A little song, a little dance, a little coffee down your pants…
Many, many years in the classroom and now on my own. A chance to think about stuff and how it affects everyone, not just me.
So why call a secular blog “Jesus is My Buddy” you ask? Yes and I can really hear you asking…well the long and short of it is that I like the idea of crossing back and forth over the “line” of one of our most sacred cows, Religion. It is not about faith, that may be something different. Faith and belief and spirituality I think are “inside jobs” where as Religion is an “outside job.” Religion is how we may choose to gather together to express that faith. It is not faith, it is rules and regulations to express that faith.
Anyway, this is not a site about only Jesus or about Religion or buddies, unless they come up in the course of conversation. It is about living a life, observing what is going around that life, and a reasonable conversation on perspectives. Unlike our Republican friends, solutions may be offered to inspire and cajole you to respond. So join in, if you want and let’s dance!
Even more useless info….
BlackShade (a.k.a. “the Doctor” author of “Jesus Is My Buddy”) has been around in its various forms since the early ’90’s. Simply stated this site was created to celebrate things Irish, the ancient culture of the Celtic people who managed, sometimes in great adversity, to survive, thrive, and to guard against the extinction of Western civilization. A tall order for a people who not so very long ago, were denied jobs and advancement in America. The “party” lives on in song, in the stunning and sometimes shocking black humor of a people who refuse to take it in the shorts. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Irish keep on.–Welcome to BlackShade dedicated to the Irish in all of us! And to those who just don’t buy into all the crap they hear on the T.V.
-Who is BlackShade, Anyway?
Second generation Irish and born in San Francisco after the great flood of biblical proportions…His good twin (WhiteShade) died at birth and this evil one lived on and continues to this day…The last of six children; the smallest, the least athletically inclined…most likely to be chosen last (you know the type)
BlackShade hated being Irish. He wanted to be nordic or Lithuanian or even (God forgive him for he was too stupid to know better) English! He had what could be described as a normal childhood, except for the occasional sleep-overs in the back yard to escape the ‘creative’ loud discussions coming from inside his house.
He loved his neighborhood and thrived at school…no I take that back he didn’t thrive at school…I think the word to describe his elementary education is ‘difficult’; he was difficult; the nuns were difficult; his thug friends could be difficult. Unfortunately, as he describes his youth to his own children today, “…there was no snow to walk through to get to school…” although there were the “Protestant Boys” he had to stay away from lest he lose his enternal soul. For in those early days the world was divided into two: Catholics and NON-Catholics. (sorta like “innies” and “outies”)
For young BlackShade, his only friends were non-catholics. They taught him survival, that even if one was not blessed with athletic skill like one’s brothers (and sisters) one could still make a go of it in this world through wit and cunning….BlackShade excelled at both and faked his way through elementary school as well as the Jesuit High School all his relatives attended…On graduation from high school, he received the Loyalty Award and as a special surprise to him, a diploma!
Jump ahead a few semesters….theres a lot o’ stuff that doesn’t need to be rehashed here…it will show up in BlackShade’s obit or in the cartoon of his life, whichever comes first…suffice it to say that he was in a religious order for 11 years and managed to survive the medieval approach to spirituality that he had to endure to become ‘worthy’ of the Lamb that was slain…whatever that means.
Ironically, he started teaching over 30 years ago to student’s whom he could easily identify being the less than mental giant he was…alas he was told to teach history and Latin. Oddly Latin came easily for him, but the history…Oh my God! it was difficult!
Early on in his teaching career he was afraid of being wrong in front of his students, so rather than say so, he used to make up the history he didn’t know, reasoning that his charges would look up the correct answer if they really wanted to know.
He remembers teaching about Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Mary. Because the characters had the same name (almost) they became the same person in BlackShade’s mind. Today, there are doctors, lawyers, politicians, and businessmen who still think that Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Mary are the same person. Aren’t they?
In the early ’80′s BlackShade got married to a woman whose ad in the newspaper he answered. Nearly 20 years later they are still together. Yes things like this do happen.
