Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reading Mary McGory

Yesterday I was visiting a local hospital and in their cafeteria they have a little charity book shop. A person could either read the book there like a library or buy one on the honor system. Hard backs were 75cents. I am a sucker for used book stores or even just a couple of shelves of them. You never know what little piece of brilliance you will find. I was down to the last shelf and about to give up, there were mostly romance novels and murder mysteries and other stuff I don’t read.

Then I found The Best of Mary McGory; A Half-Century of Washington Commentary.

Mary McGory was a Washington based journalist and institution. She was of that generation who could be friendly with the people she covered and yet still be honest when writing about them. She was a volunteer at an orphanage and every year she would gather all the children and a few DC most important names and host a swim party at Ethel Kennedy’s pool. Presidents, Princes, Senators and anyone else hoping to be accepted in Washington DC courted her. People knew they made it when they were invited to one of her legendary Sunday brunches.

When she began her career in the newspaper business women were relegated to the book review section and Ms. McGory was no exception. Her editor was so impressed with her writing and analysis skills that he sent her to the Army-McCarthy hearings and had her report back her observations. A star was born. Most of her career was spent at the Washington Star and when the paper folded she moved to the Post. In 1974 she was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her columns on Watergate and Richard Nixon.

I was familiar with Mary McGory from her many appearances on Meet the Press and through interviews but I had never read her columns. Leafing through the book I found her column remembering Tip O’Neal after his death and I was blown away by not only what she had to say but how she wrote it. Her remembrance of Thurgood Marshall was equally good and before I knew it I had read about 10 columns. Then I read the jacket flaps and then the table of contents. I had pretty much decided to pay the 75 cent tab for the book when I flipped one more page to a preface written by Maureen Dowd, I clutched my heart, gasped for air and threw a dollar in the money box. It turns out Ms. Dowd was mentored by Mary McGory early in her career.

I have put Don Lemon’s memoirs on the back burner so I can read more of Mary McGory’s columns because Maureen Dowd would expect no less of me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spend a Little of Your On-Line Time With These Folks

Update on some of the blogs that I read;

Lehigh Valley Independent has gone away and it's a good thing. The chief creative officer of that blog realized he was doing all the work so he closed it and began Same genius, same clarity and same thought provoking commentary but now Jon will get all the credit he deserves.

Tightly Wound Mom of Twins and Todd Dietrich are participating in the 90 posts in 90 days adventure. I said I would participate as well. I lasted 5 days. What does that say about me?

Life of M. R. Sack This guy is the son I never had but no doubt would have deserved. Mike is a smart young man recovering his life and he has invited us along this difficult but essential journey.

There was a time when many of our conversations would start like this.

Me "What the fuck were you thinking? Oh now wait you weren't thinking were you. You never fucking do"
Mike "umm hi Dad"

Our conversations are much more interesting now and we both talk and we both listen. Thanks Son.

Joan Walsh - From time to time this smart, witty and wonderful journalist engages in a Twitter conversation with me. Joan is a leading opinion maker her appearances on MSNBC are always spot on in their clarity and forthrightness. And, she reads this little blog. Ask my guy about my reaction when Ms. Walsh contacts me. (Hint: 13 year old girl sees Justin Bieber in the mall)

Martin on Main - Quickly becoming the little jewel of the summer festival season. Visit the web site but more importantly attend the event. I will see you there. (some volunteer opportunity are available)

Click through my links on the side and expand your world a little bit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's My Life - Aunt Mary's Funeral

It’s odd what provokes a memory.

My maternal grandmother was raised in a Catholic orphanage in the Scranton area; it was not a positive experience for her, thus neither she nor her children remained in or joined the mother church. Her youngest brother remained in the faith however. It was her brother Tom’s death that delayed my coming out to my parents for a week or two. Tom’s wife, Aunt Mary, remained pretty faithful until a child molesting priest was transferred to her local parish in order to remove him from his previous assignment. Mary told the church officials that she would neither contribute nor attend mass as result of them harboring this man. Aunt Mary died a few years later and guess who the Monsignor decided to send to lead the funeral.

Most of the people in attendance at the funeral service were my grandmother’s children and grandchildren there may have been only three Catholics there. Father Pervert arrived at the funeral home smelling of cigarettes and cheap whiskey for an 11:00 AM service. He had to be reminded of Mary’s name and he knew absolutely nothing about her.

The good Father’s altered state only enhanced his lisp and inability to say the letter R, he kept losing his place, forgetting Mary’s name, referred to her son Tom as Thomas (no one ever called him that) and was so confused by the fact that the entire room said a different version of the Lord’s Prayer that it took him a good minute or two to regroup and continue the very rushed service. The funeral director was less than amused, my mother and her older sister had steam coming out of their ears and my sister, brother and I just kept giggling.

There was no mass so after the words at the funeral home we went directly to the cemetery. My father and I stood to the back of the crowd so my aunts and uncle could be up close to be near the immediate family. Father Pervert again messed up on Mary’s name, lost his place because the wind and rain kept flipping the pages of his book and the worse things got the worse his lisp got and now he sounded like the priest from the Princess Bride. My giggles became chuckles; my father would not look at me because he knew he would crack up too.

To my left was a very old man, no doubt and old friend of my great aunt. Father Pervert said something stupid so I looked away from my dad at the old man who took that moment to unleash some of the loudest flatulence that I have ever heard in my life and not just once but a whole series of them. That was it, my quiet chuckle became very loud whoop and uncontrollable very loud laughter. My mom and her sister turned around and glared at me and looked to my father with a “Why can’t you control him” look. I looked at my father and he was bright red and his shoulders were moving up and down as he was trying to suppress his laughter. I could not. I ran away and tried to hide behind some large tombstones but it was no good. We were in a part of Easton Heights Cemetery that was a fairly narrow valley and my whoops and gasps for air just echoed off the hills and the tombstones. I remained hidden behind Mr. Gerstel’s tombstone until almost everyone had left.

With tears still streaming down my face I climbed into my father’s car with my sister, parents and two aunts. “What was that all about, I cannot believe you have such little self control and discipline?” I explained and soon the entire car was bouncing up and down and the windows steamed up from the tears and laughter. None of could even look at each other at the luncheon because we would all just break down and fall into mad and foolish laughter.

Maybe it was our sadness from losing a much loved family member or maybe it was our frustrations at having Father Pervert make a mockery of Aunt Mary’s funeral but that day laughter was the best medicine for our healing.

· Today’s announcement that the much maligned Cardinal of Philadelphia was resigning as a result of his inability to properly deal with Father Pervert and his kind is what brought this memory back.