Meeting a US Ambassador (Kinda) Certainly a First

Being married to a Fulbright Scholar has perks beyond living for six months in Belfast. We were part of a group at a reception Monday night for the US ambassador to what’s officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Pretty cool, huh?

Officially, Lewis Lukens is the chargé d’affaires-ai, a hoity-toity term that Wikipedia says means interim until Trump’s nominee is approved. But hey, he has the same privileges and immunities as the ambassador, so that’s good enough for me.

Hanger-on-spouse or trailing husband?

Of course, other than a brief handshake and a quick “nice to meet you” I spent all of my time talking to other people and figuring out what their connections were. But I did meet two other Fulbright Scholars, learning more about them, and spent time with the husband of the Fulbright Scholar who lives across the courtyard from us. At these events, he calls himself the trailing husband, while I prefer hanger-on spouse.

The Fulbright Scholars were guests of the host, Consul General Dan Lawton and his wife, Paula. Declan was specifically invited because the Lawtons have teen-aged children, so the kids could hang out while the adults mingled. Declan got his own tour of the mansion (yes, counsul generals live in mansions) and munched pizza upstairs.

Paula is also a Stewart Parker fan, and we’d already met her and Dan when they attended the staged reading of Parker’s play “Pentecost” last month at the Linen Hall Library. She has been recommending Marilynn’s book to people, which has greatly endeared her to us.

Where’s the Guinness?

OK, it was much like any other reception I’d ever been to, but with a few twists thrown in. For example, there was no Guinness but there was Budweiser. We’ve been to events at the Irish counsel in Atlanta, and there’s always Guinness. And with apologies to Marilynn’s cousin who works for InBev, yes, Budweiser is getting popular over here, although I cannot imagine why.

After initial pours behind the bar, the gregarious bartender made the rounds offering refills. I finally had to cut myself off. And the wait staff was among the most pleasant I’d ever met.

The ambassador’s staff photographer from London also was on hand. He had actually been in Atlanta for a religious studies conference and commented that it was weird seeing a downtown skyscraper that looked derelict, with boarded-up windows. Marilynn and I independently thought about the Westin-Peachtree, which had several boarded-up windows for a couple of years after the 2008 Atlanta tornado.

About the photo: I’m not the kinda guy to take selfies with the chargé d’affaires (although others were), so while chatting up the photog I asked about getting a reception photo for the post. They’ll be on Flickr, he said, but I’m still waiting, so I stole this one from when Lukens visited the RAF Museum.

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