Saturday, April 30, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #12



Written: November 17, 2004 (except the lyrics of course!)

Seeing how it’s my book and everything, I won’t feel so badly about bending my own rules a little bit to allow me to fill a few chapters with the lyrics to the various songs I’ve “written” over the years. I use the quotation marks because the tunes remain locked in my head, and I could only reproduce them by singing and going “ba-ba-ba” for the various instrumental parts! My works can be clearly divided into three phases: “pubescent”, “early-philosophical”, and “post-separation”.

The inspiration for the early stuff can be attributed mainly to one album, the Police’s “Synchronicity” from 1983. This was the first my mother ever bought me and thus was the first to which I listened intently. I was stirred by Sting’s constant references to his own loneliness, though his was rather more justified in that his marriage had just failed and I was just a spotty teenage only child who lived with his grandparents!!!

I probably did around twenty or so songs in this period, if you include all the uncompleted ones. I have picked the best three as examples. “Loneliness” easily speaks for itself. “Thinking…” was the first song I ever actually completed, and is quite catchy if I do say so myself. Yes, of COURSE it’s about masturbation!!!

As it was the 80’s and the height of the Cold War, everyone was doing a song about potential armageddon, so I was moved to write one based on my disbelief that Weapons Of Mass Destruction had really been used in the past by my country of origin. Learning of these events did little to make me believe that the Americans’ and Russians’ respective nuclear arsenals were simply a “deterrent”. U2 had their “Unforgettable Fire” song out around this time, which was based on pictures of the ensuing fallout drawn by Japanese survivors of the attack. Personally I was fascinated by how a series of events could lead to someone actually flying a warplane to launch such a genocidal assault, and thus “The Bomb” was conceived.


Oh you keep it to yourself
You think that no one ever listens
Everybody’s turning away
And when you finally get your chance to speak
It only comes out wrong
And so I sing my song
I sing a song about loneliness

Oh it leaves ya reeling
Not the best of feelings
Knowing you’re your own best friend
You just stand in the rain
As you’re feeling the pain
And you wonder will it ever end
I sing a song about loneliness

But I know that life goes on
I gotta assure myself that it’s gonna get better
And I can only pray
Can’t wait for the day
That I can get up and say
That I’ve found a way
To stop feeling alone

Oh I sing a song about loneliness

THINKING OF YOUR BODY (written early 1985)

I’m thinking of your body
Your figure had me mystified
And when I saw your face I almost died
I was overcome with emotion
And you never knew, I trust,
That when I saw you all dressed up
I got a very very very strange sensation
The window was full of condensation
And ever since that fateful day I’ve been

Thinking of your body
I’m thinking of your body
I’m behavin very oddly
When I’m thinking of your body

In the pouring rain
I could’ve asked your name
Instead I turned away
There was nothing left to say
And though I’d never condone
And entire life alone
One thing I’ll always enjoy is


But although you’ve got me feeling oh so good
I’m wondering if I ever could
Just bring myself to talk to you
Cos I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life just


THE BOMB (completed August 24, 1985)

The scene at Buckingham Palace gate
In London, 1945
The people of England celebrate
They’re all amazed they’re still alive
But cast your eyes to the other side
of the world, where war is still waged
An emperor who can’t swallow his pride
A president who won’t calm his rage

Harry goes into the conference hall
Can he survive through one more day?
In three months he thought he’d seen it all
Till an army commander gets up to say
“Mr President I’m afraid our boys
would die in their thousands if war goes on”
Harry says “Then, we’ve got no choice.
Go ahead and drop the bomb.”

So many people know it was wrong
And our cries are much too late
But the fact that we’ve been fighting for years
Doesn’t mean that there’s no room for change

The man on the radio does his job
The news they’d all been waiting for
He says they’ve built a great new bomb
Its purpose is to end the war
Mother looks up from her knitting and prays
“Maybe our son will be home someday!”
Daddy looks up from his paper and says
“Maybe at last those Japs will pay.”

One man got more power
Than he could ever need
An evil that was born with fear
And driven on by greed
But we can’t just say it’s all his fault
For we all must take the blame
From world wars to family rows
When will we see they’re all the same?

Now the runway’s clear and the engines roar
Enola soars into the sky
Waiting to release her load
She doesn’t care how many humans die
Now what you’re witnessing is the destruction
Of the Land of the Rising Sun
It’s amazing how the lives of millions
Are put into the hands of one

It may be hard for me to complain
Since I wasn’t even there
But it’s not to hard to feel the pain
And I’d be foolish not to care
If it was only there to make the “peace”
Then the killing has just begun
It all happened as a war was won
It all happened on the day they dropped the bomb

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #13 : 1000 WORDS ON…MY MOTHER AND I (years of admiration)

Friday, April 29, 2005

season five is even cooler

I wrote this review on when The West Wing : Season 4 was released. Apparently 18 out of 22 people who read it found it to be helpful. I expect the commission check to land on my mat any day now.

Making Politics Cool, October 12, 2004
Reviewer: JL Pagano from Dublin, Ireland

If you have been put off watching The West Wing in the past for reasons like "Ah, I think politics is boring" or "Ah, it's an American network drama so it must be predictable" or anything along those lines, I challenge you to watch just ONE episode. ANY episode. Then tell me your head is not filled with enough questions to go back and watch from Series 1, Episode 1. For this is pretty much what happened to me!

The dialogue is intellectual and extremely pacy. Bodies are moving everywhere in every direction with what must be precision timing. And this is before I mention what can only be described as heroic antics by the cameramen who are often forced to travel backwards at quite high speeds while still focusing on their chattering erudite subjects.
Check your local listings and see when there is an episode on. ANY episode. Just watch it, and be prepared to order Series 1 from Amazon for starters. Don't worry, it won't be long before you'll be just like me; opening the Amazon box with Series 4 and wondering when the fifth instalment is due.

Well, the fifth instalment came out last Monday. Since I was busy, I couldn't do the groupie thing and be there at opening time, and had to wait until Tuesday to finally catch up with the West Wing timeline. I kept Season 6 on a bunch of videotapes until I fully caught up - don't tell those scaremongers from the Federation Against Copywright Theft, will you?

I cannot tell you how much I like this show. And before you say it, no, it's not just because they chose to portray a Democrat as president. If you have followed the story, it doesn't exactly make Jed Bartlett out to be God's gift to American politics. If you are going to do a drama based on the White House, you have to pick one side, and since liberals are reputed to own the media, I guess it had to be the true-blue donkeys that won the day in that debate.

Thank you so much, Aaron Sorkin & co, for restoring my faith in American network television. Maybe they're not just there to produce meaningless mind fodder for the materialistic masses after all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

a familiar face

The way it was set up, you’d think I was being hauled up before the principal for smoking behind the bike sheds. Well, I suppose in many ways, I was. I had done a very bad thing, and it was time for me to face the consequences.

The principal’s secretary (Mike’s Mom) had a stern look on her face as she let me in and guided me through to the waiting room (the Portugal family’s living room). I sat there patiently waiting for about five minutes as I went over in my head what I was going to say. Eventually I was instructed to go on up to the principal’s office (Mike’s Room)

Mike Portugal was a very serious person. I was friendlier with his next door neighbour Keith Harley, but they pretty much came as a set, and they always used to hang around together in school. I think Mike appreciated the way Keith and I had similar senses of humour and he probably saw his association with us as a way of being drawn away from his solemn stereotype.

Now, however, was a time for being serious, so naturally I was off my guard. This was no time to be making wisecracks. I knew he had to own this conversation, and the less I said, the better the outcome would be. Besides, he was usually so goddam quiet and sombre that you had absolutely no idea how he would react if he got angry. At least I knew since his “secretary” was downstairs there was no question of punches actually being thrown.

