Star Trek: Voyager–Being Katie O’Clare

I have a very special story for you about Star Trek: Voyager and how my life inadvertently imitated a holodeck fantasy. Gather ’round.

The tale of my holodeck-style adventure starts not terribly long ago when I moved my little family to Ireland. My husband and I lay in bed, me dozing off after a long day of unpacking boxes, he, intent on finding a new show to watch on Netflix, irritatingly scrolling through the menus so that they flickered through the dark room and pierced my closed eyelids. Sighing, I cracked my eyelids just enough to see the screen. One of the title cards flashed past my vision and prompted me to mutter through my own drool, “What is Red doing on Star Trek?”. Wait, was I half-asleep? “Was that really RED? That was RED! On STAR TREK!” He scrolled back to a cast photo of Star Trek: Voyager, and in the role of Captain Janeway was a young Red from Orange is the New Black.

Star Trek Voyager cast photo

My husband had been keeping a terrible secret from me! Red has always been my absolute favorite character from Orange, and he never let on that she was a Star Trek Captain?! Startled by my recognition, he confessed to having never connected Kate Mulgrew’s two brilliant roles before–a notion that still horrifies me, and brings great shame upon our family.

And to add to his dishonor, he admitted that he never even watched all of Voyager, since his dopey late-90s teenaged self had fallen into the chauvinistic trap of not appreciating Capt. Janeway, thinking of her as a less-than, politically correct version of Kirk and Picard (Sisko deliberately omitted from this list since he is terrible.) Now, wiser and older, and considerably more discerning, he announced instantly that he would undertake the quest of re-watching every episode, beginning that very night.

From then on, each night I drifted off to sleep to the beautiful opening melody, and then the husky tones of Kate Mulgrew’s voice. It became a soothing balm as I learned to settle into sleep in a new house and a very new place.

Several weeks passed until one night when my husband shook me out of a sound sleep to look at the television screen. He had just started a Voyager episode called “Fair Haven”, and it had a startling connection to our own real life.

The episode is all about escapism–the crew of Voyager is in need of a respite from their stressful roles, so Tom Paris develops a new program in the holodeck. It’s the town of Fair Haven in County Clare, Ireland.

And this is where the beat drops. My new home, boxes still scattered and things still not hung on the walls, is in County Clare, Ireland. This was one of those moments when I really wondered if my life is The Truman Show.

(I have wondered this often, and have seriously pondered the notion that if my life is The Truman Show, some team of writers would most definitely taunt me by fabricating a Hollywood film that mocks my actual life and lays out the entire truth right in front of my face, both beckoning my recognition and also belittling my paranoia–and of course it would star Jim Carrey. But I digress…)

The episode continued to get spookier and spookier. Captain Kathryn Janeway quickly falls in love with the quaint rural setting and begins to adopt the in-holodeck moniker of Katie O’Clare.

But I am Katie. Katie of Clare.

Janeway in Clare

Through my sleepy eyes I watched the tale unfold–both sweet and disarmingly dark at various points (“Delete the wife”), until it reached a point where both my husband and I nearly fell out of bed in sheer disbelief.

Katie O’Clare saunters over to the Fair Haven train station to get her flirt on with the local bartender, and does so by attaching herself gingerly to a signpost–a signpost that points to towns such as Tuamgraney and Killaloe.

Those are towns very close to my home (without giving away my precise hometown). I visit Tuamgraney frequently, and Killaloe every now and then (I tend to head there less frequently since traffic flow is dependent on this 18th century one-way stone bridge).

Katie OClare

Naturally, because I am a super nerd, my first reaction was to jump up and down and yell “I’m Katie O’Clare! I’m Katie O’Clare!”, because hells yes my life is reflecting a Star Trek holodeck fantasy (and it doesn’t even involve Vic Fontaine!).

The very next thing I did was sit down and attempt to calculate where the fictional Fair Haven might fall on the map. The signpost–notably created by Tom Paris–indicates that Fair Haven is 5 km from Tuamgraney and 3.5 km from Killaloe. Also 7.5 km from Holy Island, but we’ll set that aside since it involves water travel. Continue reading “Star Trek: Voyager–Being Katie O’Clare”

Brexit and the Irish Border: Let’s Explain It!

Shout out to my friends and family in America who still think that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are all one country, and part of the UK.

