Friday, December 30, 2011

My First Memory




I am a wee little girl, sitting in an enormous crib. I want to stand but it's hard. My legs are chubby and sweet but they are not strong and I am afraid I will fall and bump my head.

There is nothing in here but two cribs, a window, one big round spot, up top, that mama turns on and off, and a sister.

My crib is here, against a cold, bumpy wall and hers is over there, against the other wall.

She is bigger and I am small.

There is no light dancing in my window, instead there are shadows, dark pockets of nothingness.

I hear her rocking, rocking. She stands strong inside her crib, holds on, and rocks and rocks and rocks.

She is on her way over here, to my side of the bumpy wall.

She is halfway here now. She is looking at me. She does not like me.

She wiggles and shakes and pulls at her diaper.

It is off now and I can tell it is full of poop. I don't like poop. It doesn't smell good. I know not to eat things that don't smell good.

She scoops the poop in her hands and whips it at me.

She misses me.

She cries because she misses me.

I don't like to hear her cry. It's loud and it scares me.

Mama comes in and the big round spot, up top, lights up.

I love that spot.



What is your earliest memory?




Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's in a Name?



My mother named me after a character in a Mickey Spillane novel.  Shannon was a prostitute. My father wanted me to be named Moire, in gaelic it means Star of the Sea, but my mother would have no part of that. "Everyone will make fun of her," she'd say, "they'll ask, do you want More a this or More a that?"

You'll find no Shannon's in Ireland - it is not a true Irish name. In Ireland, it is the name of a river and an airport. Even so, it's fun to fly from Kennedy airport to Shannon airport and return home flying from Shannon to Kennedy.

As a kid I liked my name until a song came out called, Shannon is Gone. The lyrics were about the death of Beach Boy, Carl Wilson's Irish Setter. The single became a worldwide hit and after that, everyone and their cousin started naming their dogs Shannon.

When I was young, I dreamed of having two children, a girl and a boy. I wanted my son to be named Kerry, after my brother who died when he was very young. I chose the name Amber Essence for my daughter. When I got a older I realized it sounded too much like shampoo (Herbal Essence) so I changed the name to Katherine, after a great aunt that I adored.

My first born, a boy, is named Kerry Ryan Magann. His fathers name is Terry, so it was extra sweet to say Kerry and Terry this or Terry and Kerry that. I'm sure Kerry got teased a lot for having a "girls name" but if you asked him, he'd tell you he liked it.

My second born, a girl, is named Lindsay Katherine Fong. Her father loved the name Lindsay and I understood how important little girls were to their fathers, so I agreed that he should pick her name.

My then mother-in-law, wanted us to call her Dorothy, after the little girl in the Wizard of Oz. As much as I love that movie I was not going to name my daughter after a character in a book or a movie, especially since, with her thick asian accent, she pronounced the name "Door Dee."

Instead she would call her only granddaughter, "Rindsay."

In keeping with asian tradition, her Grandmother gave her her Chinese name. She chose Ling Ling (or, "Ring Ring") after the famous panda bears. Most of Lindsay's close friends call her Ling. I still call her by her newborn nickname, Pumpkin.

My half-sister Lenore (named after her father Leonard), once told me that my daughter would be destine for greatness if I call her Katherine but if I name her Lindsay, no one would take her seriously. "Lindsay sounds too flighty," she said. Turns out Lindsay is a bit flighty, and I like that about her. She is also a force to be reckoned with, and I like that about her too.

My sister Colleen has no middle name. I've always wondered about that. Did they run out of ideas?  I think Colleen Elizabeth Kennedy sounds nice, but they saved Elizabeth for me.

Colleens ex-husband is a twin. His name is Paul and his brothers name is Peter. Their middle names are A and B. The one who came out first was named "A" and the second born was named "B." That's weird, don't you think?

Speaking of weird, strange or bizarre...

I once had a friend named Rose. Everyone called her Rosey. Her last name was Lipps. Rosey Lipps, how strange/sweet.

I know a man named Richard. His last name is Dicky. They call him Dick Dicky. His sisters name is Lisa. They call her Licky Dicky.

I once interviewed a woman for a job as my assistant. Her name was Jane. She seemed great and I seriously considered hiring her until she told me her son's name. It is Rector. Rector is a terrible name. I don't care if it's a family name. I don't want to hear about Rector. I don't want to see Rector embroidered on his LLBean backpack. I don't want to hear about how Rector got the shit kicked out of him during recess.

