Archives for the month of: August, 2011

The long awaited trip to Prague had arrived.  It had been a while since I set out alone to explore a destination abroad.  On past trips I’d sought adventure in Istanbul and Amsterdam.  I arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check in since, it’s best not to cut it close with international flights (I mean, what if you left your passport and had to call someone to bring it to the airport?  It could happen). Coming up the escalator, I ran into Scott Vanlaningham, Executive Director of XNA and Cyd King, Public Relations Account Manager at CJRW/NW. They’d been touring the new gate area, and we visited a bit before I made my way into the security line.

 At the security line, two of the TSA agents were engaged in pretty funny banter, and were giving each other a hard time.  When I got to the scanner TSA agent #3 asked, “Did he say something funny?”  Since I didn’t know which of the two guys he was referring to, and they’d both been funny, I just said, “Yes,” to which Agent #3 responded, “Well we’d better record this day in history because I do believe that’s a first.” Interactions like that make going through security much less stressful, and were a good start to the trip. Walking towards the gates I noticed the beautiful new gift/snack shop, so of course I stopped to take a picture. While I was doing that, a voice said, “I knew that was you when I saw the camera.” Brad and Julie Choate were also flying out of town that day.  They were on their way to Phoenix to see a new grandbaby.  Congrats! 

The flight was uneventful except for the fact that there was no coffee.  Since I’d had my jug-o-coffee that morning, I was fine with that and read The Rough Guide to Prague, so I could hit the ground running (so to speak) when I got there. I try, when traveling internationally, to follow the advice to acclimate one’s self to the local time upon arrival.  That means going to bed when it’s appropriate in the new time zone. I was developing an agenda for the first day in Prague (Tuesday) as I read.  The good news was I’d received an upgrade on the O’Hare-Helsinki leg of the trip; a surprising, but welcome development.

Once I landed at O’Hare, I headed to the lounge I remembered from years ago, when I’d travelled with Carol to Barcelona and we’d been upgraded.  We’d been whisked to a mysterious lounge, by a fellow driving a cart.  I wasn’t certain I remembered where it was, but I found it, and went in. “The desk agent smiled one of those, “Oh you poor lost dear” kind of smiles and said, “Are you an Executive Platinum member?” “No, I remembered coming here once when I received an upgrade.” “Well, dear, you’re welcome to go to our Admirals Club between gates K6 and H6, but this is for Executive Platinum (EP) members.”  “Umm, ok,” I said, and off I went.

The Admirals Club was chaotic that afternoon. I’m not sure if that’s the norm, because I’m not an Admirals Club member.  It was close to 1:00, so I decided to have lunch (no free lunches there as were the case in the EP club). The line was really long, and although there were reputed to be servers, none ever surfaced in the area in which I was sitting, so several of us went to the counter to order.  I bought a salmon salad, which wasn’t bad, and a glass of wine (hey, it was vacation).

My seat mate on the flight, Klaus Viljanmaa, turned out to be really interesting, though I initially tried the ole fish eyed, don’t bother me trick.  It didn’t work, so we visited until he went to sleep.  During our conversation, I found out that Klaus was from Finland, fell in love with a woman from Kansas, sold a company, and moved there to be with her.  He has 17 (yep, that’s right) motorcycles, including every collector’s edition Harley for the past (can’t remember) years.  He also has 5 Porsches and goes around the world racing them.  His company made for an interesting flight. The flight attendants commented that we seemed to be having a lot more fun than the other passengers, and I think that was true.

When Klaus went to sleep, I devoured a novel by Beverly Jenkins entitled, Indigo. It’s a guilty vacation pleasure to pick up a romance (yes, I confess) novel.  I like her books because they’re set against the backdrop of slavery and the struggle for abolition. Her protagonists are strong characters of color who agitate for change.  No femme fatales in her books, they’re all kick butt women. From a bank robber, to a woman who dedicates her life to street orphans, to a conductor on the Underground Railroad, they’re all smart and tough.  (By the way, all the books mentioned in the blog are available from the lending library on the third floor of the law school.).

When we landed in Helsinki, Klaus was concerned that I’d have trouble making my connection so he walked me as far as permissible and sent me off with a hug for safe travels.  I wished him well in his upcoming business meeting and told him to be safe racing those cars.  The plane from Helsinki was pretty full and the flight took close to two hours. We were given a breakfast sandwich (pickles, mayo, lunchmeat, lettuce and tomatoes on a wheat bun). Though it wasn’t my choice for breakfast, at least we received something.  In the states there would have been coffee (maybe).

The customs process was soooo much easier than here. Sheesh. The agent asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Prague, for how long, and that was it.  There were no long lines, and the process was really quick.  The fun began when I had to find my prearranged shuttle.  First, I went to the place outside the arrival gates where the shuttles lined up.  No luck. Then I went back in and asked at the desk. Nope. Finally, I pulled out the reservation sheet to (what?) follow the directions. The directions said to go to parking building C, stop at the Dollar/Thrifty rental desk and I would be directed to my shuttle. So off I went.  Hmmm, building C, building C, oh there it is! When I arrived at the desk and asked (as directed), there was some confusion because I was not Ms. Gonzales.  Nevertheless, the driver decided to take me and another couple and let his colleague pick up Ms. G.  The driver was nice, and spoke English. He didn’t, however, speak the Baltic sounding language the couple spoke (they didn’t speak English) so he talked with me, gave a mini-tour tour and explanation of the various landmarks we passed.  He even slowed for my pictures and gave me safety tips.   

