“Fun is getting a pack of smokes, ending up in random places, meeting interesting people and eating. Eating is fun. And fishing.”
— R-Dick Dime
From the Turquoise Snake Journal
I started walking to calm my . mind
I have started a new habit to quit an old one. Walking instead of chewing nicorette gum. That sh*t is expensive and I chainchew it. So for each day without chewing it or worse — smoking a cigarette — I am going to go for a walk and find 10 things that I think are inspiring or beautiful. I need to shed a few pounds. These photos were taken with my cell camera.
“Everyone loves to be touched in a way, of deep, mysterious wonder. Of the unknowing powers that you hold within and by the breathtaking pictures from the outer world.”
- Anonymous Journal Signer , 1997 Biggie Blue Book Sketch Journal
Who: Anonymous journal signer
What: Mysterious powers of the universe
When: Summer 1997
Where: Somewhere in Florida (I was working at Boggy Creek Gang Camp, a summer camp for children with chronic and terminal illnesses).
Why: I ask random people to sign my journal. I curate wisdom.
“Irishmen are dreamers, musicians, and stubborn people…” That is the lead for the newspaper article that was written about my father. That is what he said. He was a dreamer and a true musician of the mind. Although he did not play an instrument, his hard working spirit and his decency as a person make me honored to call him my father.
So many people are getting ready to eat their corn beef and cabbage and drink their green beer. For me, this holiday is about the roots that are deep like the crevices in the Emerald Aisle’s shoreline. These crevices go back to Ireland, as my great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland. I have his immigration papers.
I don’t know if the Irish are secretive, but I do not know that much about my grandparents or my great grandparents. I never met my dad’s parents as they died before my parents met. I do know how proud my father was of his Irish heritage. I asked my dad when he was sick with cancer, “Tell me about my grandparents.” He said, “They were secretive,” and he gave me a cold look. I know my dad had a hard childhood. He was literally born into the Great Depression (October 1929). His family owned movie theaters on the South Side of Chicago and lost everything in the Crash. I think that is what makes the Irish so beautiful is the pain they have had to endure (as a country, as a culture, and in history) to survive. It was never easy being green, like they say.
I get sad when I think about my dad. Here is a link to a post I wrote about him teaching me the beauty of nature and poetry: My Father — My Thoreau. I want to tell him so many things and hear his voice. I know all about prayer and how “I can still talk to him,” but it isn’t the same. Sorrow is a deep ocean.
I wish I could walk into the kitchen of my home in Wyoming, circa 2002, before he got sick and smell his corn beef and cabbage stewing on the stove. I wish I could sit down in the living room (Dad would be in his white arm-chair and Mom would be in the other) and listen to him tell a history lesson or recall a St. Patrick’s Day from his childhood in Chicago. I wish I could tell him how brave he was fighting his way out of Inchon in Korea.
I wish I could tell him I finally mustered up the courage to watch, Chosin, and now I understand why he couldn’t sleep through the night, why he wouldn’t let us watch M.A.S.H. on TV, and why he never talked about the war. I wish I could tell him everything I never said, with just one more hug, one more hand shake, one more gentle Irish kiss on his cheek. But I tell him through words, through my writing. My best friend, Heidi, was my maid of honor at my wedding. She is in the photo below. My father told her at my wedding, “Make sure Megan writes. She is a writer. It is in her blood.”
- This is a photo of my girls (bridesmaids). Heidi is the one with the long blond hair two to my right. This wedding was after my father passed away in 2003. We got married outside under the big beautiful Wyoming summer sky in 2004. So I tell people I have been married twice (to the same man). The first time we were married was in my parent’s bedroom before my father passed away.
- My father with his war buddy. I got a call from his war buddy shortly after my dad died. I was too raw to really talk to this man. I wonder if the man I spoke to on the phone was the man on the right next to my father. The man I spoke to said he remembered my father’s black curly hair sticking out of the foxholes because he was so tall. He also told me a kick ass story about how my father saved his ass with his calm in a crisis mentality. Maybe you could say it was the luck of the Irish, but I say my dad was one cool cat!
I wish I could tell him how deeply grateful I am that he quit drinking, cold turkey, to be a better husband, to be a better father, to be a better man, and ultimately to save his own life. The memories of war and the Great Depression as his childhood backdrop haunted him. He lived through so much and never complained about it.
The fact that he got out of bed each day, with 70% frostbite effects to his legs, from Inchon, to go to work as a security guard at the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago and work the second shift, makes me so grateful. He was a man of integrity, honor, and true Irish spirit. I wish I could tell him thank you. Someday I will go to his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery and introduce him to his grandson, Benjamin. For now, I honor him on his favorite holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.
- Betty and John were special people. Anyone that ever met them knew this. They were storytellers and magicians. They made people feel good. Sure, like everyone they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold. My magic – my love.
