Kiss me, I’m partially Irish!

Joey deVilla posing beside his baby picture at his family’s house in San Juan, Batangas, Philippines.

Two ages of Yours Truly, San Juan, Batangas, Philippines, March 2016.
Click the photo to see it at full size.

Pictured above is Yours Truly, standing beside my baby picture, which is mounted on a wall at our family home in San Juan, Batangas province, in the Philippines. Isn’t it screamingly obvious that I’m of Irish-American descent?

It’s true. I’m a direct descendant of one of the men pictured in the photo below, which would’ve been taken in the early 1900s, somewhere in Ohio:

Antique photo of Seven O’Hara men, seated three in the front row, four in the rear, including James O’Hara (rear row, third from left).

O’Hara gentlemen, somewhere in Ohio, sometime in the early 1900s.
Click the photo to see it at full size.

Pay attention to the striking gentleman in the back row, third from the left. Here he is, in a solo photo:

Antique photo of James O’Hara, Joey deVilla’s great-grandfather.

James O’Hara, sometime in the early 1900s.
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His name was James O’Hara, and he’s my great-grandfather. Sharp-lookin’ fella, too.

After the Spanish-American War, the Philippines was annexed by the United States, and there was a call for Americans to bring their skills to the newly-acquired territory. One kind of skilled worker they wanted was teachers, and James, who was a teacher with a sense of adventure — remember, the kind of information he’d be able to get about the Philippines or Asia in general would’ve been rather scant — signed up to make the trip across half the U.S. by land, followed by one across the Pacific Ocean on a ship.

If his plans were to do a short stint and return to the States with stories to tell, they were changed when he met a woman who would eventually become my great-grandmother…

James O’Hara and his wife at their wedding.

Great-grampa and great-grandma at their wedding, Philippines, early 1900s.
Click the photo to see it at full size.

…but he stayed, eventually settling in the city of Antipolo, a city 26 kilometers (16 miles) east of Manila. One of his children, Marietta, would become my grandmother, and in the early 1980s, we’d take her to catch up with our Irish-American relatives in Ohio:

Aunt Janis, grandma, Uncle Clayton, Dayton, Ohio, summer 1983.
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That’s grandma in the middle, with Aunt Janis on the left, and her husband Uncle Clayton on the right. They’ve long since passed away, but I enjoyed my visit with them in Dayton.

So, it’s with just barely enough qualification that I wish you a happy St. Paddy’s day!

Yours truly, On Swann, Tampa, last weekend.


On sale at Publix this week: Sandwich bags whose tune will stick in your head, and chopstick rests

That’s right, these are sandwich bags branded with the Disney animated feature Frozen. Let me now stick a tune in your head: “Lunch to go, lunch to go…”

As for these chopsticks rests, you can’t have ’em, because I bought the last two packs.


Once again, it’s time for the official image of daylight saving time!


Bouncy castle ship!

Click the photo to see it at full size.

I have two questions about this “bouncy castle ship”, seen this morning at the North Tampa Market in Carollwood:

  1. Why didn’t we have these when I was a kid?
  2. Why does security keep kicking me out?

Weekend reading for mid-lifers

Anitra and me on our Disney World honeymoon.

It’s been just over 6 years since my personal Great Reset and all that ensued, from winding up in the ICU with killer flu to non-dates gone tragicomically wrong to meeting someone new and then moving from Toronto to Tampa and marrying her. It’s been a wonderful adventure, during which time I adopted “Best! Mid-life crisis! Ever!” as my personal battle cry.

If you’d like to have the best midlife crisis ever as well, you might find these articles interesting reading…

From Get a Midlife, published in the New York Times in January 2012:

YOU may be surprised to learn that when researchers asked people over 65 to pick the age they would most like to return to, the majority bypassed the wild and wrinkle-less pastures of their teens, 20s and 30s, and chose their 40s.

We are more accustomed to seeing the entry into middle age treated as a punch line or a cause for condolences. Despite admonishments that “50 is the new 30,” middle age continues to be used as a metaphor for decline or stasis. Having just completed a book about the history and culture of middle age, I found that the first question people asked me was, “When does it begin?” anxiously hoping to hear a number they hadn’t yet reached.

Elderly people who find middle age to be the most desirable period of life, however, are voicing what was a common sentiment in the 19th century, when the idea of a separate stage of development called “middle age” began to emerge. Although middle age may seem like a universal truth, it is actually as much of a manufactured creation as polyester or the rules of chess. And like all the other so-called stages into which we have divvied up the uninterrupted flow of life, middle age, too, is a cultural fiction, a story we tell about ourselves.

One of the biggest challenges in moving from Toronto to Florida is that I all of a sudden, I was a stranger in a strange land, with few friends. That’s been changing over the three years that I’ve been here, as I’ve gotten to know more locals. There’ve even been times when I’ve walked into a place in Tampa or St. Petersburg and someone would approach me and say “Are you the Accordion Guy?”, just like they used to in Toronto.

I’m particularly mindful of the need for a base of friends because I’m an extrovert who also works from home and is closing in on age 50. This is a particularly dangerous combo for guys my age, and the Boston Globe’s article, The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. covers it in detail. For the women’s perspective, Huffington Post’s Why Midlife Women Need Friends More Than Ever is worth checking out.

I listen to a fair number of podcasts, and one of my regular listens is Cal Newport’s The Art of Maniliness podcast, which always covers interesting topics and features interesting guests. In a recent podcast, Building Your Band of Brothers, Cal interviewed Stephen Mansfield, author of Building Your Band of Brothers, and they talked about the importance and difficulty of forming friendships when you’re no longer a young man. It’s a worthwhile listen:

If you like watching YouTube videos and want to stay healthy in both body and mind, watch Dr. Mike Evans’ channel. He’s got lots of good, science-backed, sound advice. Any time someone comes to me with their worries about hitting their 40s, I send them to this video…

…and then I send them to one of the most profound bits in The Simpsons: Grampa Simpson’s “I used to be ‘with it’” speech…

…and with the recent discovery in Cairo of the buried temple of Ramses II and his statue…

…I’ll send them to that story, reminding them that life is short, and also that Ramses II was also known by another name: Ozymandias.


Florida defense lawyer’s pants catch on fire during his closing arguments in an arson trial

On Wednesday afternoon, Miami defense lawyer Stephen Gutierrez was trying to convince a jury that his client’s car spontaneously caught fire and was not deliberately set alight by the defendant when smoke began pouring out of his right pants pocket. He ran out of the courtroom, and when he returned shortly afterward with a singed pocket, he claimed that a faulty e-cigarette battery was to blame.

The police and prosecutors are investing the case, and if they determine that the incident was a staged defense demonstration that went terribly wrong — and remember, the unofficial Florida motto is “no idea is a bad one” — he Gutierrez could be held in contempt of court.

As for Gutierrez’ client: he was convicted of second-degree arson.

Thanks to Tim Jones for the find!


On sale at Publix this week: Mardi Gras, Star Wars, and pumpkin spice leftovers

This week on the clearance shelf at my local Publix, you can get cut-rate Mardi Gras costumes…

Assorted cheap Mardi Gras costumes and beads, marked down to 2 for $1.99.

…Star Wars magnets…

Assorted Star Wars fridge magnets, marked down to $3.00 each.

…and a chance to savor the last gasp of pumpkin spice season:

750mL bottles of R.W. Knudsen’s pumpkin spice cider, marked down to 2 for $4.49.