LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Archive for September 2011

At home on The Ranch with G’son Toes

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All of us need somewhere to call home. I’m very lucky in that while I was born and reared both in Dublin and to a lesser extent Dundalk, I’ve always had my family around me. Family to me is everything. I am also lucky that I had both sets of Grandparents to learn from as well as many Uncles and Aunts who I must say, I was extremely privileged to have known.

I was born in Killester, a suburb of Dublin in the 1950s. Dublin was a very different place than it is today. Poverty was widespread and a lot of the City was derelict. Tenements prevailed throughout the inner city and a lot of children could be seen playing with skipping ropes and other improvised toys. Hop Scotch was a popular game and if you had a football, well you were a popular kid. No PlayStations, Computer Games or even Mobile Phones were about in those days. You were ‘well off’ if you had a phone in your house ! My mother used to bring me ‘into town’ to do the shopping. While I remember it being tiring I also remember it being a fascinating time. Mum used to make her own clothes. Her father was a Tailor and Cutter and he certainly trained her well. Many a memory I have of calling into the Wollen Mills on the Quays, then across the Metal Bridge to a small shop where she’d buy the buttons, zips and such like. Then on to meet up with her friends and have a ‘chat’. We got the Bus everywhere. Only a few people had a car and I suppose when we got fed up with the Radio, we paid a visit to a friend’s house to watch their Tele. To watch Match of the Day, in Black and White, on a fuzzy screen was marvelous. Top of the Pops, if you could get BBC was amazing. They were tough times but I have nothing but good and fond memories of those days.

At the end of the month we used to take the train to Dundalk to see my Dad’s family. My Dad worked in British Railways so we had Privilege Tickets. This meant that we got a Return Ticket for half the price of a Single. I remember getting excited when the train crossed the Boyne after leaving the station at Drogheda and waiting to pass through Dunleer and then Castlebellingham. My Dad would point out the landmarks as we approached Dundalk. We’d take a Taxi from the station to Broughton Street where Grandad used to live. My cousins were great. I was the youngest grandchild and as my cousins were nearly all girls, we’d play house and of course I was always the baby/child. Ah those were the days.

While I have great memories I’m also very aware that others weren’t so lucky. Artane Boys School was ‘down the road’ from me in Donnycarney. On the outside the building looked amazing but unfortunately we now know, that all was not so rosy inside. Having met a number of the victims of child abuse who were resident there when I was a little boy growing up, I feel sorry that they were not able to have had the support of a family as I did.

When I had children myself, I made a pledge that I would try to be as good to them as my Mum and Dad were to me. I think we’ve done OK as a family despite marriage breakdown some years ago. It wasn’t an easy time but myself and the children got on with our lives. Now, being a Grandad myself I can watch the next generation starting out on their journeys in life. Toes, as regular readers of my ramblings will know, is my grandson. While he’s now approaching the terrible twos and showing appropriate signs ūüė¶ I’ve had the privilege of being part of his life since the day he was born. Lisa and Eddie are good, doting parents and I wish them well. I, for my part have done my fair share of babysitting so far and none more so than in Texas this past summer. They say that travel broadens the mind and if that is so, then Toes has had a great start in life. I got on a plane for the first time when I was eighteen. Toes on the other hand, probably qualifies as a frequent traveller at this stage and he’s not even two !

Life without family would be unbearable for me. That is what life is all about. It’s what keeps me going. While I sit here in Texas with Toes and walk about the land, trying to keep up with him, us both dressed like we’re locals wearing our Cowboy Hats, I do realise what a privilege it is to be part of a loving family. We are very lucky and it is sad that all children don’t get the opportunities that both myself and now Toes enjoy.

LegalEagleStar , San Antonio, Texas, Tuesday, 27th. September , 2011.

