May 22, 2017
by Geoff Shannon
0 comments

The Heart Of It All

 

We sleep in the smaller bedroom on the second floor, the one just at the end of the staircase. The windows in the room face toward the east, and in the morning, unless the blinds are fully closed, the sun wakes us up. Almost always, but especially on cool springs mornings, one of us is usually cuddled up on top of the other.

Cornbeef, our orange fluff of a cat, trots into the room, the bell on her collar jingling, her steps as loud as a small child’s. She taps us urgently on the face or shoulder, demanding to be fed. The alarm sounds, and we submit to our obligations.

On the weekdays, we work. Sunday mornings are better. I’ll put on the gray flannel Ace Hotel robe Sam bought me for Christmas, make a cup of drip coffee with beans from Zeke’s or Rise Up (both Maryland companies), turn on Barclay’s English Premier League, hopefully a Liverpool game, and read the print copy of the Sunday New York Times.

After coffee, and maybe a piece of French bread and strawberry preserves, Sam will toil in the backyard. When she bought the house, there were two rose bushes already planted in the garden. The previous owner, whose family bought the house 95 years before, said the roses dated back to the 1920s, so we kept them. One bush towers over the yard, and produces pink flowers with delicate petals. On the other grows hardy, double-stuffed burgundy blooms.

Instead of grass, she’s cultivated a field of thyme, and when you step on it the back yards smells like lemon. There’s are also peonies, and a large purple lavender bush that Sam started from just an herb planting. Succulents and marigolds peek over the edges of clay pots. Tomatoes come in the summer, followed by cucumber and pumpkin vines that crawl their way up trestles made from old Baltimore storm doors that Sam painted crimson.

At night, the white Christmas lights strung along the trestles and stuffed into the lavender twinkle alive, as do the small outdoor artisanal light bulbs that dangle from the pantry. In the summer, fireflies flicker on and off in accompaniment. A neighbor once told Sam that her mother, who was sick at the time, loved nothing more than to look out her window and watch the backyard come alive in the night.

The house is simple enough inside. Sam and her parents, with a little help from myself, stripped four generations of wallpaper away from the plaster, then painted the rooms in various greens and golds. The hardwood floors still sparkle, though kitchen and bathroom work remain.

In the spring and summer, we’ll open our large front window, let the breeze drift in through the screen, and watch a robin build her a nest under our porch roof. Later, in the evening, we’ll listen to our vinyl records, or watch the Os game on mute, or read books and sip on whiskey and ice.

The is the core. The heart of it all. The bedroom. The cat. Coffee in the morning, and roses in the backyard. The walls painted in greens and golds, and the breeze off the porch. And Samantha, who built this, and in her wisdom shared it with me.

March 5, 2017
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on A Winning Bet

A Winning Bet

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“I spent $500 on the fifth horse, in the sixth race. I think his name was Chips Ahoy.” -The Hold Steady

Trusty Friend, My father’s childhood home, is located off of Baltimore-Washington Parkway at the MD I-175 exit, where Howard County meets Anne Arundel County in central Maryland. The farm was once over 200 acres, but it’s gone, replaced by another new development in a massive sea of construction flooding central Maryland. The original two-story vernacular Italianate homestead is still there though, the centerpiece of The Elms at Shannon’s Glen, a new build luxury apartment complex.  Continue Reading →

January 12, 2016
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on Meditations in a Medieval Winter (Ode to a Good Man)

Meditations in a Medieval Winter (Ode to a Good Man)

 

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“This is where I’ve known people since I was a child. This is an enormous asset. I can’t imagine living without this asset, of being friends with people I went to the first grade with. And we’ve stayed in touch, all these years. It gives your life an integrity that it otherwise might not have.” – Garrison Keillor

Strange reflections during this mid-winter in Baltimore, as the darkness lingers and the chill sets in.

Holidays barreled down on the neighborhood with the ferocity of a technicolor hurricane this year. Cars continuously snaked down the Avenue, waiting in turn for a brief glimpse of Hampden’s Miracle on 34th Street. We celebrated New Year’s Eve at a French restaurant about three blocks up from the Christmas lights. Ate nine courses. Bone marrow butter and monkfish. Grilled duck, oysters and caviar. We drank too much, then joined a thousand others as a sparkling mirrorball dropped from a lamp post, and Baby New Year, played annually by a neighborhood Falstaff wearing a handlebar mustache and little else, sprayed champagne onto the masses.  Continue Reading →

August 31, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on The Camellia Under Water: The Secret Garden

The Camellia Under Water: The Secret Garden

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(Last in a three-part series. Read parts one and two).

