Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Am Dust - Ash Wedensday 2016



"By the sweat of your face/you shall eat bread,/till you return to the ground,/for out of it you were taken;/for you are dust,/and to dust you shall return."  Genesis 3:19


I am dust.

Today, is the first day of the rest of my life - Ash Wednesday, a day we Catholics and many Christians use as time remebering Christ's 40 days in the desert fending off Satan.

I have not fended off Satan.

I am dust, bone sinew, lard, muscle and ego.

Jesus was born in Roman occupied Palestine more tha 2,00 years ago with me in mind. He was later tortured, scourged, mocked, crowned with thorns and crucified with me in mind.  He rose from the dead and Triumphed over sin, death and despair with me in mind.

My problem is was and has been that I do not keep Christ in mind.  I allowed myself to listen to Satan and put things above people.  I am an afflicted - self afflicted  - gambler. Satan still has my ears of the last few months. I forget how blessed I am.

Today, I will remember how blessed I am and I will take ashes and pray and fast try to give Satan the 'not welcome here' mat.

Ashes - I am Dust. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Exit Lepidus: End the Damn Lists Already!



SCENE I. A house in Rome.
ANTONY, OCTAVIUS, and LEPIDUS, seated at a table
ANTONY
These many, then, shall die; their names are prick'd.
OCTAVIUS
Your brother too must die; consent you, Lepidus?
LEPIDUS
I do consent--
OCTAVIUS
Prick him down, Antony.
LEPIDUS
Upon condition Publius shall not live,
Who is your sister's son, Mark Antony.
ANTONY
He shall not live; look, with a spot I damn him.
But, Lepidus, go you to Caesar's house;
Fetch the will hither, and we shall determine
How to cut off some charge in legacies.
LEPIDUS
What, shall I find you here?
OCTAVIUS
Or here, or at the Capitol.
Exit LEPIDUS
THE WAR ON LISTS
Around this time, Shepherd made a rare daytime trip to a bookstore. When he couldn’t find a book he was looking for on the shelves, a clerk informed him the book must not exist because it hadn’t appeared on any publisher’s list the clerk had ever seen. Shepherd was positive the book existed, but no amount of insistence on Shepherd’s part could budge the clerk from his certainty. This encounter would prove to be the fuel for the fire to come.


Only one list matters and that is the mythical list St. Nicholas keeps concerning who is naughty and who is nice.

Those whom our reified Yule Saint pricks down may also keep lists.

If, however, you have come to a point in your life where you no longer believe that a ghostly gent with an Arctic address will be bring sacks full of X-Boxes and Barbies down the chimney, please ignore lists, don't compile lists and,  please, for the love of God,  do not encourage the over-paid imbeciles seated at some keyboard do so.

List-O-Mania, it might empirically and historically argued has helped create American Morons.

Polls and lists have become the drug of choice for people too lazy to read, walk down the street, think for themselves, entertain themselves and most all to love themselves.

Since, the late 1950's, beginning in New York City's radio stations and tabloids, lists have been compiled on any all topic, destination, person, incident and policy. One voice alone, stood in the way of List-O-mania and that was Hammond, Indiana  born writer and wit Jean Shepherd.  He was martyred and only allowed to pop his head above our shallow culture with A Christmas Story, for having taken on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Shepherd's battle against Lists rivals the Alamo, Wake Island, Bataan, the Chosin Reservoir and Khe Sahn.  What the. . . Sorry, guilty me making a list.

When God created the Universe (First Cause), He put into motion a series of events where matter collides with will and all things tend back to Him.

Like an Omnipotent/Omniscient Minnesota Fats, Mr. Trinity chalks up and stokes the cue in the only Act of Eternal Will that really matters - energy, force and matter scatters with the end of making us balls hit a pocket and return to the Brunswick bay near His loins - Big Bang!

Now, I have played pool and some idiot has, on occasion, grabbed a ball (cue and numbered), blocked the ball, bumped the table, spilled beer on the path of my sure-shot, or. otherwise. loused up the game.  That lousing up by Lists is taking place in our Universe, Boys and Girls.

