Monday, October 31, 2005

bitesize bullets


JESSIE : Ten years ago when my fiancée was still living at home they got a golden retriever puppy. Sadly, Jessie had to be put down last week, as the poor thing was in a lot of pain. It made for a rough weekend for all the family.

PROGRESS : On the good news front, Sunday’s weigh in shows a loss of – drumroll – FIFTEEN POUNDS in two weeks of my new regime. If you knew me, you‘d know I wouldn’t lie about this. What it really goes to show is how much excess I had to lose.

LINKING : I’d like to thank both Tweet Petite and Driver^ for linking me on their blogs recently, having supposedly found me through my regular Liberal digest, BlondeSense.

BUSHBASHING : He’s tripping up so often these days that it almost seems pointless to criticize him. My fellow blogger Alan made the very poignant suggestion that it is all a ploy for the GOP to distance itself from him to get the next guy/gal in. I reckon he has a point.

HOPE : I have always been a glass-half-empty person on the conflict in Northern Ireland, but even I have to find some hope for the future as more and more paramilitary organizations on both sides make public declarations to end their campaigns of violence.

JOEY : I have let roughly a season and a half of the Friends spin-off sitcom run before I pass judgement on my blog and here is my verdict : though it has it’s moments, I think “Joey” is exactly one sixth as good as the show from whence it came.

TRICK… : …is what I always plump for when given the age-old option at this time of year, as I could be described as the Ebenezer Scrooge of Hallowe’en. Shan has an amusing take on the ritual over on her blog.

ADVICE : Since I seem to be all about links this week, I may as well add this one – Shandi has some valuable pearls of wisdom to pass on, complete with evidence of the potential consequences of non-compliance with same.

SPAM : I can normally take spam with a pinch of salt [no pun intended], but lately I have been receiving numerous emails containing gibberish from a series of addresses like, where the x’s could be any combination of letters. If you have been getting them too, please let me know.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead googlers to my blog include …

“fried chicken and biscuit-eatin monkey, ape, baboon lyric”,
“irish mermaid drawing”,
“rugby players shag story”,
“the grudge throat noise”,
“McDonalds curry dipping sauce”,
“11 years old bitesize“, and
“pilots always shag”.

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


A lot of fathers go to great lengths to squirm out of their parental responsibilites – according to the Reuters Oddly Enough files, over in Sweden they’ve closed off one of the more sure-fire escape routes…

Dads may be able to keep babies behind bars

Sweden's prison service may allow babies to live in prison with their fathers, putting men on an equal footing with women in prison parenting, a prison service official said Thursday.

"It would be a possibility for men, but only in rare cases where social services find it is in the child's best interests," prison official Elisabeth Lager told Reuters. "It would not become their right, just a possibility."

Only nine or 10 women prisoners a year are given custody of their babies inside Swedish jails, said Lager, and making this possible for men was not a question of gender equality but of minimalizing the effects on babies of their parents' imprisonment.

Once over a year old, children are not permitted to live behind bars.

Like jailed mothers, the fathers would live with their babies in open prisons, not in cells in high-security jails.

Other recommendations the service is making to the Justice Ministry include more prisons having apartments available for children to visit jailed parents in more congenial surroundings.

So once they get to one year old, the children are released for good behaviour, which presumably includes sleeping through the night and not throwing up on the warden.

It all gives a whole new double meaning to the term “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”!!!

Can you imagine a convict whispering to a guard : “Sorry, but can you please stop rattling your keys, I just got the little fella to sleep!!!”

I also have visions of one of those giant prison mess hall buckets full of Gerber broccoli & carrots with cheese…

Thursday, October 27, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #47



Irish soccer fans are known all over the world [for good reasons]

Written: December 15, 2004

[Since I wrote this, much has happened, little has changed IMHO]

“And we have an email here from JL Pagano which reads: ‘The only photograph we want to see would be one of Dr Paisley and Mr McGuinness outside Stormont ready to go in and govern the north’; many would say, Mr Donaldson, that this is a picture that Dr Paisley himself would NOT like to see?”

Not surprisingly, The Irish national broadcaster RTE’s current affairs panel show “Questions And Answers” devoted its entire hour to the latest developments in the Northern Ireland “peace process” two nights ago. Among the panel members were Jeffrey Donaldson, a high ranking member of Dr Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, and Mitchell McLoughlin, a senior negotiator for Sinn Féin; up to now you would never see the two men sitting at the same table.

Naturally I was extremely chuffed to have my email offered as a contribution to the debate by host John Bowman, and also that the leader of the Irish Labour Party, Pat Rabitte, said “here, here” as it was read out. I was referring to the photographic proof of the obstructionist notion of “decommissioning” that the Reverend Paisley is demanding to see before he accepts a resumption of the mechanisms laid out by the “Good Friday Agreement”.

The email encapsulated everything I feel about the whole situation in Northern Ireland; if it were down to me I would grab the two parties by the scruff of the neck and throw them into Stormont Castle and tell them to get on with governing the people that elected them. I have had it up to here with “800 years of oppression”; I have had it up to here with “Ulster says no”; “Tiocfaidh ár lá” and “Fuck The Pope” are old worn out clichés from the “war process”. Nobody that says such things can rightfully consider themselves Christians.

One wonders if two political parties, one with a name in the Irish language that effectively means “We want nothing less than a united Ireland” and one whose name contains the word “Unionist”, can ever reach an agreement on the governing of the six counties in the north that were famously separated from the rest of the island by a Treaty agreed on behalf of the Irish people by Michael Collins back in 1922. One also wonders if the fact that both parties exist because of the conflict has an influence on their desire to resolve it.

So what would my own vision for The Republic Of Ireland be? It is very simple. I long for a day when considering yourself a citizen of this country does not go hand in hand with lamenting the troubled parts of its history. I would love to be able to wear a green and white hooped Glasgow Celtic football jersey and know that all it represents is the fact that I am happy when that particular team wins a game.

Speaking of sport, one of the prevailing debates in this country today is whether or not “English” sports should be played at the amazing Croke Park stadium in North Dublin. Most countries would love an excuse to show this impressive facility to the world, but no, not us. Seemingly the Gaelic Athletic Association would rather have it stand as a monument to the past than as one to the future. And what’s most laughable is that one of the sports we do play there, Gaelic football, is nothing more than an amalgamation of soccer and rugby with a shamrock label stuck on it. At least hurling has some genuine historical claim to "Irishness" in the puc fada, but the football remains by far the nation’s most preferred pastime.

Though many holders of the harp-laden passport choose to ignore it, the great wealth in this jurisdiction that has been created by the so-called “Celtic Tiger” has brought a vast influx of people from numerous other countries, and they are taking all the jobs that locals have decided to forego, such as working in fast food restaurants, nursing, manning petrol pumps and the like. I hung my head in shame when the public voted this year in a referendum to allow the Government and not the Constitution decide who gets to be considered an “Irish citizen”.

Maybe these people who turn a blind eye think such immigrants are only here for a few months, but the reality is that they are settling here. Not too far down the road, there will be an entire generation of people just like me; ones who have their own history from abroad, but who should consider themselves to be Irish just as rightfully as anyone from Dublin 4 or Cahirciveen.

