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A Youthful Experience with Travellers

©Shers Gallagher 2015 

I was one of the fortunate few to have had an experience of a lifetime as a teen runaway. I didn't run far, though, from the Valley to Hollywood (of my birthplace). What a city to be born in, eh? But I've never been a star. Only in my own mind. Yet, I did eventually end up with a Russian family of travellers who lived in a dilapidated mansion in Los Angeles's belly. Now, these weren't just any travellers. They were part of an intellectual bohemian group of artists during the time when (as I was growing up) clans, groups, kith and ken, tended to stick together. And, after my initial running away from home and living in the Nirvana apartments behind Grauman's Chinese Theater with a classmate and his gay friends from my theater group, I'd had enough of them and their silly antics and took up the invitation to stay with an eccentric artistic family of Russian Europeans. The daughter was seven years older than me, a recent UCLA graduate and potter by trade, who picked up her handsome boyfriends via the mustache cups she made and sold at art fairs, which included the old renaissance fair in the Southern California hills. So, I guess you could say that I truly was an original rennie.

The mother of the family ran a bookshop in a Russian neighbourhood, as the LA I was growing up in had many cultures and subcultures developing into communities. And this bookshop was called Izbushka, which is an endearing title for a little witch's hut. Now, the naming has nothing to do with any Western connotation of witches and warlocks. In Russian culture it’s more perceived as a wise old crone practicing folkways.

The father was a retired Kurdish professor, who for whatever reason was an honorary member of the Smithsonian Institute. To me he was a harmless and charming older gentleman who would patiently chat with me while disclosing a font of rich knowledge to this once impressionable teen. And I simply idolized him. As for his friends, in my mind, they were an odd assortment of dusty old troll-like labourers who would, once a month, spend a week with him in the old mansion's basement churning out 'Free Russia' underground newspapers that, when published, would be bought and sold at Izbushka. These newspapers must have been a very popular item. And it’s a pity I didn't then speak a word of Russian to read them myself. But I saw individuals line the block for a copy, and they did so till every copy was sold.

I didn't have a camera in those days. Nor did I ever think to take any pictures. Such a pity, eh? As for me, living with this family was a strange and enchanting experience in my young and very confused life. I think, though, that the couple impressing me most were the two young marrieds, who when I asked where they were from would only laughingly tell me they were from the European gypsy camps. They nicknamed me the Russian word for ‘Bubbles’, telling me they thought I was so light and happy and full of adventure, as I was in those days. And with them and the potter daughter I spent many an evening around the campfire in a location not too far from the tracks of a local train yard, where we would chat, listen to and sing songs of some of the most soulful music I ever heard played.

Not till the privilege and pleasure of my own youthful folly and experience was I familiar with travellers and how they'd been snubbed and ill-treated all over the world. Some with good reason, as travellers in general have been known to be tinkers, traders, con artists and the like. Hide the chickens! Hide the children! The travellers are in town!

And I was thinking of travellers when I wrote a portion of 'Murder On The Rocks!', having seen travellers in Ireland. Although keeping my distance, I marvelled at especially the ones travelling around with horses in an Irish town not too far from where my friend lives in Co. Cork. And I saw them setting up their trailers, which in the old days would have been gypsy caravans including a palm reading van, and parade their horses decorated with ribbons and the like through the streets they would soon be racing them down for a profit. Such colourful folk. 
Aisling Books


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The Call

©Shers Gallagher 2016
The days grow colder and my heart grows bolder
to hear the call of the totem wolf, 
though limbs begin to rattle like the branches of a tree
as leaves turn bright before they fade and quietly fall,
drifting down and crumbling into air 
that smells of crackling pine and roasting logs of cedar.
I missed you then as I miss you now. 
But most of all I miss my youth 
and the dance I used to be.
Not the dance of whirring bees,
because I never was a hostile takeover. 
I miss the playful shadows of light
and soft breezes on silken feathers.
I miss the easiness of then, 
though, in truth I’m more physically comfortable now. 
And yet I’d give it all up for only a few more 
playful shadows of twilight and silken days. 

Aisling Books

Shers on Irish FM radio - Murder On the Rocks!

What fun to be asked to do this radio interview with CRY 104 FM in County Cork while I plugged a murder mystery I'd written and set in Youghal, Ireland.

Murder On The Rocks!
 is the first of what has eventually turned into a 3-part series, entitled: A Felly van Vliet series, named after its protagonist.
Airtime with this County Cork DJ - Stan Notte - ended up with him not only asking about why I'd based this first work in the sleepy little Irish harbour town of Youghal, but also a bit about the writing process and my background as well.
Have a listen to this live broadcast. As the Irish say, it was great craic!

We are humans for humanity - building bridges, not walls

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Kudos to every man, woman and child who organised, promoted and took part in this past Saturday's remarkable event

Though I had to work in another part of the country of the Netherlands during 21 January's Women's (and men's) March on Washington, I was happy to have had a small hand in laying the groundwork for our Dutch protest that I hear ended up having around 3000 plus protesters marching in Amsterdam Saturday. WOW! These numbers may not seem like much to the rest of the world, but for our small country I found it nothing less than fantastic. Thanks to the wonderfully tireless preparations of organiser Petra Benach and her small crew, I too was able to contribute beforehand by passing out flyers and talking to others about the event in hopes of raising awareness as to why it’s been so important to hold a march here in the Netherlands as well. With others I discussed why it wasn't just a national but global p…