his wit, his kindness and his shining example. Not born in the bucket, living in nearby Seekonk, Mitch spent years of Saturdays downtown at the movies and attended school but that was before we met. He married another friend of mine from Pawtucket, Maureen. Our three lives converged in the cafeteria of RIC where we all landed to complete our Senior year of college. I introduced Mitch an Maureen and they fell instantly in love. That love never flagged in 50 years of marriage. A week ago on Friday the 20th Mitch was buried at Swan Point.The Deacon at the graveside ritual broke tradition and said that he believed that Mitch was already in heaven. I agree. I believe too that Mitch has won his race. He has left us all behind to complete ours. Mitch's long and slow death--three years in hospice at home did not look like a victory lap---but it was.
He was racing into eternity at full throttle. Things seen from this side are not what they seem. We have that dark glass between us and the dazzling Light.
We live in a hall of mirrors, where the evil are lionized, the ravenous lions are praised, and the Daniels are "rebuked and scorned"
So today I pray that Mitch looking down on us remains my faithful friend. And though he often shook his head over my foolish ways, he never lost sight of the pilgrim soul within. May he help all of us follow the promptings of that divine part of us---and like him pick up our pace, drop the excess baggage of self-love, and take up this baton he handed on to us and sprint to Victory.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Memories of St Joseph's School

When I was in the second grade, I began my first year of Catholic education in the parish school, Saint Joseph's on Walcott St. For me the nuns, Sisters of Mercy, were women who encouraged my growth and liberation. It was love at first sight. I admired them, and I was grateful to them because they were kind and befriended me. I loved the funny rituals relating to the nuns. Their convent was on a block long campus with the school, and they walked down a path between the two buildings. We, grade school students, could wait at the start of the school yard and offer to carry their books. I did this as often as possible for my favorites. Also the nuns, many of whom I now realize were very young, shared little secrets like—what was engraved inside their wedding rings--"Amor sine modo"--love without measure-- --or they would show us the colorful cloths they used to line their special pockets--the only color in their black and white clothing..

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Out of the Bucket and Into the Superbowl

I need a new roof on the house that my mother and my aunt bought in 1968. They put one on in the 80s but the fact of a newly painted ceiling peeling plaster in the front room alerted me to problems on the roof. So I called three roofers and yesterday I signed with one. Since he had a Patriot's jacket on and I was looking forward to the Pats-Dolphin game that night, we started to talk about football. Turns out that he had tickets to the Thursday Night game. We started to speculate about the Super Bowl and suddenly a name came back to me from 60 years ago. Gerry Philbin. I asked the roofer if he had heard of Philbin--he said no. And for a few minutes I told him the few facts that I could recall about Philbin's career. Mostly I remembered him vividly as my classmate at Saint Joseph's School on Walcott Street. After the roofer left, I checked with Google to make sure that I had not just made Gerry up--but NO. My memory is still accurate and I am amazed when living back here in Pawtucket has brought back to my mind. IN this the year of the 50th SUPERBOWL we might remember and maybe give some attention to the life and career of Gerald Philbin. He played for the Jets and he went to the THIRD SUPERBOWL. IN the old articles that surfaced when I Googled him he is described repeatedly as "A ferocious rusher."

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thin Places in Pawtucket

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can anything sacred come out of Pawtucket? For the Celts the answers to both questions is a resounding YES! Because God is everywhere, we are surrounded by the sacred no matter where we are. As a child I experienced something like a sense of Presence many times in Pawtucket. Where are the thin Places for me in Pawtucket? In my early memories I recall the magical sense of the world holding its breath and the perfect rightness of everything as I walked round and round an immense Copper Beech that flourished in the grounds of Memorial Hospital on the Prospect Street side. I also recall standing transfixed in my friend Lucille's side yard on Columbus Avenue. It was near sunset and the skies were putting on an elaborate display of pinks and magentas and purples and gold. We both stopped throwing the ball,and as I looked up to one enormous cloud formation, it seemed to be penetrated with golden shafts of light. It was as if a great door had opened and I could see the angels lined up within--thronging to the gate and watching down on us. I could not speak right away, but when I could I asked my friend if she saw anything in the sky, and she said, "Yes, a huge cloud like the shape of a castle." By then the formation was moving and morphing and dissolving. But I felt like I had a brief glimpse into heaven. These are only two times, but there were more. They were in childhood. Let me say that I do not think I am special or alone with these moments of revelation. I think that all children have them. But no one talks about them; I did not tell anyone about them. I feared ridicule and even in-- or maybe especially in-- Catholic schools of the 1940s and 50s we were not being told about the possibility of approaching spiritual experience outside of the walls of a church or the time of prayers. Times like those in my adult years have been few and far between-- not entirely absent. Of course, perhaps my professed agnosticism and my hostility to religion made me shake most of them off--but some remain with me. One took place in Istanboul standing with a crowd of people mostly tourists under the great dome of the Blue Mosque. There were some men praying and standing. As I watched them raise their open, empty palms to the heavens, I had a profound certainty that they were right. God is one and HE is All powerful and HE is everywhere. This was the beginning of my getting back that immensely valuable gift--FAITH-- which I had lost for several decades. Most recently I had an intimation of eternity right near by. I was driving down one of the short streets that lead off Central Avenue to the SHOP and Stop Plaza on the Industrial Highway. Suddenly I could only see glory--everywhere I looked--sunflowers blooming, hydrangeas standing with immense flower heads next to broken front steps, brilliant chrysanthemums placed on cracked sidewalks and sagging porches, Knock out roses still rampant in weedy beds. All I could see were the colors, the persistence, the determination to bloom and to show forth the glory of their Creator. I was astounded that I had never noticed them before. So maybe the veil is trembling all the time, and we are all in a thin place if we can only let ourselves see it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thin Places and Thin Times in the Bucket?