Who’s to say that thirty years down the road we won’t be considering someone by the name of Okechukwu Uwakwe to be our next Taoiseach [Irish Prime Minister, pronounced TEE-shock]? Or with tongue firmly in cheek even someone called JL Pagano? If in a bizarre set of circumstances I were to run for the highest office my mandate would be to put an end to nepotism as the prevailing political ideology in this land. It won’t be who you know it will be how you can do the job. I would also award huge tax breaks to anyone willing to highlight pitiful customer service resulting from indifference from both management and unions. I think I may have my work cut out to get that manifesto achieved, what do you think?

Of course I do not see all to be doom in gloom. I want to grow old and die on this island. I want my children to at least be educated here. I am fully aware of all the wonders this country has to offer; the scenery, the social life, the craic, the Guinness. I just wish more people could see the way our culture is evolving and realize we don’t have to go out of our way to be different from Queen Elizabeth’s subjects anymore to prove we’re Irish. Living here does more than enough to accomplish that.

© JL Pagano 2004


Click here for full index of all 50 chapters

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

feel so small

When I look at pictures of my family
I cannot help but hold my head up high
But then the fact that self-doubt keeps on nagging me
Holds me back and it makes me wonder why

If it wasn’t for my loved ones I would see no hope at all
Cos I feel so small

When I read back over human history
I cannot help but be amazed
But then the fact that much is still a mystery
Holds me back and has me counting down my days

I’d gladly sell my soul if I had a place to set my stall
And I feel so small

Maybe this is the real meaning of loneliness
And the way I feel isn’t crazy after all
For it doesn’t make much sense that everyone can stand so tall
While I feel so small

When I read the U.S. Constitution
I cannot help but feel a glow inside
But then the fact that it ends at its own frontiers
Holds me back and puts shackles on my pride

The concept of united we stand and divided we fall
Makes me feel so small

Maybe this is the real meaning of loneliness
And the way I feel isn’t crazy after all
For it doesn’t make much sense that everyone can stand so tall
While I feel so small

Like a lion roaring inside a cage
I feel so small
Like a writer staring at an empty page
I feel so small
Like a reverend dreaming of a brighter day
I feel so small
Like a hunted fox as it’s running away
I feel so small
Like a blind man trying to find his way alone
I feel so small
Like the lonely sound of a single saxophone
I feel so small

But if we all feel small
Then why feel small at all?

© JL Pagano 1992, 2005

[It has been 13 years since this song first crawled into my head, hence the line about the writer. Hearing the story of the late Rosa Parks RIP again yesterday inspired me to finally knuckle down and finish it.]

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

Monday, October 24, 2005

bitesize bullets


PROGRESS : In the first six days of my health regime, I lost all of TEN pounds. Granted, I pigged out the weekend before starting so there was a lot to lose, but I’m all about accentuating the positives these days, so the party line is “so far so good”.

CONCLUDING : I’m coming close to the end of my series of 1000 word essays on my life to date. Since I started doing so back in March I’ve kind of built this blog around those posts – I’m planning a new “quality over quantity” approach after I’m done.

BASEBALL : I’m not so much a baseball fan as an Oakland A’s fan, so I won’t be following the World Series too closely. I was disappointed to hear A’s coach Ken Macha had resigned after leading us from 15 games under .500 to 14 over in a topsy-turvy 2005 campaign.

MOCKERY : Was anyone surprised at Saddam Hussein’s ability to stall his trial moments after it began? Didn’t think so.

WILMA : Here’s hoping that Mother Nature runs out of storms before the people that come up with the names for them have to go back to the start the alphabet. It has been a terrible time for the USA’s gulf coast – not just the devastation but the perpetual dread of more.

CAMERON : It’s becoming increasingly likely that the Conservatives, a British political party previously associated with the older generation and family values, is about to elect a 39-year old who chooses not to answer the “did-you-smoke-pot-in-college” question. It would be interesting to see David Cameron up against Blair or even Gordon Brown.

PARROT : I sure hope the discovery of this bird flu in a dead parrot in Britain isn’t so serious that we should not use it as an excuse to refer to the famous Monty Python sketch.

RABBIT : We went to see "Wallace and Gromit : The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” yesterday, and I thoroughly recommend it – it’s got something for everyone, even a few sly innuendos for the grownups. The short cartoon with the penguins from the movie “Madagascar” that preceeded it was a nice bonus too.

SOLVED : Thanks to Chris Allison for helping me solve my vegetarian mystery. I’m still receiving up to a quarter of my hits for this page. Seemingly a thumbnail of the pic appears when you Image Search the word “vegetarian” and there follows a curiosity as to what the bubbles say.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead googlers to my blog include … “stories of self worth”, “pampering women”, “paddy irishman”, “how to give your man a good shag” and “I need to have a shag tonight”. I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #46



The sticker Irish learner drivers must display on their cars till they pass their test. The funny thing about our test here is, if you fail it, you can still drive home.

Written: December 5, 2004

If I had wanted to, I could have requested a cancellation when I sent in my application for my driving test in December 2002, and sat the test within about six weeks.

Instead, like many other big decisions in my life up to now, I decided to let it happen as late as I possibly could, and thus had to wait over a year before finally receiving my date of March 5, 2004.

There was only one other time when I was ever behind the wheel driving my black 95 Golf that I was badly lacking confidence. That was when I had to ask MyX to come with me as I got some petrol shortly after I bought it back in spring 2001. Something about having her sitting beside me rattled my self assurance; I guess since I was still blaming myself completely for the breakdown of our marriage at the time, my self esteem suffered when around her, so in the short journey up to the petrol station, I managed to stall a couple of times and even hit the kerb once.

When either Sandra or the kids were with me, it was a totally different story. I was able to focus and implement all I had been taught in my lessons. Even my mother made a positive comment when she first witnessed my abilities when I picked her up from the airport that year, and that’s saying something! Stalling and kerb-hitting were things of the past very quickly.

Despite all of my reinforcement and experience, I was absolutely terrified about my test. For me, aged almost 35, it was make or break; not that I would have been suicidal had I failed or anything, but it would have been a setback possibly even more serious than the two redundancies and the separation had been. There were only two ways that day was going to go, and I guess I was afraid to even dream about passing for fear of jinxing the whole thing.

So why had I not been driving before then? There were several factors. First, I was never encouraged to ride a bike as a youngster, and was thus denied a basic grounding in the big bad world of negotiating main roads.

Then my grandfather gave, yes GAVE his ’71 Beetle, which he had shipped from California, to the sacristan of the church in Booterstown, on account of his reaching his 70th birthday and being too proud to re-take his driving test as the law demanded. When I asked him why I couldn’t have it, he laughed and muttered something about my never being able to afford car insurance, and thus the subject of me driving was never broached with him again!

All through college I was happy to virtually live on the 17 bus; the route connected my house to both UCD and MyX’s house in Walkinstown. Maybe if the lack of motor was making it hard to find a girlfriend I would have been more enthusiastic; anyway I was happy to sit down the back two or three times a day listening to my walkman.

Then came two years’ living in the USA with MyX, where it would have been pointless to learn to drive since we always intended to return. When we eventually did, our first child was on the way, so on limited resources we had to establish routines quickly.

