R.I.P. Rick Gagne

When Hubs and I moved to Jackson, MS, in 2006, all I could think about was getting back to Knoxville. I missed the mountains and the good beer. I missed my family and friends. I wasn’t prepared for the deep-south, Southern Baptist conservatism of Jackson, and I was terribly lonely.

I’m not much of a church goer, but I needed some way to meet people, so we decided to visit Jackson’s small Unitarian Universalist church, where we met Rick and Elise. Both taught within the English department at Tougaloo College in Jackson. Rick was a folklorist, master bread-maker, and key member of Jackson’s Irish/folk music scene.

Here’s some footage of him playing in Jackson, sitting on the left.

His obituary provides a more detailed rundown of his accomplishments:

An ardent fan of Irish music, Rick became an accomplished penny whistle, tenor banjo, and cittern player while still in college. He played in the band DunCreagan with Tom McKean, Carrick Eggleston, and Kelley Bishop from 1981 to 1994. He started the Irish music session in Bloomington, Indiana, where he played for several years with Reel to Reel. In Jackson he played with Legacy and Spirits of the House, and he played and led workshops at CelticFest Mississippi from 2005 to 2013. He participated in Irish music sessions from New England to Mississippi for over 30 years and composed approximately 100 tunes, many of them now widely played.

I fondly remember him playing banjo at Celtic Fest and at Fenian’s Pub. Such experiences made me realize I could live happily in Jackson, and that I could find people whose company I enjoyed.

Rick and Elise playing together.

Rick and Elise playing together.

Rick and Elise are the kind of parents I strive to become. They prompted their children to be inquisitive, to go outside and look around. I remember visiting one evening for dinner. In an age when flatscreen TVs were on the rise, they owned one small, boxy TV only capable of playing videos and DVDs. They didn’t have cable. Not Luddites, they instead seemed driven create a home-life conducive to exploration, creativity, and interaction. I remember their children (now in high school and college) as bright, both        intellectually and personally.

Rick encouraged me from afar at every step of my doctoral studies, responding to Facebook posts I made regarding my studies and dissertation. One of our last interactions–as I worked feverishly to complete a draft of my dissertation–was “FINISH! NOW!” I needed this sort of prompting to gut through pages and pages of editing.

Just nine weeks after being diagnosed with advanced-stage bladder cancer, Rick died on May 28th.

Be at peace, Rick, in this grand universe of ours.

Rick Gagne1

Posted in Heavier Things, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dealing With Poisonous People…

My ex-brother-in-law is a poisonous person. He’s an E.N.T. and plastic surgeon. Think of every surgeon stereotype…

That’s right, he’s all of them.

  • Cheated on ex-wife (my sister) with a nurse. Check.
  • Treats supposed underlings with utter disrespect. Check.
  • Obsessed with amassing material wealth. Check.
  • Has a complete disregard for anything or anyone involved in supposedly non-prestigious pursuits. Check.

Hubs and I have a nickname for him: Lord Douchebag,  or LDB. He went and married the mistress/nurse, so I suppose she’s Lady Douchebag, making them LDB². Long may they reign on Isle d’ Scum, and good riddance!

Except we aren’t rid of them. Before ending their marriage, LDB and my sister had two wonderful boys, so my family remains caught in the endless give-and-take of scheduling weekends and holidays, negotiating appropriate entertainment, and crossing paths at ballgames. LDB isn’t the worst father ever, but he certainly isn’t the best, and my sister and parents routinely tend with his disses and whims.

A representative example of his antics:

LDB had the boys over Mother’s Day weekend, but my sister wanted to take them to brunch. She’s allowed to have them some on such holidays (their custody agreement stipulates  she gets them all morning and afternoon actually, but she didn’t remember at the time). According to LDB, though, they already had brunch plans…with LadyDB…to celebrate “mother’s day” with the boys. My sister was clearly upset–she’s the MOM, and the step-mom/former mistress shouldn’t take precedence.

Apparently LDB took umbrage to this assertion, informing my sister that LadyDB is a better mother.

I’m all ragey now just thinking about it. WHAT?! WHHHHHAAT?!  This from the people who parent every other weekend and Wednesday dinners? Who think playing Call of Duty and Halo 2 are acceptable “bonding” activities for boys, aged 4 and 8, especially when the older brother has some anger-management issues. Who encourage the boys to lie after taking part in stuff my sister doesn’t approve of, such as shooting guns with LDB’s backwoods relatives, and who get mad when they tell their mom.

I cannot stand these people. But the boys love them, so we (on our end) try to keep things civil.

I have no problem that LDB and my sister divorced. Sometimes relationships don’t work out. We all have our brand of crazy–the trick is to find someone who’s willing to deal with it, and vice versa. My sister can be tough to live with, and I’m sure she’d say the same of me.

Still, I have a hard time not getting bitter about the whole situation, and I don’t like how these negative emotions seem to fester. How do you deal with poisonous people without taking in a little of their venom?




Posted in Heavier Things | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Silence, Water Horse!

Just because…

Turtle Cavalry

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On Finishing My Dissertation and Feeling Pretty “Eh” About It

I’ve been in college now for fourteen years. FOURTEEN YEARS! This life phase has fully entered its teens, all sass and rebellion. I’ve been actively writing my dissertation for over three years, in the meantime spawning a tiny human, moving states, and teaching part time.

I have to make some minor dissertation revisions, but otherwise my time as a PhD student is over. I don’t even know what that means.

In many ways, nothing changes. I’m still planning on teaching part time and perhaps publishing some of my chapters. I’m super excited about a side project that might become a main project. For now, though, nothing will bring me greater joy than cleaning my house, watching TV, and perhaps painting my front door. (No, really. It’s a hideous biegey-orange color, and I’ve been waiting two years to eradicate it.)

The hubs keeps telling me I should be more excited, that we need to celebrate. I’m just not in the mood. Maybe that will change when I submit the thing for good? We will see.


Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Tunes: Elephant Revival

My soundtrack for grading final exams this semester has been Elephant Revival’s These Changing Skies. The band’s music, with “elements of gypsy, rock, Celtic, alt-country and folk,” reminds me a lot of Andrew Bird, with a dash of Nickel Creek thrown in.

Even better, the band promotes various social and environmental causes – good work to accompany amazing music!

For more info, check out their homepage.

Here are some of my favorites so far:


“Remembering a Beginning”

“The Pasture”

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment