Mother of God

I never realized how tough my mother was until I witnessed her challenge teachers or administration when she knew they were clearly wrong.

I was busted once in the rough and tumble, wacky world of challenge physical education when I was a senior in high school. Did I give a yankee dime about school as a senior? EEEhhh…No. I guess it showed when I was sent to the vice principal’s office after tackling my best friend on the school grounds and tossing his shoes out of our zip code.

We were playing Alligator Soccer. Alligator soccer you might ask? I will explain it to you simply and with lack of reverence. I don’t know what the hell that sport was all about.

When I entered the Vice Principal’s office, I wasn’t a first time offender. I’d been accused, rightfully, of escaping West Valley H.S. Alcatraz to purchase a Wednesday Whopper at Burger King. My previous friend involved in the sneaker throwing incident, Nathan Nypen, was an accomplice. That was a three day Saturday detail working on the chain gang. Picking up popcorn droppings, snow cone drippings, corndogs sticks. It was worth it. Whoppers are good.

The Vice Principal, who hated me and my family, called my mother to ensure my punishment was not only happening on the grounds of school, but also observed at home.

I was the last of my mother’s 13 children, so it wasn’t her first call from school administration. While responding to the Vice Principal’s horrific story of the shoe throwing incident, my mother asked the most logical of questions in a single word . . . “And?” The V.P. was stuck in a vat of, “oh, shit.” He was dealing with the wrong mom. My mother didn’t condone my actions, but in the previous years of taking care of us through births, Thanksgiving dinners, boxing matches in the basement, fights on the basketball court, setting fire, accidentally, to a back field, nurturing runaway cows, explaining to us why jail was bad, yet supporting us and the police in the process, she didn’t find this to be a felonious offense. The Vice Principal was speechless and provided his own apology while she listened on the phone and continued folding laundry with underwear skid marks. God bless her, and though I’m sure she was on the express way to heaven, hopefully Heaven isn’t littered with skid marks.

Mom did make me apologize to Nathan. Nathan knew my apology was as phony as me retrieving his shoe over the fence I’d tossed it off of. When he said thanks after jumping over the fence, crossing the closed school ground rules, I then tossed them over again. What a jerk.

Nathan laughed at both of my insincere apologies, but he loved the way my mother handled the “situation”.

He respected my mom, especially when she delivered my sentence for the crime, “Don’t do that again.”

She made every day our Happy Mothers Day.

The Every Other Daily Corona: 6 Seats Away

My old man indoctrinated strangers in a civil, albeit it odd, fashion back in the early eighties when a few of his thirteen children were still in school. You could say he was a man ahead of his time, as he seemed to encourage people to socially distance from him on a routine basis.  He was a suit wearing, neatly combed executive at a radiology clinic in Spokane by day, and well…..a bum in the neighborhood on weekends.  Some of my siblings hated it, but I actually enjoyed it.  One of my brothers didn’t care for it at all.  Our old man would attend baseball games, wearing a mangy sweater with cigarette burns, talking to my brother about his last at bat in between innings.  It was usually encouraging and his analysis was often times spot on.  Dad had the credentials after being drafted to play professional baseball before fighting in the Korean War.  When my brother would return to the dugout, one of his teammates would ask him what that hobo was saying to him.  My brother was ashamed to admit that it was his father.

Taking his six foot rule a bit further with strangers was a bit embarrassing for the rest of us and our mother.  On a short weekend vacation to Seattle, he would find a hotel with an indoor swimming pool and hot tub.  While four of the thirteen children were horsing around in the pool, he wished to use the hot tub.  Once, their was a group of young couples probably in their mid twenties monopolizing the tub when dad was trying to find a place to sit.  There just wasn’t enough room, so he stuck his foot in the water and tried to make small talk with one of the couples.  “I’ve heard one of the easiest ways contract this H.I.V. Virus is sharing a hot tub with others who may have the virus.  Isn’t that the damndest thing you ever heard?”  Three seconds later, he had the tub to himself.  My sister, Maggie, who became a registered nurse and is on the front lines to this day was thoroughly embarrassed by his behavior even at the age of thirteen.  “Dad, that’s a bunch B.S.” Good old Rodney Gannon would just chuckle.