With the baby about six months old, I got myself a job downtown, while MyX was employed by the Central Bank out in Sandyford. I could easily get a bus, so if we were to get a car it made sense that she should drive so the baby could go to her crèche and mummy could go on to work.

Also the fact that male insurance can often be more than three times that for women (something I call The Testosterone Tax) meant it made sense all round for her to drive and me to be passenger for the time being.

The “time being” eventually came to represent quite a long period, as our subsequent mortgage on the house in Clondalkin made all hope of a second car nigh on impossible. It was only when I was offered the post of surveyor in Milltown Gas that I finally received the push I needed to get off my ass and do something about getting the car.

Well, I suppose I have to concede that my inheritance from a relative gave me the financial clout to overcome the high premiums for the years before I qualified! We were talking around €2000 per year!!!

And so on the morning of Friday, March the 5th of this year, I set off for the driving centre out in Tallaght. My confidence should have been at its peak; my five pre-test lessons with the ISM went very well, all hash had to be out of my system, and I had the cushion of only needing to report failure to Sandra.

The tester was a middle-aged man from the country. We drove the one route my instructor never took me on. I was pumping sweat from every pore the whole time. I wish I could properly explain just how happy I was when he said I’d done it. Thousands pass every year, and I was just as good as them. I nearly cried.

Just like I expected, reporting my success to everyone was met with relatively indifferent congratulations, except of course from Sandra, who told me she always knew I would pass. Even today, exactly nine months later, I still find myself punching the air in delight as it crosses my mind while driving.

So why did I change my passing the test from a formality into a fifteen year ordeal? Finding the answer to that very question will go a long way to snap me out of this funk I’m in right now, as I have a good few so-called ordeals in my life that still need re-labelling!!!

© JL Pagano 2004


Click here for full index of all 50 chapters

Thursday, October 20, 2005

a story with a twist or two

It was Monday, March 28th, 2005.

It was “Easter Monday”, and thus a national holiday here in Ireland. My fiancée Sandra and I went for a walk down Dun Laoghaire pier, then got the DART train back to Blackrock where we stopped in a pub called O’Rourkes for lunch and a few drinks. A friend of hers joined us with her boyfriend for a while before they had to go home. As afternoon turned to evening, we decided to go into downtown Dublin and see what was happening there, maybe take in a club.

The toilets in O’Rourke’s are upstairs. As we were halfway through our last drink before setting off, I had to visit them. As I came back down the stairs, my coordination failed me to the tune of reaching my right leg out towards the bottom floor about two steps too soon. As a result, my standing foot landed awkwardly, forcing my ankle to twist under the quite considerable force of my total body weight coming from above. The bend lasted a split second before recoiling, but boy, was it sore.

There was a man on the payphone beside the stairs, and he had ringside seats to my spill. In a way, it was lucky for me that he chose to laugh at my mishap, because it got my adrenaline pumping enough for me to be able to walk relatively normally away from him until I got back to our table.

“Hey, why don’t we get one more before we go into town?” Sandra said without looking up.

By now, the pain was excruciating.

“Sandra, we have to go. I’ll explain outside, but can we please, please, go NOW.”

“Why? What happened?”

“PLEASE, like I said, I’ll tell you outside, can we just go right now?”

She had to visit the ladies room herself first, so I hobbled outside to wait for her and assess the damage. Although the pain was immense, my first fears that I had broken something were dispelled quickly.

This being ascertained, I knew the last thing I wanted to do was spend the next six to whatever hours in an emergency ward explaining how I was drunk and missed a few steps to a dozen different people. And so, by the time Sandra emerged from the pub, I was well prepared to thwart her attempts to persuade me to seek professional help.

And so our night’s revelry was curtailed and we went back to her place. Although my foot swelled up so much I couldn’t tie my shoelaces, I was able to walk within a couple of days.

The most annoying part of the whole episode, however, was the fact that I had psyched myself up to start jogging again the following morning. I used to jog all the time in my early twenties, but take your pick from work, kids, laziness, age or combinations thereof for reasons why it had been years since I had done so regularly.

The extra pints had made me postpone my plan to the Wednesday, but the fall looked like it would do so for a lot longer. At least I was able to walk and more importantly drive within a few days.

In the end I put the whole thing down to one of those nasty freak accidents that seem to regularly happen to me.

It was Friday, April 15th, 2005.

I was having a few pints in a pub called Neary’s in the centre of Dublin with a friend called John Hyland. We planned to drive out to the west of the country to visit our mutual buddy Alan Conlon in his hometown the following morning. As it happened, these “few pints” were going down so well, it looked like we may not actually set off until the following afternoon.

“Did you ever start up the jogging again, man?” John asked me as he set another brace of Heinekens on the table.

“Jaysis, wait till I tell ya”, I replied, and proceeded to tell him all about my gravity-challenged Easter experience.

“Holy God, man, that shit keeps happenin to you, doesn’t it?”

“No kidding”

“Hey, want to go to 'Break For The Border' after this one?”, he suggested, as that particular club was known to have a later closing time.

“Sure, no problem.”

The toilets in Neary’s are upstairs. As we were halfway through our last drink before setting off, I had to visit them. As I came back down the stairs, my coordination failed me to the tune of reaching my right foot out for the bottom level …

I think you get the idea. I did the exact same goddam thing again, only this time, to the OTHER ankle.

Imagine how I felt as I limped back to the table. How the hell can I explain this?

“What’s wrong, man?”

I think it was my face having turned a deep purple which prompted him to withdraw his query.

I really should not have travelled the following morning. The reason I did was that we had planned this trip for a while and since drinking was the principal pastime for the duration, being virtually legless to begin with wasn’t such a drawback. It kinda sucked that the apartment we rented for the night was at the top of six flights of stairs, however.

I managed to stagger through the weekend and have a good time with the guys.

So that’s it – I did the same thing to both ankles in the space of a few weeks. What made me think of it was the fact that I’m starting yet another fitness/diet regime this week, and after Day 3, it’s going well. Sandra has assumed the role of my “personal trainer”, and is responsible for both my food intake and exercise output for the immediate future.

I’ll keep you all posted as to the weight loss progress.

If my pride will allow it, I’ll try and do the same for the balance loss progress as well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

i think i'm in heaven

Where can I be? I recognise it
Though I’ve never been here before
There’s beauty all round
And I can’t feel inhibitions anymore

I can talk to everybody
Cos they know me
There’s happy faces
As far as I can see

And all I know is the world and I feel fine

And I think I’m in heaven
It’s either that or I’m dreaming

Fear, pain, sorrow, anger
Anguish, despair, prejudice, hatred
Ignorance, murder
Ignorance, war

I can’t find those in the dictionaries here

And I think I’m in heaven
It’s either that or I’m dreaming

This time, there’s no stimulants
Flowing through my veins
And this time, there’s no alcohol
Trying to take away my pain
No foreign bodies, this time,
Messing with my brain
So can this all be for real
Or am I insane?

Cos I think I’m in heaven
It’s either that or I’m…

OK, maybe I am dreaming!
But if I am, don’t pinch me

© JL Pagano 1989

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

bitesize bullets


DEPRESSING : Boy, yesterday’s post sure was hard to publish. I came that close to deleting it several times. What stopped me was my own tag-line for the essays of “warts n all”. Reading it now helps me understand the situation a lot better. Sorry to get all dark and depressing, folks.

