Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

June 2021

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.”
– Al Bernstein

Here we are with a lessening of the cautions for the Pandemic which seems to have encouraged our authors to reach for their pens or keyboards! It is a pleasure to bring our readers new authors this month of heat and thunderstorm warnings, so let's mention Linda Tate who wrote the article "How We Love Things with Pockets." Linda had shared her thoughts in the group page (Writings of Life) of another of our regular authors - Judith Kroll. We are pleased Linda agreed to publish it with us.

Judith's column "On Trek" is titled "Unity" for June and presents her loving anticipation of what could be. John I. Blair's column "View from My Back Steps" announces his dismay in how his garden view has become more like peering into a jungle. Mattie Lennon tells us how the virtual Writer's Week of Listowel is being conducted, while sharing fond memories by several writers about past sessions there.

Marilyn Carnell launches into archaelogical explanations and some surprising facts about Missouri in "Sifoddling Along," while Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" tells how his students are studying about new inventions of the Space age. Rod Cohenour in "Cooking with Rod" presents a recipe to span the ages, with his Midwest Country Cut Barbecue Ribs.

Melinda Cohenour, "Armchair Genealogy" is on hand with an announcement and a brief discussion to herald the increasing number of tree residents in her family. Pauline Evanosky's column "Woo Woo" has some valuable tips and explanations concerning meditation.

Poems in this issue set the pace with new-to-our-pages Randy Jackson who is from your editor's stomping grounds but has had a much greater view of the world than afforded her. Be sure to read his bio when you view his two poems: "To My Daughter" and "The Old Oak Tree."

Our poets offer many viewpoints: "Retirement," "Rambling on This Fine Morning," and "Major and Minor Worries" by Walt Perryman; "A Distant Bell," "I Caught Myself," and "Like Every Other Day" by Bruce Clifford; and these four by Bud Lemire --"The 45's," "Fear of Things to Come," "You're A Hero," and "I Don't Use Make Up."

Returning writer Barbara Irvin sent the small poem with the big title "Emptiness And Entitlement" (I want to be treated in a special way.) John I. Blair added these two poems to his nearly a thousand we have published through the years, "Sugar Ants" and "On Turning 80."

Once again we offer praise and appreciation to our webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, Mike Craner, who keeps everything functioning with his ingenuity and consideration. Thanks, Mike!

We will see you in July!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

My, my, my. Our tree is growing by leaps and bounds!!

This month's column is all about the joy of New Life. Your author has had several sleepless days and nights as we welcome our newest great grandbaby. He and his mommy had a difficult time after a rather pleasant pregnancy. Our tiny precious boy must stay and entertain the NICU team for several more days as he catches up in development. But our hearts are filled with joy!

Our newest edition is but one of the next generation to be welcomed to the family. I am absolutely positive my beloved sister Jacquie is looking down with love from Heaven as her latest great-grandchild arrived just this past month. Another beautiful child with proud and loving parents.

And the editor of our E-zine (my beloved sister) is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her latest great-great-grandchild, scheduled to arrive a few months hence.

With all this excitement and, I must admit, anxiety and stress over the well-being of our own great-grandchild and his mommy, I shall not even attempt to distance myself from the joy, the prayers, and the anticipation surrounding his achieving a healthy weight while his little body learns to balance his blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and breathing triggers.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope my readers of this column will take the time to browse through some of the many articles and columns I've published on Pencil Stubs Online. To check out prior works, simply click on my name in blue. That hyperlink will bring up a comprehensive listing of all the articles and columns published previously. The columns are listed by date. That requires the reader to click the date to see the featured subject of that month's publication.

As always, I encourage my readers to continue to reap the benefits our modern age provides: research via Armchair Genealogy. If you are new to the joy of genealogical research, many of the early columns published provide hints and tips for successful online research. They include the very basics of how to build your tree, the best and most useful online sites to bolster your research, and ways to organize the materials gathered.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


The View from My Back Steps


By John I. Blair

The Jungle at My Door

There was a time, not that many years ago, when my backyard garden was a lovely, organized, manicured place, with a hundred feet of colorful brick pathways and three restful patio areas where visitors could sit in deck chairs and enjoy the well-tended greenery and floral color. I had spent, likely, thousands of man-hours working on that scene, and enjoyed every visit to it. The small showplace of the block.