During the aerobics era, we’d often have people in our neighborhood walking the streets to get exercise.  If they lived more than one house away, our old man didn’t know any of them.  He’d be outside smoking a cigarette, and stop them in mid stride just to offer them a cigarette.  I’ve never seen such sinister looks from people.  I thought it was hilarious.  “Well I NEVER!” would be the usual response from some old bag trying to exercise on our street.  You’d never see them twice.  Our dad’s shit eating grin was delightful.  Out of his office on the North Side of Spokane, he made the Valley his own little world by, in very civil ways, pestering those who didn’t know him all for his own amusement.  He took his job so seriously, I think it was his way of winding down, and lightening the world up a bit.  My friends, who knew him well loved it.  While tossing a baseball or football around in the front yard with my friends, they would stop the action and nudge one another and say, “Hey watch.  Mr. Gannon is going to say something funny to this person walking down the street.”  It never failed.  It brought belly laughs for them.  I’d just smile and shake my head.  I guess he was amusing those who knew him as well.

Rodney wouldn’t go to movies much because of the crowds.  We’d sometimes convince him to go to one we knew he’d enjoy.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was playing at a local theater and it was packed, thus difficult to find many open seats together.  You could have referred to it as social distancing from our father at the theater.  I was sitting next to Maggie when she nudged me and had me look up to where the old man was seated.  He’d always buy two supersized barrels of popcorn, one for him and one for others to share, even if they didn’t know him.  Normally, if it wasn’t a packed theater, the people sitting next to him would whisper, “Let’s get the Hell away from this weirdo.”  With no other seats available, they couldn’t move six seats down, so they’d humor him and take the popcorn and pass it on down the line.  That didn’t bother us.  Watching him eat the popcorn was borderline embarrassing.  Anyone who didn’t know him would be convinced it was his last meal.  One handful or front loader at a time, he would shove three quarters of it in his mouth leaving the other quarter in his or someone else’s lap.  That was during the previews.  When the previews were over,  the popcorn was gone, and not wanting to leave his seat, he’d offer a complete stranger twenty bucks to go get two more buckets, one for him and his girlfriend and one for himself.  He’d also tell them to keep the change hoping they’d just leave with his twenty spot and walk to the nearest Chinese restaurant for a decent meal.  They’d return with the popcorn and, by the end of the movie, they even seemed to enjoy his rascally behavior.  With butter soaked hands, they’d even bid our old man adieu by shaking hands with him.  “That was one Hell of a movie.”  And he, was a helluva man.

Youth Group and The Simpsons

In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy spirit.

That’s how we’d begin the Catholic confessional process.  Then, there was, Bless me Father for I have sinned.

Let thee who is innocent or clear of sin cast the first stone…..or something like that.  In Spokane, Washington, evidently everyone who attends church on Sunday is clear of sin, because after mass, the parish members would be casting stones immediately, both figuratively and literally.  You had the National Inquirer old bags gossiping in the parking lot, and you had the children, including me, actually participating in a rock fight on the church’s property.  The old men would just be smoking.

It’s great to feel free of sin.  Guilt is awful.  I don’t go to confession anymore, but this blog can become my sort of confessional medium.  In addition to confessing some of my past sins, I’ll take the liberty to confess a few of my friends’ and brother’s sins…..without their permission of course.

Growing up in the Catholic church, one of the many sacred and ridiculous items to check off your pious list was to attend Youth Group one night a week.  Depending on the year you were born, these classes would be held on either a Sunday or Monday night when you were in high school.  They were preparing us for conformation…..sort of a half ass way of creating a transformation for children of God to Men and Women of God.  You sat in these two to three hour sessions amongst students throughout the Spokane Valley, also parishioners, led by some poor soul searching man or woman preach to us about Heaven and Hell.  Let’s just say it wasn’t on the 17 or 18 year olds’ wish list of things to do on a Sunday or Monday night.

I blame my brothers for many of my abominable sins.  Their Youth Group sessions were on Monday nights.  So, when I was home watching Monday Night Football with our father, my two older brothers would leave the house heading toward St. John’s for their weekly 6 o’clock pain dispenser.  I’d smile wryly as they’d leave the house.  They’d do it by way of the nearest pizza parlor providing the game on television.  Not only did they skip the meetings, one of my brothers, a senior in high school, had a fake identification card so he could buy the pitchers of beer.  (he is now a reverend, compliments of the Internet) It didn’t take me long to figure out why they were so happy and a little wobbly when they’d return.  I was old enough to figure it out.  I was also smart enough not to rat them out for fear of a severe beating.  You didn’t have to sign in to these meetings, and the twenty something teacher never called our home to ask where they were, probably afraid of the same thing I was afraid of.  I think my wise mother figured it out and didn’t care.  Dad would be in bed when they’d return so there was no time for questions.  We already knew how to recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, The Apostle’s Creed and dozens of other written statements pounded into our head once a week at church.  If there were questions, my brothers would open a bible and pick any book according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and quickly discern something they hadn’t discussed in a class they didn’t attend.  It was one of their favorite nights of the week.  Now I have to repent for confessing someone else’s sins.  I just recited ten Hail Marys.  That should be good enough to move on to the following paragraph disclosing one of my own.