America has its own shitshow of problems, so it isn’t surprising that so many ‘Muricans have no idea what is going not with Ireland and Brexit. It’s okay. I’ll explain it in terms that can make this accessible to most anyone.

Let’s start with the basics:

One Island, Two Countries

Ireland is a single island, but it is comprised of two separate countries: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Map of Ireland and Northern Ireland.jpg

The Republic of Ireland is an independent sovereign country that gained its independence from Great Britain between 1916 and 1919. It is a member of the European Union (EU), and uses the Euro as its currency.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is Brexiting the European Union along with the rest of the UK, and uses the UK sterling currency (pounds).

How Ireland Split in Two

From 1801 to 1916, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and subject to the laws and rule of the British. This was not a happy time for most of Ireland. There was massive exploitation, starvation, and a myriad of abuses on the part of Britain, not to mention the Great Irish Famine. For much of its union, the English ruling class looked down on the Irish as helpless children who couldn’t manage their own affairs, and treated them with contempt and neglect. To sum it up: The Brits were huge dicks. Continue reading “Brexit and the Irish Border: Let’s Explain It!”

Thoughts on a Disaffected Pigeon

Some weeks are harder than others.

Tuesday

The weeds are everywhere in the gravel driveway. I’ve jammed my fingers into the pebbled earth to rip their roots, but there are just too damn many. I had to arm myself with a spray bottle of vinegar and lemon juice and spritz them, plant by plant. Hunched over with vinegar misting back on to my clothing from the hilly breezes rushing past, it was a desperate and smelly attempt to avoid the commercial stuff.

That’s when the pigeon landed. He was a majestic, slightly pudgy fellow who had been tap dancing on the roof for some time leading up to my weed expedition. I had heard him from my oversized living room chair where I had been munching tuna salad on crackers. I was afraid it was mice in the attic. Or maybe Benny the Badger came back and somehow got on the roof. Sounds weird, but he’s the one who shut off the water supply to the house. That was a talented badger. It’s a shame his life was cut short attempting to cross a bendy part of the road. Such a waste.

When I saw the pigeon land on the gravel a few feet from my hunched form, I knew he had been my roof ghost. His landing was so deliberate and closeby that I got the distinct feeling that he was greeting me. I did the polite thing and said hello and complimented his feathers. No joke. I did this out loud. My neighbors should get accustomed to the strange new American lady who talks to her wildlife and names them. The pigeon, by the way, was instantly dubbed Herbie.

I didn’t imagine that my relationship with Herbie would last much longer than our initial greeting, so I continued to edge around the gravel weed beds spritzing vinegar. Herbie followed along. I observed aloud that he had a band on his leg and asked where he got that from. His head tilted. We shuffled across the yard for the next twenty minutes, with me occasionally chastising Herbie for walking through the vinegar. I plunked myself down at the bistro table set I bought myself for my first Irish birthday and sipped some Coke while watching Herbie peck at who-knows-what in the gravel.

That’s when it occurred to me to Google banded pigeons. Was he being tracked by an ornithologist? Did he escape from an aviary? No, indeed. He is either a very unskilled or disaffected racing pigeon.

Yes, this is the week I learned that “pigeon racing” is a thing. The birds are cared for like domestic pets, banded, and trained for homing. Then they are released with several of their compatriots at a reasonable distance from their homes. Each bird is clocked to see how quickly they get back. Herbie had not embraced the spirit of the competition, clearly.

I phoned in his appearance as a “stray”, which the local pigeon racing club politely asks you do. I’m still not sure why I felt compelled to report Herbie, and part of me still wonders if I should have. The gent on the other end of the line assured me that he wouldn’t be culled for his naughty sojourn and he would be well-greeted. Cool. I don’t want to be a bird narc.

Continue reading “Thoughts on a Disaffected Pigeon”

The Meaning of Being Unemployed and Staring at Cow Arses

Sometimes the universe sculpts an entire day out of mockery and disillusionment.