THIN TIMES and THIN PLACES Lately I have been reading about Celtic Spirituality and the concept of "thin places" and "thin times" in that tradition. Are there thin times and thin places in the Bucket? With the days shortening and the onset of Halloween we are coming to one of the "thin times" of the Celtic Year. Thin times are those times in the year when the connection between human activity and divine activity becomes less opaque to us. When we feel some possibility of communication between souls still caught in time (us) and souls that have re-entered eternity. The idea of human life as the time we spend between two eternities is a widely held one on Celtic thinking and writing. Here is how the venerable Bede describes the experience of life and our ignorance of what was before life and what may be after life on earth: “The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he im- mediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to be followed in our kingdom.” The season of Samhain as it was called by the Celts was the end of the harvesting season and the marking of the onset of winter. It was a time when those of us alive could communicate with the dead. The residue of this idea comes through in our celebration of Halloween and in the Christian accommodation of ALL Saints Day November 1 and All Souls Day November 2. It also erupts in the well known Mexican celebration of November 2 as The Day of the Dead. Since my mother's birthday was 28 October, I especially feel close to her this time of year and sense her presence in her Pawtucket house and belongings that she treasured and the poems that she left behind.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Apples in the Bucket

One of the things that I missed most in the decades that I lived and taught in Cincinnati was the experience of Autumn in Rhode Island. And key to that experience is the chomping of an apple from a local orchard. But not just any apple and not any orchard. I longed for a Macoun from Phantom Farm. I never found any like them in Ohio and I hoped each year. But now that I am back here I have found myself taking one of my favorite and most familiar rides up Diamond Hill Road to the orchard there. It is a favorite route because it was one I often traveled with my aunt Grace Jenckes Hartley to visit the graves of my mother in Mount Calvary and nearby the historical Cumberland cemetery on Dexter Street where my grandmother Ida Mowry and her first husband and her father and her mother are buried. Then we trailed up to Diamond Hill stopped to reward ourselves at THE DREAM MACHINE--a great and under-praised but always busy ice cream place across from Diamond Hill State Park. Then on to the glorious Oak Hill cemetery on Rathbun Street in Woonsocket to visit the Jenckes memorial and the graves of my father, Grace's brother, and all the Jenckes' who preceded us. On the way home we stopped to buy apples and cider at the Phantom Farm also on Diamond Hill Road. My aunt would buy RI Greenings for pie making, she made the best pies and taught me her pie crust secrets. I would eat the apple peels as she pared the apples.But for out of hand eating, I only had eyes for the Macouns. They are the crispest of apples; their skin is taut and sweet and the moist flesh of the apple seems to explode in flavor. I could never wait to get them home but ate one in the car. "You are so like your father; Norman made a religious experience out of eating an apple." I feel that whatever health and vigor I have I owe to the apples and cider. They help me and my body make the seasonal change. I love all the seasons, but as a child autumn was my special time. I felt it coming on in late August--you know what I mean there is a day in August when the breeze suddenly turns to a chill wind and you wish you had a sweater and you know the brief ecstatic summer is already leaving. She is very fickle here in Rhode Island. I always hope for a long lingering Indian Summer. Something to fend off the onslaught of winter. I liked the sledding and skating of winter and of course, the coming of Christmas. But the two months after Christmas, January and February, are cold and fierce. And the piles of snow freeze and re freeze and long out wear their welcome. As I am older now, I fear winter--with its snow and ice and freezings-- it seems scary and keeps me house bound. But let's not go there--not yet. This autumn due to my surgery and recovery I left my pilgrimage late. I did get to Phantom Farm and enjoyed sitting on their side deck in the painted rockers, sipping coffee and having an apple dumpling. But the Macouns were gone by. I took a bag of excellent Macintosh--but they are not the same as a Macoun--not as sweet and tart and not as crisp and firm and not as dark red. But learning as I am to treasure what I can do, I enjoyed the visit and relished the sparrows coming for crumbs and the "mellow fruitfulness" of the entire scene. Another Fall without Macouns-- how many more would I have to savor that special fruit. But I was wrong. A few days ago my friend Elizabeth called and said she was driving to an orchard that she loved in Wrentham to get apples, could she get some for me? I grasped at that straw and said--if they have any Macouns left please get me a bag. They did and she did. So this story has a happy ending--there are Macoun apples in the bucket. Every one is perfect and every one is like a time machine taking me back to sitting on the second floor porch of our tenement in Pawtucket and sitting with my father eating the crisp fruit and talking about it as we looked at The Daily Racing Form and he circled the "winners" for tomorrow's races.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why a bucket?

When did Pawtucket become THE BUCKET in local slang? Frankly, I don't know but I do recall the first time I heard my native city invoked by that nickname. Of all places--it happened in Ardboe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It was part of a refrain repeated for the benefit of me and my mother in 1973 when we made our first trip together to try to find our close relatives that had stayed behind in the old country. When we found my mother's first cousin and told him what city we were from in the US he suddenly recited: "bad cess to the day that I came to Pawtucket To work for John Campbell Hauling stones in a bucket." He knew Pawtucket and the US first hand--he was one of the few Irish emigrants who made it to New York and didn't like it (he told us that he had been a conductor in NYC and crashed the trolley) He somehow managed to save the money to come back home. He told us that he missed the Old Cross at Ardboe and the beauties of Lough Neagh and the eel fishing that was their livelihood. And so he came back when he was 25 and fifty years later we walked into a pub and asked if there were any Colemans living nearby and were brought to Johnny Devlin whose mother was a Coleman and the sister to my mother's father Joe Coleman--so we had a reunion of first cousins. So that was my Bucket experience. It seems that the popular use of the term started more in the 80s and what some of us see as an affectionate nickname is often taken and intended as a derogatory term by others. I have often thought of Pawtucket as a small important city. So much greatness like the mighty Blackstone has passed through here--the first foundry built by Joseph Jenks in the 1600s. The Slater Mill that launched the industrial development of the colonies in the 1700s. The first strike of textile workers soon after that showed the courage and sense of labor justice in Pawtucket. The Pawtucket boys who joined the GAR in the 1860s to fight for the end of slavery. See their graves in the Mineral Spring Avenue Cemetery and Oak Grove on Central Avenue. Remember the the waves of immigrants that came here during and after the famine in Ireland of the 1850s. The incredible fact that Pawtucket at the Old Saint Mary's actually hold a Fenian grave--a sacred symbol and promise of Ireland's nationhood. I was amazed when I learned this from Professor Al McAloon, and he told me as we stood in the old grave yard that he had witnessed as a school boy the burial of James Wilson, the Fenian rescued from imprisonment in Australia by the CATALPA who lived out his life in Central Falls and Pawtucket. Patrick Pearse in his famous oration at the grave of Fenian O'Donovan Rossa inspires his listeners with the significance of this Grave to the history of Ireland: "Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace" So it is a city with a great history,and it still may be called a bucket--but there is no disgrace in that--when you need a bucket, there is no substitute. So polish that bucket, patch that Bucket, raise that Bucket high. It's part of the paradox of Pawtucket a place we may love to laugh at but still a place to love and live with dignity and pride.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Reading a review today of a collection of writings and aphorisms by a French writer, Georges Perros, I came upon his definition of writing: "Writing is saying something to someone who's not there. Who'll never be there. Or if he's there, we'll be the ones who have gone away." The truth of this summary stopped me because it brings forward the essential loneliness of writing. The urge that we have to write is the urge to communicate but unlike conversation, writing is a communication which the writer can never be sure by whom, how or where it will be received. I reminds me that writing is like firing a gun and not knowing when it completes its trajectory. Sometimes when I read something and I am moved by it, I am also struck by how long this message has traveled before it reached me. After my mother died in 1997, my aunt continued to live in the house that they shared and nothing was disturbed. It was not until 2009 when I moved into that house that I came upon things left behind by my mother that shook me to the ground and made the grief at her loss sweep over me in waves of delayed understanding. I found a diary that she had kept in the late 80s and her well worn copy of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis with her remarks and prayerful notes stuck in the dog-eared pages. I felt that these were like messages from her that had finally reached me. Some poets have also expressed their sense of their readers of the future. In a sense all of the work of Emily Dickinson was a love letter to the future readers since she did not publish her great poetry in her own lifetime. Keats also brings alive this longing of poets to reach their readers: This Living Hand - Poem by John Keats This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calmed - see here it is - I hold it towards you. John Keats So writing is a kind of act of faith that somewhere, sometime, someone will read the words and finally grasp the hand that has been extended in the act of writing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THE FINAL INDIGNITY --A VIEW FROM THE BUCKET

Writing in the Providence Journal (2 Oct) in the Letters to the Editor, a correspondent complains, "as the final indignity, we'll get to watch former Governor Lincoln Chafee stumble his way through the first Democratic candidates' debate. My God, can it get any worse?" This writer needs to rethink the whole question of indignity and embarrassment. Who can embarrass us but ourselves? Nothing any one else does can cause me to feel embarrassment if I did not myself support or encourage the action. Human dignity resides in the person herself and can never be taken from that person. What is the indignity in having elected as Governor a man who had the courage to oppose the Iraq War on the national level, and opposed and helped to expose the dirty dealings of the 38 Studios insiders scam? As a child, too sensitive to the ridicule of others I would feel embarrassed because of our poverty, our circumstances, our lack of Christmas gifts, our lack of money to buy groceries, and many times my mother would reassure me, "The only person who can shame you is you." Lincoln Chafeee has not shamed this state: his raising of difficult and contrary opinions is in the tradition of the archetypal INDEPENDENT MAN and historically personified in this state by personages like Roger Williams, Thomas Dorr, James Wilson, Edward Harris, Anne Hutchinson and Henry Shelton--to name just a few who come to mind. I look forward to hearing what Chafee has to say, and if he embarrasses himself--that will be his problem--not mine and not Rhode Island"s.

Cemeteries that I love

I am a person who is fascinated by old cemeteries. I have a love for the old stones and for the poetry that is often carved there. I have visited cemeteries in Canada and Hollywood, Paris, London and Dublin--even Venice. I have been taken to visit the graves of my ancestors since I was a small child. My mother would take me to Valley Falls to Mount Calvary where her parents are buried and her brothers and sisters. And now she lies there too beside her own daughters, my sisters, who are also buried there. The stone that has their names and birth and death dates carved is full and so are the plots. When my mother took me there as a child she would clean the gravestone and she brought a plastic bucket and a brush and some soap and would get water from a nearby faucet. She would scrub the stone clean that she had purchased many years before. She said that when she was a child and her mother came to the graves there was no stone and they would pace off the grave site that sits beneath a large oak tree. But now there is a stone and the only information that is not yet there is the year of my Aunt Anna's death--you must wait a year after the death to place that date and so I will have it added soon. My father's sister, my Aunt Grace Jenckes, took me to a cemetery in Woonsocket to visit the graves of my father's family. Oak Hill is an oasis of peace and forested beauty in the middle of Woonsocket. It is hidden behind a row of three-deckers and when my aunt would turn into the drive from Rathbun Street it felt like we had found a door to a secret garden. What amazed me there was the prominence and beauty of the Jenckes Monument and to see that my father's people were buried there and had been for many generations. Grace would tell me what she knew about the Jenckes family; but most of her tales were anecdotal and were part of an oral tradition. I have since learned more about the History of the Jenckes family in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Historical Society. But the person who has most brought it alive to me is Elizabeth Vangel who through her research uncovered so many of the illustrious histories of those who founded the sacred oak grove that is Oak Hill.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Suicide in Slater Park

