From where she stood in the golden sunshine of a brilliant New York morning, Hillary Rodham, Clinton made a solemn promise - to make America better for everyday Americans.
We all stand to share in that promise simply because we will finally have a chance, an equal opportunity for everyday people to make the most of who and what we are and hope to be in a nation free of want and fear – just like the powerful vow of the man after whom the park where we gathered is named.
Free to express ourselves and worship if we choose.
Free to be.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was our grand champion then.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is our grand champion now.
Saturday’s rally marked her presidential campaign’s official public beginning with a speech, a fitting plan to return America to its heritage and take us into the future stronger and better equipped to face the many challenges of tomorrow.
Tomorrow, not yesterday as Hillary’s bitter critics cry, a new day, not the bad old days of yesteryear’s trickle-down democracy, but a truly American day that marks the beginning and not the end of a dream that is on the ropes.
Hillary promises to be a champion, somebody who has been down but never out, a fighter who perseveres and never quits. She told the overwhelmingly young crowd in the park that she has been called many names, but “quitter” is not one of them.
Looking confident and calm, Hillary spoke amid the boisterous cheers from the crowd that erupted accompanied by a wave of countless small flags that flew in homage to new glory, not old glory, but new glory baptized with all the fanfare and resilience of an old-fashioned Scranton christening.
Trust has survived some bad times for too many people, young and old, good people who ask for little and get as much – good people in this great place where liberty and justice has too often withered in abandoned corners of our county.
Trusting is sometimes terrifying, but the willingness to stay in the fight, to pick yourself up when you’re down is always worth the effort.
And, as Hillary vowed to lead that effort, the crowd once again roared its approval and willingness to join the cause. These people will now face the haters and reject their hatred. They will welcome the attacks as gifts, informing the arbiters of injustice that their days are numbered, that common sense and decency will nurture our national public policy from now on.
Science, human and civil rights, economic justice and wisdom will rule the day.
Pride will prevail.
As Hillary stood strong and spoke from a small stage in the park, a cool breeze blew across the East River, sending small ripples across the water as signs of bigger waves to come – a movement for fairness, for a change. Slowly but surely, her honorable ideas will become the land of the land – your land, my land, from California to this New York island.
And, again, Roosevelt Island erupted with the beautiful noise of expectation. With hard work, training, support and guidance, we will make it together. With a chance to which we must all be entitled, the good people of this nation will do and be better than ever.
Standing her ground and inviting everyone to join her, Hillary promised the world to take action against unfairness that has stripped too many people of their dignity, holding them back and holding them down – women and men, straight and gay, people who deserve better and rarely complain.
But, even in our terribly jaded world, the people who listened to her, who support and work for her election, were willing to enlist in the sacred mission to change the world because they know the world needs them.
This is America’s authentic promise in all its’ sweetest splendor.
This is the best of our respectful and decent people, one great American family that will finally stand together for what is right.
This is the Hillary Rodham Clinton who will become president.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
If honor is everything, Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright is nothing.
Deceit frames his tenure as a public servant. Dishonesty characterizes the temple of city services he rules like a villain in a cheap martial arts movie.
“Enter the Phony.”
Without honor, neither government nor martial arts stands for anything good.
A few months ago, Courtright hired David Weidow Sr. for a newly created Department of Public Works (DPW) job cutting grass and weeds in a flood prone area, a job Courtright neither advertised nor accepted applications from anybody but Weidow. The job pays $29,000-a-year, more than the median Scranton salary, and comes with a full benefits package.
Weidow does, however, likely have more grass and weed experience than anybody on the city payroll.
In 2009 he pleaded guilty to growing marijuana and possessing nine pounds of pot with the intent to distribute. A judge sentenced him to serve up to seven years in a state prison for his connection to a ring that police say travelled from Lackawanna County to Philadelphia and trafficked in cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy
During the campaign for mayor, Courtright, who runs a for-profit West Side karate dojo as a self-proclaimed 8th degree black belt, accepted a $10,000 campaign donation from David’s brother, Edward. Scranton punchers and kickers say that Edward Weido was a whirlwind karate practitioner when he and his close friend the mayor were young.
And, now, city taxpayers are paying 58-year-old David to attack grass and weeds with the ferocity of one nasty ninja.
Maybe David found enlightenment, straightened out and cleaned up his act. What he didn’t do was take his city job application seriously enough to fill out the required responses.
If yes, please explain.
David didn’t even list a telephone number where he could be reached.
