Mark Sullivan

November 12, 2007

Remembering D.C. Fitzgerald

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:35 pm

November 13, 2007 is the one year anniversary of the passing of D.C. Fitzgerald. Here is a piece that I wrote last year that appeared in the Pittsburgh Catholic.

D.C. Fitzgerald Legendary Guitarist and Altar Server
by Mark Sullivan
When D.C. Fitzgerald passed away in November, his obituary described him as a talented guitarist and fixture on the Pittsburgh folk music scene. However, altar server at St. Benedict the Moor in the Hill District was not listed among has activities. D.C. was that rare combination of first-rate secular musician and devout Catholic.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Edgewood Club on January 27th for a seven-hour concert celebrating his life and music. If musical success was measured in friendships made instead of records sold, D.C. Fitzgerald was the most successful artist of all time.
I took guitar lessons from D.C. for over three years beginning in August of 1999 until September of 2002. In the short attention span of a twentysomething guitar player, that’s a really long time. Besides teaching guitar, it seemed that he had read every book and listened to every album ever made.
I would say, “I’ve been listening to a lot of …” He would respond in a heartbeat, “Don’t you just love…” an hour-long conversation would follow. That was my favorite part of the lesson.
The last time I saw D.C. was Easter Saturday 2005 in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle in Braddock Hills. He greeted me, “My man! Check it out. Got my Easter ham, and I’m serving tonight at the Easter Vigil at St. Benedict the Moor. Praise the Lord!”
From my first guitar lesson with D.C., I could tell he was a religious person. But it wasn’t until I had taken lessons from him for about a year that he told me he his conversion story. D.C. was a fabulous storyteller, but he didn’t elaborate much—he wanted to know if God existed, so as a test he prayed for God to let him know if He did exist. God told him yes, so D.C. asked him what religion should he join because there was so many. God told him Christianity. D.C. asked what denomination, and God said Catholicism. He went to R.C.IA.
I saw him perform one time and found it curious that he dedicated a song to his “friend in the oil business,” which turned out to be his nickname for Fr. Lou Vallone who had given him instruction in the Catholic faith. Fr. Vallone had also given D.C. anointing of the sick before his liver transplant. D.C loved the “materialism” of the Catholic Faith–that bread, wine, oil, water, and even sexual intercourse could become the actual instruments of God’s grace. He would turn a song into prayer by directing it to God. I remember hearing him play “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” by Duke Ellington and seeing a whole new spiritual dimension open before my eyes.
When I heard that he died, I went to noon mass at St. Anselm’s in Swissvale, near where he lived, and asked the priest to offer mass for the repose of his soul. On my way back to work, I drove by his house hoping to catch a final glimpse of his figure through the window waiting for me to arrive for my lesson.  Later that night my wife consoled me, “Just think of how much he’ll be able to help you now from heaven.” The last time I saw D.C. in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle, he was on his way to heaven. The most willing altar boy with Easter ham in hand. I’m sure his Easter joy is full now.

November 11, 2007

Saturday Morning at the Mall with James

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:39 pm

My wife had to do some shopping so I took my two and half year old son down to the toy store on the first floor of the mall. The carousel is right in front of the toy store. James stopped and looked at it for awhile. Then we walked over to the toy store, but the obnoxious electronic stuffed animals in the front scared him away. So we looked at the fish in the fish pond and then returned to the carousel. James just stood there watching it.

I hate the carousel. I think it’s a rip-off. $1.50 per ride. It’s right in front of the toy store to sucker in parents. Or more accurately, for kids to whine their parents into letting them ride it. And I hate the mall and every emotionally desperate teenager and credit card debt it has created. I also never carry cash–just to avoid spending a few dollars here or there on frivolous items.

But yesterday I had $2 in my wallet. As James was watching the carousel, I pulled out my wallet and checked to see if the $2 was still there. I debated for a few moments and then said, “James, do you want to ride on the carousel?” I expected him to say no. At least in public he’s not very demanding. But he said, “O.K.”

As I gave the woman my $2 I offered it up to God. Money is tight, and it seemed stupid to spend $1.50 on a stupid carousel ride. I know God always out does us in generosity–as pathetic as it sounds talking about $1.50–but this is me. James circled the carousel 320 degrees. I kept asking him–how about this horsey. No. No. He starting to whine when I picked him up to put him on a horse. Two-year olds can’t make up their mind. I wondered if the woman would give me my money back.

James found the bench he was looking for, hopped up into it and snuggled against me and we were off. The carousel started, and he had the biggest smile on his face. He was so cute tears came to my eyes. I tried not to be a buzz-kill and hide how I really felt. Weeee. Weeee. See the snowmen. See the lights. But after a minute, I was getting dizzy and restless to move on. I had the urge to look at my watch, but resisted. This was James’s time. Not mine. Round and round we went.

Then I noticed that the woman working the carousel was talking to her teenage daughter and not watching the ride. We were the only ones on and no one was waiting. Round and round we went.

I thought about giving the woman the–O.K. enough is enough look, but the smile on James’s face kept getting bigger. So every time we went by her I looked the other way. Weee. Weee. See the snowman. So what if I barf. James was having a great time. Round and round again.

Finally the ride ended. James said, “Thanks Daddy.” But something happened to me on the ride. I’ve been told a million times that God loves me more than I love my son, and it’s a good thing to reflect on in my prayer etc…

But I realized how much I loved James. And how many carousel rides God has taken me on. It makes my eyes fill with tears.

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