By the time I was a senior, after attending the classes religiously as a Junior, I thought that was enough.  My brother, the future reverend, was now living in an apartment on the Spokane River.  This became my fortress of irreverent solitude on Sunday nights.  Although Greg, (oops, I said his name) worked weekends, I had befriended his roommate (an agnostic) who was old enough to buy adult beverages.  Instead of going to Youth Group, which became Youth Puke to us, I’d head to their place to drink beer and watch The Simpsons. It was delightful.  I swear I learned more from The Simpsons than anything I’d learn at Youth Group.

It was there I’d eventually receive my certificate of confirmation.  Never getting bed wetting drunk, just a few beers, I’d leave reciting a semi genuine act of contrition and, by grace of God, return home safely.

In the name of The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,


No Horse

Soccer is terrific if you love it.  Football is great if you can take it.  Basketball is wonderful if you can endure it.  Baseball is magnificent if you can believe it.  Other than baseball, I can’t say I love or even like all of the major sports.  However, I embrace them.

Watching the Major League Baseball Playoffs tonight, I didn’t have a horse in the race.  I didn’t care who won and I only knew of a select few of these elite players participating.  In the 8th inning, I may have been alone in our house, but there was seating room only during that 8th inning when The Washington Nationals were in pursuit of defeating the Milwaukee Brewers.  The city of D.C. blew up with joy rather than uncertainty.  You don’t have to have a horse in the race to enjoy life…..and sports, can provide that joy.

Big News!

Hold the texts.  The Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl in 2019.

Without encouraging my gambling tendencies through Fantasy Football this year, and although I love the sport of American football, my lawn mowing duties are far more important. My wife, currently working Sundays at the local pesticide plant,  gives me an over under on when I will finish the lawn and have dinner ready upon her arrival.  She drives a jalopy, so the odds are usually in my favor.

The Seattle Seahawks will receive a participant ribbon.

Honesty on the west side of our country.


Chicken Lenny and the Shadow

Chickens don’t run around because they are afraid.  They run to avoid conflict and danger, but when summoned to provide assistance, chickens will always be willing to provide a fist, or a beak.

My friend, and my brother’s best friend, Michael Linerud aka, Chicken Lenny, was no chicken even in the Spring.  In our neighborhood, where we played baseball, tackle football, sans the pads, and even boxed in a basement full of harmless blood, Chicken Lenny ran like a chicken, but could cluck like a truck.  I never saw fear in his eyes, but, rather a gleaming spectrum of recognition and intelligence regarding his surroundings.  It was nice knowing he was on our side.

Growing up as the shadow amongst six older brothers, I would often look to Chicken Lenny for that soft, yet tough touch.  Many of my older brothers’ friends would pick on me.  They’d call me names such as tow head, reject, gimpy, lumpy, little bastard, and even muffin top.  While my brothers would laugh, knowing I could handle it, Mike, sometimes, would step in front of those wisecrackers, and say, “Hey, we are four years older than him.”  He would then provide the age old wonderful statement any hero would add at the age of 12, “Pick on someone you own size, namely me.”  My brothers would always have my back, but Chicken Lenny was the guy they could defer to if they had others to deal with when bartering candy on Halloween.  Never a fist was thrown, and I was safe.

Years later, when the others were entering high school, some of us were left behind in the neighborhood mob.  After elementary school would dismiss us, many of my older friends were attending high school and preoccupied with athletics or detention.  Therefore, I would decide to roam the neighborhood on my bicycle.  It was like tossing corn to some of the chickens in our valley.  I was fair game.

Never being a participant of idolatry, I did ,however, have heroes.  One of my heroes showed up one day to provide assistance when I was in trouble.  Chicken Lenny had broken his hand, and fortunately for me, he had taken the day off of school for a doctor’s appointment.  He lived close by, and was taking a walk in the street when he found me being picked on by someone twice my size and twice my age.  I was willing to fight, but my chances in Vegas ruled me a billion to one underdog.  Just like heaven sends us Angels, Chicken Lenny was mine that day.  He diffused the situation immediately with his clear sense of anger witnessing a young friend being picked upon.   The fear in the bully was obvious,  and not a person was harmed.  Chicken Lenny even walked me home that day.  No one followed.  Chicken Lenny and his Shadow were both safe.  I’ll never forget it.

I wish I’d have written this before his demise.  That’s the damnedest of it all.


The Seven Year Old Itch

The love of money and Ding Dongs are the root of all evil.

KidNewspaperGambling had consumed my life by the time I was seven years old.  The transition from horse racing to gambling on football was far too smooth.  It should have raised red, white and blue flags for friends and family.  Yet, at age seven, when you are betting candy bars, one dollar bills, one hundred pennies, twenty five nickels, excessive yard work, or even a trade for a better school lunch, it almost seemed both trivial and fun…….which is exactly what is best about gambling.  Unless you are a professional, it better be about the fun.

In 1980, I won a Super Bowl bet with my first chump.  Years before I turned seven, while recognizing I was losing bets against elders, I decided to pick on some of my peers.  It was the first time I made a bet on a team I wasn’t rooting for, but Vegas knew more than me or this other clown only betting on numbers and colors.

The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the sinister Oakland Raiders, with the Raiders being favored by 6 and a half.  I didn’t like the Raiders, but I knew they were better than the Eagles.  My friend, Brian, loved the Eagles and didn’t know they’d probably lose to the Raiders. This is the seven year old’s conundrum.  How do you bet someone with no money at the age of seven?  Our only collateral was food.

Bless my mother’s loving heart, Brian’s mother was always on the cutting edge of sack lunches where as my mother was more interested in a proper lunch withholding dessert. His mother placed items in his lunch making his sack look like a brown bag Frito Lay/Hershey factory. My lunch was white bread, mayo, and processed Buddig chicken, turkey, beef, or whatever kind of Fisher Price meat one could only carve with an exacto knife.  She tossed in some veggies as a chaser.

Never a bully, I wasn’t just going to steal Brian’s lunch, and he wasn’t willing to trade his Ring Dings or Cheetos for celery sticks.  My mother had maintained this strange notion that my lunches should be healthy and the snacks we had at home be reserved for special occasions such as the Super Bowl and other phony holidays.  Therefore, I thought, with a few embellishments, I could score some of his midday delights.  It took gambling to make that work.  Although we did have Ding Dongs at home, and depending on the weather or amount of people coming in and out of our house, it was never a sure bet you’d get one before mom had to make her weekly run to the store.  So, when I told my friend I would give him two ding dongs for his package of Doritos, (something we never had) he needed proof.  He needed to see the Ding Dongs before we solidified the bet.

The Wednesday morning before the Super Bowl, just before receiving a kiss on the cheek from my mother on the way to school, I created a diversion by spotting two chickadees in our backyard.  My mother is a sucker for birds.  On her way to get some seed, I snatched two Ding Dongs before she could wave goodbye.

At school, Brian asked me if I had the goods.  Opening my denim jacket revealing two silvery encased snacks, he was more than satisfied.  The bet was on.  As a good Catholic boy, I didn’t succumb to temptation that day.  The Ding Dongs were properly replaced upon returning home.  Eating them before the bet would have pissed off the gambling Gods.  Bad Karma.

My betting team, the Oakland Raiders, ended up cruising to a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.  That next Monday morning, my friend was there with the Doritos.  I knew he would be good for it.  He saw me flashing my Ding Dongs around to other cats in our elementary school the week before, and he knew some pencils might be broken if he didn’t pay up.  That’s really when it started.

By the time I was in the fourth grade, Frito Lay was making different brands of chips never available at home.  Still winning, I began doubling down on empty Cool Ranch bags just to display my playground credibility.  Those sandwich sized bags were easy to hide and could be found all over any grocery store littering complex.  I probably could have made more money off of recycling.  A guilty conscience has no room for a successful gambler.  After a four year run of winning Super Bowl bets just to satisfy my savory tooth, I began feeling remorse as they were not in my league.  It was like taking Doritos from babies.  When you describe the point spread to someone knowing nothing about the point spread, it’s just not fair.  I was getting 20 points when my team was favored by 3 and the hook. (The hook is the half point separating the winners from the losers.) I couldn’t lose.

Sometimes, when hobbies lose their luster, you get bored.  Gambling lost its luster when I began playing games competitively.  Win or lose, the scoreboard provided satisfaction after a ballgame.  And, it was always fair, even when we’d come out on the losing side.