I almost, ALMOST, started laughing when I went into his room and saw the way he was sitting. He was leaning back in his chair at his desk, where he spent a huge portion of his time as he had always been an extremely devoted student, and he had his hands clasped together in such a way that between his touching pointer fingers and his touching thumbs he made an almost perfect pyramid shape. All I could think of when I saw him was that he must have been practising this pose all the time I was waiting downstairs.

“Hi, Jeff, have a seat.” I took this to mean I was to perch on the end of his bed, a couple of yards away from him. “Thank you for coming.”

“Sure, I mean – thank YOU for inviting me.”

“I wanted to give you a chance to explain to me what happened the other night.”

Long sigh. “That’s fair enough. Before I start I have to say that there’s no excuse for what I did ok?” Awkward silence. “OK – here goes …. Ok, well you know the way I brought Shelly with me?”

“I should know that yes, you were both guests in my house before the debs, remember?” By the way, what Irish people call debs, the Americans call “senior prom”.

“Yes, indeed we were. OK. Well, even though I wasn’t going out with her, I still thought I would, well, you know, be with her on the night and all that?”

“Yes….” The fingers atop the pyramid started slowly tapping his lower lip. Meanwhile I don’t think I held the same position myself for more than three seconds at a time. “Yes, well, when I went to kiss her, she told me she was going out with someone and that I wasn’t to try anything on. I was, well, a bit annoyed.”

“Ok, then what happened?”

“Well, I told her to fuck off and went to the bar and knocked back about three or four pints in quick succession.” I could see by his face that he did not believe this, but I really did!!! “Then a slow song came on, and I just wanted to dance with someone. I went to our table and said ‘Does anyone wanna dance?’, then, well, Cathy stood up.”

Fingers still tapping lip, his eyes darted right, then back in my direction. I had already had enough of this; I just wanted to apologize and go.

“Well – of course I knew she was your date and all, but, well - we danced for a bit, I asked where you were, she said she didn’t know. Before I knew what was happening we were kissing. Mike, I really am sorry.”

“Jeff, I appreciate your coming here to explain it to me. I accept your apology, but I hope you realize we can’t be close friends anymore.”

“Mike, I fully understand. Thank YOU for giving me the chance to explain myself. Maybe one day you’ll let me buy you a pint, but I understand if you want to leave it for a while.”

“Yes, we should leave it for a while”

“OK. I’ll see myself out, ok?”

“No problem, Jeff.” When I got to the door he turned and said “Oh, and just one more thing…”

What’s this, an episode of Colombo? Wait-NO WISECRACKS!!! “Er - yeah?”

“Are you going to see her again?”

Talk about a rock and a hard place! At the end of the night she had invited me to her debs which was a week away, and in my drunken horny state I accepted. Eventually Mike gave me a way out of my prolonged silence.

“Jeff, it’s ok, at least if you two went out with each other then I’d know it was all worthwhile!”

Hm – could be a trap. “Yes, well, we did trade numbers; I guess I wanted to see how the land lies with you before I did anything.”

“Jeff,” he sighed, as he released himself from his pose and swung round in his chair towards the college books on his desk, “to be quite honest, you’re welcome to her.”

And so I hooked up with Cathy a few more times, and we found out we actually still got along quite well when we were sober. Despite the fact that I knew absolutely noone from her school, I agreed to go to her debs, only because she would have originally asked Mike and since that particular bridge had been reduced to ashes, my pulling out would have pretty much left her stranded.

And so there I was, back in my tux, escorting her into the bar in Jury’s hotel for her school’s big night. She was educated in a rather exclusive establishment downtown, so the crowd was smaller and I knew absolutely nobody apart from my date. My primary mission was to get through the night and somehow escort home the same girl that had earlier picked up, as this seemed to be quite a challenge for me up to now.

I’m sure she meant well, but Cathy did not help my social awkwardness by constantly asking me if I was ok. We’d stand chatting to her friends, her teachers, more of her friends, and each time in mid sentence she’d say “Are you sure you don’t feel like a prat standing there?” which of course bestowed instant pratness upon me in front of everyone.

Finally the corner of my eye informed me that a familiar face was but a few feet away. At the time, I was being quizzed by Cathy’s English teacher all about the equivalent department in my school. Although I was able to respond, I was eventually able to anticipate the prat question.

“Ah, poor Jeff, he doesn’t know anyone here at all! I bet you feel like a bit of a…”

“Prat? No, actually, I think I just spotted a guy I know over there,” and I motioned in the relevant direction with my right hand. For the life of me I could not work out why I got such quizzical looks from those before me.

“Over there? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, in fact why don’t I leave you all to it and I’ll go over and say hello, ok?”

And with that, I moved away from the group, and towards the familiar face.

The good news : the familiar face also spotted me and was moving in my direction.

The bad news : I had neglected to notice that the entire wall of the pub was decked out in full length mirrors.

There was no escape. I either had to attempt to shake hands with my reflection, or meekly return to the group and try to laugh it off.

Of course the one time I needed a witty wisecrack, there was nothing there.

Naturally all who witnessed my folly were also to join us at our table for the dinner, so the incident was referred to several times throughout the evening – believe me, it was the nearest thing to a highlight there was.

I saw Cathy home, but never saw her again. A few months later, I bought Mike that pint as promised, and he nearly fell off his chair laughing at my mirror story. It was good to know that I could at least get him laughing again.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

anyone seen my big hat?

From Reuters...

Feeling frustrated because you can't remember where you left something? Don't worry: even the Pope loses things sometimes.

The new Pope Benedict's elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, 81, told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper Sunday that the pontiff's main weakness was his forgetfulness.

"He sometimes misplaces things, and all of a sudden doesn't know where his watch, his keys or a specific paper are anymore," the paper quoted Ratzinger as saying.

What does Georg value most in his sibling, who is 78?

"His clarity of thought," his patience and "that we help each other out," Bild am Sonntag quoted him as saying.

Georg Ratzinger, who is a priest, has previously been quoted as saying his brother might be too old for his new job.

He attended Sunday's inaugural papal Mass by the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger but said he had not brought a gift for a man who had everything.

He said he planned to ask his brother for just one thing - "His direct telephone number."


Give him a few months and he could very well be wondering where his flock has gone too.

Monday, April 25, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #11



Written: December 2, 2004

Over the years Fr David Carson became the closest friend our family made while living in Ireland. I suppose it could be argued that my grandparents’ interest in him could have come from his being parish priest at the local church, but considering he must have experienced sycophants on a regular basis, his continued attention to our humble selves must demonstrate an awareness that our friendship was genuine. Once a week he would arrive at the house to give communion; my grandmother would construct a quasi-altar on the dinner table so he could make his proclamation in Latin before doling out the host.

Being the pre-teen boy I was, my continued participation in this weekly service was based on my sniggering at the part of his recital where he said the word “fuctum”, which suggested a combination of the words “fuck” and “rectum” which no school going child could possibly ignore. Apart from this, although I was present for each ceremony I would invariably be relieved when it was over.

One particular day, however, Fr Carson happened to mention football in an attempt to include me in the post-ritual banter. With that my grandfather proceeded to go upstairs, and to this day I can still remember my horror at what he brought down. He had gone into my room and retrieved my folder containing all the results and fixtures from what I called The Subbuteo Football League.

Being an only child two generations removed from his guardians and living in a foreign country, I was never one to make friends easily. All my time growing up I think what I needed was a kick up the arse from my grandparents, but this never came, and of course being a kid you’re seldom aware of what you really need; you just go after what you think you really want. And so in my desire to utilize my imagination and resigned to playing on my own, I devised the aforementioned league.

