Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Once You Frack You Can’t Go Back: Ban Fracking Rally

For the last few weeks, the spectra pipeline plans, combined with news of Cuomo’s support for fracking has created quite a stir.  It is hard to imagine that anyone would think polluting water would be a smart plan for New York state. Yet, it seems the plan is moving forward.

Wednesday,  August 22nd, I joined a few hundred of my closest friends to make a final plea to our Governor 1% as he hosted a policy summit in NYC.

Riding over the action on 53rd and 7th Ave, I thought of all the rides and rallies Times Up! and others have held over the years in support of a more sustainable model of urban living, not dependent on pollution, contamination, and short term profits.  The specter of fracking – which will most assuredly pollute our water supply – terrifies me. 

Photo by Eric McGregor

Years ago, perhaps 2009, we started our outreach on the subject with a series of water rides and press conference designed to highlight the need for clean water.  Monica Hunken went to community boards around the city to show a clip from Josh Fox’  Gasland.  We pulled our sound bike around town passing out literature on the subject. Hunken held up glasses of clear water at City Hall declaring she wants the water to stay that way.

Even Tom Ridge had to admit giving your kids water exposed to the pollutants from fracking would be tantamount to child abuse. 

“We need a full state wide ban on fracking,” noted my friend Harry Bubbins at City Hall Press conference.

April 2010, a group of us, lead by Hunken, met in Times Square to bathe in fracked water. It was dark and full of brown toxics.  It did not seem very welcoming.  Yet, few seemed to be paying attention. 

Bathing in bottled water in Times Square on April Fools-Fossil Fools Day.
“What if we can't use our tap water any more if it's contaminated by toxic gas drilling?” wondered Hunken.

Summer 2011, we held more rides collaborating with more groups attempting to draw attention to the issue.  But it did not feel like enough people were paying attention or taking this seriously.  By this point, the Governor was offering a compromise – only frack and pollute some of the water.  That sounds like kids saying I’m only going to put soap in some of the water in the bathtub.  It doesn’t work.  As activists note: “Once You Frack You Can’t Go Back.”  We have spend most of my lifetime cleaning up the Hudson River after it was polluted. I hope my kids do not have to do the same with New York’s water supply. I hope people do not get sick.  Sloan Kettering does a pulsing business with afflictions few can pinpoint.  Who knows what is going happen if they frack upstate and pollute the water supply?

The 2011 Times Up! Say No to Fracking Ride.
photo by Erik R McGregor 

On Earthday, OWS activists dropped a banner on the highline calling for a fracking ban.

On May 12, 2012, Times Up! help another anti-spectra pipeline ride.  "Bloomberg is trying to fast-track a disaster plan that will leave New Yorkers vulnerable to explosions, carcinogenic exposure, radon risks, decrease in property value and a reliance on an unsustainable fossil fuel,” noted organizer Monica Hunken.  “ We have plenty of alternative green energy resources available to us now and need to stand up against this dirty plan!"

For weeks now, Hunken and OWS affinity group have been organizing actions around the pipeline. 

The calls for the Wednesday action explained:

On Wednesday August 22, Governor Cuomo is scheduled to host a policy summit in New York City. This summit appears to be a step forward as Cuomo explores a possible 2016 presidential run. This summit happens as Governor Cuomo appears to be moving forward with plans to allow fracking, possibly before the end of summer, in parts of New York State. This policy summit is an important opportunity for us to send a strong message to Governor Cuomo that if he wants our support when he runs for president in 2016, he must ban fracking in all of New York state. 

Arriving at the Sharaton, I heard screams of the crowd down 53rd Street. A group of several hundred activists stood with signs, penned in at the corner of 7th and 53rd.

“Poison Water, Poison Air,

We Get Sick, You Don’t Care”

“Andrew Cuomo don’t you dare frack our water, frack our air.”

“Gov 1%” the group called, “Ban Fracking Now!” they responded.

Activists from all the anti fracking groups, members of OWS, elders, parents and kids – a huge swath of activists were there. 

“I am so sick of hearing that we have to do these stupid things – fracking or more prisons -  in the name of economic development upstate,” I moaned to a friend.

“Well, they take the money and then they sell their property and move down to Florida, heartbroken,” noted a friend from OWS. People do not feel like they have any other option.

“The system creates this problem.”

Rally photos by Mickey Z-Vegan

I walked over to my friend JK, who was passing out posters and pens.  I started to write, “BAN FRACKING GOV 1%!!!” 

“Put something about the Department of Environmental Conservation, who’ve let this happen,” she insisted. 

I talked with Hunken who had already screamed down several of the fracking supporters earlier in the day at the Sheraton. 

The crowd began to scream and cheer as an anti fracking banner fell in front of the Sheraton.

Frack Banner Drop. by
Kim Fraczek

The RMO were playing “Whose Side Are You On!” as people sung along following with “Cuomo?” In between songs the visibly angry crowd just began to just scream, “Ban Fracking Now!”  And the crowd followed; several hundred chimed in.  Gradually the RMO started playing the anti- fascist anthem, “Bella Ciao!” as the crowd screamed. 

As rally stared to run down, I ran into Jim Fouratt, who has attended several of the anti spectra actions on the West Side Highway where the pipeline is due to begin. 

Jim Fouratt and Benjamin Shepard
Photo by Stacy Lanyon

“They are doing this because the Governor is afraid to raise taxes,” noted Fouratt.  Its the only way for the state to raise revenue, he argued nothing that it does not have to be this way.  “Fair taxes is the lubricant of the democracy,” he continued.  “Quality education and social services – they are all based on fair taxes.  Now the Tea Party and Reagan have won the argument that we can’t tax anything.  As result we have policies such as fracking.

I asked Fouratt what they would have done about a problem such as fracking back in the days over four decades ago when he was involved with Gay Liberation Front.

“We would have used direct action,” he followed, noting how happy he was there were this many people out.  “I think people need to get off their computers and stop “liking” things and block some hallways.  Make em step over you.  They are stepping over us now.”

Fouratt noted how impressed with how many people had been out to this action and had been on the West Side Highway staging actions, using colors, arts, street theatrics, etc.  “They are a real affinity group,” he followed. “Affinity groups care for each other and support each other as they do, just as they did in ACT UP.  They provide emotional support.”

Fouratt has been drawn Occupy from the earliest days.  “It is hard for me as an older activist to just listen but that’s what I’ve tried to do with Occupy, to listen, to talk with an us not an I.”   “Thank you,” he says to every Occupier for challenging the whole system which allows this to happen.  “It can be scary but its worth it to fight,” he muses.  “Occupy has been open to the elders and I appreciate that.”

While others have condemned the consensus process of Occupy, Fouratt says it reminds him of his first days with Gay Liberation Front.  “That’s exactly how we did it in 1969,” he explained. “They say there are no leaders in Occupy, but the leaders come through the consensus.”

Riding home from the action, I was both saddened that it looks like fracking is going to happen and heartened by the ongoing community of resistance dating back decades who have taken part in the struggle against the deluge.  I hope the water is going to be ok. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creative Artists, Activists, and Playwrights Occupy and Educate Together


Press Release



Benjamin Shepard 917.586.7952

Kate Foster 973.752.8841

Creative Artists, Activists, and Playwrights Occupy and Educate Together

EVENT: Occupy the Empty Space

WHEN: September 8th, 2012 from 2:00 to 6:00 PM

WHERE: NEW YORK CITY -- El Jardin del Paraiso E 4th St b/t Ave C & Ave D (309 E 4th St) via the Broadway Lafayette stop (B/D/F/M), the Astor Place stop (6), or the 8th St- NYU stop (N/R).

NEW YORK, NY (September 2012) – Creative artists, activists, and playwrights will present an invited occupation of a community garden in the East Village on September 8, 2012. Together we will facilitate theater and outreach on the vital topic of immigration. Occupy the Empty Space believes migration is a human right. As a result, on Saturday, September 8th, 2012 New York artists and activists affiliated with Occupy Wall Street will stage a bilingual (Spanish/English) theater festival + direct action + immigrant/labor rights education/outreach in El Jardin del Paraiso.

This completely free event will include 9 new plays alongside performances by theater companies and solo artists such as Judith Sloan and Earsay, Dream Act Union and more. In addition, the Occupy Wall Street Immigrant Worker Justice Group will lead a General Assembly.

Sarah Duncan, a playwright and one of the co organizers of Occupy the Empty Space, explains the genesis of this event: "I became involved with Occupy Wall Street during late November 2011, and contacted another playwright involved- Kate Foster. We presented our first ten minute play event as a segment of Occupy Broadway’s programming after a Twitter call went viral –eliciting plays from grad students, Naomi Wallace and Adam Rapp. We decided we wanted to continue to combine protest with plays, hopefully answering questions we shared: what are human rights? Is art a human right? We committed to answering those questions via a free festival series throughout 2012, themed on human rights.”

“All the best activism is theater,” notes Benjamin Shepard, an organizer of Occupy Broadway and noted NYC activist. “This is a space where performers have long taken their theater to the streets, restaging what life could be like in New York City. We’ve had villains such as Robert Moses take on hero’s such as Jane Jacobs, the Freedom Riders, and ACT UP. Each preached about the need for a different kind of stage, in which everyone has a voice, not just those with the access to power and money. Occupy the Empty Space continues this tradition of engaged theater.”

