Thursday, September 29, 2005

knuckleburger and fries



Boys will be boys. Vive la difference. A woman's touch. All catch-phrases that are used to signify how each gender just plain doesn’t get the other.

It has taken me this long to realise that there are certain things about women and their behaviour that I will never, ever understand.

Now before the “sexist” taunts start flying in my direction, I need to make it clear that I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with the differences between sexes by any means. Although I’m not against “political correctness” per se, I don’t see why we should always conduct ourselves in a manner whereby we need to pretend we are all equal in every respect when clearly we’re not.

And so, while I will never grasp why many women wouldn’t consider going outside the front door without make-up or why so many feel they have nothing to wear while their wardrobe is literally full to the brim with options, I would have to concede that there must be also aspects of the male psyche that are equally puzzling to them.

One of these quirks is a particular rite-of-passage that I believe is very important for boys and men to go through, and is one that they will find invaluable in their future existence in the male world.

As much as I am opposed to violence, I fully believe that every man in particular should find out, usually the hard way, whether or not they are able to take a punch in the face.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not planning to provide a “Fist For Hire” service, though no doubt someone out there one day will, and having an eight year old son of my own, I would hardly be praying that one day he takes a beating, far from it.

It’s just that in this world of intimidation and thuggery in which we live, I feel it’s important that the more civilized among us have the ability to stand up to it and not be willing to give in to the fear that pervades our society.

I was inspired to write this Lifeslice story by the movie “Green Street Hooligans” which stars Elijah “Frodo” Wood who plays an American student at Harvard who through a bizarre set of circumstances finds himself involved with a group of English football thugs.

After his first scrap, he observes that (to para-phrase) “once I realised that my jaw wasn’t made of glass after all, I knew I could at least stand up for myself and be able to get past my fear”. I recommend it as a movie by the way, even if there are a few dodgy cockney accents among the leading characters.

Anyway – I’d better get to my story. I’ll start at my friend John Hyland’s stag (aka bachelor party) weekend. It was in a town called Castlecomer in County Kilkenny, which is about 90 minutes' drive from Dublin city, and is his hometown. He had been working in the capital for a good few years, and I went along to this drinking session as a part of the three-strong Dublin contingent, which included our friends Des Winter and Sam Mulligan.

When we got to the town, of course we headed straight for the pub. John’s boyhood buddies were already there in full force on the Saturday afternoon, and he was quickly swamped by them at the bar counter. The three of us chose to look on from afar for a bit while he got re-acquainted, and we each brought a pint over to a table in the corner.

We must have stood out like sore thumbs, or perhaps I should say sore jaws. A few drinks later, one of the locals brought his drink over to us and sat down.

“So, you’re John’s mates from Dublin are ye?”, is how his booming Irish country accent broke indeed smashed the ice at the table into tiny pieces.

“Yup, I’m Jeff, and this is Des and Sam – and you are…”

“Carl’s me name sir, nice to meet ye!”, and as much hearty handshaking ensued, he added, “so, should be a good night tonight lads!”

“Yep, we’re lookin forward to it!”

“Well, just to let ye know, we’re either goin to Carlow or Kilkenny town, and you’d better hope it’s Kilkenny, cos if we go ta the other place there’s bound to be fights!”

“F-fights?” Sam rose to the bait all too easily.

“Ah, yeah, sure they don’t like us (Castle)’comer lads invadin their turf, don’t ya know. Of course, even if we do go to the (Kilkenny) town, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any Carlow lads startin fights there either!”

I knew that a fear-induced silence from us was exactly what he wanted, so I said –

“Either way, bring it on!!!”

Carl looked at me a bit puzzled, and then sized me up, and started a loud booming laugh.

“Jaysis lads, sure ye are all right! What are ye havin – three pints, is it?”

As he went to the bar, the other two looked at me as if to say “Bring it on??? Are you mad???”

“Aw, come on, lads," I said to them, “He was just trying to get a rise out of us. I reckon the only fights he gets into are with his mammy over when his washing’s done! Don’t mind him!”

The boys laughed, but I could tell by their faces they were still a bit nervous.

Even though I had been wrapped up in cotton wool by my suburban upbringing as much as they had been, I had one experience to draw on which at very least made me less anxious about an all-out brawl than my colleagues.

It was San Francisco, 1993. After our wedding, MyX and I went there as part of what was meant to be a four or five year stint travelling the world. I was working at a sports store on Market St downtown, and she had come to meet me after my shift so we could go for a few drinks nearby.

On the way home, we chose to stop off in McDonalds to satisfy the beer munchies. She sat at a table while I went up to get our order.

Anyone who knows San Francisco will tell you that Market Street is not exactly the safest part of the city to be in after dark. In fact, the direct route to my mother’s apartment lead right through the red-light “tenderloin” district of the city, so we would always go via Union Square which had the big posh hotels and would thus be much safer.

This “Mickey D’s” however was right at Powell and Market, where the famous cable car turntable is located, so there were people of ill repute everywhere to be seen.

As I was waiting at the counter, I heard a commotion behind me. These five kids of seemingly Latino origin had come in and were causing havoc. One of them started eating the fries off of someone’s tray, another was taking empty trays off the trash can and dropping them on the ground, while the others came up to the counter and started verbally abusing the staff.

Now this is male behaviour even I will never ever comprehend. My experience has led me to believe that boys should be kept away from each other from the ages of eight to eighteen on the strength of this pseudo-bravado they frequently display. It really gets my goat.

And so, armed with Dutch courage (it really was Dutch I'm a committed Heineken drinker) and what I thought was a superior intellect, I chose to speak up, since nobody working at the restaurant seemed to be doing it.

“Why don’t you guys just fuck off and let us all eat our food in peace?” is more or lest the gist of my opening line.

Not surprisingly, it was the smallest among them that chose to square up to me. As he muttered some kind of spiel that was a concoction of gangsta rap and Hispanic jargon, he was throwing shapes straight out of a Run DMC video.

I couldn’t resist. Since I had no idea what he said, I chose to mock the shapes, and carried out a perfect re-enactment of them along with the phrase,

“Aw come on, what’s all this shit supposed to be about?”

And before I could say “driveby shooting”, I felt a sensation in my nose, and next thing I knew could see them all running through the door.

“What the fuck?”

One of the kids who had his food taken filled me in.

“Dude! You didn’t even flinch!”

“What?”

I noticed there was a trickle of blood passing my upper lip as I spoke.

“He popped you GOOD and your head didn’t even move! Hell, I wouldn’t mess wit you!”

His girlfriend then added,

“Is that red-haired girl with you?”

“Eh, yeah, she is.”

“Well you should know that she walked out when you started talking to those guys.”

Sure enough, she was no longer at the table.

And so, out of the restaurant I went. She was about a block away, and still walking. I had to call her name three times to get her back.

“I can’t believe you started a fight with those fools! That’s so unlike you!”

“Never mind THAT – why did you walk away?”

“I hoped that you would choose to come after me rather than get into a fight.”

“Listen – whatever happens, I am NOT gonna let those punks stop me from having my food! Can we at least go back in and eat?”

She reluctantly agreed, though despite the fact that by way of thanks the restaurant only charged us for one of our two Big Mac meals, she did not speak to me for the rest of the night.

I know I shouldn’t have, but yes, I let her make me feel guilty. It took me a good few years to realize that I wasn’t such a fool that night after all; in fact, why the hell didn’t she even ask me if I was ok?