At least he mentioned in scribbly handwriting that he attended some kind of college named “Park” at some undisclosed location where he received what appears to be an associate degree that he seems to have misspelled and finished one “degree” short.
More serious questions remain.
The mayor claims he knew nothing about David’s previous gardening experience. But the mayor also claims that 8th dan black belt, rivaling only Chuck Norris for two-fisted bravado. For the record, Courtright still refuses to prove his karate rank by naming the teacher or teachers who promoted him along the way, disrespecting the people he is paid to serve that he is in fact the honorable “master” he claims to be.
The mayor says he will ask David Weidow to fill in the blanks on his job application. That should prove interesting. Is there anything else about David Weidow’s past that the people who pay his salary and pick up the cost of his health insurance should know about?
Any other crimes?
Any other prison sentence?
I don’t know if David holds any karate rank.
All I know is that this whole mess arranged and carried out by Courtright is rank enough to fill all the garbage trucks at the DPW garage.
The man appeared suddenly at my front screen door last night.
“Corbett!’ yelled the big man. “Corbett!”
Then he rang the bell. I didn’t recognize him at first and wasn’t sure if he was friend or foe. I opened the door, stepped onto the front porch and made sure to keep him at arms-length.
“I didn’t know who else to talk to,” he said.
I recognized him as a man I knew from a work crew in the neighborhood last summer. We had talked a few times and he said he grew up in the Hill Section of Scranton where I live. In his 60s he’s still a man you’d want in your corner in a pinch.
“You don’t know what happened,” he said.
A small gathering of past and present public officials had gathered earlier on Courthouse Square with a few military veterans to unveil plans to pay tribute to the 52 Lackawanna County residents who died during the Vietnam War.
The man on my porch said he was a Vietnam combat veteran.
But the event earlier in the day had seemed to upset him more than comfort him. He called it a flop as his eyes filled. He said he saw nothing of the announcement on the 6 o’clock news.
Anxiety is too mysterious for its own good. It sneaks into your mind like a thief and steals confidence from even the most steadfast person. A little panic can go a long way – too far, in fact, when you feel lost and worry that stability might never be found again.
That’s why a friend in need is a friend indeed. We all need somebody sometime to help us through the haze – especially when the years start to blur and aging takes over against our will.
Although I’m still not sure what exactly upset the man who came to my home last night, I am sure that he – and countless other Vietnam veterans, particularly combat veterans - needs some well-earned reassurance that we have not forgotten the tours of duty, draft and death that defined a troublesome time in our personal and national history.
Although their patrols stopped a long time ago, time marches on. Growing older is an often lonely post. After all those years since Saigon fell in 1975, the memorial is the least we can do. The real mission of compassion and honor comes when the memorial is finally dedicated, the names read and the politicians go home.
Poor health remains an enemy for too many of our region’s military veterans. So do high taxes and service charges for unassuming men and women whose income never gets higher as the cost of food skyrockets and other expenses inflict invisible wounds on those who have already sacrificed too much. Depression also waits in dark ambush, ready, willing and able to claim its next victim. So does despair.
Of course, other veterans from other wars have experienced similar torment. The death camps left their marks on liberators, Korean vets still revisit the bitter years and the ongoing inner turmoil brought home from Afghanistan and Iraq continues to take lives by suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the man at my door last night was a Vietnam veteran asking for help.
Money, power, kindness, training, treatment and more shape the litany of offerings we must continue to provide. Civilians are duty bound in our connection to those who fought and fight the wars. Not everyone puts on the uniform and picks up the gun in service to the nation. Not everyone should. But everyone must provide constructive service to the nation and our individual communities in one way or another.
I opened the door to my friend last night. Now we must open our hearts and minds to him and others who need our help. Because by helping them we also are helping ourselves.
When my father Shamus was growing up in Scranton during the Depression, maybe he swam below the “cut” in the Lackawanna River where his dad dug bootleg coal. If so, I doubt that my father or his nine brothers and sisters had real bathing suits. Shamus probably wore a pair of older brother Gene’s hand-me-down shorts or just his knickers.
If city swimming pools existed in the 30s, Shamus never told me about them.
We’ve come a long way in 21st Century Scranton.
Or have we?
City taxpayers foot the bill for several swimming pools, including the big outdoor pool equipped with a brightly-colored plastic winding sliding board at Nay Aug Park, a place that should be packed each summer day with squealing, laughing children.