“MayDay reminded me that a majority of the community outreach conducted by OWS should be linked in with immigrant rights and labor rights,” noted Kate Foster, playwright and co organizer of Occupy the Empty Space. “MayDay 2012 in Union Square was a potent combination of artists and activists. Musicians shared the stage with labor union organizers and community leaders. Sarah and I have taken that model--a model for an artistic assembly--and applied it to the theatrical process to celebrate occupiers, artists, organizers and individuals who have been creatively and effectively bringing immigrant stories to the forefront for years. We are proud to be bringing their stories, plays and speakers to El Jardin del Paraiso for a celebration—a celebration for a 99% immigrant and labor community that is well deserved.”

Duncan explained the idea behind the title. "The title, Occupy the Empty Space, came from the title of the Peter Brook book, The Empty Space. But really, it's fitting on more than a theatrical level. Space is so valuable these days, and is valuable to the 99% when it is occupied. In NYC, the occupation of one small park changed a nation... That anniversary is coming up (#S17) and we plan on celebrating it artistically all month, jumping off with our September 8 free festival!"

A Terrible Beauty is Born: Travel Log Ireland

Before leaving for Ireland my friend Keegan gave me a book of Irish Myths.  We talked about James Joyce and read William Butler Yeats, who had come to be a bit of a bard for the Occupy Movement.  Yet, I did not really know what he meant when he wrote, “A terrible beauty is born,” in his poem Easter 1916, his homage to the Easter Rebellion of 1916.  But Joyce’ stories of the pubs, Yeats’ poetry still lingered and called. 

The night before we were supposed to fly to Ireland my friend Christine had friends over for a roof top salon.  She’s been having these for years. 

“So what’s the deal with the politics in Ireland?”  I asked.  “Why are they fighting again?”

“You better not talk too much in the bars,” one of my friends mused. 

It was true.  All I really knew about Ireland, I had seen in movies such as Gregory’s Girl and Waveriders, and grew up with songs by U2 and Stiff Little Fingers.   Still, the images and iconography of the Ireland, the  cry for an “Alternative Ulster” was a very present place in my imagination.

Over the next two weeks, I would unpack layer after of stories of the various people who have lived, immigrated, invaded, enjoyed a Guinness, written poetry, told stories and created politics, written novels, painted, fought and saved manuscripts over the last five thousand years on this island to the West of the UK. 

We landed in Shannon, running out for an Irish breakfast. The butter was the kids' favorite part.  “Butter in the US is tasteless,” they insisted.  My mom was traveling with us.  She said they used to land there before flying to points elsewhere.  It was rarely a destination.  The Bunratty Castle – castle at the end of the river -  was our first destination.  Starting as a Viking trading post in 970, it was the first of the sites we encountered dating to this period. 

Driving from County Clare to Kerry, I was in awe of the beauty of the roads, the hills, the lush greens, the countryside.  Just driving, we stumbled into this church.

We stumbled upon this chuch on our drive in. The landscape was breathtaking.
Photo by Caroline Shepard

We did not to make it to the Cliffs of Moher.  But my brothers did.

Cliffs of Moher by Jennifer Shepard.  We didn't make it. But it looks cool. You'll make yourself crazy trying to do everything on a trip like this. 

Just driving on the right side of the car was hard enough.  “Passenger to the curve, passenger to the curve” we kept repeating.

Double rainbow as we arrive in Inch. By Jennifer Shepard 
Inch beach on a moody day.  By Caroline Shepard 

It would take all day to meander through the country roads to Dingle or Daingean Ui Chuis, where we were staying in the beach town of Inch.  Drive to the Strand bar and take a right, that’s all our directions really said.  But we got there.  Arriving with beer and food in hand, I greeted my brothers and their families.  It had just started drizzling.  Looking down at the windy road back to the beach, a double rainbow shone in the distance.  We would stay in inch for a week before heading out to Dublin.

Our daily walk to the beach. by Jennifer Shepard
We stayed half way up this hill. By Caroline Shepard 

Our house was about a half mile from the pub and the beach.  Surrounded by fields, the winding road took us past a striking horse who came up to say hi every morning as we walked.  Dodi talked with the horse every day, greeting her affectionately.  Looking at me we fed her grass, she reminded me of protagonist in The Horse and His Boy, who shared stories and adventures in the fifth of the Narnia Chronicles.  I read somewhere that CS Lewis and Tolkein were actually in a writing group together.  To be a fly on that wall.  Traveling through these lush country towns with their own distinct mythologies, I could see how their stories and pasts influenced the very imprint of what would be a mythic land of the Shire and Middle Earth. 

While we missed the Cliffs of Moher, these cliffs off Dunberg Fort were pretty spectacular.
There are so many beautiful spaces one can see on such a trip.  I feel very grateful to have been able to see a few of them. Photo by Caroline Shepard 

Monday we drove West out to the Dingle Peninsula to see the Kilmalkedar Church, the Caherdorgan Fort and the Callarus Oratory.  Once again the roads and historical sites were hauntingly beautiful.  Many of these sites are barely marked.  Most of the signs are in both Irish and English.  Irish is a variation of Gaelic and Scottis.  While the language has been on life support for a century after years of neglect by the English, in recent decades it has made and comeback with more and more kids learning it and using it, a cabbie explained to us in Dublin.  Looking for the the Kilmalkedar Church, we dropped into a pub – roughly Tig an  T Soarsaigh – dating back to 1870.  An elder gentlemen drinking a pint helped me sketch a map pointing to the church.  It was a great little spot.  

Top, this gentleman gave us directions, outside the pub, "the rules" in the pub, and Scarlett enjoying "cheese and ham" as opposed to "cheese or ham" in our favorite pub of the trip. Photo by Caroline Shepard

Living in Bloomberg's New York where the new and the plastic is so often seen as the better, authentic spaces like this are just such a tonic.  So we stopped for a bite in the fantastic little space…full of irreverent signs, messages, stories, beer steins, pictures of sports heros and the like.  We ordered soup, sandwiches and Guinness.  When Caroline was living in Ireland two decades ago, the joke was the choices of sandwiches were “ham and cheese” or “ham or cheese”.  Today, “pubs even have paninis” noted Caroline’s buddy Paul. Sadly, “They threw the baby out with the bathwater…” he noted, getting rid of many distinct places. Cities around the world have taken a gamble that if they look more like each other they will do better.  But not here.  Just ham and cheese Guiness and soup.  A young Irish boxer was on TV.  “Katie Tayler – she’s the world champion” the bartender told me.  The room was hushed for the next eight minutes as Katie bobbed and weaved her way to a win over the English boxer.  Everyone roared with approval for Katie.  We would not miss another of her fights, as Katie fever took Ireland.  I loved Mary Lou Retton. But by the end of the week, Taylor’s run started to feel something like the watching USA Hockey in 1980, as the whole world tuned in. 

Go Katie!  by Bernard O'Neill
Over the next week, we would watch Katie highlights over and over, wherever we could.  In between Katie highlights, the Irish coverage of the Olympics was refreshingly irreverent, making fun of Americans, conventions, and the ridiculous wherever they saw fit.  Some nights we laughed out loud watching. 

Leaving the pub, we drove to Gallarus Oratory, “one of the oldest churches in Europe,” the gentleman at the pub told me.  The early church dated back somewhere between the 700 or 800 AD.  Some 1300 years old, he stone building was used daily by farmers.  8 m long and 5 m wide, the space survived waves of successive Viking and Norman invasions as the world transformed around it.  Yet, the stones – Kilfountain and Riasc decorated with Celtic images – remain, as the way of life it once survived disappeared. But not quite. 

The girls exploring the Oratory.  Photo by Caroline Shepard

“People seem lost in time here” Caroline noted as we drove the windy road up toward the   Caherdorgan Fort.  There between farm land and age old walls stood beehive like brick huts once used by Celtic farmers.  What is remarkable about these spaces is how little we know about the Celts, the people in Ireland before the successive invasions.  Yet, they created these stone forts with flowing water which withstood thousands of years. The kids climbed on the wall.  From there we meandered to the Kilmalkedar Church, a Norman church from the 12th century, with a cemetery, overlooking the harbor. 

Caherdorgan Fort and Kalmalkedr Church  Photo by Caroline Shepard

Nights followed with lots more Guinness, Harps, Olympics and stories.

The next day, we drove out to the Celtic Museum where we saw a Wooly Mammoth head from the area.  Run by an ex pat, the space offered a lighter, campier touch than many of the other museums.  We ate lunch as a group at a sports pub next door with images of Irish sports heros, JFK, “a local boy done good”, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton, “the best US president since JFK.”  Almost fifteen years after the Good Friday Accords, the Irish are still very grateful to Clinton for brokering a peace deal. Gymnastics were on in the pub.  “I spent most of the money on booze, birds, and fast cars” noted a quote below a picture of Gregory Best. “The rest I squandered.”  All over Europe this quote is revered.  

