Archive for the 'Remembering Ross McConnell' Category

Come to Lynchburg to Remember Ross McConnell 10 October 2008

Friday, September 19th, 2008
Ross in the Family LibraryPHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

Friends and family of Ross McConnell will gather in Lynchburg, Virginia on Friday, 10 October to bury his earthly remains and share memories of his remarkable life. The service starts at 11 am at the Spring Hill Cemetery. Ross died near Tbilisi, Georgia in May after being struck by a minivan. Details in our previous post.

The photos I share here (click for large versions) were taken in the late 80’s when Ross and I visited his Grandmother at her home in Lynchburg. Ross and I stayed up all night exploring his late Grandfather’s library of rare books; in the photo Ross is cradling a first edition of Dickens’ David Copperfield, one of many amazing volumes we examined. Everyone who knew Ross knows how much he loved books. That evening he was animated in a way I’d never seen before. We jumped from early Shakespeare folios to a zany 18th century book on pirates, and then on to first editions of Twain, Walt Whitman, and Theodore Roosevelt.

PHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

The next day, dressed in his Grandfather’s old WW II military jacket, Ross took me to a nearby farm, where he cavorted with a frisky pony.

PHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

Here’s a portrait of Ross’s Grandmother, Margaret Alexander, taken during our visit.

NOTE: If you can make it to Lynchburg on 10 October, you will be richly rewarded. Many of Ross’s closest friends and family members have never met. I’m sure it would make him a bit uneasy having all of us in one place, comparing notes and trading stories. But what stories!

IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND: Please write something. I promise to read it aloud in Lynchburg, and, with your permission, share it here. Send it to: mj [at]

And speaking of stories, check out the new “Ross History” posts at the Ross blog maintained by the mysterious Marcolis…

A dear friend found

Friday, July 18th, 2008
Grace, Julie and RossPHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

There is great joy in MJville tonight: Julie, one of our dearest friends from Antioch has found us. She’s at the center of the photo above, with Grace and Ross, in my tiny yard on Corcoran Street In Washington DC (mid 80’s). Right after Ross died this May I had tried for days to track Julie down, using every private eye technique and Internet trick I could think of. Then I realized how she, a woman of no small intuitive powers, would advise me to proceed: calm down, reverse the polarity and let it happen.

Tonight’s full moon is low in the sky and as rusty red as Grace’s hair, as though Mars dropped by for a visit (not impossible, ask Velikovsky). I think the power of that moon, being courted by Jupiter, gave Julie a shot of extra juice that supercharged her meditation. Julie reached out and made our very special circle complete. Tonight she wrote:

Juliana Swanson née Haynes (AKA “Julie”)

said: on July 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Greetings, to Ross and all who love him!

Ross’ spirit came and told me he was moving on. He also sent me here today during the Grace Light Full Moon to share the juicy Ross Vibe.

Ross and I “lost touch” over the years, but I have always cherished my secret memories of our good lovin’ times at Antioch and beyond. I hardly remember smelly feet because he was my heart-throb.

When we broke off our love fest, it took some powerful witchcraft to help me get over him. Well, part of me never did get over him because we are soul family.

There is no death, so party on, and let us celebrate Ross’s life with these wise words of Don van Vliet, one of our old favorites back in the day~

I like the way the doo dads fly
With just a kiss I blew you up into the marrow sky
Twirled n’ swirled ripe like rotten gold
Cold like silver in a bed stream, trees cracked like egg creams
The swarm wet green fingery hives
I like the way the doo dad flies
Neopolitan landscape runs wet my eyes
I like the way the doo dads fly
The pink startled morning giggles just ahead behind the bush
A dark hollow echo streams
Views me from a circle formed of fiber eyes
Speak seek n’ sing babble, magnify
Like wet shapeless babies
Clearly the dew drops cry
Spill n’ pass from hand to hand
N’ layed gently ready to explode
N’ the sand combed streamed
N’ the trouts blur like herdled sperm rainbows
Bubbles like glass spurs paddle ‘neath the foot bridge
Lily’s pad bulb, orange spotty
Frogs lick God’s lucky green tongue
Dragon flies bi-planes
The sun hung like a lone orange
N’ a blue tree fell over ripe into the sea
N’ swam like a giant starfish

Thank you, Ross, with all my heart here now.

It has been decades since I’ve seen or spoken with Julie, and I find I’m deeply moved, literally weeping at the orange moon with the joy of reconnecting with Grace, then Harry, then the final miracle at this sad (and for Ross perhaps quite glorious) occasion. Spirit Ross whispers sweetly in her ear that he’s catching that 777 Express to Heaven, and Julie consults an oracle (Goo-Gall) and — there’s the signpost up ahead — next stop MJville — but Ross is dead.