Polling has given us Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Lists have made us stupid.

Let's pass over Polling, just for sake of not having an argument - 99.9% of my immediate family love Obama and I, because I have met and spoken with President #44 on more than few occasions, think that he is a dope.  Likewise, 100% of my immediate and extended family ( myself included for the same reasons as not in the previous sentence) believe that Donald Trump is the turd in our National punchbowl.

Thus we are free to excoriate Lists. Lists were used to proscribe people deemed expendable by tyrants  from Croesus, to Hitler, to Stalin, To Mao, to Nixon, to Valerie Jarrett.  A proscription list meant that you and your family deader than Kelsey's Nuts.

Lists can be used for good as in the case of Poor Richard's Almanac, Seven Deadly Sins, Cardinal Virtues and such.  Lists comprised by the superior gender stop the flood of cash from checking accounts, due to male impulse buying in grocery stores.  However, as with anything once moderation has been scuttled the ship of sense sinks; bringing us to our Idiocy Universal.

God made the Universe. Who made the world? Carpenters and Bricklayers.  Had to squeeze that one in.

Yes, God made the Universe and saw that it was good.  Now,  God Help Us All, there is a Listverse.  It is bad, very bad.

One can not open a magazine, a newspaper, or website without being hammered senseless by Lists of -Top Tens - Forbes Plutocrats & etc.

I received a 25th Birthday present in 1977 from a cousin. The son of screenwriter and novelist Irving Wallace - one David Wallechinsky had just published a smoking hot bestselling tome of nonfiction -  The Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information.  It was great take to bathroom literature and ,once done so, never allowed on the coffee table ( like I had one).

I have no idea where that gift ended up. I went through it.  Now, I curse it.  I should have smelled this skunk in the underwear drawer of America's soul.

Things went rampant from 1977 onward.

Rather than read great books, participate in drama, study history, practice athletics, live the virtues, Americans examined lists of everything and anything.

People need to go out and discover.  Lists keep people home bound.

Store Front, Homemade Pizzas and Burgers, Drink Specials in Chicago, IL

I discovered a great pizza place on the Northside of Chicago on my last birthday, when I was treated to an Evening With John Cleese Being Talked Over By Roe Cohn *at the Atheneum Theatre.  It was raining and exquisite Miss Terry Sullivan and I wandered in search of a pre-show eatery and by luck took a right going south on SouthPort at George Street and at the end of the block found a tiny saloon with best pizza I have ever tasted.

We managed this discovery without the aid of a YELP, much less a Chicago Magazine Pay-to-Play Listing of approved venues and events.

Our experience was made all the more Nearer My God to Thee, because no list went into our discovery.

That is what God intended all of us to do.

* John Cleese is an enormously talented wit; Roe Cohn is on the radio, despite his limitations, intellectual and social.
The entire show consisted of Roe Cohn talking over John Cleese and telling stories about his shallow life. Tickets were over $56 for general admission.   The pizza at Side Saloon balmed the fact that Roe Cohn bored a hole through a capacity audience. Prick Him Down, Antony!








Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mr. Harold Green - Leo Hero: Facta Non Verba



When Leo High School welcomes Moms, Dads, Students and Staff, the bags of Mickey D's cast-off paper and plastic, battalions of styrofoam trays with chicken bones, legions of Frito-Lay parcels, squads of empty pints of Bumpy Face Seagrim's Gin, scraps of Sun Times Redlines and wet matted bits of penny saver coupon bundles are no where to be seen on the grounds.

Elves must pick up and toss the detritus of modern urban thoughtlessness and 'disappear it' into City of Chicago waste bins on our 79th Streetcape.

This morning I traveled from my home in Morgan Park six miles to the south and west of Leo High School, up Western Avenue (plowed and somewhat salted), east on 87 Street (plowed and somewhat salted) and north on Racine ( unplowed, nor salted) to 79th Street east ( (plowed and salted) and into the Leo Parking Lot ( unplowed at 4:45 AM).