DIET : On an upbeat note, I’ve come to a deal with my fiancée – she becomes my personal trainer and helps me shed the necessary tonnage, I teach her to drive. It’s a good plan as we are each considering doing the respective coaching for a living.

CHICKEN : First there was Y2K. Then there was anthrax. Then “mad-cow” disease. Then SARS. Now it’s the chickens. It seems these threats of “pandemics” or “bio-terror” or the like come and go with alarming frequency. Seems to me like a lot of money being spent on stuff that “might” happen.

U2 : I like their music, and I support Bono’s contribution to the MakePovertyHistory campaign, but if they don’t want politicians using their concerts for campaigning, they should stop banging on so much about politics. As Bono himself says, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own [to the White House].

CONSTITUTION : It looks like Iraq passed its first “Constitution”, though we will have to see exactly how kindly the Sunnis take to living under the document which seems to have been virtually handwritten between the Shi’ites and the Kurds.

DISAPPOINTMENT : Ireland’s soccer team didn’t make the World Cup finals, but that’s ok, as I have good back-up; team USA sealed their berth in next summer’s tournament over a month ago so I will still have someone to root for. Expect many soccer posts next June.

VEGETARIAN : I’m still getting 20-30 hits a day on that vegetarian page, though I may have a lead as to why, more news hopefully to come. Also, for some reason, my Dashboard has decided to turn German – there must be some way I can blame the Bush Administration, right?

SADDAM : As much as I am sure the man is guilty of crimes against his own people, I find it very hard to believe that Saddam Hussein’s trial, which begins this week, can be shown to be a fair one.

TORTURE : On the subject of trials, the British House Of Lords is debating on whether or not evidence known to have been given after “torture” [which includes the psychological variety] is admissible in Her Majesty’s courts. If so, it’s the first step down a dangerous road…

SUPREME : You know things are bad in the USA these days when even the far right is questioning the President’s choice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Hopefully it’s not the first in a series of “lame duck” edicts from our Dubya…

Monday, October 17, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #45



Written : October 18, 2005

messy, irritable, depressed, fragile, worrying, emotionally sensitive, does not like to lead, phobic, weird, suspicious, low self control, paranoid, frequently second guesses self, dependent, unproductive, introverted, weak, strange, unassertive, submissive, familiar with the dark side of life, feels invisible, rash, vain, anti-authority, heart over mind, low self concept, disorganized, not good at saving money, avoidant, daydreamer, unadventurous

I just did one of those online personality tests and what you see above are the results. Apparently that collection of “under-latives” is me in a cyber-nutshell, and I answered the questions as honestly as I possibly could.

This chapter was originally entitled “1000 Words On … My Being a Textaholic”, and it was composed exactly one year ago today. It was meant to be about a phase when I had been both fired from a job for a second time AND seen a second long term relationship come to an end. Those days, my only source of positive reinforcement was hearing my views on current affairs being read out loud on what was then a fledgling talk-radio station eager for new listeners.

To be honest, the 84 words in the above paragraph do most of the work in describing that particular period of my life, and so out of all the fifty chapters in my autobiography, I reckon this one was most deserving of a re-write.

One passage from the original version, however, points me in the direction of what I really want to talk about in this essay.

“Hearing my views being expressed over the airwaves was like a morphine drip for my wounded self esteem. My opinions seemed to matter. I was not a loser after all.”

I was very close to copping out entirely of publishing this chapter on my blog, but after much soul searching I realize that doing so would achieve little. That left me with two options; publishing the original text regardless, or doing it over with a much broader scope.

Now having chosen the latter I’ve managed to use up a third of my allotted words before I get to a paragraph that even mentions the subject of how I actually feel about myself. Well, it isn’t easy to talk about so give me a chance, ok?

The other night I had a remarkably vivid dream. This rarely happens to me. Normally my sleep patterns go in such a way that I seem to be opening my eyes right after I close them the night before.

This dream was different. I was myself, but my life was altered. I had a job, I lived in a nice house which I owned. It’s funny how sometimes you not only remember what happened in a dream or who was in it, you also remember your life scenario at the time. Well for this vision, my life was pretty settled.

It was an average day. Suddenly in through the front door walks a grotesque, twisted, naked man. He looked like something from a horror movie. He did not appear to even have a face, he was kind of like a hideous entity more than a recognizable person.

So this “thing” strolls through the hallway and heads to the top of the stairs, and he proceeds on up towards the attic. Apparently, another feature of my “life scenario” in this dream is that I know he lives up there and I have done nothing about it all this time even though it is my house.

This time, however, I said to him, “No, you have to go.”

The thing objected, he raised his voice, not really saying any actual words, just vocalizing his dissent. Despite this, he started walking slowly back from whence he came, and out of the house. Once I shut the door behind him, I could suddenly see my fiancee standing before me and she said, “Finally! I thought you’d never get rid of him!”

My words astounded me. Much like my confidence when I first kissed a girl, much like my confidence when I held my first child, much like my confidence when I passed my driving test, I was somehow able to find the resolve to do what needed to be done with little effort.

I then woke up, still full of pride for being able to evict this demon from my property so easily. As I slowly drifted back towards reality, I started to look for answers from the dream. Who or what was that thing? Where did the confidence come from?

There have been volumes written on dream interpretation. Personally, I rank every one of them right alongside horoscopes, tarot cards, palm-reading and even online personality tests. The symbolism is presented to you, and you take from it exactly what you want to.

After brief consideration, I decided the entity represented all about myself which I hate. I took the fact that I was able to expel him so readily from my life as a sign that somewhere buried within the dark recesses of my soul I have the capability to rise above it.

I don’t think I was “born again” or anything like that, by the way. It’s just that the dream was real, it’s still fresh in my mind, and re-doing this chapter gives me a chance to at least try and come to terms with it.

Also, I have to assume the banishing was purely symbolic within the dream. I think what I achieved with the whole process was an acknowledgement that my low self esteem was not only present, but it was manageable, and what’s more important, it’s not unusual.

I guess such doubt is there in all of us from the moment we become self aware – we only differ in how we identify, express and control it.

For me, wisdom is not about how much you know, it’s an awareness of how much you don’t know. Last Sunday morning, I think I got wiser on the subject of my self, and I feel much better for it.

© JL Pagano 2005


Click here for a full index of all 50 chapters

Sunday, October 16, 2005

sex, drugs and flatlining

These days, when the Rolling Stones say they're playing "Live", they need a disclaimer.

Check out this story from Ananova's Quirky files...

Stones tour with heart machine

The Rolling Stones have a heart machine reportedly backstage in case one collapses on their US tour.

Organisers have brought in a defibrillator, used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.

According to The Sun quoting US magazine Globe a source said: "With all four band members now veterans, their managers are not taking any chances."

A spokesman for the band said: "I've never seen a defibrillator backstage."

Looks like Jack Flash can't do that much jumpin anymore!

Rumour has it that if Jagger decides to body surf, a roadie will have to do it with him to carry his IV drip.

Friday, October 14, 2005

i can't believe it's not spreading

Rogue Valley Country Club – quite the swanky establishment

Now that I have finally shared with you all the story of how I came to meet my biological father a couple of years ago, I can now go on to relate some of the incidents that happened on the two occassions I went over to meet him and his family.

