Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

September 28, 2009

Sean is 28...and still driving!

Hey, have to say a few words about my 7th child, Sean, 28 on the 24th, with whom we partayed last night with the family, eating his favorite meal, Chinese Sundaes, with an oreo cake for dessert! Always fun to gather with the kids and g-kids, reminisce, laugh, catch up - though we see each other every month or two, so don't lose track much. But Sean deserves some big kudos for changing his life in some big ways, staying clean and sober from pain pills for five years, for getting his act together, for expressing himself in music in creative ways, hip-hopping and recording his own "recovery" cds. He's an amazing guy, all 6'6" of him, a truly cool dude and pretty good basketball player- though he did give us some major angst as a klepto kid and OCD-er of everything! Here' a little reminiscence of him during his ap for a driver's license 12 years ago, which I shepherded as best I could, but later wondered how I survived it...

"Now that I’m “older and wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, how did I get through my kids’ licensing rituals? It ‘s a rite of passage for fathers as much as it is for the kids. Yes, I accompanied 16-year old Sean, my seventh child, to the DMV to stand in line for an hour and get him to the right counter where I could finalize his new driver’s license and guiltily put yet another teenage menace out on the highways.

I thought back to when I got my first license – and second license. I think I repressed all that because no thought came back. Actually, I was 18 and a freshman in college before I got my license, borrowing a friend’s car. I’ll never forget the look on the examiner's face when he told me to try driving in reverse and I did – and backed up without ever looking in the rear-view mirror or over my shoulder. He recovered nicely and told me to come back another time.

The long line now awaiting us was just the first stage of the licensing ritual, the line that looked like we’re going to a soup kitchen, based on the gaunt looks of those waiting – or maybe it was a real line-up and we were all being sized up and picked out as the one who did it. 'I'm innocent, I tell ya, I didn't do it!' No, but rather I just waxed philosophic and thought about how my son must get used to the long lines of life which snake their way through our daily survival and from which he’ll get his first real test of the concept of being first and last in line, and how the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, whatever that means.

Here, parents were consoling their moping kids, telling them it’s ok if they don’t pass the test for the fourth time. Other parents with little kids were correcting them out loud and unembarrassed, one even yelling across the room to her kid to give back the toy she took from yet another toddler. The cries of the victim bounced off the walls - and the little toy thief bounced off the wall too. Ah the living, breathing, toy-stealing lines of humanity! “We are the world, we are the children!”

After an hour of Sean building up the anticipation that can only come from knowing that his life and identity hang in the balance, after he hits on every young thing that can help him pass the time, after saying hello to a neighbor who just turned 16 and is getting his license 6 months before Sean because Sean's grades suck - and before anyone else can get bounced off the walls, we hear the cry “Next!” This signals a very important part of the journey – getting out of the line because we are finally at the end of the line - the front end, or salvation!

This is what lines are all about once you are in them –figuring how to get out of them as fast as you can. No wonder we cherish our place in the line and bristle at the mere thought of anyone trying to butt in. It’s not just our sense of outrage and fair play at being cut in on, but we don’t let anyone in because it threatens the very idea of our getting out of the line as soon as possible.

Next comes the task of finding the right counter with the right service person. All through the line, while my Sean is talking and cavorting, I am wondering if all this waiting will be for naught, because no one will be there to direct us to the right place and someone will tell us we’ve been in the wrong line all along, and why didn’t we read the directions which I didn’t see, and then make us go back to the end of the line!

But we did find our way to the counter, after all, to the part of the ritual where my son is grilled about his social security number and birth certificate which are right in front of him, and why he has so many zits, and how many times he has bleached his hair, while I perspire profusely waiting for him to go into a brain freeze, possibly forgetting what he is there for and not having the proper documentation – and going back to the end of the line!

At this time I am asked to affix my signature next to his, to take upon me all the repercussions of any dorky driving he may ever do as a minor, to be the responsible guardian I am supposed to be till death do us part, which I can see happening if I ever let him drive my car with me on the passenger side.

I flash back to the time when my daughter Erin was driving in the new car of a friend, daughter of local millionaire Allen Ashton, founder of WordPerfect. When Alison asked Erin if she wanted to drive her new birthday ride, Erin, 16, took over the wheel, drove three blocks and promptly totaled the week-old red Firebird on a slow left turn where the oncoming car was trying to beat the yellow light. They survived with some bruised bodies and egos, gracas a deus. I have since cautioned her to never make a left turn again. You can read the full account in my column called “No Left Turns” which I might subject you to someday.

After wincing at the $20 I had to fork over to the State to end this torture, I prepared myself for the final stage of the rite – the shooting of the foto, the foto op, the candid camera, the affixed smile. He had been practicing his smile since we got there, turning often to look at me with a goofy spread of his uppers, “Is this ok, Dad?”. But the time of reckoning was at hand, where he had to answer to his own name, and walk John Wayne style to the front of the camera, place his feet behind the line and let his body follow, face the firing squad, find the camera lens, listen to the instructions and smile at the same time.