OCTOBER LIGHT--I said to my husband recalling a novel by that title written years ago by John Gardner. Shocked and saddened today when I read in the Times that a man despaired;killed himself on Monday in Slater Park.I go to the Park almost daily and it is my husband's favorite outing.It is a place of family picnics and fishing on the pond and gaggles of geese and children running excitedly through them.It not a sad place but an oasis of beauty and peace. So it is sad to think that someone despaired there. Monday was such a gorgeous day.I remarked that the light had changed. The bright sky was blue;intensely blue and the fluffy clouds; white clouds sailed in blue;high relief. All was bathed in a glow; kind of golden light. And even though it is a sign of the change of seasons from summer to fall; it is also a glowing light that seems to shed glory on even the humblest scene. And in that light pouring down like liquid gold on us all, a man decided to end his life. I am thinking of the Pope's urgent message to think of life and its sanctity at every stage--the newborn, the criminal condemned to death and the lonely old. He stressed the loneliness of the aging. I think that is something to contemplate--the loneliness of the old. As I age I feel a kind of deep loneliness because in a way my path of disability and care giving has caused me to diverge from the path of some friends. And also so many times when we hear from old friends and acquaintances, we hear of their disability, their diminishing, their despondency, their diseases and sometimes of their deaths. We all know that we are as the poet Emily Dickinson expressed it-- on a trajectory towards eternity. Because I could not stop for Death – (479) BY EMILY DICKINSON Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility – We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – Or rather – He passed Us – The Dews drew quivering and Chill – For only Gossamer, my Gown – My Tippet – only Tulle – We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground – The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground – Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity – But knowing that we are all going towards the same destination and hearing that someone chose to quicken and end the journey early makes me pause. So often in the Bible life is compared to a race--one that we must finish , that we must run well. Sometimes I think of our souls that are within us as a great thoroughbred longing to reach the finish line, and we are told by Saint Augustine that we are meant for God and "our hearts are restless until we rest in thee." I hope that the man who died at Slater Park found himself racing towards the waiting and welcoming arms of God as he sprinted into eternity.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Vanished neighborhood storefronts of Pawtucket

Every day walking and driving around  in Pawtucket, I am swept  by a feeling of both strangeness and  familiarity that takes me by surprise.  Something is missing in a  long-known place.  More often than  not I am looking at a  building that once housed a store  and now it is  all  gone or  it is obliterated and seems to have disappeared into an entrance to an apartment.  In my old childhood  locale I look for  places  that are no longer there.  Just to name a few--at the corner of Pond Street and Prospect St. there is a vacant lot where once there  was a drug store,  Another favorite drugstore  has also been razed  at the corner of Summit Street and Division Street. This was a  dear place because it had a  cool and welcoming soda  fountain and  a friendly   soda jerk who would flavor cokes to order with cherry or vanilla flavoring.  Also he  dispensed strawberry and root beer  floats.  The  floors were tile and the overhead fans created a cool oasis on a hot summer day. Now there is nothing there but a small fenced lot.  Right next door on Summit  Street there was a cleaners --I think it was  called Keenan's--now it seems to be a  church. Division Street still has many stores but no where can I  find the cobblers. The tavern at the corner of Brewster and Division  is there  but it  looks different and it is no longer called  FORD's.  Most missed is the  small grocery store that sat  on the corner of Meadow Street and  Brewster Street. Because  we did all of our grocery shopping there we  went  most days to that store   which was  owned and managed by Modesto "Mike" and his wife Helen.  I miss it and think of them both every time I drive  by the building that  still stands there but is not  a storefront.   Also I was a daily visitor to a store that was close to my school then called Saint Joseph's now  it is part of Saint Raphael's Academy  and   takes up the corner of  North Bend and Walcott.  There were two stores across the   road--one was a grocery  store and I think it was called McCormicks.  The other right on the corner was  more like a drugstore.  Now there are no stores, but I can see where they once were in the  buildings.  When I see the students from Saint Rays  changing classes I wonder where  do they go when they  want and need a quick coke or a candy bar or a  wonderful salty pickle from the barrel in Mc Cormicks.  That is what we used our milk money for --what  do  the students today do with their milk money.Do they actually buy milk with it?
 No treats, no adventures no forays into small cool, dark places on their ways   back and  forth.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saints in Pawtucket


When I was growing up in Pawtucket I felt myself surrounded by  good people--in my  family, in my neighborhood and in my daily  routine. In watching the canonization of Father Serra  yesterday I  began to think about the fact that even  saints are flawed --all of us are flawed.  So  what makes a person a saint?  I don't know but  I am suddenly thinking  of  the  people from Pawtucket who seemed saintly to me.  What  was the nature of  their sanctity?  Of course, I think that my mother was a saint--I'm not going to go there--not today.
But I want to recall some of the cloud of witnesses that  were  a fact of my daily life. At another time I  will  try to tease out the particulars of these  extraordinary ordinary people. Today I want to just name a few.
Modesto Lunadelli who ran a grocery store for years  at the corner of Meadow Street and Brewster Street.