My hotel, the Grand Majestic Plaza was nice.  When I checked in the clerk knew who I was by name. I thought that was a great touch. The lobby was beautiful; the rooms clean with dependable (wired) internet, and the location great.  It’s very close to the St. Charles Bridge, the metro and the Town Hall Clock, all historic landmarks. Checking into the room reminded me of all the little things to remember in other countries.  For example, as an energy saving measure the hallway lights go out and come on again when someone enters the hallway.  The room lights only come on after you place your key card in a holder by the door, so that when you’re out, everything goes off.  There are other little things like figuring out how to work the fixtures, and remembering that washcloths are not a universal norm in all bathrooms. (Don’t forget to pack your electronical adapters).

As I mentioned above, the best way to avoid the dreaded jet lag is to stay up until bedtime in the new location. I had a plan. I’d take a river cruise, get dinner and call it a night.  So after checking email and sprucing up (much needed) I went to the desk to arrange for a riverboat tour. “Will they bring me back to the hotel?” “Oh, yes.”  Good, I thought, because the last thing I need is to be trying to figure out, in a half daze, how to get back to the hotel on the first day.  The pickup was not for an hour or so, so I wandered a bit taking pictures and trying to get a feel for the city.  I’ve been known to absentmindedly step into the street to take pictures, but I was standing on the sidewalk when a guy in a very small minivan backed into me. I saw him coming in my peripheral vision and banged on the back window in time to avert a major crisis “Hey!” An older lady carrying a toddler saw the entire episode and yelled out, “Oh my God!” which was actually more startling than the minivan—almost. The bus arrived right on time and off we went—first to the tour office to be greeted by a snippy clerk, then onto another bus with a disinterested and bored tour (Premiant) guide. To make a long story short, I sat on the top deck sipping a beer enjoying the river, but without much of an idea of what the sights were other than the tips from my Rough Guide to Prague and the few words I could glean from the Italian speaking tour guide. Things got decidedly more interesting when we docked.  There was no bus, no guide, no nothing.

A very sweet older couple was in the same fix, and was struggling a bit because of the heat.  I told them I’d help them find their hotel (hell, I didn’t even know where  mine  was).  I was worried about them, especially the husband because he was becoming flush and short of breath.  My approach to these situations is to ask directions from as many people as possible,  then go with the consensus, which is what we did.  Along the way, the wife began to recognize landmarks, and before too long they left me after big hugs of gratitude to go sit in the shade with cool drinks.  That was a good beginning, but I still didn’t have a clue where I was and what’s worse I’d forgotten to bring a piece of stationary or a card from the hotel with the name and address.  Suppressing panic, I pulled it up on my IPhone Tripit app, and headed for a police officer, conveniently sitting in a car waiting for me. When I showed her the address she pulled out a map and said, “I don’t know. There are so many.”  Now the panic returned.  It was well past the 24 hour mark for being awake, and I was hot and tired. Ah, “The Palladium!” I said.  “Oh yes” and she gave me directions.  It turned out I wasn’t very far at all, and remembering the nearest shopping mall had been a lifesaver. (One of the first things I did when I got back was to tuck a hotel card in my wallet.  At the very least, that way I could call and have the clerk give directions to whoever is helping me). 

After getting to Truhlarska Street on which the hotel was located, I decided having dinner nearby was the safest bet. I went into a restaurant that was filled with customers, and conveniently, right down the street.  After I was seated I realized that I was in a Chinese restaurant (in Prague—go figure),  Macao and Wok.  My dinner was a dish called 8 Treasures. It was fresh and delicious with lots of vegetables.  After dinner, my server brought me some “Chinese wine” which tasted a little bit  like a plum wine, only lighter.  Maybe it was cherry because it was red. Inside the glass on a plastic toothpick was a lychee.  The check came with a stick of gum.

After that pleasant ending to a long day, I was ready for bed, and crashed soon after returning.  However I awoke about two hours later with a swollen eye.  A bug had gotten into it.  Benadryl to the rescue!  But when I turned on the light there were LOTS of bugs on the walls, behind and on both sides of the bed. Ewww. Sigh.  I couldn’t get an answer on the phone from the front desk, so I dressed and went down there, big eye, rollers and all.  The clerk sent the bartender up to figure out what the heck I was trying to tell them.  Roman, the bartender, and jack of all trades quickly sized up the situation.  The window had been left open.  He motioned that he would return, and in a few minutes he did, with a vacuum cleaner. Genius.  No more bugs. I gave Roman a tip that reflected my gratitude and Czeched out.    

 

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Saturday I drove to Little Rock for the funeral of a colleague, and former member of the W. Harold Flowers Law Society, Michael Price.  I met Michael, who attended Dartmouth and Washington Law through the Flowers listserv.  Though we never met in person we exchanged emails on the issues of the day and he always challenged me. He spent his most recent years advocating on behalf of those who could least afford assistance.  Many people shared with his family how very much Michael had helped them when they most needed it. Michael’s brother, Troy Price is Past President of the Society and a partner at the Wright Lindsey Jennings firm. 

Michael, Troy, Josilen & Greg Price

Although I didn’t know any members of the church where the service has held, several familiar members of the bar were in attendance including Judge Alice Gray and U/A alums and Judges/Pastors Wendell Griffen and Marion Humphrey.  Judge Griffen shared words of encouragement with the family and those present, based on Romans 8.  His remarks were powerful and comforting. Michael’s brothers, Troy and Greg, his sister, Josilen, and his Dad all gave remembrances of him.  I’d not before experienced that tradition at a funeral.  It was a lovely way for those in attendance to get a sense of Greg.