But several pools will remain closed this summer for a variety of reason – capped by the overall incompetence of city officials who can’t figure out how to open them and provide city kids a much-deserved respite from sweltering summer heat and humidity.
Nay Aug will only offer “free swimming for kids” to those 12 years of age and under.
The rest can either come up with the price of a ticket or go swim in the river. Some will likely find their way to the dangerous nearby gorge and risk their young lives showing adults just what kind of recklessness they can find if abandoned without guidance, encouragement and support.
That’s why the rallying cry “free swimming for kids” must be heard far and wide loud and clear.
A neighborhood group raised enough money last summer to cover the cost of the kids. In previous years no such thing as free swimming for kids existed at Nay Aug. This year, official “action” is a compromise that’s not a compromise at all.
That’s why I’m putting city officials on notice.
“Free swimming for kids” is non-negotiable.
The city simply must pay.
Officials from this recreation board and that city council and this mayor’s office and that bureaucratic sewer authority claim that the money is simply not available, that the cash does not exist.
Yes it does. Find it. Take it from somewhere else – the mayor’s salary, conferences or the coffee fund. Make New Jersey consultant Henry Amoroso pay. City officials helped him grab a fat raise for his “expertise” in urban planning. So tell him that “free swimming for kids” is part of our overall progressive approach to improving the quality of life in the city he’s taking for a ride in his luxury consulting machine.
Henry can either find the money in an existing bank account or get it somewhere else. Scranton residents already pay high enough taxes and service rates to cover the cost – and add free popsicles for kids once a week as well.
One neighborhood organizer accused city officials of discriminating against poor kids. So what else is new? Poor kids always pay for the free ride self-absorbed politicians give themselves, their families and friends.
Go to any of the slew of campaign fundraisers and observe the amount of beer guzzled by campaign workers and supporters, paid for by candidates who claim to support the bright future of the city – a once bustling place now on the verge of collapse led by a mayor who can’t see the forest or the trees. At the most popular political fundraisers the cost of beer alone could pay for free swimming for kids.
If you ostracize the young and make them feel as if they don’t matter because they don’t, you tempt fate by marginalizing the simplest of their dreams.
Innocence lost can turn rabid.
In a dog-eat-dog political world, the bites resulting from such cruel attacks will only fester and get worse.
Free swimming for kids! Free swimming for kids! Free swimming for kids!
Daddy Kane and Mommy Kane worked very hard over the years to raise Baby Kane. As a result, Baby Kane – also known as Jared Martin Kane – raised quite a bit of Caine of his own.
Back in 2010 Baby Kane told police he had been drinking, “was driving and hit a few things,” according to a press account of his night out. Then Wilkes-Barre councilwoman Mommy Kane and magisterial district judge Daddy Kane could at least tell friends that boozy Baby Kane was honest.
That kind of loopy open book mentality shapes Baby Kane’s current bid to replace Daddy Kane when he retires.
A meat cutter by trade at a Wilkes-Barre supermarket, Baby Kane can campaign on a platform of cutting the pork from the political wheeling and dealing that sometimes shapes a slick magistrate’s career.
And, a considerable amount of hard work and hard liquor goes into scoring 0.267 on your blood alcohol content test. That’s impressive, even for Wilkes-Barre, where district judges often work overtime handling drunken driving cases.
If elected, Baby Kane, 33, will bring real experience to the bench. Police charged Baby Kane with not one but two counts of driving under the influence because he struck two legally parked cars.
The cars were parked a block apart!
And that takes practice!
Baby Kane says he made a mistake and has grown.
“Do you still drink? I asked when we spoke briefly by phone Tuesday.
“No,” he said.
“Not at all?” I asked.
“Not like I used to,” he said.
I explained that he had just given me two entirely different answers to the same question.
Baby Kane admitted his deception.
“Yea,” he said. “I jumped the gun on that one.”
Like I said, if nothing else, Baby Kane is honest.
But getting elected might not be as easy as former sheet metal worker judge Daddy Kane and current city controller Mommy Kane Baby Kane might think.
Critics accuse the Kane campaign brain trust of being deceptive. Baby Kane’s first name does not even appear on his campaign yard signs. All the signs say is “Kane for Magisterial District Judge.”
His Facebook page also just says “elect Kane Magisterial District Judge.”
Because no mention of Baby Kane’s first name appears anywhere in the literature, some people in Wilkes-Barre might think that Daddy Kane is up for re-election, as he has been regularly for almost three decades. They’ll think they’re voting for the same old hustler judge rather than voting for his new hustler judge son.