The next woman I interviewed was named Kate. Kate seemed great and I seriously considered hiring her until she told me her daughters name. It is Violet. Violet is a terrible name. I certainly hope it's not a family name. Sorry, but I don't want to hear about Violet. In my twisted mind, Violet is a strippers name, and I don't want to hear about Violet riding a pole with a set of DD's.

Besides, Violet's mom chewed with her mouth open. Violet would no doubt follow in her mothers footsteps. Violet the stripper, with her mouth open, swinging from a pole, with a set of double DD's.  NOPE... I don't want to hear about it.

When I interviewed Miss Pegged, over lunch, I asked her what her childrens names were. They are Jake and Tyler. "You're hired!" I told her.

I had several people applying for security guard positions this week. Two, stood out.

The first one's name is "Bah T.A." Yep, thats what his resume says. Can I hire someone the week before Christmas who's name is Bah? I'm afraid if I have him come in for an interview I'll call him, Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.

The other applicant that stood out is a man who called claiming his name is... (wait for it)... Sheelove Boudi. I asked him to repeat it. I then I asked him to repeat it a third time. I was convinced it was a prank call. I had to see for myself what this Sheelove Boudi was all about, so I had him come in for an interview.

I told my husband about Sheelove Boudi and he said, "I love Boudi too!"

Turns out Sheelove spells his last name,  B O U Z I.

I told my husband Sheeloves' last name is Bouzi and he said, "I love Boozi too!"

I asked Sheelove if he had any children.  He does not.  I asked him if he did have children would he be willing to consult me prior to naming them.  He said he would.

I once hired a man named Rockstar. He didn't show up for his first day of work.

I once hired a man named Doddie. He got caught on the job with his shirt off (long story) and I had to fire him.

I think if I can hire a man named Rockstar and Doddie, that Sheelove deserves a chance.

What about you? What is the strangest name you've ever heard and do you think a name seals your fate?






Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good Tears


Last week was my grandson Jackson's Holiday Concert at school. They combined the 4th and 5th grade band with the chorus and orchestra. Jackson plays the trombone and it's adorable. Not just Jackson, the whole thing is adorable. You didn't need to know anyone in the concert to enjoy it.  

Jackson did a "Tebow" at the beginning and end of his set and I laughed so hard I cried. If you're not a fan of football you may not know that the word "Tebow" (the Denver Bronco's quarterback) is now a verb. It means giving thanks to the Lord above by bending down on one knee, blessing yourself, and pointing toward the sky. "Tebowing" has become the new "Planking."  I'm not a fan of tebowing when its played out on the football field, but here in auditorium of Jacksons school, it was a moment I will not soon forget. 

My eyes teared up again when the chorus sang a song in hebrew, a song I had never heard before and had no idea what it was about. It was simple and strong, and beautiful. When it was over, their teacher turned to the crowd and said, "I am so lucky, my job gives me goosebumps."  It was a genuine and unrehearsed response and I thought how lucky these kids are to have such a fabulous teacher! 

A girl in the back row of the chorus sang with such reverence and joy that you could tell this was her gift. She sang with her eyes closed, she sang with no ego.  It didn't matter that she was hidden in the back, to the far left.  It didn't matter that she was one of 25 in the chorus.  She didn't need a solo. She was happy to sing and her love of song filled the room.  How do you not cry when you witness something this pure.   

Paralyzed with fright, a little boy in an argyle sweater, stood front and center on the stage and focused on his feet. Every time he looked up, he'd start to gag and you could hear the front row moan, "oh no, oh no!" When it was over, his knee's buckled as he walked off the stage. I cried when his family greeted him. "You did it!" they cheered. 

Watching the relatives made me cry. Seeing them, with their big goofy grins, sitting perfectly erect, stretching to get a good view. Camera's pointed, waiting patiently for their little one to look their way.

You could feel the love and pride. It was all around me. I bathed in it and I remembered, like it was yesterday, when my son, Kerry was young.

Kerry went to the same school as Jackson.  He even had some of the same teachers. It was a magical glimpse of time past mixed with the magnificence of the present. 


 Jackson and Kerry

Sometimes I hide my tears behind my program, and other times I let them slide. Last week, at Jackson's concert, the drops of my tears were in perfect sync with the beat of Jacksons foot, as he bobbed his head and blew on his trombone.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

1961 to 1966



What I write is MY truth. I write it the way I remember it.  I do not  include every single detail of my childhood because there were long, dull days where I would do nothing but sit in the center of our dead end street and pop the tar bubbles that blistered from the asphalt.  There were days when I would, one by one, pick the freckles off my face with a long, sharp, safety-pin. There were days where I would hide - behind the barn or in the bunker that served as our coal bin. There were days I wish I didn't remember.