Jack White  who owned the 2-decker  that we lived in on the second floor at 130 Englewood Avenue.

Sister Mary Michaeleen who was my 8th Grade  teacher at St. Joseph's School on Walcott Street.

Al McAloon  who ran a Catholic bookstore and lending library, Saint Augustines  in downtown Pawtucket  that my mother took me to every Saturday.

Henry Shelton who tirelessly  fought  for help for the poor.

Jenarita Fox who  started at the Grove Street School  the first Special Education classes  that my two sisters with Down Syndrome could attend and learn to read.

There I have named six and I will stop here and   hopefully find the words so describe their sanctity as it came into my  life in future postings.
In the last years of his life my Uncle Joe Coleman, who had the religious name Brother Cyril, often spoke of seeing saints everywhere--on the bus and in the streets. They were all shining-- he would tell me. These are six that even  I could see glowing  before me in our small, important place--Pawtucket.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Anna's Anniversary

Today is the  anniversary of  my Aunt Anna's death.  It was a painful death and she was frightened.  We often had spoken together about  her idea of "a happy death" and had always  imagined with her  that we would together  create a happy death bed  scene ---for her.  We would sing  her favorite  hymns and  would recite her favorite prayers -- but  that did not happen.  She was in too  much pain and  suffering and full of fear because of a terrible black bile that  she was spitting up constantly. I also felt horrified and thought that black bile was an image of death itself.  We tried to recite the rosary together but we could not keep it up.  I became too angry at the  doctor who would not or could not seem to alleviate her  suffering.  I had not  thought that instead of praying  I would be  making the air  blue calling for nurses and  the doctor and wondering out loud what could be done to help ease her pain and anxiety.  She  knew she was dying; she thanked me over and over for all the ways I had helped her, and she seemed to approve  when I yelled at the doctor.

Today
I want to do something for her and I have done the usual --having prayers said and visiting her grave. When I came to visit her every Friday, before she was unable to  walk,  I  took her to Chelos for her favorite  fish and chips. Today I did the same and got a take out order to share with  my husband.
But that seems like so little.  I  am inspired  to share some of the choices we made for her ideal death maybe   that will help  ease the grief that I feel every day for her.

Favorite hymn

MOTHER OF CHRIST

7/29/2007

MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
WHAT SHALL I ASK OF THEE?
I DO NOT SIGH FOR THE WEALTH OF EARTH
FOR THE JOYS THAT FADE AND FLEE, BUT...
MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
THIS DO I LONG TO SEE
THE BLISS UNTOLD WHICH YOUR ARMS ENFOLD
THE TREASURE UPON YOUR KNEE


MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
I TOSS ON A STORMY SEA
OH LIFT YOUR CHILD AS A BEACON LIGHT
TO THE PORT WHERE I FAIN WOULD BE, AND...
MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
THIS DO I ASK OF THEE
WHEN THE VOYAGE IS O'ER
OH STAND ON THE SHORE
AND SHOW HIM AT LAST TO ME

Here's a verse that Anna  always sang--

MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
HE'LL NOT SAY NAY TO THEE
WHEN HE LIFTS HIS FACE
TO THY SWEET EMBRACE
SPEAK TO HIM,MOTHER,OF ME.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Galway Kinnell and other poets in Pawtucket

Reading Rick Benjamin's essay in today's PROJO about the Pawtucket poet, Galway Kinnell,  made me think about the poet and also the times that my mother, Margaret Coleman, who also wrote and published poetry met his mother in local stores or  at the  library.  She would come home and tell me of the meeting  and of the growing fame of Galway.  She loved his Irish name  --that his mother  had dared to name him for  a city in Ireland.  And reminded me that   she had thought if she had  a son to name him after her native county, Tyrone,  like the actor Tyrone Powell.
I took umbrage and  wondered out loud what county or town she might have named  me for-- she answered without a pause   "MAYO--that  would suit you."

  Tonight I am thinking of Galway and of the  wonderful  directness and romance of his works--how much he wrote from daily life. How he dared to describe the details of pain and suffering that are part of all love. How poetry is a  way of  understanding and  responding to daily trials and joys.

