Fire trucks in New York.

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Image by Anthony Delanoix | Unsplash.com

The fire trucks go a lot slower in New York than they do in Adelaide.

For someone used to seeing fire trucks moving along city streets at speed, watching them thread their way through traffic on Eighth Avenue, with sirens wailing and horns blaring, is disconcerting – and hard on the ears. Maybe things burn a lot slower here than they do in Australia. Who knows?

But, it’s not just the fire trucks. The ambulances have a hard time getting through as well.

It’s not that the drivers here ignore emergency vehicles. New Yorkers are justifiably proud of their first responders, but drivers often have nowhere to go to get out of their way. New York’s grid of streets might make it easy for finding your way around, but it’s also packed with traffic lights to regulate the flow of traffic on the East – West streets that cross the busy avenues, and they seem to be very close together.

Eighth Avenue is one of the streets that carries traffic uptown. Interestingly, it has a lane that allows bike riders to slip past all that traffic which blocks in the emergency vehicles. Sometimes I see a fire department support vehicle or a NYPD squad car shoot up the bike lane, and I wonder if there is a lesson there for the City Council – like having a dedicated lane for emergency vehicles on Eighth Avenue.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic and The New Girlfriend. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

Louise Penny country

This week we’re in Montreal, Quebec – in Louise Penny country.IMG_0966

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We are staying in the Old Port of Montreal, which I understand is the original town. The streets are narrow and the buildings are only four or five storeys high, like in European cities.

 

Spring hasn’t arrived in Canada yet. The trees, apart from the evergreen firs, are still in their winter state of bare sticks. There is still snow near the summit of Mont Real.

It’s a far cry from New York City. There’s hardly anybody on the streets. Maybe that’s because you can also walk around sections of downtown without going outside.

Montreal is an easy place to walk around, and there are plenty of good restaurants in the Old Port part of town and lots of places to eat downtown.

I haven’t spotted Inspector Gamache walking about town but, then again, I haven’t seen any other policemen walking about town either. Something else very different to New York City, where you can’t go outside in Manhattan without seeing someone in a NYPD uniform.

Perhaps that tells us something about Canada.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

Meaningful work and wage justice

Most of us spend a lot of time working. Some of us are lucky enough to spend that time doing things we love.

A lot of us are looking for meaning through our work or are on a quest for meaningful work.

Is this quest a dream? Perhaps.

One of our common reasons for working is to earn the money to pay the bills that come with modern living. That leads us into thinking that we’re working just for the money.

On one level, that gives our work a meaning – survival. But when we work for survival we’re open to exploitation. We don’t stand up for our rights in the face of wage injustice because we need the money; we can’t afford to lose our jobs. We let employers earning hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour from our labour pay us less than ten dollars an hour. I don’t think survival makes the cut for creating meaningful work.

I suspect we need to see what we are doing as being of service to feel that we are doing meaningful work. We need to believe that we are making a contribution to the community in which we live. When we can see our work that way, then any task can become meaningful work.

Finding meaning in our work may help us get through the day, but it does not guarantee wage justice.

I’m in New York, where I’ve been listening to the commentary on the presidential primaries. The pundits are starting to understand that Donald Trump is tapping into the anger and fears of the American working class – the very people experiencing wage injustice in the wealthiest nation on earth.

New York Skyline courtesy of Death to Stock
New York Skyline courtesy of Death to Stock

Should be an interesting few months leading up to November.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

Journals

There is some writing that is best done with pen and paper. This is where journals come in. A journal is a book you create by writing down your thoughts, and your answers to those questions that bother you, or that you have been putting off looking at for years.

Journals are a pathway to self-discovery or self-recovery.

You can write what you like in a journal. You’re the only person who is likely to ever read it, and you’ll be dead when, and if, anybody else reads it, unless you come from New York, where everybody seems to publish a book about their personal journey.

Journals

Extract from the soon to be released third book in the Living alone series: Sanity Savers

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

How do you survive a long flight?

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OpenClipArt.Org

When you live in Australia, flying anywhere is a long flight. Take my recent trip to New York, for example. It started with a two hour flight from Adelaide to Sydney. By the time I arrived in New York, strangely on the same day I left Adelaide, I had spent another nineteen hours in the sky, inside a metal tube with several hundred other people. Fortunately, they let us out to stretch our legs and chat with the Border Protection people in Los Angeles, before the final four and a half hour flight to the Big Apple.