The first “Lifeslice” story that springs to mind happened in the summer of ’04 when I brought my fiancee Sandra and my two kids over to meet the members of the newly-extended clan.

This appeared to be quite a daunting trip for many different reasons – for example, it was the first time my kids had travelled with their daddy's girlfriend, so that was always going to be a challenge. Also, as my father lives in Oregon and we intended to spend equal time with my mother in San Francisco, it made for a complicated itinerary. Finally, although I had gone over myself to press the flesh the summer before, there was still some doubt as to how the two families would interact for an entire week.

On the first point, things went quite well. There was one incident when my then-9-year-old daughter turned to Sandra and snapped “Well noone asked you to come!” when things weren’t going her way, a phrase she was quick to both take back and apologize for even before I got involved. For the most part, the four of us proved compatible travelling companions.

The itinerary, however, was a whole other ball game. In future, when I travel to the USA for two weeks or less, I am going to head for the one spot and let other people come see me. Imagine how I felt when, about to embark on the second leg of our journey from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon, I was told at the check-in desk that all of our remaining flights were cancelled, and that it was somehow up to me to notify the travel agents. Since they were based in Dublin and it was midnight there at the time, I had little hope of contacting them in time to catch our flight.

To prevent that long story making this one even longer, I’ll just say we got reinstated after much shouting and roaring. It did not help my blood pressure one bit, however.

And that leaves everyone getting along. This went brilliantly. Not only did we spend time with my father Mark and his wife Vicki, but my half-brother drove up from the Bay Area with his wife and two kids who were only a bit younger than mine. This made for a very relaxed seven days with just the right amounts of company from all age groups to keep things interesting for everyone throughout.

The only thing to go wrong for the whole week was poor Sandra catching a bad tummy bug which had her laid up for long periods of time. Despite this, even she managed to enjoy herself, spending the bulk of the time lounging by the swimming pool. As we were not yet engaged at this point, she was the one who had most to lose on this trip, with no direct ties to anyone, and it was her handling of the whole ordeal which went on to give me the courage to go down on one knee a month after our return to Dublin.

My father Mark wanted to do something special to round off the visit, so he booked as all in for dinner at his golf club. This sport is his favourite pastime – alas, despite my being something of a sports fanatic, golf is not one I intend to take up for a good few years to come. He did bring me out on the course one day but unfortunately my hacking and flailing was to trouble the groundskeeper more than the scorekeeper.

Given the immaculate weather enjoyed by southern Oregon in July, the Rogue Valley Country Club made a breathtaking setting for both a round of golf (though I only managed 9 holes) and an evening meal out in the patio garden. And so Mark, Vicki, Sandra, the kids and myself all put on our finest clothes and took our seats for our 6:30pm reservation.

Since Mark had made me feel so much at home during our stay, I had not realised just how fancy this country club was until just after we settled at our table. We were briefly joined by no less than The President of the Club, who had an air about him that makes you feel obliged to print his title beginning with capital letters. Now Mark wasn’t exactly kissing his ass, but his interaction with this dignitary did make me realise just how important his standing was among these people, and all of a sudden I felt very responsible for the behaviour of my kids, even more so than usual.

Now, don’t get me wrong – my daughter RA and son CJ are normally well behaved, but as any parent will know, there are few kids that don’t have their moments, especially when pitted together. And so once the President had said his pleasantries and left us to enjoy our meal, I had become extra concerned with how they could draw unnecessary attention to our table.

The “ordering the food” obstacle was negotiated easily enough, as there was a kiddie’s menu which did perfectly well for both of them. Although RA had been going through a phase of wanting things from the adult version, she had actually been warned prior to this event to make do with the hamburger and fries selection.

Things got interesting as we were waiting for our starters. There was a tempting selection of different breads in a basket in the centre of the table, and once we had ordered, we all waited for Mark to take a slice for himself by way of a signal for us to do likewise. Once I had chosen what I think was pumpernickel, I felt a tug on my sleeve. It was CJ beside me, who was afraid to reach for some bread himself for fear of sending his glass of water tumbling into the basket in the process, which is one of his party pieces.

I gladly gave him a piece of french bread, and could tell by him that he wanted me to butter it for him as well, and so of course I obliged. I smiled to myself as I was doing so, for the butter was rock hard, and I had been telling Vicki only that very morning how that was just how my grandfather liked his butter, so much so that I had coined the term “Grandpa Butter” to describe it. As far as he was concerned, if it didn’t go through your toast as you applied it, it was too soft.

Seemingly Vicki did not see me take care of my son’s needs, but she was looking when I was carving a hunk of butter to apply to my pumpernickel. This sight also activated her memory banks to our earlier discussion, and it inspired her to blurt out –

“Ha! That’s just like Grandpa Butter!!!”

Please take one moment to look at this scenario through the eyes of my then-seven-year-old son. Obviously the formal nature of the occasion would have been lost on him. It was just another meal, and his most important concern was how soon were the coke and the fries going to appear before him.

Then you must remember how he perceived my grandfather. All CJ’s life, “visiting grandpa” meant what had to be for him and his sister a very depressing half an hour spent at the beside on a frail old man hooked up to tubes with even more sorry sights and sounds present in the surrounding beds on the ward.

Given all of this, imagine if your impatience for fries led you to ask your daddy to butter a piece of bread for you, only to hear once you had taken a big bite out of it that Vicki was referring to it as having been covered in something called “Grandpa Butter”. You have no idea what this means, but you sure know how it sounds. What would you do?

Our attention was not attracted by the boy himself, rather his sister, as she screamed –


…which of course alerted both our party and everyone in a two-table radius that he had just spit up a half-chewed piece of bread into the tablecloth.

Little did my daughter know that what she had in fact done was take the anger I was feeling towards him and channeled it back onto herself.

“Be quiet!” I said, in my best whisper-shout, because I knew how he was going to react next. Sure enough, the tears followed.

Naturally, everyone around thought he had been choking, so we had to allay their concerns before we did anything else. I immediately knew why he had spit out the food, but could not explain it right away as I didn’t want Vicki to feel bad. All I wanted to do was clean up the mess, calm him down, and get on with dinner.

All this time my father remained stoic.

That is, until he heard RA’s subsequent actions. She could not resist this opportunity to seek the moral high ground over her sibling; sadly for her, she was unable to find it.

“For goodness sake, CJ, you’re so unbelievably rude!” she proclaimed, nose in the air, as she proceeded to reach right across Sandra’s bow for another slice of bread, nudging though not actually spilling her own water on the way.

As she looked in terror at the teetering glass before her, the irony of her actions hit her all at once, and it was written all over her face. Luckily her newly found grandfather was able to see the humour in the whole thing, and he started to laugh loud and long, which in turn prompted us all to see the funny side.

Once the tension was over and the onlookers were satisfied that there was no need for paramedics, we went on to have an excellent evening which provided a fitting end to a (mostly) relaxing vacation.

My daughter’s poor etiquette reminds me of a brief story my mother always brings up when the subject of table manners is mentioned. It involves her and her two brothers as youngsters around the dinnertable, an occasion my grandmother has always seen as a time for airs and graces every single day of the week.