So why no first name, Jared?
Baby Kane provided some convoluted explanation about first names not being clearly visible on campaign signs and then in almost the same breath said he’s got new signs ordered that will include his first name.
He also said he passed his magistrate certification test with flying colors – considerable progress from when he spent four years at Kutztown University from 2000 to 2004 when he finished six credits short of graduation.
Baby Kane said he’s still thinking about going back to college.
And he denied, contrary to published reports, ever having worked for legendary Luzerne County gangster judge Michael Conahan when he “finished” college. He said he worked in the jury room and that his name mistakenly got included in an anonymous letter that went to the Judicial
Conduct Board before Conahan got indicted, pleaded guilty and headed to prison for 17 ½ years for his part in selling kids for cash.
Shining solid gray in the warm spring dusk, the Rodham family headstone toppled sometime over the weekend near the edge of Scranton’s Washburn Cemetery.
How the heavy stone fell remains a mystery.
Did fanatics drag it down a day or two after a local television news report showed it for the world to see?
Did the wind blow it over, as the kindly undertaker suggested Monday evening while standing on sacred ground? Did vandals overturn it on purpose or did the earth above our abandoned coal mines shift in a natural gasp of living soil?
Whatever force sent that heavy marker on its back must have been substantial. More significant, though, is the power that righted the wrong and worked to raise the stone to its original dignity.
Virtue still lives in that old Scranton graveyard. Strength breathes as testament to a legacy of life, love and commitment to what is just. The Rodham family stone anchors an indelible spirit that remains so much a part of this city. So, too, does the family memorial mark the presidential campaign of a special Rodham daughter. Like those who came and went before her, Hillary is part of this town, her father’s town, a town that helped shape her and her family.
The Rodham signature remains part of Scranton’s past, present and future.
Family history provides identity to us all.
That’s one reason why, born of good stock, Hillary brings the Rodham character of discipline, purpose and honor to her pledge to help people and a country in need.
Little about life is easy – especially in Scranton. Mystery clouds tomorrow. But what we know for sure is that when trouble arises, the chance to help people makes for better people. The chance to make a difference in people’s lives turns bad into good in any town.
A man and his wife had spotted the downed Rodham headstone Monday afternoon while walking the cemetery where the man has family buried. So he went home and quickly made a call. The man he called listened, hung up and made a call of his own. Other calls went out as well.
By early evening, four men and a woman stood by the Rodham family plot, talking in quiet tones the way good people have stood around talking at Scranton burial grounds for centuries. Then they shook hands and went to work to solve the problem.
The undertaker called a crane operator who said he would show up at the cemetery the next day. Police would be notified. A Rodham family friend called Hillary’s brother, Tony, to tell him that everything would be okay. Another person called the man and his wife to thank them for their concern and promised to keep them up to date.
People looking out for each other, neighbors watching out for neighbors, good citizens helping anybody who needs help. Money or no money, black, white, Latino, citizen, non-citizen, gay or straight - just like the video Hillary released Sunday when she officially announced her presidential campaign.
“Hillary for America” translates into exactly what happened in Scranton yesterday.
Helping, not hurting, creates a new day in our lifetime as sturdy as a toppled headstone raised again in dignity, stability and love for all that’s good.
At our best, in Scranton and elsewhere, we’re simply people helping people.
Washed up mob movie actor Paul Sorvino needs a nickname.
After his sniveling performance on my show last week, his feigned outrage over the fate of his latest film was less than memorable. Sorvino’s real-life role as victim was also far from convincing. But his whiney whimpers were impressive.
How about “Paulie Sniffles?”
“Paulie Sniffles” it is.
And you, Paulie Sniffles, better be ready for what’s coming. Because we’re going to the mattresses, as the goodfella goons say, in our fight to get what you owe us. We’re the victims here, not you, Paulie Sniffles. But we’re victims unlike any you’ve ever met.
You want Scranton, “Paulie Sniffles,” we’ll give you Scranton. Our Scranton, though, the real Scranton, is unlike the prissy, pampered place of privilege you know and claim to love.
If you love us why stick us for the half a million in taxpayer money you grabbed and sunk into that flop, “The Trouble With Cali,” that you created here and now claim nobody wants to distribute? If you love us why blame us for sinking your so-called movie? If you love us you wouldn’t blubber and crybaby your way around town with your failure film following you like the ghost of our late great hometown actor Jason Miller, who gave you your break and opened up our town to you?