 On my way to the funeral, one of Mom’s caregivers called saying that she was in extreme pain from her fall two days before.  She asked if I would contact her doctor, which I did.  We arranged for pain medication and for me to take Mom for x-rays as soon as I returned. I talked with Mom and assured her I would come directly to get her when the service was over. On the drive back I called Mom and she was feeling well enough to delay the x-rays until Sunday, which was ok by me as it had been a long, intense day. I promised to check in on her after church on Sunday.

 Sunday, I attended church at Good Shepherd Lutheran, feeling a little down in the dumps, truthfully, between Michael’s funeral and Mom’s condition. Pastor’s sermon was based on the texts Isaiah 51:1-6 and Matthew 16.  He riffed on (If one can say that about a sermon) the ideas of Peter as the rock and the idea of rocks.  That is, he talked about our idea of rocks and suggested that the texts didn’t mean plain ole rocks, but the beautiful gemstones referred to in Revelation. Pastor also talked about what it meant to be “a rock.” His sermon made me think, well that gives a whole new meaning to “classic rock!” My take away (and remember we all filter) was that we should stand like rocks against wrong (systemic and individual) and for those who are in need of grace. Further that we should see ourselves not as granite, but as the precious and semi-precious stones described in the texts and act accordingly.

 

After the service, I went to check on Mom.  When I got there she was happy to see me, but said she didn’t need x-rays and was feeling fine.  I checked with the folks there and they agreed that she seemed to be doing fine.  Relieved, I hung out for a while, teaching her how to use the contacts in her cell phone and left much lighter in spirit.

Later that afternoon, Carol, Jim and I went for a dinner ride to the Crossbow in Huntsville.  We rode the loop in reverse (at least for us) that is, we rode west on 16 to 23 into Huntsville, had a fabulous dinner (more on that) and returned on west 74 to 295 north, and west on 45.  The Crossbow deserves an entire post, but you’ll just have to go with this one.  When we pulled in, it was dinner time and we were all ready to eat.  Our server was gracious and attentive and alerted us to any changes or unavailable menu items, sometimes to her surprise.  The meal was plentiful, and very good. If you are bored on a Sunday and want to take a dinner drive, I know just the place.  The outing was relaxing being with good friends, experiencing a great meal and taking a lovely stress free ride.  When I returned to the house safely, I was most grateful. I can’t say it often enough and the events of the past week emphasized it.  Live life to the fullest every day treasure those you love.  

                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to the Memory of Michael Price.

Thursday, August 18th was the first day of orientation for our new 1-L students.  It was fun to greet them and wish them a good year.  We have such great students, and they bring a wonderful, positive energy to the building.  As they munched on a light breakfast and mingled in the Norma Beasley Atrium, Dean Leeds and my colleagues warmly welcomed them into the school of law community.  At 9:30 we all went up to the courtroom where Dean Leeds welcomed them more formally and each faculty member told our new class who they were, what they taught, and where their degrees were from.

As I was waiting my turn, I noticed I had a new message on my cellphone from my Mom’s place.  When I stepped out to listen, it turned out that she had fallen that morning.  When I tried to call back I didn’t get an answer, so I said hello to the new students and took off for Pea Ridge. The irony was that I’d just seen Mom Monday and she was doing fine.  In fact, she was getting around quite well, and didn’t even need her walker. You just never know.  I don’t want to get too preachy here, but do let the people you care about know you care.  Don’t take them for granted.  The folks we love and who love us,  make life the joy it is.  I love the proverb from the people of Madagascar that says, “Let your love be like the misty rains, coming softly, but flooding the river.”  Do that, and your life will be richer for it. I know it’s true.

Back to Mom.  When I arrived she was sitting on the bed, obviously shaken, but not seriously injured, for which I was most thankful.  What happened was her foot caught on her throw rug, and she fell.  She said what frightened her most was when she couldn’t get up, and was yelling for help.  There’s an emergency cord in her apartment, but she was too shaken to remember it at the time.  All I know is that it was great to see her up and ok. Clarice Berkvins (a lovely, very kind woman) who spends time with Mom taking her out and about, was there, and they were straightening up.  That is, Mom was directing and Clarice was straightening.  Thanks to all the FB (Facebook) friends who sent warm wishes and prayers upon learning of her fall. I told Mom about your thoughts and prayers and she was appreciative of all of you, as was I.

 

Returning to the office after being away is an adjustment even for an ex-dean. When I saw Mom on Monday, she said, “I know you’re doing good things, but you’re doing a lot. Just be careful.”  Her question made me wonder out loud, “Why in the world am I so busy?” I think the simple answer is that new opportunities and commitments filled the gap created by my transition.  The point of all this seemingly pointless rambling is, that when I returned to town, I had to play catch up.  There were travel reports to file, calls to return, follow up email, and lots of dry cleaning to be dropped off. I continued my pursuit of a copy of Luther on Vocation with a stop at the Dickson Street Book Shop, a booklover’s bookstore. It’s a big store, crammed with floor to ceiling (in an orderly fashion) with books on every topic imaginable, but sadly not the book I sought.