Today I was asked to herd cattle for the first time in my life, which is a very Green Acres experience for someone who has only seen a real living cow up-close at the zoo or (once or twice) at a petting farm. The cows from the next pasture had invited themselves into the road and my yard for some green snackage, and somehow this became a situation where I was walking through my front gate and into the road, with my cellphone to my ear, following bobbing cow rumpuses toward my farmer neighbor. It seems like it should be easy to keep the cows going down the road, but I had doubts about being too aggressive. What if I anger one of the mamas, or worse yet, the bull? Even if they don’t turn and charge me, they could spook and cause a massive upset much like the antics caused by Billy Crystal’s coffee grinder in City Slickers. So with the cell phone in my jeans pocket, I casually picked up a stick long enough to tap on the ground and strolled behind the stragglers, tapping the stick on the asphalt whenever they slowed to munch some grass. It worked, albeit very slowly. I thought it was a lovely stroll. The farmer who was waiting with the open gate was less than impressed at my leisurely approach. He smiled and shook his head, then made a remark that I didn’t have an ounce of farmer in me–and it wasn’t even a zippy come-on line.

I laughed and agreed, but that surprisingly stung. Okay, it’s true, I have no farm experience outside of video games and children’s books. I’ve watched Babe a lot, and Baby Boom. But those don’t prepare you to drive cattle down a road while wearing a faded “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and blue jeans. I didn’t have any Paulie Shore chaps or straw hat, nor did I have any John Denver playing. I wasn’t ready. We’ve only just moved to rural-rural Ireland, and I was raised in Metro Detroit.

On my equally leisurely stroll back to my rental house I silently curated quips to explain my “urban skillset” that farmers wouldn’t possess. I came up empty. I know that you should chain your barbecue grill to the house or it’ll get stolen (my dad lost three Weber kettles that way). I know how to time rush hour to the best advantage and when the mega grocery stores are emptiest, but them I’m out.

And that really bothered me, because today’s developing theme is “SKILLS!”.

It first emerged when I updated my LinkedIn profile. See, I quit my job of six years this past weekend, and now I need a new one. Nothing is a more haunting assessment of one’s life than staring blankly at the “Add New Skills” section of LinkedIn. The mouse hovers and my mind is a dark sea. I can reenact The Big Chill. I can cook homemade chicken noodle soup (on tonight’s menu). I can move my fucking family across an ocean. I can draw a very wonky Garfield cat. I know the entire Greek alphabet. I can drink an entire bottle of wine in one sitting. I can take my bra off without removing my shirt.

And still the mouse hovers waiting to add a skill. SKILLS! After six years of wonderful and instructive employment, shouldn’t I be overflowing with credentials? I have had a mad and exciting life!

I’m a certified Master Gardener. I am a citizen of two nations, and I live in a third. I was a ghost writer for a squirrel guide booklet. I buried a beloved sister. I won awards for my charity work. I published an article in Canada’s History magazine about an ancestor of mine. I’ve gone from assistant to manager in my last three jobs. And I can complain really, really well. I mean, like an art form. I vote in every election and I diligently recycle. Kind of.

Still the mouse hovers. My life has been anything but boring, but I can’t drive cattle. And I haven’t gotten any certifications in “project management”.  I wasn’t training for another company’s job this whole time, I was training for my job. My job! The one I left so I could watch cows eat my freshly planted shrubs and leave liquid brown puddles in my gravel driveway. And the farmer’s laugh echos in my brain, and my phone buzzes with texts from my husband. He’s on a business trip and showing me the exciting new machinery he’s overseeing. Or something like that. I try to listen whenever he explains, but then “The Ride of the Valkyries” starts playing in my brain and…I lose track. But whatever makes him so proud of those machines, I bet that’s a skill. He and the farmer and the cows and the people at LinkedIn are probably somewhere together right now laughing and laughing.

While they’re off chomping cigars and toasting their lives of deliberate purpose and clarified direction, I will just keep telling myself how scrappy I am, damnit. I haven’t cultivated my life around corporate labels or agricultural knowhow, but I’m damn good at working hard and being a lovely, bold monster. And tonight, after I settle in with my bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, I’m going to flick off my bra from under my t-shirt and celebrate being skilless. Tomorrow, I order steak. Lots and lots of steak.

 

Know Your Irish Road Signs

Thinking of visiting Ireland this year on vacation? Getting around in a new country can be tricky, confusing, and startling. Don’t panic.

This is why I have assembled the following guide to help you navigate the unfamiliar roads of the Irish countryside*. It is based on my wisdom gleaned from living here for just under a year’s time. And let me tell you, at first these signs were a bit befuddling, but I think I’ve finally caught on.

Irish Road Signs-from HauntedCoconutcom

*Sign instructions are probably wrong. Do not consult for actual safety or driving purposes. 

Traffic_Jam,_West_of_Ireland