I will not omit things because they are unpleasant. This is my laundry - some clean, some soiled, some tattered - here, out here in the open air, for all the whole world to see. And if your dirty clothes got mixed in with mine, and you're not happy about that, you can BITE ME.


My friend, Red Shoes, recently wrote,"It's not Christmas until somebody cries."  Well, for me, it's not Christmas until somebody pisses me off. 




1961 to 1966

I have no memory of my parents being together. When my mother, sister Colleen, and I moved from Greenwich, Connecticut to a small rural town in Pennsylvania, my half-sister, Lenore was also with us. She is 11 or 12 years older than I am. We share the same mother, but have a different father.

From the time I was 2 to 7 years old, we moved several places before settling into the old house, on the dead end street that butted up to Snake Mountain. (see Fifty Year Itch for part one of this story)

I'm told that we first lived in a place Lenore called "The Wonder of the World House" because it had four levels and each was painted a different color. I have no memory of living there. I only remember stories people told me. My mother working in a cigar factory, and Lenore being forced to take care of us kids, are some of the stories.

Next we lived in the shell of a house my mothers brother was building. Here, I remember my sister Colleen climbing onto the kitchen counter and eating an entire stick of softened butter, my mother administering caster oil anytime us kids sneezed, watching Hatchy Milatchy on a black and white TV, a german shepherd puppy named King that we tied to a tree, stealing the neighbors mail and hiding it in Betsy - mom's (now) broken down Studebaker, sneaking on the school bus in my red and white striped clown pajama's so I could attend Colleen's kindergarten Halloween party, and playing some sort of "Pie and Wolf" chasing game in the yard. 

My mother was a stickler for good manners. If you didn’t sit up straight during dinner she'd stand behind you and shove her thumb in the center of your back. And if you didn't finish your dinner, she's put it in the refrigerator and serve it to you for breakfast, cold. "We're poor," she'd tell us, "we can't afford to waste food."  

Somewhere between working in the cigar factory and making us kids dinner, my mother met a man named Mert and we moved to Mentor, Ohio.

Mert was tall and thin with slicked back, black hair.

His teenage son David, moved in with us. David was about the same age as my sister Lenore. David was tall, and thin with black hair. David had a guitar but I don't remember him playing it.

My mother and Mert had a child together - a boy. They named him Mark. 

My memories of life in Ohio are in slow motion and framed in a harsh, crackling light. Sometimes I squint. Sometimes the light forces me to shut my eyes all together. 

In Ohio, we lived in a house that had a screened-in front porch. This is where we'd wait for the ice cream man and Charlie, the potato chip man, to come.

Across the street was a large house with lots of kids - girls mostly. 

To the right of us was a house full of boys. During bright summer nights, they'd sleep outside in tiny green tents. They'd carry flashlights and tell ghost stories well into the daylight. Between their house and ours is where I'd find an endless supply of fireflies.  

Small swirling tornado's formed in and around our backyard. Here, tucked behind the tool shed, was our garden. There were carrots in the garden. When I was hungry, I'd pull one from the ground and eat it, never bothering to wash it.

Beyond the garden was a large parking lot. In the winter, plowed mounds of snow were perfect for making igloo forts. 

I walked or rode my bike to school. I had not one, but two boyfriends. Their names were Michael Pope and Jimmy Griffin. I gave them each a key to my bike lock and I'd watch them race each other down the corridor, out the side door, to the rack where my red Schwinn was waiting for them. Whoever got there first unlocked my bike and walked me half way home. I knew not to tell mother about Michael or Jimmy. When my sister Colleen threatened to tell her, I beat her with my hairbrush. 

I fell off the monkey bars during recess one day, and got a bloody nose. My mother was angry at me because I ruined my pretty pink dress.

I sang, "I Want To Be Free" by the Monkee's as I rocked from the metal railing that bordered the playground. I sang it really, really loud. I sang it all winter, while the other kids skated on slippery snow. I sang it as I clung to the metal railing, even thought my hands were cold, because I was afraid, if I let go, I would slip and fall.

I spent a long, steamy summer digging holes in a dirt road and filling it with gross stuff - rotten food and dog poop - then covered it lightly with leaves and sticks. The road lead to a big, gray house that I was convinced a witch lived in.

My stepfather Mert wore white collared, button down, shirts to work. My mother would wash them, then put them in the freezer, wet, before ironing them. In time, his crisp white shirts where replaced with worn, blue collared, grease stained shirts. My mother did not iron these. One day, Mert no longer went to work, instead he walked the house wearing white, v-necked, t-shirts. 

