All posts in August 2016

The Mender

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

This story The Mender  is intended for my book whenever it comes to be.  I posted it on Facebook once and found out that a lot of my friends were equipment menders themselves. I had ended with some kind of negative comment about the character in the shop.  Many people stood up for him, and said that they had done it themselves and it was a thankless task.  So I took that out, having thought through the menders mind with a kinder view.

I really like this story and wanted to follow Bernard with something he might think worth reading.

Thanks so much for the incredible response to I’m Gonna Miss Bernard.  When the subject is inspiring and the circumstances are fatal, it’s easy to write an Opera.

The Dublin Unitarian Fri Nov 25th at 8pm tix;          tickets.ie

Wexford St Iberius  Sat Dec 3rd at 8pm tix at the Wexford Art Centre

Cork  – Coughlans (intimate solo) +353 21 496 1751 for tix

Limerick City (special event  by invitation only) Dec 12 – 8pm Write to me if you want tickets.

There are two private Parlour Gigs also.

The Mender
I went to get a piece of equipment fixed today, I had a feeling that it was a minor complaint, but try as I may, I couldn’t get the offending box to work. Having just travelled across the Atlantic, it seemed plausible that it may have been damaged going through the traumatic baggage slinging that ensues between departure and arrival, even if it was wrapped in two T shirts and stuffed between the jackets and trousers. I have a gig next week- with rehearsals in between – this is a crucial piece of equipment, I have to resort to a repair shop, presto.

So I googled Roland Repair in Manhattan and called to check for office hours, it was 9.50 A.M and someone answered, (good sign) I explained my predicament, met with the usual repair shop nonchalance.

“Bring it on in” he yawned, but not before 10 A.M.

We are open from 10 to 6 “

“Oh you’re an ambitious man, in there already” I said in the begging tone of a groveling charmer. He seemed puzzled by what I was trying to say,

Typical repair nerd, I thought to myself and assured him that I was over thirty blocks away, no danger of walking in on him before he finished his bagel.

This place was on 31st bet 5th and 6th a pretty new white building with a fancy silver intercom arrogantly peering down from its shoulder level pulpit. I approached it with aggression, realizing that I needed to manhandle it immediately, or it might get the better of me.

“Have a nice day and welcome to the building” flashed across its small blue screen.

“To reach the business that you require look up the directory bet A and Z….”

This place was called Audio Hospital and it was on the 5th floor, I tried everything but could not open this bloody door. I figured it was room #5 and assuming that this was the required digit. I pressed it, and got myself a second page which seemed to indicate that by pressing the green call button, I would alert someone to my presence. But all it did was send me back to the first page.

“Welcome to the building”……..

As I stood there on my toes, It was getting the better of me. Then I saw a young woman through the Glass door coming from the elevator, after she exited I stopped the door with my foot- having no intention of being sheepish about breaching security- she had the demeanor of New York boredom and emitted a sense of disrespect for whatever it was she was paid to do in that building. I knew she was stepping outside for a smoke,

“Just for curiosity, how does that buzzer work?” waving it away with her cigarette she dismissed…

“Fuck knows!”

I got out of the miniature elevator on the 5TH floor, it turned out to be a small building with ambitious presentation, obviously the work of a slick real estate firm intending to charge exorbitant rent for cramped renovated rooms in central Manhattan. Stepping out into the hallway I expected to walk for a while, around a couple of bends, checking door numbers until I got to #5- the usual rigmarole – but this building was like a person seated with a big torso and very short legs, you have an image of them that is confounded the minute they rise to shake your hand. The moment I stepped out of the elevator I was there! To my left with the door held open by a keyboard there was a darkened brown room crammed with all kinds of clutter- at least that’s what it seemed like at first- but upon scrutiny it became clear that the clutter comprised of all kinds of keyboards. They were everywhere, small analogue oddities, huge analogue dinosaurs, slick modern hi tech synths, lying on the ground, leaning against the wall, upside down, standing on their side, some of them worth a fortune. I squeezed into the dimly lit, claustrophobic, slightly sweaty hallway of the room.

“Hello?”

