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Witness to history

It might, I suppose have been an hallucination, some kind of aura triggered by impending cardiac arrest from shoveling snow, but I swear that it was real and I saw it.

This morning, a city snowplow made its way up Plymouth Road.

Not only that, it turned and plowed Roselawn down the hill.

This is staggering. In twenty-three years on the block, I have seen a snowplow no more than two or three times, and only God has ever cleared Roselawn.



Posted by John McIntyre at 2:27 PM | | Comments (16)


As God is my witness, I'll never be snowbound again! #WhatScarlettWouldSay

Prof. McI.,

Perchance the city snowplow operator was new on the job, and unfamiliar w/ your chronically neglected neighborhood, unwittingly clearing both your Plymouth Rd., and for an unintended bonus run, the downhill grade on nearby Roselawn, to boot.

Are you sure the accumulated snow wasn't piled up as high as an Oliphant's eye (HA!)-----to mangle a lyric from that most popular old Broadway smash-hit musical (and movie), "Oklahoma!"?

(Original leading man, Gordon MacRae, by the by, was not related to my nefarious branch of Clan McCrae, who as family lore would have it, were apparently a motley rabble of scheming Scots Highland sheep stealers, (MacRaes, no doubt), who, en masse, got shuffled off to Ulster/ Northern Ireland (not Buffalo, NY) where they eventually adopted the irish "McC", as opposed to the more typical Scottish appellation, "MaC" -----"MaC" translating from the ancient Gaelic as "son of". But I digress.

Prof. McI., perhaps the street signage for your Plymouth Rd. was obscured by humongous snow drifts, or just random snow and ice build-up, while the hapless city snowplow driver became temporarily discombobulated by a sudden flurry of 'white-out', and went off his normal course, inadvertently plowing your street.

Now your notion of God exclusively clearing Roselawn of snow sounds like a bit of a stretch. Frankly, I could not see the stereotypical, bearded, cloaked Michelangelo-esque vision of the Almighty operating a snowplow for cripe- sake.......... a laborious task well below his lofty station. Now God reaching w/ extended index finger out of the celestial miasma to connect w/ that first mortal sinner, the buck-naked Adam as depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco, seems perfectly feasible. Right?

Now the late comic, George Burns, as God, wouldn't have been caught dead plowing snow, 'cause his signature cigars would risk getting soggy, and manuel labor was hardly his forte. Now banishments, and wielding lightening bolts was just plain vaudeville schtick, writ large, so these Godly powers would be second nature to Burns/ God.

Prof. McI., perhaps you were thinking more of Mother Nature performing here magic on Roselawn Ave. (?), allowing the gradual transformation of accumulated snow to morph into your basic slush, and finally flowing water, w/ nary a city snowplow in sight.

Whatever the cause of this unexpected, but much welcome local winter boon, I'm very happy for you-and-yours, as well as your fellow neighbors. An occasion to celebrate. Yet I'd save the neighborhood block party for the spring.

Old Man Winter, in your neck-of-the-woods, has likely just started flexing his muscles, and more nasty, extreme weather is surely on his 2011 to-do list. Just sayin'.

And this week, we poor Los Angelenos have had to endure almost four straight days of stifling temps hovering in the low 80s/ F. It's just not fair, I tell you. HA!


Back to the Scots again! As it happens, Mr McRae, whatever his antecedents, is from Syracuse, New York. He was at Eastwood High School with my father, who was not a Scot. Glad to help.

Alex, I grew up in California, and I would not trade my four magnificent seasons of the year here for the eternal (yawn) sunshine, punctuated of course by the occasional earthquake.

No, Patricia, Irish, I imagine. Descended from Padraig t'Erse, no doubt.

GrandBoy goes to school on the real estate formerly known as Hamilton Jr. High School. Unless a miracle happens between Friday afternoon (when she went to scout out the area) and Monday morning, his mother will have to park on Harford Road and walk him in.

Top o' the morn, Picky,

If I may toss in my 2-cents-worth on the topic of what might constitute an 'animal hoarding reality show', I would submit it would likely be a cable TV, limitedly-scripted enterprise where we would bear witness to some (usually) quite elderly, isolated folk who seem to have no personal limits when it comes to keeping animals (often cats, but also dogs), in their abode, in defiance of sundry official ordinances addressing said thorny domestic issues.

In point of fact, I had just such a cat-hoarding senior/ pensioner living three doors down from me-----let's call her Lorrie, to protect her anonymity. For several years Lorrie harbored literally scores of fuzzy felines, and in addition regularly fed a host of neighborhood feral strays at her doorstep every morning. She would rarely let these rogue cats indoors to meet her horde of in-house, most favored, pussycats.

