Wednesday, June 25, 2008


1972/summer in Ireland:
In that year, I was eligible for my first SABBATICAL at Colo.StateU. We decided to go to Western Ireland, where expenses would be cheap.(My salary was about $8000 year. We chose the full year at half-salary instead of one semester at full salary.We were crazy, of course.)
I shipped over a duffel-bag full of books, thinking my research materials might not be available in West Ireland.
But a dock-strike in Britain kept them from being delivered till the end of the summer.

Forebearance-Credit goes to my wife Mary;
we took as baggage ALL the gear for the year in several bags, including one trunk. (Most Sabbatical wives insisted on having huge amounts of gear mailed over before they arrived.)

We flew into London, trained to Holyhead in Wales, boarded the ferry to Dublin at midnight, then sat there till it left at 7AM.
The engine-throb was so loud I feared for our hearing. Mary went into a panic at being 5 decks down. She said she feared for the children; but they were sound asleep. I told her that she was undergoing racial memory; her grandparents had come over from Ireland by steerage.

We arrived in Dublin during one of their worst summers; the temperature on 25 June was lower than it had been on Jan.25.

Turned out some friends had been able to line up an economical apartment for us in a suburb of Dublin.It was an hour by bus to downtown Dublin.

Other neighborhood children were still in school. We had no books, no radio, no TV.
Horror. I called in to a radio store and was told they did have a cheap radio for rent. I took the bus into town, only to be told, “yes we have one, but it’s not available today!” I was finally able to buy a used tube-radio for 25 pounds ($50).

We attended Mass at a tiny chapel,now so overcrowded that the men stood outside and read racing forms as they ‘heard’ Mass on a loudspeaker.
(The taverns opened only after Mass.)

Inside Mary got a shock the first week.
When the priest lifted his chalice for his Communion, the church practically emptied.
A fire? No..this was the moment when missing mass went from MORTAL sin to mere venial sin. That was the ‘transubstantiation’ that counted.


We had good luck on the phone. The handset was there, but disconnected. I bussed into town and was told that we couldn’t get reconnected for months. I came home to find out that the phone had been reconnected, by mistake, that day. Typical Ireland of that time.

Ireland then was like a 3d-world country today.
Our youngest was 3 yrs. Old,just toilet-trained.
The public johns were filthy.

So we spent a strange, deprived summer.
Our friends were helpful; their daughter babysat once for us; she said later the experience with American children was so awful she gave up babysitting altogether. (But later a US couple who took our kids for a week in Scotland changed their mind because of the good experience with our kids—they decided to have children. Go figure.)

One night Mary and I went to a ‘medieval feast’ at a ruined castle in Maynooth, a few miles away. I drank quite a bit. The Women had a tent for toilet; the men just pissed down the hill.
Unfortunately, I slipped and fell down the hill.

By the end of the summer, I realized I’d get little research done in Ireland. A student of mine had a brother I’d met who taught at Edinburgh University. I called him and asked if he knew of a super-cheap apartment in Edinburgh. It turned out he did, so we spent the last 9 months of the year in Edinburgh.


We flew from Dublin to Edinburgh. I decided to give the 3 kids (3, 5, & 7) sleeping pills for the flight. They slept soundly on the bus to the airport, then awoke, loud and bushy-tailed for the flight.Served me right.

I had gone over earlier alone to look over the apartment. It was on Dundas Street, near the fabulous Castle. But our flat was 75 steps up, no elevator and no fire-escape. (As I said we were crazy). It was in NEWTOWN (a square block of stone, built around 1800).

Inside it was majestic: 20-foot ceilings,
Two huge sitting-rooms and a large kitchen and a bathroom with a pull-up clothes-line to dry laundry. A tiny refrigerator; (the stairs were so cold you could leave food out there.)

The landlord was a Presbyterian clergyman,
With a Canadian wife. He had decided that God wanted him to be a Protestant worker-priest (holding a factory job) so he moved her to an awful town in France, with open sewage troughs.(That’s why their flat was empty.) (She stayed with him for the full nightmare year, and one year more after their return—then she dumped him.)

She was Canadian, so she insisted on warmth; they had a small furnace in the kitchen, consuming coal chunks in its stoker. In the magnificent entrance way, one door led to a coal-storage-room! (Turned out, ours was the only warm place in the square block; word got out among the mice. We were infested; they ate clothes from the dressers; when we came into the kitchen, mice fled from oven and cupboards into hiding.
One morning I sleepily pulled my pants over my pajamas and went to the kitchen for coffee; I felt motion in my pants-leg; the mouse had woken up slowly,just as I had.I undressed speedily and he fled.)
Needless to say, I worried that Mary wouldn’t accept this place; I was delighted when she said OK..what a heroine!
The coal was delivered by ‘black men’ (so-called because they never bothered washing).
Mary was determined to keep the place warm; we burnt 100 lb of coal a day in this vain attempt.
These ‘black men’
(weighing about 100 lb each themselves)
carried hundred-pound bags of coal-chunks up the 75 steps once a week. I heard later that such men died young.)
We were prepared for an awful system.
But we registered with a local MD.
One AM, our 3-yr-old had a fever.
I wrapped her in a blanket, and called a cab to go to his office. It happened that the landlord’s mother was in the hall.She said, “Where are you taking that child?”/’To the doctor’s office.”/
Scornfully:”We don’t take sick children to the doctor’s office!”/’What? Do you kill them??
More scornfully: ‘Call him; he’ll come here!’
He came up the 75 steps an hour later.
Later, the 7 yrold had an athsma attack in middle of night. It turned out that some doctors spent the night touring in a taxi, ready to make house calls at night !
Later, the 5yrold had infected tonsils.
We couldn’t get socialized help fast enough, so we went ‘private’. Because MDs knew that anyone willing to wait could get free care, the private doctor and hospital stay were incredibly