Here is a poem he wrote on   the care of an old father with Parkinson's

Parkinson’s Disease


BY GALWAY KINNELL
While spoon-feeding him with one hand   
she holds his hand with her other hand,   
or rather lets it rest on top of his,
which is permanently clenched shut.   
When he turns his head away, she reaches   
around and puts in the spoonful blind.   
He will not accept the next morsel
until he has completely chewed this one.   
His bright squint tells her he finds
the shrimp she has just put in delicious.
Next to the voice and touch of those we love,   
food may be our last pleasure on earth—
a man on death row takes his T-bone   
in small bites and swishes each sip
of the jug wine around in his mouth,   
tomorrow will be too late for them to jolt   
this supper out of him. She strokes
his head very slowly, as if to cheer up
each separate discomfited hair sticking up   
from its root in his stricken brain.
Standing behind him, she presses
her cheek to his, kisses his jowl,
and his eyes seem to stop seeing
and do nothing but emit light.
Could heaven be a time, after we are dead,   
of remembering the knowledge
flesh had from flesh? The flesh
of his face is hard, perhaps
from years spent facing down others
until they fell back, and harder
from years of being himself faced down
and falling back in his turn, and harder still   
from all the while frowning
and beaming and worrying and shouting   
and probably letting go in rages.   
His face softens into a kind
of quizzical wince, as if one
of the other animals were working at   
getting the knack of the human smile.   
When picking up a cookie he uses   
both thumbtips to grip it
and push it against an index finger   
to secure it so that he can lift it.
She takes him then to the bathroom,   
where she lowers his pants and removes
the wet diaper and holds the spout of the bottle
to his old penis until he pisses all he can,
then puts on the fresh diaper and pulls up his pants.   
When they come out, she is facing him,   
walking backwards in front of him   
and holding his hands, pulling him   
when he stops, reminding him to step   
when he forgets and starts to pitch forward.   
She is leading her old father into the future   
as far as they can go, and she is walking   
him back into her childhood, where she stood   
in bare feet on the toes of his shoes   
and they foxtrotted on this same rug.
I watch them closely: she could be teaching him   
the last steps that one day she may teach me.
At this moment, he glints and shines,
as if it will be only a small dislocation
for him to pass from this paradise into the next.
Galway Kinnell, “Parkinson’s Disease” from Imperfect Thirst. Copyright © 1994 by Galway Kinnell. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.
I look forward to next Sunday and the  presentation as part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival of the winners of the Galway Kinnell  Poetry contest.  Hope to see some of  my blog readers there and to meet Rick Benjamin.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Statues at Saint Joseph's Church and Flavius Boucher



 Reading recently of  the theft of a small statue of Saint Joseph that was  adorning a small garden in the  yard of Saint Joseph's Church on the corner of Walcott Street and South Bend in Pawtucket  made me instantly  think of  a person who had once also created a statue for that same Church yard.
I pity the thief who took the  small, mass made object and only hope he did it out of  an overflow of devotion.
I want to recall the fact that once that Church yard held  original  artwork of a pious parishioner.
 I am thinking of  Flavius Boucher, he was  a semi-literate French Canadian  who was the father  of my best friend Lucille Boucher. He was also a self-taught genius of a sculptor in  granite.  Flavius was  an  extraordinary  human being with a  natural talent  for  cutting stone. Professionally he was a mason and stone-cutter. but he  went further. In the 1950s when  I was  visiting  his family  home on  Columbus Avenue everyday, he began  a miraculous self transformation to an artist in stone.  I could  not believe the  long hours he spent patiently finding the  forms and faces in the great blocks of granite that he  brought to his workshop  garage. He rigged a  hoist and  would  create statues  especially busts of such historical  figures as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Pope Pius, and  even  heads of his three  children, Arlene, Lucille and Raymond. He would use a caliper to  measure their  noses and lips-- I was so  envious of  those  lovingly crafted images of his children.  In my my eyes Flavius was  an ideal father.  He enlisted my  help  in his enterprise in an original and creative way.  Since he could not   read or write beyond the most basic  English, he asked for my help  because I  was known as  someone  who read obsessively and liked to write   poems. He instructed me  to read  aloud to him the  histories he found of the figures he was  drawn to recreate in stone. Then after he had listened to me read  and reread the  encyclopedia entry he had found, he would try to create aloud a  brief  history of the  person and also a history of his own interest and of the stone itself to accompany the work he was  creating. He would talk to me about the person, his interest in the person, and the special characteristics of the stone itself, and I would  frame sentences  that  reflected what he was telling me. Remember--I was in grade school at the time.   I would read them back to him repeatedly until he was satisfied.  When  he liked the  way I had expressed his ideas, he would thank me and ask me to  write in print a copy of what we had  composed together and he would  place that on a  cardboard and    stand it next to the  bust he had completed.  I  never heard what  became of all the things he  carved  so  perfectly.  I know that he sold some of them, I know that he  got orders  from some people  for specific  subjects to be carved and I also know that many of his finished  works languished in the  stone  dust of his work shop.

But he worked on--- and one of his works, a statue of Saint Joseph, he contributed to Saint Joseph's Church.  That statue is not where it used to  be, and I am not  aware of how it was  moved or when, where or why.  One day  several decades after I left Pawtucket, I drove to  my friend's  old three- decker on Columbus  Avenue and walked around the large  yard and tried to  see into the garages.  I could find  no trace of  the old stones or  the workshop.  I don't even know  when Flavius died because all of his children left Pawtucket and went their separate ways.

I do know that he influenced me  because of his originality, his productivity and his fierce  persistence in creating his art in a  world that was largely indifferent to him.  He and others that I knew and cherished in Pawtucket also modeled  for me the kind of dedication  to art and to their  creative genius that impressed itself on me as  real artistry and real intellectualism.  Those relationships guaranteed that  I would never make the mistake of thinking that education and intelligence are congruent:  that  just because  a person is educated means that he is intelligent or  just because a person is not educated maybe even illiterate meant that they are not intelligent.  No, intelligence and creativity  are  like  birds that  can alight on' the  branch of any tree.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Two People reading Ghazals in Homage to Ghalib

    I am home recuperating from thyroid surgery,  and that means even more silence than usual because it is  painful to speak.  Not to complain too much, but my husband  is an introverted silent person and I have always been willing to take up the slack.  But with that option gone, the hours of quiet became oppressive.   I cast about for something to  unleash  some words from  Yash and I  was thinking of his love the poetry of Ghalib and especially his  old delight in reciting Urdu  couplets. But  his memory loss is so complete that he cannot recall  them.  I  felt stymied by the fact that  most of my books have either been boxed up and stored  in the garage or  dispersed to various  book sales and libraries and the Salvation Army.