Lorrie had been 'raided' by our local City animal-control authorities on several occasions over the years, and in each instance most of her cats were permanently removed from her premises, leaving her w/ merely two, or three individuals------within the permissible limit.

Yet within months, she'd be taking in more, and more strays, who would invariably breed kittens, and the feline numbers would mount up into the 15-20 individual creature range, and beyond. She'd essentially be back to square one. Pussies galore!

In chatting, on occasion, to our regular postman on our route, he related to me that Lorrie's house often reeked so badly of cat urine, and feces, particularly on those So Cal steamy mid-summer scorcher days, that he would literally have to hold his nose when he delivered her mail at her front porch. Not a pleasant scenario, to say the least. Here in America, we all know that famous postmen's motto of undauntedly forging on thru wind,rain, sleet, and all manner of inclement weather, but cat pee and cat poop is a whole other cross to bear. HA!

Sadly, a few years ago, Lorrie began exhibiting the mid-stage signs of full-blown dementia, and her son was forced to admit her to a permanent assisted living facility, and eventually sold her home-cum-'cat-house', but not before it was almost totally gutted, refurbished, and most importantly, thoroughly fumigated, almost miraculously transforming it into a totally livable home. Within months it was sold to a nice Armenian-American family, who had no inkling of the home's animal hoarding dark past life.

Now Picky, I'm wondering how following the daily real-life travails of a classic animal hoarder on a reality TV show would be that terribly compelling 'tele' watching fare, and further, who would be the prime target audience for such a clearly bizarre freak show? Not really MY cup of tea, especially on a full stomach. If you get my drift?

But some weird folk out there in TV land would watch paint dry, or grass grow if there was some ultimate payoff----- say a prize for not falling asleep w/ a cold slice of pizza in your 'pie-hole', sprawled out on a ratty vinyl couch. HA!

I'm pretty certain in your jolly old England there are cases of eccentric folk who have this odd proclivity for hoarding little beasties? You know, like the infamous local 'toad lady', or the 'earthworm chappy', or say the 'old coot' (who collects oodles of birdies), in one's neighborhood. These generally shuttered-in folk rarely emerge from their insular warrens, and only when perhaps watching the local nightly television news do we catch a live video of a mildly frantic animal rights raid on said hoarders' humble abodes, and they're dragging off some defiant elderly offender to the idling paddy wagon screaming, "My kitties! My kitties!".

The animal hoarders amongst us. They are definitely out there, but like the elusive whip-poor-will, a decidedly nocturnal old bird, they are rarely observed in the light of day, and carry on their odd collecting mania behind closed doors, and shuttered blinds. Indeed, there is a fine line between genuine affection for animals, and total, over-the-top obsession.

As the late, great Rod Serling, drawing on his ever-smoldering Camel Light, might conclude, "All things are possible........ in that dark, stinky, murky, cluttered space we've come to know as........ The Hoarding Zone". (Cough!)-----THE END



Sorry Prof. McI.

Some of us naughtier bloggers have been going so far astray, topic-wise, of late, that I totally lost my proper orientation as to what posted article of yours I should have been addressing.

My last posting, appearing above, (Jan. 30, @12:08PM), should have been entered in response to blogger Picky's query to Laura Lee re/ animal hoarding in the commentary section of your earlier-posted article headed, 'More white death from the sky' from Jan. 27, '11. White death........ animal hoarding. Hmm......... makes perfect sense, don't it?

It's all good, no? HA!

Prof. McI., hope the snow situation is getting a little more bearable this weekend in your fair city. And don't overdo it w/ the shoveling of the white stuff, which can get pretty heavy as it thaws. Cardiac arrest is no joke, and we want you around, in relatively good health and spirits, for many more decades to come. Just sayin'.


Stone me, Alex, yes, we have a plentiful supply of lunatics, many of them animal-bound, and I would say far more than our fair share of reality shows (which seem usually to exist some distance from reality). I just couldn't somehow put the two together. Now I know I don't, in fact, want to ...

There actually is no reliable correlation between Mc, Mac, M', and other variants on the one hand, and Irish vs. Scots Highlander on the other. All of them are mere abbreviations of mac 'son' followed by the father's name in the genitive case. Sometimes the abbreviation goes even further, becoming a mere initial C or G.

   —Éoghan Mac Éoghain (de bhunadh na hÉireann)

John Cowan,

Respectfully John, I DID mention in my earlier post that "McC" & "MaC", (but surely not "MicMaq", an Algonquin-speaking Native American tribe traditionally of the Gaspé, Nova Scotian, and Maine regions of our northeast), translate from the original Gaelic tongue to "son of", which you managed to reiterate in your last dispatch.

