“Only connect! … Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. –E. M. Forster (Howards End)

“. . . the chief problem of teaching anything in our atomized period lies precisely in the fact that the ordinary student cannot or will not connect the few facts he knows, the slim insights he has previously attained, the chance extensions of sensibility into which he has been once or twice tempted, into a large enough context to make sense of the world he inhabits, or the works of art he encounters. Only connect! should be the motto of all critics and teachers.” –Leslie Fiedler


“Reach out and touch someone you love!”

“Remember this, my child: The basics: Being able to count to 100.  Knowing LEFT from RIGHT.  Reciting AND understanding the alphabet.  All else follows from this.”  So, quadratic equations, the Pythagorean Theorem, and the Bill of Rights: learned in time.  “Know your basics.”  (“Oh, and know, also, the colors of the rainbow: R-O-Y-G-B-I-V, for that is basic to appreciating BEAUTY.”)



Corned Beef? “In the United States and Canada, consumption of corned beef is often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. Corned beef is not considered an Irish national dish; the connection with Saint Patrick’s Day specifically originates as part of Irish-American culture, and is often part of their celebrations in North America.

“Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century. Corned beef and cabbage is the Irish-American variant of the Irish dish of bacon and cabbage. A similar dish is the New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef, cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes, which is popular in New England and parts of Atlantic Canada.” [Wikipedia]

Cornedbeef WIKIPEDIAYummy Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Since I could ever remember, we had corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish Catholic Feast Day of St. Patrick was almost a Holy Day of Obligation: Attend church under pain of mortal sin. Well, it wasn’t really such a day; but it was a day off from school, it meant a Chicago parade, and it meant the Italians in my neighborhood had to wait two more days to get even with us by brandishing St. Joseph’s Day–and by having local processions and festivities.

[Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph is in Western Christianity the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1 May was created in order to coincide with the celebration of International Labor Day (May Day) in many countries.]

St Joseph IN GLASS  st aphonsus church wexford, PASaint Joseph in Glass

Saint Alphonsus Church

Wexford, PA

He was the stepfather to Jesus; St. Patrick only drove out snakes from Ireland….

However, more people in America ate turkey at Thanksgiving time than they ate ham. And more people in American ate corned beef at St. Patrick’s Day-time than they ate Italian sausage and peppers (though I cannot “prove” this allegation by me)!

Well, corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots had been the steady diet of my O’Neil family since I became part of the O’Neil/O’Neill Clan. So my wife and I have continued to carry on our clannish traditions with our own family on that Special Day of 17 March.

170px-Irish_cloverLuck of the Irish Shamrock

Note: In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously set May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour workday would become standard. As the chosen date approached, U.S. labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day. On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” In Chicago, the movement’s center, an estimated 30,000-to-40,000 workers had gone on strike. What then occurred is the Chicago Haymarket Affair. “No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Haymarket Affair,” with its rally and riot and trial and executions. “What began as a rally on May 4, 1886, the consequences are still being felt today. Very few American history textbooks present the event accurately or point out its significance,” according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman. [Wikipedia]

So, the Haymarket Affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers, Catholics and Communists alike.

Thus ends the history lesson relating Saint Patrick, Saint Joseph, The Haymarket Riot, May Day celebrations, the eight-hour work day, and corned beef and cabbage. Now about those Reuben sandwiches….

sandwich-corned-beef by kaufmans deli skokie ILCorned Beef on Rye by Kaufman’s Deli

Skokie, IL

© James F. O’Neil 2015








gulliver's travels and other writings by harper honey com Pic of Old Text by HarperHoney.com

James F. O’Neil

2111 Ash Street

Des Plaines


So this is written on the first page of my “textbook” for my 18th Century Literature course in my undergraduate English major program (1962-1964, BA ’64).

I have too many books. Reaching this conclusion (again, as I have noted before), I have been giving away my books to the library. But many, like this volume, have too much writing in them, too many annotated passages in them for the library to accept them. Too much marginalia, too many underlinings and highlightings (mostly in pencil and red ballpoint ink, the latter soaking through the pages; pencil works best).