Now I know why. She just doesn’t understand men. Well you know what, we have emotions, we have thought patterns, we have instincts, and we should not be ashamed of them.

Sure, they could have pulled a knife on me, but they didn’t. Sure, I could have ended up in a police cell, but I didn’t. It’s fear that has gives these scum license to act like they do, and if you can take that out of the equation, you are left with insecure little boys every time.

It’s just as well we didn’t get into any fights in Kilkenny town on the night in the end, at least for Carl’s sake. Sure the man was so drunk he could barely stand up on his own without taking a slap into the bargain.

Now that I think of it, maybe I should have slugged him one back in the pub that afternoon; it would have probably been his first!

Fist For Hire … maybe I’m onto something there …


Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #41

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...HUMAN RIGHTS



[This chapter kicks off with the lyrics for the song “Shanghai Lullaby” which I posted yesterday]

Written: November 25, 2004


In June 1995 British television network Channel 4 aired a documentary called “The Dying Rooms”, which referred to the state of orphanages in China that housed the proliferation of abandoned babies resulting from the government’s one-child-per-family policy.

The programme provided evidence that the institutions let the babies die in their cots by neglect to keep the numbers down. Since having a male child was valuable currency at the time, the vast majority of these babies were girls. A common name for the female infants was “Lai-Di” which apparently means “A boy will come”. Considering my 6-month old daughter was asleep upstairs in her crib at the time, this show really had a profound impact on me.

Up to then when I thought about the topic of “human rights”, I would assume it would mostly refer to adults who were being oppressed on the grounds that their beliefs did not match those of the regime in place. The documentary, however, led me to think about what exactly was meant by the term, and indeed what the most fundamental of these actually was. These babies were not merely being deprived of nutrition; they were being denied attention and loving care which they would crave in equal amounts. Although the Chinese government has always refuted Channel 4’s allegations, even the possibility that circumstances could allow events like this to occur in this day and age rocked me to the core.

If the Shanghai situation served as an inspiration for me to be interested in the whole area on civil liberties, the Richard Attenborough film on the life of Mahatma Gandhi did so for me to learn the best ways to achieve them. Somehow he managed to pick up the very thread that ran through an entire nation of mixed cultures, a thread which represented the desire of a populace to pursue its own agenda rather than that of its occupying force, and more importantly to achieve it solely through peaceful means.

A quote which influenced me the most, which I assume was para-phrased from the man himself was: “Where there is injustice, I always believed in fighting. The question is, do we fight to change things or do we fight to punish?” How ironic that the Indian nation took the Irish flag as a model of its own, when we here still have grave difficulties engaging in what we call a “peace process” when in reality we are still involved in a “war process”. Too many people here, I fear, are still fighting to punish.

When I think about what I have learned about oppression over the years, it makes me look at myself in a disparaging light. I am white, male, well-off financially, Christian, meat-eating, from the “Western Civilization”, able-bodied, hetero-sexual, and at what could be considered the prime age of my life; so according to history, I should be an asshole!!! What the hell would I know about human rights; I had practically grown up with a silver spoon compared to most people!!!

It was at this stage of my thinking that my views finally took shape. Looking at representatives from each group, be they feminist, gay rights, black rights or whatever, I wondered what actually lay behind their liberties-based rhetoric. Did their followers and backers really seek equality, or did a number of them actually believe that the time had come for them to have their own day in the sun?

With this in mind I finally felt I was ready to join Amnesty International, and I did so this year. I will make donations to their foundation, attend some of their events, read their magazines, even one day go to some of their meetings. I cannot however see myself sailing on a Greenpeace vessel or allowing myself to be arrested for the sake of any cause. In my view such actions lean too far toward the militancy I abhor in all walks of life.

One of the mistakes I feel the more belligerent civil rights campaigners make is that they seem to insist that radical change happen within their own lifetime; perhaps it could be argued that they themselves want to be associated with the change. Such anarchy more often than not plays right into the hands of oppressors, and only serves to prolong the conflict.

Gandhi did not whip up crowds to a fighting frenzy only to hide behind them; he led by example and even took the odd beating himself to highlight the Raj’s transgressions and thus evoke sympathy from the rest of the world. I seriously doubt my actions could inspire a nation, but hopefully they can at least influence those around me, especially my children.

So as of now I fully intend to carry out my life without getting too heavily involved in Amnesty or any other organization. Call it sitting on the fence, call it cowardice, call it whatever you will. Nevertheless it is my firm conviction that no matter what the conflict, there DOES exist a solution that is both peaceful and equitable, and if it is yet to be found, you either haven’t looked hard enough, or you just don’t want to find it.

This is what I believe, and it is my right as a human to do so.


© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #42 - 1000 WORDS ON...THE HASH YEARS

Click here for a full index of all 50 chapters

Monday, September 26, 2005

shanghai lullaby



Hush little Lai-di don’t breathe a word
I can’t guarantee your voice will be heard
The government policy is out of control
You can’t have a mind, you can’t have a soul
So close your eyes…

Maybe one day a prince will find you
Maybe he’ll break the ties that bind you
Maybe one day you’ll leave Shanghai
Maybe one day a pig will fly

Hush little Lai-di don’t breathe a word
I can’t guarantee your voice will be heard
The government policy is out of control
You can’t have a mind, you can’t have a soul
So close your eyes…

Shameful catalogue of abuses
Too many reasons, no excuses
Those not around to hear you cry
Have left you in this room to die

Hush little Lai-di don’t breathe a word
I can’t guarantee your voice will be heard
The government policy is out of control
You can’t have a mind, you can’t have a soul
So close your eyes…

Though the documentary brings me sadness
Nothing I do will end the madness
No mockingbird for me to buy
And so I sing this lullaby

Hush little Lai-di don’t breathe a word
I can’t guarantee your voice will be heard
The government policy is out of control
You can’t have a mind, you can’t have a soul
So close your eyes…

© JL Pagano 1996


click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Sunday, September 25, 2005

it's curtains for this lord

It may not have much to do with the story, but I just HAD to post this pic! My caption : "The Scots Guard show off their crack troops" .



I always thought that when you got into the British House of Lords you were there for life, but according to this nugget from the Reuters Oddly Enough files, even they can be – ahem – fired!

British Labor Party lord jailed for starting blaze


LONDON (Reuters) - A British lord was sentenced to 16 months in jail on Thursday for deliberately starting a blaze in a hotel and endangering lives after a boozy awards dinner in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.

Mike Watson, who represented Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party in the House of Lords and the Scottish parliament, pleaded guilty to setting light to a curtain in the hotel following a Scottish Politician of the Year awards ceremony on November 12 last year.

During his trial, the court was shown closed circuit television footage of a figure dressed in a kilt, crouching at the base of the curtain which moments later burst into flames.

The figure was shown placing something in his sporran, the pouch which Scots traditionally wear over their kilts. The prosecution alleged it was a box of matches.

Watson's lawyer accepted his client had drunk "more than was wise" on the evening in question.



More than was wise, eh? Ya think?

I wonder is his favourite poet Robert Burns?

Having all that scotch on the premises can't have helped the firemen do their job.

Of course, for Scotsmen, starting the fire wasn’t his biggest crime, it was probably causing about £5,000 worth of damage that was earned him the harshest penalty.

I just hope he didn’t try to use his kilt to fan the flames when he realized what he’d done! Talk about great balls of fire!