Subbuteo was a table-top game which attempted to simulate football but actually more resembled billiards. The “players” comprised individual plastic figures on curved bases which stood still until “flicked” in the direction of a ball, which was actually larger than the figure itself! The purpose of the game was for two people to manipulate their team of players to re-create a game of soccer on a piece of baize cloth which had the appropriate markings.

Every Saturday morning, I would partake in something of a ritual of my own as I would set up a wooden bed-board on the dinner table to play my “Game of the Week”. This would involve my playing a game against myself; it was pretty easy to do, just imagine playing pool where you go for spots until you miss, then go for stripes; it’s the same idea.

My interest, however, was not so much in the game itself; it was more in the organization of tournaments. I had worked out how the English Football League was structured, and wanted to have a scaled down version of my own. I had various divisions, cup competitions, pretty much everything the big league had, only with fewer teams. The Saturday morning game was the only one I would actually “play”; the results of the other “fixtures” would derive from my blindly sticking my pen on a page containing all the results from a previous year’s matches in a Rothmans Football Yearbook or some such publication.

I now realize that the Subbuteo and all the accessories that went with it were just a cover for the game I really wanted to play. Once the results were accumulated, out would come my folder. There would be endless copybooks and pages filled with every conceivable statistic you could imagine, and being the amazing geek I was, I would sit and stare at the results of my work for hours on end, anticipating how the following week’s “matches” would affect them. I even learned to type around this time in my desire to make my presentation more appealing to the (my?) eye.

Up to that day, this was a world in which I lived and I was very happy to exist there as I found it comforting. Up to that day, I guess I worked on the assumption that my grandparents were either indifferent to my actions or just too busy to take notice. Up to that day, they had never so much as spoken to me about my little game.

When my grandfather showed Fr Carson my fixture list for the upcoming SFL season, it gave me something of a jolt, momentarily prising me from my imaginary world. In actual fact, he was displaying my work to show off how neat and comprehensive it was, but of course I did not see this. All I could think about was how embarrassed I was, and how I could possibly conceal the folder in the future. Naturally there are far worse things that parents can find in their children’s bedrooms, but I very much doubt they would be put on display to the parish priest!!!

As for other fictional partners in crime I had, I seem to recall the name Peter Mack. I guess he was the nearest to a more conventional “imaginary friend”, though I can tell you precious little about him, apart from his being a citizen of the curiously named St Maiza. I had various maps and phone books done for this pseudo-country until the SFL came along.

I remember giving out to my grandfather after Fr Carson left that day, a rebuke which prompted a reply as aloof as no doubt his violation of my personal property had been before. I can only assume it was my grandmother who subsequently set him straight, as the incident was never repeated. The moral of the story – when you rifle through your kids’ stuff to try and understand them, whatever you do don’t let them find out!

© JL Pagano 2004


Friday, April 22, 2005


What if it’s David? That bastard never liked me. He’d love the chance to boss me around. It has to be either him or Kathy from the Henry Street store. She’ll be ok I reckon, but she’s not long where she is, so I guess that’s wishful thinking. Of course they could promote somebody to manager; if they did, I wonder who’d be best qualified to run this store…

My body was lacing a pair of sports shoes for a customer. My mind, however, was lost in speculation over who would be taking over from my boss Sharon, who two weeks earlier had been awarded the lucrative post of manager of the new store at the Jervis Street Shopping Center. With each passing day my curiosity grew stronger, so you can imagine how it was by now.

“So does it?”

“I’m sorry?” I said, having been shaken from my daydream.

“Does this style come in different colours? “

“What? Oh, no, well- it did, but this is the newer model, I doubt I’d have it in your size in the old one.”

“Ah, ok. I have to say I’ve never seen someone so devoted to lacing up a pair of shoes!”

“Yeah, sorry,” I laughed, “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

With that Sharon came bounding up the stairs.


Of course good ol’ glass-is-half-empty me thought she meant the Manchester United jersey she had asked me to order.

“Yeah, I know, it’s on the hanger out the back.”

“What? No! I mean you got this store! I just spoke to Katrina! You’re the new boss! Go down and talk to her now she’s on the phone!”

Apparently I handed the half-laced shoe to the customer without so much as looking at him and ran down the stairs. As I was on the phone down by the cash register being told all about my new position, he came down to make his purchase, stopping to say “Congratulations” as he passed me – I assume Sharon had taken over.

Two weeks later…

Oh no she’s asking me about clothing. I know nothing about clothing. Sharon always let me do the footwear while she did the clothing with Alison. Now I have my new Clothing Manager Julie asking me a question and I don’t possibly have an answer for her. Why don’t I just tell her to do what she wants? Then she’ll think she can always do what she wants. I have to do something different – how can I make a response that’s gonna show I’m the boss?

My body was standing there staring blankly at Julie. My mind, however, was being taken a few times through a spin cycle as I realized that here was yet another snap decision that had to be made. Boy, did they come thick and fast!

“Well?” she said, shifting awkwardly as she held the garment in her hand.

“Um, where did you say you wanted to put it again?”

“I said, I thought they could all go down the front so people would see them as they walk into the shop. They’d also go nicely with that Reebok display beside it on the wall.”

That made sense. Still, I wanted to be ready to understand her next time she approached me with a question.

“Fine, let’s try it out. Hey, tomorrow’s your day off isn’t it?”

“Yes, and I have to take it off I booked it with my old boss ages ago there’s no way I can work it!!!”

“Whoa, whoa, hold the horses there lady, I wasn’t going anywhere near there ok! No, what I was thinking was, since Brian is in tomorrow, maybe I can spend a day down here to get to know things!”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all! No, it’s just that when Sharon was here she ran things down here and let me run upstairs. Now I have Brian to take care of the footwear section, maybe I can get to know a bit about the clothing when you’re not here! That’s ok, isn’t it?”

“Well you’re the boss!”

“Yeah, I guess I am! You’re taking the 2 o’clock lunch, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, is that ok?”

“Sure, makes no odds to me once you and Brian have it worked out between you! I just need to know because if you’re on the 2 lunch that’s when the security goes as well so I’ll be based down here for the hour that’s all!”

“Yeah, whatever,” and with that, Julie proceeded to set up her impressive display for the new clothing at the front of the shop.

Two weeks later…

Man, that was a good week we did last week. 2nd highest growth in the company! I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off. This store seems to be ticking over nicely, I’m glad I put so much thought into the job when I took over. I have regular meetings with my two assistants, they tell me what’s going on with the staff, I now have a good knowledge of all the stock in the store, and everyone seems to know where they’re going! Wow – is that Julie back from her lunch already? It’s lunchtime? Damn that morning went by fast! Oops better smile at Julie, she seems a bit off lately! OK, so don’t smile back see if I care!

My body was standing at the front door of the shop holding the walkie talkie covering the security guard’s lunch. My mind, however, was still on a spin cycle, though it was much more comfortable with it by now.

Now that Julie was back all I had planned was to get stuck into a Double Whopper Meal asap. What is it they say about the best laid plans?

“Jeff I have to go ok” Julie said from behind me – I turned to see she had her coat on and her bag over her shoulder.

“Why, are you ok?”

“No. I have my period if you must know. I just want to let you know there’s a jersey hanging out the back a Mrs Dolan will be in to pick it up this evening.”

“Um, ok … well….”


And so she walked out. Now, thanks to hindsight which of course is never wrong, I’m telling myself all the things I should have said at that point, but I was literally stunned to silence.

