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!

February 22, 2010

Winter Games in Vancouver and SLC Oly Redux...

I don't know...as I watch all the thrills and chills of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and how global warming only seemed to hit there and not in the snowbound East, I still can't dismiss my feelings about how much we idolize the athletes and their feet feats! How much we make celebs out of people who can snowboard and ice skate and fly down ski slopes and sled tracks at breakleg speeds, who brave death and have great muscles and skills - and who are awarded with prestige and international adulation and medals galore.

But they're not gods, people, no matter how much the media wants us to adore them, how much teeth and giggles they show on Oprah and other shows and breakfast cereal boxes. Sports are elevated to such heights, yes Olympian heights. I for one just love the snow and wish I could go play in it. But I hate the interviewers who ask the same questions of the winners, hoping for different answers - or maybe just to get the same answers all the time and hear the word "awesome' a thousand more times! Yes, congrats to all the players and I hope the rewards are worth it for the years of preparation and toil. But as high as they fly, I hope they keep their feet on the ground - and I for one won't be worshiping any of them.

Now, having the Olympics in Canada meant we got to hear things in two languages, English and French. As I reminisce about the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, I bring to mind that we almost had them in two languages there too - English and Utahna. Forgive my little jibe at a state I've come to love for 23 years, being born and raised myself in the East. I just have a few problems with the linguistic regionalisms of the locals here, per a little essay I sent out to all the papers at the time but updated here for later publicaton ...

Winter Olympics 2002 Was The Rill Dill (My Utah-Speak Daze) – By Doug Curran

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have more questions than answers. Like why do I love Utah so much when they talk so crazy? I'm a Maryland boy myself with a midwest non-accent. With the 2002 Winter Olympics distant history and the 2004 Summer Games already past, it's nice to know that my concerns with its political success have been basically unfounded. If there really were any terrorist jihadists around, I hope they mistakenly wound up in some ice cave in the high Colorados, trying to bomb the 'Avalanche Venue.' The fear of traffic problems in Salt Lake City turned downtown into a ghost town, we became the porta-potty capital of the world if just for two weeks, and our arsenal of green jello is still intact to share with the a starving world out there. And I think we can safely say that we have impressed the world with how many times we can use the word "venue"(can a porta-potty be a venue too?).

"No, what I was really worried about was an even greater threat to the Games and to world peace than those visiting protesters against rodeos, abortion, the Mormons, global warming, the Mormons, valley pollution, and the Mormons. I was more concerned with the potential for significant international misunderstanding every time a local folk might open his mouth in well-intentioned gushes of good will, not knowing he might be some poor visitor's only English manual. Did it happen? And I’m not talking about the Utah-speak of years ago, still pleasantly alive in some of our older generation's more memorable lines like 'Let’s go horness the harses down on the form in American Fark befar we read the Book of Marmon at the wahrd house.' And what about all those more youthful generational 'Dangs' and 'Oh my hecks' and 'My words' and 'Fer neats'!

"No, no, this is something far more recent and insidious and makes the Great Vowel Shift(or is that Movement?) pale in significance to another linguistic anomaly. What I’m talking about friends is what nobody has yet protested and I want to do it before the world gives us the powder. I call it the 'Demise of the Diphthong!' What’s a diphthong, you ask? Well it doesn’t take a diphstick to know what a diphthong is. It’s one of those things in language that…well, it’s when you’re talking and you…ok, it’s like this, see.

"Let’s take the word “real", for example. There are two vowels together in that mono-syllabic…uh, single syllable wonder - 'e' and 'a. In more midwest English, they are each given a separate sound value akin to something like 'ree-uhl'. That is how most people say it - except in Utah. In Utah, it is pronounced 'rill'. No kidding! Rilly!! Have you listened to your local radio commercials lately? Or to your neighbors kids? Or to yourself? Ever?? Hey, this is serious stuff!

"And what about the two vowels together in the word 'mail', 'a' and 'i', or its homonym 'male'? The word in every English class I’ve ever been in (MA English , ESL certified, but seriously considering changing careers to becoming a curling sweeper) sounds like 'may-uhl'. There are supposed to be two sounds there - two together. It's a diphthong, people! We can actually pronounce those two sounds separately!

"But what I'm hearing is something like 'I’m going to the Post Office to pick up the mell.' No, that’s exactly what I’m hearing. Mell! Mell? Like ‘through rain, snow, sleet and hell(not hail) the mell will get through?' And I used to deliver the stuff as a sub postal carrier in the East to earn money for an LDS mission in Brazil.) And it seems to be only those specific diphthongs used with 'L'-sounding endings. So what the 'L' is that all about? Help me out, here! And I know some wiser-than-thou linguist out there will! Are we just getting too lazy to use those poor little vowels?

