Good Samaritan

While driving home from 2001: A Space Odyssey a couple of Sundays ago, I stopped to give a stranded motorist a ride to a gas station.

Though I frequently see motorists in distress I’ve never stopped to help before. I feel that I should stop, but a combination of fear and selfishness has always prevented me from doing so.

The woman I helped was grateful, and I realized that had I been in similar circumstances, I would have been grateful, too.

When my car was struck by a truck in December of 2000, only one witness stopped. Nobody else even stopped to see if I was okay despite the violent nature of the crash. During a ride with Paul in March of 1998, my bike chain broke. We were six miles from Canby. Fortunately, a fellow stopped and invited us to climb in back of his truck; he gave us a ride to the bike store.

What makes me reluctant to perform an act of kindness to those who obviously need help? Part of it is that I don’t want to let myself be bothered. Stopping to help adds an unknown element to the day, invites difficulties with time, distance, and money that cannot be foreseen. Another deterrent is the risk involved. It can be dangerous to help a stranger. What if she is carrying a knife or a gun? What if he uses the conversation as an opportunity to gather information for some sort of criminal activity? (I sound as paranoid as Dave or Dana!)

Regardless: I believe that stopping to help those in distress is a noble act as long as certain precautions are taken.

It began to rain lightly tonight. The asphalt smells wet and the air is sticky and warm. The precipitation is a welcome relief after several hot days.

As I was driving to Thriftway to get Kris some Cherry Garcia ice cream bars, I came upon a minivan stopped in the middle of the street, its lights off despite the growing darkness. The driver hailed me, so I stopped.

The woman introduced herself as Naomi, a yoga instructor at Club Fit, Canby’s health club. Naomi had long brown hair and colorful clothes. She spoke in a quiet, spacey tone and moved in slow motion, as if underwater. She seemed stoned.

She had backed the minivan out of its parking spot where it died in the street while she was shifting gears. She pulled out her jumper cables and we tried to start her vehicle. The engine wouldn’t turn over though, and, in fact, sparks were shot from beneath the engine block. I haven’t ever seen that before (though I’m certainly no mechanic). We pushed the minivan into a parking spot and I offered her a ride home.

During the twenty minute drive we engaged in small-talk, the kind that’s generally uncomfortable for both parties (though much more comfortable than silence).

Naomi graduated from Molalla high school in 1993. She attended the University of Oregon where she majored in Spanish. She has traveled a lot but now lives at home with her mother, who is severely ill. Naomi takes classes at PSU during the day, studying early childhood education. Eventually she wants to teach kindergarten during the mornings and teach yoga and massage in the afternoons. She thinks children are precious.

I told her how Kris and I met: We were taking an evening writing class during our sophomore year at Willamette University. One night I spilled her tea on her notebook. Thus our courtship began. Naomi thinks that story is sweet.

We talked about our pets. Naomi has a puppy whose first birthday is tomorrow, so she bought him a turkey sandwich. She’s a vegetarian herself, but her dog loves turkey and she’d do anything for him. He’s adorable.

When we reached her house, Naomi offered to pay me but I refused. I told her that I’m banking on karmic return, that by performing these various acts of kindness I’m hoping to stockpile sort of cosmic goodwill that will yield benefits in the future. (Though this sounds much more supernatural than I intend, it essentially captures my motivation for playing the good Samaritan over the past couple of weeks.)

Naomi was interesting, and I’m pleased to have been able to help her, but she sure seemed stoned.


On 28 June 2002 (07:23 AM),
mac said:

not to be stereotypical but–

Yoga instructor is synonomous with stoner!

Satchel is Dead

[Satchel in the Tulip bed]

Satchel is dead.

Satchel came to live with us 12 October 2001. For eight months he played with our rafia, chased (and caught) birds in our yard, and enjoyed the expanses of our garden. For eight months he and Toto quarreled over territory inside the house, though they were beginning to come to an understanding. For eight months Kris and I resisted getting too close to Satchel because we knew this day would come.

Satchel was a social cat, quick to befriend the other cats in the neighborhood. He’d greet them and sit with them and play with them and sometimes fight with them. Occasionally he’d get the chance to chase another cat.

