Hawai’i is Ready

Father Damien statue outside of the Hawai'i State Capitol -- close-up shot of the blocky statue, two pillars of the Capitol building visible behind him.
Father Damien statute outside of the Hawai’i State Capitol

I am calling for a special legislative session because we must ensure the civil rights of every citizen are protected. There is no reason to deny the benefits of marriage to any individual. Marriage is a choice that is made by people who want to make a lifelong commitment. This is a right that is as sacred as our right to vote.

 I am asking legislators to vote during the special session to allow same-sex couples to be legally married.

— Governor Neil Abercrombie, September 9, 2013

In 1993 I was working for the Hawai’i House of Representatives, in the House Majority Staff Office (and when I say majority I mean majority: 47 Democrats; 4 Republicans).

That was the year the Hawai’i State Supreme Court ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that not granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples was discriminatory under the state’s constitution.  The ruling did not grant same-sex couples an immediate right to marry.  Instead, the Supreme Court kicked it back to the lower courts, instructing the defendant, the State Attorney, that it would need to show a compelling state interest for refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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Cars. Fire.

White sedan in flames at side of the road; jet of water from unseen hose blasting through back window.
Car on fire by EJ Imageries.

A few days ago, a car parked on my very quiet street went on fire.  The sound of a heavily wheezing engine drew my attention to the window, where I saw a fire truck in the middle of the street, a police car a few lengths behind, and the two guys working on my back garden, Tom and José, out on the front sidewalk, looking down the street.

White smoke was billowing out the windows and from under the hood of a blue Ford Escort, 50 feet away.  The police were knocking on house doors, trying to find the owner.  The firemen were circumspect, leaving the initial sussing out to the police, who circled the car purposefully, looking for clues.  Eventually, however, we the gawking neighbors were rewarded with firemen in full gear breaking car windows, wrenching up the hood and turning on the big hoses. “They’re going to need a new car,” said Tom, laconically.

Showroom photo from the front of a Bonneville convertible, top open, beige, shiny.
Pontiac Bonneville by That Hartford Guy.

Insider info revealed the car belonged to “the family that everything happens to,”  including an explosion (really?) at their previous residence.  In the near aftermath of the Ford Escort autocide, the grieving family introduced a fabulous vintage Pontiac Bonneville convertible–literally twice the length of my Subaru–to the street.  Make of it what you will.  I, personally, am making nothing of it as those folks have always been nice to me.

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Angels in America

Status of an angel in an overgrown garden, wings spread, female, weathered green.
Angel 013, by Juliett-Foxtrott

I saw a flyer in Top of the Hill, my local cafe, that said Lorna Byrne, Irish mystic and angel communicator, was coming to Chestnut Hill on St. Patrick’s Day.  I picked up the flyer and pocketed it.

Lorna Byrne sees angels.  She sees them everywhere; she has seen them since she was a child.  She has written several books, detailing her visions and offering hope.  We all have angels watching us, she says.  Just as we were told as children.  They are ever present.

The first time I heard of Lorna Byrne was in May 2008.  She had just published “Angels in My Hair,” and was going to be speaking, and signing copies, at Dubray Books in Bray, Co. Wicklow, about 20 minutes away from where I was living at the time, the village of Roundwood in the Wicklow Mountains.

I had few connections in Roundwood.  My partner, Fred, and I had moved there only recently.  But then Fred died, in December 2007, at age 39.  There is a lot I don’t remember about that time.  I cried every day.  I cried every time I drove.  Also in the shower.  I took the dog for long, long walks in Wicklow beauty spots.  Vartry lakes.  The Vartry Reservoir dam.  Glendalough.  I was possessed by him those first months, intensely connected.

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Leaving Ireland

Shot from a plane window, wing tip with the Aer Lingus shamrock logo at top, pink-tinged clouds below.
Leaving Ireland by Irelandpmc

I’m nearly at the gate – just passing through customs. All is happiness here, as I’m a long-term ex-pat who’s coming home, Shannon to Boston. Customs agents like it when Americans come back to America. Another one sorted.

We’re working through the formalities when a question about food catches me. No, I’m not bringing back any food. But oh, wait a second, “Is dog food considered food?” I ask, brightly. Wow, can the mood at a customs booth change.

