All posts in December 2015

Who?

Outside my window down below on First Avenue – the buses squeal to a halt, the cars whoosh past, children scream, sirens Nee-Naw on the way to Beth Israel Hospital just up the road, a lot of noise! Noise that mostly goes unnoticed. Then in the middle of it I heard a guy say loudly “Mother Fucker!” It had a slightly lilting blandness to it, not too loud, but definitely annoyed or disturbed; it made no impact at first, then he said it again in the exact same way, he continued to do it for the whole day, with long spaces in between 10, 15 minutes apart, sometimes much longer. After about six of those he throws in another phrase “I tried to do something about it!” or “I’m doin my best.” Clare has even noticed him, and she’s at work all day. It’s been going on for a few days now, l just heard him again, he’s up early, it’s 8.30 a.m.

“Mother Fucker!”

I went over to the window, I can hear he’s directly below me, I squish my face up against the window and try to look down (not easy). I get on top of the sofa and almost break my nose pushing against the glass trying to see who’s down there. I see an old man at the bus stop, tall and unhappy, but normal enough.

“Is that him?”

I wait for the next mother fucker it should be due any second now …… watching the man like a hawk, no outbursts. I give up, jump down on the carpet, as I’m heading towards the kitchen for a cup of tea I hear in that same despondent monotone;

“Mother Fucker”

Christmas is Here

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

Pierce Turner photo of santa on 14th street 2015

Pierce Turner photo of Santa on 14th street 2015

I still miss Santa

Christmas is here! It’s not coming … it’s here. I have felt it, but still wasn’t aware of its approach.

On Thanksgiving we went to my wife Clare’s cousin in Philadelphia, and while we stood in line in the overland train station, we were subject to a long litany of mournful, maudlin Christmas songs by Bing Crosby and a familiar female voice from the same school of motoring. It affected the colour of the station, seemed to turn the lights down to a dusky pale and sickly fluorescent. I felt like a refugee that was being deported as we stood silently in a line of other refugees, I wanted to run out of the station, but couldn’t because we needed a ticket. I looked at a man in his late 50’s with long grey-brown hair draped behind his ears and reading glasses descending his pointed nose working behind one of the windows, and was overcome with imaginative pity for him. “I feel trapped?  Imagine how he feels? I will have my ticket in five or ten minutes and be out of here, he spends eight hours a day listening to this piped funeral music” Even the song “White Christmas” would sound cheerful in the middle of this lot. “Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day” “Oh Mammy, come back and get me, I am so incurably homesick” Who is this for? Nobody seems to be listening; is it a mandatory order that all public places have to play this music?

Anyway …. I am attaching two Christmas photos for you because it is Christmas! One I took last week over on 14th Street and First Avenue, and one old one of my family with Santa on a visit at our Davitt Road fireman’s bungalow in Wexford Town, I’m the little chubby fella sitting on his lap. I was probably about three and a half, judging by my oldest sister Delores, she looks about fourteen and she is twelve years older than me. Apparently I insisted that this Santa was our next-door neighbour Richard Crosby. I do remember thinking that his beard looked fake, and saw real brown eyes, nose and forehead beneath it, so he couldn’t be real, had to be one of the neighbours. I’m sure he and the photographer, knocking on doors, house to house, trying to make a few bob for Christmas, were delighted with me.

When I was seven, Santa brought me a fire engine for Christmas, a beautiful red one, with a silver bell on the front. I could sit in it and pedal up and down the street. I thought I would explode with excitement when I saw it standing in the middle of the sitting room with the Christmas tree twinkling behind it. A blazing coal fire added to my facial heat, and I went red from head to toe. I drove it out to the hallway and back, while everyone oohed and awed. My parents must have had a few bob that year, considering I’m the youngest of six, it was a pretty fancy present.

The following year I was more excited than I had been the previous – “what could they come up with this time?” I started to rev up for it around October. Speculating all the possibilities with my friends on the street, they had been as astonished as me at the fire engine; some of them had gone in it and hated getting out.

Christmas Eve I could hardly sleep. My mother gave me a cup of hot milk with white pepper in it to calm me down. I fell asleep in no time. The following morning I woke up to find a red and golden crocheted stocking push-pinned to the end of my bed. It had my name written on a tiny Santa card, so I knew that it was from Santa. I tore the stocking down and reached my hand inside of what seemed like a not too stuffed stocking. There were two things in there, a crunchy bar and a Hohner Harmonica.

“Is that it? ……… This can’t be it!”

I doubt very much that my disappointment was not vented.

I never did get another present from Santa that matched up to the fire engine, and it wasn’t for the want of trying, apparently I believed in him as long as I could, some say I was fourteen. I really think they’re exaggerating, I mean, I was listening to Velvet Underground when I was fifteen; I got that album from ?? …Sant….oh oh!