One of the remarkable events in his life, outside of the extraordinary births of his two children, was the year he and the family spent in Ireland. Specifically on the North Side of Dublin in the area known as Cabra to the locals.
He taught at a Jesuit school on the South side of the city, Gonzaga College in Ranelagh. Some of the best times in his family’s lives were the various holidays and festivals experienced in Dublin.
The kids at the Jesuit school were just like the kids he taught at American high schools, except they talked funny and were smarter.
Life in Dublin
Experience in and of itself changed him. From the moment he stepped off the plane at Dublin International Airport, he knew he was “home.” How can he say this being born and raised in the City by the Bay you ask? He cannot explain it himself. It was just a “feeling” that this Island was his place of origin. Odd that may sound, that is the God’s truth….as much as he understands God AND truth. There are some photographs on these pages which chronicle that journey.
Returning to the Bay Area he settled himself into the task of enlightening the fragile minds of adolescent boys and girls with challenges to their myopia.
Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it’s just good to have lunch with friends.
Every summer, or so it seems, BlackShade takes a group of youngsters (17 year olds) to live and work in an Irish community. The program encourages us to live, work, eat and pray together. For a number of years he took kids to Dublin, staying in the sports complex of Gonzaga and working in neighborhoods in Dublin such as, Ballyfermont, and the Liberties.
These past summers he took a group of students to live and work in the Bogside District of Derry in Northern Ireland. They lived in a dance hall, worked at manual labor, childcare, and civil rights projects. The story was recounted in the “Derry Diaries” a series of e-mails he sent from the Public Library in Derry. If you haven’t read these, they are archived on this site.
The future you ask? He doesn’t have a clue. He has written four novels (none in print) and is working on a fifth novel about an IRA man seeking redemption for the horror of Enniskillen in the 1980′s….It is an emotional book. You can read a chapter or two on Blackshade’s e-Book downloads
For now, it is instructing minds. He has been in the classroom for over 30 years and he is just waiting for something better to come along….
Back to the Bog
Like most Americans of Irish descent, I began the search for my “roots” back in 1991 when I took up a teaching position at a Bog Worker-Jesuit secondary school in Ranelagh, Dublin.
This adventure eventually took me to Blackshade in County Meath. There I discovered my cousin Joe and his wife Maureen Dixon living on the site of the Dixon ancestral home.
The “cottage” where my grandmother was born in the 1850′s still stands as a reminder of a simpler, more humble beginning to my family in California.
This photo journey is but an example of some of the people and places and experiences we encountered on our journey back to the bog: a journey that closed a circle begun in 1883 when a young, newly married Bridget and John said “good-bye” to family and friends in front of the thatched cottage and left Ireland of the Welcomes to establish a life and family in California.
This is our journey….
When we went to look for the site where my grandmother Bridget was born; the place where John Duignan (Degnan) courted and eventually asked her to be his wife, we had no address but did have an idea that the cottage was near the Hamlet of Clonard.
Wrong turns and country lanes no wider than this web page took us through thatch.JPGLongwood and Trim. We stopped in Kinnegad at the home of a Joe Duignan to ask if, indeed, he was our cousin. He said that we were not related but had heard of a Joe Dixon who lived near Clonard. Taking his directions we set off looking for Blackshade Bridge. On our second pass over the bridge we spied the roof of a cottage. We knew we were close. The memory of a faded photograph of a thatched cottage taken 70 years ago flashed in my mind. This was it; I just knew it.
It was from this spot in 1883 that John and Bridget Degnan left for California. I was back to the bog.
A lone woman, middle aged dignified, and walking withjoemo.JPG purpose came down the lane with a dog at her heels. I asked if she knew Maureen and Joe Dixon. She replied, “You are talking with her.”
Thus began a reunion and relationship that is now rooted deep in our hearts.
Some have said that coincidence is another name for God. Perhaps it is. That I should have wound up in Ireland, which was not my first choice for a teaching assignment and that I should come across my ancestral home is certainly part of a greater design. What that design is, I guess I will need to explore it a bit more.
But I do know this, the answer is not far from the bog at Blackshade, County Meath. Change what you can and ask for help with the rest.