Mom and the wooly mammoth.  Photo by Caroline Shepard

After lunch we made our way to Dunbeg Fort, a 500 BC promontory fort overlooking the cliffs and waters which were the final resting place of the Spanish Armada and other unknown armies.  The kids climbed up on the rocks.  We watched the film about the space, about which even the tour guides seemed a little lost.  “It must have been the faeries” they explained.  When all is lost, it must have been the ferries.  Its amazing how little we actually know about history. 

The kids at Dunberg Fort. By Caroline Shepard
Inch Beach where we ran and played. By Jennifer Shepard

Between Katie Taylor’s second round fight and a trip to the Skipper, a French bistro for lunch, we finally scheduled surf lessons on the beach at Inch where the kids had played hide and seek in the dunes and I’d  jogged every morning.  I've played in the water, boogey boarded from Santa Monica to Vieques, even stood up on a board once in the waters of Venice Beach, but I never thought I would learn to surf in Ireland, where the waves are smooth and the beer is everywhere.   The whole crew was there for the lessons – Dodi, Scarlett, Caroline and I.  The teachers were quite funny as well as helpful.  Lots of jokes and humor.  “He’s such an American, even chewing bubblegum,” one chimed in about me to Caroline.  But they were lovely teachers.  “These are great waves to learn on,” one explained, holding my board and giving me a push into the wave.  Scarlett was the was the first shepard to stand up and catch a wave.  With slightly higher center of gravity, it took me longer, but I finally did as well.  The wave were smooth as could be, taking me straight into the beach, with no undertoe.  Wave after wave, we rode. “I’ve never had a surfing day like this,” noted my little brother Will, who had spent years riding the waves on the Jersey Shore which rise and crash. It took Dodi two tries to get up on the board.  I have never been on a smoother shore.  This is what it must have been like to find the perfect wave in the Endless Summer.   

Top: Myself, Bijorn and Will.
Bottom: BS Surfing by Helena Hooper Shepard 

We suspend our collective journeys into the Celtic past for the rest of the week to keep on surfing.
Finishing the second day, which was as fun as the first, we saw a sign noting that Katie Perry was fighting for gold at 4:45.  A chalk sign on the road announced the fight would shown at the pub at the beach.  Walking in, I expected a big TV sprawled across a sports bar.  But this space had none of that. A small TV facing into the corner of a room jam packed with families was all that was there. But it was enough.  We all got to  know each other a little better waiting for the fight.  “We saw Obama when he was here,” explained one woman with her family.  Everyone loves Obama here.  But Bill Clinton was there favorite, they confess over and over.  “Go Katie” they as we watched the Irish phenom box the Russian  through a tie in the first, falling behind in the second, a comeback in the third, and a finally a decisive victory for the first gold for the Irish in Olympics.  The room erupted when the referee lifted her hand went up in the air.  In between the beach and beers with my brothers,– the final two nights in Inch were lovely.

While it took me like twenty seconds to get up, even I  caught a few waves.
By Jennifer Shepard

Saturday we all left for Dublin, eating tea biscuits and reading about Katie Taylor in the tabloids.  Driving through the countryside we stopped at St Patrick’s Rock in Cashel – an iconic group of buildings -  a 12th century tower, high cross, Romanesque chapel, and 13th Century gothic cathedral – its foundation dating back to the 5th Century. “Its their acropolis,” noted Mom.

St Patricks Rock Photo by Caroline Shepard

It was only a few hours before we all arrived in Dublin. “This is an old town,” I noted to Dodi after we parked.  “It sure is” noted a man on the street – pointing us to Parnell Square down the street. Our room was on 50 Parnell Square, just down the street from a health clinic and the Sinn Fein coffee shop. Outside our apartment, a pub dating back to 18th century stands boarded up, down the street from a movie theater and grocery store.  

We ate across the street from Trinity College in Marrion Square. 

Sinn Fein Coffee on Parnell Square by Caroline Shepard

Early the next morning, we ran to meet my mother and brother’s family at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript dating back to the years before the Vikings invasions in Ireland.

 My Mom has long studied such manuscripts.  So, it was a wonderful opportunity to see this treasure with her.  The film The Story of Kells dramatizes the struggle to keep the manuscript during the successive invasions.  Much of the history of Celtic and early Christian art can be found in the lush illumination of the manuscript.  Pre Christian imagery finds its way into the manuscript – Celtic spirals and icons.  “It’s the way they made meaning of the world” Mom explained.  Light into darkness. 

Walking upstairs to the reading room, we reveled in the tall reading rooms.  The library contains a 1916 copy of the Irish declaration of independence from England. 