“We have to pull your luggage,” the agent says grimly, and gets on the phone. Next she steps out from behind the desk and firmly escorts me to a swinging door, indicating that I should walk through it. I do, and step into the detainee lounge.

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Jenna, My Psychic

CrystalballThere are a million ways to avoid work when you're self-employed. Actually, with the Internet factored in, more like a billion.  In fact, the essential skill for self-employed work-at-home types is avoiding all those ways to avoid work.  But, alas, sometimes, you succumb.  

And so it is that I acquired a psychic.

It started out as a somewhat excusable diversion from writing, or polishing up the resume, or scouring job sites, or contacting contacts.  I was perusing the Washington Post online.  I can almost always rationalize reading the Washington Post online as a business-related activity.  Many of my clients are in Washington.  I need to keep up with what's happening.  I need to toss around the latest political news and gossip as though I've been attending every modish Georgetown soiree (not that I ever attended a Georgetown soiree when I actually lived in D.C.). 

Wandering off into the comics section is a bit less excusable.  The Washington Post, alone among serious newspapers, has three pages of comics. The tie between politics and comedy is too obvious to belabor. Still. Some of those comic strips are quite topical. Almost required reading for the true Washingtonian.

Clicking on the horoscopes is almost definitely a step too far.   

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The Loneliness of the Lidl Checkout Line

Checkout lineTiming is everything at Lidl.  And timing is also completely random at Lidl.  While there never seems to be a crowd in the store (we're all solitary wanderers down those long, long aisles, with our big, big carts) you can find a line 15 carts deep when it's time to check out.  Or, no one.

Yesterday, it was no one.  Ha ha!  No waiting! These little triumphs of the day.  But seconds after I sailed my cart right up to the cash register, I realized I was in trouble.  I was on my own.  I had no unloading time.  I was under pressure.  That kind of unspoken social pressure to get your goods on the belt and checked out as fast as possible.  The race was on.

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Fire on the Mountain

Gorse fireSpring or something like it, a respite, a surprise break in the windy winter greyness, opens up randomly in February, giving us still, sunny, maybe even warmish days.  Unexpected days. Suddenly you're aware of the birds (perhaps because you can actually hear them when the gales die down), and mud, and if there's not a tinge of green yet, there's a feeling of green.  You can relax, stretch, walk outside, breathe deeply. And immediately choke on a lungful of acrid smoke.  Because the mountain is on fire.  

Yes, it's that annual Kerry tradition, lighting the gorse every time the day is fine and the air is still, blanketing townlands (and last week the entire town of Dingle) under hazy smoke for hours, forcing closed windows and doors on the very days you want to fling them open, and threatening buildings and people as the fires inevitably go out of control.  Last year a friend had to leave her house with her family as a fire lit by one of her neighbors crept ever closer.  This year (and every year) a farmer was killed when the fire he lit went out of his control.

These fires are legal.  That is, they are legal until the 1st of March, and if they are under control.  It's hard to see how any of them are under control. And here in Kerry, they're lit well after the 1st of March.  They're lit anytime, really, if the wind is down and the day is fine.  

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Silent Men, Minimal Heat and Spooky Cows (Part II)

(To begin at the beginning, see Silent Men, Minimal Heat and Spooky Cows)

Storage heaters turned out to be a minimally effective heat source for a large, stone farmhouse on the side of a hill at the western edge of Ireland in winter.  That meant I needed a fire in my sitting room, every day.  Passing through the mysteriously slug-less kitchen and clicking on the kettle first thing in the morning, I'd open the back door and breathe in West Kerry.  It smells like the sea, and mud, and mist, a clean, complex smell flavored by sileage or slurry or cut hay, depending on the time of year.  

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Villagers with Pitchforks; It’s Only New Year’s Eve

"But how do they keep the flaming turf on the pitchfork?" my Dad asked, a year ago, as we prepared to witness the village New Year's celebration for the first time.  I had no idea.  I had just moved there.  I wasn't even sure it would be happening, as my source kept noting the whole thing was "unofficial," a status my father, retired insurance executive, could certainly appreciate.  But at midnight I walked down to the village main street with my visiting parents and waited, uncertain, for bagpipes and flaming turf.

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