I got out of the Malibu and said my morning Leo Memorare and noticed that the sidewalks and pathways around the school were already cleared.

When snow blankets the pathways and sidewalks, some miracle men must have bolted from their quilty blankets in the Sixteen Degree frost of the morning and cleared  our winter waves of white stuff.

No, my dears, Mr. Harold Green and Army veteran and a family man with the strength of eight lesser mortals did that.

Harold shoveled all of Leo's campus and then cleared the CTA benches for people who wait to swipe their hard-bought Ventra Cards for travel to work and school - not in Harold Green's job description. With all of that done - Harold will drive to Beecher, Illinois, South Holland, Roseland, Brainard and back to Leo High School with twelve students.  Now, some mincing person might offer, " Well, that's his job."

Mr. Harold Green gets to work at Leo High School at around 4AM - rain, shine, snow and trouble: Never late, never absent. During the day, while perched on my rump in the Development cubicle, I see Mr. Harold Green haul, lift, fix and fetch in and out of the school - 'Go to Menards: Get coffee for visitors; Jump Start my Car . . .' and ,one day, just prior to Leo's Annual Veterans Observance I received this inter-office memo :

Pat,

1.  Harold Green will pick up coffee.

3.  Harold Green will set up 3-4 rows of chairs.

4.  Harold Green will set up podium and sound system.

5.  I spoke to Mrs. Latifi and she will have NHS students greet and help older veterans cross the street.

7.  Mrs. Hill will have 1-4 students sing the National Anthem.

Thanks,
Well, it is his job, after all.

Yes, it is.  Have a nice day, Cupcake.




Mr. Harold Green is the Leo High School go-to-guy that educators and most otherwise nice people rarely notice.

I'm not so nice.  I notice.

Harold Green is my idea of a mythological Titan.

Harold Green expects to do his work.  That is all that Harold Green needs to say about it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Potat-er from Decatur Takes Obama Spiel to The Englewheel: Dick Durbin is No Bob Foster




One of the most gigantic of all fatuous ninnies, Senator Dick Durbin, carried President Obama's message to the well-strapped choir.

ENGLEWOOD — As President Barack Obama announced strict new gun controls nationwide Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited one of the neighborhoods devastated the most by gun violence *to voice his support . . .

That is nice.  Englewood, pronounced Englewheel by Chicago's mildly besieged Highland Park Homie Mayor, is a Zipcode where many of Chicago's homicides ( translated into Media Speak -Gun Violence) takes place.  Folks in Englewood are strapped -  they are impoverished and also very well armed.

Folks are strapped a few blocks to the south, where I work every day, in Gresham.  I have seen many handguns, most owned according to existing statutes by very good people and some in the hands of thugs; not necessarily gang members -thugs.

There are gangs in strapped communities, where a bi-polar law enforcement psychology exists - mistrust and now a vigorous hatred of any and law enforcement and a riveting fear of Vice Lords, Stones, 4 Corner Hustlers and Disciples of all Discriptive Modifiers, who prey on children, the elderly and geographically over-priced retailers from outside the African American communities.

Very Good People buy, or manage to get guns to protect themselves, while our politically maligned first responders are distracted by gangs, elected officials, Cadillac Commie Lawyers, the callow Chicago news media ( please, read agenda wrapped columnists and all editorial boards) and can not be the 1st Responders to their calls.

Into this sadness, arrives a doughy, fatuous ninny, United States Senator Dick Durbin (D) who will do and say anything for the PACS and people who fund his larded ass and its place in the United States Senate.  Durbin was once a 'fierce defender of the unborn' and now is Planned Parenthood's most fawning of PP President Cecile Richard's Lucchese Boots lickers.

President Obama tongues the Luccheses of Planned Parenthood, like a three old with his first Rainbow Cone. Dick Durbin showed the President how to do that.

I have met both our President and our Senior Senator and was and remain underwhelmed by both men.