EDUCATION: Our part of NEWTOWN had turned into a slum; but city fathers subsidized ‘regentrifying’, so by ’72 it was middle-class again.
A taxi-driver told us it would be child-neglect to send children to a tax-paid school.
But we found out the school was far better than a middle-class US school ! The 7yrold in 2d grade was writing essays on Boadika, (the queen of Celts who actually defeated Julius Caesar once in battle!) The 3 yr old went to free pre-school; the 5 yearold was also writing and drawing precociously.

In ’71 we had foolishly sent our children to a ‘free-school’ back home with almost no rules.
In Edinburgh, the headmaster carried a belt around as a symbol of authority. The kids adjusted painlessly.

The tax-schools were actually run by the Church of Scotland—but with no interference except a prayer in the morning.

The Church owned most of the land in Scotland; you just leased your farm for 99 years; each year the value of your lease diminished.
This Church had huge cathedral-like buildings on almost every block—but they stood empty,
Because Scots had lost Interest in religion.

By ’72 they didn’t even go to Church to get married or buried!
But the one part of the old religion kept on was hatred of the Romish Church. Home Rule for Ulster? This slogan was all over: HOME RULE IS ROME RULE (at a time when the Pope couldn’t even rule the suburbs of Rome.)

A joke: The Cathliks is burnin’in Hell (as they ought to be,for their Papistical Mariolatry).
They cry out, “Laird,Laird, we dinna ken—we dinna ken.”/ A deep voice responds from Above:
‘Waal, ye ken noo !’
The Pope actually risked visiting a suburb of Glasgow. In a slum, a huge sign was erected:
Underneath, someone had put up a sign just as large; “LUCKY POPE!”

In many places you could read the graffito:
In response, in the men’s john at U of Glasgow, was penciled neatly:
A strange obsession.

We had a wonderful year in Edinburgh, though Mary got depressed during the long winter darkness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHY: The students at an ordinary Catholic college (required to take many hours of philosophy and theology) knew in general what kind of answers would be welcomed by the dogmatic professors.

One answer: “These errors are pushed by the self-styled modren writers of the so-called Twenteth century.”/

Another answer: “Aquinas saw thru the errors of Marx the first time he read him.”
One of my stories won me an invite by a famous philosopher to lunch at the Oxford High Table (reserved for elite profs and visiting dignitaries).. Unfortunately, my children informed me that the Beatles had eaten there much earlier.

The story: This little girl got on the elevator with a woman dressed in a splendid sable coat.
“My,” said the girl, “You must have been a very good girl to earn a coat like that.”
“Honey, to earn a coat like this, you gotta be EXCELLENT !”

Thursday, June 12, 2008


At St.Joseph College there was a beautiful older woman
whose profession was virginity;Nursing was her hobby. There was also a
firmly-single atheist accounting professor (priests figured he could do no harm).

These 2 and I were to drive to Lafayette to see a show.
But I got sick; so these two had to (very reluctantly) travel in my car together.

Around midnight the accountant showed up: “Who the hell is the Little Flower ?
Your damn gas gauge malfunctioned; I ran out of gas in the deep country.
She gave me one suspicious look and cried out ‘LITTLE FLOWER, SHOW YOUR POWER!”

“Out of nowhere a state police car showed up behind us. I swear there were no head-lights! He drove me to get more gas. Who the f is the Little Flower?
Mayor LaGuardia?”

I explained that the Little Flower was St. Therese of Liseux, the nurse’s favorite patron.
Another time the nurse & I were driving to see a show at Notre Dame. She had been told that the Inn at NotreDame had no vacancies, but she insisted we try there anyway. (I planned to stay at the YMCA.)

At the desk we were told there was a last-minute cancellation,
so she could be accommodated.

I asked “Was the canceller a little French nun?”/No, it was a traveling salesman. But I wasn’t fooled by Therese’s disguise.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Democrats Work - Serve with the General

Democrats Work - Serve with the General


In Cresco, Iowa, Germans (Catholic & Lutheran) & Irish were big groups
(besides Bohemians & Scandinavians). Both G & I disliked Brit govt.
A Cresco song (to tune of MY COUNTRY, TIS OF THEE):