But time passed, and things inexorably changed. As anyone who has gardened knows, at least in their heart, gardens are ephemeral places that change literally by the minute and change greatly over the passing of years. Famous ancient gardens are just memories. Even more recent gardens, begun some of them within the lifetime of people still living, are often no longer what they were at the start.

Photo illustrates what a true jungle the garden is in many areas – impossible to walk through and difficult to see through.

And my garden certainly is no longer the same as it was twenty or thirty years ago, or even five years ago. It’s become a jungle. An often beautiful jungle, but wild and a little dangerous in places.

Photo shows more of the wisteria where it begins climbing up the fence and the adjacent trees to as much as 30 feet above the ground.

Where once there were groups of tea roses growing out of carefully tended beds of soil, compost, and mulch now there is a scattering of arching wild roses (offspring of the tea roses’ grafted roots), rising out of tangles of honeysuckle and coralberry and lined with dark red blossoms for a month in April and May. One-time areas of lacy ferns have become masses of volunteer goldenrod, mock orange, mustang grapevines. A large bed of hollies and cherry laurels is so dense and overgrown now it’s impossible to walk there without a machete to clear the way. (Songbirds love to shelter there from hawks and cats.)

One of the wild rambler roses in bloom, surrounded by masses of vines and trees and shrubs.

Several times a year I hire a yardman to travel down the brick paths, clearing them of all the volunteer plants that thrive with their roots sheltered under the cooling masonry, set originally in loose soil. Oxalis, ajuga, spiderwort, and even columbines.

Here is a bit of old garden path with oxalis and other plants growing through the bricks – a few pink oxalis blooms showing.

It’s still possible to sit in the deck chairs, but first, they have to be vigorously dusted. And moved a bit away from the masses of wisteria, spirea, vinca, jasmine, and honeysuckle that constantly strive to bury them in leaves and stems. And don’t venture far from the pavers, as you’ll find your ankles grabbed almost as if consciously by the strong and twining vegetation on all sides.

An old garden bench with a massive wisteria trailing across the end.

But there’s always life going on – not just the plants, but the birds, lizards, tiny snakes, furry squirrels, and (hidden away in the daylight) at least a couple of opossums and raccoons. And who knows what else?

Manicured gardens are definitely beautiful. But so are jungles. And it’s jungle time now in my backyard.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking with Rod

By Rod Cohenour

Here's an excellent recipe I learned from my best friend, Dennis Conover (may he rest in peace). Denny's family-owned and operated a famous Steakhouse near Chicago. Denny grew up in the place and, Boy! Could he cook!

My sweet wife and I ended up putting our own touches on the original recipe that just made it better. I think you'll totally agree. What's that saying? "Laugh. Eat. Love."

Bon appetit~!

Midwest Country Cut Barbecue Ribs


  • 3-4 lbs country cut pork ribs (also called butcher cut), rinse but don't remove fat
  • 2 large or 3-4 medium onions sliced thick
  • Cracked black peppercorns, ground medium
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 bottles CHEAP barbecue sauce (buy the $1 brand as it will be used to tenderize, but will be discarded)
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 medium or 1 large poblano peppers, de-seeded, stems and membranes removed, sliced thick
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Big bottle Head Country Barbecue Sauce (2 if you really love saucy ribs)

This is authentic Country Cut Ribs and has the tiny rib bone showing.