When Dick Durbin was wedged into his Senate seat back in 1997, I was in my second year of service to Leo High School in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.  Dick Durbin is Irish - a mealymouthed, spineless and rather dull Irish American.  Leo High School has Irish and African America DNA in its blood, bones and sinew. Bob Foster is an Irish American - a tough, honest, warlike softy of a man with deep and abiding love of historical, personal  and shared truth. Bob Foster is  aproud Leo Alumnus, history teacher, athletic director, guidance counsellor, principal and Leo's first President, now retired.

Dick Durbin came to Leo to be seen in a black neighborhood.  Gresham was more of a shooting gallery than it happens to be today and gang warfare was more robust.  Leo High School is a Roman Catholic high school for young men and the gangs were more intimidated by Leo President Bob Foster than the cops from the Sixth District.  Bob Foster maintained Leo's continued operation in Gresham out of the pure force of his nature and his Irish " I Could Give a Shit" attitude toward politicians, newsmen, Church higher-ups, icons, and millionaires - let alone gangbanger war lords. Every kid at Leo was an African American encouraged to celebrate his race by dint of his character and Bob Foster never aped any other dialect for public posing other than his salty and articulate Sou't Side Irish. 

Bob Foster does not have phony fiber in his DNA and he had to meet Dick Durbin.

Durbin toured Leo, was introduced to Leo Students, was wowed by the phalanxes of athletic trophies that include a number of City of Chicago Football Championships and remarked on the photos of young Bob Foster in the 1956 Championship Team picture.  Bob Foster introduced Dick Durbin to Leo Head Football Coach Mike Holmes who had just led the Lions to another IHSA Football Playoff run.

When the toured end with 'coffee and' in Bob Foster's office, Senator Dick Durbin asked, " Does Leo Have a Football Team?"

Like I said, Bob Foster is a singular man.  Singular men make miracles happen.

I waited and was not disappointed.  Most educators, failed classroom teachers with bigger salaries and pensions, would said, " Yessir Senator, we sure do!"  They might have passed on the remark, unchallenged and said, " I just love doing the work of Dr, King and Jesse Jackson, don't you Senator?"

Not Bob Foster - " Jesus Christ Almighty???!!!!! You gotta be soft as baby-shit!  How in the Hell were picked to be Senator?"

Thus, ended the Decator Potater's visit to Chicago's inner city in the late 1990's. Dick Durbin was seen in the inner city, photographed by staff, but he was not heard at the time.

Now, Dick is back in the Hood and Bob Foster is retired.

There is a home-truth spoken by Leo Men - " You can't make this shit up,"

God helps us.

* Guns are inanimate objects and can not commit any human act.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Chicago Wants, Voted For and Fully Supported Rahm's ChiRaq

Image result for I'm With Rahm

Here malice, rapine, accident conspire,
And now a rabble rages, now a fire;
their ambush here relentless ruffians lay,
and here the fell attorney prowls for prey;
here falling houses thunder on your head,
and here a female atheist talks you dead....
This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
Slow rises worth, by poverty depressed. Samuel Johnson -London



Our local, state and Federal government was handed over to fools, thieves and petty tyrants (bullies) via policy, lazy and apathetic voters and, also, people wanting to help neighbors and strangers and feel good about doing so.

Chicago re-elected Rahm Emanuel - black voters, white ethnic Catholic voters, Jewish voters, Hipster voters, CTU Karen Lewis Fan voters, All of Chicago labor and people 'doing a solid' for their neighbors holding political jobs.

Try and find someone who will say, " I'm With Rahm!"

Rahm Emanuel did not shoot Laquan McDonald sixteen times, nor did the Chicago Police Department.


Image result for chicago stare down boy
Many of the people leading Mag Mile protests and paying that 'stare-down' kid to goad police officers into giving him a well-deserved slap in the puss, had "I'm With Rahm' lawn signs, or sat with Mayor Emanuel in seats reserved for Progressive Democrat and GOP oligarchs at BlackHawks, White Sox and Cubs games.

Chicago has killed off people of 'worth' in politics and replaced the Ed Kellys, Tom Murphys, Paul Vallases and so many others to clear the way for Forrest Claypool, Mike Quigley, Rahm Emanuel, Toni Preckwinkle and Barack Obama.