Friday, September 23, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #40

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...THE GOOD AND THE BAD CROWDS

Amsterdam – could well be where my “good” and “bad” crowds come together for my stag weekend next summer

[Before I begin with this chapter, I must apologize if all the editing and name-hiding makes the story less readable - these essays are primarily for my kids' eyes, so they get to see all the actual facts and stuff - besides I don't want any libel cases on my hands!!!]


Written: December 3, 2004

I was always something of a “loner”, and never really allowed anyone, especially males, to get too close. Having said this I can still manage to muster a thousand words on what friends I do have, and I can easily categorize them into my “good crowd” and my “bad crowd”.

The labels to not refer to the quality of friends contained therein, more so to the nature of the activities in which I would indulge when with them. In the past seven days I have had classic experiences with each set which give me perfect stories to describe the nature of the relationships involved.

“Are ya cabbaged yet man? I sure am!”

JH mumbled as we were smoking away at our joints in a coffee bar deep in the red light district in Amsterdam some time last Sunday. I decided to allow myself a few days off the hash wagon to get away from all my responsibilities, even Sandra, and this was the perfect way of doing it. Had JH and myself gone anywhere else our socializing would have been restricted to beer and clubbing which could lead to all sorts of things. This way, we could get legally stoned and worry only about making our flight home on Tuesday morning.

JH (“The Cat”) is obviously part of my “bad crowd”. He is from Castlecomer in Kilkenny and was a security guard in my the sports store when I had my wild drunken Christmas period working there in 1995. The one thing I will always appreciate is the fact that out of all the people I know, including my own family, he was the only one who actually asked me if I was alright when I told him my marriage had failed. Since he knew of my transgression with Molly, he could have been judgemental; instead he offered to go for a pint.

Other principals in the bad crowd include DDw (“Bead”) and AC “Ado”. In case you are wondering, they know me as “Homer” since apparently I do a good rendition of “D’oh!!!”

Bead was always the one going around giving people nicknames. His own apparently came from a hippy phase he went through when he would wear beads on a regular basis. He’s from Rathfarnham and is a salesman by day but is also a very good singer/songwriter in his spare time, and I admire him for finally getting around to publishing his own album “High Time” this year. One other thing we have or at least had in common was a liking for one Sarah Devitt, and my friendship with him was one of the main reasons I didn’t get too involved in that particular love triangle!

AC is also in sales, and this year moved back to his native Mayo. He always calls when he’s going to be in town and we sample the Dublin nightlife. All in all I am glad I have the bad crowd in my life, as they give me the chance to do all the “guy” things while I’m still relatively young.

If the bad crowd’s role is to remind me where I am, the good one serves as a perfect counterbalance as it shows me where I could or perhaps should be. The group centres around four lads; IM, DDu, CW and BE. IM and CW are happily married, BE has a steady girlfriend, and DDu is single but has just moved a further rung up the lucrative Irish property ladder.

IM would be the closest friend of my family since I knew him in school, but we only really started to get to know each other when we were in both Glennon’s and UCD together. I must qualify what I said about JH earlier on, for IM and DDu between them were extremely helpful in offering their cars to help me make the very difficult removal of all my stuff from the house in Clondalkin after my marriage failed. As I was not driving myself at the time, their support was invaluable.

The five of us have an arrangement whereby we meet on the first Thursday of every month, a get-together we have cleverly dubbed “Thirst Fursday”. The venue has been The Stillorgan Orchard for the past year or so. We had one such meeting only last night, and it pretty much went the way all of the others go. DDu couldn’t make it, so the four of us met up around 10pm; each bought a round of drinks, then for once we decided to throw caution to the wind and order a fifth!!! The night’s revelry was as always concluded with the savoury delights of a battered sausage and chips from Aprile’s take-away around the corner.

That leaves me with a few words to describe my main college buddies BM and CS. We all did Psychology, we all deferred our finals, we all graduated; well, except for BM, who when last I heard is living on a farm in Wicklow.

CS, on the other hand, completely changed when he moved north to attend Queens University in Belfast. In my scattered meetings with him since he was best man at my (first) wedding, I have learned that he is a committed Irish republican, he went through a “gay phase”, and he is now married with a child would you believe. We keep in touch by email and I actually visited them once, but still he is very careful not to explain how the above nuggets of information can co-exist for the same person!!!

Come to think of it, I don’t really know much about the real lives of any of them, and that is probably to do with the fact that I tell them precious little about myself. Up to now, being intimate just hasn’t been my thing; maybe publishing this chapter will help change that!!!


© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #41 - 1000 WORDS ON...HUMAN RIGHTS

Thursday, September 22, 2005

happy blogiversary to me

Today is my 1st Blogiversary. One year ago today, I made the post below to kick things off. By the way, I started with the totally unimaginative title of "JL's Diary".

My “1000 Words On…” post scheduled for today will be put back to tomorrow.

Also to commemmorate the day I wish to launch yet another blog of mine, although there is nothing new on it. It’s more of a portfolio blog, with organized links to my various offerings to the Blogosphere for your perusal. Hopefully it will make it easier for me to introduce my writing to people who aren’t as au fait with the Blog concept.

I thus invite you to have a look at “The Assorted Scribblings Of JL Pagano” when you have the time.

Here’s a second look at my maiden post, entitled "gotta start somewhere...".

Well, here it is, my first post on my first blog.

My news and views are about to be cast out into the vast murky waters of the internet! I'm not doing much tonight, just watching a football match on Sky between Yeovil and Bolton, and I have a fiver each way on Yeovil which should keep my interest going. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, where he will be checking my cholesterol levels as I finally decide to do something about my weight.

I just did a spell check on that first paragraph and was very surprised not to see the word "blog" in a blog's dictionary!!!! It suggested I use "bloc" instead!!!!

SO WHO THE HELL AM I????

My name is JL Pagano and I was born in Walnut Creek, California, USA on March 21, 1969. I am an only child who was brought up by my grandparents. We emigrated to Dublin, Ireland in 1977 and I have pretty much lived here ever since. My grandfather passed away in his sleep less than a month ago, and at the moment I am pretty much full-time looking after my grandmother who is 95, but in pretty good physical and excellent mental shape.

I am separated from my first wife Ruth, but had two wonderful children with her, RA and CJ [I will try and hide their names for security reasons....RA is a 9 yr old girl, CJ a 7 yr old boy]. We are in the midst of divorce proceedings which take a long time here in Ireland; I suppose I should be glad they can happen at all considering the country's predominantly Catholic legal ethos!

I consider myself extremely lucky to have since met Sandra, a tall beautiful 30 year old who has agreed to be my fiancee with a view to us possibly getting married in 2006, once our career futures are somewhat certain. At the moment I am a full-time carer for an elderly lady as well as an aspiring writer, while she pulls her hair out on a daily basis dealing with patient's appointments at a hospital downtown.

For the first few weeks of this blog I will attempt to go over my life to date, then obviously I will tend to editorialize more. This will give me a good chance to keep my writing skills sharp, by only worry is that I may lack the discipline to post regularly, I suppose only time will tell. Ok, now time to kick back and watch the match.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

because it happens



{NO SPOILERS HERE!!!]

Why is television drama improved by the use of swear words in the dialogue?

Because it happens.

Why is television drama improved by tackling the issue of how we handle death?

Because it happens.

Why is television drama improved by portraying a homosexual relationship as a real thing that exists between two people as opposed to a camp parody that we normally see?

Because it happens.