As the story goes, Mert was once a low level executive, but I knew him only as a raging alcoholic who died from cirrhosis of the liver and malnutrition. My mother let us know he passed on by placing a note on the kitchen stove, "Mert died at 1:39 am." I went to school happy that day. I have nothing kind to say about Mert - no pleasant memories.

My sister Colleen was coined, early on, as the pretty one. The one with the golden curls and a sunny disposition. Because she was 15 months older, she was, in her own words,"the boss of me." She got to stay up 30 minutes later than me, she was the first to ride the big yellow school bus, and the one who got everything new. And she got Davy, she always got Davy, and I got Micky. They were the best part of the Monkee’s. The Monkee’s were bigger than Elvis and better than Lassie. And we were just sisters, and I was little and she was big. They were the reason we raced each other down our staircase, around the corner, to our still black and white TV every Monday night.

I was convinced that, if it weren’t for her, I’d have everything I ever wanted. I’d have her side of the room. Davy’s picture would hang right next to my bed. Davey’s face would be the first thing I’d see every morning and the last thing I’d see before mother made us turn out the lights.

If it weren’t for her I’d have those cool, baby blue sheets. I’d have the bigger pillow, the better blanket, and I’d have her “Bummy,” her best friend “Bummy,” her NOT REAL Easter basket, stuffed bunny rabbit, but I wouldn’t have sucked him till he turned gray. She hugged the pretty pink padding out of him, pulled the tickle from his tail.

Everyone knew she loved Bummy more than me.

Why did the yellow brick road - that long, dangling, double-sided sticky tape weighted in misguided flies -  have to hang on my side of the room, from my part of the ceiling? I could no longer lie on my bed of mismatched sheets, stretch my legs up high and point my toes or I’d touch it; and I'd never sleep without my blanket pulled way up over my head, because I knew, someday, one of those flies would come unstuck, and land right between my eyes.

Just outside our bedroom door, in the open hallway at the top of the stairs, is where my stepbrother David slept. His bed, and pillow, and blanket were there. He got to stay up late because he was a teenager, but instead David waited for me, under his blanket. It was more like a fort than a bed. He kept a flashlight and a red rubber ball under his blanket. We played games here, in the open hallway, while my mother and Mert were downstairs watching TV. I had to keep quiet or I'd get in trouble. We'd both get in trouble. David would tell me to find the red rubber ball that was hidden inside his tight, white underpants. He hid it next to his "bat and baseballs." He'd flash the light on it. He wanted me to grab it. He wanted me to play with it. But I had to be quiet or I'd get in trouble. We'd both get in trouble.

It took almost thirty years for the fly to come unstuck. I was watching an episode of Oprah. She was talking about the uncle who molested her when she was a child. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone speak openly about child molestation. Images started to form, one crackling bright, slow motion frame after another. Each so sickening that I curled into a fetal position and cried. I cried for a very long time. Then, I called my mother. I needed my mother. I was certain she would comfort me, but I was wrong.

"That's impossible," she said, "It never happened."  She rationalized it as all being part of my twisted imagination - a cry for attention.

Later, my sister Colleen called me. She still thought she was "the boss of me" and she told me never to upset our mother like that again. She told me never to speak to anyone about it - only her.  

Well, my sister is not the boss of me. I am the boss of me and I will tell my story. 


I wish I said it first but, its true, the truth WILL set you free.  




Friday, December 16, 2011

DEJA VU


UPDATED:  It has been brought to my attention that I left a few details out.  I have made the necessary correction and highlighted them in red.  

I have not posted in a week but I have been writing. Working on the book. Tweeking, tweeking.

As part of today's DEJA VU Blogfest I'm posting ..... The Fifty Year Itch which is the rough draft of Chapter One in my memoir.

Fifty Year Itch contains a mix of two past posts (Fifty Year Itch and The Animals) and some dialogue and refocusing that has been suggested by a writing coach.  Coach hasn't seen it yet.  You go first. Promise me you'll be gentle.

Thanks to Lydia Kang and the others for hosting this blogfest.