This was harder than he thought, because the first one didn’t take. The second time was a keeper however, and after looking at the beaming faces, his and the foto’s, I began to realize what this was really all about. It was about the foto! How did he look in the foto! It was yet another imprint of the image with which he might go out and conquer the world – and the chicks! Identity is everything! I wanted to warn the community – there should be a section of the local paper where parents can alert their neighbors and prepare people for a new teen stud driver!"

Well, fast forward and he's still trying to get the chicks...he's got leather seats in his hot Lexus, has a good sales job, still obsesses about shoes and has a ton of new ones to show off or sell on eBay, has the biggest room in a shared condo, goes to 12-step meetings almost every day, is trying to finish a degree in Phys Ed so he can teach and be a coach, and he's not bad looking either - come on girls, what's not to like about this guy?

September 22, 2009

Getting my kicks from football...

Ok, so my #7 BYU lost to unranked Florida State big time at home last Saturday, toppled and humbled - and so did arch-enemy and nationally ranked #17 Utah to unranked Oregon! And USC? Yes, and even 3rd ranked USC lost to unranked Washington and former BYU quarterback/now coach Steve Sarkisian! Lah-dee-freakin'-dah! Overranked and overrated, obviously. So let's go back to former times, when I was just an innocent football neophyte trying my wings and pads out on the high school fields of glory and see if we can douse this past week with a little personal nostalgia, part one of a column/essay on my measly attempt at being a three-sport athlete, the rest to come later...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, what is it like to be a three-sport athlete? Was I one or did I just dabble in three sports? I always admired those guys in high school who were so skilled they could earn letters in football in Fall, basketball in Winter, baseball in Spring,, just move from sport to sport with an automatic skill set for each – and wear those letters on their cool letterman jackets. I never got one of those, though I did earn at least one letter (And I did sing with The Lettermen. And I love David Letterman, even have a niece who works for him. And I was a letterman myself – some people call him the postal carrier. Does all that count?)

I played high school football with a guy, Tommy Brown, only about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, who was a three-letter star. Later he became an all-American at Maryland in football and played for the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi at defensive back. He got traded to Washington, where he got hurt and then it was over. But for me, did it ever really get started? Yes, I did try to play football because my dad was pushing on me to fulfill his lost childhood and football-playing fantasy – because he was a little guy at 5’10” and 150 pounds and I was a lumbering 195 pounds and 6’3” tall – at 14!

I have to admit, I did read a lot of books as a kid about the Knute Rockne days at Notre Dame and winning one for the Big Dipper …or the Big Griper…or the Big Dufus… and I loved the glory of Big Ten football and wanted to go to Michigan State and sing “On Wisconsin”. I had futile visions of becoming any woman’s dreamboat on the field of battle in helmet and pads. That’s what sports is all about, right? A combo of gladiator and jouster, playing for the crowd, while hoping there are some adoring women out there, watching their hero win some imaginary battle or trophy – though I would have a hard time wearing that hanky on my helmet? I was just lucky not to fall all over myself, turn my helmet 90 degrees while still looking forward, and become the court jester.

So I tried out for the junior varsity team at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland and by sheer size I made it – besides being one of the few who wasn’t puking his guts out all over everywhere when the 3-hour practices were over. If you could make it without the upchuck, you were in. But as a dumb kid who didn’t know his helmet from a soda can, I also didn’t know that you were supposed to have kneepads on both knees. I just thought because I got stuck with an old pair of pants without a pad in the right one, that I should tough it out. Football was for tough guys.

So after playing a few games without a pad, I didn’t need one, because my knee was the size of a cantelope, which gave me plenty of padding. It also gave me a trip to good old Dr Little (no, not Dolittle), who had seen our family through many a crisis and was very capable when sticking a giant needle into my knee and giving me a shot of cortisone. Oucheee! But it worked - and no problems since, knock on knee. ( I lied – my knees are killing me as of this writing – but I’m 67 and overweight, so bring on the cortisone shots!)

My junior year almost didn’t happen. I just didn’t want to play. I had gotten pretty banged up as a sophomore and wasn’t a glutton for pain if there wasn’t the glory I had read about in books. But “you know who” put the pressure on me and pretty much almost disowned me as a son if I didn’t play. He even told big Bob York, our massive fullback, who cornered me in the shower one day and said he heard I wanted to quit. “Who me?? Not me, no way, never, no how Bobbo... Bobby... Bobbykins ... Bubba”. I think I also avoided a good towel snapping that day. I was now 15, the same size as a year ago, not much more developed physically however and pretty intimidated by all those senior jocks.