“Yes, can I help you”?

“Hello! Where are you?”

“In here”

I looked down the dark brown hallway, to my right there might have been a counter, I wasn’t sure, whatever it was, was piled up to the ceiling with equipment, mini-disc players-dat machines-synth modules-just piles of yokes.

“In here! You have to sit on the stool to see me”

There was a high stool behind me, I sat down, and there through the letterbox of skewered space between all the yokes, was a balding old man of about seventy five with long grey scraggly hair wearing a shabby old blue shirt and black tie. His wire rimmed glasses had been oft repaired by selotape, and his trousers were held up tight by a worn out and tattered old brown leather belt. He was folded in half by years of being alone with all this mending; his shoulders almost touched his knees. He was well spoken though, and he managed to gain my respect, in spite of my initial hesitance.

Illuminated by a small sharp, white, reading light. He tapped my name and address into his computer.

He wanted 75 dollars to just look at it, and said if I was in a hurry I should have the rush job for $125.

“No, I’ll just have the normal job thanks”

“Well, when do you need it?”

I wanted it yesterday, but decided to realistically see things his way.

“Next week?”

“Well, if it’s not a rush job, I can’t have it until January!”

This was mid November.

“What! Listen, I’m a working musician trying to survive in a dying industry, I can’t afford this, and I believe it’s a minor problem”

“I understand” he yawned

“But all this equipment belongs to working musicians, and they are all in a hurry, I have to pay the rent”

I knew that he had me now, of course the rent would be huge, but if he would only look at this for five minutes, I felt that he could see an obvious failing.

“Well I wouldn’t have come here if you had told me that over the phone, can I have it back please”

He passed the module back, through the narrow space, with a shaky hand. He seemed to look at me with some curiosity. But I knew there was no use in pleading. He was well versed at forcefully sending out the New York mental vibe of “It’s not my problem, Sir” The City and the Bank were on the Landlord’s back, the landlord was on the mender’s back and now he was backed into a hole in the wall surrounded by equipment, with an Irish man huffed by the callousness of it all. No ones problem but mine.

I went home and with nowhere else to turn other than buying something new, I re-approached my search for the manual. Rewording the search name I came across a download of the manual for my beloved old Synth module, A book I would’ve had, if I lived in one place like a normal person. There was one tiny switch at the back on “Comp” instead of “Midi” (thought I had tried it already) I flipped it and lo and behold; it worked! I talked out loud for a long time.

“Thank you God, thank you, I could have paid $125 for him to do that in 3 seconds”

I’m gonna miss Bernard

Bernard possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Opera

The first time I became aware of Bernard was at the Wexford Railway station one early January when I was seeing a New York friend off, heading to America via London.  It was a hectic scene, with lots of bags, heavy overcoats, babies crying and sad goodbye-ing. My head was spinning around trying to take it all in, when my attention got drawn towards Bernard. Throwing his case on the overhead while making jovial quips in the smoke filled nervous air, he was filled with so much life and enthusiasm I had to study him. He had a little goatee beard and James Joyce glasses; his head swiveled with enthusiasm towards the other brave faces that were trying to lighten the atmosphere. He had a loud voice, and a sort of ancient Wexford accent, mingled with English intonation. It was goodwill Bernard, charming charismatic Bernard, and I wanted to know who the hell he was right away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was my friend Jimmy’s older Brother, they didn’t look like brothers at all. Soon afterwards I went back to New York and didn’t see him again for a long time after that, but he had made an impression on me.

That all changed later when I got signed to an English label, and began spending a lot of time in the U.K. Bernard began appearing at my gigs, where once again he was buoyed by the surrounding atmosphere, particularly the attractive females. Even though he was almost exclusively an Opera fan, he was very capable of giving me a constructive revue of my music. Of course he never used contemporary music parallels, he would point out the Sibelius parts of my songs and the Puccini influences, stuff like that. He suggested that I read James Joyce’s The Dubliners; it was the first of many times that he would gently point me towards constructive influences. Of course, I was delighted with myself being taken so seriously, it didn’t matter that I thought he was being dramatic; I appreciated his effort to acclimate with alien music and a younger crowd. When Bernard wanted to give you a compliment it was a big one, he didn’t talk in small town terms, he talked in terms of history, it didn’t matter what your achievements were. You were as important as anyone; you didn’t have to be recognized by anyone else.