So Happy Christmas everyone. The album is done and I can’t wait for you to hear it. I am so grateful to those of you who pledged and allowed me to make it. Over 190 people pledged and I know many more of you will buy it, but just didn’t get around to pledging. I plan to make an audio clip with short segments of the songs so that you can hear it. If you like it, maybe I can convince you to mail order it in advance so that we can move everything at a quicker pace than usual and avoid Amazon or iTunes and others taking a big cut off the top. I’ll post details soon of how that will happen.

Love to all Pierce xx

Are You a Success?

Red Grooms painting

Is being the best all there is? And if so, being the best at what? Being the best at winning whatever game it is that you play? Or being the best at living? If you are Novak Djokovic and you are the best at tennis, you will be rewarded with trophies, worldwide recognition of your genius, and material rewards that will make you the envy of humanity, is that what we mean? But what if you are the vicar or the priest that gives the best sermons in your parish? Isn’t that the best too? Or a carpenter, a midwife, or teacher or a parent?

But how about being the best at staying carefree and alive for a long time, isn’t that a success? The best at being loved, or at loving? The best at appreciating life and living itself? No medals for that, just happiness and a contented soul. Could we be happy with that? It takes real wisdom to look at a contented pauper and say that’s a success story. Yet we constantly look at rich or famous people who are miserable, and call them a success. Of course fame or wealth doesn’t have to mean unhappiness any more than anonymity or poverty means happiness. Neither one of them is the root of genuine happiness. So what is?

Why are some rich people happy and some miserable? And poor people the same. Shouldn’t we remember the meaning of the word ‘success’- accomplishment, triumph, victory, realisation, attainment and achievement. Stuff that we all do every day. Congratulations, you are already a success.

Do you think you can feel successful without fame or fortune?

Brooklyn

Turner and Kirwan of Wexford in Brooklyn

Turner and Kirwan of Wexford in Brooklyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So have you seen that movie yet?”

“Which one?”

“The one with all the terrific Irish brogues in it, Brooklyn”

“No, but I’m planning to go, some of it was shot in my home town, I’ve seen the ads and they show a scene with the beach where I swim.”

I am on the bike in the gym again, Forrest and I are shouting across a man pushing 200 pounds of barbell.

“Have you been to the Tal-bet Hotel?”

I have seen this man on the bike next to me many times at the gym and he’s always kept himself to himself, but now he was removing his ear buds and asking me about a Wexford hotel. At first I didn’t recognize what he was saying, but once my translator kicked in I realized he was talking about the Talbot Hotel on the Quay, a place where I attended many family weddings and reunions as a kid, and where I have performed on several occasions as an adult. It was always the fanciest hotel in town, with really fancy food and snappy service, as a kid I was particularly impressed with the soup and the bread rolls. Every major employer had an annual reunion for which you would buy a classy ticket with embossed print and curved corners, for twenty one shillings. They were almost always at the Talbot. Starched white tablecloths and napkins, long tables laid out wedding- style with more silverware than you could comprehend and, most astoundingly (even for a 12 year old), glasses were filled with complimentary cigarettes at regular intervals along the tables. After the meal a live band played – I danced with my mother.

“Yes of course I have, is that in the movie?”

“I can’t recall, but it’s in the book.”

This man has always caught my imagination; he is very scholarly looking, with a neck that appears to be stiff from many years of bearing down on a typewriter. I had decided that he might be a retired journalist, a truthful person of character. He has scholarly grey hair draped behind his ears, and horn rimmed spectacles, I may have assumed his occupation because he looks like another Irish American friend who worked for Newsday as an editor-in-chief, or maybe it was because he carried the weight of that kind of character in his earnestness. I was pleased that he was now talking to me. I miss my friend who worked for Newsday, he died about fifteen years ago from prostate cancer. I was too young to know him as a peer, but he was always decent and kind of parental. I somehow miss him and his kind. It was warming to talk to someone of his ilk.

“What did you think of the book?”

“I enjoyed it”

“How do you rate Colm Toibin as a writer?” 

He stumbled for a while, not wanting to be inaccurate in his assessment.

“I don’t know if he’s as great as one of the iconic giants”, finally he blurted out. “He’s not James Joyce!”

I was tempted to say that I didn’t think anyone was, but left it to swim in its own ambiguity instead.

It’s become topical to be Irish again, in the Village. It got worn out there for a while; no-one seemed to care much about the oul accent. But “Brooklyn” seems to have reawakened the old romanticism of the brogue. In the ads on the telly they show Curracloe Beach, a seven mile stretch of fine golden sand where I have always swam. It’s also the beach that inspired my song “Orange Coloured Sun”.

“Brooklyn” has dug up a lot of buried Irish memories. Being a Wexfordian has always been in the minority amongst Irish Americans, most of their ancestors came from the West of Ireland. But Wexford, in the “sunny south east”, is where the Irish themselves go on vacation. Now because of Colm’s story, maybe visitors will go see why. I have always loved Brooklyn, it’s the first place that I lived when I came here, some of my most valued friends come from there. Now it seems I’m married to it again.

Have you seen Brooklyn? What did you think of it. Just wondering.