The Fifty Year Itch

It is the first taste of summer, the first Friday of June, when the sun and wind are in perfect tune. It is the eve of my 50th birthday and the start of our 50th year in business. We are together again, just as we often are. My father sits on the front porch of our office in his classic white, high-backed rocking chair, too afraid to rock, and I stand beside him, too uncomfortable to sit. The depth of our conversations is narrowing.
He wants to talk shop and I want him to realize just how fortunate he is. How, at the age of 84, his ailments are minuscule compared to his quick sinking circle of friends.  He clings to his independence - his stubborn, thick Irish temperament - while I patiently wait for him to need me just as I have always needed him.  I wait for his Parkinson’s disease to slow him down enough for us to get to know each other.  I want to understand what fuels him, what haunts him, and what his regrets are.
“I started this business the year you were born,” he boasts.
“Yes, I know Dad.” I put my hand on his shoulder and he bristles, then shoots me a disapproving glare. My father does not like being touched.  I have no memory of him reaching out to me, holding my hand or wrapping his arms around me.  Lifting me up into a limitless sky the way Daddy’s often do.  Twirling me around and around.  Smiling, just for me.  Believing in me.
To avoid his sign of disapproval, I turn and look away.  I look across the street, past the towering juniper tree that guards the unpretentious two-family house that my father bought back in the early 80’s. He lives here now, in the first floor apartment, because he can no longer climb stairs. This is the same house I raised my son, Kerry, in and where he would return, years later, to raise his son. 
I look across the street, to the same two-family house where, 7 years ago, I found my son.  Lifeless. 
I look past the roofline, the green-shingled roofline.  I look past the chimney top and tips of neighboring homes.  I look past the limitless sky - upward, onward, closer to my son. I look for clarity, conviction, and guidance.
“Fifty years, fifty YEARS” my father groans, “Where did the time go.”
He founded Kennedy Security Services long before there was such a thing as no-fault divorce. With a cocked camera, pencil and pad at his side, he spent years shadowing adulterers – trailing unsuspecting husbands and less-than-perfect wives.  Primed in high school  as  a track and football star, he carried his competitive nature with him. He drank and ate more than his share - balancing it all with a plethora of women.
He ran with the best of them: affluent lawyers, doctors, politicians and businessmen. He was free spirited, gregarious and fun -- a welcome relief from the stiff shirts his white-collar friends encountered on a regular basis.
When they offered him a referral he took it. When they opened a door he walked swiftly through it. When they spoke of impending change, he listened. Hard.
“Dad, what made you want to start a security company?” I ask.
He laughs.
“Dad, why security? Why not be a cop?”
He laughs harder.
I push harder.
“Dad, tell me what to tell your grandchildren and your great grandchildren.  Tell me what motivated you, what made you who you are.  Tell me why you never stopped. Tell me why you were always such a hard ass!”
I pushed too hard.  His eyes point downward, his head slumps forward, his mouth opens and he sighs.  Two deep breaths later, he is fast asleep.
By the mid 60’s Greenwich, Connecticut, catapulted from a quaint, coastal New England community, into a city overflowing with opulence and opportunity. To match the demographics, he restructured the company into a full-scale, private security agency specializing in uniformed guard services for high-profile corporations, grand scaled events, and lavish homes.
But Greenwich is not where I grew up.  My parents divorced when I was two years old; I have no memory of them being together.
When I asked my mother why, she’d tell me that my father had an explosive temper, that he was loud, impatient, and uncouth, and that us kids made him nervous. 
She told us about the time he came home early, and angry, and how my sister Colleen climbed into the attic to escape his fury -- screaming that ants were crawling all over her, when there were no ants in sight.
We left Greenwich in the dead of night. Mom packed everything she wanted, including a parakeet and us two kids, into a 1960’s Studebaker she nicknamed Betsy, and we headed to a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. (I did not list all the contents that were in the car)
Surrounded in rural simplicity, we moved from one shoddy place to another before settled into an old country farmhouse on a dead end street that butted up to a wooded hill we kids called Snake Mountain. (Other stuff happened from 1961 to 1966 - age 2 to 7 - but I will revisit that later in the book) Our yard included overgrown apple trees and a badly weathered barn with an attached, two-car garage.
A few blocks away lived Mom’s aunt and uncle, both of her brothers, their happily married wives, and a brood of cousins.  Their cohesive welcoming added calmness to our disjointed lives. But despite their efforts, it was obvious that our family was not intact. And I, the only one with dark hair, stood out as a constant reminder of my father. 
“If you wrap a towel around their head you can’t tell them apart,” my mother would say when asked which one of us kids was Colleen and which was Shannon. “They’re only 15 months apart - practically Irish twins.”
The only other one with hair my shade was Aunt Pauline and Uncle Zibe’s forever roaming mutt, a rat terrier mix that folks called by his full name, Blacky Martin. Blacky Martin was known for breaking into people’s houses and impregnating their purebreds. Every dog in the neighborhood looked a little bit like him and, like me, he was fiercely independent, stubborn, and unruly. 
I remember passing Blacky Martin as I wandered down the hill to an old feed store in the center of town. In the back was a large barn where they stored bundles of hay. They would stack them one on top of the other, creating mounds of soft cushion, perfect for jumping. I would leap from one bail to the next. Sometimes I’d jump so high, I was convinced I could fly. Everything about this place made me happy.
Occasionally I would steel salt licks and handfuls of hay -- things I would need to feed the pony I was determined to get. I even had a name for him: Chester.
After receiving a satisfactory report card, I dialed my father, stretched the cord of our harvest-gold wall-mounted kitchen phone to the far end corner of our pantry, cupped the receiver with both hands so no one could hear me, and begged for my faithful foal.
I didn’t know much, but I knew I was my father’s favorite. I was his “Black Irish,” and my pleading was impossible to resist. My father’s YES was no sooner celebrated than it was squished. 
“Absolutely NOT,” yelled Mother.  If it were not for her, I believed, I’d have had everything I wanted – a pony and a father. 