Bernard was opinionated, he had strong thoughts about almost everything, he hated boxing, said it was brutal and cannibalistic, the Williams Sisters ruined tennis, because they just hammered the ball. Forever against the grain, he preferred doubles! ……Pavarotti’s voice was too thin on the top, and he wanted to kill Andrea Bocelli. Bach was just a mathematician, and modern classical music was destroying Lyric FM and BBC 3. The weather was almost never suitable for him, and he hated green food, couldn’t eat dairy because it upset his sinuses and all healthy food upset his guts, even a slice of lemon in his Vodka was classified as fruit, and not admissible. He blew his nose regularly with a loud hoot. He called Verdi “Papa” because he loved him so much, and when the Swedish Tenor Jesse Bjorling sang he gave a running commentary about every minute nuance of his voice, his breathing technique, his fluency and effortless leg-Atttto, all musical terms were pronounced with a strong Italian accent of course. He was appalled when I told him that I preferred French to Italian, said he was very disappointed with me.

Unlike me, Bernard was very good at building and fixing things, Clare would always keep a snag list for his next visit. He always carried a plastic shopping bag folded into a small square, and a plaster, for emergencies, a habit he picked up from his parental responsibilities.

Almost every day he would pull out the vinyl set of an opera, and sit there listening to the entire thing from beginning to end, like the way most people would watch a movie. There were different versions with different conductors, and he would point out the difference, he liked one because it was slower, and disliked another because it was too slow. When he had a few glasses of wine in him, he passionately conducted with such vigor, that he often caught the side of his glasses, sending them half way across the room. He described music like it was food or wine, on many occasions I had to come to his house and hear the piece of music he was talking about because it sounded so delicious, I usually preferred his description to the actual, I often wished that I could just compose what he talked.

When I was in Wexford, I often went to Bernard’s house in the late afternoon for a cup of tea and a biscuit, he made a perfect cup of tea, and delighted in passing me the black plastic Jack Daniels ice bucket, filled with a Biscuit variety; all the ones that I denied myself at home: Kimberly, ginger nuts, custard creams, bourbons and fig rolls. In the half light of the evening we would sit there and talk, he avoided bulb light until the last minute, he would quote his Brother Jimmy, of whom he was very proud “Jimmy would kill you for putting the light on during the day” Seeing Bernard at this time was always a great respite from life’s pressure. His world seemed to portray an older time, it was like visiting a parent or grandparent even, he had that kind of generosity. God knows he wasn’t rich, but he was never broke either, he seemed to be above it and required little luxury beyond his Hi Fi and 52″ TV.

There is no question that Bernard liked a moan on his down days, but he never minded me telling him to give it a rest, at those times he would transfer from a caring older sibling to childlike, he could be very self – critical at these times, and he seldom, if ever, said bad things behind other peoples backs. He usually would say it to their face if he had something to say, and most likely it was for the other persons good….Except for politicians of course! It’s probably just as well that he never met Maggie Thatcher.

Over all there was only one Bernard Lacey, and there will never be another, we have lost a great character and a massive presence, a tremendous intellect and fountain of musical knowledge. I have lost a great friend, Wexford has not been the same since he left Johns Street last year and returned to England to be with his Children and Grand Children at the end of his life. That house still has his heart beating behind the lace curtains, I imagine him sitting there in his pilots armchair, multiple TV controllers on the right arm, hi fidelity stereo within reach of the left, cup of tea on the table and ironed hankie on his knee. He has left us too quietly it seems, but all requiems end with Libere Me, the calm at the end of a storm. Bernard was a storm of energy and huge presence. He gave more than he took, except for now, he has taken himself. Clare and I have dreaded this day, we knew it was coming, if there is a heaven, they better be ready for a good argument.

Bernard Lacey died on Aug 11th 2016.
Bernard photo