Among the more relaxing (pun intended) tasks to be attended to was an appointment with the Heroine of Hair, Lora for a relaxer (it was time). You may not be aware of it, but there is a great deal of politics around black women’s hair. This ongoing dialogue about hair choices is the inspiration behind Chris Rock’s movie, Good Hair.  The politics or perhaps propriety of hair choice has spilled into the workforce too, in cases involving conflicts between employer’s grooming codes and black women’s hair choices. One of my labor and employment law colleagues, Angela Onwuachi-Willig the Charles and Marion J. Kierscht Professor of Law at Iowa, has written about this in a thoughtful piece entitled, Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis Under Title VII. Although my choice of relaxed hair was a matter of convenience  and flexibility, the dialogue amongst sisters has caused me to question my choice, and even to defend it, on more than one occasion, and led to me a greater appreciation of natural styles.

Looking for a place to grab lunch, I stumbled across a new Indian restaurant in Rogers,  Chutny’s.  It’s huge, and what looked to be a 20 item buffet for lunch.  One item on the menu was fish, which I’d never ordered before in an Indian restaurant.  Some of you may know more about it, but I’ll give the best description I can.  It was prepared in small pieces, and had a reddish rub that looked like Tandori, but was spicier.  Many of the menu items were familiar, but others I tasted for the first time.  Everything was quite good, especially the butter chicken. If you’re in Rogers at lunch time, give it a try.

The next day I looked forward to, and as expected thoroughly enjoyed, lunch with Judy Schwab, Associate Vice Chancellor for Administration.  We went to Taste of Thai (forgot to get pics—sorry about that), off the square in Fayetteville. She and I had not been able to catch up for a good long while.  Judy is one of those people in my life who can sense when things are tough.  She’s showed up more than once, unexpectedly, but right on time, kind pick-me-ups.  Once, she even brought homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Now that’s a friend! Our lunch was a happy diversion, but I really did need to get some work done.  It was time to knuckle down on the article for St. John’s and that’s what I did the rest of the afternoon. To my delight, in the midst of it all I received an unexpected delivery from the florist. Thanks, my friend! Flowers are always a BIG plus, made better only by a pedicure at the end of the day at Nails First.

 

 

Carol, Jim and I all took the day off to ride.  It had been a long time since just the three of us got out on our bikes and we were really looking forward to it.  Part of the problem had been the record setting heat.  That combined with our schedules made our ride together long overdue. We planned two alternate routes, and would decide later in the day, which to follow depending on the weather and how everyone felt.  Our ride took us north up 265, then over to 71B for a short distance, onto 62 and up 37 north into Monett.  We stopped at the Buss Stop gas station and restaurant in Garfield for coffee (in Carol’s case tea) and a snack.  Little did we know that the Buss Stop serves full breakfast for as little as $3.00.  It is famous for ice cream, but it has a full menu too, including sandwiches, fish, chicken and burritos.  All of the prices were quite reasonable and the two guys having breakfast told us the food was great (it looked good).  We’ll keep that in mind for future reference.

 

From there we headed across the Missouri state line and into Roaring River State Park.  Jim hadn’t seen it for about 20 years and it made for another nice stop.  After a few pictures and a pit stop, we were back on the road.  37 North out of Seligman, Missouri is a nice road for bikes. There are long sweeping curves, and several slow lanes to let impatient drivers pass.  The scenery, while not as hilly as the around Northwest Arkansas, was pretty and pastoral. We all agreed it was an easy, relaxing ride.

When we rolled into Monett, it could have been something out of a scary movie, or the scene from a western, when the bad guys rode (rolled) into town.  We pulled onto a quaint, little, small town main street with no activity.  It was as if everyone knew something we didn’t.  Actually, that was the case.  They knew that many of the businesses downtown were closed on Mondays.  Low level panic set in (ok, that’s an exaggeration, more like collective confusion) as we walked along looking for a place to have lunch.  It was well into the afternoon when we arrived, and lunch was very high on everyone’s agenda.  Finally, we came across a Christian card shop that was open.  I went in (thinking, well she has to eat somewhere) and asked the clerk if there were somewhere to grab a bite to eat.  She pointed us to Mocha Joes.

Good call!  The food was fresh and good and the crew, friendly.  We ate a leisurely meal, enjoying the atmosphere and our sandwiches.  Jim tried the Club Sandwich which was Wheatberry bread, ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion; Carol ordered the My Hammy Vice, Ciabata bread, bistro sauce, ham, provolone cheese, black olives, onion, lettuce; and I ordered the Turkey with a Twist, made with Wheatberry, mayo, turkey, ham, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion (but I asked for no onions). After a pleasant lunch, it was time to hit the road.

We stopped for gas, and made the decision to head back rather than take the longer route.  We stopped again just outside of Seligman at a station that sold booze, snacks, gas & lotto– to grab a cold drink (no, not that kind).  From there we headed down 62, but cut across 72 going west and took a left onto 94 south to stop in and say “Hi” to Mom. By then the traffic was heavy and the going slow, so we stopped in Springdale for water and to gas up one last time.  From there I’d peel off from Carol and Jim and they’d continue south towards home. 

While we were there a guy pulled up in a plumbing truck.  Now, this wasn’t just any truck.  It was pretty unique.  We got to talking and he rides too, a Heritage Softail.  It’s more than 20 years old, belonged to his uncle, and only has 43,000 miles on it.  I told him I really liked his truck, and he said, “Why don’t you get in and take a picture.” “Really? Can I?”  “Sure.”  So that’s how I ended up driving the truck into the sun for a photo (otherwise there was too much shadow), however I have been dissuaded from sharing it with you for purposes of propiety.  It was a hoot though!