And why is a telvision drama improved by seeing humour in events that occur in people's lives even though it appears that they have been totally turned to shit?

Yes, you guessed it.

As sad as I am that Six Feet Under has aired its final episode (on American TV at least), I am happy it came to a conclusion for two reasons - (1) we have seen many times how a show can be ruined by overstaying its welcome on our screens, and (2) the fact that it comes to a definite conclusion underlines the show's very own theme that all things must come to an end, be they good or bad.

Congratulations, Alan Ball and co, for television drama at its finest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

the vicious cycle

Winning Le Tour seven times in a row takes a lot of, er, balls

Summer of ’98. I will never forget it. Both my kids catch chicken pox from their playgroup. Daddy, of course, never had it. For the first time in my working life, I was struck down for two solid weeks.

If I had somehow been pre-warned that I was to be ill “during the summer”, I would have been rubbing my hands with glee, as it was a soccer World Cup year. Alas, it was to transpire that the darn thing was just finished when I started to itch all over.

SO what did I have to fill my days while I was laid up? Bear in mind I was determined not to get into the Ricky Lakes and the Sally Jesses. I was equally determined not to get into the Australian soaps. SO what did that leave me for daytime television fare?

Le effin Tour de effin France. Please pardon my French.

Before those two weeks, I thought cricket, horse racing and Formula One were boring sports. Not only does cycling take the biscuit, it takes the whole goddam packet and dunks each one into a grande latté.

What kept me watching at first was a challenge I set myself to work out what a “pelaton” was without using the internet. I eventually worked out that it refers to a big group of about a thousand cyclists who are jostling for positions for the first three hours of a stage before the final sprint when two or three manage to emerge from the pack to actually produce some kind of competition for the spectators to try to enjoy.

Unfortunately for me, by the time this came along, I was desperately wishing for even more sores to scratch to occupy my time. I even came THIS (makes hand gesture indicating a very small distance) close to switching over to Ricki Lake.

The ’98 Tour was the last one before Lance Armstrong began his unbelievable streak.

Now I use the word “unbelievable” guardedly. The suspiscion surrounding his seven Tour wins in a row – an achievement that anyone with even a passing knowledge of the sport must appreciate – has all the hallmarks of a classic tale highlighting pretty much every tension that exists between Western nations in the modern age.

In fact, on its own, Lance’s transformation from cancer patient to perennial champion intself has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood movie!

So let’s examine the players in this particular drama.

On one side, we have Lance himself, your archetypal All-American hero who has overcome adversity to become a world superstar in his chosen sport. To cap it all, he’s from Texas. Surely Paramount Pictures have already assembled their cast.

On the other side, we have The French, or at least to listen to Armstrong’s supporters you would think he actually was up against the entire Fifth Republic. Le Tour is a national institution for them, and after the whole Iraq disagreement saga where restaurants all over America took the petty step of renaming chips “freedom fries”, they would hardly be big fans of Uncle Sam.

I guess I don’t know enough details to make an informed opinion either way, but what the hell it’s my blog so I will anyway.

I really, really, want Lance’s story to be true. It really makes one to pass on and inspire younger generations all over the world.

Les detractors, however, have raised some questions which although they may not be conclusive, do make you wonder.

Just check out this paragraph from an article on Wikipedia. There’s enough in even this small piece for both sides to use in their argument.

An accusation was made in 1999, when Armstrong tested positive for corticoids. Armstrong explained he had used an external ointment in order to treat a rash, and produced a prescription for it. Use of the ointment broke cycling rules which state that while such external corticoids are legal, prescriptions must be shown to sports authorities in advance. However, sports authorities accepted the explanation and cleared Armstrong. Use of prescriptions unmotivated by medical needs, particularly external corticoids which cannot be distinguished from (prohibited) injected ones, has been described by some cycling insiders as a widespread trick.


And so, here’s my final (if not very conclusive) verdict on the matter.

If it were me, and I had been diagnosed with a deadly disease, which I then conquered, to then go on and achieve the previously unachievable, WITHOUT transgressing the rules, I would be immensely proud, and who wouldn’t. Given all of this, if a bunch of begrudging xenophobes started writing articles and publishing books and giving interviews left right and centre suggesting that my success was based on lies and cheating, I would have them up before a judge somewhere ANYwhere before they could say “sacre bleu!”.

It appears to me that the longer he goes without publicly proving the accusations to be false, the longer it appears that he is hiding behind both his nation’s patriotism and its dislike for the French. The stories circulating that he seems to have changed his mind about entering the political arena don’t help his credibility either.

In fact, you have to wonder if BOTH sides in this debate are hiding behind both the language barrier and tribal animosities.

So I say to Lance : if you have nothing to hide, then get together the best lawyers you can, take this gutter press to court, sue them for every Euro you can squeeze out of them, and donate the proceeds to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

A final humiliating triumph like that over the French would make him a bigger hero back home than if he won twenty tours on the bounce … he could probably even walk (or cycle) straight into The White House.

To summarize, my take on the story is that there is as much a smell of fish on Lance’s side as there is one of sour grapes on that of his accusers.

The question we the public must ask ourselves is : do we want to fall blindly behind our national stereotypes or do we want to actually know the truth?

I really do not believe this argument is going to go away until it is settled once and for all in a public arena with all the evidence on display.

Please note that I managed to get this far without a pun on the word “spokes-man”. I’m quite proud of myself for that.

PS : According to my statcounter I have a regular visitor to my blog from Plano, Texas, Lance’s hometown. Whoever you are, I hope I haven’t caused offence.

Monday, September 19, 2005

a chancellor would be a fine thing

Apparently these two working together would be like the Democrats and the GOP sharing cabinet posts between them – yeah, THAT bad…


What I know about German politics you could write on the back of a coaster in a Bavarian beer hall. Not that it’s going to stop me giving my zwei cents, though!

So the incumbent Gerhard Schroeder is from the Social Democrats, and Andrea Merkel is from the Christian Democrats. I suppose my personal ideology would have me leaning towards the former.

Yet it seems the German electorate has posed its lawmakers quite a puzzle with its final decision. What exactly is the mandate, if indeed there is one?

Although my views are to the left, I’d have to say that if a sitting leader can’t get a conclusive result from a general election, perhaps it’s time for change.

The most striking feature of this story for me is an overwhelming sense of irony with regard to the way these results are being viewed by the international community.

From all I can make out from the various news agencies, it would appear that the rest of Europe is very eager for the people of Germany to unite behind one strong leader so that they can bring along sweeping reforms to give the country both social and economic stability.

Am I mistaken or was that also the case back in the 30’s, and how did THAT turn out?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #39

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...CLOSURE




Written : December 7th, 2004


We went on an expedition that day, along a trail that led up the side of a large hill that was beside our family resort.

Once we rounded the corner to the area which we could not see from our apartment, there was a clearing that afforded a breathtaking view out into the vast Mediterranean. Since up to that day the sun had always emerged from here from our perspective, it wasn’t hard to deduce that this was a perfect spot to witness the sun rise, something I was yet to experience. I decided to set my alarm for about 5am the following morning in order to witness the daily spectacle.

Heaven only knows I needed something to perk up my spirits, for up to then this had been The Holiday From Hell in every respect. On the surface it looked like the idyllic family vacation; me, my wife and my two beautiful children off to Ibiza for two weeks in May, with her mother and sister arriving the second week to provide some baby-sitting time for us to do some of the traditional couply stuff. The reality could not have been further away.