Our schools of education helped a great deal.  Teachers and students are ignorant of shared truth, because shared truths are verboten.

Dead Old Men like Shakepeare, Chaucer, Cicero, Dryden, Thackeray and Samuel Johnson have no place in the canon of American education.

Instead, public officials are allowed to make idiotic indictments of shared truths in the media and remain completely unchallenged, unaccountable and perfectly acceptable. Several years ago, when then -Alderman Toni Preckwinkle was encouraged by the University of Chicago mafia to seek high office, she said this in print in reaction to a request to make Saul Bellow's name get the same treatment as Joel Hall "    "In a city whose streets commemorate fascist pilots and other controversial figures, it should have been a rubber-stamped request . . ."   Toni denied the request to give Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow a brown Honorary Street Sign based upon and equally idiotic article  - Oh, that's right. . .I forgot the Chicago Tribune put Toni Preckwinkle's comment into the Orwellian Memory Hole  - like I said Chicagoans ( Bruce Dold Editor et al) 'doing a solid' for a friend.

Worth means nothing and therefore the worthless get moved into public office.

A worthless class of executives, legislators, educators and policy engineers have created a city that proudly spears "I'm With Rahm" lawn signs into the homey grass and then marches down the Mag Miles chanting tired Marxist 'Hey-Hey, Ho- Ho, Rahm has gotta go!' platitudes.

Had shared truth been of any concern for Chicago voters, our children would be learning from Milton, Bellow, Booker T. Washington, Juvenal and Samuel Johnson


Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Garlic Infused News Years Eve 1994 - Clare Waited Until 1995 to Join Us



"Some clodhopper down in Griffith, Indiana swallowed a yo-yo the other day."
"Now that's real news!" from A Christmas Story

         " Well, I guess The Hickeys are now Clock Hobbers down in Griffith, Indiana" Mary E. Hickey

It was a Saturday and Mary was about a week overdue.  Mary is the mother of my two oldest - Nora and Conor.  Nora was ten years old and Conor was five and delighted that a baby was on the way.  My Mom and Dad took the two bairns to Oak Lawn for New Years, as Mary was sure to pop any minute.

We had moved to Griffith, Indiana ( The Town That Came to the Tracks - No, Kidding that is the town's motto) that summer, when Mary and I took jobs at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond - the setting of classic Christmas Story movie.  The kids attended St. Mary's Grammar School only few blocks north of our home 218 N. LaFayette( third house north of the apartment building).

The home was a yellow framed shot-gun bungalow built for families who worked in the once thriving steel mills from Hegewisch in Illinois all way the to Porter County, Indiana.  This little house prepped for our new little Hickey.    We did not know if it would be a girl or boy child and did not care.  Mary a gorgeous, tall skinny redhead always sported a pregnancy beautifully and looked like a red bristled broom with half-barrel of Baderbrau ( great Chicago beer) strapped to the handle, but had had enough of waiting for Lazy Childe #3!"

" Take me to that Italian joint in Munster, Giovanni's.  I hear that if you garlic up a storm it induces labor," Mary commanded.   From the minute I met Mary in 1977- once was enough . . .ANd Done!

It was colder than a mother-in-law's kiss and there was about a foot of snow on the ground.  We took the Main Street ( 45th Ave)  to Munster. Mary was slated to deliver at Munster Hospital on Calumet Avenue and it was only a few blocks from, Giovanni's on Ridge Road. I had scouted quickest routes to the Hospital, barring one of the many freights trains blocking us from the birthing room and the Benjamin Griffith's cleverly named MainStreet seemed the surest route,

Giovanni's in Muster, Indiana is on Ridge Road and snuggles up to Illinois State Line near Lansing.  It is a wonderful and authentic Italian restaurant free of faux fare found at Francesca's franchise and much more satisfying than any Olive Garden trough.

Giovannis does garlic like Baderbrau  does hops and malted grains.