Thus I have been sorting (again, again) and culling: those books no longer usable (silverfished or book-wormed) or useful have found their lives with me cut short: into the recycle bins. That’s that.

recycle bin arborday foundationCredit: Arbor Day Foundation

The Swift book had a long life with me. By the first page alone, its life and use has time-dates: 11/29/62; 1-15-66 (graduate school, MA ’66); 3-21-68; 9-3-68; 11-18-70; 11-10-71 (dates I taught from the text for undergraduate courses in Minnesota); then a hiatus while I did school administration. The book was again opened 12-11-80 when I was teaching 12th grade English classes in Florida: many memories there, for sure, as my students reacted to the modest proposal, for cooking fattened Irish babies! Next, 11-94, 11-95, 12-2-97, the years I taught British Literature I at a Florida community college. The end.

That was the last time I had need for the text, for I moved on to teach other subjects until retirement in 2003.

The book has sat, has been boxed-unboxed-re-shelved, gathering dust on its pages, as do other unused books that reside in bookcases.  “Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some to be chewed and digested.” [Francis Bacon]

Even though downsizing, I had to keep one page, to remind me of what I learned, of what I remember. I look upon this page (now glued intomy current journal) and see written in pencil, in addition to all the dates of my book’s life, the essence of what I needed to take with me from Gulliver’s Travels:

1. Explain the main point of each voyage, the theme of each book.
2. Explain through the work how “man fails to use his reason.”
3. Discuss the Utopian society in each book. Explain “dystopia.”

Under this handwriting (in cursive, of course with me), I find some other notes of mine: science fiction; Vonnegut. H. G. Wells. Bradbury. Bellamy. Verne. Butler.

the-time-machineNice Cover for The Time Machine

How important Jonathan Swift was. How important the other authors were. Are?

The text is gone. Its residue remains with me: flying machines, time travel (like one of my favorites, The Time Traveler’s Wife?), horses and apes (like Planet of the Apes?), ice-nine, giant octopuses; Erewhon (the novel/place AND the cereal), Dandelion Wine, and Fahrenheit 451 (and now, Fahrenheit 9/11?).

Enough. Enough memories and connections for now. Enough “teaching” and reminders of what was learned or retained from school.

I understand.

So the text was carefully placed into the recycle bin, a text that brought back (brings back?) so many memories of a time. . . .

And so it goes.

But, I have Gulliver’s Travels in my Kindle…

© James F. O’Neil   2015



“Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious.” Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Saturday. The week of the rosary, as I remember it (and before some changes made in 2002): My liturgical week began on Sunday and ended on Saturday. Within each of the “mysteries” of the rosary is the subdivision of five, and…, and…, and . . . :

Glorious Mysteries: Resurrection, Ascension, Assumption…. Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity…. Sorrowful Mysteries: Agony, Scourging, Crowning, Carrying, Crucifixion–as some readers will remember them.

The complexity of the religion of the rosary I had to learn early on, as an up-and-coming Roman Catholic boy. And so it goes–or went.

All of this complexity came to mind recently as I tried to organize the top drawer of my dresser: My Sock Drawer.

The drawer was a mess: things everywhere, in addition to matched and unmatched pairs of socks (a pair of socks; pairs of socks) and those lost in the jumble and tumble, without a “mate.”

As I began to try to bring order to the chaos, I noted my small pile of keys and key rings in the left-front corner. Unknown keys for unknown locks. The keys are just “there.” Receipts. And more receipts, where I neatly stack them in the right-front corner: gasoline, Walgreen’s drugs, Target, Wal-Mart, miscellaneous.

Whistles, some non-USA-In-God-We-Trust coins thrown in the back left corner; an assortment of various business cards: clinic physicians, library; Kermit Weeks, “Fantasy of Flight: An Attraction of a Higher Plane” (closed for now); “Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic–Florida” (!); lawyers’ cards. That’s the place where I keep them.

I found under the socks–after I emptied out the drawer–a package of postcards: 37 1-cent and 15 2-cent (a total of 67 cents. Easy math). I probably bought these at a garage sale. 