However, I DO grant you that there is likely no real definitive distinction between "McC"s and "MaC"s as far as either being more inherently Scottish, or more Irish, as I've discovered that there are several folk, over the centuries, born-and-bred for generations in their native Ulster/ Northern Ireland, who proudly carry the "MaC" appellation.

I guess as a youngster growing up back in Canada in during the '50s and '60s, playing the bagpipes beginning at ten years of age, and ending my rather short competitive piping career at around nineteen, I just fell for my immediate (and extended) family's assumption that folk w/ the "McC" handle where automatically Irish, whilst the "Mac"s, naturally had to be of Scottish origin. Basically accepting their clear stereotyping as nothing short of gospel.

When one considers the fact that the historic, and legendary region of Dalriada, straddling 'the great briny' between a smallish area of northeastern Ulster (Ireland) and a larger swath of the southwestern Scottish Highlands and Isles (Argylshire and environs), was thought to be the ancient genealogical crucible, of sorts, for fostering the rise and coronation of many a future Scottish king, (who may have had deep earlier Irish familial roots, yet chose to ultimately settle in Caledonia), we can, to some degree, appreciate the murkiness of national bloodlines, and how firm distinctions between Scots and Irish remain fuzzy, and open to debate, to this very day.

I was fortunate in my short self-guided tour of Scotland back in the summer of 1996 to actually visit an important historic site in Argylshire, namely the ruins of Dun (fort) Add, a modest natural granite outcropping w/ few traces of its former fortified structure remaining on tact, rising above a flat plain of bucolic farm land, w/ the oxbow-meandering River Add, only a stone's-throw away.

What was so remarkable for me was that at the very summit of this historic ruin, only a few hundred feet above the alluvial plain, were two very special, significant archeological reminders of this sites historic, and storied past. The first 'artifact', was actually an impressively rendered carved pictographic image of a stylized incised running wild boar, perhaps three feet in length. Historians believe that this could have been an inscription w/ some important ritual significance left by the earlier invading Picts.

However for me, the coup-de-grase had to be the discovery of two splayed. side-by-side hand-prints carved into the hard granite in a flattish area that had clearly been fashioned as some manner of ritual area, and which, according to the posted historical signage was thought to have been where many of the earliest Dalriadaen kings of Scotland had literally been positioned in supplication, on hands-and-knees, to receive their crowning glory. Just envisioning such a scenario immediately made my imagination reel, being closer to historical greatness than perhaps I'd ever been in my entire life. Well......... the emotional experience of later roaming the famed battlefield (killing field) at Culloden thru a steady Inverness-style 'Scottish mist', and enveloping gray skies, had to be up there, as well. But I digress.

My point in sharing this personal anecdote is basically to illustrate how much of a kind of cross-pollination of Irish and Scottish culture, and family co-mingling occurred at the dawn of what we today recognize loosely as the Scottish-Irish continuum.

I've read from fairly reliable sources that genealogically, my surname, "McCrae" could likely have derived from the earlier Clan McGraith, or "son of Grace" (in Gaelic), which is often seen in shortened form, by dropping the "i", hence McGrath.

Also the last name McGraw, w/ both the seemingly ubiquitous Dr. Phil and the popular country crooner/ sometime actor Tim McGraw (Mr. Faith Hill HA!) being notable members of America's Clan McGraw, is also rooted in the McGraith 'precedent'.

(Sorry Patricia L'Erse. Can't seem to quite shake off my Scottish/ Irish heritage fixation. HA!)

John Cowan-----Always appreciate and enjoy your thoughtful, and informative comments, and the thrust and parry of civil, and lively debate, and discussion.


I was going to try to draw a straight line between the invasion of Caledonia by the Irish Scotti and the plantation of Ulster by Scots, but that way lies the entrance to the Labyrinth.

Happily the continuum goes further than you suggest - and I'm not just talking about the Anglo Saxon lowlands. Most of us in these islands are descended from the people who resettled these lands as they re-emerged from the ice 10k to 20k years ago. There's been a fair bit of coming and going in that time, but also a splendid degree of continuum.


Thanks much for your follow-up post.

Indeed, the post-ice-age inhabitants of what would later be designated by historians as Caledonia, then Scotland, basically the early influx of various pagan (animistic) neolithic former hunter-gatherers, who settled to form rudimentary agrarian communities, left their distinctive mark on the cultural ethos and formative lived-landscape of this part of Europe to this day, ever-shrouded in an intriguing mix of myth, legend and actual recorded history. Long live the "continuum"! HA! (Did these guys invent the legendary haggis. HA! Wow! Haggis in a wooly mammoth stomach. Yummy!)

In fact, one of the most fun and intriguing aspects of my trip to 'ye olde sod' back in 1996 was my somewhat systematic tracking down of some of the most storied ancient neolithic inhabited sites, w/ remnants of standing stone circles, and several circular, low-lying stone-built/ sodded structures that one entered from above ground, eventually descending, usually thru a very narrow passage into a somewhat eerie, yet clearly hallowed under-ground, dark space.