Thank you, Julie, for loving Ross, and loving us enough to reach out and share our joy and grief.

Julie also wrote: I know…I have a lot of feelings too and realize I need to do some inner work to reach out and heal some more about my past with Ross. I believe that is why he reached out to me…probably when he was doing the old post-mortem life review.

I do feel that he will not be reincarnating here but will be/is moving to another higher plane.

It is a miracle I was drawn to your blog, and this is a reflection of our love, which Ross is showing us is boundless. What’s a few 20 years or so between us. Thank you Ross for this miracle, and thank you MJ and Grace for making it happen, too.

Ross McConnell – Part 2

Friday, July 11th, 2008
Ross McConnell in the Painted Desert AZPHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

UPDATE: Check out the Ross McConnell Gallery Page we just put up. It contains photos I’ve taken of Ross over the years, as well as a few of his original drawings. More added daily! And If you have any McConnell-abilia to add to the gallery, or stories you’d like to share, please send them to me at mj (at) mjville (dot) com.

When Ross asked me to teach a class with him called “Science and Imagination,” I wasn’t sure I was really qualified to teach people science, which, though it fascinates me, was never one of my best subjects. “Don’t sweat it, Little Buddy,” Ross said, “Use your imagination.”

And sure enough, that was the key to what would be a thought provoking course that challenged the old dichotomy between the Arts and Sciences. And we got about a dozen students signed up, not bad for a student-initiated course. Our curriculum and syllabus was approved by the Antioch administration and our first classes went great. We read some mind-bending science fiction, like Olaf Stapleton’s Starmaker. And a recent and controversial book by a new astronomer on the scene, a charismatic guy named Carl Sagan, who, along with a Russian colleague, had written Intelligent Life in the Universe. We took our class to the roof of the Science Building to gaze at Andromeda through the school’s huge telescope.

And, when we found out about an important convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we took our class to San Francisco to attend. A ballsy move, since everyone (including Ross and I) were also taking a full load of classes, and Yellow Springs, Ohio is about 2000 miles from the Saint Francis Hotel on Union Square. Not all of our students got past the initial enthusiasm stage to the “shit, we’re actually doing this” stage, but in the end we had six travelers plus ourselves. One big snag: the day we were to leave in Joe’s van (classic Hippie van complete with hand-painted festoons) I had to work: I was photo editor of The Antioch Record, the weekly paper, and I couldn’t leave for another day and a half until I got my shots in.

Ross took me aside and got real serious. “MJ, you have to go. There is no way you’re not going.” He suggested I hitchhike out to California after my assignments were in. I told him he was crazy. He said if I would do it, he’d let the van go on ahead and hitch with me. I said “Now you think I’m crazy!” Ross grinned.

And three days later he and I hit the road for Cali. Later, fighting off psychopaths and near death in Arizona’s Painted Desert, I pondered the wisdom of our decision. But even later than that, safe in the loving arms of a Berkeley saucer cult (later to be known as Heaven’s Gate) we wolfed down organic rice and munge beans and smiled blissfully, knowing we had made the right choice.

MJ & Ross McConnell, about to be abandoned in a very hot desert PHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved


Ross McConnell – Part 1

Saturday, June 28th, 2008
Ross McConnellPHOTO CC: MJ Vilardi some rights reserved

Last month my lifelong friend Ross McConnell died near Tbilisi, Georgia in a freak traffic accident. He was on his way to a Black Sea resort in Turkey, and had just stepped off the bus at a rest stop when he was struck by a speeding minivan. He died shortly thereafter, in the “reanimator room” of a nearby hospital. Ross was 55, and had been living in Tbilisi for several years. Here is a news report by Georgian State Television, with English transcript courtesy of Ross’s friend, the expatriate writer Brian Adrian, who also lives in Tbilisi.

NOTE: The remarkable life and untimely death of Ross McConnell is the topic of our first MJville podcast. If you knew Ross and would like to share your thoughts and memories, please leave a comment on this post and we’ll work out a time for a phone or Skype conversation.

I first met Ross back in the 70’s when we were both students at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I was trying to sleep off the effects of a long night of partying, when I heard a loud noise at my dorm room door. It wasn’t knocking, not even pounding, but an insane hammering, like they were tearing down the building. I peered through the peephole and spied a big guy using a brick to nail something to my door. “What the hell-?” I yelled as I swung the door open. A preserved fox face fell to the floor. This is what the mystery man – obviously inebriated – had been trying unsuccessfully to mount. Without further comment I picked up the furry mask and held it in place, while Ross nailed it securely into the wood. (more…)