Today, just before Kris arrived home from work, Satchel got a chance to chase another cat, and I’m sure he was enjoying the pursuit. Unfortunately that pursuit led him into Elm Street during rush hour. Satchel’s friend escaped into the bushes, Satchel did not.

The young woman that struck Satchel with her car was apologetic; Kris and I assured her that we did not blame her in any way. Bill, our neighbor across the street, removed Satchel’s collar and placed him in a cat carrier for us.

We’re sad, but we’re not heartbroken as we were when Tintin died. Tintin had been with us for eight years, and his was a death of decay: he faded before our eyes. Satchel died instantly. Also, Satchel’s death was not unexpected. Kris and I had been reluctant to let ourselves love him because we suspected that he would die this way.

Still. We did love him.

Satchel was beginning to become part of the family. He was becoming more affectionate, sitting on Kris’ lap, joining me last night to watch the soccer match between the United States and Korea. He was starting to let us hold him. He showed great promise.

[Toto and Satchel with an unfortunate bird]

Angela’s Ashes, Part Two

You can imagine how stunned I was to read this article by Pat Buchanan, a man I quite dislike, and yet agree with nearly every word. This is what I’ve been saying since September 11th. This is what I’ve been arguing about, standing in the office, shouting over Mike (who is shouting over me), explaining that the United States can’t stop terrorism by going to Afghanistan and blowing people up, can’t stop terrorism through a war of rhetoric, can’t stop terrorism at all unless it leaves the Middle East. That’s too simple for most people to understand: the Saudis (and other people in the Middle East) don’t hate us for our politics, our freedom, our wealth (though they don’t like these things), they hate us because of our Imperialistic attitudes, because of our presence on their sovreign soil, on their holy lands.

Pat Buchanan is absolutely right on this particular issue.

(From metafilter, my original source for this Buchanan story, comes this McLaughlin Group transcript which features a quote from Buchanan in which he displays not only his insight on this particular issue, but also his particular brand of charm that makes me hate him so: “I am talking about an interventionist policy in every darn country in the world that is Islamic, where crazies are, so they turn all their attention right to the United States of America. What is there over there that is worth a nuclear weapon in my hometown?”)

As promised, here is another excerpt from Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography, Angela’s Ashes:

The master, Mr. Benson, is very old. He roars and spits all over us every day. The boys in the front row hope he has no diseases for it’s the spit that carries all the diseases and he might be spreading consumption right and left. He tells us we have to know the catechism backwards, forwards and sideways. We have to know the Ten Commandments, the Seven Virtues, Divine and Moral, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Deadly Sins. We have to know by heart all the prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Confiteor, the Apostles’ Creed, the Act of Contrition, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We have to know them in Irish and English and if we forget an Irish word and use an English he goes into a rage and goes at us with the stick. If he had his way we’d be learning our religion in Latin, the language of the saints who communed intimately with God and His Holy Mother, the language of the early Christians, who huddled in the catacombs and went forth to die on rack and sword, who expired in the foaming jaws of the ravenous lion. Irish is fine for patriots, English for traitors and informers, but it’s the Latin in which the barbarians pulled out their nails and cut their skin off inch by inch. He tells us we’re a disgrace to Ireland and her long sad history, that we’d be better off in Africa praying to bush or tree. He tells us we’re hopeless, the worst class he ever had for First Communion but as sure as God made little apples he’ll make Catholics of us, he’ll beat the idler out of us and the Sanctifying Grace into us.

Brendan Quigley raises his hand. We call him Question Quigley because he’s always asking questions. He can’t help himself. Sir, he says, what’s Sanctifying Grace?

The master rolls his eyes to heaven. He’s going to kill Quigley. Instead he barks at him, Never mind what Sanctifying Grace, Quigley. That’s none of your business. You’re here to learn the catechism and do what you’re told. You’re not here to be asking questions. There are too many people wandering the world asking questions and that’s what has us in the state we’re in and if I find any boy in this class asking questions I won’t be responsible for what happens. Do you hear me, Quigley?

I do.

I do, what?

I do, sir.