"But what if someone visiting from another country had gotten sick on fry sauce, let's say. It could happen! Would the attending medical person have said something like 'How do you fill(feel)? You look pretty pell(pale). What was in your last mill(meal)? If I can’t hill(heal) you, maybe I can get you a good dill(deal) on a coffin.' Or what about the tourist who was shopping Utah for some souvenirs? Did some retell (retail) store say something like 'Hi folks, come on in, we’re having a sell (sale) on fishing rills(reels) and shingle nells(nails).' Nice target marketing. Doesn't anyone else see some serious international implications here? Is it just me?

"And finally, how did we do helping all those brave Olympians who had a rill ordill on the ice and slopes, hoping they'd prevell over their competition, not well in anguish if they lost, or who had to go to jell for felling the dope test? Did we just smile and say 'Happy trells, pardner! The devil's in the detells!' And I’m not trying to be pompous or coy here - much. I've just gotten so used to those little 'ea's and the 'ai's, that I don't want to see them disappear. And they ARE disappearing! And I didn’t want our guests to leave Utah filling confused and felling to see us as we rilly are, out standing in our filled. Ooops.

"Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love Utah! It’s been home for 18 years as a transplant from the East Coast via Hawaii. So I'm really not affected by local regionalisms so much. But I do love selling on Deer Creek and riding the rells on the Heber Creeper. I just hope that when President Bush was in town, nobody sang 'Hell to the Chief!' But hey, those Winter Games were the rill dill, weren’t they? How did you fill about them, rilly? Nobody went to jell. Will never know if the terrorists were here because if they felled in their plans, or didn’t still any money, then they didn’t sill the dill. Yes, happy trells, partner, as I sell into the sunset...oh boy, gimme that midwest linguistic makeover already."

February 15, 2010

Can you say "Happy.....'"?

It all started Friday night with a mesmerizing opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, with amazing winter images and Canadian ethnic welcoming celebrations - so I guess I should have said "Happy Winter Olympics!" But I was alone because Colleen felt too tired and was coming down with a cold. My young grandson Kai joined me for a few minutes, while I tried to make it a significant event for him for as long as I could keep his attention. But he was involved with his uncle Sean and brother Kalin, doing some recording in the next room, way more interesting for all of them than watching Olympic history. But then the NBA All-Star festivities and multiple shooting contests started that night too, going through Saturday and Sunday night, with a totally dazzling idol-worship intro of these players, making them gods to whomever was watching - so maybe I should have said "Happy All-Star Weekend!" But there was more Olympics to compete with and of course it was pizza night and nobody cared.

And then along came Valentine's Day on Sunday, with Colleen and I scampering around the day before to find some kind of chocolate goodies for our single grownups and grandkids too, while trying to find a good celebratory dinner and movie we could enjoy for our "sweetheartness" instead of indulging it on Sunday. We both got up late Saturday though because she was still nursing a cold and I've been having attacks of facial nerve pain from as yet undetermined sources. When we finally left the house late Saturday afternoon, we thought we had outsmarted the other local folk and got to the restaurants early - but as we drove by our first dinner alternative, Olive Garden, it was packed with people standing outside. We had gotten ourselves up for some Italian - but as we turned ourselves towards Provo and another possible lasagna option, we drove by TGI Fridays and decided to check it out. It was virtually deserted, so we prided ourselves at finding a place no one else had thought of yet, got a table and ordered some great vittles with hardly any competition.

Our movie option fell through however, as it turned out our newspaper had wrong info and the show "Extreme Measures" wasn't actually playing at the Provo Mall after all, or anywhere else for that matter. Every other movie option and time just didn't appeal to us. So there we were at the mall with nary a thing to do but walk and window shop, something we don't find that appealing anymore with our bad knees and legs and lack of money. So we got those aforementioned goodies, headed home to see if we could find a movie on Comcast OnDemand. I just paid the past due bill today so we should have had selection options, but a message kept coming up that we couldn't order any pay-per-view movies - and their offices were closed to try to find out why. (Found out later they're supposed to be open 24/7 so there was a hiccup in the works somewhere) The Free Movie selections sucked, so we watched news and pooped out before we could find any visual entertainment to mark the day as a pre-Valentine's success.

