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!

January 18, 2010

In honor of MLK and Haiti...

It's not a day that you say 'Happy Martin Day' or anything! How do we actually celebrate such a day? Not a day for well wishing necessarily, unless you are one whose civil rights have been made better because of MLK and then you have great cause to praise him and rejoice because of your freedoms, rights which are supposed to have been inalienable by virtue of our Constitution - but long denied by the actual dominant populace until the tragic martyrdom of this great civil rights leader.

I for one could wish someone well if that were politically correct I guess. I am ashamed every day for the racism that existed then and still does in my country among some of its citizens. I decry it, deny it, pray it will cease and that all men will be judged for the intent of their hearts and the intelligence of their minds and not their skin color, creed, gender or belief. The 60's were a decade of horrible assassinations, MLK being one of the most tragic because of race and a fight for the rights we all enjoy.

So. while Haiti languishes today after a week of cruel earthquake aftermath, and the American people have been polled 42-58 for sending donations while so many brave Americans and other internationals have gone there to offer medical and humanitarian assistance, I sit in my warm house on a cold wintry day and count my blessings of comfort and food and relative peace for now, knowing a big earthquake is talked about as imminent in Utah. I watch the tragedy of Haiti on tv, cry inside for the victims, donate what I can, hope and pray for some solution that will end this misery and save the children and rebuild such an already impoverished country - and remember Martin Luther King too.

January 8, 2010

Happy Hooter's Anniversary too!

Everyone's got a new calendar for the new year, even that crazy organization of owl lovers called "Hooters". I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it has a great collection of fine feathered "birds". So in honor of their 20th or 25th anniversary(I've seen it both ways on Google), either in October or January (I'm so confused), I give you my own aviary tribute...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what impact will a Hooters anniversary have on American life? I think I heard it was celebrated on January 20. Well first of all, I didn’t know owls celebrated anniversaries. The anniversary of what? Becoming a full-fledged owl? A fine-feathered friend? I for one just think we already have a lot more respect for owls than we used to. I know I do, whether it be for the Barn Owl, the Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, or that great Grey Spotted Owl of the American Northwest, so protected a species that even big tough loggers who need big tough wood to build big tough houses cower at the idea very of fowling up an owl habitat and getting their big tough logging licenses revoked by the EPA and reviled by Green Peace.

"Of course I would respect that Grey Spotted Owl more if I could only find it, since I haven’t 'spotted' it yet. But I know it’s out there winging it somewhere. It could be that decoy on top of our church in Utah to scare all the seagulls away so they don't poop on the roof. Now there’s a tussle I’d like to see – an owl and a seagull! What about the owl and the pussycat? Edward Lear was a little deranged when he thought up that one, because I’ve never seen an owl and a cat even get close to getting married. A whimsical fairy tale? If the owl was the father and the mother the pussycat, and the pig was the ring-bearer, it’s no wonder the Brits lost the war to us. Why are kid’s stories so childish?

"But how can you dispute the owl’s penchant for asking one of life’s greatest questions? Constantly! Repeatedly! Perpetually! Who!!! Because, come on let’s face it, don’t all things eventually boil down to that one critical question anyway? Who??? The great Who of life? Who is it? Who dunnit? Who wants to know? Who knows the answer? Who, did you say? Who cares? See, you just can’t ask those questions with a what or why or where or how. How cares? Where dunnit? What wants to know? It just doesn’t work. So that old hooter is wiser than we give him credit for. I think it is pretty obvious then that we owe a debt of gratitude to a bird that only says 'who'!

"He doesn’t get all cluttered up with a bunch of other extraneous questions, and who has kept us in the battle against ignorance by reminding us just who’s on first! And who is your neighbor? And who is your greatest listener too? Yes, you, that’s who! You who, anybody listening? No it’s not 'Yoo Hoo'. That’s a bunch of 'Whoey'. No, that shouldn’t be 'Hooey' either. 'Yoo Hoo' must have started out as 'You, who is listening…' – yes, like 'Hey, you! Who is there? You, who is there? You who…! Hello!' But they still haven’t mastered the 'whom' word yet and that’s a shame because of it’s ultimate effect on the English language. And whom cares anyway.

"And as for why we have made the owl a symbol for wisdom – like the wise old owl figure in our folklore? Well, I’d like to know who is going to prove that one. Is there someone out there who has measured the IQ of an owl and come up with some real scientific data? Has an owl’s intelligence been tested and compared with an Orangutan for example? Has the owl family got one up on the apes lately? I don’t see too many owls taking screen tests. No I think it’s because they sit there and say nothing but that one little word – and we call them wise because they don’t open their mouths and put their talons in it like men do with their feet. The less said the better and silence is golden and a 'percher' is worth a thousand words. So if an owl starts talking like a parrot, then I think it will lose it’s reputation for being wise and will become just like any other talking bird – caged and stupid for imitating humans.