Mother may have been the boss of me, but she could not control me.  I was, and still am, a dreamer.  My dreams would take me anywhere I wanted to go. In the world of my imagination, I spent my days riding Chester across golden wheat fields that blanketed the crest of Snake Mountain.  Then, I would sneak him down densely wooded, serpentine trails, and into our barn in the dead of night. I’d feed him apples; watch his long, scratchy tongue lap the salt licks. I brushed his sleek, dark, mane. Chester was my favorite thing in the world, next to my father.
All was well until I started telling the kids at school about Chester.
Camille was new to the neighborhood.  She moved to Shavertown, Pennsylvania from Connecticut - the same state my father lived in. Her clothes were cooler than mine. Her house was newer and neater than mine. I wanted her to like me, so I invited her over for a ride on Chester.
Standing inside our dilapidated barn, I explained, “Chester’s not here right now, but this is his stall, he sleeps here.  And this is his hay, and these are his salt lick. He really likes his salt lick.”
“Where did he go?” she asked.
“He’s off gallivanting,” I told her.
Gallivanting is a term my mother used often when she spoke of my father, and it sounded like so much fun to me.
Sometimes, when I missed my father the most, I’d sneak out of my bedroom, down our slippery, uncarpeted staircase, out the back door and into the barn. There, snuggled in ever-growing mounds of hay, I’d drift off to sleep.
“Wake up Dad,” I shout.  I put my hand back on his shoulder and a shake him, gently at first.  When he does not stir I shake him harder. “Wake up old man,” I demand.
He hates being thought of as an “old man” and I am pleased to know that I can still get under his skin. 
He blinks twice and then bounces right back into his favorite topic – the good old days.
 “Our office used to be on Greenwich Avenue. Right where the Ralph Lauren store is going,” he reminds me. “They picked it up and moved it here back in the 50’s.”  
In the late 70s, my father moved his understated office above a string of trendy shops on West Putnam Avenue into a house owned by the family of a close friend - a local lawyer who went on to become the first selectman of Greenwich. The even side of the street is business zoned, allowing him to transform this colonial revival into a comfortable work and living space.
“Will you look at that,” he says as he points to the ornate black iron railing wrapped around the second tier balcony of our newly constructed neighbor. – a 5300 square foot, federalist-styled brick town house stuffed into a ¼ acre lot. It’s perimeter brick wall butts exactly 8 feet from our foundation.  “THAT is gaudy!” he adds.
It’s “urban sophistication,” I tell him.
“Well, I think its shit,” he contends.
Because we are located in the heart of downtown Greenwich, 40 minutes outside of New York City and within walking distance to the train and Long Island Sound, our address is in high demand.
 “No need for a car,” my father will tell you. School, library, church, grocery store, drug store, restaurants and boutiques - everything is in close range.
You’ll hear the locals complain a lot about how much the town has changed yet its upscale essence remains. A community infused with wealth, culture, and charm. A population of 60,000 thrive here along with one hundred of Connecticut’s largest corporations. Museums, a symphony, polo grounds, and marinas interlace with 8,000 acres of protected land - including 32 miles of coast, 20 parks, four beaches and a municipal golf course.
“They should have NEVER made the Avenue one way,” growls my father, “and you can’t get a decent hot dog, let alone a burger now that Finch’s is out of business.”
My father wore many hats before he struck it big. One of his favorites was “soda jerk” at the food counter in Finch’s Drug Store. It’s been 20 years since Mom and Pop stores ran the Avenue, trampled by trendy trademarks such as, Kate Spade, Baccarat, Tumi, and Tiffany. If it’s a $5,000 vase you’re looking for I can easily point you in the right direction, but nowhere can you find a needle and thread.
The average net worth per person is 430 thousand, the typical home costs an estimated 2.4 million, and the combined real estate value exceeds 50 billion. Dubbed the “Hedge-fund Capital of the World,” it is easy to see why the affluent flock here.
“You can work three jobs if you want,” he’ll tell you, “You’ll never go hungry here.” This is his way of keeping us grounded.
“Dad, what made you come to the office the day Kerry died?” I ask.
It was Memorial Day, my father was celebrating the beginning of summer over dinner with friends when he sensed an urgency to go to the office. He walked in not knowing what he would find just as I did not know what I would find when I walked into my son’s house, 30 minutes earlier.  But unlike my father, I had no hint of the devastation that hid behind the door.
“I don’t know Shannon. I couldn’t eat, my stomach hurt. I knew something was wrong.”
My father has always been instinctually aware of looming work related problems but I had never witnessed this on a personal level.
After discovering my son’s cold gray, lifeless body in the two-family home where he lived, his eyes locked open and upward, I fled in horror and in disbelieve.  I ran down the stairs and out the front door. I ran past the towering juniper tree, across the street, and back to our office.  I ran without looking.  I ran hoping oncoming traffic would hit me, and kill me, so that I could follow my son. 
I reached the office in a panic, grabbed the phone off my fathers desk and collapsed on the floor, in a fetal position, where I rocked and screamed for a very long time. I wanted my father, I needed my father, but I could not dial the phone. I could not focus through my tears.  I could not form words. I could not comprehend a world without my son.
My screaming triggered an involuntary reflex of urination. My skirt was wet, the carpet beside my fathers desk was wet.  My screaming also caused a bulge, a hernia, to form in the pit of my stomach, just below my ribcage. I would moan and massage this mass for days, months and years following Kerry’s death.  I reach for it still. 
A neighbor heard my cry and called the police.  Two squad cars arrived at the same time as my father.  “I killed my son” were the only words I could speak. 
“He was mad at me when he died, Dad” I remind him.
The last thing I said to my son was “get your act together” and this outraged him.  Less than an hour later, he was dead.
“It’s not your fault,” my father reminds me. 
“Today, I know that’s true Dad.  But back then I blamed myself just as I blamed you. I pushed him hard, just as you pushed me.”
Guilt, blame and shame is what I wore when I began my journey through grief.  I search hard and long for answers. I search in places I never thought I’d go. Today, 7 years into my journey and 50 years into my life, I realize that Kerry’s death has taught me many things, mainly how to live. 