As most of you know, my mother has brain tumors. She is in a nursing home. She says my father comes to visit her. They were soul mates. Here is a picture pre kids, when my parents were falling madly in love. My father, ironically, was a photographer. He did not have a zoom lens or a fancy camera, but he captured the magic in a photo. I get my “eye” from his Irish eyes!
I leave you with a video of images and music from Ireland. Blessings to you on this wonderful day that celebrates the Irish and their tenacious and hard-working spirit. May you find your pot of gold. I know mine is carried within the memories and love I have for my Irish family.
* Originally posted on my personal blog on March 17, 2012: http://memomuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/irish-eyes-irish-hearts/. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve, 2012.
“To Greenwich Village
6 Train to Astor Place
Walk south to Houston St.
below Houston is SOHO”
- Edward Dougherty
I believe New Yorkers are kind people. My mom is a New Yorker, born and raised. She always said, “You ask any New Yorker for directions and they will stop and give them to you.” I tested her statement when I was in New York for the first time in 1998.
My last stop on my three-day adventure had to be The Village.
I asked for directions in a camera store after visiting my mom’s childhood stomping grounds. It was a beautiful fall day. I went to her school, Dalton and where she grew up — Park Avenue and 89th.
I stopped in to get film at a camera store near Lexington and 86th (at least that is what I the journal says). I think this camera store is a Best Buy now. Three very friendly and helpful New Yorkers gave me directions to the Village. This was pre-cell phone and Google map days. I don’t even think digital film was invented yet.
Ed even wrote the directions down for me in the NYC Journal; Ella, Eddie, and Ed wrote their own journal signings too.
When I got off the 6 Train, I asked a man for directions to the White Horse Tavern. He was on his way to pick up his daughter at day-care and kindly said he did not have time to sign the journal, but he gave me directions verbally. I had just walked up the subway stairs and it was literally just around the corner. He pointed and smiled.
I wanted to go to the White Horse Tavern because I was going to be discovered. I was wearing a scarlet begonia in my hair (I know — how cliché).
As I walked through the empty bar, I was disappointed not to see a room full of editors and writers. I did walk past an older man sitting by himself at a table near the window. My scarlet begonia fell to the floor. I was not aware it fell and went to the bar to order a beer. The older gentleman said, “Excuse me miss, your flower fell on the floor.” I picked it up and asked the man if I could join him. I was not discovered, but I met a very interesting man who fought in the Korean War (Inchon) and was a Marine like my father.
He didn’t sign the journal, but he told me what to write. I wrote his name and 3rd BN H-Co. 1st Marines and his Marine ID number. When I shared with him that my father was in Inchon, he didn’t say much, he just acknowledged how brave my dad was for being there — for surviving.
In red pen on the same page, next to a faded taped on begonia is Vivamus Mea Lesbia Catullus – 3rd c. poet Roman. Bill and I shared a wonderful conversation about love, war, honor, and beauty. I will never forget the sparkle in his azure blue eyes; he was so alive. He told me, “Make sure you order the steak while you still have the teeth to chew it.”
I wrote a longer essay about my adventure in New York that October (which was my first time visiting New York). Long story short: I didn’t have enough money to take a cab back to the flat I was staying at. I had to go get my bags and my friend I was staying with arranged for a car to take me to the airport. I really didn’t want to leave the White Horse or New York for that matter. The bar was slowly filling up with energy and people were coming in after work. I thought of all the great writers, ideas and conversations the tavern had seen and heard. But it was time for me to go.
I only had subway tokens and enough cash to buy another beer. I didn’t have time to take the subway; I needed to take a taxi. I was prepared to miss my plane on purpose. I went to the pay phone to call my friend, but he did not answer. I went back to the table and told Bill my predicament He said I had responsibilities I needed to attend to and reminded me that NYC would still be here for plenty more visits. Bill gave me a twenty-dollar bill on one stipulation — I had to pay it forward one day.
I did, but that is another story.
I stepped out the tavern doors into the late afternoon light after saying goodbye to Bill. Gorgeous shadows cast themselves on the sidewalk — the very same sidewalk Dylan Thomas stumbled on. The same sidewalk Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson walked on.
I left in a taxi filled with story and wonder.
After I got my bags at my friend’s brownstone, the car was there to take me to the airport — the driver in his black suit and hat, waiting on the sidewalk. The sun was setting on New York as the black shiny car entered the tunnel to go to Newark Airport. It was beautiful; purple, orange, and red streaks echoed in the New York skyline.
I will never forget that beautiful afternoon I ended up in Greenwich Village and I never will forget the kindness of that stranger.
Links to article on The White Horse Tavern:
- New York Magazine: White Horse Tavern
- PBS Collected Stories: PBS Hollywood Presents The White Horse Tavern
- The New York Times: Venturing Out on a Handyman’s Errand
- Mille Fiori Favoriti Blog: The haunted White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village
- The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: Welcome to NYC, Dylan Thomas