"But you’ve got to hand it to these little hooters for the way they have become such an integral part of our culture today. They fly in and out of our ghost stories, their big wings flapping in the moonlight as their giant yellow eyes search the ground for tiny helpless wood mice to munch on and help deplete the surplus rodent population. Shades of Scrooge! They haunt the hillsides and forage the forests of our primeval collective consciousness and then land on some branch in the middle of nowhere and just give us that proverbial wink! Can you believe that? What a bird! And yet it is a fearsome enough predator to be the mascot for Temple University. I know it sure puts the fear in me – both school and bird. I don’t want to be hooted to death.

"And regarding owls on tv, I never quite understood why Al Bundy found hooters so fascinating either. He was always talking about them but I never saw one owl on his show. And I always wished we could change that last line of Clark Gable’s in “Gone With The Wind” to “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a hoot.” I think that would have gotten us talking about owls a lot sooner instead of dams, although I guess they both have a common ecological connection. I just don’t know what that is yet. I do know that out here in Utah, if you make someone laugh a lot, they say, “You’re a hoot!” Not a hooter, just a hoot. I’m not sure if they are calling you an owl in some off-handed but well-meaning way, or just saying that you make them hoot like one. So can they be called hooters then? And would I be the hootee if I make them hoot?

"Oh yeah, and there’s that restaurant chain called Hooters (or should that be Whooters?) that must be dedicated to raising owl consciousness, because it is really growing in notoriety and giving owls a new image. I’ve never seen their menu, but I don’t think they have owls in any form on it - like owl burgers, or country fried owl or owl under glass - so that helps with important owl preservation, I guess. Do they call the waitresses chicks? Do they hoot out their orders to the cooks? Do the customers have to hoot their orders to the waitresses? I know they’re not bunnies. Are baby owls called chicks? Or owlets? So many owl questions. Well, happy anniversary to all you owls and owl watchers out there this winter, and may you continue to give us all a good hoot… which should really be spelled “Whoot”, I think."

January 6, 2010

Happy Epiphany Y'all!

Epiphing we will go, Epiphing we will go, Hi Ho the Merry-i-o, Epiphing we will go! To Epiph or not to Epiph, that is the question! Yes, it's Epiphany once again, January 6, that day in Christendom that nobody really knows about or observes except for a few of us who are looking for anything to celebrate after Christmas and New Year's, anything to keep the flailing festive spirit alive - and keep up those Christmas lights.

It's supposedly the 12th day of Christmas too, if you count Christmas as the first day, not the last, not the culmination, but just the beginning of the fun and frolic! We had friends in Hawaii who had a party and epiphed all night long, with an epiphany here and an epiphany there, here an Epiph, there an Epiph, everywhere an Epiph, piph.

And of course, the meaning of the word itself is to have an earthshaking realization, a momentous revelation, an "ah-hah" moment or other important and unexpected happening - like Paul had on his way to Damascus when an angel scared him half to death by telling him to stop persecuting Christians and join the club. So you could go scare someone into being good! It's kind of like that head slap you see in the commercials - "Should have had a V8!"

But then you know it is an ancient remembrance of the day the Magi visited Jesus, right? Why it's in all our Christmas creche scenes! I'm surprised you didn't remember it, really! And what do you on this date? Well, you could break out the gold, frankencense and myrrh - but that might also break the bank! You would wish everyone peace, love and health, supposedly three ancient friendly wishes from those three lovely wise guys!

You could also have three Burger King-like guys knock at the door, sing "We Three Kings" and present fun gift cards to the family! You could just feast yourselves silly and have a lot of symbols of threes among the food - three cakes, three fish, three little pigs, three blind mice - threes are big on Epiphany! Like Hip Hip Hooray, repeated three times! So go for it and Epiph my friends, Epiph! At least three times!

January 1, 2010

The New Year and Christmas Lights...

No, it's not what you're thinking. I am not going right into that old trite and cliched "resolution" talk. I used to have lots of resolve and willingness to change, but got tired of trying to psyche myself into new habits when I really hadn't worked on breaking the old and worn out ones during the year. Change just doesn't happen overnight or from New Year's Eve to the next day, no matter how loud we yell or get wild or toast the most or smooch the pooch - no, it might take an all-nighter like Scrooge had to really affect the repentance we all need. Just takes a lot of work, slow and steady, enduring to the end. So I'm not giving up or giving out! But let's get to the real priority of the New Year - the Christmas lights! And so I give you "Christmas Lights, Fights and Rights"!