And of course, my dad was watching from the sidelines all the time at practices, giving me pointers, telling me to keep focused. He would chide me for not getting right under the coach’s nose when he called everyone into a huddle to talk to us, while I would rather hang out in the periphery because I was big and didn’t want to block anyone’s view. I was also timid and didn’t really feel I had that killer instinct– but I hung in for the “glory” and the experience - and the pa-pressure.

It was fun sometimes to get in and block for Tommy on a touchdown run or for a phenomenal black kid named Charley “Reds” Pryor – yes, he was red-headed with freckles about 5’8” - maybe he was Irish - who could start and stop on a dime, one of the best backs in the state of Maryland that year. We won a lot of games with those guys – good for my ego, though I didn’t have much to do with it because smaller-but-tougher, senior Don Jensen got most of the reps at right offensive tackle and I was his bigger-but-wimpier backup.

In my senior year, I still had a few reservations about playing. But I was a senior! I had made it this far, though our team wasn’t as good. And maybe some chicks would notice me this year! But to keep me focused and lift my spirits one day, my dad slipped one of my mom’s Benzedrine into my tomato juice before practice to give me some extra pep. She took them for narcolepsy. He said I was throwing guys right and left and sideways in practice – and I wasn’t even playing defense. I could have been canned for using a banned substance – or banned for using a canned substance. But they didn’t do drug testing in those days – and I didn’t do drugs. Just that one shot deal.

And then my younger brother Dick, all 5’5” and 120 pounds of him, was now in 10th grade and a team manager and my dad wanted him to have someone to look up to – figuratively as well as literally. And of course, my dad, the photographer, volunteered to take movies of the games, so the obligations for me to play kept piling up. And as the sports editor of the high school paper, I could justify my position by saying that I could report on the game from under the piles of brawling, bouncing bodies every time we had a scrum – no wait, that’s rugby. Yep, every time there was a pileup, I had time to pull out my notebook and jot down some cogent notes and some fancy new cuss words.

So I played out the year with no cheerleaders who had a crush on me. I made it through one more year of those awful drills which ended with running up and down the stadium steps after practice, urged on by the intimidating yells of backfield coach Vince Pugliese - endured the ridicule of being called a bungle-dee-boob by head coach Joe Good when I’d miss a block - or being asked if I REALLY wanted to play football by my line coach, Paige Johnson, an OCD with a southern drawl and a little man complex.

He had to prove himself by punching us hard in the solar plexus when we had our heads and our feet on the ground and our stomachs arched upward in the air - to build up neck strength. Or there was that red-headed jock coach who looked like a WWF wrestler who made us do those crabbing exercises for better line stance and movement. And I was only 16 when I played my senior year, wouldn’t be 17 till the year was half over. I was still undeveloped muscle-wise, I had definitely lost my taste for the 'glory'."
(End Part One)

September 17, 2009

Ok, my biz cards are in, so stand back...

Yeah, my new blog biz cards came in yesterday and they have a nice look, a big shot of the earth in space on a black background with my basic blog blather next to it, who I am, what I'm doing, how you can access me and an unabashed plug to click on my Google ads and make me some money so I can keep blogging instead of flipping burgers. On the back of my card I am also self-promoting, listing a few other things I can do, like writing and editing and teaching esoteric things like guitar and Portuguese and how to speak American English...with some interesting credentials for credibility. Yeah and I'm humble too. No, but you've got to get yourself out there if you not only want people to know who you are, but more importantly see what you've got to say that can make a difference, not just make a little coin. Can I do that? That's all I want to do, honest, just do the write thing...

September 13, 2009

What A Week I'm Having!!

I love that little quote from that great Tom Hanks movie, "Splash!" - yes, what a week I'm having, starting with BYU's unexpected win over #3 Oklahoma in the new Dallas Cowboy Dome last Saturday, 14-13. And then Monday, got to see one of my favorite all-time vocal jazz groups, Take 6, at our open air SCERA Shell! Two of my former Mormon Melodaire Brazilian quartet buds, Ken Nielsen and Gordon Ridd came too after I let them know about it, which made me feel good that I could open their ears to these guys. Two of my boys, Quinn and Conn also came, with Quinn's girlfriend, Darlene Hawea - and my oldest daughter Megan made it too with her new hub James and all their kids. They were all raised on this group, from 20 years ago when they made their national debut. I wish Take 6 had done more of their earlier classical gospel/jazz , but they provided an entertaining show, and I even met them after for a program signing and cd buying. That Alvin Chea's bass voice is worth the whole show! Their was a cool nip in the air, and combined with getting infected by my wife's cold, I have been coughing and sniffling all week - enough to take me out of an important musical commitment to my Orem Stake Choir today, and I feel guilty, but can't muster the vocals right now and don't want to infect or blow my nose among friends. But it has been good basking in another BYU football win yesterday, Saturday, 54-3 over Tulane! Two wins on ESPN in two consecutive weekends, national exposure and a number 9 ranking? That's a rare start for us and hopefully a portent of things to come! Florida State is next at home and I hope we run the table! Go Cougs!