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Storms over Texas and sadness over Georgia

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texas storm

Image by {Wes} via Flickr

Storms arrived into Southern Texas on Saturday and continued throughout Sunday. Starting out as mostly thunder, followed by huge rain drops but a foot apart ! Then later there was some really heavy rain which was badly needed. I then did what all good Texans do when it rains heavily… I reversed the car out of the Garage. This I’m told is a Texas Car Wash !

Now I know Fr Jimmy has prayed for rain for months and his prayers have been answered despite some cynics /doubters on Twitter, but I did say a little prayer myself that the sun reappears if only until I vacate the State at the end of the month. If we in Ireland could export our rain to Texas we’d all be wealthy and tell the Troika to F Off. I can now say that my prayer was answered and we’re enjoying a great spell of weather again. There is a God after all.

Well, Mass on Sunday with Fr Jimmy was as exciting as ever. That man can really keep your attention, is very witty but gets his point across. His Masses last nearly two hours and later people queue up just to thank him and shake his hand. My daughter was one of these and gave him a Big Hug. She says of him that he is ‘A Priest like my Grandad would have liked. A real connection with God’. So prayers said, we all headed to Jim’s for Breakfast. ‘There’s always something good cookin’ at Jim’s !’ is written across the top of the Menu. It seems the founder opened a Bicycle Rental Business in 1947 and placed a Watermelon Stand outside. You guessed, it developed into the Chain of Restaurants today known as Jims and is now a great favourite here in San Antonio for breakfast. The gentleman serving us was a kind and gentle man. Slightly older than me. An ex-teacher he told us. He’d taken a break from the School system and now couldn’t get back in. Now he was working at Jims. He said his name was Ealy but that his ancestors who came to America from Ireland, had been called Healy. He went on to say that the family were divided into two groups. One being Artists while the other were Thieves. He believed it was the latter group who ventured to America. The alternative history of the Healys he said, was that Mr Healy married a Mexican woman and moved to Mexico. It seems they have no ‘H’ in Mexico so Healy became Ealy ! Having been up for hours and sat through two hours of Fr Jimmy I was now starving so ordered The Rustlers Roundup..3 Eggs,Sausage,Grilled ham and bacon, served with Hash browns or Grits and toast or flaky biscuits $7.69. I did say I was hungry. My daughters put in their separate orders while Toes had Texas French Toast:…Three Texas-sized slices hand-dipped, grilled and served with syrup and powdered sugar $4.79 and of course, Milk. Where Toes put the food I have no idea. I didn’t hang around to find out anyway as with his mother on hand, I felt his nappies were her business ! Well after that feast it was back home and a quiet day in front of the TV. Starting with The Disney Channel then later my daughters choice. I now hate MTV !

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While I write this piece, I’m saddened to hear of the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. Despite the apparent production of evidence which suggested a miscarriage of justice, the State nonetheless executed him. I abhor violence of any kind and violence inflicted by The State is, to my way of thinking, the worst possible kind. The premeditated murder in such clinical circumstances is wrong. Scripture says ‘vengeance is mine says The Lord’. Well I believe that. The execution of a human being by The State is not justice, it’s vengeance. I take no pride in the fact that here in Texas the State seems the worst offender in this regard. On too regular a basis I see on the News stories about the latest person to have been executed. Governor Perry obviously is a strong believer in Capital Punishment. While I respect him as Governor I do take issue with some of his policies and on this one we’ll never agree. Just think of the poor families who arrive at the Prison of Execution to collect the Body Bag containing the remains of their Father, Son, Brother or other relative. Absolutely horrific. I’m not a soft Liberal like some Republicans may suggest but I do not believe in the Old Testament where it demands ‘a tooth for a tooth’. I am a lawyer practising for over 30 years now and I am a firm believer in the concept of¬† justice. I condemn those who murder, rape and terrorise our Citizens and believe the State has a role to play in removing from society, those criminals responsible for such heinous acts. You won’t find me soft on these issues. But C’mon Governor Perry. Here in Texas, where we have a predominant Christian Society, please, where is your compassion? Justice is not directing vengeance on the victim and his/her family. If it is then you and me need to talk as The Christ I believe in obviously differs somewhat from yours.