It’s a long time to be sitting in the one chair, especially if, like me, you travel in ‘cattle class’. So how do you fill in those hours?

On this last trip I basically did four things. I read The Long Way Home by Louise Penny ( I like the way she tells her stories); I listened to relaxation and meditation music (I use noise cancelling headphones ,otherwise all you hear is aeroplane noise); I snoozed and maybe I got a couple of hours of sleep (who knows? I find it almost impossible to sleep in the upright position); and I got up and walked around to stretch my legs and use the facilities.

What do you do to get through a long flight without going stir crazy?

 

The Office of High King

I’ve been in New York for the last couple of months working on my next book, listening to public radio and reading the occasional edition of the New York Times.

America is an interesting place, and the commentary on things going on in the political sphere got me thinking about another time and place: Ireland, ‘the land of the kings’, in the times of Brian Boru, who is regarded as the last High King of Ireland.

When Brian became King of Munster, he was one of around 150 kings ruling greater or lesser domains. Basically, every tribal leader was a regarded as a king, but a group of more powerful kings had created the position of High King, to which all the others were more or less subservient. It was Celtic Ireland after all, and Celtic tribes liked to fight, mainly each other.

The seat of the High King was the Hill of Tara, located north of modern day Dublin, in County Meath, and Brian claimed it in 1002.

What made me think of this?
Well, New York has a new mayor. He took up office in January, having been elected on a reformist platform. As I listened to how the new mayor went about establishing himself, hand picking his administration of unelected officials to run the city agencies, I realised he was like a prince taking over a kingdom – he was setting up his court of advisors, who would help him manage his relationship with the elected city council.

One morning, there was a story about an issue, that made it clear that the position of mayor of New York City, powerful as it is, answers to the Governor of New York State, who has his own court of unelected officials in Albany, to manage his relationship with the elected members of the State Legislature .

The State Governor is like a king with a number of lesser kings within his domain. As far as I can tell, New York State is not unique in this way. Every state appears to be a version of ‘the land of kings’.

And then, there is another level of government – the federal, with its own king, the High King, seated in Washington. Americans call this position the President, and it has its own court of unelected officials chosen by the President, like the Secretary of State, which is referred to as The White House Administration, and which runs the Public Service Agencies.

The President and his administration must work with the people’s elected representatives, who make up what is known as Congress, to govern.

By the way, these three levels of government: local – state – federal, are not unique to the United States. They just have different names in different places.

American citizens are invited to participate in regular rounds of democracy building elections at all three levels. They can vote for President, Governor and Mayor, and for members of Congress, State Legislatures and City Councils. In this way the people get to choose who occupies the positions of power, and with constitutions at all three levels of government limiting terms of office, it looks like the people have real power. But do they?

Listening to public radio, I get the impression that there is something else at play here.

Most of us are aware, from the blanket TV coverage given to presidential elections, that it takes a lot of money to mount such a campaign. This seems to be true for becoming the leader at the state and local level as well.

If you spend a fortune becoming President, how much real power do you actually have?

A lot us, no doubt, think the President of the United States of America is the most powerful man in the world. But is he? Who’s actually in charge?

The stories in the media suggest to me that the High King in Washington is currently being ‘checkmated’ by his opponents in Congress. So, I asked myself, if the President is elected by the people and the members of Congress are elected by the people, why is the outcome so confusing to an outside observer?

Then, from the stories I was hearing, I realised there was another group of players, the people of influence, the people who control the money flow. In medieval times, these were the landed gentry, the barons that controlled the economic, largely agricultural, outputs of the kingdom and the flow of cash into the king’s treasury.

Today, in America, they’re the barons of industry or Wall Street, the so called 1%, and they appear to have a lot of influence on the available levers of power. If you think I’m dreaming, do some research on gun control, or regulation of the meat packing industry, or find out who got the money used to ‘fix’ the global financial crisis, or if that sounds too hard, tune into public radio and listen to the conversation.

I’ve been to the Hill of Tara, and stood on its desolate mounds, in a green field that’s a long way from any place of power. In the years following Brian Boru, the office of High King lost its unifying influence, and the Irish lost their independence for close to a thousand years – some of them still haven’t got it back.

Let’s hope, for the good of the 99%, that the office of High King in Washington does not lose its unifying influence, under the impact of the conflicting demands of today’s people of influence.

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.