 

 

 

 

The trip home from Boston on the 14th, got off to a jarring start.  When I got up that morning, there were two voicemail messages from American Airlines(AA). A computerized woman’s voice said (twice) “This is American Airlines with a flight update. American Eagle (flight number) will now depart at 8:45 a.m.” “Wha?!?” I thought.  My flight isn’t scheduled to leave until 9:45—or so I thought.  To set the stage I have to tell you that I received this message at 7:20 a.m. “Yikes!”  I pulled out my travel folder digging through the extraneous stuff until I found my flight confirmation.  “Oh, no!” A traveler’s nightmare.  I’d checked the day before on my American Airlines App, but I’d looked at the O’Hare arrival time rather than the Boston departure time. My flight left at 8:00. Sigh.  I was toast.  Fortunately, I always pack the night before in case something comes up—though I usually prepare for a disaster not of my own making. 

I was able to check out and get to the airport in record time.  My cab driver was a very pleasant man.  “How are you this morning?” he asked.  I admitted that the dreary rainy weather reflected my own mood.  I explained my mistake.  He asked, “Do you have faith?”  It was a startling reaction to my concerns.  “Yes.” “Then you should believe it will be o.k. Go to the people at the desk.  Tell them what you have done.  They will help you, and you will get home just fine.”  Needless to say, while I appreciated his encouragement and optimism, I figured I’d be sitting in the airport all day as a standby trying to get home.  “Do you believe this?” “Umm, I want to.” “It will happen.  You will see.” About that time we were at the airport. He helped me with my bag, gave me a hug and drove off.

Using the self check kiosk, I sheepishly inserted my AA card, only to receive the response, “You are too late to check in for this flight.” It was 8:18 a.m. “Ok, here it comes,” I thought.  But to my surprise the next option was to check into a 10:40 flight either as standby (which was free) or a guaranteed seat for $50. “Whoa!”  I didn’t even have to share my sob story.  Problem solved.  I thought about that taxi driver and his message and smiled.  Believe or not, he was right.  I was able to make my original connection at O’Hare and arrived at XNA without any delay.  Reminder number one.

When I got on the plane in Boston, there was a toddler in my seat. “Is this your seat?” her mother asked.  “Yes.”  “My husband is in the row in front of us, would you mind trading?” It was the dreaded middle seat.  My first reaction was, “Ugh”, but then I thought about my good fortune that day, and the difference it would  make to this Mom who was having obvious difficultly wrangling her youngster. “Sure.”  “Oh, thank you.” “No problem.”  My seat mates turned out to be great, and the woman to my left who had the aisle seat, let me put my drink on her tray since I was working on my laptop.

For the foodies, I bought a toasted brie, apple and turkey sandwich at Brioche Doree.  Airport food notwithstanding, it was quite good.  The flight to XNA was uneventful and as predicted by my taxi driver, arrived on time.  I was in a bit of a hurry though because I’d committed to take the orientation for those who want to go participate in a communion church service with the women in Northwest Arkansas Community Correctional Center (NWACCC).  Pastor Clint, Jan Hanks, Bud Hanks and me (the crew from Good Shepherd) were to meet at 5:00 p.m., and I made it even though my plane landed at close to 4:00 p.m. 

We met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Sara Milford  explained the procedure.  We would meet Chaplain Tom who works at NWACCC.  He would escort us in.  We were to leave all non-necessary items, and would be required to sign in (of course) and go through a metal detector.  While we watched, Sara, Jason and Ben (Sorry I’ll have to update with last names) packed the baskets that would go with use.  They contained battery operated candles, bread, wine, and chalice, the day’s order of service and printouts of hymns, and a beautiful vase of fragrant lilies. We arrived at the jail around 5:30, and went through the procedures and were each given a clip on badge.   Pastor Kenneth Parks of St. Theodore’s Episcopal Church in Bella Vista met us there.  He would lead the worship that day.

I wish I could truly share with you what an amazing experience this was.  There were about 25 or so women who attended worship service and they were truly, in the moment.  We sang hymns, listened to the texts for the day, shared the peace (the only time touching is allowed in the facility—there were lots of very warm hugs), and shared communion.  What moved me, literally to tears, was the anointing of the women who were being released.  We all stood around them and Pastor Parks told the two women that they now had a new start, that we would pray for them and that we loved them.  All of us stood around them and either laid hands on them or someone who was touching them as Pastor Parks blessed, anointed and prayed over them.  It was extremely powerful, and beautiful.  This was the  second powerful reminder, and a moving and uplifting way to end the day.

 

Marjorie LaRue-Britt and I decided to “discover Boston” Saturday, after breakfast in the hotel. As an aside, I would not recommend the corned beef hash. It was overdone and came with baked beans. When the waiter asked if I would order it again, I honestly had to say, “No.” Marjorie’s omelet seemed, with hindsight, to have been a much better option. Having said that, I must tell you I received a call from the food and beverage manager of the hotel after I got back to ask in more detail what the problem was, and to apologize.  Now, that’s service!