At many of these neolithic sites you'd find curious pictographic images carved in the rock structures, often of the eternal coil (an almost universal motif, but a favorite of the early Celts), or perhaps just a cluster of deep, rounded, small indentations, whose significance one could only surmise. Some of these stone structures were undoubtedly burial, or ritual gathering sites, as were various odd hillocks, looking too perfect to be actual natural landforms. I was just totally entranced by these brushes w/ Scotland's ancient, pre-Christian past. North of the famed battlefield at Culloden in Invernessshire there was a particularly impressive, sprawling neolithic site that captivated my attention for quite a spell. Can't recall its name, but I believe it began w/ a "C". (Boy i'm a big help. HA!)

In my view, one can't minimize the telling impact of the encroaching Norse culture, as well, in what we know today as Scotland, Ireland, and England, w/ Dublin established around 841AD as a thriving Viking settlement. The Norsemen apparently also established a kingdom, of sorts, in York (England), as well as major settlements in the regions of Northumbria and Strathclyde. The Picts (a Germanic people), it's been noted, had a significant impact on the historic evolution of the earlier-mentioned Dalriada region, the seat of many early Scottish monarchs coming to power, w/ lineages rooted in Ireland.

Which brings me to a major 'boo-boo' in my recounting of my visit to Dun Add in '96. Oops! My bad.

In doing a post-post check, if you will, on Wikipedia for "Dun Add" (or Dunadd), I soon discovered that my recall from back in 1996 was slightly flawed, and that the carved 'prints', were not splayed hand prints as I had claimed in my earlier post, but rather, in fact, was a singular, rather large, somewhat crude footprint impression. At least I seemed to have gotten the notion of the suspected ritual crowning of Scottii kings tie-in w/ the mysterious footprint impression, correct.

My theory is that I've been living in the shadows, and rarefied star-struck milieu of Hollywood for so long now (some 31 years), that somehow I must have conflated my dim, faded recollection of the Dun Add carved-in-granite human 'prints' (actually a single foot print), w/ the somewhat similar shoe and hand prints of various silver-screen acting legends preserved in cement for posterity at Hollywood's famous Mann's Chinese Theater, just beyond the storied Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Wow! I didn't know James Cagney had such little hands and tiny feet? HA!)

I know that was a pretty lame excuse, but that's all I've got folks. HA!

Picky, thanks for your keen, and informative observations, no matter what the subject of discussion. It's so very cool to commune w/ someone over the Pond who seems to have an open mind, myriad interests, enjoys the back-and-forth of shared ideas and opinion, brings a unique U.K. perspective to the table, and appears to rarely suffers fools gladly.

Have a great week, Picky.

Let's hope that escalating 'dustup' in Egypt settles down, a tad. Brings back scary memories for me of the famous Suez crisis when I was just a young tyke. At the time, folks feared it could be the catalyst for a third World War.

Ta! Ta! for now,


Alex - do you have a source for Picts being Germanic? Traditionally it was thought their language, at least, was Brythonic, but there's something of a mystery about it all. If they were in fact Germanic, that's victory or Stephen Oppenheimer's theories about a pre-Roman Germanic presence in Britain.


Touché, old sport!

You never cease to amaze me in the profundity, and breadth of your erudition. Could it be the Islay single-malt whisky kicking in? HA!

Indeed, I must have confused the "Picts", (as you so correctly indicated----linguistically of the largely indigenous-to-Briton Bythonic 'strain' w/ nary a Teuton in sight), w/ those pesky invading Jutes, who WERE clearly of Germanic stock.

Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Picts, Vikings, Normans-----I mean who didn't have some vested interest in laying claim, and then settling in these rugged, yet naturally beautiful northern isles?

So Picky, this Oppenheimer fellow you mentioned should definitely not cite yours truly as a credible proof-source for his theories re/ a possible "pre-Roman presence in Briton".

Hope you are having a jolly good week, thus far, as we embark on the shortest month of them all, w/ St. Valentine's Day only a mere fortnight (roughly) away.

As they say at the historic "Indy 500"..........."Gentlemen, start your engines!", or as they say at the senior assisted living center, "Where are those dang blue pills. Valentine's Day gets me all frisky?" (Oh behave! HA!)



Picky-----In referring to Mr.Oppenheimer's 'theories" in my last dispatch, I should have typed, "pre-Roman GERMANIC presence in Briton", having unwittingly left out the key word "Germanic". Oh well.

Serves me right for rushing, and adding that little bit of sassy 'cheek' at the end. HA!

Ta! Ta!


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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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