Brian had come down the stairs, offering to cover if I wanted to go for lunch.

“Ah, no, you’re ok, sure Sharon never took a lunch break did she – I may as well see if I can do it too! Go back on up and sort through that delivery.”

Two hours later…

Bullying? What the hell does she mean bullying? When? How? What did I say? And the way Katrina is looking at me, there doesn’t seem to be much I CAN say, it looks like I’m guilty already!

My body was seated in the HR manager’s office. My mind, however, was slowly going completely blank. Apparently Julie did not go straight home due to cramps after all. Instead she stormed over to Head Office and told Katrina she was quitting and could no longer work with me. Seemingly I was bullying her incessantly.

“Katrina, you know me. I have absolutely no idea what she’s on about! How was I supposed to have been bullying her?”

“Well, she was very upset when was here. She says you were always looking over her shoulder, and you constantly made remarks to her when she was just a few minutes late back from her lunchbreak.”

Katrina wasn’t the kind of person you could swear to but damn, I sure felt like it.

“Remarks? Look. Take a look at our sales figures. We are right up there with the best stores. I had weekly meetings with both Brian and Julie, and I’m telling you I never said a cross word to the girl!!!”

“Listen, Jeff, it’s not my job to get into specifics. I just had a girl crying her eyes out here in my office and despite all my pleading she won’t come back. Your sales figures are impressive, Jeff, but Julie was a good manager - she could have run her own store one day. Pat ( company head honcho) won’t be happy.”

Once again the hindsight fairies were trying to scream in my ear to speak up for myself, sadly they have no voice. I got up and sauntered back to my post. I had a replacement Clothing Manager sent to me by the weekend to whom I was afraid to say boo.

Two years later…

Will I stay on the beer or is it time for a vodka or two? Where the hell have the other lads gone anyway? Wait - are those chicks lookin at me? Yeah right they are…he he he. Better make this a double vodka, if only the gaddam bartender can see me…

My body was no doubt swaying at the bar counter in Break For The Border, a well known Dublin pick-up place. My mind, however, was full of happy thoughts as I was still convinced my separation from my wife was a good thing on account of all the lovely single ladies that were now within my reach.

Then there came a tap on my shoulder. It was Brian. Even though I was almost a year out of the company at that stage, I still felt like I was his boss. Actually, come to think of it, he still spoke to me as though I were.

Since I had a good few pints of Heineken guiding my conversation, there’s no need to even try to account for our chat word for word.

Brian asked me how I felt after leaving the company for one of its rivals, to which I replied that I wanted to go somewhere that I felt I had a chance of making it, and despite all the good figures my store was doing, I was sick of being passed over again and again since the Julie incident.

He thought long and hard before he told me this, but since he too was seriously considering leaving, he decided he may as well. Seemingly when Julie had been in her last store she was going around boasting that she was convinced Katrina would make her manager of the very shop I took over. It was a pill too bitter to swallow for her to learn that she would instead be my assistant there.

As for my “remarks”, Brian told me that Julie took offence when I looked at my watch every time she returned to the store from her lunch break, when in fact all I was doing was show surprise that time had gone by so quickly.

I bought Brian a vodka to go with mine and lament the fact that I treated myself to a fancy new wristwatch when I took over the store as manager, having gone without one for over a year.

My only regret about the whole thing is that I didn’t stand up for my belief that I was not in the wrong. It still serves as a powerful lesson for me today.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

finally the 49% fight back

Well it's about time.
President Bush hailed his victory last November as though it were some kind of God-given mandate to rush through his entire Neo-con agenda.
Although I would not be surprised if he eventually does get this by Congress, I am delighted to hear that things are at least being made sticky for him at Bolton's nomination committee hearing.
THIS is what democracy is all about.
I reckon Kofi Annan is having a quiet giggle when he reads it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

seeking advice from on (a) high

I left this as a comment on another blog when they were still choosing a Pope ... thought I'd share it ...

To honor the events in Rome, my friends and I have bought a load of different types of hash-smoking paraphernalia and we will lock ourselves in a room until we decide which one is the best.
When you see white smoke coming from the chimney you will know for sure that a new Pipe has been chosen!
Ar Ar Ar.

stories worth a thousand words #10



Written: December 25, 2004

On Christmas day you can’t get sore
Your fellow man you must adore
You’ve time to rob him all the more
The other three-hundred and sixty-four!!!

Five words enter everyone’s vocabulary every year, right around the time the months start ending in the letters “-ber”. Five words that make many people roll their eyes to heaven, partly out of surprise that yet another year has gone by so quickly, and partly out of realization that their wallets are soon to take yet another beating. For around this time, everything that is discussed, everything that is planned, everything that is speculated is done with the necessity to bear in mind that we are “coming up to the Christmas”.

Christmas is for many people a time when family gets together and does exactly the same thing every year, but I seriously doubt any two of the festive periods I have experienced can be compared. This year is a classic example. Since Maura (my mother) is apparently unable to come over as she has for the past six years, it has meant we have needed to attempt something of a military operation to make sure everyone sees each other on the day. Sandra stayed with me last night, and Ruth will leave the kids over around lunchtime, when we will sit and have brunch with Grandma to get her somehow involved.

Then comes the hard part, when I will be leaving the 95-year old widow on her own as I go to Sandra’s mum’s for dinner. It was either that or be apart from my fiancée, and as Sandra rightly points out, it is really Maura that is abandoning Grandma and not me.

Besides, as many people constantly say, Christmas is supposedly a time for kids. I often wonder exactly what my two make of this time of year. Do they really believe in Santa Claus or are they at the stage where they are afraid to admit they know the score in case they no longer get presents? Either way it has been for the past ten years a time when they have been happy for all the gifts they get to receive.

You often hear parents bang on about hardships when they were growing up, things like being lucky to get a block of wood as a present and that kids today aren’t grateful and all that stuff. Seeing as how I was an only child raised by his grandparents, I can’t really fall into that category, since I was showered with presents, even when the only family around was my two elderly relatives. One year was an exception, however, and I will never be able to work out why.

I must have been about nine or ten years old. Towards the end of November, my grandfather had invested in a colour television, which was pretty expensive at the time. He and his wife were clearly torn between their desire to grant me something I really wanted, and their assumption that the big picture box in the corner was the source of all things evil. Whatever about their own crises, they obviously reached a decision that the purchase was to be my one and only Christmas present of note.

Unfortunately, they neglected to share the nature of this decision with me, and on Christmas day I got up early as I always had and went downstairs to see what “Santa” had brought me. To my surprise, there were no presents to be seen anywhere, just a stocking that contained apples, oranges, and peanuts. I wasn’t sad or disappointed, but I was confused. Looking back now, and having kids of my own, all I can think is that it was a strange thing to do to a young kid on such a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t traumatized by the affair, and I cannot complain about the way my grandparents provided for me. All the other years I was laden with gifts, and be sure I am well aware of all the children out there who are lucky to have their lives on Christmas day let alone a truck load of presents, and this is kind of my point about how we treat this season as a whole.

Season of good will to all men or season of retailer’s paradise? After working in a sports shop for six years on the trot I would have to say it is the latter. In modern day Ireland Christmas is a time to drink large amounts of booze, spend vast fortunes on presents for your loved ones, and for some, spend even more on ridiculous lighting displays on the outside of their house. I would love to see the electricity bills of these morons in January and plead with them to forego the lights next year and instead donate that amount to the homeless.

Speaking of needy people at a difficult time, I was extremely moved last year when I heard of the silent protest of a separated father who dressed as Santa and stood on O’Connell St in downtown Dublin holding up a sign explaining how he wasn’t allowed to see his children at all over the festive season. I wish there was something I could do for him, because he is being denied a natural right; I should not have to consider myself grateful to Ruth for “permitting” me access.