It had been St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2000, when MyX finally had the guts to tell me she had been having an affair with BikerBoy, and that she loved him. For some reason, despite all of this, I was convinced that once we went away together on the holiday that had been booked since before Christmas, we could somehow work it out. It was only in the airport lounge when I realized the two love birds were sending text messages back and forth to each other that it was clear that I would not be sending any “Wish You Were Here” postcards for the duration of the fortnight!

I did try one of the nights during the first week to sit her down and talk things through, after the kids had fallen asleep in the next room. There was no need for pleading my case, there was no need for bended knee; all it took was one question: “Will we at least give it a go for the sake of the kids?”

I could see her flinch for a brief moment, but then her resolve was clear in her face for all to see. “No, because I know that once I see BikerBoy again when we get back I will want to be with him.” So that was that.

Well, not quite. We had agreed to take turns sleeping in with the kids, and that night was mine. Shortly after I closed the door behind me she knocked and had a look of absolutely paralyzing terror all over her face. I can’t remember her exact words, but they were something along the lines of “Jeff PLEASE tell me you won’t do any harm to the kids tonight? PLEASE????”

She could have told me BikerBoy was there with us and that they were going to make love right in front of me and it could not have hurt me more. It was at that moment I realized how much power she had. All she had to do was run screaming down the corridor that her husband was a madman and I’d be thrown into a cell by a bunch of cops with poor English before I could say asta mañana.

With that I let her sleep in with the kids, and I set up the camper bed in the sitting room to get through what had to be the loneliest, most miserable sleepless night I have ever endured. Part of me actually felt guilty for being capable to do something drastic, even though I had never so much as hurt a fly in my life before.

Of course I know I wasn’t the innocent party in all of this. Of course I know I did many things to cause the failure of the marriage. To read this chapter up to now you may think this wasn’t the case. In fact, at that time in the Balearic paradise, all I could do was to lament my own part in the whole scenario. According to me I had driven her to this, what with getting fired from the sports store, the Airport Incident, and not changing job like MyX had demanded.

It wasn’t until I had plucked up the courage to relate the whole story to my fiancée Sandra that I was able to see that there were two people involved in this particular tango. Before I could get to this stage, however, I somehow needed closure from my twelve year association with MyX.

Being disposed to penning poetry and lyrics as I am, the potential symbolic nature of witnessing the sun rising over a clear blue sea was not lost on me as I set off into the darkness shortly after 5 that morning. When I reached my chosen vantage point, I was surprised how bright the area was without the aid of any artificial light. Upon turning my back to the watery stage, I realized the source of the illumination.

It was a perfect full moon which was well into its descent, and it was headed straight for a v-shaped gap between two distant hills. For a good half hour I pivoted back and forth in both directions, as the beaming satellite drew nearer to its destination on one side, and the blackness above the calm waters gradually turned to bright orange on the other.

I kid you not; the very moment the moon disappeared from view, I was spared the milli-second necessary to turn my head to witness the tiny bright halo appear over the distant horizon. It was as beautiful as anything I could imagine nature to show me, and as I sat down to take in the splendour of the giant radiant rugby ball coming into view I realized I had been treated to all the symbolic closure I had sought, and then some.


© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #40 : 1000 WORDS ON…THE GOOD AND THE BAD CROWDS

Friday, September 16, 2005

crash bang wallop

Well, I had a piece done all about the Lance Armstrong situation and I was quite proud of it if I do say so myself. When my kids went to sleep last night I typed it up on my laptop.

This morning I tried to transfer it from my laptop to my PC, which is normally a simple procedure involving a floppy disk. Alas, this was not be the case.

The least of my worries is that I cannot for the life of me open the file with the post. The worst of them is that my PC has crashed and will not run Windows for love nor money.

At least I have this laptop, and I decided to spend what little time I have today setting this up to use the internet before tackling the PC on my own before bringing it to a store where I presume I will have to leave it for two weeks before I even get a response.

That's the good thing about blogging though - even when you have a catastrophe that prevents you from doing it, you can still do it by relating the story of the catastrophe.

Writing that last sentence gave me a headache, I'm sure reading it does too, sorry about that.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

yet more atrocities

Picture courtesy of Reuters.com


I am not going to use the story below as an excuse to attack anyone – I don’t need to.

My only hope is that the international community, particularly "The West", gives as much attention and empathy to those affected by this latest wave of atrocities as it has to similar recent incidents in other parts of the world.

It’s up against stiff competition, however – I mean Britney did have a baby, and Prince Harry has just turned 21, so I presume the debate will be equally spread to cover all the supposedly important stories.


Scores die in multiple Iraq explosions


More than 150 people have been killed in a series of car bombings in Baghdad, and fighters said the carnage was aimed at avenging an offensive against them in northern Iraq.

An Iraqi security source said the bloodiest strike came in the Shia district of Kadhimiyah, where the toll rose to 112 there alone, from an earlier count of 80.

A total of 150 people were killed in 11 car bombings.

The slaughter came as Iraqi leaders completed a draft constitution to be put to a referendum in mid-October.

[courtesy aljazeera.net]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

the g.s.o.t.



When nature plays its hand
And makes changes to our land
It helps me understand
I’m part of a great plan

One day fate will show
Which way I'm gonna go
And that may well be so
Meanwhile, this is all I know

It ain’t always fair
It don’t always care
But it’s always there
The Grand Scheme Of Things
It messes with your mind
It’s too cruel to be kind
It’s just how you always find
The Grand Scheme Of Things

So I’ll write a little song
And it won’t take me that long
Cos I guess there’s nothing wrong
With what’s really goin on

Is my writing on the wall?
Will I rise, will I fall?
It’s way too close to call
I’ll let the chorus say it all

It ain’t always fair
It don’t always care
But it’s always there
The Grand Scheme Of Things
It messes with your mind
It’s too cruel to be kind
It’s just how you always find
The Grand Scheme Of Things

The GSOT
Was about you and me
About honesty
Matrimony
Equality
And harmony
Then suddenly
We just can’t agree
Cos what I see
Is all “ABC”
And what you see
Is all “123”
Adultery
I try to flee
You forgive me
To a degree
Yet eventually
A new light you see
And you say to me
We’re history

Then reality
Like a giant tree
It fell on me
Inspiring me
Now all I see
My kids and me
A new entity
A new family
A new “you and me”
A new policy
A new honesty
Mentality
Philosophy
If it's down to me
The GSOT
Won’t finish me

It ain’t always fair
It don’t always care
But it’s always there
The Grand Scheme Of Things
It messes with your mind
It’s too cruel to be kind
It’s just how you always find
The Grand Scheme Of Things

© JL Pagano 2003


click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Monday, September 12, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #38

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…MELDREW MOMENTS

Victor Meldrew (aka actor Richard Wilson)


Written : November 1st, 2004

Already late for a date with your partner, you reach the main road, which you must cross to get your bus into town.

One is sitting at your stop, but you catch a bit of luck in that not only is there a break in traffic coming from both directions, but also there are so many people getting on the bus that it is held up long enough for you to make a dash across the road.

So off you go, wishing you had fulfilled your New Year’s resolution to get fit but nonetheless safe in the knowledge that you will be rewarded by a seat upstairs where you can both catch your breath and get a message to your date that you will be only five minutes late instead of thirty.