Handkerchiefs, in the left corner, were overlaying the keys. Monogramed, old-white, linen, camouflage. Those extras, ready for a right-rear pocket of slacks or jeans or wash pants. (“A gentleman always carries a handkerchief,” I was taught. [Somewhere, stapled or pasted in one of my old journals, is one such handkerchief, neatly folded, pressed between the pages, with stains of mascara. A handkerchief used by the first co-ed ever who was brought to tears, in my college office, “way-back-when-in-the-day.” I cannot remember what made her cry. I cannot remember the reason for her tears. I am sure it had nothing to do with me.])

And, finally, the rosary I found, in the left-back corner.

rosary in crystalRosary Found, with Crystal Beads

Crystal beads, sterling cross and medal. My mom’s rosary that I’ve had for some five years since her passing on. Now I have cleaned it and polished it. And there it rests.

Still, not the rosary itself but the “links” which came out of this rosary-discovery brought more memories: recalling catechism classes, using the rosary with all its intricacies of prayer methods, and having sore knees in chapel during rosary-recitation time.

However, one anecdote figures prominently above all others I associate with the rosary. No, not prayer-beaded mantras, like “pray for us sinners” or “blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (Explain that one to a first-grade boy!) But, rather, it is hearing Sister Mary Philip, RSM, telling me one morning to see her after lunch. “I need you to see my sister.”

I was to become a mule, a runner (“Slang: a person paid to carry or transport contraband, especially drugs, for a smuggler.”).

Somehow, for some reason unknown to me, Sister Mary (always add the “Mary” out of respect) Philip, RSM, singled me out from my other 8th grade classmates to do “The Deed.” I was a purveyor of goods, the middleman. My reward (now, not in some afterlife) was delight and jubilation. I would miss an afternoon of classwork. Did nothing of note happen after lunch? History? Art? Music? Reading? Ah, that’s it: Silent reading. I could run errands during Silent Reading, for I was a good reader. I could miss school.

Approaching her desk, I was told to get my coat. She gave me a piece of paper with some directions, a small change purse, and, as she adjusted her Religious-Sister-of-Mercy habit, told me to be on my way. “Godspeed,” or something like that.

sisters-of-mercySister of Mercy, RSM

I had a duty; I was on a mission: to conduct an errand, leaving and returning by the end of the school day. Off I went . . . with no food or snack, no backpack, just directions and a change purse with money for the Chicago transit system, the CTA.

There I was, making my way then to the “L,” exiting at the 47th Street stop (a few stops before Sox Park-Comiskey Park).

47thSign47th Street “L” Sign

From the “L” platform, I went down the stairs to the ticket booth/fare collector’s station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFare Collector Booth from Chicago “L”.org

There sat Sister Mary Philip’s sister. Only for the first time, I told her I was there for the package. She gave me a little paper bag, and a candy bar. With the package and CTA transfer in hand, I was on my way back to my school.

Often I made the trip, sometimes twice a month, receiving the goods: hand-assembled homemade rosaries. Colored beads, black beads, crystal beads; large and small silver crucifixes–all carefully wrapped, such beautiful work, as my 8th grade teacher would show me at my return.

I walked back to my desk, my classmates wondering where I had been.

“My Life with the Rosary” is certainly interesting for me, with so many memories of a time when…. I doubt any others can relate such a story (except, perhaps, those who followed after me in Sister Mary Philip’s classes chosen to do “The Deed”).

What I learned from all this is what a teacher’s pet I really was. How responsible I must have been considered–or, at least, appeared to be. I will not even mention here “child labor,” liability insurance, accountability, and other such topics. What did I know then? What if something happened on my trips? Nevertheless, I do know it was all a pretty good deal for me.

I was able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes: riding the Chicago “L.” So, in a way, I was getting paid to have fun.

oh-the-places-youll-go novelreaction.comOh, The Places I Have Been

Never did I realize how true for me. All because of the Holy Rosary.

How Glorious and Joyful it all was!

© James F. O’Neil 2015



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