I will never allow myself be called a Scrooge, but on the other hand I would not be one to push the religious connotations to the full. Tom Lehrer put it best if you ask me.

Basically I guess my notion of Christmas is that of a time when we force ourselves to display qualities we seem unable to show the rest of the year. As much as I hate the song that goes “I wish it could be Christmas every day”, in some ways I can relate.
© JL Pagano 2004


Monday, April 18, 2005

what's in a name indeed!

When I worked in the pub just up the road from me there was a lounge girl called Carina. I always noted her name because, well ok, she was quite attractive, but I was also dying to ask her if she was named after the Toyota automobile. You know what I mean, how some people are named after the place where they were conceived?

She worked with us for over a year, and never shied away from joining in the fun we all had while employed there. Whenever we went to the local nightclub after work (which was often) she’d tag along, and she wasn’t averse to joining in on our plans to haze the new staff by being the one to request that they go to the other pub down the road for a bucket of steam or a can of striped paint.

Like many of the staff, indeed like my good self, Carina was only working there to earn money for socializing through university. When she eventually did hang up her tray, we had one hell of a night out to see her off. A couple of weeks later, she came in to pick up her tax documentation for she was starting a new job in a solicitor’s office downtown.

I was on duty when she collected her papers. I got them for her out of the safe, and could not help noticing they had her name spelled “Críona” (which in Irish would be pronounced “CREE-na”).

I was intrigued. As I handed the papers to her I had to ask: “How do you spell your name?”

“C – R – I – fatha (Irish word for the accent thingy) – O – N – A”.

So much for my conception theory. Thank God I never asked her.

I then took down the duty roster clipboard which was posted on the wall nearby and which had some of the older versions still attached.

“Did you not know your name has been spelled wrong on the roster all the time you were working here?” I asked in sheer disbelief.

“Ah, sure”, came the classic Irish reply, “I didn’t want to cause a fuss!”

I’ve always remembered Críona and her story because, well ok, she was quite attractive, but also because whenever my name gets spelled incorrectly by somebody I fall over myself to correct them. My full name is Jeffrey and naturally I had to shorten it to Jeff, but living here in Ireland I have had to endure seeing my name written as “Geoffrey” which apparently is the original form that originated in England.

That may be very interesting factual information to some people, but I am not Geoff. Nothing wrong with that spelling other than it’s not exactly phonetic, but either way, it’s not me. Nowadays I am so used to saying my name to people this way “My name is Jeff that’s J as in Jellyfish ee eff eff” that I fully expect to start getting junk mail addressed to that sentence.

Your name is who you are. Sure, the original form was inflicted on you when you had no comeback, but I think it’s safe to say that by the time a person reaches adulthood they can be comfortable with what they wish to be called. If you have dealings with someone new and they get your name wrong at first, it’s up to you to nip the incorrectness in the bud early.

There’s a woman in our neighbourhood called Barbara Kennedy. Well, for obvious reasons, that’s not her real name, but it’s close. She is extremely religious, and she delivers Holy Communion to elderly people in the area on a daily basis. When I moved in to be my grandmother’s carer, she asked me if I wanted her to stop coming every day. I told her under no circumstances did I want my elderly relative’s routine disrupted by my presence, and that actually she enjoyed seeing Barbara every day (I almost said “someone closer to her age” but thought better of it).

Every day, I let her in and she goes into Grandma’s room to administer the host and pray for a while. Each time she would greet her, she would refer to her as “Anna” instead of “Ann”. I thought she had heard her wrong the first time she met and, like Críona, she was too polite to correct her daily visitor.

Last Thursday, as I was seeing Barbara out the door, we were involved in a bit of small talk, and she used the name “Anna” once again, so I took the opportunity to point out that there was in fact no second “a” in her name. She looked surprised and was very convincing in her assertion that Grandma had introduced herself as Anna and that this was how she had been christened.

After she left I decided to go through once more the mountain of paperwork my grandfather had left behind and see if I could dig out her birth certificate. As I sifted through the papers, page after page would have her down as “Ann” on bank statements, correspondence and such. Eventually, I found her baptismal certificate.

Barbara was right.

I went into my grandmother straight away.

“Grandma? This is going to sound like a funny question but…”

“Oh, no, what did I do wrong now?”

“No, no, it’s nothing wrong, but I have to ask you, even though I’ve known you for the past 36 years, em, what’s your first name?”

“Well, I was christened Anna Mary Kilroy”

“So you didn’t like the name Anna that’s why you shortened it to Ann?”

“No, I always loved my name!”

“But you were married to Grandpa for 68 years and he always called you Ann?”

“Well, the person that introduced us referred to me as Ann”

“And didn’t you ever correct him?”

“No, it wasn’t really my place”

“So he never ever knew what your real name was?”

“No, I suppose he didn’t!”

I didn’t want to pry too much further as I didn’t want her to have another reason to feel bad about herself – she generally comes up with enough reasons to do that all on her own. It wasn't really that big a deal I suppose. Instead I said something like “OK, well, I was just wondering, would you like some coffee?” and said no more about it.

All that was left for me to do was dig out my own baptismal certificate and verify that I was in fact really called Jeffrey (with a J) and get on with my life.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #9



[Point of Information : “College” in this case refers to what Americans call “High School”]

Written: 10 November 2004

As far as I was concerned, there could only have been one reason why Fr “Rabbit” McCoy asked to see me after school.

And in case you think this is yet another tale of Catholic school buggery, think again. Perhaps Brother Saul was a little over helpful with me getting on the weights equipment one day when I was in second year, but that would be the extent of my complaints in that regard.

The only transgression I could think of was the fact that I was going home when I should have been attending the school memorial masses. Blackrock College was not only an academic institution but also it served as a rest home for retired priests from the Holy Ghost order. Every day we would see frail elderly pastors being taken out for walks around the outskirts of the campus. One particularly witty pupil coined the term “Father Freeday” to describe them, as when they would eventually shuffle off this mortal coil we would be awarded a day off school to get over the loss.

There would also be the memorial mass, which would replace the last period of a particular school day. By the time I got to fourth year (or high school sophomore year for American readers) I had reached a stage of both rebelliousness and disillusionment with religion by which I was willing to skip the service and go straight home at 3pm. My grandparents would never question me as they were extremely easy to get around – I even managed to avoid showing them report cards AND telling them about parent teacher meetings!

And so I figured that I had been rumbled in my truancy, and that the excrement was about to strike the rotating propeller for sure. I was never one for getting into serious trouble by any means, as keeping my head down was one of my specialties. To be honest I wasn’t that worried about the repercussions as it seemed to be a trivial offence – the worst that could happen would be that I would be forced to endure the boring ceremonies in the future.

Fr McCoy was a bit distracted when I met up with him. “Ah, Jeff, yes, sit down there, sit down”, he said hurriedly, “Now, em, Jeff, I understand you have decided to play football this year instead of rugby, is that right?” With disbelief I replied in the affirmative, after which he said, “And why is that Jeff? Would you not go back to the rugby? It would be much better for you, sure all your mates are playing it!!!”

You would be forgiven for thinking that I was reputed to be the next superstar of world rugby. I was anything but. The highest standard I had achieved was substitute on the “Junior Seconds” team that had won their cup competition the year before. My logic was, why be a sub on the seconds in rugby when I could be a starter on the firsts in soccer? I put this to the overbite-stricken priest across the desk, and after a bit more pleading, he relented. And thus my ties to the oval ball game were finally severed.

