Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Cost of Freedom" book tour hits the road

[Mike's notes from the road -- posted by Whitney.]

Super 8 Motel, St. Joseph, Missouri -- "What can I do for ya sweetie?"

That's the front desk person. Then she gives me the military discount just because, and brags to me about her little grandson in her arms.

That's nice for ya.

Hey, you would not believe the massive number of geese, snows, Canadians, I saw flocking together at dusk along I-29, in the fields, very cool. Lots of hawks, too, and a dead coyote. I also saw two big dogs by the side of the road, in the ditch, sitting next to what must have been an old buddy. It looked like a big spaniel of some sort, on its back, its legs frozen in the air.

Okay, Mr. Nature has to go now.

Hey, leave it to me, huh?

I had everything packed and planned, been thinking about how to do this thing for hundreds of freezing days and nights this winter.

I stopped at the 13th Street Cafe in Omaha to meet with a guy who is doing the art work for an upcoming book, get back to my car and it's locked and my key doesn't work. It works for the ignition, but not for the doors.

I knew that.

I never lock the car at home, now I get in the city and I get all like I got to lock the doors and well after thousands of days of planning I'm standing outside my car with my keys in my hand.

Anyway, I had to walk all the effing way across town carrying this heavy mo-fo bag with books and computer and special book tour stuff, to Kevin and Laura's place up on Lafayette, near the Cathedral, sweating, shoulders aching, all that I'll tell you about it when you've got more time.

I waited on their back porch for somebody to get home while the mastiff-rottweiller-pit bull-rhinoceros over in the neighbor's yard kept me firmly planted in place.

Kevin got back from his workout at the "Y" and gave me a ride back down to the Old Market and took a wire hanger to let me back into my car.

There ya go.


We went back into the 13th Street to have coffee.

A long time ago our families lived together in Omaha. We called it a resistance community, Greenfields, named after the irish anti-war song The Greenfields of France.

We went to jail, federal prison, things like that.

One million FBI agents stormed the front porch one day to take Kevin to prison. I think that time he served one year in the federal prison in downtown Chicago, for trespassing at Offutt Air Force Base, stepping over a line, a misdemeanor.

For the past twenty years Kevin has been running the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker soup kitchen on the outskirts of the downtown Omaha area. Every morning he gets up at four-thirty or five to take the pickup down to make soup for a several dozen homeless men.

Kevin's a tough guy. He's an Irishman from a farm in northeast Nebraska. He worked on a fishing boat in the waters off Maine. He did a lot of construction work as well, after seminary, after Creighton law school.

During the 1980s he spent time in the Omaha and Council Bluffs county jails for civil disobedience, as well as the federal prisons at Chicago, Leavenworth, Kansas, and El Reno, Oklahoma.

And now he basically lives with the poor, every day.

Laura Loughran and Kevin McGuire have been friends of mine for a long time. I was Kevin's worst man.

"To long lives and short sentences." That was my toast at the after party.

I met them when I came to Omaha in the '80s in search of a way to "live out the gospels" is how I would put it.

They have raised three children since then, all phenomenal students and musicians. I heard today that Clare, the oldest, will graduate this spring from the University of Michigan. I remember when she was toddling around the living room with all the oldsters sitting around
planning the revolution.

It was tough as hell there for a while, living in community, fighting the government, the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Catholic Church, trying to keep families together, trying to keep body and soul together, in and out of jail, and all the fear and struggle and pain that goes with that. Shee-it.

And eventually we went separate ways.

Kevin and Laura didn't go that far though. They still live in North Omaha. They still work with the poor, live among the poor, every day.

That is what a Christian does.

I'm just sure of it.

I realized it as I was watching Kevin over the top of my mocha-docha-latte, listening to him catch me up on the last year or so, that's what I was seeing, someone who has fought the good fight, over the long haul.

That is just what we planned to do all those years ago.

Kevin. Dude, you did it.

Proud to know ya.

Okay, if tomorrow is Tuesday, I'll be in Tulsa.


-- Mike


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