One night, my Uncle Jim lunged for something across the table much as my daughter did, which prompted this retort from his mother –

“Don’t you have a tongue, young man?”

To which her quick-witted son replied–

“Yeah, but my arm’s longer!”

I laugh every time I tell that story; at least I will until my two give me a taste of the same medicine!

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #44


1000 WORDS ON…SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Written: December 20, 2004

[This chapter begins with the lyrics to the song/prayer "In Memoriam 091101" which I have already posted a couple of times]

I had my son CJ with me for the day at the house in Clondalkin; the arrangement was that I mind him there for the day, dropping over to St Pauls School in Greenhills to collect my daughter RA for 2:40pm, and wait in the house until MyX got home from work around 6.

I was a Sky News addict at this stage, in an effort to be somewhat au fait with current affairs. Shortly after 2pm that day, I switched on to catch the headlines, and dominating the screen was a picture of the twin towers in New York with smoke billowing out of one of the buildings. It was clear that there had been a terrible accident of some kind, so naturally I stayed watching to find out what had happened.

Around ten past the hour, I witnessed another plane hit the second tower live, and was naturally horrified by the realization that this could be no accident.

Before I knew what was going on, it was after two-thirty, and I was going to be late to collect RA. I put CJ into the car and set off, frantically scouring the radio for reports on what was going on; RTE was still on its regular programming, and I had to rely on the crackly medium wave reception of BBC5 Live for updates.

When I reached the school and stood at the gates waiting for my daughter to emerge, I was amazed that nobody around me seemed to know what was happening. All the mothers were gathered in their little huddles laughing and joking and no doubt singing the praises of their little angels like they always did. I felt like screaming “Haven’t any of you heard the news? America is under attack as we speak!” but wisely thought better of it.

With that I whisked RA home and sat glued to the television for the rest of the afternoon. I had to constantly shout at the kids to keep things down as I listened for new information. The newsreaders were understandably shocked as events unfolded; in fact, as news reports were coming in of other planes going missing, nobody could really consider themselves safe. At one point my heart was in my mouth as the Sky News director cut from a picture of a plane in the sky to one of the White House.

I tried to explain the scale of what was happening to my children. I was telling them how one day they would be able to tell people exactly where they were and what they were doing; this was to be my generation’s JFK assassination. But to be honest the events of that day were so bizarre that explanations were extremely difficult.

At one point the news readers suggested there were reports that the Palestinians were involved, but this was refuted a few minutes later. I had visions of Yasser Arafat lunging across the room to get to his “bat-phone” and assure the international community it wasn’t him! I also imagined IRA members saying; “Fuck, even WE could never do THAT!!!” Eventually we were led to believe it was a sect of Islam called the Taliban that were responsible, though actually it was that their regime in Afghanistan was providing cover for Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network.

As one of Sky News’ hastily assembled experts told us how strong the buildings were and how long it should take for them to collapse, both towers fell within about ten minutes of each other. It was here that the true horror of what was happening was made clear, as people jumped from the buildings before they came down. What a position for any human to be confronted with for a split second; the one in a million chance of surviving the fall, against the zero in a million chance of remaining in the inferno behind them.

So what could I take from all of this? Does a large amount of people go to the immense trouble and meticulous effort to organize such an atrocity purely because they are part of George Bush’s “Axis of Evil”? Or was it a case of the fleas ganging up to bite the dog in a tender spot to get it to stop scratching? At the risk of being daubed a conspiracy theorist, I fear we will never know the real answers. One thing was certain; this was a day that would influence the world for decades to come.

We stood in line for hours at the American Embassy in Ballsbridge a few days later to sign the Book of Condolence. As Sandra and I waited, a girl in her early twenties took out a flute and played The Star Spangled Banner. I felt she was missing the point of the whole occasion; for me, it was a day when national identities did not matter, when in fact the destructive consequences of such jingoism were finally demonstrated to the so-called civilized world.

We wish to send our heart felt condolences to those people in New York and all over America. Our thoughts are always with you. We also hope that you the American people can find it in your hearts to forgive those who caused this pain without bringing needless sorrow to others.

The Pagano Family (from RTE’s online Book of Condolence)

© JL Pagano 2004


Click here for a full index of all 50 chapters

Monday, October 10, 2005

bitesize bullets

FEATURE : I decided to try out a new type of post called “bitesize bullets” whereby I pick a few assorted topics and give you up to (yet no more than) fifty words of what I think of it.

PAKISTAN : One journalist called 2005 “The Year Of The Natural Disaster”. What a terrible tragedy, all the more so that it happened in such a politically unstable region. It really puts things in perspective.

GERMANY : Looks like Angela Merkel had to sell the soul of her plans for reform to the devil for the sake of power. I don’t see this so-called “grand coalition” government lasting for long.

MYSTERY : I thought fellow blogster Alan from “Random Burblings” had solved my bbq post mystery last week, yet even up to now that same page receives over a dozen hits per day. I am truly stumped.

STEWART : Not Marcia, but John. “The Daily Show” finally debuted on digital TV here last night (the new channel “more4”) and it’s all it was cracked up to be and then some. Don’t call me between 8:30 and 9 weeknights ever again.

GER : I went out with “The Good Crowd” last Thursday night, and they finally persuaded me to give them all my blog address. I fully expect much slagging next Thirst Fursday. They also wanted me to mention someone’s name on the blog. It’s done.

COMMENTS : Seemingly there are gremlins surrounding my comment button. Feel free to use the “email the author” at the side if you want to get a message to me until I get it fixed.

BOOKER : An Irishman won the Booker Prize for writing a book. WOOHOO! How come all prizes don’t come with handy names? The Filmer Prize? The Sitcom-er Prize? On second thoughts, maybe not.

SWISS : Ireland will come to a standstill on Wednesday night, 7:45pm as the nation watches its soccer team play Switzerland where only a victory will give us a chance to qualify for the World Cup Finals. I’d better set the VCR to record The Daily Show.

KEEPER : I think I may use this format again, me likey…

Friday, October 07, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #43



Taken moments after First Contact at Medford International Airport

Of course this text has been partially edited to stay within the 1000-word barrier, but I reckon it's a unique way of expressing how this particular episode transpired.

From Newstalk106’s “City Edition” presented by Orla Barry(OB) and Declan Carty(DC) 11am November 27, 2003.

OB: Last Monday you may remember we did an interview with a young woman called Fiona Farrell who was desperately searching for her mother who had given her up for adoption and the search for parents is often a long and heartbreaking procedure but for one NewsTalk 106 listener, he found his dad in record time, using the internet! Jeff, good morning to you!

JLP: Hi Orla, love the show!

OB: Tell us a little bit about what happened, Jeff – first of all, you were adopted… when did you know you were adopted?

JLP: I wasn’t adopted, Orla, I was raised by my mother’s parents and had no contact with my father’s family growing up so I was similar to Fiona in terms of my curiosity, kind of wondering where you came from and all, I basically had two kids myself and I wondered about my own background for their sakes, you know?

OB: So you were well into your adult years by the time you began the search.

JLP: Yeah, I was about 30 or 31 at the time…

OB: And what did you think during that time; we asked Fiona what she was going to do if her mother says she doesn’t want to see her, for example that she doesn’t want anything to do with her.