Mary always ate like she was "going to the Chair," but this New Year's had a maternal and medical reason for her gourmandizing -" Get what you want and I'll just have . . . The Bruschetta, Shrimp Scampi,  . . .they're appetizers! Don't give me that look . . .mmm. . . the calamari salad - load up the garlic, please. . . .a cup of minetrone . . .Oh, and the crab cakes and just bring me some iced tea.  What?"

I am no slouch with a fork, but even this hormone stoked feed seemed excessive and my face betrays what passes for reflection, like a fatman stuffed in a Speedo at State and Madison at High Noon.

The waitress approved Mary With Child's order with the knowing nod to me signalling the sisterhood of contempt universal for the unwombed tablemate.

" Ignore him, Honey."

" I do. I hope this works, I would love to have a News Year's Eve baby - Little Tax Deduction! God, I'm starved pass the bread olive oil and the crashed garlic."

Mary was a brilliant woman, a talented artist and master malaprop.   She would say the booming local enterprise was doing " Land Mine Business!" and hummed the great Four Tops hit about a monster " Ain' No Woman Like the One-eyed Got."



I screw up practically everything I touch, but get the words or phrasing to fit. . . most times.

" What?  Oh, pardon me, Mr. Wordschmidt!"

The orders arrived and Mary lived the lyrics of Johnny McEldoo on New Year's Eve 1994!  I had the 16 oz. bone-in Steak and put away only a few ounces when, " Cut me off nice hunka that, Big Boy! . . .pronto!"

So let it be written; so, let it be done!

Mary scooped more garlic onto the generous cut of wood-fired beef crusted in sea salt, pepper corns and fresh garlic and it vanished as had the Bruschetta, Minestrone, Calamari Salad, Crab Cakes and the appetiser for two portion of Shrimp Scampi and never broke a sweat.

" If This Baby Doesn't Get on the Ball and quick upon it!"

My bushy browed eyes betrayed me again, Uncomfortable, my Lamb?

" Don't start with me, Bucko, or you'll be driving back to Griffith zipped in a body bag.  Ask for the check."

It was 8 P.M.  We drove past Munster Hospital and Mary stared at the ER sign.  " Say nothing, Hubby and you might just live to see 1996 . . .you're doing all the night work with this lazy child for at least a year, Bub!"

It was a tough four hours for my Love and I am sure that child napping and thumb-suckingly contented in her womb was more than satisfied with garlic-infused amniotic fluid marinade.  we watched and waited -  with Dick Clark and throngs in Times Square -



Clare was so fetal-ly contented that she napped away until January 2, 1995.  I barely had time to park the car and Mary shot our baby into this world.

Time-delayed garlic miracle!








Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tree of Joy - no gathering and collecting required





  Ecclesiastes 2:26 "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind."

Joy is free. I was never more joyful than Christmas time on a Catholic boarding school campus empty of students and most staff between 1988 and 1994.

One of the most joyful days of my life took place a little before Christmas Day in 1994 at La Lumiere School in LaPorte, Indiana.

The campus is stunning and rings a lovely spring fed lake with massive pines, hickory, elm, maple and oak trees.

My wife Mary, daughter Nora and son Conor lived in a four bedroom house attached to La Lumiere School's Becket House - home to twenty-three young men in their junior year and in our care.  Becket House was one of three male houses for boarders - the others were Newman for freshman and sophomores and Aquinas for seniors.

My role was to supervise studies, make sure that the rooms managed to stay as hygienic and orderly as possible, give the guys some sense family and make sure that the natural inclinations of seventeen and eighteen year old males had some checks.

The guys were great.  They spoiled my kids and loved my wife. Me, they tolerated - I can be a huge pain in the ass. No, really.  The campus emptied after semester exams.

We needed a Christmas tree -The campus was empty but for a very few people.

The Hickeys had the run of the place.

I was still driving a 1974 Ford four door that I bought off of Dave Raiche before leaving Bishop McNamara High School for this wonderful teaching job that included housing for my young family and free meals. Te Ford kept me grounded and reminded me of what Diocesan Catholic school payclecks are all about - La Lumiere is a Catholic Independent School - better pay and perquisites. I was able to purchase a newish Buick Skylark that Mary used for her work at Le Mans Academy in Rolling Prairie and to convey the kids around to baby sitters, school and regular transport.