In between the hustle bustle of the metropolis, the city’s history leaps out, between nooks and crannies.  It lives along with the ever gentrifying city, contending with closing pubs, and new pedestrian malls, where the city of old must contend with the image of city as shopping mall gripping urban spaces around the world. 

Hanging out on the Ha Penny Bridge by Siobhan.
Sunset on the Liffy by Caroline Shepard 

Later that afternoon, we met Siobhan, a friend Caroline and I met in New York in the late 1990’s.  In between trips to the National Gallery and dinner, she walked us down the O’Connell Street.  “There is the general post office they occupied during the Easter Uprising of 1916,” she noted.  Looking at the statue Daniel O’Connell, she noted “see there are still bullet holes from the uprising.” 

Caroline analyzing the Guiness, BS sampling the lager, and the gang enjoying the view from the Ha Penny.
 Photo by Caroline Shepard

Trips take families in all sorts of directions.  While I was enjoying seeing contemporary Ireland and comparing it with the Ireland Caroline saw two decades prior, my Mom – the medievalist – was taking us further and further back in Ireland’s ancient past.  Monday we all jumped in the car for a trip to Bru na Boinne in the county of Meath.  There we saw Knowth – rock formations and burial grounds dating back to anywhere between 3,200 and 2,500 BC, before the pyramids or Stonehenge.  The passage tombs have are aligned with the winter and summer solstice sunrises.  Ritual spaces or spaces of worship, it is not at all clear why they were made or what their purpose was.  “We are not really sure,” the tour guide confessed when I asked why people would spend their days moving thousand pound stones up a hill to a space not designed for shelter but for ritual purposes.  A lively storyteller, our tour guide offered her reasoning that it most certainly was religious social control.  “Perhaps, if women were in change it might be something else,” she conjectured.  Touring through the space, inside the passage ways, through the passageways, interpreting the stone drawings of spirals, concentric circles, a sundial and other images of the sun and moon, she reminded me of the tour guide who makes up her details in Lettuce and Lovage.  “I don’t want to know what they did with the fertility objects,” she confessed.

 Photo by Caroline Shepard
Driving back to Dublin, we dropped by Montasterboice in County Louth where three 9th century crosses have stood for some 1300 years in the churchyard of the small fifth century monastery.  A tower stands in the middle of the cemetery.  These were places where churches and communities threw up a ladder and hid when marauders came looking.  These towers probably helped the Book of Kells survive.  Cracks of time line the crosses.  “You may be the last to see them here,” explained a tour guide.  Many of those who come for pilgrimages chip them off, taking pieces home.  “Even the hundred year old plastered replicas we have show less age than these.”

Tower top, 1300 year old cross below. Nitice the chips at the bottom taken by those in the pilgramages.
 Photo by Caroline Shepard

Walking out, I chatted with some of the elders at the ad hoc welcoming area.  Looking through post cards, they asked where I was from.

“Brooklyn in the US.”

“And what brings you here?  You have family or distant relations?”

“Well, some of our family are from England; others are presumably from here… we’re not really sure.”

“What are their names?”

“The Mayhers.”

“Probably from Maher county.  I’m sure they came during the potato famine.  That’s when a lot of people left.”

Funny, I rarely feel much of an ethic kindred spirit with anywhere.  We’re all really brothers and sisters in this world.  But in Ireland, they really help you feel like you are their brother or sister. It’s a feeling I have rarely had anywhere I’ve ever visited.  And certainly this is part of the genius of the Irish.  On St. Patric’s day everyone in Chicago is Irish.

Mom and I visited the Powerscourt gardens and waterfalls the next day, while Caroline and the girls ran through the city. 

Revolutionary memorabilia.  Photo by Caroline Shepard

By Wednesday, I was ready to re engage with the contemporary world or social history.  Siobhan had said we had to visit the Irish prison of Kilmainiham goal, opened n in 1796.  Most of the revolutionaries from the Irish Independence Movement would find their paths crossing with its isolated prison cells.  Walking through the museum, I was taking by Bertrell Russell's statement about jails: "If the prison does not underbid the slum in human misery, the slum will empty and the jail will fill."  And certainly, Kilmainiham goal became a place the poor and starving were drawn to during the potato famine when there was nothing else to eat.  Jails often are. Kilmainiham was the model for the penopticon – the all seeing eye – as prison.  A modern prison, it was thought to reform those in its walls by holding them in silent isolation.  Yet, rarely do these things work as planned.  Overcrowding was a constant in the space from its earliest days.  Almost immediately, the jail filled with Irish revolutionaries, sodomites, kids stealing to sustain themselves, sex workers.  Arrests for disorderly conduct spiked during the Doneybrook Fair of 1849-1850. Between the 3rd and the 12th of May 2016, fourteen of the revolutionaries from the Easter Uprising faced the firing squads.  One was married the night before; another who was dying in the hospital was carried in and shot.  Their treatment turned popular opinion in favor of the cause of independence.  Uprising veteran Eamon de Valera was the last to leave the jail in 1924 and the first to visit it again as the Prime Minister responsible for re opening it as a tourist destination and testament to the Independence Movement.