JLP: Yeah, I got it through a website called they got me his address, and I had to write a letter, and I was wondering what to put in the letter, so basically I just said “My name is Jeff Lee, I’m looking for an old friend called Mark ...”…I didn’t wanna say something like “I think you’re my daddy” or anything like that…

OB: (chuckles) Just in case you’d spur a heart attack!

JLP: Something like that, yeah! Besides I wasn’t sure this was him, and I just had a name and an address to go on. So I sent off the letter, and it was like putting a message in a bottle; you send it out there and if you get something back, well and good. I had put an email address in with the letter, and two weeks later I got an email back saying “Hi my name is Mark. The only Jeff Lee I know is the son of a friend called Maura”, which is my mother’s name, and we just went from there!

OB: Oh my God! What was your response when you read it, Jeff?

JLP: Well it was weird at first, cos one thing he said was “I’m curious as to your interest in me”; from his point of view, he doesn’t know what I’m gonna be looking for! But anyway we sent some emails back and forth, and he’s now married again, and his wife was pushing it a lot as well, cos she was curious herself, the long lost son coming from across the water.

OB: And what about contact, then, have you met yet?

JLP: Yep, we have met, it started 2 years ago, so emails became webchats, webchats became phone calls, and last summer I went over myself to meet him. I just wanted to go over on my own first, cos things can go either way. He’d love to meet the kids and everything, but I just went over for a few days just to break the ice. It went fine, you know?

OB: So what did you think when you met him, the moment you set eyes on him, is there any family resemblance?

JLP: Yeah there is, well of course through the internet he would’ve sent pictures and stuff, so I would’ve seen what he looked like but it was more like mannerisms, and whenever I’d scratch my head his wife would go “Oh, Mark does that!”

DC: (laughs) It’s ironic, because having spoken to Fiona and her search has taken so long; literally yours was in the blink of an eye!

JLP: Yeah that’s the one thing I wanna stress is that I was really, really, lucky. I thought maybe my story would show that there is some hope out there, you know?

DC: And this website, what kind of information does it have? I’m intrigued as to how they had details on your father on file!

JLP: It cost about $60, and the only information I had on him was his name, his age, and his high school. Within 24 hours they had an address…I think in America with Social Security Numbers they have a lot more databases available; I’m not sure in Ireland would it be that easy to contact someone!

OB: Did you feel annoyed at any point, Jeff? Was there any sense of “What were you doing? Why weren’t you in my life?”

JLP: No, there was none of that at all, I was basically happy with the way I was brought up and I never really had any kind of resentment. I was just happy to find him and learn a bit more about my background to give to my kids!

DC: Have you found that you have more half-brothers and sisters that you never thought you had?

JLP: Yeah, he has four kids himself, but since I was only going over for a few days, I just met himself and his wife; he was going to have a big family barbecue, but I didn’t fancy that! Hopefully next summer I’ll go over with the kids and meet the whole clan!

OB: Good stuff! And what do your own kids think by the way about having a new granddad?

JLP: Basically, just more Christmas presents for them!

OB: (laughing)Very good Jeff, thank you for joining us, it’s nice to get a good news story for once!!!

© NewsTalk 106/JL Pagano 2003, 2004

NEXT, #44 - 1000 WORDS ON...SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Click here for a full index of all 50 chapters

Thursday, October 06, 2005

patient did not wish to divulge any information

The night that she told me
She looked so upset
Maybe it was pain from thirteen years before
Or maybe it was just regret

Or maybe it was just that she thought
I would not understand
But I already knew
My unknown father was a single man

Although I should have tried
I could not bring myself to hold her
All I could do was say these words
To try and console her

“Mom, it doesn’t really bother me
so wipe the tears from your eyes
there’s no need for you to cry
because it doesn’t really bother me”

The night that I told you
I hardly even knew ya
I bet you didn’t know what the hell
Was happenin to ya

But I was sick of answering questions
With stories that were untrue
And baby that night I felt
That I could tell anything to you

And looking at your face I could see
The questions that were on your mind
Like “Does he feel angry? Does he feel sad?”
Well if you look real hard I think you’ll always find

It doesn’t really bother me
So take that fear from your eyes
I'm just sick of all these lies
And it doesn’t really bother me

The night it got through to me
I was alone I could have sworn
I was looking at a piece of paper
That proved that I’d been born

And hard as I tried I couldn’t stop
Questions forming in my head
Like “Does he look like me? Is he as scared?
Will I ever see him or is he dead?”

And if I was so damn sure
That we’re all made the same
Then why did I react the way that I did
When I saw what was written under “father’s name”?

And if it doesn’t really bother me
Then why were there tears in my eyes
Why did I break down and cry
If it doesn’t really bother me

I felt so ashamed
As if the whole world had me to blame
So many friends had seen their daddies die
How could I ever feel justified?

But if it doesn’t really bother me
Then why were there tears in my eyes
Why did I break down and cry
If it doesn’t really bother me?

© JL Pagano 1992

[This song is more than a bit depressing I know, but there was eventually a happy ending – you will see in tomorrow’s post.]

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

what's right with this picture?

Click the pic to see it properly

Frequent hits are good, in fact they are GREAT. It's what keeps us bloggers blogging (hey! could that be a new occupation for one of the twelve days of Christmas?). I sincerely hope this post is not mistaken for a complaint that I am getting too many hits, far from it.

It's just that according to my stats, the above picture and the post associated with it has received almost 20% of my hits from all over the globe in the last 24 hours and for the life of me, I can't work out why.

Since I would like to be a "for-real" published writer at some point, I'd like to know, and I'd be open to suggestions. It's hardly the funniest post I've ever done, is it? Is that someone famous in the pic and I don't know it? Has it piqued the interest of the World Gravediggers Union? Or the International Barbecue Foundation?

Answers on a postcard to...well, me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

variation on a theme

Shaggy VI > Michèle

Recurring themes are good for blogs if you ask me. Now let’s be clear – I’m talking about THEMES and definitely NOT the phenomenon we bloggers call “memes”. Don’t start me on them.

By themes of course I mean something you continue to resort to when your “ramble” function is failing you, symptoms I experience all too often. I reckon between all my blogs I may have up to a dozen themes to choose from – in fact, you’re reading one right now!

This particular one is an attempt to honour some of my favourite co-bloggers by awarding a prize I affectionately refer to as a “Shaggy”.

And so, without any further ado, I would like to announce that the Sixth Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award goes to Michèle at her “Just Hanging Around” blog for the post “Toyota Pickup vs. The Monte Carlo”, which is an extremely well-put together account of a harrowing event.

It is part of her set of excellent stories from her life simply called “Ten Strange Things I’ve Done”, and I’m not going to tell you how it rates against the other nine – you’ll just have to go find them for yourself, won’t you?

Now, I’d thoroughly recommend that you all do something similar on your own blogs, but then that would be sailing dangerously close to “meme” waters, wouldn’t it?

Best enjoy Michèle’s gripping story, and think up your own theme if you want.

Here's to continued fascinating writing from your hangout, Michèle, take a bow.

Previous Winners :

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

II > Dol – “
Corporate Whore!