I decided to bite the bullet and re-buy them at the trusty Amazon and Alibris, and sure enough in two days  volumes of ghazals in Urdu and English  were at  our door.  I did not urge the books  on Yash--that is deadly. I just started   reading them and nodding and  smiling. Sure enough  within minutes  Yash picked up the volumes and started reading the Urdu aloud to just hear those wonderful sounds.

Then he started reading the  English versions aloud--and  that  seemed like a happy out come.
We both tried to memorize  couplets and have spent several happy evenings  exchanging ideas about such  lines as these:

When I describe my condition, you say "What's your point?"
When you talk to me that  way what am I to say?

 Your lover may not be faithful, but she is your lover.
We could mention the  sensuous rolling way she walks.

Spring doesn't last that long but  at least it is Spring.
It would be  good to mention the scented winds that move through the garden.

Ghalib, once the boat has arrived at the other shore,
Why go on and on about the wickedness of the boatman?

This is Robert Bly's translation and according to Yash he has gotten close to the  ironic and puzzling and puzzled tone of voice in the original.  There is something so direct and  funny about that voice that I love it.

How I wish I could find that tone of insouciance, idiomatic speech,  hidden depth  and surface charm for my own  poems.  Wish me good luck  with that dream.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

WHERE THEY WORKED



My personal geography maps a Pawtucket childhood in the 1950s, and in that geography the places where I played are happy, but the places where they -- the grown-ups-- worked are legendary. I never visited the Corning Glass Works where my Aunt Anna Coleman worked, or the Coats Mills cloth room where my mother started when she was only 14 years old. Or the Saylesville Bleachery where my father worked, or Collyer Wire where my Aunt Grace and my father worked. I never saw them, but I knew them. I knew them from the effects they had on their bodies and spirits; how the hours they spent there left them wearied and worried. For example, my Aunt Anna, who worked at Corning Glass on Broad Street in Central Falls, would sit out on the porch of our second floor tenement at 130 Englewood Avenue through a hot, breathless summer dusk combing her hair with a fine tooth comb. I heard the sprinkles of glass fall to the newspaper she spread to catch them. She showed them to me glistening in the light, –“Imagine if these are in my hair, what the inside of my lungs must look like?” She urged. And I could only imagine -- her time spent working beside furnaces on sweltering July days, inspecting hot tumblers that passed her on the line, and after eight hours of that she came home with her long black hair glistening with glass particles. I marveled that they could bear such things. 

My Aunt Anna Coleman died this past year -- September 18--  and in the last year of her life she had acute respiratory problems  that  eventually led to her admission to Memorial Hospital and the Respiratory Intensive Care.  Her  lungs were so badly damaged she could not breathe  deeply enough to supply oxygen for her brain.  After that and for the first time in her 95 years she showed confusion and   some loss of cognitive function.  Her doctors questioned me about her  smoking  habits and I had to tell them that she was a  person who never smoked in her life.  My mother, her sister, smoked and like all of us in those years she was exposed to the constant  secondary smoke of co-workers and friends. The doctor asked if she had  worked in a  place where she had exposure to  some  contaminants and suddenly those hot nights on the porch in Pawtucket came back to me..  And I understood that  her  refusal to smoke  or drink  was her way to stay as  healthy as possible in an environment that was  harmful.  Those glistening pieces of glass had come back to haunt us both.

Pawtucket at its Best


Maybe because I am a grandmother trying to help  and advise and  comfort a teenage grand daughter  who lives far away and I rarely see,  I find that I am thinking a lot about my grandmothers. Jane Conlon and Ida Mowry-- neither of whom I ever met.

Around 1906 when Jane Conlon first came from Ardboe, County Tyrone, Ireland to Cumberland to live in the Ann& Hope Mill Village, she worked in the Ann& Hope Mill as did so many of the new Irish immigrants. One of the experienced workers, from a local Yankee farming family also worked in the mill, helped her and instructed her in her new job and her new life. That teacher was Ida Mowry-- and I sometimes think of the two young women forming a friendship across the divides of origin, and religion and ethnicity. I am grateful for that meeting for reasons that they could not know: for they would share more in the unfolding of time. They would share grand-daughters: me and my sisters, when Jane’s daughter Margaret married Ida’s son Norman. I did not meet either of my grandmothers; for Ida Mowry Jenckes died in the terrible flu epidemic of 1919 and Jane Conlon Coleman died in 1942, but I celebrate those two women and their friendship.

They show  Pawtucket at its best.

Let me leave you with that image of what is possible in Pawtucket. More than  100 years ago in 1906 an experienced and kind American worker turned to a younger and frightened Irish immigrant girl –as they used to say–just off the boat. That woman from the old RI family that had founded Pawtucket befriended and helped the Irish girl, a girl raised on the Banks of Lough Neagh in County Tyrone, whose daily routine, until she left, was lived to the rhythms of fishing and nets and boats and eels, a girl that was frightened by the screeching mill whistle. That girl stood now for the first time in a noisy textile mill with rows of deafening whirling machines, and Ida Mowry reached out to her the hand of friendship and helped her to understand her new world . And 100 years later their grand daughter celebrates them today.

In these troubled and troubling times, where there loom so many causes to despair, I draw hope from that history: the hope that perhaps, this very day in some work place in Pawtucket or the Blackstone Valley a worker turns with compassion and friendship to a scared immigrant and guides her to a new and better life. Who knows--perhaps a century from now in 2106, their grandchild will bless them for it.

