Cheese it! The cops! (a white privilege tale)

I had a run-in with the cops last night.  Damn, the way they harass me.  I had left my car near our neighborhood nine-hole golf course (yeah, that’s right, we’re talking mean streets), and my neighbor Carol drove me down to retrieve it.

Don't step away from the car, ma'am -- you're perfectly fine!
Don’t step away from the car, ma’am — you’re perfectly fine

It’s about 10:30 p.m.  The street and the neighborhood are entirely dark and quiet.  My neighbor swings her car around nose-to-nose with mine.  As I get out and start toward my own car, I see headlights coming down the street.  Those headlights belong to a police car and in a few seconds, I’m in a police spotlight.  Here’s what goes down:

Me:  (Waving my keys in a manner that can only be described as “merrily”)  “Yes, this is my car!”

I continue unconcerned to my car.

Him: (spotlight still shining on me) “Um, is everything alright?”

Me: “Oh, everything’s fine!  I had to leave the car here earlier, for, um, personal reasons.” [translation: none of your business why I left my car here, officer]

The officer moves the spotlight to my neighbor, who is still sitting in her car.  She rolls down her window and waves.  I can’t see if the wave is merry, but let’s assume it is.

Him: “Ok!  Just wanted to make sure you ladies weren’t out here drinking!”

Laughing all around.

Me:  (somewhat overly brightly, as we have in fact been drinking for the last two hours, just not here) “No, everything’s fine!”

Just making sure you get home safely ma'am!
Just making sure you get home safely ma’am!

He pulls away down the street a bit but doesn’t quite leave the scene.  I get into my car and start it, do a K-turn and head toward home a few blocks away.

As I near my house, I see headlights behind me, and when I pull into an open space on the street the police car cruises slowly by me.

The harassment never ends.

My Favorite Traffic Jam

Shot from the top of Main Street, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland.
Main Street on a quietish day. Centra is the big, stone-faced building on the right.

Mornings are delivery time on Main Street, Dingle. Trucks turn up from The Mall and trundle uphill with their supplies of giftware, produce and booze to stock shops, restaurants and pubs. The biggest trucks head for the biggest shops–  Fitzgeralds’ Home and Hardware and the Centra grocery store directly in front of it.

Both the hardware store and Centra are accessed by the same very small driveway, overhung with an archway apartment, and leading to a tiny parking area between the two shops.

Young woman with head slightly down and arms outstretched in front ofher, hands touching and cupped, expression serene.
Make the turn. Make…the…turn. Oops.

There’s barely enough room for two cars to enter the neck of the lot.  Most days someone has parked in the neck, so if a car is coming out, you can’t go in.  It’s only when you’re  in the neck that you can you spot available parking spaces, so you have to feel the zen before you make that fatal turn.

Often the zen fails and all you see is a queue of cars ahead of you trying to turn around and get out.

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Don’t Diss the Scallions

Scallions bunched with red rubber bands
Captured scallions

I’m terrible at girly stuff. That’s why I’m having trouble with the scallions. They have hair. Hair I’m supposed to corral into three twists of a rubber band. Two twists — fine. But on the third I snag strands of scallion hair back under the band, then snap off a healthy bulb when I try to fix it. Oops.

It’s week two at Henry Got Crops, the urban farm where I volunteer to preserve my sanity and maybe earn part of a community farm share next summer.

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Stop and Smell the Cows

Close-up of the head of a large, white cow in a barn; two others in profile behind it.
My friends the cows.

I take a deep breath. Cows. How long since I’ve smelled cows? I turn and see them, lined up in stalls inside the compact, white wooden building behind me.  The cows are mostly white as well.  And mostly quiet, so it must be past the milking.

Cows. In the west of Ireland, where I lived for 15 years, I inhaled their scent most days. I’d pass them in the field or barn, or they’d pass me on the road, heading for a summer milking. I’d find stray heifers munching grass in my back garden and navigate carefully around the occasional road-roaming bull.

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Robin fledgling on the back of a brown, woven chair, green spring foliage in the background.
A robin fledgling sits on my garden chair.

Opening the garden door this morning to another sunny, steamy, Philadelphia day, everything lush, green and growing, it takes me a moment to notice the small bird perched on top of my garden chair.  It’s very still.  It seems to be breathing hard.  I can walk right up to it and it doesn’t move.

“It’s hurt!” I think, “it needs help!”  I phone my friend Celia, who knows all there is to know about who does what in Philadelphia.  “Who can help me with an injured bird?” I asked.  “You’re the fourth person in two days to call me about an injured bird,” she replies.  “Don’t get upset, but if it’s injured and small, the mother has probably kicked it out of the nest and it won’t survive.”

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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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