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Finally, I’d like to remember the mother of a close friend of my son who died suddenly from a Brain Hemorrhage. Jean Carley. May she rest in peace.

 LegalEagleStar , San Antonio , Texas , Thursday , 22nd. September , 2011 .

Starbucks and the Gunfight at The OK Corral

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Starbucks Ueno

Image via Wikipedia

It was a lovely hot and sunny morning here in San Antonio, Texas. I decided to drive to Gymboree to collect Toes and his Mum. When I arrived they were waiting for me at the entrance. It had been a good morning and Toes was clearly delighted with completing his Class. As we drove out of the Centre just off the 281 heading North to Johnson City, we decided it would be a plan to call into Starbucks.¬† It was only up the road from us, so it made sense. Both of us were famished and a Grande Mocha and cake seemed a good idea. We parked up outside of the entrance, just beside a SAPD Patrol Car, or should I say Vehicle. I jumped out and headed inside leaving¬† Toes and his Mum outside in the Car. Once inside I joined the small queue which had formed. Right in front of me were two Uniformed Police Officers. One looked Mexican while the other was Ginger. I struck up a conversation with them and the Mexican Cop seemed really good fun. The other guy ‘Ginger’ insisted that he was Irish. I’ve heard this before on many occasions and it usually turns out that they are Not.¬† Anyway this guy totally lacked any personality unlike his Mexican colleague. I queried him further as to where in Ireland he came from. He said Donegal. Oh, I said, where in Donegal ? I was sorry I asked. He said he didn’t know but that his Grandfather had told him that an uncle of his was Irish. OK, there was tension from this guy so I turned to his Mexican colleague and we made small talk. I told him I was an Attorney from Ireland. That in the ’80 I had done some media training in Boston¬†alongside a Texan Attorney Jim Adler, now well-known on TV as ‘The Texas Hammer’. This story did not endear me to Ginger who gave me that ‘I don’t trust you’ look, that only Policemen the World over can give you.

I don’t know why and I certainly didn’t think this through but I embarked on telling them both about an incident I had with a Boston Cop around the time I’d met up with Jim those many years back. I had been drinking in Cheers Bar, off Boston Common. It was totally devoid of atmosphere. The building and Bar were lovely. Not like you see in the TV Series Cheers. Well, if you build a wall down the middle of the TV Bar then it was similar, if you get my drift. I had sat at the bar and despite trying to engage the guy on my left, who promptly drank up and left¬†and¬†the Guy with the Polo-neck Jumper to my right who buried his head deeper into his newspaper, I was unsuccessful. Then I decided, Feck it, I’ll venture out and find a decent bar where I can spend an hour or two chatting with the Locals. So, off I venture through the Park and head up towards Newbury Street. At the Traffic Lights there was a Cop standing to my left. He looked about seven-foot tall, is my recollection. What do you think I said to him? Well, I looked up and asked quite boldly in my Dublin accent, ‘Excuse me, but can you tell me where the Craic is about here ?’ As the words left my mouth, I knew I had said the wrong thing. Deciding that to speak any more would make matters worse I remained silent. I stood there beside this Giant of a Policeman awaiting to be dragged off to the Local Police Lock-up and to be fair, I wouldn’t have blamed him. He looked down at me and said ‘Are you Irish ?’ I tried to answer and a whisper ‘Yes’ came out. He then laughed and told me that there was a Pub where the Tourists frequented just across the road but that he drank at¬†a small Bar¬†around the corner. With the beads of sweat now quite visible on my brow, I thanked him profusely and assured him that I would be drinking where he drank and nowhere else. I then took off as fast as my legs would take me to that same Pub and remained there until the coast was clear.