No, Paulie Sniffles, you only love yourself.
That’s why you cheated us.
So give us our movie.
We’re partners, remember?
You said it yourself, Paulie Sniffles, when you called the show and blamed me, Times-Tribune columnist Chris Kelly and other critics for destroying your movie distribution deal with an unnamed Canadian company.
You never had a deal, ya lug, ya.
And the two goofs who signed over the 500,000 clams that you skimmed off the top of their chowder heads never had our approval to give away our money in the first place. Both guys, former Republican majority Lackawanna County Commissioners Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak, are currently serving federal prison sentences on unrelated public corruption felonies. Cordaro is even listed as an executive producer on your - I mean our - film.
That must have impressed the Canadians and anybody else foolish enough to give your family enterprise – written by one daughter, featuring another – credit for anything except finality.
Final as in croaked.
“Cali is dead,” you told me on the air in breathy dramatic tones before trying to pull a fast one and hang up on us. I sensed your final curtain falling and had to throw a couple of fast body shots that doubled you over.
“You stick us and we’re supposed to feel bad for you?” I asked.
“You son of a bitch,” you said.
And the whole world suddenly saw through you, recognizing you for the loser you are, the failure you have become, the hustler who never cut it in Scranton and killed his – I mean our - movie. Then you turned and ran, leaving a dull roar in your wake like the frothing waves of a tramp steamer full of holes going down for the last time.
So here’s the deal, champ. Kelly and I will meet you at a saloon of our choosing – New York or Scranton, take your pick. You hand over the movie. And we show it for free in Scranton and then we show it again to benefit charity. I doubt that anybody will want to see your “masterpiece” more than twice.
Of course you’re welcome to attend although I would advise against it.
Some of us carry a grudge in Scranton the way you beautiful people carry a canape.
So dry your eyes and give us our movie.
We’re not through with you yet, “Paulie Sniffles.”
A spokeswoman for Vice President of the United Stated Joe Biden told me Friday that our scrappy kid from Scranton does not have time to talk with me on the air for 10 minutes today or tomorrow about the Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner, where Biden is scheduled to be the featured speaker.
Tuesday’s annual event is the 110th gathering of this gang of well-heeled, well-connected men of means and privilege – and the third time for Biden - who exclude women unless they are serving heaping plates of ham and cabbage to the men.
Biden will likely share the elevated VIP table with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, my senator and neighbor who lives down the hill from me in the hometown we share, the town of Biden’s birth.
Like Biden and Casey, the Friendly Sons refuse to talk with me. I’ve been fighting their discrimination against women for about 25 years and have reached out to them as I reached out to Biden and Casey.
My argument is simple. As a descendant of an Irish immigrant Scranton coal miner I want women to share the same American Dream that welcomed my grandfather. I want women to have the same equal opportunity that continues to draw immigrants to our small piece of the world.
But women are denied that opportunity at the dinner. Even female political candidates are barred. I recently spoke about the Friendly Sons dinner with a woman who is running for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She cannot attend and campaign, network, shake hands, develop her voter base or make friends and influence people the way male candidates can and will.
Male candidates always show up to campaign. That strikes me as particularly unfair – maybe even illegal. I wanted to ask Biden – as I tried to ask Casey - if he would help me fight for women’s rights. But Biden can’t find the time.
I understand why the law allows private clubs for men and women and why religious groups can legally discriminate against women. I support women’s colleges and don’t want to open the Girl Scouts to boys.
But I do want to open the world of business and politics to equal opportunity for women. That’s why I wrote this proclamation and handed it out on the street as I picketed Casey’s Scranton office last week with a seven-foot shamrock-shaped protect sign that quoted Casey’s big lie.
If Biden and Casey won’t join my fight maybe you will.
We will be better for it if you do.
Proclamation of Equal Opportunity
The sacred 1916 proclamation of Irish freedom begins with the words “Irishmen and Irishwomen.” The British government sentenced about 50 of those women to die for their part in the Easter Rising.
So as we prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day we must respectfully pay tribute to the Irish women who helped shape the immigrant legacy and the American dream of our ancestors.
Freedom matters. Equal opportunity matters. Women matter.
Yet here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, women matter far less than men. And one of the worst offenders of gender discrimination is U.S. Senator Bob Casey, an Irish-American who should know better. That’s why I’m picketing Casey’s office here in Scranton. As a male chauvinist Paddy’s pig Casey wields great power to help rather than hurt. That’s why I was proud to hear Casey recently tell the world in Oslo, Norway, that “women’s rights are non-negotiable.”
