Remember When You Were Young? Musings on COVID & Pink Floyd

This post is for all of you who have asked: “How are they handling COVID in Delaware? What is it like there?” For technical answers, I direct you to Phase 2 of the reopening plan for the Delaware courts. But you can find more interesting answers in Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Let me explain…

1989: Venice, Italy

In the summer of 1989, I was studying abroad in Austria. On July 15th, my friends and I grabbed our Eurail passes and headed south to Venice in search of adventure. There we stumbled into 200,000 Europeans all descending on St. Mark’s square for a free Pink Floyd concert. Who knew?! (Apparently, everyone except us. The spectacle was broadcast to an estimated audience of 100 million.)

Fun Fact: Addressing concerns that the amplified sound could damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could sink under the weight of so many people, the band agreed to turn the sound down (slightly) and to perform on a floating stage 200 yards from the square.

Now, I am not a Pink Floyd fan. But we were 20 years old and adventure was calling. Loudly. So of course we jumped straight into the mass of humanity streaming towards St. Mark’s. As you can see from this old news footage, there was no social distancing. And with shoulder-to-shoulder / wall-to-wall people all pressing in one direction, there was no going back.

As we made our way over ancient canal bridges, the roads narrowed and at times I was literally picked up off my feet and carried along. At one point, I fell. Dozens of people were pushed forward, apologetically trampling and crushing me underneath, until Ever – a much larger Venezuelan student in our group – grabbed me by my Velcro-like, curly hair and hoisted me to my feet. (Ever, wherever you are today, muchos gracias mi amigo!)

And then, pop!, our little group stumbled forward and into the middle of St. Mark’s square, a light show, fireworks, and people. People everywhere. For any Pink Floyd fans out there, you can watch the entire concert here. But know that being there, in person, connected to all of those people in that one moment – there is no substitute for that experience.

2020: Wilmington, Delaware

Or is there? You may not be aware that Wilmington has an opera house. In fact, there are three venues. The Grand Opera House, the Baby Grand, and the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Together, they deliver “the Best Music, Comedy, Broadway & Variety Shows in Wilmington, Delaware.” But in response to Delaware’s COVID measures, like everything else, all of their scheduled events have been postponed indefinitely.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I received an email from The Grand about an upcoming concert. Adapting to our new reality, they have launched a Concerts by Car Series. And that is how I found myself excitedly purchasing tickets to last Friday’s show, Echoes: The American Pink Floyd, and rushing to the Frawley Stadium parking lot with my husband to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon in “a safe, comfortable, high-quality experience that would blend the special joy of a live concert, the vibe of a drive-in movie and the charms of a summer evening outdoors.”

And sitting on top of our Jeep in 6-feet of socially distant solitude, not having to worry about being imminently trampled to death by hoards of drunken Italians, I had plenty of time to reflect on the lyrics of the actual music this time around.

Originally conceived by the band as a cohesive collection of songs about the pressures of life as a musician, I have now learned that Dark Side of the Moon eventually expanded to include songs about broader topics such as wealth (“Money”), armed conflict (“Us and Them”), madness (“Brain Damage”), squandered existences (“Time”) and death (“The Great Gig in the Sky”). As our country reels from a financial crisis, protests, an increasingly polarized body politic, life in isolation, and a pandemic, those topics are just as relevant today in many ways as they were three decades ago.

So how are things in Delaware? Not any different than the rest of the country, really. Life has been turned upside down. But we are all resilient. And while I miss my old life, the freedom to travel, and the proximity of people, I found myself thoroughly enjoying Friday evening date night with my hubby. Life, after all, is made up of small moments and time spent with the people we care about.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page…

Time. Pink Floyd.

Mette K.

1-Year Later: A California Attorney Joins the Delaware Bar. And Opens a Bar!

On March 27, 2017, I told you that I was planning to move to Delaware and that Jeff was planning to open a bar here in Wilmington after we settled in.  Well, here we are one year later, and I am officially a member of the Delaware bar.  And Jeff now owns and runs Catherine Rooney’s in Newark, Delaware. We have just recovered from our first St. Patrick’s Day as Irish pub owners, so its time to catch everyone up. But suffice it to say, we are all in on Delaware!

First, I Passed the Delaware Bar.

Obtaining admission to the Delaware bar was a grueling process, the triathalon of the legal profession if you will.  It required passing the Delaware bar exam.  Which, for the record, was much more difficult than the California bar exam.  It required completing the “scavenger hunt,” a 20-week long clerkship.  And it required undergoing a rigorous background check that entailed gathering up 30 years of documents scattered across two continents.pexels-photo-92323  Judge Shannon described the four-phases of this process perfectly.