My grandparents had enrolled me in Blackrock College’s junior school, Willow Park, immediately after our arrival to nearby Booterstown. Part of their whole inspiration for emigrating to Ireland was based on the proliferation of “Catholic” schools throughout the country. From their point of view, it was natural to assume that I would receive religious instruction that would befit the wishes of the Pope himself.

Well religion is very important to all at Blackrock College, but it is not one that pertains to the Holy Father above, more to that of Rugby Union Football. Since 1887, the premier Schools rugby trophy in the region, The Leinster Schools Senior Cup, has been competed for 117 times, and “The Rock” has won a massive 64 of them. The jingoism and fervour surrounding each game was unbelievable. And the status of those good enough to make the Senior Cup Team or “S.C.T.” was one of almost a rock star.

In sixth year (senior) I organized a pool tournament which attracted an entry of 64 players. Each was to pay a 50p entry fee, which would go towards the prize money which was also being subsidized by the dean of the year. I asked Bob Hanlon, a centre on the SCT, for his payment; he laughed loudly and walked away. Maybe I would have seen his point of view had Father Rabbit been more persuasive.

For many, the celebrity associated with being on the team was to be too great. The current Irish superstar Brian O’Driscoll is one of the precious few from my alma mater to go from SCT to the Irish national team, despite the school’s successes. Kevin Glennon, with whom I worked in Gleeson’s (the principal “Rock” pub), was a great place-kicking out-half whose career nose-dived once he was thrust into the big bad world of Senior Club rugby, and he was not the only one to follow this path by any means.

Despite this the school continues to perpetuate the importance of the game to promote its image as being one of a very exclusive upper middle class establishment. This is all well and good for those who wish to participate in the pastime, but for the rest it sends a disheartening message. If you give the impression that “everybody who’s anybody” plays rugby, everybody else will feel like a nobody.

I find it fitting that I let more than 90% of my allotted words pass before I got to my academic achievements. I managed a respectable score in my Leaving Certificate, which I must of course attribute to my tuition. I can’t accept, however, no matter how black and white it’s portrayed by the Irish educational system, that my schooling can be defined by a number of points. Nor can an academic facility be defined by a number of trophies.

© JL Pagano 2004


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

what's next - oscar the cheerful?

From Ananova:

No more treats for Cookie Monster

Sesame Street favourite Cookie Monster is going on a diet.

He is aiming to get healthy during the show's new series reports the New Zealand Herald.

Other characters will also get involved in the health drive. Elmo will be shown exercising.

As part of the project, Cookie Monster, who used to sing that "C is for cookie", will be telling viewers that biscuits are occasional treats. He now sings: "A cookie is a sometimes food."

The producers of Sesame Street will now start with a health tip about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest.

Producers deny that Cookie Monster has been placed on a diet. "We would never use the word diet with pre-schoolers," said a spokeswoman.
Say it isn't so!!!! Is NOTHING sacred????
For the record, Cookie Monster never actually ate the cookies as far as I can recall. They always crumbled on the edge of his mouth and went all over the floor. That's the best diet advice a muppet can give if you ask me!!!!
Looks like Mr. Hooper's gonna have to re-think his inventory....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

roof goof

I normally try to avoid bringing my kids to McDonalds when I possibly can. It has nothing to do with being afraid they will become obese, nothing to do with my being afraid I will become obese, nothing to do with culinary snobbery. The reason I hate taking them is that social stereotype known as “The McDonalds Dad”, i.e. the guy whose wife left him and who, being male and obviously unable to master a stove, pretends to treat his children with fast food when in fact he is really covering up his own inabilities. I’m actually quite nifty in the kitchen but that’s not easy to prove when you’re sitting on a plastic bench wishing you’d remembered to ask for curry sauce to go with your son’s McNuggets.

On this particular day, however, I chose to give in to their pleading, and have a side order of pride to swallow along with my Big Mac Meal. I had them for an afternoon, of which there was an hour left to kill before the ex got home from work and I could drop them off and go on to my computer course, in which I had my final exam that very evening.

It seemed like the perfect plan. Get them a couple of Happy Meals and bring my notes in with me to get an extra bit of study done into the bargain. Ok, maybe I didn’t actually think I would get revision done in a burger place, but I still took the folder in with me just in case.

For the life of me I will never understand sibling fights, and why should I indeed, since I never had any. Even though I appreciate this, it still brings me to boiling point when I hear my two arguing over absolutely nothing. I thought my President rule would have taken care of that for good. Basically how that works is they take turns being “President” and any time a call could go either way, e.g. a choice of slices of cake, who gets to play with a toy first, who doesn’t have to do a chore, etc, etc, the President would always get to decide.

And so two of my well-thought-out plans were thwarted in one go at McDonalds that afternoon. My two offspring had cleverly found a way to argue over which one of them was actually President as I tried to ignore them by staring blankly at my notes. As their voices got louder in an attempt to draw me into their spat, my blood pressure got higher. With that I slammed my folder shut and told them we were leaving with half of our food untouched. One of them came with me to the door, the other stayed at the table refusing to move. Now what had been a screaming match isolated at our table had turned into one that was being carried out across the length of the restaurant.

I told my son to wait at the door as I marched over to the table to give my daughter that “Don’t mess with me” look that I’m sure I will only be able to use one more time in the future without having to act on it. She jumped up and accompanied the two of us to the car, and of course they could not help making little snide accusations to each other on the way.

I was dying to give them my “Behaviour In Public” speech in the car, but since I was all fingers and thumbs trying to get my car keys out of my pocket, I had to start ranting early. Pontificating is one of my strong points, and once inside the car I could even raise my voice into the bargain. In a way I was glad the episode had happened, since I could legitimately vow never to bring them to a fast food joint again. It was handing down this particular punishment that finally managed to unite the warring factions and cease hostilities.

And so we proceeded toward my ex’s house where I was to drop them off. On the way we had to drive through The Red Cow Roundabout, which is a notorious intersection outside Dublin between a busy highway and an even busier motorway. Apparently I had made it all the way to this point without so much as stopping, for when I finally did so at the traffic lights before the roundabout, I noticed some moron had sent a bunch of papers flying all over the road. They were everywhere, and they were blowing all around in front of my car. I also noticed a dark thing bouncing around on the ground with even more papers streaming out of it. The light stayed red long enough for me to realise it was my folder, which I had left on the roof of the car as I was fumbling for my keys.

When the lights go green at the Red Cow Roundabout, you have to go. It’s just like a lot of bridges in America where you’re not supposed to slow down, let alone stop. Let’s just say my kids learned a few new choice words from their Daddy as he drove clean around the roundabout back where he came from so he could find somewhere to park and consider his options!!!

By the time I pulled over, I was already feeling bad for blaming my kids for the whole thing. They were sobbing and apologizing over and over in the back seat. I told them it wasn’t their fault, but that I would have to try to somehow recover what pages I could, since I had an exam that night. They waited patiently in the car while I took advantage of a lull in traffic to make it to the grassy verge between lanes on the N7 and rescue a dozen pages plus the folder and one unharmed floppy disk. The two particular pages I really, really needed for that night were among the dozen. This served as little consolation since I also remembered that had I simply utilized the zipper on the folder when I slammed it, this task would have been much, much easier.

By the time I dropped them off, I thought about the whole McDonalds dad scenario and realized I had just taken it to the next level. All I could do was make a big joke about it and tell the ex the whole story myself rather than let the kids do it when I had gone. I had to shut the image of her, my kids, and her boyfriend all sitting around their dinner table having a good laugh at my expense out of my head. It wasn’t easy, but I somehow managed to ace the exam in the end. Unfortunately the episode will go down in family folklore for longer than the test score will. It was a shitty course anyway.