As you round the back of the bus, almost there, you spot the driver as he clearly catches sight of your full sprint in his rear view mirror. With that, the door closes and off goes the 46A on its merry way into town, with the driver’s sadistic needs satisfied and you left gasping and lamenting the echoing through your brain of Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons shouting “HA-HA!!!”

Of course, another one will be along in a short while, and you will meet up with our date. But the odds of her believing your bus driver story are very slim, so much so that it is a non starter. Though you will probably get away with it, this does not console you in the seconds immediately following the incident.

Unfortunately the word “frustration”, even when preceded by the word “sheer”, does not go anywhere near far enough to describe the feelings when faced with such a scenario. Not only have you been wrongly done by, but there is absolutely no chance of justice. What, you expect me to call Dublin Bus and complain? “And which 46A was it exactly?” “Are you sure he saw you in the mirror?” “I’ll need to post you out an official complaint form, sir; can you please tell me where you live?” And so you are forced to just stand there and bite the bullet for as long as it takes.

I would like to recommend a term for such incidents. With reference to the excellent BBC sit-com “One Foot In The Grave”, I wish to refer to these as “Meldrew Moments”. Victor Meldrew was the principal character, a retired gentleman living out his days with his long suffering wife in a pleasant English suburb. Each episode would revolve around his being put into much more complex yet believable situations, (well when I say “believable” I suppose I mean “possible” as Meldrew’s most famous catchphrase is “I DON’T BEE-LIEVE IT!!!!!”) and would produce hilarious results. Each time no matter how innocent “our hero” may be or however justified he may be in complaining, the public at large would perceive him to be nothing but a “moany old codger”.

I could easily write ten thousand words about Meldrew Moments! Standing in line is often a source of them. You know, when you go into McDonalds and think you are very clever joining the line with one woman in it rather than the one with 6 teenagers, only to realize the woman has just put in an order for 17 individual Happy Meals for her flock of chattering angels, ten with no ketchup on the burgers, 4 with just a “tiny bit of ketchup” and 3 with “loads”. Of course, by the time you realize this, people have stacked up behind you and all the other lines have doubled. And also you can be sure that the woman will be standing there for the duration staring into space, as will the cashier, until the order is ready and only THEN will he tell her how much it all comes to and THEN she will realize she left her purse down at her table.

Driving your car presents you with examples every day. In fact, a journey of more than half an hour can lead to a snowball effect of “Meldrew-city” that may see you blaring your horn furiously at a poor old lady driving ahead of you who doesn’t jump the very second the light turns green, all because a moron on his mobile phone had cut into your lane as you were both turning right a few miles back. Horn-honking for me generally does little to relieve the tension brought on by Meldrew Moments.

The other thing that drives you crazy about these incidents is that you know that when you try to tell your friends and family about them, they are bound to laugh! In fact you will probably chuckle a bit yourself as you hear yourself going back through the story. One Foot In The Grave was a comedy after all!!! But you sure don’t see the funny side as the bus, proverbial or otherwise, gets smaller in the distance.

So the next time you are about to pull your hair out when a kid in a buggy tugs at your leg at the beach sending your waffle-cone ice-cream-first into the sand, or when an automated answering service of a phone company has you key in your home number and then sends you through a series of complicated menus only to finally connect you with an operator who asks for the same information again, or when you are tempted into a restaurant by a particular dish on their menu in the window only to find out, having made the decision to go in and wait patiently for a table and let your companions choose their order, that the desired dish is no longer available, or indeed when you are reading an article on extremely aggravating episodes and you come across a sentence that does not appear to be finishing, take heart.

It’s just a Meldrew Moment and if it helps, feel free to yell I DON’T BEE-LIEVE IT!!!!!!!


© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #39 : 1000 WORDS ON…CLOSURE


Sunday, September 11, 2005

in memoriam 091101

[Although I first posted this song/prayer on this blog after the London bombings in July of this year, it was originally written following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and so I republish it today.]


If all hatred is a river
And her rapids human pride
Then can we build a bridge across her
To the peace on the other side?

Though the currents may seem strong
And the distance far too wide
We’ve been waiting far too long
To find peace on the other side

If there’s one thing I believe in
If there’s a love I just can’t hide
I want to follow my own children
To the peace on the other side

So if hatred is a river
And her rapids human pride
Can we build a bridge across her
For there’s peace on the other side!

© JL Pagano 2001


click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Saturday, September 10, 2005

the clash of the ash

Given Ireland’s reputation as a nation of seasoned drinkers, I reckon there are few in America who would be surprised that “hurling” was one of our national pastimes over here.

To the unititiated, however, it may be important to point out that the hurling to which I refer has a lot less to do with this…



And a lot more to do with this…




Tomorrow, on the second Sunday in September as is the tradition, teams representing the counties of Galway and Cork will battle it out for the biggest prize in the game of Hurling, The All-Ireland Senior Championship. They will play at this country’s most impressive sporting facility, Croke Park, which is where I saw U2 play a few months back.

Here’s a brief history of the sport :

THE GAME OF HURLING


Hurling is one of the fastest and most skilful field games in the world. It is an ancient Gaelic sport, played long before the coming of Christianity. The earliest written record of the game is contained in the Brehon Laws of the fifth century. The first great hurling hero was Setanta whose legendary adventures are known to most Irish children. The game was banned by the Statutes of Kilkenny because of its popularity with the Normans.

The 18th century was known as the 'golden age' of hurling. Landlords promoted the game; inter-barony and inter-county games were played. These matches were very well organised; teams lined out in set positions (21 a-side) and the behaviour of each player was controlled by a strict code of honour. Events from 1790 to 1800 caused the gentry to withdraw their support for the game of hurling. This, together with the effects of the Great Famine, severely damaged the development of the game.

A successful revival of hurling commenced in 1884 with the founding of the G.A.A. The Gaelic games are organised on a local level - the parish being the basic unit of organisation. Hence, the national games have become interwined with community spirit and local pride.



I really cannot stress the amount of skill that is required to play this game. Here’s a comparison for those who may be more used to American sports –

Image a man, standing in a field, catching a ball coming down from the sky, aided by a massive hunk of leather on his hand, and totally uncontested.



The average salary for a Major League Baseball player = just under $2million/year (courtesy of usatoday)

Now imagine another man, catching a ball coming down from the sky, barehanded, holding a stick in his other hand, with four or five other sticks flailing wildly around him.



The average salary for a player in Sunday’s All Ireland Hurling Final = €0/year (for those not up with exchange rates, that’s $0/year)

Yes, even in 2005, while although there may be many perks for the top players, they officially have amateur status, and must work full time jobs on top of their training regimens.

Before you think I’m totally behind this policy, think again. I have many qualms about the sport’s governing body, the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), and one of them is about paying the players. Their sports generate a lot of revenue, just as much as our other professional team sports in this country, and serious questions have to be asked about where exactly the bucks tend to stop.

But none of that will worry the 15 men from each team that will take the field on Sunday, for it will no doubt be the greatest moment of their sporting lives.

Unfortunately, the game known as “Gaelic Football” is much more popular throughout the island, most likely because it involves skills more closely related to soccer, which would also attract sport-hungry youngsters, and would thus at least guarantee they would retain an interest in an “Irish” game, even though it may be a contrived one.

Yet I will always have much more respect for the hurlers. You can't help but find breathtaking the way they effortlessly lift the ball (sliothar in Irish) off the ground and strike it with one swing of their stick (cumann) in such a way that it sails over the goalpost and between the uprights to register a score for their team.