  1. Enthusiasm.  “It will be a long and difficult process, but I have this! Let’s do it!”
  2. Resignation. “This is really hard.  I’m think I’m going to fail.”
  3. Anger. “I’m sure I failed. This is a stupid process that absolutely does not capture my value as a person or lawyer.”
  4. Hypocrisy.  “Woo-ho! I passed! What a great system for ensuring that only top lawyers achieve admission to the bar.”

But more importantly, what this process taught me is that people are, without a doubt, much more interested in Jeff’s new bar than my efforts to pass my bar!

Then, Jeff Opened a Bar: Catherine Rooney’s!

Rooneys SnowJeff initially planned to open a new bar in downtown Wilmington.  We had the name, concept and business plan sketched out before we arrived.  But after doing some research once we got here, Jeff politely pointed out that nobody stays in Wilmington after hours.  And he cannot run a profitable bar giving away drinks to its only patrons, my friends who happen to be in town for hearings.  Fair point.

Guiness.jpgSo,  Plan B!  Jeff instead purchased Catherine Rooney’s, a popular Irish pub located on Main Street across from the University of Delaware in Newark.  While it’s not downtown, it’s only about 15-20 minutes away.  And everyone who we have gotten to know in the process – the staff, the townies, the university students and professors, other business owners in the area, the former owners – have been incredibly warm and welcoming.  And of course, we have Guinness.  Harp on tap.  Whiskey.  Great pub food.  Live music.  And a private room upstairs with a second bar, perfect for private events and entertaining.  Expect us to be making good use of that space!

For those of you wondering what it is like being an old couple and owning a bar in a college town, the following video from about 11:00 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day pretty much says it all….!

Keep following for more updates and adventures!

Or check out Catherine Rooney’s on Instagram @rooneysnewark or on Facebook @CatherineRooneysNewark.

Mette K.

Reasons Not to Move to Delaware: Asparagus Legs

Any of you with first-generation, immigrant parents will appreciate that some things simply don’t translate.

Lost in Translation: Asparagus Legs!

My mother immigrated to the US from Denmark in 1967, swept off her feet by the charming American GI who would later become my father. And every spring, seemingly inexplicably, but without fail, my mother would throw open the doors, step out into the sunshine, and tsk in that very Danish way of hers. “Look at those asparagus legs!” she would exclaim, scrutinizing some unfortunate young woman. My brother and I were perplexed. We were mortified. We hoped that, with her thick “Swedish Chef” accent, nobody had understood her.

Danish Asparagus: The King of Vegetables

25159810 - white asparagus with hamWhat I later learned is that, if you are Danish, asparagus reigns supreme, the king of all vegetables. Their asparagus season lasts only a few weeks in the spring. And – wait for it! – the asparagus is white or green. But it is the white asparagus, grown mostly underground on their northern coast, that they crave. And when the crop comes in, chefs at fine restaurants worldwide compete to buy up all of this white asparagus before the season ends. Or the Danes eat it all.  So if you are Danish, asparagus season is a Very Big Deal. The kind of big deal that requires fine white linen napkins and the best family silver. (Seriously. If you are looking for a recipe for white asparagus, you might try White Asparagus with Egg, Parsley and Butter.  Very, very Danish.)

Landing the Plane… in Delaware

beach-beautiful-blue-coast-40976So, when the arctic blast finally moved on,  and the temperature rose to a lovely, Scandinavian-like 67 degrees here in Delaware, I moved my slacks to the back of my closet. I stepped outside in my dress and heels. And I looked down in horror. “Oh, no! Look at those asparagus legs!” That’s right, five months of Delawarean winter, starved of sunlight… and my legs are as white as Danish asparagus.

Time to start planning a vacation in Hawaii next Christmas.

Mette K.

Words That Matter: Joe Biden’s Powerful MLK Day Speech

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the Delaware State Bar’s Annual Breakfast and Statewide Day of Service in recognition of Martin Luther King Day. The speakers included U.S. Senator Tom Carper, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr. You can find highlights from their heartfelt speeches on my Twitter feed. But it was Joe Biden’s keynote address, Reflections on Dr. King: A Model of Leadership, that stole the show and left me with a renewed optimism for our country and our common humanity.

Now, I am a Goldwater / Reagan conservative and free market proponent. I am skeptical of Democrat’s big government programs. (It was reassuring to hear Biden recall his father’s words: “I don’t expect the government to solve my problems, but I expect it to understand them.”) But Biden’s belief in what is good about America and his conviction that this country can, and will, come together again around our common values were compelling. So I share here a few of the highlights from the speech that particularly resonated with me in the hope that some of that optimism, in the face of the daily negativity enveloping us, may be contagious.

Lesson #1: Standing Up Against the Abuse of Power

Warren K. Leffler / Library of Congress

“What lessons can we take away from Dr. King’s leadership that still resonate today?” Biden began. To answer that question, Biden took us back to the race riots in Wilmington, Delaware following Dr. King’s assassination in April 1968. (I must admit, I hadn’t heard of the Wilmington riots. Though in fairness, not only am I newcomer to tiny Delaware, but I wasn’t even born for another two months. If you aren’t familiar with the Wilmington riots, you can catch up here. Some of you may be more familiar with other riots that were unfolding across the country in cities like Chicago, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Detroit.)