    1. Put half the sliced onions aside. With the remaining half, make one layer in an aluminum discardable roast pan.
    2. Dry ribs with paper towels. Whisk together 1/4 cup brown sugar and ground peppercorns. Rub into all surfaces of ribs. Layer ribs over bottom onion layer. Put remaining half onions over ribs. Pour CHEAP BARBECUE SAUCE overall. Seal tightly with aluminum foil. (May need to make more than one layer if ribs are large. Just split the onions accordingly.)
    3. Pop roasting pan into preheated oven at 250-275°. Roast 2-4 hours until ribs are cooked through, reducing oven heat after the first hour to 200° to smother cook. Remove from oven when ribs are fully cooked through. Discard fatty juices, retain onions, and set them aside to serve later with ribs.
    4. Now you can prepare to grill or broil the ribs. If you want to broil, splash Worcestershire sauce on ribs for smoky flavor. Not needed if grilling.
    5. Whisk garlic powder, onion powder, and last brown sugar portion together in loaf pan or dish big enough to roll ribs in spices. Cover all surfaces.
    6. Put spiced ribs on broiler pan or grill. Sauce liberally with some of the HEAD COUNTRY BARBECUE SAUCE (feel free to use your favorite BBQ sauce here). Brown first side. Turn, top with poblano pepper strips. Sauce liberally again.
    7. Grill or broil to your desired degree of char to create that fabulous leather sheaf that brings the taste up a notch or three.

Cooked and ready to eat!

Serve with delicious sides: those tender carmelized onions, the grilled poblanos, mashed potatoes, a potato and/or macaroni salad, baked beans, fried okra, a crisp green salad, crusty French bread, or buns. Choose your favorite BBQ sides. Icy cold lemonade or tea finishes the meal perfectly.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

No Healing Session But A Virtual Writers’ Week
And Hawkin’s House Going

A losing trade, I assure you, sir:
literature is a drug”.

--George Borrow.

The culture addicts who have been flocking to Listowel Writers’ Week since 1971 are, in the interest of public health, about to be deprived of their fix for the second year. But there is a packed Virtual programme which includes From Altar to Halter - Based on John B. Keane's celebrated letters. St John's Theatre presents a dramatisation of humorous characters and encounters featuring: the parish priest, the postman, the successful TD, and the matchmaker. This is the perfect introduction to some of Keane's wittiest and best-loved creations - a dramatic presentation that's sure to bring a smile to your face. You will find details at: writersweek.com

I contacted a few celebs who were the hard hitters at Irelands biggest literary festival over the years. Poet Michael Gallagher had this to say,

“Saving Myself for Billy.

I don’t remember where it was held that year – maybe the Shebeen. Poet’s Corner moves from one Listowel pub to another every few years. Poet’s Corner is where the ‘real’ poets spend Writers Week; it’s a lion’s den where you have to shout to be heard, far removed from the soiree-like gatherings in the Hotel, and favoured by the ‘established’ poets.

Anyway, it was my first year as a poet, and every day I practiced my poem so I would be word perfect on the night. I went very early on Thursday night, determined to introduce myself to the world as a poet. I didn’t sign on to read at first as I wanted to drink in the atmosphere. I drank alright but the atmosphere proved too much. Everyone was brilliant. Where would I be going with my scribbling!

Friday night was the same. I actually put my name down to read but when George Rowley, the MC, called, I was ordering another pint of Dutch courage at the bar and didn’t pretend to hear.

So that was it. Poet’s Corner over and I was still a virgin poet. I had met some great new friends, though; friends who would remain constant down the years, among them, Pauline Fayne, Teri Murray, Barney Sheehan, Neil Brosnan, Paddy Phelan, P. J. Kennedy, and John Sheehan, to name a few. One of them would have told me about the Healing Session.

The Healing Session takes place in John B Keane’s pub on the Sunday morning of Writer’s Week. At that time, the MCs were George Rowley and Billy Keane. I had form with Billy. Months earlier I had been talking to him over a pint and he asked if I ‘wrote a bit’ (invariably the first question you are asked in that particular establishment!) I showed him a piece I had written and he opined that I was ‘more of a poet than a writer’. With that advice, I went off and wrote my first poem. I brought it back to Billy. Billy liked it and, more importantly, his mother, Mary, liked it. I left it with them and, unbeknown to me, Billy entered it in The Ballydonoghue Magazine. Not only was it published -it won first prize of £100, leaving me to believe (mistakenly) that this poetry writing was a great racket altogether.