But Casey is not telling the truth. In fact Casey will join Vice President of the United States Joe Biden – a Scranton native – on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, for the sexist, segregationist Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick annual dinner, a male-only gathering of about 1,500 of the most powerful male leaders of business, politics and law. Three sitting federal judges in Scranton are former Friendly Sons presidents.
No women need apply. Women and dogs keep out.
I asked Casey for a meeting to try to change his mind, but he refused to see me. I asked for a statement but he ignored my emails. So now I march up and down for freedom, for equal rights and for all of us who value fairness and justice. We must sometimes take a public stand. We must always stand on principle. We must never allow even the most privileged and powerful to oppress and subjugate in our name.
Mysterious Ireland beckons us for our next Irish adventure as sure as that young woman by the lake beckoned me that soft Irish night so many years ago – 43 years to be exact.
I sometimes see her when I close my eyes on stormy nights, when wind howls like the banshee and rain crackles against the window like green emeralds spilling from a captured leprechaun’s treasure chest. I cannot hear her voice because she never spoke - just a smile, a gesture inviting me to join her by the lake. I was 21, she about the same. This was my first trip to the land of my ancestors, a place filed with as many unknowns as knowns, a magic place where time can and does stand still.
Don’t ask me why, but I turned and walked away.
I’ve only told the story to a select few. Those who understand the power of fate know that soft temptation sometimes calls us in more ways than one. But if you come with me this October 9 through 17 as we explore Irish pubs and the deepest reaches of Celtic folklore, myth and legend, I promise to share my tale and ask you what it means.
Perhaps you won’t believe my story.
Perhaps you will.
But what I saw that dim twilight by the lake, Loch Corrib, near the small village of Cornamona where my grandfather was born, provided me with a haunted lesson of youth that might take root in your mind and guide you to safety as it has guided me.
Ireland is a great teacher, a scholar to those who want to learn. And this trip through AAA North Penn – 570-348-2511 for details – affords us all the opportunity to learn more than we can handle.
Maybe I’ll tell my tale that first night in Dublin, as we share a pint of the creamiest Guinness you will ever drink, as we look over the ancient city from a pub high atop the world-famous brewery. Or maybe I’ll wait until the last night of our trip, as we return to Dublin and share ghost stories at Ireland’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head, a safe haven of good food and drink and talk for weary travelers such as us.
Either way, I’ll tell the tale. I promise. Oh, will I ever tell the tale. Remember, I’m Irish.
In between, we’ll visit other pubs and sacred places – Blarney Castle and the Waterford Crystal factory. We’ll drive through scenery unchanged by time, sense the presence of early Christian monks and taste a drop of whiskey, if you like, at Kilbeggin, Ireland’s oldest distillery. The Cliffs of Moher, Achill Island, famous actor Richard Harris’ “Field,” the Dingle Peninsula, Kate Kearney’s Cottage dinner and so much more awaits us.
But back to the lake.
When I walked into the small cottage where I was staying with my cousin, I encountered neighbors from the village awaiting my return. I had simply gone out for a walk, to feel the Irish countryside beneath my feet and make the connection that only Ireland can provide.
They knew I was safe. And they were glad I was home. That’s even what they said when they first met me. “Stephen has come home.”
Puffing their pipes, sipping their tea, they sat in silence as solid country people often do, enjoying each other’s company and the knowledge that they were all part of the same life in a place unlike any other. Being American, I sometimes found the long silences awkward.
So I spoke.
I told them about the young woman by the lake.
An old man quickly took his pipe quickly from his mouth. An older woman put her hands to her mouth,. Another blessed herself. Another stood open-mouthed. Even the poor dog took cover under the chair closer to the warmth of the stove.
Wind suddenly wailed outside.
“It’s her,” an old fellow said. “It’s her.”
“She wanted you to come with her, Stephen,” he said. “She wanted you to accompany her forever as a replacement for the young man she lost - an American, like you. A wedding was planned and then he died in an accident. They were so good together and she could not bear the loss. She walked into the lake one night and never came home.”
Now I stood open-mouthed as sparks from the open turf fire danced like lost bridesmaids at the wedding of a friend and they told me how lucky I was.
Ten years earlier an American tourist disappeared after last being seen by the lake. Twenty years ago another Yank had gone missing. He, too, had taken a walk by the lake.