Here’s to all that will be travelling to Dublin today and tomorrow from Cork and Galway respectively; may they have an amazing weekend.

Being a soccer fan myself, however, I can’t help but wonder what quality of national team Ireland would have competing in the World Cup if these Gaelic sports were not in the picture. Oh, well.

Friday, September 09, 2005

for pete's sake

OK, I know it’s a different peat, but maybe it will count anyway…

It never ceases to amaze me what lengths people will go to for their 15 minutes, or if this guy is lucky 15 seconds, of fame.

Ananova’s Quirky Files gives details…

Pete's on a mission


A man named Pete is on a mission to find 1,999 other people with the same name to set a record.

Pete Trainor has set up a website to try and get 2,000 Petes together at the same place at the same time, reports the Sun.

He had originally planned to gather together 99 other Petes, but the goal posts were moved when a man named Mohammed broke the record by gathering together 1,500 men with the same name in Dubai.



At the risk of sounding extremely un-PC, but are they sure that Mohammed guy MEANT to get so many people of the same name together, or was it just daily prayer down at the mosque?

Should Pete manage to break the record, I wonder will he also go into the Guinness Book of Records for Most People With Too Much Time On Their Hands To Congregate In The Same Place…

Thursday, September 08, 2005

lies, damn lies and statcounter


When I started this blog almost a year ago, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what the whole phenomenon was all about.

I started with the old reliable post “Well, here it is, my first attempt at a blog…etc”, and like a kid setting up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk expecting to be a millionaire by dinnertime, I guess I actually did think I would be receiving comments right from the off.

That was September, and I reckon it was February before I got my first remark from the Blogosphere. Once they started coming, I have to admit I was kind of hooked on the feedback for a spell, becoming what the blog vernacular seems to be a “comment whore”, judging each entry’s worth by the amount of people from whom it evokes a reaction.

Then I discovered StatCounter. At first all I thought they did was provided a counter on your blog which ticked over whenever anyone (besdies yourself of course) logged onto your page. Then I started clicking around, and I saw a whole new world of information opening before me.

At first I was a bit too trusting of the stats, and actually believed that when it said “Visit Length = 4 hours 32 minutes” that someone was extremely fascinated with what I had to say!

Though I have since learned that all is not as it seems with those numbers, there is still quite a bit to be gleaned. The one statistic that I think is most important of all is that of “Returning Visitors”.

Even more so than comments, the RV stat is IMHO the best gauge of the effectiveness of your blog, simply because not everyone is inspired to say something evertime they visit, but if they come back again and again, you must be doing something right.

I can pretty much work out who my regulars are, though I have a few intriguing mystery guests, like one whose server seems to come from the “Inktomi Corporation”? Care to make yourself known whoever you are?

Anyway, enough of my ramble for today. Thank you all for your continued reading; in most cases I know who you are.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #37

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…THE OTHER WOMEN


Written : December 9, 2004

[This chapter kicks off with the poem “Serviettes” which I published yesterday. I presume it goes without saying that the names in this chapter have been heavily compromised to hide identities.]


The more I read that poem now the more I see how much it encapsulates the nature of my relationships with the opposite sex over the years. It was actually written about a girl called Cathy Nelson, who I dated for a few months soon before meeting MyX. Looking at it now it illustrates an insecurity from which I still suffer today to some degree.

Although I can’t count my tryst with first snog Máire Nelligan as a relationship, it was because of her I met Cathy, under pretty shameful circumstances. I brought Máire to my “debs” as I really had no one else to ask, being a single bloke at the time. We went to my friend Mike Portugal’s house for aperitifs before the event, and, you guessed it, Cathy was his date.

I had no intentions of dating Máire, but when it came to the slow set on the night I thought at least a mooch may well be on the cards. It was only at this stage she proceeded to tell me she had a boyfriend; I can’t blame her really, as the “Rock debs” was and no doubt still is valuable social currency. Nonetheless I was a tad miffed, and proceeded to turn to the bar for comfort.

A few quick pints later, I returned to our table and threw out the question “Does anyone wanna dance?” at which behest Cathy rose from her seat, with Mike off networking somewhere.

The rest is history. I shamelessly snogged the face off her for all to see for the rest of the night. Had I a bit more experience in social circles, I would have taken her outside. Had I a bit more morals, I would have done nothing!

Though Cathy was beautiful and an accomplished violinist, she had many troubles of her own, and with her in Trinity and me in UCD it was never going to last. As a point of information, I first met my good friend Kevin Shanley at her debs a few weeks after mine. It wasn’t long before I was going after another mate’s girl, one MyX.

Next up for honourable mention is Maggie Donovan. She was a waitress in Glennon’s, and lived two doors away from the pub. Her parents were regulars and I knew them well, as well as her older sister. Maggie had a boyfriend Thomas, I had a girlfriend MyX. Glennon’s was however a completely different world in which we and our complicated relationship existed. Many who knew me then still question what it was I saw in her, and to be honest I can’t really explain it other that there was a indescribable spark between us. Despite this, when it came down to the final crunch, I chose MyX, and broke the news to Maggie. The last time I saw her was in Glennons a few years later, ironically the very night my daughter RA was born.

Then there was Molly. At the risk of sounding remarkably arrogant, looking back I could have done a lot better in being unfaithful during my stint at the sports company, as opportunities were presented to me more than once. I deal with this relationship more fully in “1000 Words On...The Airport Incident”, but she also deserves a mention here.

Teri will also only get few words, mainly because I am relieved I managed to prise myself away from her and her troubled existence. Since this book is for my kids, I should probably limit my account of the reasons I stayed with her to just saying that she was at her best after dark and leave it at that. By day it was sheer hell, and I was a fool for staying with it so long.

Finally there is Sarah Devitt. I should have known she’d be trouble when I discovered soon after meeting her that she was Maggie’s first cousin! Well that and the fact that she was a mega-babe; it was like she was sent from heaven! We hit it off from my very first day working together. However, not only did our two ships pass each other in the night, they would keep turning around and passing each other again and again over the years.

My marriage was already well and truly doomed when I eventually did snog her for the first time, while down in Kilkenny for my friend’s stag weekend. She happened to be in the exact same bar on a hen night of all things. Even though I was rightly considered a disgrace by my peers on the night, I knew this would be the only chance I would have to make a move. With that we hooked up, though I scared her off at the end of the evening by going a bit over the top in drunkenly declaring my feelings for her!!!

We have since both made attempts to get things going, but each time the other one of us has been involved, and seeing as how I’m engaged to the wonderful Sandra at the time of writing, one must assume she will go down as The One That Got Away. No doubt we all have our Sarah’s, even Sandra - the words “if only” are great for reflecting, though pointless for regretting!!!


© JL Pagano 2004


NEXT, #38 : 1000 WORDS ON…MELDREW MOMENTS

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

serviettes



You sit there, tearing yours to shreds
As you outline yet again your doubts
Something about former lovers
Or is it your mother? I’m not quite sure;

All I can see is the way you are tearing
While you sit there staring at nothing
With those bad, mad, sad eyes.
But who am I to talk? I look down,

To see mine folded neatly into strips,
As I sit listening, waiting to be torn.
“God, is that the time?”, you say,
As you gently lay down my wrist.

The moment is lost; we both now must go our separate ways
And leave the sad looking waitress to clear the debris.