Well, the Mexican Cop started laughing and clapping me on the back, having seen the funny side of my story but Ginger went for his Gun. My daughter had been watching me engage with the Police and when she saw the gun being drawn, she leapt out of the car and headed at speed into Starbucks. Toes was whisked with the speed of¬†light ¬†inside and pushed to one corner. My daughter is a bodyguard by profession and quickly got between me and Ginger and confronted him. It was shaping up like ‘Gunfight at The OK Corral’ at this stage. Again, those cold beads of sweat reappeared on my forehead. After a few moments, during which my life flashed before my eyes, the Mexican Cop told Ginger to put his Gun away. He thought my story was very funny. I then emphasised that the Craic I was referring to was Fun. Craic agus Ceoil. Ginger was having none of this. So, I tried to explain it again to him, but to no avail.¬†After some moments the Mexican Cop told him to Cop On (excuse the pun). Then my daughter, who I thought was going to guzzle him stepped back just as that lovely lady behind the counter informed us all that our Coffees were ready.

¬†‘Jesus Dad’, my daughter said to me once she had me safely back in the car. ‘You know these people don’t understand our sense of humour’. At that, the Police Car passed me by and I gave the Thumbs Up Sign to Ginger who was staring at me out of the Patrol Car Window. Hope I don’t bump into him again anytime soon. Then from the back seat I hear Toes say ‘ARrrssee’ and I told him that I couldn’t agree more. Though I don’t know whether he was referring to me or ‘Ginger’.

Today is a very special day in our family. Hilda my mother is 85 years young. My son will be visiting her in Nazareth House later and will bring up her Birthday Card to her. We have her presents with us here in Texas. ‘Happy Birthday Mum. We all miss you very much and will be back to see you very soon. Have a Great Birthday.’

LegalEagleStar , San Antonio , Texas , Friday , 16th. September , 2011 .

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

Sleep, or the lack thereof, Toes and a Scorpion

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Texas Scorpion

Image by Pierce Place via Flickr

Ever since raising my children, for the most part single-handed, I have got into the habit of working late. When I say late, sometimes this could mean, well,¬†through the night.¬† Then having to ferry the children to school, get to work myself, arrange collecting them at lunchtime, driving to swimming pools, football training etc. Then repeat the above… My one joy which was denied me was a lie-in in the morning. The thought of not having to get up to do something. This thought of heaven has mostly eluded me but I’m working on it. Having arrived back to Texas last Monday evening I was determined to treat myself to a long lie-in. The though even excited me. So much so that I stayed up late, watched TV,¬† had numerous conversations with friends on Twitter, then Facebook. I even phoned some friends for a chat. Life was good. At 4 a.m. I hit the bed. Really tired and the thought of a sleep-in was all too much. Ah, Heaven on earth.

Shortly after 8 a.m. I awoke to what sounded like a Police Raid. Bedroom door being bashed, kicked, then finally opened. In came the culprit. It was my Grandson Toes. ‘Morning ‘ I called out. Then stretching an arm from beneath the bedclothes I ushered Toes back in the direction of the door. It worked. Silence re-enveloped the entire room. Seconds later, in truth it was probably more like 10 minutes or so, my daughter arrives into my bedroom on the phone. I think she was on the phone. Well she was at some stage. I remember her asking me whether she should cancel Terminix or reschedule, as they say out here. I think I said ‘yeah, cancel’ ¬†but I also remember saying ‘sure I’ll stay home and let them in’. It was the latter comment, which I was later informed, was uttered by me some minutes after the phone call had ended…which was the cause of said daughter goose-stepping it out of the room, Gestapo style, clearly¬†in bad form. Oh God, what had I done now. To confront the situation or.. yes, back to sleep I decided was the best course of action. Moments later I hear a shriek. It was Toes. No, I didn’t jump up, just froze. There were enough adults in the house, no doubt up for hours at this stage,¬†who could deal with whatever crises had arisen. Then more voices.. and Toes going EEEhhhheee. Then ‘Oh My God’ from my younger daughter. At this I¬†sprang into action, grabbed a pair of shorts, to make myself decent and jumped straight into my boots. Normally I would not do the latter without first turning out¬†said boots, as in Texas bugs and critters have been known to climb into a pair of boots while the wearer sleeps. As I walked forward I was not bitten, nothing was squelching under foot and so I felt safe…relieved really. Anyway, Toes emitted the EEEhhhheee sound again. I was now outside my bedroom door faced by¬†three grown adults, all terrified and pointing in Toes direction. ‘What’s happened’, I enquired somewhat puzzled. LOOK, AAgghhh. Toes had discovered a Scorpion. Not in the healthiest condition of his life, clearly suffering from some¬†treatment or other, rendered to the property by the aforementioned Terminix. Looking around at the frightened faces I asked ‘Is this it?’ Yes, Yes , do something. Dressed in T-shirt, my son’s Football Shorts and Cowboy Boots I proceeded to stand on said Scorpion who, at this stage I felt sorry for… and do the dreaded deed. He must have been terrified being confronted by Toes and Family. Then a voice perks up from behind..’Coffee anybody’. It was son-in-law who had fallen in behind the group, staying safely away in case the scorpion, by some miracle, jumped up and bit his bloody head off.