So, armed with my spider poem and a couple of other scribblings, I headed off for The Healing Session. This was it. This was what I had been waiting for.

There was a queue halfway down William Street but I eventually managed to squeeze into the bar. I passed my name to George, hoping to get it over with quickly. No chance – I waited hours! And hours! By the time I was called, I was exhausted and exasperated. I struggled through the horde. Billy went into full flow. ‘This is my personal discovery’. ‘This is the new Kavanagh’. ‘Remember you heard him here first!’ A great day for Irish poetry!’

I was jelly. I looked at my foolscap and skipped the first forty lines. I said (stuttering with embarrassment), ‘I’ll do a haiku’.

In spring lambs frolic
Through the scribes romantic words
In summer poets hunger

I bolted; scuttled through the dumbfounded crowd.
Through the silence, I can still hear Billy’s searing whisper: "‘ ...TARD.’"

Colm Toibin summed it up, “ Listowel Writers’ Week is serious about literature. Everyone who comes here knows how much literature enriches our lives.”

Hilda McHugh

Here are the words of author Hilda McHugh:

"I’d heard of and read about Listowel Writers’ Week for many years, but it was not until 2010 that I managed to get there for the first time. Nothing could possibly prepare you for the phenomenon that it is. The workshops 4-hour sessions over three mornings given by world-renowned national and international authors were the best learning experiences of my life. I was hooked and LWW has been the highlight of my year ever since.

Afternoons and evenings are spent attending book launches, lectures or theatre performances minds awhirl with having to choose from the rich menu of available experiences. Later sharing with friends …sorry you missed so-and-so s/he was brilliant, I wouldn’t have missed the one I attended etc etc. and then off to Poet’s corner, or the literary pub crawl or the sing-song sessions of your choice or trying to take in all of them with friends old and new. Late to bed and early to rise to start the process all over again. Meeting and greeting my literary heroes and heroines, random conversations with the famous and the down to earth, breathing the same intoxicating air, feeling like a writer.

All too soon it’s over and we’re bidding farewell for another year. The bittersweet experience can only be ameliorated by the ‘Healing Session’ in John B’s where Billy Keane presides over the best-run entertainment money can’t buy. The MC and always ensured the mix of songs, recitations, poems, and readings was just right. He could not be bribed or influenced he selected whose turn it was and if you were called you got to do your piece if not you appreciated the talents of the lucky ones who were. Standing room was called breathing room and is a tight squeeze the tiny performance space was the only place to properly inflate the lungs. A fitting end to a fantastic experience. I can’t wait for the real LWW to return.”

Graham Norton on Listowel

Graham Norton with the utmost brevity described it as the "Best Literary festival in the world.”

Roddy Doyle admits, “ I’ve been to many writing festivals since then but none as warm." Adding in true Dub fashion, ” Or as mad.”

Emma Donoghue loved, “ . . . the warmth and informality of this wonderful gathering.”

For many The Healing Session, mentioned by Hilda McHugh and Mike Gallagher, a marathon Open-Mic session, held in John B. Keane’s on the closing Sunday, was the highlight of the festival. As far as I know there was no laying on of hands . . . although there is a dimly-lit area in the west corner of the bar!

* * * * *

Hawkin's House and What It Will Look Like

Hawkin’s House, often described as "Dublin's ugliest building" is being demolished. The monstrosity is finally to be levelled, three years after its demolition and redevelopment was granted permission. The former Department of Health headquarters was built in 1962 on the site of the former Theatre Royal, which was a beautiful building, on the corner of Poolbeg Street and Hawkins Street.

Dublin's Theatre Royal
Years ago I wrote a one-act monologue radio play set in the security hut of that building. I’m attaching the audio.
In the Hut wav
Editor's Note: This played after choosing "Play it anyway" although it could not be scanned for viruses. If you prefer, Mattie Lennon has divided his audio into two wav parts: Part One of In the Hut
Part Two of In the Hut
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.