He goes on with his speech, There are boys in this class who will never know the Sanctifying Grace. And why? Because of the greed. I have heard them abroad in the schoolyard talking about First Communion day, the happiest day of your life. Are they talking about the body and blood of Our Lord? Oh, no. Those greedy little balguards are talking about the money they’ll get, The Collection. They’ll go from house to house in their little suits like beggars for The Collection. And will they take any of that money and send it to the little black babies in Africa? Will they think of those little pagans doomed forever for lack of baptism and knowledge of the True Faith? Little black babies denied knowledge of the Mystical Body of Christ? Limbo is packed with little black babies flying around and crying for their mothers because they’ll never be admitted to the ineffable presence of Our Lord and the glorious company of saints, martyrs, virgins. Oh, no. It’s off to the cinemas, our First Communion boys run to wallow in the filth spewed across the world by the devil’s henchmen in Hollywood. Isn’t that right, McCourt?

‘Tis, sir.

Question Quigley raises his hand again. There are looks around the room and we wonder if it’s suicide he’s after.

What’s henchmen, sir?

The master’s face goes white, then red. His mouth tightens and opens and spits fire everywhere. He walks to Question and drags him from his seat. He snorts and stutters and his spit flies around the room. He flogs Question across the shoulders, the bottom, the legs. He grabs him by the collar and drags him to the front of the room.

Look at this specimen, he roars.

Question is shaking and crying. I’m sorry, sir.

The master mocks him. I’m sorry, sir. What are you sorry for?

I’m sorry I asked the question. I’ll never ask a question again, sir.

The day you do, Quigley, will be the day you wish God would take you to His bosom. What will you wish, Quigley?

That God will take me to His bosom, sir.

Go back to your seat, you omadhaun, you poltroon, you thing from the dark corner of a bog.

He sits down with the stick before him on the desk. He tells Question to stop whimpering and be a man. If he hears a single boy in this class asking foolish questions or talking about The Collection again he’ll flog that boy till the blood spurts.

What will I do, boys?

Flog the boy, sir.


Till the blood spurts, sir.

Now, Clohessy, what is the Sixth Commandment?

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not commit adultery what?

Thou shalt not commit adultery, sir.

And what is adultery, Clohessy?

Impure thoughts, impure words, impure deeds, sir.

Good, Clohessy. You’re a good boy. You may be slow and forgetful in the sir department and you may not have a shoe to your foot but you’re powerful with the Sixth Commandment and that will keep you pure.

My “now reading” box on the right has been lying for the past couple of weeks. I’ve actually been reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. I’ve started Angela’s Ashes now, though, and so Faulkner will have to wait because after I finish this book I’m going to reread Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain (fifth or sixth time for that one), then read The Journals of Lewis and Clark (as edited by John Bakeless), and then read Angle of Repose. Only after I’ve finished all of these will I be able to return to Benji and the rest of the messed-up gang in The Sound and the Fury.

I love books.


On 07 June 2002 (07:20 PM),
Mom said:

I loved Angela’s Ashes and the scene you have included demonstrates the kind of religion I hate. As you may or may not know, I wasn’t brought up being allowed to question and it still doesn’t come easily for me. I’m better at it now than I’ve ever been before in my life. In my opinion, fanatical religion in various forms is the root of many kinds of cruelties and injustices in this world.

I, too, think it’s ironic that you are agreeing with Pat Buchanan. I think that our insistance on making sure we have ready sources of oil rather than finding alternative fuels is a big cause of our continuing strong presence in the Middle East. It is coming back to bite us.

I love books, too. I’m trying to read “A Fine Balance”, an Oprah book club book — can’t remember the author’s name at the moment — and it’s difficult to read because of the graphic way in which it portrays some of the past and present conditions in India. However, it’s probably something that I need to read. I’m in limbo a bit right now on reading material that I really enjoy. I suppose a visit to the bookstore is in order sometime soon.

I hadn’t been to your site to see what you were up to for a while. I hope you don’t mind me putting my 2 cents worth in!

Angela’s Ashes, Part One

Mac and Pam had checked out the Angela’s Ashes DVD from the public library so I borrowed it the other day. When I started to watch it, however, I was angered by the gloss of the adaptation. The small segment that I saw gave short shrift to the beginning of the story. And stylistically, the film had a sheen, a lack of authenticity, seemed to be portraying the Hollywood version of the poor in 1930s Ireland instead of the poor as they actually existed. (Hell, we poor 1970s Oregonians had worse conditions than the film’s poor 1930s Irish!)