Biden graduated from law school in the midst of this turmoil. Reflecting on the events around him, he looked to his father, who always stood up against abuses of power in all of its forms. And he looked to his two political heroes, Dr. King and John F. Kennedy, who shared an abhorrence for the abuse of power. Why? Because everyone is entitled to dignity and to respect. And he recalled his parents’ mantra. “You are defined by your courage. And redeemed by your loyalty.” This moment was Biden’s call to action.

Lesson #2: Never Loose Faith

Reflecting on that dark period in our history, Biden noted that Dr. King had every reason to be skeptical of where our country was heading. But remarkably, Dr. King never lost his faith in God or in our political system. This is not easy. Our political system is one of checks and balances, Biden reminds us. One of tug and pull, and tensions between competing political parties.

But no matter how bitter our divisions, at least until recently, it is a political system that has been bound together by a respect for political norms. It has been a political system characterized by honor and civility, though today this idea may seem to be honored in the breach.

There are today those who would attack our political norms and undermine our political systems both at home and abroad. It is expedient. It is easy to blame our troubles on the “other.” The other race, the other nationality, the other party, the other guy. But this is a phony tribalism that offers no solutions. It divides us rather than brings us together. And importantly, Biden reminded us that these forces that are pulling on the fabric of our society and our political systems are a tiny, if vocal, minority.

It therefore falls to each one of us to stand up and to reject and challenge the forces of discord and division. In particular, as members of the bar and the bench, we are guardians of the country’s laws and institutions. Without regard to race, party, or agenda. We must reject tribal constructs of “us versus them” and instead uphold our shared narratives of democracy and freedom. Because it is those shared values that remind us of who we really are as Americans and that pull us back to the political center.

Lesson #3: The Bill of Rights and Human Dignity

by Adam Jones, Ph.D.

At the heart of racism is the idea that a man is not a man, that some people are less than. Less than human. Less than equal. Less in dignity. But among conservatives and liberals alike, Alexis de Tocqueville, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and others are often quoted as cautioning against the tyranny of the majority (or a tyranny of the minority). To guard against such abuses, our Bill of Rights defines and protects inviolable human rights, dignity, and freedom. And while we may disagree in how to implement these ideals, it is undoubtedly the power of these ideals that make America unique in the world. It is a central purpose of our legal system to protect and preserve these ideals. If we lose this aspiration, then we lose our raison d’être. We lose sight of who we are.

Lesson #4: The Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Towards Justice

Republicans and Democrats alike can cite long litanies of outrages inflicted by the other.  Assertions of bad behavior, partisanship, aggression and over-sensitivity, racism and reverse racism dominate the daily news cycles and tear at the fabric of our country. Huffington Post and Fox News alike ran stories last month about how to discuss (or avoid) politics to survive the holidays with family intact. Divisive times indeed.

But Biden reminds us that, as contentious as things may seem today, our country has experienced far worse in the past. And we have come a long way. From the ashes of the civil rights movement, some 50 years later we elected a black man, an African American, as our president. Something that would have seemed barely possible during the strife and divisions of the civil rights movement. In the words of Dr. King, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We, as a people, will get to the promised land.

59011354_SSo, to honor Dr. King’s memory, Biden called upon us not to give up and not to become complacent. What I take away from this is, whatever our politics, we must commit to do what is right, to reject the abuse of power in all of its forms, and to protect our institutions and political norms. We must listen to one another. We must commit to truly see one another as people, not labels or political adversaries. And even where we disagree, perhaps deeply, we must always respect our nation’s institutions and core values. Above all, we must each do our part to uphold our shared narratives of democracy and freedom.

Mette K.

Earthquakes, Sharkcicles… And a New Venue Reform Bill! I moved from California to Delaware, a number of things have happened.

  1. Last November, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake struck central Delaware. “This is wild!  It’s not often that this happens,” said Cheng Shengzao, a geophysicist with the USGS.
  2. In December, a bomb cyclone blasted the entire East Coast before a polar vortex uncorked tremendous cold, turning sharks into sharkcicles and causing frozen iguanas to fall out of trees in Florida. “Jaw, meet floor!” tweeted Sam Lillo, a meteorology PhD student.
  3. And today, as anticipated in my earlier post, another bankruptcy venue reform bill was introduced.

So let me clear up any misconceptions for my new Delawarean colleagues. These things are not my fault. My husband says they aren’t even about me. (Although I’m beginning to have my own doubts.)

With that out of the way, on to the venue reform bill.  Read a full discussion and access the text of the bill here.

Mette K.