Peter Cavanaugh

“His Excellency Lord Cavanaugh”

It’s getting fever swamp crazy.

Trump’s in raw panic mode. Keep him away from the codes.

Recalcitrant Republicans are circling their wagons in wild abandon. The center no longer holds. Honest hope is gone.

Except ... we can always unplug and “leave this world for a while” as Tom Petty enticingly suggests in “Free Fallin.” “Not necessarily stoned, just beautiful,” echoes Jimi Hendrix.

I have often suspected a strong personal genetic predisposition to altered state adventure. It’s come in handy more than once as a matter of internal intuitive guidance. Right now it’s telling me to leave terrifying politics behind for everyone’s sake and free fall into associated memories. No problem.

It was 25 years ago this week that Eileen and I returned to America after spending our first extended time in the Emerald Isle.

The year 1992 marked the 100th anniversary of my great grandfather’s death. He had left Ireland during the Great Famine in 1848 and crossed the North Atlantic to the green fields of America. He lies buried under a fine Celtic cross in a little churchyard just north of Syracuse. His name is engraved in sharp and bold lettering, still clearly distinct with a century and a quarter gone. “Peter Cavanaugh.”

Family records indicate the subject of the following newspaper story in the New York Times was quite possibly this original Peter, who was said to head 20 miles south from Fulton, N.Y. to the fair city of Syracuse, where he would spend much time and treasure indulging in various pleasurable pursuits while consuming copious quantities of “The Holy Water.”

And telling tales.

I am passionately persuaded this was my most recent incarnation.

A real live Irish lord (The New York Times - Sept. 12, 1884)

He appears as a tramp in Syracuse (Syracuse, NY., Sept. 11, 1884)

Lord Cavanaugh, a tall man with a military carriage, stepped up to the railing before Magistrate Mulholland today and denied he was a vagrant as Detective Becker, who arrested him last evening, charged.

The detective said Cavanaugh had been annoying tenants in the Wieting Block by going into various offices and representing himself to be a dentist, physician and lawyer, according to the profession of the person in whose presence he happened to find himself. This the prisoner stoutly denied, declaring at the same time that he had only been seeking suitable employment, and had made no statements as to his qualifications which he was not fully prepared to substantiate.

To a reporter he said he was the son of Lord Chief Justice Cavanaugh of India, who died at Gibraltar a number of years ago, and that his mother still lives in India. He was born, he said, in Waterford, Ireland 35 years ago and was graduated from Trinity College.

He entered the British Army and was promoted to a Captaincy in the Eleventh Zouaves. He sold his commission for £ 450 and afterward served as a private. He declared that he went through the Zulu Campaign, was under General Roberts in Afghanistan, and became a coffee planter in Southern India, but was unsuccessful.

Then he returned to Dublin and was a writer for the Freeman’s Journal. Thence he went to Quebec where he did newspaper work. From there he went to Montreal and finally came here. He has been in this city for a month. He denied that he is a drunkard, but admits he occasionally takes a glass of beer.

“What dreams forget – the whiskey remembers” - Eric Church (Creeping 2012)

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