III > Buffalo – “

IV > Mike Todd – “
Et tu, Mike?

V > John - “
You Are Not Alone, I Self Harm Too

Sunday, October 02, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #42



Written: November 16, 2004

“Ah, Jaysus no, sure yer doin it all wrong man!!! You gotta booorn it for a bit THEN break it into it loike I just fookin shown ya!!!!”

I was to meet Sandra after work and since it was a nice summer’s afternoon in 2004 and I was a good bit early, I decided to buy a newspaper and sit in St Stephen’s Green until it was time for our rendez vous. I was surprised to see an empty bench over by one of the fountains, for on a day like that you would normally expect to be sharing seating space. When I finally sat down I understood the reason for the vacancy.

At the next bench, about ten feet from mine, there were four lads brazenly rolling joints. One of them was obviously a rookie and receiving tuition. They sat there, happily toking away without as much as a care in the world. As I was ready to leave, a garda officer on a push bike had gone over to them and was telling them off, but as most Dublin residents would know, there’s not an awful lot you can do with perpetrators whose maximum age was no more than twelve.

The incident made me realise just how glad I was that I had been able to stop smoking hash so relatively easily about six months before. For the previous four years, although you could not say that I had been addicted per se, the drug had played a significant role in doing serious damage to my lungs, my weight, my outlook, my appearance, my mental faculties and much more.

When I was in my wild boozing phase working in the sports store there would be the odd night I would get stoned, and my first joints were had around this time.

Surprisingly I had managed to make it through four years of college without mixing in peace-pipe-passing circles of any kind. The occasional night’s spliff was perfectly harmless however, and it was when I was to obtain my own supply that the negative effects would begin to appear.

You know something; thinking is way over-rated. I reckon Descartes was mis-quoted – perhaps he was so busy thinking when he was coining his famous phrase out loud, he never finished it, and everyone around him ran off to hail “I think therefore I am…” as the guiding light in a new realm of philosophy, when actually he was probably so surprised to see everyone had gone, his concentration was broken and never had time to finish his thought!

Now I don’t claim to be a raving intellectual by any means, but I do know I enjoyed taking drugs because they helped me to stop thinking. On occasion I would pass entire days under the influence, though normally I would be able to find enough activity to keep me soberly occupied before sundown.

It was the nights that were the killer. To get to sleep I had to stop thinking. To stop thinking I had to be stoned. It would be as time-consuming as it would be irrelevant to try and account for all I was thinking about; suffice to say I just wanted to stop. The need to both pee and find food would be enough the next morning to get me out of bed, and so the cycle would start all over again.

My supply came primarily from women I had met via the internet during the periods I refer to as my “Summers of Love”, i.e. those of 2000 and of 2003. My relationships with them were primarily based on having them as a means by which I could regularly replenish my stash.

This would most definitely be the time of my life for which I am least proud, as I would go to work stoned, drive my car stoned, mind my kids stoned; it was taking over my entire life and I didn’t really care.

I did not do too much with other drugs. I had one night in Club92 in 2000 when I took half an “e” tablet, but the only effect that had was for my already big eyes to practically bulge out of my head, which made me into a side-show freak!!! I was thus not so keen to take it again!

When I went to Oregon to meet my father for the first time his wife proved to be a stoner herself while he was at work, and proceeded to give me some grass which provided me with a sensation I do NOT ever want to repeat. It was my first (and if I have anything to do with it my last) real “out of body” experience and led to a loss of control that I found quite simply terrifying.

And so I had dug myself into a hole and could not see anyone who was willing to drag me out, until of course Sandra made her call that Saturday night suggesting we get back together. I was now able to cut back to smoking at weekends, but still wished I had a reason to quit for good.

The envelope hit the doormat in early January 2004. My driving test was to take place on March the 5th. I have never been more determined to achieve anything in my life than I was to pass this test. I realised how important it was for all drugs to be out of my system by this date, so in a blaze of smoke and accompanied by a seemingly endless trough of crisps, pizzas and other calorie-filled niceties I spent a day and a half using up what supply I had left for one final hurrah. I then binned all my accoutrements which I had collected over the years to perfect my rolling technique; the papers, the mini scissors, the rolling tobacco, all gone forever.

Big and all as I am, I was lucky enough to pull myself out of the hole.

© JL Pagano 2004


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Saturday, October 01, 2005

the divided colors of bennett

Willam Bennett in the days before he caught foot-in-mouth disease

Oh, my good Lord. Who would have thought that one short sentence could piss off so many different sections of society all at once.

For something that has caused so much of a bru-ha-ha in the USA, it was pretty difficult to find the exact quote on the net. Eventually I found this on…

If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.

"That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he added.

Knowing a bit about radio studios as I do, I reckon the second sentence was uttered as a reaction to the collective faces of all within his line of sight after saying the first.

No doubt the Democrats will be all over this. I personally never heard of this guy. Not much chance of my learning anything interesting about this guy by way of their sites either.

I found this one, however, which gave me the skinny…

William Bennett

• Host of America’s Leading Talk Radio Program, Morning in America
America’s Leading Intellectual Voice on Social and Cultural Issues
• Bestselling Author

William J. Bennett is one of America's most important, influential and respected voices on cultural, political and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard. He is the host of a national radio show called Bill Bennett’s Morning in America which is syndicated by the Salem Radio Network. The program airs from 6-9:00 a.m. (eastern). Dr. Bennett is the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and the Chairman and co-founder of the education company K12, Inc. He is also the chairman of Americans for Victory over Terrorism, a project dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public opinion as the war on terrorism moves forward.

During the 1980s, Dr. Bennett emerged as one of the nation's most prominent political figures. He served as President Reagan's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985) and Secretary of Education (1985-1988) and President Bush's "drug czar" (1989-1990). In his various roles, he was perceived -- even by his adversaries -- as a man of strong, reasoned convictions who spoke candidly, eloquently and honestly about some of the most important issues of our time.

Bill Bennett has accomplished a rare feat: since leaving government, he has achieved an even greater impact on our national political debate. Dr. Bennett has written for America's leading newspapers and magazines and appeared on the nation's most influential television shows. He has also written and edited 16 books, two of which -- The Book of Virtues and The Children's Book of Virtues -- rank among the most successful of the past decade. The Book of Virtues has been made into an animated series that airs on PBS in the United States and Great Britain and has been seen in over 65 countries. Dr. Bennett's most recent book is Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism. Dr. Bennett was named by focus groups and leading analysts the "Best Communicator of 2002," the most well-received public commentator on the issues of "pride, patriotism, faith and moral conviction.

Although he is a well-known Republican, Dr. Bennett often has crossed party lines in order to pursue important common purposes. He has worked closely with Democratic leaders to fight the decline of popular culture and to end worldwide religious persecution and he is the co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

Thanks to his writings and speeches, William Bennett has extraordinary influence on America's political and social landscape. He, his wife Elayne and their two sons, John and Joseph, live in Maryland.

I think the significant words here are “his writings and speeches”. Public speaking is BIG BIG money. This man has obviously made it his living. He has no choice but to stand by his words.

It was a stupid, stupid, thing to say. Let those who are offended have their say so that we can all get on with our lives.

Speaking of those who were offended, I wonder if there was any reaction from the pro-life campaign?