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, when is it ok to take down the Christmas lights? I am not happy about it every New Year, because I want to start out the year right - but it is always a bone of contention, whatever that means, among the family and neighbors as to when it’s ok. Well, let’s go back to the beginning to get some needed perspective on this annual dilemma -the hanging of the lights in the first place! They go up the day after Thanksgiving and they stay up as long as I want them to – or so I thought.

"Actually, we weren’t always the first on our block to get them up. One year, we got beat out by a young couple across the street with little twin girls. All of a sudden, I look out the window and there this guy is, on the roof, of all the nerve, with his wife holding the ladder – and the twins dancing around the yard, getting their glee in before us. Right then, I told everyone to drop the turkey leftovers and head for the front of the house, that the lights were going up, ready or not!

"But, to our humiliation, as we pulled out last years lights, half of them didn’t work. Shannon is usually the one who is on top of this, but who could blame her - we did! But we got over it and we started with the tall stuff on the front eaves first to soothe our guilt, and make it look like it had just slipped by us. Soon Sean, number seven child and all 6’ 6’ of him, was standing on a ladder that was shorter than he was, stretching those shot-blocking arms in pain while Shannon held on to the ladder and his shoes, and while I took my esteemed directorial place in my lawn chair out front to make sure that the lights were going up evenly and politically correct across the front of the house and wouldn’t embarrass us throughout the coming season.

"So, after Sean got those red and white dangling icicles up across the top of the eaves, from the highest rafters and beams, we decided not to light the carport – too much junk accumulation that did not need any more illumination. Next I found a strand of white lights and delicately wove them in and out among the shrubs which grace the front walkway. I also bought some of them there net lights in red, a new touch from last year, and laid them carefully across the other thicker bushes to the right of the front door. Are you getting all this? Can you see it? Ain’t it purty? Will anyone really care?

"Ok, so while Shannon and Sean were highlighting the front window ledge with fake Poinsettia in the planter boxes, and placing the green garlands aesthetically about the top of the front door, I ran out to Rite-Aid and got two red hanging “peace” and “joy” banners to put on the wood panels on each side of the front door. Wow, things were shaping up! And when night came, it was magic! Just never had any real snow yet to make it look more authentic! Shannon did the tree the next day all by herself - sorry, we’re into fake trees too after many years of trying to keep real ones alive from Thanksgiving to Christmas! More pine needles on the floor than on the tree! But back to the New Year issue at hand.

"So my first challenge of the New Year is not resolutions! It’s fighting for my rights to keep up the lights? My lights rights are inalienable – or unalienable – or alienating – or maybe alien-attracting. I want them up – the first ones up and the last ones down! But once we’ve shown our invincibility at keeping them up the longest, then why not just leave them up till…Valentines? They’ve got hearts and candy in the stores already.. And our lights are red and white! Why not? Ok, Epiphany! January 6! The last of the 12 days of Christmas? Yes? No? My January 14 birthday. Can we negotiate? Or maybe till Candlemas?

"Now there’s an idea that you who lament with me can grab onto. Candlemas is a Northern European celebration of lights, halfway through Winter, to recognize an old Hebrew tradition of Mary having to wait to be clean from birth before entering the temple – and to look forward to Spring – but I like the one that celebrates Jesus as the light of the world, and extends the Christmas celebrations till then. And when is it? Febrruary 2! But that’s Groundhog Day, you say! Yes, we bumpkins over here in America adopted that one mid-winter tradition that became what is now Punxatawny Phil seeing his shadow or not. This tradition also originated with some northern Celts, only I think theirs was a rat.

"But if you really want to resolve the lights issue, I say leave them up till Candlemas, light some candles on February 2, enjoy the dark and chill of January a lot more by leaving up the decorations and letting Christmas slowly fade out instead of that abrupt day after New Year’s demolition derby most people do, while the kids cry and the parents try to overcome their guilt by getting sloshed. Not necessary! Just let it ride a few more weeks till February 2, burn those scented candles a little more, and sit down and watch Bill Murray’s classic 'Groundhog Day' movie – and forget about any neighbors who storm your house clamoring for your head because your Christmas lights are keeping them up at night. Just tell them you’re observing that ancient religious holiday of your forefathers called Candlemas, and you’ll call the ACLU on them for defamation and bigotry and discrimination if they keep up their persecution. Then be nice later and take them a candle and blow it out in their face."