I drove the Ford on campus and used it only for very short trips to stores and gas stations on Route 20.  Today, I would use the Blue Beast to haul home a Christmas tree from field on far northeast corner of campus, where maverick pines grew.  Didn't cost me nickel one.

The night before it had snowed fiercely, as it often does in northwest Indiana, leaving thick tufts of white stuff between patches of green and brown pine needles. It was cold.

Mary and the kids wanted to go cut the tree with me.  I had a very good Craftsman bow saw and ta hick Chinese army corduroy hat, a replica of a Russian fur hat, that embarrassed Nora no end.  On it went.

" No, Dad!  Not the Russia Hat! Someone might see us!"

Nora was nine and in second grade at Notre Dame Parish School in Michigan City.  Nora and her vain little chums played the knee-cap tragedy of Nancy Kerrigan on patches of ice in the playground. The little strumpets would jog onto the ice and fall grabbing their knees in feigned pain and anguish and cry out, like knee assassinated Olympic skater, " Why? Why? Why,?' after Tonya Harding took a hammer to her.

That game is indicative of the level vanity-sophistication possessed by Nora and her pals, who just 'might' see me wearing the 'Russia Hat.'

Mary bundled the whining wench and her joyfully grinning little brother as tight  as ticks into JC Penny winter wear, scarves and gloves and boots and we went out to the blue Ford.

We drove down the hill between Becket and Augustine House from Becket Parking onto the Burma Road that ran up and past the Academic Center and Aquinas House and through the road cut by the maintenance crew to the fields.  The road weaves through magnificent tall pines planted in the 1930's when the La Lumiere School campus had been a Civilian Conservation Corps site.  Poor young city kids from Gary and Chicago planted these pines still at Grenadier Guard attention.

The snow started again and it was cold.  Mary, Nora and Conor bravely stepped out of the car for a nano second and bolted back in - " This is Big Daddy work, fella; go get your family a nice one," said my gorgeous redheaded queen of obvious irony.  " Don't lose a finger, Big Boy!"

Off I trudged through deep drifts and pelting snow.

I found a six footer and full and cut it down.  Then dragged its corpse back to the Ford. I tied the tree to the roof and got into the car.  I shifted to Low.  The Ford shuddered and went deader than Kelsey's nuts.

I popped the hood and monkeyed with wires from the distributor to the battery and nothing.

Not a spark.

" Well, this certainly is Merry Christmas," whined my nine year old wounded Nancy Kerrigan re-enacttress.

" March or Die," I replied and began singing, "Marche de la Légion Etrangère" (Le Boudin).

"Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin! . . ."

" Not funny, Dad!!!!!!!!!! Why did you make us come with you? Oh, this is some Merry Christmas!"

" Chill pill, Nora," ordered the boss of the Hickey latch-up and Red Haired Mary led her duo of unhappy and snow crusted little woodchoppers through the field and into the pines.

Conor was happy and worried about the Blue Beast.

I would have Greg and Shawn from maintenance jump the old flivver and get it back to some running order.

Mary and the two kids set off on foot back to the campus proper without any sort of a look back. Hot Chocolate and a warm house and Dad could catch up.

I dragged the ever heavier Douglas Fir back to Becket House, like corpse of Sam Magee.  onceBack at Becket House, I trimmed off the stump and branches, bounced the big pine on the snow shoveled ( yours truly) concrete patio outside the house and fixed it to its stand.

We set the majestic pine up in our living room.  Mary garnished the tree with wooden ornaments that she had made, or traded for with other Art teachers and coiled of thick old timey lights.

It was a joy. My joy increased with birth of Clare in 1995 - the image of her mother. Mary died in 1998.  The kids are all grown up. Nora is married to much better man than I could ever hope to be; Conor is a skilled tradesman and still a joyfully happy young man.

We had great tree in 1994.

Didn't cost nothing.  I tend to forget that, 'grasping for the wind.'