I stopped the film, ripped it to my hard drive for later viewing, and from my bookshelf I took the book upon which the film was based.

This book is a fine piece of work, destined to become a classic. This is only the second time that I’ve read it and I regret that it’s taken me five years to return to it.

Here is the second paragraph (which, by all rights, ought to be the first paragraph), the best-known passage from the book:

When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

That paragraph is an apt summary of the book’s plot, but cannot begin to do justice to the range and degree of poverty that the author, Frank McCourt, experiences during his childhood.

Here is another great passage (and yet another will follow tomorrow):

Paddy Clohessy has no shoe on his foot, his mother shaves his head to keep the lice away, his eyes are red, his nose always snotty. The sores on his kneecaps never heal because he picks the scabs and puts them in his mouth. His clothes are rags he has to share with his six brothers and a sister and when he comes to school with a bloody nose or a black eye you know he had to fight over the clothes that morning. He hates school. He’s seven going on eight, the biggest and oldest boy in the class, and he can’t wait to grow up and join the English army and go to India where it’s nice and warm and he’ll live in a tent with a dark girl with the red dot on her forehead and he’ll be lying there eating figs, that’s what they eat in India, figs, and she’ll cook the curry day and night and plonk on a ukelele and when he has enough money he’ll send for the whole family and they’ll all live in the tent especially his poor father who’s at home coughing up great gobs of blood because of the consumption. When my mother sees Paddy on the street she says, Wisha, look at that poor child. He’s a skeleton with rags and if they were making a film about the famine they’d surely put him in the middle of it.

I think Paddy likes me because of the raisin and I feel a bit guilty because I wasn’t that generous in the first place. The master, Mr. Benson, said the government was going to give us the free lunch so we wouldn’t be going home in the freezing weather. He led us down to a cold room in the dungeons of Leamy’s School where the charwoman, Nellie Ahearn, was handing out the half pint of milk and the raisin bun. The milk was frozen in the bottles and we had to melt it between our thighs. The boys joked and said the bottles would freeze our things off and the master roared, Any more of that talk and I’ll warm the bottles on the backs of yeer heads. We all searched our raisin buns for a raisin but Nellie said they must have forgotten to put them in and she’d inquire form the man who delivered. We searched again every day till at last I found a raisin in my bun and held it up. The boys started grousing and said they wanted a raisin and Nellie said it wasn’t her fault. She’d ask the man again. Now the boys were begging me for the raisin and offering me everything, a slug of their milk, a pencil, a comic book. Toby Mackey said I could have his sister and Mr. Benson heard him and took him out to the hallway and knocked him around till he howled. I wanted the raisin for myself but I saw Paddy Clohessy standing in the corner with no shoes and the room was freezing and he was shivering like a dog that had been kicked and I always felt sad over kicked dogs so I walked over and gave Paddy the raisin because I didn’t know what else to do and all the boys yelled that I was a fool and a feckin’ eejit and I’d regret the day and after I handed the raisin to Paddy I longed for it but it was too late now because he pushed it right into his mouth and gulped it and looked at me and said nothing and I said in my head what kind of an eejit are you to be giving away your raisin.

Mr. Benson gave me a look and said nothing and Nellie Ahearn said, You’re a great oul’ Yankee, Frankie.

Great stuff.


On 18 January 2005 (05:46 AM),
emily clohessy said:

hi this is emily clohessy

do you know paddie clohessy he helped write angelas ashes

On 15 April 2005 (05:40 AM),
emily clohessy said:

hi this is emily again guess what paddie clohessy is my grandad and , heather clohessy is my mum and issable clohessy is my granma isn’t that great well send me a message back just click on post a message and type your name in and your message if you want to contact me just call 079703716326

On 15 April 2005 (05:42 AM),
gemma tregellas said:


On 18 April 2005 (02:57 AM),
emily clohessy said:

is anyone going to reply xxxxxxx

On 20 September 2005 (12:55 AM),
Jane Foster said:

Hi Emily, I am Paddy Clohessy’s niece, it would be lovely to hear, send me a post. I am his sister Nancy’s daughter. I met Frank Mccourt in Sydney for the premiere of the movie in 2000. Regards Jane.