© JL Pagano 1988


click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Monday, September 05, 2005

facing your demons head on

Shaggy V > John

A friend of mine who reads this blog regularly (hows things Conor mate) once said to me he couldn’t believe how much personal stuff I express here.
I told him I thought it was a good way of revealing personal information in a manner in which you could both control it and come to terms with it.

Having said that, I also felt like telling him that if he thought THIS blog was personal, he should see the one my future brother-in-law has going!

We all have our demons. We all have a past that created them. And finally, we all have our ways of dealing with them.

At the risk of being accused of blatant nepotism, I would like to award The Fifth Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award (aka “The Shaggy”) to John over at “Self-Harm : You’re Not Alone”, in particular his very first post, “You Are Not Alone, I Self Harm Too”.

He may be practically family, but I doubt you can help but appreciate the bravery it must have taken to put that first post out onto the internet back on May 12. He has since gone on to give excellent accounts of both his personal history and his current experiences. His archives are definitely worth a browse.

Keep up the good work, bro.


Previous Winners :

I > Shandi – “Who says you can’t have the fairytale?"

II > Dol – “Corporate Whore!

III > Buffalo – “Bangkok

IV > Mike Todd – “Et tu, Mike?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the night i ate the worm



The night that I turned twenty-one
My friends set out to have some fun
By wreaking awful havoc on my pride
At first it didn’t bother me at all
When I saw they’d bought me alcohol
But little did I know what lay inside

To rousing cheers and hands a-clappin
I started to remove the wrappin
And what I said brought smiles to everyone
“Hey, I’m not one to pick n choose
but ain’t somethin floatin in that booze?”
and so my night of hell it had begun

For I’ve been legless, I’ve been pissed
I’ve been known to raise my wrist
And there’s one thing I know I can confirm
All night sessions, I’ve had plenty
You could say I’ve had one too many
But I’ve never been that drunk before the night I ate the worm

Now down there in ol’ Mexico
They got funny customs don’t ya know
Like eatin chilli peppers when they’re raw
But I can’t think of nothin sicker
Than dead inverterbrates in liquor
It’s gotta be against some kinda law

But I couldn’t stall for any longer
My will sure wouldn’t get any stronger
It was nothin like I’d ever tried before
So I knocked him back and then just for fun
I stuck that sucker out on my tongue
At least I wasn’t first to hit the floor

Though I’ve been legless, I’ve been pissed
I’ve been known to raise my wrist
One memory will always make me squirm
All night sessions, I’ve had plenty
You could say I’ve had one too many
But I’ve never been that drunk before the night I ate the worm

It was four a.m., or was it three
I was face down on someone’s settee
With aches all over I could not ignore
And the only answer to my pain
Was to find the nearest porcelain
And work out which way round would help me more

And my one wish it was to throttle
Whoever thought to buy that bottle
For the consequences could not be believed
And it was only then I realized
The throbbin right behind my eyes
Was the real birthday present I’d received

For I’ve been legless, I’ve been pissed
I’ve been known to raise my wrist
And there’s one thing I know I can confirm
All night sessions, I’ve had plenty
You could say I’ve had one too many
But I’ve never been that drunk before the night I ate the worm


© JL Pagano 1995


click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Friday, September 02, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #36

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…THE DEMON DRINK


Written : November 17, 2004

They say when you are in college one of the most important things you can do is make as many influential friends as you possibly can.

In an obvious attempt to keep this age old academic tradition alive, I made sure during my spell at Belfield campus that I did my networking amongst members of a strategically critical institution; The UCD "Bar Committee”.

It was run by a group of drunkards elected from the student body, who in effect were in “control” of the premises, although the disdainful attitudes of the fully paid up members of the Barman’s Union working within would tell you otherwise.

It was on one of the many nights that I used my friendship with committee member Barry Mullen to secure a couple of after-hours’ beverages that this anecdote took place. I was on full automatic pilot as I stumbled home, which was then my grandparents’ rented house in Blackrock. As I passed the top of Booterstown Avenue on the Stillorgan dual-carriageway, I realized it was extremely important that I take a leak as soon as possible. A glance to my left showed me that I was in fact passing the entrance to a building carrying no less grandiose a title than “South Hill Evangelical Church”.

Overcome by a wave of student anarchical fervour, I found it necessary to make my own personal statement by relieving myself on the grounds of this place of worship. Here’s one for all those mindless bible-bashers, I must have thought as I did my business in the bushes which surrounded the structure.

I can actually hear a choir of angels singing as I recall what happened next. Seemingly out of nowhere, a bright, blinding light beamed down on me from above, illuminating all around me bar the area where I was perfoming my task which was sheltered by my shadow. If I didn’t come close to breaking the 400 meter record with my ensuing sprint, I definitely set one for Running With Your Fly Open!!! Of course I was as yet unfamiliar with the concept motion-activated lighting systems!!!

It would be pointless to lament the terrors of the demon drink as I relate my association with it over the years; as I currently have no intention to give it up. I am simply happy to report that however deep my despair may have been I have yet to be tempted down the alcoholic path. Perhaps these two brief stories will explain.

They were yelling at each other again. My grandmother was starting to believe after just a few months living in Ireland that her husband had moved us here just so he could drink all the pubs dry. He still had his voice, albeit a gravelly one, and their shouting led me, with my eight years of age, to come out of bed and sit half-way down the stairs. Out of sheer frustration I yelled something like “I wish I could smash all the beer bottles in Ireland forever!!!” These words were enough to inspire him to avoid booze for almost a decade after that night.

I paused in the corridor in St Vincents hospital that afternoon in 1996, as it dawned on me that I had been afforded the role of spokesperson of the Lee family. Grandpa had been taken in for yet another “fall” which resulted in a gash on his forehead. The nurse had asked me if there was any more information I could give on him, to which I said no at first, but quickly realized that I must overcome feelings of shame and inform her that he was prone to drinking significant quantities of scotch. She thanked me for my honesty and assured me it would greatly help them treat him.

And so I was determined never to have someone make such an admission on my behalf. I still enjoy a drink, often in more than moderation, but thankfully the consequences are limited to amusing ditties such as this one, which is best portrayed by a song I wrote.


© JL Pagano 2004


The song takes up the rest of the 1000 words and is called “The Night I Ate The Worm” - I will post it tomorrow.

NEXT, #37 – 1000 WORDS ON…THE OTHER WOMEN

Thursday, September 01, 2005

not exactly bright sparks



I love stories like this one from Reuters’ Oddly Enough Files about New Zealand's dumbest criminals…

How would you like to meet these guys?


Three men trying to steal fuel from a New Zealand farm Monday ended up setting fire to their own car.

Police said the trio had siphoned diesel into a petrol-driven vehicle. When their car would not start, they examined the fuel pipe using a cigarette lighter.
One click, a boom and the car burst into flames.

"It wasn't a major whodunnit," senior sergeant Ross Gilbert told Reuters, from the small North Island town of Waipukurau, about 140 miles northeast of Wellington.
"Fortunately for them, there is no criminal charge for stupidity."

The men, aged 18 to 19, escaped injury but were charged with theft.



It reminds me of another one I heard a while ago, something about a well-known criminal from Puerto Rico who, having escaped to America, got a bit cocky and called the detective inspector he eluded back home to gloat. The officer admitted defeat, and asked the thug to give him his address so he could send on his paperwork. The moron complied, and Miami PD were on his doorstep within half an hour. You just gotta wonder.

It also makes you think about those who are clever enough to pull off major heists – if they are that intelligent, would their odds of a successful life be that much greater in the (ahem) “legitimate” world?