If ever there was a testimony to the adage that jail is the home of just people, Kilmainiham goal is it.  As Henry David Thoreau explains in Civil Disobedience: “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”  A chilling way to look at history, the experience offers a painful reminder of suffering and resiliency.

We spend the rest of the day, romping through Dublina and St Patrick’s. Catholicism is such a large part of life in so much of Ireland, but I did not see much any backlash against the abuses of the Catholic Church in Ireland.  People seem to handle the injustices of history with humor, drink and the occasional pipebomb. Yet, their memories linger. 

Bacon's studio by Caroline Shepard 

Others contemplate the interworkings of the pain.  Visiting Frances Bacon’s studio, in the Dublin City Gallery, I was taken by quiet images of his life and work, his photos of friends and catalogs strewn through his studio.  Throughout the trip, I had been reading the work of Bertram Cohler, my one time mentor at University of Chicago, who died this spring.  The last time I saw Bert for lunch at the Oyster Bar in New York in 2005.  He was here to deliver a paper at the White Institute where I was completing a one year course of study in psychoanalysis.  Waiting for Bert in the Oyster Bar, I was reading Freud’s case study of the Wolfman.  Max Ernst's "Angel of Hearth and Home" is featured on the cover, so close to Bacon's images. The week before Dodi and I had gone to the Met where she declared “Wolfman” when she saw the picture on wall.  Bert smiled seeing the copy of the book.  We shared stories and books. He talked about his lecture at White ordering some clam chowder, oysters and a beer.  “I love oysters,” he confessed.  In the years to follow, his reference helped me get my first academic job.  He asked about a long life study I completed in graduate school, which I am now completing for a new book on friendships. In the years to follow that talk, he invited me to contribute an essay to his final published collection. Gradually, his correspondence became less and less engaged.   It was harder to reach him.  Last fall and spring I contacted him when I was in Chicago and he could not get together.  This summer, I looked up an article of his and saw his obituary. Over and over again in Chicago he advised that what connected social work and psychoanalysis  was advocacy. He framed case studies as narratives. But generativity was his life blood, he connected, empathized and cared about others. Today my copy of the Wolfman case study with the Bacon cover has those notes from that final engaged conversation.  These thoughts passed through my mind looking at the paints, crumpled newspapers, and catalogs strewn through Bacan’s work space. The girls had gone to work on art in a workshop downstairs so Caroline and I wondered through the show on our own with our thoughts,  memories, and associations.

Copy of Freud's Wolfman with Ernst cover top, painting of Freud below.
"They were brilliant," the artist at the museum gushed, complimenting the girls.  

Leaving the museum, we walked to meet Siobham at the Ha Penny Bridge before wandering through Temple Bar over to the  Staggs Head pub for a lunch of Guiness, tomato soup, and ham and cheese sandwiches.  The girls played in St. Michael’s Green that afternoon before we got sushi and wondered home.  Most nights at home we watched movies.  The Secret of Roan Innish was our favorite of the trip.  “To be back in Roan Innish - its like a breath of fresh air after three years underground,” muses the Grandad over a pipe as the movie ends.  Irish folklore would become more and more real, a part of history, culture and our present experiences in Ireland.  Reading through the novel The Story of Kells, Dodi recalled the story of the Wedding we’d read in one of the many books of Irish folktales which had crossed our path over the trip. 

Dodi, Caroline and Scarlett on the Ha Penny Bridge by Siobhan

The full final day of the trip took us back to social history, part memory and part narrative.  We’d pack in the morning and meander out to catch the Rebel Tour of Dublin starting on Parnell Square in the Sinn Fein coffee shop.  While I’ve never been one to support armed resistance, I wanted to hear their take on Irish history.  Pete Seeger once said it is our job to listen to and talk with people with whom we do not necessarily agree.  And certainly this was the case of Sinn Fein, or at least what I know of them, which is a swatch of bombings and violence over the years.  But who am I to judge any of this.  Although I teach students about the Indian Independence Movement, which overthrew the British Empire with non-violence to civil rule, it was armed resistance and a revolutionary war which finally got the English out of the US. 