Post college, when I began earning my own money, I dabbled in gambling once again.  Winning and losing….(mostly losing)….. I had some fun and ruined some remote controls along the way.  It’s been years since I’ve been to Vegas or Reno, but I have fun betting with a brother or friend, or even playing fantasy foolsball.  I don’t enjoy betting in groups.  It dilutes the party.  One on one gambling is fun, because it usually involves a good lunch.

I’ll be giving points this weekend while rooting for the Atlanta Falcons over The Tom Bradies.  Win or lose, I’ll be eating well somewhere, and it won’t be just a bag of chips.





The Revolution

Just to let everyone in cyberspace know, the New Year doesn’t officially begin until the college football National Champion is proved to be worth the wait.  Therefore, don’t worry about your phony resolutions until Tuesday, the ninth of January.  Wipe that sweat off your brow, and live it up for two more days.  I’m making stew.

Hopeless Football Society

On a very slow day of meaningless college football games last weekend, when weeds outside were calling to be whacked, I had to find some justifiable way of remaining on the couch.  A call from a friend made it all possible.  He inspired me to write a very poetic blog.

9-whittierThe Whitworth Pillaging Pirates from Spokane, Wa, were traveling to play against the Whittier Poets of “somewhere” in California.  It’s appropriate the “Poets” don’t really have a proper place of residence.  It’s simply, “somewhere in California”.  Lost souls.

Instinctually, I began thinking of Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish, or the Ragin Cajuns from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.  These are somewhat intimidating, if not menacing mascots.  Hell, even the Stanford Tree makes the Poets sound withered with fear and desperation.  So, I couldn’t help but imagine how CBS’s own Brent Musburger would announce their presence on the grid iron.

“Here come the Depressed and Socially Dysfunctional Poets of Whittier University!”

“And here they are, the Rambling and Blathering Poets of Whittier.”

“Make no mistake, these are the darkest Poets you will ever see on turf.”

“Just about to exit the locker room and enter the modern day gladiator stage will be California’s own, ‘what the f–k is a Haiku?’  Whittier Poets!”

Pre-game prep, also referred to as, “The Emily Dickenson Stretch” requires players to stay, completely secluded, in an attic for days before the game, studying game film, writing sonnets and pondering the difference amongst heaven, hell, purgatory and the possibility of half time.  During the game, defenses facing the Poetic offensive diatribe succumb to abject confusion and dilated eyes.  The only caveat is whichever team wins, they won’t know it until they are dead.  That defines the life and death of a poet.

So, smoke it up, you bards of Somewhere, California.  You will never know if you win a National Title, but you will successfully depress people throughout the nation merely by wearing a weird helmet and dimming the stadium lights.


Ok ok ok…

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have always loved rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.  I am not a member of the 12 man society, but I love those who are.  They entertain me and inspire me almost as much as a Matthew McConaheeee commercial.  In the fourth quarter of today’s game, my wife had given up hope on a Seattle victory, and I tried to give her strength to hold on to her dream of the Hawks winning their opening game.  Demoralized beyond the point of husbandry pleasantries, my words were fruitless.  She had evaporated into a couch already saturated with Seattle Mariner tears.  It was then, when Matthew McCohancahee, during a commercial break, gave her relief at the precise moment she required it.  It wasn’t the car he was selling, and it wasn’t the pool he was oddly falling in, making us all question his sanity, and it wasn’t even those eyes….those steel blue eyes placing you in a sauteed mushroom trance.  Rather, it was…..well, other than absurdly ridiculous, a wake up call, reminding us that reality can become unreality, and that can become reality.  Wow.  Our heads were spinning with both excitement and abject confusion.

The following might be true.  Then again, it might also be true.  Just try and make it false, and that may also be true.  (It’s simple Matthew McCognicence 101.)

There was no laughter, only profound admiration and respect for Matthew and his craft.  When the commercial came to its epic conclusion, we were subliminally reminded of his greatest line sending him into a wildly successful vortex of celebrity bliss.  “Are you lookin at me?  Are you lookin at me?”  Wait a minute. That’s the wrong line and perhaps a different actor.  “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That’s not the right one either. My fault.  I guess it was something a little more relaxed which was what we both needed before giving up on our home team. “Alright, alright, alright…”.  Shortly after we properly remembered those words of biblical proportion, the Seahawks pulled off an unlikely victory.

Alright, Alright, Alright.

I love that guy!