Friday, December 9, 2011

Reindeer Games




I owe you a light post. A bit of holiday cheer. In the spirit of good tidings, reindeer games, and all things naughty and nice - I will be heading into NYC this Saturday to take part in Santacon. Just me, Miss Pegged, Monkey Gurl, and 5,000 silly Santa's.

Last year Miss Pegged was an angel who fell a lot. She wore white and towards the end of the night she got pretty dirty. So this year, she'll be "A Fallen Angel" dressed in black.

This is Miss Pegged tossing "angel dust" (silver glitter) into an NYPD squad car.
Typically, this is the sort of thing that gets you a free ride, but these cops were great sports. 


What a good little angel Miss Pegged was. Here she is helping Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cross the street.



Santacon's been getting a lot of bad press lately but I assure you most of us are very well behaved.

This will be my seventh (?) year attending and each year I change it up a bit.

The first year I was "Tally Ho" - along with my friends "Ida" and "Uda"


That's me with two balls on my hat.  
I thought I was slick by sewing on that extra ball
but my creative endeavors paled compared to some of the costumes.

  
Yes, thats a giant beer bong. 


Smurf Santa!


elf affection


fire and ice

I had so much fun that first year.  

I got to dance on a bar and I didn't fall off.


And I had fun at the playground.

 One year I was Frosty the Snowman. 


It was all about the coat that year.  


Another year I was a panda and asked everyone if they knew where "Pandacon" was.  
I thought I made pandacon up until I started running into other pandas. 


At the end of the night my hands ached from making "panda claw" hands over and over and over.  


This was also the year I found Jesus. 

The year Justin Timberlake sang his "Dick in the Box" song on SNL, I was a bad Santa with a crop and a box on my box - a cute little tiffany box glued to a pair of panties that I wore on top of three layers of tights. I kept asking people if they wanted to see my box, by the end of the night all I heard was, "No thanks, I already saw your box."


Last year I was a "Christmas Mess" 


 This is how I know that "puckered-up lip" shot isn't working for me anymore.  

This nice young man was kind enough to share his banana with me.


The banana's got bigger as the night wore on. 



