Friday, July 27, 2012

Seven Moments of Ross

Photo & Text CC 2012 by MJ Vilardi, Creative Commons  
May be shared with attribution

6. The Two Sams 

After Antioch I settled in Washington DC, working first at a news magazine, then a TV station. Ross was a frequent visitor, swinging through on his way to or from Oregon, Scotland, Connecticut, and other places. Eventually he decided he liked the place and moved into an old row-house just down the street from me. He occupied the first floor apartment; there were two other rented units above him, and the basement was occupied by a cranky old alcoholic, Sam, and his quarrelsome family. The landlord, who must have been insane, had anointed Sam as the resident manager. Chronically unemployed, Sam always had time to mess with Ross, whom he called "MistaROSS." 

            At any odd hour of the day or night Sam would appear, frequently without knocking, which could be quite startling. These intrusions would often occur in the early hours of the morning, like the time Ross was in a fugue state with his pixieish girlfriend Beverly curled around him. "MistaROSS! I TOLD you about keeping that music down!" Beverly jumped like a scalded cat, knocking over glasses, bongs, and other remnants of the night's revelry.

On such occasions Ross would get steamed, but he hated direct conflict. With his friends he used passive aggressive barbs and jibes, but that kind of subtlety was lost on Sam, who would just stare at him with glassy eyes and emit fumes.

            One day Ross acquired a very large black sheepdog too big, certainly, for an apartment, and maybe too big for anyplace. He was a cheerful, slobbery dog. Ross named him Sam, and immediately called me over for some playtime.

            "Here Sam! Come 'ere Sammy!" We threw him a tennis ball and, overjoyed, Sam zoomed to the front of the apartment, then scrambled back. All the activity (including no doubt the sound of nails on hardwood) brought Sam up from his lair. Ross was delighted to introduce his new animal companion. The two Sams studied each other.

            "Why'd you name him Sam? 'Cause he's black?" It was hard to tell if Sam was offended or honored. Two days later Ross left the front door open and Sam ran out into 15th Street and was killed. (Sorry about that part). 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seven Moments of Ross

Photo & Text CC 2012 by MJ Vilardi, Creative Commons May be shared with attribution

7. A Universe

by MJ Vilardi

I first met Ross McConnell at Antioch College in the '70's; I was recovering from a long night of partying; laid out in my room in decrepit North Hall, my head was spinning, as college students' heads will do. BANG BANG BANG! The quiet of my darkened chamber was shattered by a noise too loud to be real. Someone was slamming my door with a hammer! That can't be. Through the peephole I spied a bearded shaman-looking guy with a fox's head in one hand, and a hammer in the other. I opened the door and asked what the hell he was doing. When he explained that he was trying to nail a foxface to the door I offered to help, and we quickly had the job done. We became fast friends, with similar interests, and taught a couple of classes together.

One warm night, hanging around in the common room in North Hall, I heard a scream. A girl ran by, pursued by the weirdest bug I've ever seen. Its body was long and thin, about three inches long, and it had big gossamer wings, like a dragonfly's wings. But its most shocking feature was the eight-inch red wire-like protuberance hanging from its rear end. This was some bug from hell! I sprang into action, heroically swinging at it with the magazine I'd been reading.

"MJ! Stop!" It was Ross. I hesitated. "That's a Universe," he said. We found a plastic bag and caught the strange creature, then took him outside and let him fly back to the Mountains of Madness or wherever he came from.

Years later, Ross and I heard that a good friend of ours, Jay Shepard, who'd been in the class we taught, and had joined us on the long trek to San Francisco for the class field trip, had died. Stabbed by a mugger in Pittsburgh. Jay was a great guy, and we'd had many of those late night dorm room conversations, speculating about the nature of life and death and reality.

"Just think MJ," Ross said, "Now Jay knows. He knows what it's like."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Day In Ross History

Michael Ross McConnell
b. Thursday 10 July 1952