DIVERSITY  IS STRENGTH


Pawtucket has always been the gateway to a new life; this small, important city on the banks of the Blackstone where people come to find places to work and play. When we welcome newcomers and make room for their children and grand children to grow in body, mind and soul, when we safeguard and improve places of work and play, we are building a rich, creative life of work and play– a vision of human possibility much too large to be written on the back of a dollar bill. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thinking of LeBron

 I watched replays of the scene of LeBron James expressing his confidence in the eventual  victory of his team the Cleveland Cavaliers after they lost game 5 and needed to win games 6 and 7  to clinch  a national championship, their first since 1964. Hailed as the greatest player on the planet, he  repeated that phrase of self-empowerment and proclaimed his confidence in the outcome of the next game. He threw that  confidence in the teeth of defeat  and that refusal of the label "underdog" that the media and the Vegas odds makers  gave him. I must admit that I was moved  and I immediately felt a quickening of my own confidence.  If you are confident, LeBron, then I  too will keep confident as I approach  surgery in the next weeks. Now the dream of a national  championship in his first year back in Cleveland with a team  missing two All Star players is over.
 BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CONFIDENCE--MY OWN ESPECIALLY. LeBron's confidence had given me  confidence and calm as I went to meet my surgeon. An athlete whom I had never met had so impressed me  that I  followed his example  in my own little way.  His dedication to his sport, his devotion to his community  and his determination to win as a team not as an MVP--all are rare  wonderful traits.
I noticed  a certain regal demeanor about the  man they call KING JAMES most evident in the courtly  form of respect he paid to James Brown who was  watching the game. How often have we seen a player in his prime pay such homage  to an older retired  star of another sport.  That was a moment of GRACE.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

JOIN THE EVOLUTION

Join the evolution is the new slogan for Pawtucket and I like it. I like the way it expects change and  for the better even if it comes slowly. And I like the  invitation that  seems so inclusive and so in the spirit of  --Pawtucket  JOIN-- as an imperative.  Don't be alone or isolated be part of a community that is changing maybe  slowly and is  expecting the changes to be improvements.

Those of us born and raised in Pawtucket know that all the  changes have not been for the better but they were meant well. When I drive downtown I can't help but long for what is no longer there--Shartenbergs, The Peerless, Grants and Woolworths and  the Fanny Farmer candy store and the wonderful Bridge Bakery.  But then I  try to correct my mood and say --they meant well --they were part of urban development.
I recall going downtown decades ago  to see the unveiling of the   pedestrian mall that was downtown Main Street. Now I cannot believe when I drive  down Broad Street in Central Falls that there is more life, more energy, more shops, more diners, two Dunkins and more foot traffic than Pawtucket. I am glad  that Central Falls   has some  life and Pawtucket can learn from that as we  "evolve."

THE REAL MCCOY


Born and raised  just a few blocks from McCoy Stadium, I walked by that  baseball mecca  daily on my way to St Joseph's School--now part of Saint Raphael Academy. So I am saddened but not surprised by the  announcement that new owners would be taking the PawSox to Providence. It seems that the working class and the  lower middle-class will not be allowed to retain any of the simple pleasures that filled our hearts with delight and hope  and made dreary hours of mill work less oppressive.  How did we  enjoy our days--let me  count the ways--ways that are mostly gone and possibly largely forgotten. In my childhood in the late 40s and 50s we had Dunnell's Pond  behind Prospect Heights---for free swimming on the hottest days. We had the Blue Pond behind Mc Coy for ice  skating on the  coldest nights. We had Narragansett Park and we had Slater Park with its Zoo and winter skating to  music on the pond. We had the Back lots open green space  that ran behind Rhode Island Avenue from Dunnell's Lane to Columbus Avenue.  And the jewel in our crown--we had Mc Coy Stadium.  I went to games there  whenever  they were playing; climbing  over fences and  making my way up the long winding ramps.
If the McCoy gatekeeper was busy elsewhere, I  sneaked into the infield when teams were practicing and discovered the delights of the  dugout. I learned how to chew sunflower seeds and spit out the hulls.    On Thanksgiving morning dressed in  purple and gold and with  a cow bell  around  my neck, I would walk to the stadium to see the traditional rivalry played out between Pawtucket East ( now Tolman) and Saint Ray's.

Most of those delights have passed, but the jewel remained-- shined and brightened by the glamour of the Red Sox name and the  lustre of the players who were being developed  or recovering there. Now that is to be taken from us too.  And will Providence gain anything?  Not bloody likely!!  Possibly just more debt and  humiliation; the citizens of that city, Providence, and this state will be on the hook for building a new  staduim and giving away for an empty promise and a song to the moguls of the mound the reclaimed 195  ground on which to build. The spirit of Schilling is prowling  again, we can be suckered in again,  and we can't blame it on Fox this time. Gina will have to step up to give away the land earmarked for  job development and in that single  blow remove from Pawtucket  the little that we still take pride in 
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Enough moaning from me.  I am sure Mayor Grebien is devastated.   Do we have no recourse?  The pride of the poor is a precious thing. My mother used to say --you're never too poor  and it's never too late to lose what little you have left  She was Irish and spoke in what I sometimes  thought were riddles---but I get this one now-- the poor are vulnerable and sometimes all we have left is our pride.  Mc Coy and the Pawtucket Red Sox are our pride and joy.  Can't we salvage them and lay that soothing unction to our hearts? 

 Sorry to say. the machinations of the rich getting richer are beyond my ken and I have nothing practical to suggest.  Why not seize the day  and join me:  go to as many games as possible this summer;  it will be a long Irish wake--so BATTERS UP!
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