 

What better way to begin a walkabout than with a pedicure.  After all, happy feet make for a happy walker.  That was our story and we’re sticking to it.  The concierge recommended a spa on Newberry Street and off we went.  There was lots to see on Newberry.  Many high end retailers have shops there, and there are many architecturally interesting buildings, along with a number of beautiful old churches.  At one point there was a mini craft fair, with vendors selling jewelry, art, scarves and music.  The sidewalks were crowded with folks strolling, taking in the sights, and enjoying the lovely weather, which seemed tailor-made for walking.  We’d walked a fair distance down Newberry when we arrived at the spa.  After waiting 20 minutes, the receptionist told us the first available opening would be in 4 hours (so why did it take 20 minutes to figure this out?) and with that we left after sweetly telling them they’d been so highly recommended by the hotel that we were disappointed.

But, there were adventures to be had, so onward we went.  When we got what appeared to be the end of the shops on Newberry, we asked for directions to the T (Boston’s metro) to Faneuil Hall Marketplace (which is also known as Quincy Hall so don’t be confused, as we were).  By the way, an MBTA day pass is only $9.00 and is a good idea if you’re going to spend the day travelling on public transit.  It is good on the subway, bus, and some commuter rails systems. We’d been told the Faneuil Hall area was a fun place to stroll andto  people watch, and even better (for me) that there was a Harley shop there. The crowds on Newberry were nothing compared to the throngs at the marketplace.  Their marketplace is not too far from the water. It houses, just about every kind of shop you can imagine, along with a number of restaurants, and it is enlivened by creative, high energy street performers.  You can also pick up a number of tours there, including the double-decker bus, trolley and the duck tours. It’s also very close to the aquarium and nearby you can select one of several boat tours.

We strolled along keeping an eye out for the Harley shop, taking in all the sights and sounds of the marketplace. Unfortunately, when we did find it the shop was a disappointment.  We were never greeted, heaven forbid offered assistance, and the selection of t-shirts was limited and neither interesting nor attractive.  Although I like to pick up shirts from different places, this one was a pass. After an hour there, it was time for us to head to our next stop, Harvard University.

 The trip from Newberry Street to the marketplace required us to take two different subways, connected by long walking tunnels, but that was nothing compared to the trip to Harvard.  If my memory is correct, we started on the blue line, then transferred to the orange line to pick up the red line (and I may be leaving a color out, I’m not sure).  Each transfer stop was like a scavenger hunt. There were clues leading us to the platform we needed. We went up, down, around and under.  Marjorie cracked, “It’s a good thing we can read.”  To which I replied, “Yeah, and that we’re not in a hurry.”  At one juncture we pushed the “ask for assistance” button and a disembodied voice came on telling us in a nearly incomprehensible accent where to find the train we sought. I do have to say, however, that the subways were clean and quiet, and fellow passengers were friendly and helpful.

The transfers took longer than the ride out to Harvard, once we were on the red line.  The train was fairly crowded and many of our fellow passengers exited with us at Harvard Square in Cambridge.  The first thing I thought about when we came up from the subway was Click & Clack, the Tap It Brothers on NPR’s Cartalk.  They always mention being on Harvard square during the show, and many times I’d pictured what it looked like, so it was really fun to be there. An entrance to the campus is right across from the T station.  We walked through the large gate, and onto the older part of the campus.

For some reason, I’d expected to see grey stone buildings covered with ivy, but that was not the case.  The majority of the buildings we saw were red brick.  There were very colorful chairs on the lawn everywhere and people were picnicking and reading.  We wondered if that were typically the case or if there were some special event going on that drew so many people to campus. We wandered for a while taking in the beauty of the campus and came across the statute of John Harvard and learned that the custom is to rub the statue’s left foot for good luck, but “rub at your own risk,” as Harvard undergraduate students have a longstanding tradition of urinating on the statue at night.

  We decided to look for the law school and began asking for directions.  It turned out everyone was a touris but on our 5th try we asked a young man pulling a suitcase and he gave us directions. The law school was more in line with my expectations of what Harvard would look like. It was grey with massive columns.  The Latin inscription, “Non sed homine sed sub Deo et lege” was carved over the entrance to the building. We Googled it and found that it meant, “Not under man but under God and the Law.” As anticipated, we could not get in to take a look around. For a moment, though, I wondered if there was someone on the faculty who we might call to open the door.  Of course that was a long shot and as Marjorie reminded me it was, after all, a Saturday.  After taking a few more pictures we headed back toward the gate through which we entered to go to the Coop, a famous Cambridge bookstore.

We used the “Around Me” app to locate it and started on our way.  We were the blue dot, and Coop was the red dot.  We walked in the direction indicated by the map on Marjorie’s IPhone.  Before too long, Marjorie said,”We’re off the path.  It doesn’t look like we’re going the right way any more.”  Lucky for us, we looked up and saw Officer Friendly of the Harvard P.D. giving directions.  We walked over and asked how to get to the Coop.  He told us we’d really have to keep an eye out because it was easy to walk past if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  Then he did a remarkable thing.  He told us he’d walk with us.  On the way we began visiting and he told us there had been a big fight the night before on the square after a church gathering.  He said, “All hell broke loose.”  “Ha! Pun intended.” I quipped, then I added, “I bet you guys were saying, Holy crap. I suspect the devil made them do it.” “Oh, I see,” he said, “You’re one of those.” “Nope, I said, I am an angel.” “Uh huh, yeah I can see that,” he answered skeptically.  Marjorie just shook her head.