So, coffee it was and any thoughts of indulging in long periods of relaxation or even sleep, faded into distant memory. Ah sure there’s plenty of time for lie-ins….¬†There¬†is ??

 

LegalEagleStar , San Antonio , Texas , Monday , 12th. September , 2011 .

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 12, 2011 at 7:20 am

Upgraded to First Class, met by Tornadoes, then Wildfires. Welcome back to Texas.

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Bastrop Wildfires

We left Dublin Airport at midday Monday en route to meet up with family members in Texas. On arrival at the Departure Gates my daughter and myself heard the welcome news that my eldest daughter had arranged an upgrade for us to First Class on Delta to Atlanta. So, we both slouched down in luxury for our Transatlantic Flight. We were both oblivious to what lay ahead and never noticed the fact that the Pilot never spoke to us regarding weather conditions en route nor at Atlanta, our initial destination. While the landing was rough and the weather very rainy, we thought nothing of it. We had come from Ireland after all and such conditions are an everyday occurrence. Well, shock registered upon watching CNN while awaiting our connecting Flight to San Antonio. We heard that two tornadoes had touched the ground in Atlanta about the time our flight was landing. We communicated that to my daughter in San Antonio who informed us that she thought we’d been diverted elsewhere because of the stormy conditions. As it turned out we arrived in San Antonio, safe and sound, only an hour behind schedule. After leaving Thunderous Cloudy skies in Atlanta, we still encounter thick clouds through Alabama, Mississippi and into Louisiana. Only when we hit The Great State of Texas did we see clear skies again. A great sight to behold after the drama we’d just left behind. More drama was to greet us though, as we could see Wildfires north of San Antonio and south of Austin. After speaking with friends, we realised that the City of San Antonio Fire Department has been and is fighting Wildfires in an around our city. Many people have lost their homes and there have been a number of fatalities. This State has seen little or no rain since I was here last May/June. In fact at that stage, they were praying for rain each Sunday at Mass. What a change from what we are used to in Ireland. I contacted a pal in Austin yesterday to tell her we’d arrived and looked forward to seeing her. She said she’s have to see how the situation was in a few days time as there have been outbreaks of bush-grass fires near her home and in fact she feared for the safety of her area. I pray that she and the rest of the people here in this Great State overcome their current difficulties. What they wouldn’t do for some of our Irish Rain here now in Texas.

As for me, I’m back where I love, Texas with it’s huge clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid to high 90s. I’m here enjoying life with most of my family including Toes, my grandson. Thanks to someone’s prayers I survived to tell this tale. My late father would be 95 today if he’d lived. No doubt he’s still looking out for all of us.

LegalEagleStar , San Antonio , Texas , Thursday , 8th. September , 2011

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

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