I was to use the “Don’t mess with me” look one more time that evening, when the person sitting beside me at the exam asked: “Are those tire marks on your folder?”

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Sunday, April 10, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #8



Written: December 31, 2004

It didn’t take me long to think of a story that best described the atmosphere in the Lee household as I was growing up. Of all the unorthodox interactions we had over the years, the one that clearly had to take the biscuit was The War Of The Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

I had recently learned how to use the grill above the oven to make my own snacks, and being a spoiled teenager, I was prone to leaving the pan for someone else to clean. My very presence in the kitchen was to become a battle of wills between myself and my two elderly guardians that would appear comical to anyone outside our dysfunctional trinity.

From my point of view, I believed that when one prepares a snack they should at least be allowed to enjoy it before they consider cleaning up afterwards. From their standpoint, this was an issue where they finally had to stand up to their grandson, as their laissez-faire policy with me the previous dozen or so years had rendered them all but powerless to have any kind of disciplinary effect on my actions.

With that, I went into the kitchen one summer afternoon, knowing full well that Grandpa was in the garden reading a book and Grandma was knitting in her room; it was standard practice for the three of us to be doing our own thing. I walked casually over to the grill and rattled it loudly, stepping back to see what happened. Though it is difficult to relate, to me it was one of the funniest things I ever saw.

First, my grandmother’s head peered from around one corner; then, with impeccable timing, the back door opened and my grandfather’s own head appeared. Not a word was said by either, as both bouts of peering were designed to let it be known to myself that my culinary intentions were being strictly monitored. Despite my difficulty in containing my laughter at the Appearance Of The Peering Heads, I still managed to feign defiance in my voice as I loudly declared “Oh for crying out loud I just won’t bother having a bloody sandwich if it means that much to you!” and retired to the solitary confines of my bedroom. The grill was never again to be used; I think it was a year or so later when I was to invest in a new fangled gadget called a toasted sandwich maker!

To fully comprehend what was going on in the Lee household, I would first have to understand what we were doing there in the first place, and with my late grandfather being such a private man, this is something I doubt I will ever know. My grandmother seems to think it was learning of his cancer that prompted him to move us here in 1977, but it makes no sense to me. If you think you have but six months to live, do you bring your wife and your eight year old charge six thousand miles away to a strange country where they will be left to fend for themselves? The mind simply boggles.

The move itself was not the only mystery. Rather than sell the enormous house in California, my grandfather had the questionable economic foresight to sell it over a period of thirty years at a fixed rate, and actually rent accommodation here. Their four addresses in Ireland in the last 27 years; 49 T########## Gardens, “Montfort” S##### Terrace, 3 D##### Court, and here at 35 H###### Crescent, have all been rented, and virtually every penny from 100 Buchanan Road is spent. Back in 1977 the money from the Pittsburg property would have bought at least two houses here; today it would barely get a doorknob.

Of course I was blissfully unaware of all this growing up. I was just doing my thing, developing into a young adult, but all the time happy to stay in my room and play my own games without really properly socializing. Summertimes were hell for me, especially as a teenager, and reading back over my diary from that time, it is clear that I needed someone to give me a kick up the ass to go out and make something of myself; alas this was never forthcoming.

Grandpa would either spend his days reading, or venturing into Blackrock village to do either shopping or sipping pints of Guinness in O’Rourkes pub, where his lack of voice and friendly nature must have made him something of a local character of note. Grandma would spend all of her time at home; I think she did a stint of something like seven consecutive years without so much as setting foot outside the front door on account of her assorted “ailments”.

Looking back it would appear the three of us were not a conventional family unit in any sense, for we NEVER did anything together except eat dinner; Grandma had us saying the rosary together every evening for a while but even her husband got sick of this practice eventually. We just got on with our own solitary occupations and went to great lengths to avoid impinging on the lives of the other two.

One brief incident clearly illustrates the sheltered life I led growing up; the first time I visited classmate Alan Murphy’s home in Blackrock I passed by a room with a double bed and asked him; “Whose room is that?” Bear in mind I must have been at least twelve or thirteen at the time. Alan replied; “That’s my parent’s room!” after which I queried; “You mean they sleep in the same bed?” Pretty embarrassing stuff eh?

While it could never be considered an unhappy home, it was definitely a boring one. I had every material thing I could wish for provided for me, but there was no guidance, no inspiration, no discipline. Despite this, I hope my gratitude for my grandparent’s numerous sacrifices is borne out by my efforts on their behalf in recent years.

© JL Pagano 2004


Thursday, April 07, 2005

bill, me, later?

Although I love to write, I’m afraid to say it takes one hell of a book to capture my attention beyond its first two or three chapters. I have just started reading such a publication, and I dare say I may actually make it through to its end, even though it’s a huge thing with hundreds of pages and very small print.

It’s the story of a man who never knew his birth father growing up, and whose mother was forced to work in the big city, leaving him for a spell as an only child in the day to day care of his maternal grandparents.

Why do I identify with this? Because it is my story to a t. Who is this book about? Bill Clinton.

I could have easily written this excerpt myself:

“For all their own demons, my grandparents and my mother always made me feel I was the most important person in the world to them. Most children will make it if they have just one person who makes them feel that way. I had three.”

Obviously the parallels between our respective versions of “My Life” end rather abruptly there, but this is the first time I have ever realized that my particular growing-up situation was not as unusual and future-impending as I had led myself to believe it was.

This book could very well serve as an inspiration.

Look out for my name at the Democratic Convention in 2028.

I may very well be one of the guys holding up the “Chelsea For President” placards in the front row ;-)

PS : Anyone wishing to post comments on my possible future interest in cigars can forward them to

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #7



Written: December 10, 2004

“I’m going to have to stop you right there, Jeff. I have to tell you right now, here, in front of all your classmates, that I’m seriously considering replacing you in the final production. You seem to be talking to yourself up there, you are not at all animated, and in all my time putting on these operas I have never seen a more unconvincing villain. Am I being unreasonable in what I just said? No, I didn’t think so.”

If I had to choose a Catholic priest that I had met in my life up to now for whom I could say I had utmost respect, it would definitely be the late Fr Jarlath Dowling, who was head of music in Willow Park School. Every year he would produce, direct and almost single-handedly choreograph what he called an “opera” but was actually an operetta, on the stage in the gym hall. He was fiercely passionate about his work, and demanded a similar dedication from all involved.

I was in “first year” and thus a senior boy in WPS (around 13 years old) when I was picked to play the role of Count Kareshka in that year’s offering “The Gypsy Baron” which was an adaptation of Johan Strauss’ Der Zigeunerbaron. I haven’t a clue what the plot was except for that it dealt with a bunch of Hungarian travellers, but I was cast as the bad guy. It was my fourth year of involvement and I was extremely honoured to be considered good enough to be a “principal”.

To say rehearsals with Fr Dowling were intense would be a gross understatement. My most vivid picture of him in my mind would be standing alongside his piano having had to stop playing on account of some kind of non-compliance from the young performers before him. He was a short, stout man in his sixties with a comb-over, and the image of him in a rage would not be complete without mentioning the copious amounts of steam that would rise from his head as he bellowed!

I would say he had been staging these Willow Park Operas for a good twenty years by the time I came along, so by then he had the whole process down to a fine art. The chorus were maticulously separated into sopranos, mezzos and altos; I could pretty much hold my own at all levels which meant I had to join the short-numbered alto section. Fr Dowling even took the time to prepare cassette tapes for each individual part and make copies for everyone to bring home and listen to “three times a day after meals”.