 

 By that time, you might say (as I would) we’d established a great rapport so he asked, “Where are you from, and what do you do?”  He very pointedly included Marjorie in this question figuring I guess, that birds of a feather….  So we told him and he said, “Wow, my cousin is the dean of UDC law school. We are all so proud of her.”  “Shelly Broderick?!” we said in unison.  “Yes, we know Shelly, she’s great. Let’s take a picture together and I’ll FB it to her. Well, she isn’t my FB friend so I had to send her an email (how quaint). “By the way,”I said,” we can’t just call you Shelly’s cousin.  What’s your name?” “John Melia.  It’s a good Gaelic name.”

So that’s how I ended up emailing Dean Shelly Broderick a picture of me with a police officer.  While I was doing this, several groups of tourists came up and asked for pictures with Officer Melia.  He turned to me with a wry smile and cracked, “Now see what you started?” But, he was pleasant to all his new fans and ended up in several pics.  When Shelly got my email she immediately wrote back, “I’ll represent you.  What do they think you did?” She hadn’t recognized her cousin from the picture, so I wrote back and told her who it was in the picture and she wrote back, “That’s ok.  I’ll still take the case.  How in the hell did you meet John Francis? Where are you?”

 

When we got that all squared away, Officer Melia asked whether we’d seen the new law school. “Huh?” “Oh yeah, there’s a beautiful new building on Massachussetts Avenue past where you were.  Tell you what.  I’ve got a few minutes, come with me and I’ll drive you up there.”  “Really? Uh wait. Not in a police car?” “No I’ve got my vehicle.”  On the way there, he explained that the recently completed building cost $50 million.  If there were someone near the door, we’d bang on the glass, explain who we were and get a quick look inside. Unfortunately we couldn’t rouse anyone so we had to content ourselves with pictures of the outside and peering in through the windows.  After that, Officer Melia was kind enough to drop us off at the Coop.  We gave him a big hug and shook our head in astonishment at the joyful surprise of meeting him.

The Coop is a very, no, mega-large bookstore, full of activity the day we visited.  It felt almost overwhelming in size.  But I thought if anyplace, the Coop would have the book I was looking for, Luther on Vocation, which the bishop mentioned would be a useful resource for an article I was working on.  The very bookish sale clerk peered at me over his glasses.  “Luther?”  “Yes, as in Martin Luther.” “Ah, there it is, but we don’t have it.  Is it for a class?” “No, a paper. Well, we could have it in two days.”  I explained that we were from out of town. “Sorry about that. Good luck with your paper.”

After we left there we decided to look up a pub named (we think) New Science that Officer Melia told us was owned by Dean Broderick’s niece, Bea.  We couldn’t find anything by that name, but we did find a Miracle of Science Pub using Around Me, and we took a cab to check it out.  When we got there we asked for Bea, and were told that there was no such person and, “all the upper management of the pub are men.” “Humph!” We sat there enjoying our refreshing beverages, searching again in vain to find the New Science pub, and finally gave up.  We wondered just how many colleges and universities were in Cambridge, as we’d seen a number on our adventure including some we’d never heard of.  It turns out that there are 9:  Harvard University, Episcopal Divinity School, Hult International Business School, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Lesley University, Longy School of Music, MIT, Teleosis Homeopathic Collaborative, LLC, and Weston Jesuit School of Theology

By then it was time to start thinking about dinner.  We’d been so busy exploring that we hadn’t thought about lunch.  Fortunately, social media came to the rescue.  Alumnus Peter Sullivan FB’d me to tell me about a terrific Ethiopian restaurant, Addis Red SeaEthiopian food sounded good to Marjorie, and we headed over there. Our server seated us by the window and we people watched as we waited for our meal to be prepared.  We ordered a ($26.95 for two—very reasonable) combination platter which included, lamb, chicken, beef, salad and greens. We added a side order of lentils, and I opted for an Ethiopian beerMeta, which was quite good.  As you may know, the meal is also served with Injera bread, which is used as a utensil.  By that, I mean you tear off pieces of the spongy bread to pick up the different components of the meal.  It is a meal best enjoyed with good friends, for that reason. The food was terrific and we were grateful to Peter for the recommendation.

The ride back on the T was easier because we only had to take the red T to the green and walk a few blocks.  Along the way we passed Boston Commons (“Oh, that’s where it is?”).  While we were walking back to the hotel, we decided to end the evening with a show, since the hotel was in Boston’s theater district.  Why not?  The concierge informed us that we’d missed the start of the Blue Man Group, but that there was a hilarious show, Shear Madness, that we might enjoy. When we got there (a bit frazzled, because I’d forgotten the map) we were seated right next to Dean Kent Syverud and his wife Ruth, yet another joyful coincidence.  They’d been to an Afghan restaurant in Cambridge and enjoyed their meal too. I took out my camera for a picture of the set and the stage manager came over to tell me photos were not allowed, but he’d take one of us on the set after the show.

I’d heard of Shear Madness, but experiencing it was something else.  What a riot!  I loved all the puns and malapropisms.  It was clear too, that the cast updated the script with current events which made the dialogue relevant and much funnier.  The night we saw it one of the main characters ad-libbed so much and was so hilarious, that the cast had difficulty holding it together.  It is an interactive who-done-it play during which the audience was asked to help solve the mystery.  Great fun! I definitely recommend it. As promised the stage manager took our picture, with my camera and his (for FB) and with that we walked back to the hotel, enjoying the beautiful evening and each other’s company.

The LSAC Board retreat on Friday was reflective of what is happening across legal education.  Each of the various entities are thinking about, and getting poised to respond to what the future of legal ed might be.  In addition, the retreat gave the board a chance to become better acquainted as we prepare to work together on behalf of LSAC and our member schools.

