Descartes, Lennon, and a Priest

I have recently reconnected with a few more old college friends and every time I think back to my Cabrini College days I am flooded with great memories of wonderful people and great times.  Admittedly, I was not the model student or citizen back then but I wasn’t too far off track and I certainly don’t regret anything I did or didn’t do back then. I know all of my experiences have helped shape who I have become. There are two memories however that always seem to stand out as being the most meaningful that I know will remain with me forever.

For those that don’t know, I am a huge music fan. Although I can’t play a lick of anything and have never been a musician, I have always loved listening to music. I was one of those guys that would settle in to a new album with the head phones on and read every single word of the liner notes and research bands to better understand who played what for whom. As a kid, I would spend hours in second hand shops like Plastic Fantastic in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania  just listening, studying, and shopping. That little bit of background may add value to my two Cabrini memories. It’s funny how vivid these are after all this time.

Philosophy class at 8:30 AM was not my idea of excitement. I did love the professor though, and in general I was able to relate to a lot of the subject matter. But no matter how you sliced it, doing anything at 8:30 in the morning is hard to swallow when you are 20. There was one class in particular where I just couldn’t hang and found myself drifting off as Dr. Joseph Romano lectured on about … something. I remember struggling hard to stay awake when all of a sudden I THOUGHT I heard Dr. Romano say the words “Moody Blues”. Well that certainly brought me back to life but I wasn’t sure if I had really heard what I thought I had heard. But Dr. Romano went on. As it turned out, he was lecturing on Rene Descartes’ Discourse on the Method and his famous statement on existence;” I think, there I am”.

Well wouldn’t you know it, good ole Dr. Romano was tying in a little modern philosophy with the lyrics from the Moody Blues tune “In the Beginning” which begins; “I think, I think I am. Therefore I am, I think”.  Well I practically jumped out of my seat with excitement because my philosophy teacher had just pushed my magic button. So of course I immediately chimed in with all kinds of comments on that album and that band.  Maybe that was his way of reeling in those of us that had drifted off in class, and it sure worked. The best part was following the class, Dr. Romano asked me if I had the album with me on campus, and I said “of course, it’s a must have in any collection”. With that he asked me to bring it with me to the next class. I did. And we spent the entire hour during the next class listening to the Moody Blues and analyzing Descartes.  I was never late or missed one of his classes after that.

The second memory, although just as vivid, is not quite as positive. Father Jack McDowell was our campus priest for a brief time while I was at Cabrini. Understand that I was raised Presbyterian and up until college I had never had any reason to interact with a priest. But I immediately took to Father Jack like he was a good friend. In fact he very quickly became one of the guys. He was in his early thirties at the time and often played pickup games of basketball with us and we always had an open invitation to hang out at his campus residence we knew as “the gate house”.

Father Jack was a bigger music freak than I was and remember we are talking about the pre digital era so a huge music collection meant the need for a huge storage area. Father Jack had an entire walk in closet and crawl space lined with nothing but albums and a stereo system that could be heard for miles. His favorite band was the same as mine; the fab four, the British mop tops, The Beatles. I can’t tell you how many times I hung out at that gate house listening to music and chowing down on roast beef, which was always in his Crock Pot.

December 8th, 1980 was no different in that respect.  A gang of us were hanging out that night, listening to music, eating roast beef, and watching Monday Night Football. But this night did turn out to be very different.  It was during that game that we learned of the tragic shooting of John Winston Ono Lennon in the courtyard at the entrance to his home, the Dakota Hotel in NYC. We all sat and stared at the TV in complete disbelief. I feel like I stayed at Jack’s for a month that night.

We sat and talked and listened and played every single Beatles and Lennon recording that we could get our hands on. It was just one of those nights that will always be remembered. I am so glad that I was where I was when this news broke. Jack had a wonderful way of facilitating the healing process and pulling the pieces together as a friend, as a fan, and yes, as a priest.

Just thought I would share. As for today… “I shovel, therefore I am”

head shot 3

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3 Comments

  1. Carter Craigie
    Posted February 13, 2010 at | Permalink

    That was SUCH a great posting, Steve. I was so impressed with your reminiscences. I had more than a laugh about your experience in Dr. Romano’s class! I’m sure LOTS of other of my students would say the same about MINE!
    And I never knew about you and Father Jack, nor did I know about you being there the night Lennon was shot. You couldn’t have been in better company at that awful time.

    I am so impressed with your writing, Steve. You are at the top of our Cabrini students in that department. Your example in the way you lead your life is inspirational. Thanks for being you!

  2. Posted February 15, 2010 at | Permalink

    Thanks for the memories, Steve. I do remember the Moody Blues class and Descartes! I also remember a soccer game shoot out that we won thanks to a very talented and dedicated goalkeeper. Who did we beat that day? By the way, I am still teaching DesCartes’ epistemology in Intro class — sans Moody Blues I am sorry to say. Keep up the great work, Steve!
    Hi Carter, good to hear from you.

    All the best.
    Dr. R.

  3. Rick Marafino
    Posted February 28, 2010 at | Permalink

    Steve,

    I concur with Carter and Dr. Romano!! That is a great posting and makes me reminisce of the Cabrini days while I sit in Moscow, Russia looking out at the frigid, snowy landscape out my window. But then again, Philly has been like that this year too.

    I don’t remember who we beat that day either but we sure did have some great times on the field. Steve couldn’t have been a better person/athlete to have behind me when I “sometimes’ let the striker through :)

    Hope to see some of you this July when I am back in town for a few days of vacation.

    Rick Marafino

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