Considering all of this, you can imagine how low I felt when I was singled out at the dress rehearsal in front of my peers, many of whom thought the whole thing was laughable anyway. It was easy enough to poke fun at other kids who were done up in weird costumes and sported makeup without being made a mockery of by the director to top it all! I guess I would be forgiven had I decided to throw in the towel at that stage.

Though I fully expected Fr Dowling to take me to one side and first apologize for embarrassing me, then explain that I had in fact been replaced, he never said a further word to me right up to opening night. The next feedback I was to receive from him was from the front row, about two minutes after my first appearance on the stage. When I finally chose to look out to the audience, only one face stood out, and it was his, sporting what can only be described as a look of surprised joy.

Something took a hold of me that night, and didn’t let go until the curtain fell at the end of the third. It was hardly an Oscar performance, but I received much praise for my portrayal of the evil Count, so much so that each time when taking my bow I was soundly booed by the audience!

The most harrowing part of the ordeal was when the zipper broke on my trousers while between scenes and my being forced to go out and sing hoping against all hope that the shirt I was wearing covered the open fly! I sweat easily enough at the best of times – that night it had the make-up worn off me and no amount of adhesive would make my moustache stay on!!!

Despite the few calamities, my experience turned out to be the perfect illustration of the adage “it’ll be alright on the night”. My grandfather went each time, and of course said I was the star of the show. Fr D offered a much bit less biased perspective, but still described it as an “outstanding performance”.

You would have thought if my reviews were that good I would have gone on to star in the productions put on by the senior school in the following years. You would have thought a lot of things may have happened to me those days!!! The operas put on by Blackrock College were always done in conjunction with a girls school, more often than not Mount Anville. Since I was well into my terrified-of-all-things-female stage, there was no way I was going to go near the drama department!

For the record, I have performed only once on stage since that night in 1982; at a summer party put on by Champion Sports about fourteen years later in the Russell Court Hotel on Harcourt Street downtown. I was cajoled into getting involved in the karaoke night by fellow manager Bernie Dolan, who in her evil wisdom chose the song “Rockin Robin” for me. Once again I am told I produced an accomplished rendition; I clearly recall the Buying Director Eddie Rigney saying to me afterwards; “Jaysis Jeff you must be on some amazing drugs!!!” How did he know Dave and Sarah had been sharing joints with me all night?

© JL Pagano 2004


Monday, April 04, 2005

two weddings and a funeral

How's this for irony...The decision to hold Pope John Paul II's funeral on Friday has forced Prince Charles, the future head of the Church of England, to move his second wedding to Saturday. Seemingly thousands of pieces of memorabilia that have been manufactured bearing Fridays date have now lost their value. If I remember my history correctly, it was a Pope's failure to grant permission for an English monarch to marry a second time that caused the split from the Catholic Church in the first place! What goes around, etc, etc....

Sunday, April 03, 2005

il papa

This morning I went to Sunday service in a Unitarian church which is situated in downtown Dublin. Although I was raised a Catholic, I am hoping to marry my fiancée in a place of worship next year and since I have already been married once before, I cannot do so in my own church even though I will be legally divorced.

Since Pope John Paul II had passed away less then 24 hours before, I was very curious to hear what the minister of this church had to say on the matter. He covered this ground with his opening remarks, and IMHO did so very well. His words went something like this:

“We must begin of course, by offering our deepest sympathies to all in the Catholic community of Pope John Paul II's passing yesterday. It could be said that I did not exactly see eye to eye with him on many things, in fact I dare say most people here did not see eye to eye with him on many things; this is probably the bulk of the reason why we are all here today! Nonetheless, it must be said that he was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century.”

Many critics of the papacy of Karol Wojtyla point to his conservative nature as a negative. I disagree – I think his hands were pretty much tied by what the Catholic Church stands for. The scriptures and traditions and moral attitudes were, according to the faith, quite literally written in stone. While I was indeed at odds with him on several different issues, I cannot fault him for his stance considering the position he held; all he was doing was his job.

Among things I admired him for were his continued support for human rights, plus his determination to travel all over the world and inspire his followers personally – he was extremely good at this. Back in 1979 he visited Ireland and captured the hearts of the youth of the entire nation with but seven simple words: “Young people of Ireland, I love you”.

As we can all see by the pictures on TV, he was a profound influence on many millions. I hope they are as happy with his successor.

Friday, April 01, 2005

over the edge

April always reminds me of a funny thing that happened to me when I was seventeen. Well, when I say funny, I mean it is now when I think of it, but my life could be so much different now were it not for Lady Luck looking after me.

Peter O’Reilly was in my class for all subjects in school, but I never really hung out with him outside the classroom. It just so happened that we were both hanging around after hours for different reasons on this particular day. He had to wait a while before his ride home and I was just staying to get an hour’s study done in the peace and quiet of the Study Hall since there were so many annoying distractions at home.

Rather than get down to his studies, Peter decided to single me out from the few people scattered all over the Study Hall and inform me that he knew a much more secluded place to get study done. Although I didn’t know him all that well I always had him down as a reasonable sort, so I packed my books into my bag and went with him.

It was to the gym that he brought me. There was a balcony overlooking the hall, which was where you operated the basketball scoreboard. I had always wondered how you got in there. Apparently he somehow knew one of the janitors and was able to gain access to the room. Once inside, it seemed like a perfect secluded spot to crack the books.

Like the naïve youngster I was, I followed him into the room. There were two tables and two chairs, but I was surprised when he flung his bag aside and started chatting to me. Still, not wanting to be rude, I played along, and chatted back. He wanted to know all about rugby. He asked me did I play, which I did. To all intents and purposes, I was convinced that he was interested in taking up the sport.

For about half an hour I told Peter all about the game and how it was worth playing, and he showed what seemed to be a genuine curiosity. It was only when he started asking me about the scrums and how they worked that I started to get suspicious as to his intentions. To the uninitiated, a scrum is a play in rugby whereby 8 men from each team get into a kind of gridlock huddle which acts like a tug-of-war in reverse as they try to push each other out of the way to gain possession of the ball for their side.

Once he stood up and walked towards me, I was starting to get very nervous. He claimed to want me to demonstrate exactly how the scrum worked. I was still faced with the dilemma whereby I did not want to appear uncomfortable, so I tentatively played along. He bent down in front of me and asked me to show him how the front row of the scrum got together. I stood up, leaned forward, pressed the top of my head against his shoulder, and let him do the same to me as we each reached forward to grab the other’s arms just like they do in the rugby scrums. All the time I was nervously chattering about nothing, especially when we were down in our clinch. There then followed a brief silence before he turned his face toward mine and kissed me on the cheek.

Outrage was not the word. I could never call myself homophobic. I could never call myself a violent man. But I was just so frustrated that all my worst fears about this situation had been realized that I all I wanted to do was lash out. I had to get this guy away from me as soon as possible. The only thing I could think to do in my anger was surge forward. There was not enough time for me to remember that the rail of the balcony was but a few yards behind him. My forward motion sent him straight against the rail and the momentum sent him flying up over the balcony down towards the deserted gym below.

Lucky was not the word either. Directly below the balcony were three things – a set of weights equipment, a vaulting horse, and a soft, giant mat for tumbling. Peter fell straight down onto the mat. It took me what seemed like an age but was probably only about ten seconds to get the courage to look down and learn his fate. He had already jumped up and was holding his back from the impact of the rail. It only took one look between us to reach an agreement not to speak about this to anyone in the school. I don’t even think I said a single word to the chap since. It’s only when early April comes round that I’m reminded of the whole thing, and how much different the consequences could have been.

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