To help us learn a bit more about each other, Steve Willborn, Board Chair, had everyone write one thing about themselves that no one else would know.  Once all the notes were collected we had to guess who was who.  Some of the tidbits that came out were: one person got washed out of a boat in a hurricane, another was the youngest person to run for office in her state, we had a board-breaking, karate chopper, someone who gave a two minute television speech on the topic of Thomas Paine and someone who began his college career at the air force academy.  After that was done (by the way, the most correct guesses was 8 out of 23) Dan Bernstein, President and CEO of LSAC, and Steve gave opening remarks that helped set the tone for the discussion to follow and each committee chair shared his or her plans for the upcoming two year cycle.

 

For those who might not have been following LSAC developments closely, the Board of Trustees members are:

Dan Bernstein (CEO of LSAC), Janet Bolin-Washington University, Michael Burns-DePaul, Faye Deal-Stanford, Ian Holloway-Calgary, Carolyn Jones-Iowa, Susan Krinsky-Tulane (Test Development & Research Committee Chair), John Miller-Idaho (Audit Committee Chair), Cyndi Nance-Arkansas (Finance & Legal Affairs Committee Chair), Daniel Ortiz-Virginia (Past Board Chair), Christopher Pietruszkiewicz-Louisiana State (Chair, Investment Committee), Michelle Rahman-Richmond, Richard Schmalbeck-Duke, Michael States-North Carolina, Athornia Steele-Nova, Reynaldo Valencia-St. Mary’s (Chair Diversity Committee), Ricardo Villarosa-Wayne State, Christina Whitman-Michigan, Steven Willborn-Nebraska (Chair, Board of Trustees), Cassandra Williams-Harvard (Services and Programs Committee Chair).

After a full day of discussion, idea generation, and board orientation, we sat down to a buffet dinner in the hotel, which afforded us an opportunity to become better acquainted, or to catch up with old friends. I very much enjoyed hearing what my former dean, Carolyn Jones, was up to since she stepped down, including work on a piece on the Social Gospel Movement, an interest we share.

 

It’s unusual, I know, but my mid-morning flight to Boston enroute to the LSAC board meeting came off without a hitch. It turned out that another board member, Associate Dean Michael Burns was on the same Chicago to Boston so we were able to share a cab to the hotel (with a reckless, surly driver who informed us when we arrived that his credit card machine was broken).

 The good news was that I arrived early enough to meet up with a few long time colleagues and friends.  If you’ve followed the blog you’ll recognize Dean Thorny Steele from previous posts.  Thorny, Peter Pashley, Marjorie Larue Britt and I went to dinner at Bistro Du Midi, a French restaurant a couple doors from the hotel. I very much enjoyed my meal which began with the marinated beet salad, Vermont goat cheese and aged lemon vinaigrette. Between us we tasted the Guinea fowl Bolognese, garganelli pasta with parmesan,  a fish (can’t remember sorry) special, and pan roasted cod, fresh garbanzo beans, pimentos, golden raisins with chorizo.  Everyone enjoyed their entrees.  For dessert we shared lavender beignets with chocolate sauce, and Thorny and Peter tried a cherry tart special that they agreed was quite good.

After enjoying our meal, we took a walk around the Boston Public Garden. On one side of the garden we ran across the bar Cheers Pub, for which the television series was named. It looked to be a great area to explore should we finish the board meeting early, but first there was work to do which required a good night’s rest.  It had been a very pleasant start to the trip, indeed.

         

Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod

On a rainy Wednesday (we needed it) August 10th,  I met with Bishop Girlinghouse,  Pastor Jean Devoll_Donaldson, Ernie Miller, Peter Kumpe, Janice Airhart and Pastor Stacey Steger to continue the strategic planning process for the AR-OK Synod of the ELCA. Pastor Seger hosted us at her church, Christ the King, which is a vibrant congregation with many service/outreach activities.  It’s strange, but even though it’s just Bentonville, I’d never visited there before. (By way of an aside, Christ the King has an active group of riders, so I left my Chrome Diva card with Pastor Seger so that I might get connected to, and ride with her parishoners).

 We had lots of work to get done during our meeting, but we first began with a devotion lead by Ernie on the topic of growth and discipleship of lay leaders, which morphed, at points, into a discussion of the impact of social media on relationships with other people and groups/organizations.  Our goal that day was to brainstorm ideas and the questions they raised for a number of specific topics, such as Lutheran Identity, Growth in Discipleship, Lay Leadership, and Ecumenical Relations and Partnerships .  For example, we brainstormed about ways to better communicate which led to questions about technology, staffing, formats, etc.  Bishop was deliberately inclusive, seeking responses from every member of the group.

One of the best things about our taskforce is the balance of experience, background and lay leader vs. pastors, which gave fullness to our discussions.  We worked through lunch because of Bishop’s commitment to the time we’d set and we accomplished quite a bit.  At the end of our discussion, we divided the various topics into workgroups of two people.  Each group is to distill our conversation/ideas into 3 action items along with questions we might pose to congregations for further guidance.  In this way, we can obtain feedback before actually drafting the strategic plan.  Though it requires time and effort, participating in the taskforce feels like a great way to give back to the church, and to think about what we do, and how we do it in a careful, systematic way.  Hopefully, the end result will be a plan that responds to the needs of the church and the communities we serve.