So here it is, the twilight zone between two holidays, and I watched news all day, neither of us attending church for health reasons. It was interesting to hear all these news interviews on Fox, with each one ending in "Happy Valentine's Day" wishes from commentators to interviewees. What does it all mean anyway? What are we really wishing to each other? For sweethearts, yes, another way of saying "I love you". But for news makers and other tv personalities? "I love you"? "Have a nice loving day with your families"? "Eat a lot of sweets and don't get too much diabetes today"? Are we just so needy to wish people something good that a holiday of sorts like this one is just another excuse? Not that that's bad, but is it really meaningful or necessary in any way? How about today now? I know it's early and I'm having another insomnia attack. But what should I say to anyone today? Happy President's Day? Why? What would I be really wishing anyone? It's really just another big shopping day, a day of celebrating our rampant consumerism and materialism, of finding good sales as a reason to spend money. Would all our past presidents be all over that? Is this the best way to honor our Presidents? How about dinner and a movie? Honest, Abe, I'd like to know!

PS - Oh yes, and we can't forget saying "Happy Chinese New Year!" to all our many Chinese friends of whom we actually have none that we know of. But "Happy Chow Fun" anyway just to be sure. And to all my Brazilians and other N. O. Saints who will be celebrating Carnaval and Mardi Gras, Happy ...Happy...Happy what? Happy Ash Wednesday? Isn't that when it starts? I just hope those festive folks don't make ashes of themselves! I was in Brazil in 1962 for my first Carnaval as a young LDS missionary, walking the streets trying not to feel the incessant pulsations of drums and dance, trying not to react to being squirted with all kinds of perfumed intoxicants, trying not to notice the scantily and non-clad - but instead keep my hands on the "iron rod" and keep from being crushed by the tumultuous, heaving crowds as we tried to get from one end of a block to another without falling down and getting stomped to death. Finally we gave up and stayed in our apartments for three days till it was safe to hit the streets again to do the Lord's work and pick up the pieces left by the Adversary. But I still loved that infectious samba beat.

PPS - Ok, and I guess I should wish everyone a Happy Westminster Dog Show in NYC this week too. Best In Show, right-o, eh what?

February 7, 2010

Saints be praised - and birthdays too!

Yes, who else but us Currans could combine a Super Bowl party to watch the N.O Saints upset the Indy Colts tonight, 31-17! And then celebrate three birthdays at the same time, Erin 34 today, James 40 on Wed and Mom Curran, 66 on the 16th! We squeezed it all in somehow, at Megan's tonight with her salad and rolls, Italian Zitti ala June Briggs, the constant din of 8 kids under 10, a few teenagers, football commentary by James, June, Conn, Sean, non-football commentary by Shannon and Ryan, Shane and Sharon, with Colleen leading the charge with commentary on anything and everything - while I sat silent, ate and observed, per my assigned role as stoic family patriarch, and tried to enjoy the ads, mostly drowned out by all the other cheering and chatter!

And a mostly good time was had by all, by the time the Saints spoiled the Colts' hopes for a repeat, but put themselves in a storied category, giving new hope to a city still struggling from Katrina's aftermath, and to a team which had never been to the Super Bowl! Drew Brees and company and their rookie coach did what they had to do, overcame much adversity and jitters, made enough big plays, and stole the show! I was kind of rooting for the Colts only because they had a BYU grad, rookie wide receiver Austin Collie and a former BYU defensive standout from Hawaii, Aaron Francisco. But I vowed to root for the underdog in the game, that is, whoever got behind, I was mentally cheering, while retaining my patriarchal composure. Yeah, when it comes to that, I'm a real saint!

February 2, 2010

Punxutawny Phil has his day...

Hey, I'm all for Phil's shadow and six more weeks of Winter, I don't care what anyone says. If it were my decision, I'd have snow right up till the 4th of July, take a week off, and then bring it on again! I still have my Christmas lights on outside tonight, in honor of Candlemas, the real reason Feb 2 is important. At least all over northern Europe, they celebrate Candlemas with mid-winter lights and candles, more of a Christian light remembrance of Christ and Him being the Light of the World. Look it up on Google! There's a lot about it. We got stuck with the agrarian part of the celebration, looking forward to planting season and celebrating that with a creature of the earth to symbolize it. I think I wrote about it in a previous blog.

So I guess I'll turn off the lights outside now, make my wife happy and less embarrassed, and admit that we have to put Christmas away finally. I've been taking it down still, slowly, laboriously, a little here, a little there, with more boxes and organization this year, so I can find it all easier next year, assuming I'm still here, here in this house, here on earth, just here. I love the cold and the snow anyway, though I find that with most of the kids gone from the house, the fire in the fireplace doesn't mean as much when there's no one to share it with except my wife - which is fine, but just enjoy knowing we can provide a warm house for a lot of people. And now, it's just Erin and Conn, who have moved back for economic reasons and we're happy to provide that temporary place - if they'd just stop acting like kids and leaving their food and stuff around, and not doing the dishes or cleaning up much. Young adults!!! Will they ever grow up? You've gotta love 'em though!