Daniel O’Connell tried to find a legislative solution to the problem,” noted Rory, our tourguide.  A former guide at the prison, he was planning to study history in between work.  “It’s a funny thing, the recession in Ireland, it started before the potato famine around 1808.  And only really ended in the 1990’s with the Celtic Tiger,” he explained. And now its back.  "It was the famine both stifled and stirred the revolution.”  And the British largely stood by to watch it happen, as fish and other goods were traded outside the country.   

“O’Connell wanted to replace the British elites in charge of Ireland with Irish elites,” Rory noted.

“Were the Irish at all influenced by Gandi?” I asked, referring to the model of non-violent civil disobedience he helped innovate. 

“It was the other way around mate” Rory retorted.  “He saw a small country kick off the Empire and realized they could do it to.”  

Models of non-violence may not work everywhere.  They rarely work in Palestine.  Ask Rachel Corrie’s family.  But it did work in movements from South Africa to the US Civil Rights movement. 

My friend Erik in New York’s’ Occupy Movement was recruited to join the shining path when he lived in Peru.  Once they put down their guns and bombs, he would be willing to be their first lieutenant, he explained to them. Until that day he was going to stay out.

A cab driver earlier in the week suggested that it would not work in Ireland because the cause did not enjoy the support Indian Independence enjoyed.  “Not all the people wanted it,” he suggested.

“You have to go up to Belfast to get a since of what it is like for us,” noted Rory. “War is violent.  This was a violent conflict” he explained referring to the Michael Collins’ efforts to track down the English infiltrators in the Independence Movement.  "He’d take them out, drink with them, get information and if he found out they were really working for the Brits, he’d gun them down," explained Rory.  “They were watching his headquarters here in Parnell Square.  But Collins’ cousin worked for the city, getting background information.  They found maps of secret tunnels between the buildings so those in the movement could move to and from.  If the British had wanted to really kill the movement, they could have by bombing Parnell Square.”

But perhaps this violence – this Machiavellian violence – this is what Yeats was referring to when he said “A terrible beauty is born” in Easter 1916.  Over time, Yeats’ poetry and prose and his brother’s paintings helped ignite a Celtic revival, which helped bring back the love and use of the Irish language and perhaps even the nationalism of the movement.  Is this nationalism the “terrible beauty.”

Rory kept walking us around the square to a monument for a band called the Miami Schill Band killed in the mid-1970s during the period of “the Troubles.”  And we walked to the Garden of Remembrance.

At the Garden of Rememberance, a tiled pool illustrates the ritual of solders throwing their sowards and shields into the water to sybolize reconciliation, that the war is over. 
 Photo by Caroline Shepard

“We love the British people,” Rory explained.  “It’s the empire we do not appreciate.”  Walking through the garden we talked about the idea of reconciliation and its often elusive nature. 

We talked about the youth of Ireland who are paying higher costs for education, higher contributions to pensions which will be smaller, etc.  “There was an Occupy movement here, but the police put it down,” he explained. 

“Same thing in New York,” I concurred. “The NYPD arrest first and look for the laws to justify it second.”

“The police work for the elites,” explained Rory.

Walking out, we thanked him for the great conversation. He was going to try to find full time work, he explained taking a drag on his cigarette.

That afternoon, our final stop in Dublin was at the Glasnevin Cemetary, a public park founded in 832 where over a million people are buried, as many living in all of Dublin.  Ireland’s necropolis was the inspiration for the Hades chapter in Joyce’s Ulysses.  Walking through the acre after acre of crosses in between weeds, decaying tomb stones and memories, its amazing to watch the ways time has allowed the trees to grow as crack make their way into the stones.  The periphery of the park is far less manicured than the front where the tours move. 

Glasnevin by  Photo by Caroline Shepard

Siobhan met us at the cemetery for a cup of tea.  A final pub meal and we strolled home, past pubs and music.  There were no rainbows.  But we had seen two on the trip.  We could not have been happier to have been there walking sharing memories with Siobhan and our beloved Dublin.   

Rainbow number two in Dubllin by Caroline.  The sun shone, sparkling through the raindrops .
By Caroline Shepard
Scene from the Temple Bar.  Sun shining through the rain.  In Ireland, "we can have four seasons in a day"
people reminded us over and over.   Photo by Caroline Shepard

Dodi sat looking out her window at Dublin as went to sleep that night, listening to the city pour in.

Leaving I probably know nothing more about why Stiff Little Finders wanted an “Alternative Ulster.” But the feeling is still real, the melody, its hope, its human yearning for freedom still resonates, today even more.

I never would have thought Ireland was the place I would learn to surf, much less my daughter and nephew.
That freedom is a memory I hope they carry through the rest of the adventures of their lives.
Photo by Helena Hooper Shepard