“Shallow water, oh mama” – Mardi Gras Indian traditional

The Tuesday after Katrina, we were stuck in a Houston motel, lost as to what to do next.

We were worried about friends and family still in New Orleans. We were worried about jobs and houses. The levees broke next to the city’s Lakeview neighborhood, flooding my girlfriend’s house with eight feet of water. My car was sitting in four feet of water. Houstonians donated  clothes and toiletries, leaving items in large cardboard boxes. The motel owners held a barbecue, and we ate hot dogs and played basketball with other refugees. Continue Reading →

August 26, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on The Camellia Under Water: Headlines of a Small Town

The Camellia Under Water: Headlines of a Small Town

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(part 2 in a three-part series. Read part one here.)

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings.” – Thorton Wilder, Our Town

A year in the Slidell Sentry-News headlines.

Firemen Collecting Goods For Soldiers

Stations will accept non-perishables for the U.S. Military

July 21, 2004: This was my earliest byline I could find in the stack of Sentry-News I saved, and that made it through Katrina. The Iraq War was more real in Slidell than in any other place I lived in. Many townspeople belonged to the active military or the Louisiana Guard, and had been called up. In that year, at least one St. Tammany Parish resident died fighting overseas, and another local man survived a Blackhawk helicopter crash. Many residents also worked at Textron, a local plant that built armored security and personnel vehicles.

In the July 25 edition, I wrote an article on Platoon Sergeant Paul Kavanaugh, a Slidell resident who earned a bronze star after subduing a gas station riot during his 11-month patrol in Bayji, a city on the southern tip of the Sunni triangle. He survived 140 degree days, 110 degree nights, bullets, old munitions and his sanity, all while his family were stuck back in Ft. Hood.

“It’s extremely difficult when you have a family at home. I would think ‘good lord what if something happened to me.’ That’s the hardest part. But you have a mission to do, you focus on that, and not anything else. Otherwise, it’s really easy to lose it.”

Paul made it through his tour of duty.

Continue Reading →

August 24, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on The Camellia Under Water: Last Days of the Sentry-News

The Camellia Under Water: Last Days of the Sentry-News

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(Part one in a three-part series on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina)

I heard they cleaned up that wreck outside Slidell
just before the dawn
I heard five people got murdered
by a drunk woman talking on her cellphone
Grayson Capps

There’s nothing particularly special about the Aug. 26, 2005 edition of the Slidell Sentry-News. I did write two front-page articles, including the above the fold headliner. Continue Reading →

July 26, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on Defending the Homefront

Defending the Homefront

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The rat unleashed a horrible scream, and her skin bubbled up with goosebumps. The stupid rodent wedged itself into her backyard fence, its legs still stuck in a spring trap she had set underneath her back stairs, and its torso shoved through chain links. Every time it moved, it pulled itself more tighter into its predicament, and the fence closed around its body in a vise. Continue Reading →

January 21, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on Just A Heartbeat Away: The Short, Depressing History of Maryland’s Lt. Governorship

Just A Heartbeat Away: The Short, Depressing History of Maryland’s Lt. Governorship

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MSA Archives

Wednesday, Jan. 21 was inauguration day here in Maryland, and newly-elected Gov. Larry Hogan (R) assumed office at the state house in Annapolis. More importantly, Maryland swore in it’s new Lt. Governor, one of the least important political positions in the entire country. —G. S.

Note – I’m an amateur historian. If there is an error, please let me know. Thanks. 

Want to be governor of Maryland?

Step One – Don’t become Lt. Governor.

Step Two – There are no other steps. Continue Reading →

January 11, 2015
by Geoff Shannon
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New York/January

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i
Women in fur coats
hustle past stacks of dead pines.
Christmas cadavers.

ii
A pitcher is worth
16 thousand dollars, when
sold from truck garages.

iii
8th Avenue reeks
of spruce and marijuana.
Cold breath? Cannabis.

iv
Dead gorilla hair
pulled taut over styrofoam.
It’s for the children.

v
Beautiful Babies,
blondes, dripping minks and leather,
devastate Chelsea.

September 12, 2014
by Geoff Shannon
Comments Off on Freak Flag Day

Freak Flag Day

 

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I ordered two Manhattans, both served on the rocks. One for myself, one for Sam. The bartender at Club Charles poured the drinks into water glasses. They were stiff. The bitters, bourbon and vermouth blended together pleasantly. Continue Reading →