Friday, January 25, 2008

70 - It's Just a Number

The McDermott paterfamilias turned 70 today. My pop, a proud, contrary Limerick man (we all are, contrariness is our birth rite), born in Garryowen, deep in the heart of Limerick city, (conveniently close to the prison), the fourth child of a train driver and a seamstress, is in fine fettle and ready for another 70 years - at least. I hope I have his genes, or at least his scalp follicles. My mother's side all go bald by their mid twenties, but the auld fella is only starting to go grey, not to mind bald. He is a natural born story teller and passed a love of books, wine, food, late night westerns, whiskey, and American folk music on to his kids (all of us love the Kingston Trio). Actually my sister isn't too fond of the whiskey or late night westerns. But she lives in Dublin.

More than anything else, my dad introduced me to the guitar and taught me my first riff - the opening to The Kingston Trio's "500 miles." All four of his kids play music.

In his retirement, he has become a fine landscape painter, despite never having picked up a brush until a few years back, and to my mother's despair, an eBay devotee - she never knows what package might arrive next, whether it is a bundle of cellophane wrapped fifties comics, or a book on some arcane part of Irish-American history.

Sometime back, my dad and I considered making the following topics off limits while drinking whiskey: politics, religion, philosophy, the law, the Limerick city boundary, vegetarianism vs carnivorism, Micheal Collins, Eamon deValera, Charlie Haughey, Garret Fitzgerald, Bertie Ahern, Willie O'Dea, priests, nuns, sports, horse racing, immigration, emigration, capitalism, socialism, nationalism, communism, unionism, The James Last Orchestra (*shudder*), Nana Mouskouri, the Irish health system, who gets my granddad's Black and Tan war medal when he dies, Sean South, the correct way to grill a steak, who would win a fight between Batman and Spiderman, Elvis vs Buddy Holly, greyhound training, and ferret wrangling.

But it seemed that agreeing on various points like Staunton made a bollix of managing the Irish team, this whiskey tastes good let's have another, that George Bush is an awful langer altogether, didn't Munster have a great game, the Kingston Trio are fab, and that Robbie Keane is overrated, would really limit the topics of conversation. Anyhow polite conversation is boring.

His best birthday present arrives in a week or two, when my sister will deliver her first kid and his fourth grandchild.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Me, yesterday...

John's 39th Bday_20070530_0002_1_pshop edit

According to the candles on the very yummy chocolate cake that my wife baked for me, I was eight years old yesterday. Add thirty one and you'll get the correct age. Jaysus! Am I middle aged? I certainly don't feel it. In fact, I don't mind getting older at all. When I examine the life cycle balance sheet, things seem better now than when I was twenty one. I'm certainly fitter (not skinnier though), healthier and happier now, although twenty one was indeed a great year. Definitely happier than twenty four. That was not a banner year. It involved prolonged involuntary celibacy. And poverty.

On the subject of being fitter - my bike training has been rudely interrupted by a bum knee. The left one. Given the mileage I have been doing, a sore knee might not be unexpected, but no, I somehow managed strain or tear the cartilage (don't you love the somewhat vague diagnosis that modern medicine provides), doing yoga. For those of you who think yoga is a mild form of exercise, go try it and report back to me.

Being a complete idiot, even though my knee was a little sore, I cycled forty miles last Saturday. I presumed that the lack of any pain during the ride was a good sign. I presumed wrong, way wrong. On Sunday my knee was so swollen I had to tie it down to stop it floating away, and any move in the wrong direction resulted in sharp pain. This was how I ended on the morning of my thirty ninth year on this planet, in the doctor's office having my knee twisted hither and thither. The good news is that, despite the pain, it seems mild enough; I was worried it might be a torn meniscus. The bad news is I am going to have to stay off the bike for at least 10 days, which really screws up my training schedule. Just when I was starting to feel strong. I have no choice but to roll with it. Ice and ibuprofen are my new best buddies. As a good friend puts it whenever something goes belly up, "How bad can it be, it’s not like someone died..."

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