This year I'm going to be "something that fell out of Santa's naughty coal bag."  


I've been training baby mice to stay in my dreadlocks. 
Working the little fellows six hours a day, 7 days a week.
"STAY dammit STAY!  Do it or I'll make you learn how to ROW"


And I'm bringing a Trust Fund Baby with me.  
She's part of the 1%. 
And she's bringing her pet monkey,
who swallowed one of the mice.


Ho Ho HO, MOnkeyME


















Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monkey Gets Wings



I don't know why this monkey has wings or fangs, or why his glass is empty. I do know that he is part of a bizarre, new trend in taxidermy and I want to meet the person who created him, and dressed him, and I want to know what happened to his drink. And you should know that, because of all these questions, I will be taking a taxidermy class in January. Can't wait to blog about it. But that's not why I'm writing to you today.

I started this blog a little over two years ago so that I could work on my voice and my rhythm, and learn how to believe in myself.

Because its safe here, I focus on keeping my writing honest. It was hard for me to admit to you that I didn't see my friend before he died, that I was not a good wife, that I got run over by a pedicab, that my family won't tell me where my brother lives, that sometimes I blame my father and worse, I blame myself. But you listened, and you didn't judge, and you let me know you were there, and I appreciate that. Truly I do.

What you read here is what goes on inside my head...  all   the   time  ...thoughts rise, and spin, and erupt and sometimes clash and then, finally, hopefully ...settle.

Well, I've stirred the pot. I couldn't let things be. I took a HUGE leap and contacted an agent that I met a few years back and she has agreed to take me under her wing. She believes in me. I can hear it in her voice. And I am starting to believe in myself. But I am really scared.

I made it through the editing stage. I've signed the contract. Now... I wait.

Can I handle rejection?
I honestly don't think so. That's what the GIANT voodude doll was all about in my post titled What's Right with Me - me trying to cope with rejection.

This week Wendy (the agent) is pitching a story I wrote called DEAD FLOWERS to Rolling Stone Magazine. I was thrilled when she first told me but now, I'm petrified. I am after all, an average, 52 year old woman who seldom reads books, can't spell, can't sleep, has low self-esteme, and very little post high school education.

I wasn't going to tell you this. I didn't want to jinx it. I didn't want you to think I was full of myself. I didn't want you to doubt me. But then I remembered...its safe here.

Yes, I know the odds are stacked against me but if they print my story - my life will finally begin to make sense - in an odd, round and round and round, sort of way.

How is that you say?

~ The only thing we placed on my son's casket was the DVD of Almost Famous, a pack of Marlborough reds, and some wild flowers that we picked from the park across from the funeral home that were dead by the time the doors opened.

~ The movie is the semi-autobiographical portrayal of Cameron Crowe as a Rolling Stones Reporter. Ben Fong Torres is his editor. My daughters last name is Fong. Hunter S. Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone. Hunter S. Thompson was my sons favorite writer.  

This might sound like a stretch to some, but to me, it feels like the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth - know in Hinduism & Buddhism as SAMSARA.

Samsara...I met the writer and director of the movie at a writing retreat in Paris. The same place I met Wendy, now my agent. It's a beautiful movie. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it.

When I was young I dreamed of being a Rolling Stone reporter. Now that I am old, I dream that Rolling Stone publishes my story and then comes the book deal and then the movie - which Cameron Crowe directs. At the world premier I meet Mick and Keith, and I tell Keith that we invited him to our wedding and he never responded...

Keith and Mick photo courtesy of M24digital.com

But there are questions - a downward spiral of self doubt, self loathing, and disbelief...

Will I be able to handle fame? Should I get my boobs done? What about hair extensions? Where would I live if I could live anywhere in the world? Will my marriage stay strong? Will my business collapse once my sorted past is magnified? What makes me think I'm a writer? Will the words keep flowing? I don't know what the fuck I'm doing...


But its safe here.... its safe for me to tell you what I feel deep inside...

I've done all I can do.  I've honored it, and released it.

Now I wait.
Now I live.


 XO,MonkeywithWingsME



This post is part of a monthly participation piece for the Insecure Writers Support Group
Because I'm not the only one.





Friday, December 2, 2011

Living Deliberately






Last year I took a course called Buddhist Memoir Writing, taught by James Kullander.  It was a different approach to writing and it helped me find my voice.  Now, I stalk James on facebook.  He posted this article on his wall.  He lives in France now.  It's been over a year since I've seen him and still...he teaches me.




xoMonkeyME



Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing
greenmonkeytales@live.com

Shannon E. Kennedy

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Photo by Joan Harrison