We were in the kitchen having breakfast on a Saturday morning.  The night before I had been out painting the town, ending up in Whites Barn dancing to Jack and the Jackpots, with the interior of my mouth coated in grease from the Chicken and Chips that came with the ticket.  It was a way around the late night drinking laws in Ireland, bars were obligated by law to close at 11pm, but if a club supplied dinner, they could serve alcohol until 1am in the morning.  My Father rolled back his shirt sleeve and pulled the expanding strap of his watch over his hand, he had been out the night before too, at his usual Friday haunt called Stones but was actually Jack Fane’s for several years now.  He would’ve had a good few pints of Guinness and probably a few short ones of Powers Whiskey, he and his best friend Harry Doyle would’ve been in the smoke filled back room dealing cards, playing poker for small change, cheating in plain sight, and roaring with laughter.  Now he was hung over and observing his traditional behavior, he had cooked a fry for anyone who would have it, sausages, rashers, eggs and tomatoes fried in hot lard.  I was tucking in to mine when he pulled off the watch.  I have no idea what make it was, it was probably just an ordinary watch, it had large hands and apparently kept good time, it had come from a time when a watch was a watch, an instrument of value.  The gold coloured strap was still sturdy after decades of use, expanding and springing back with certainty, the normal size watch had a golden tint to it also, he had taken care of it, the glass still appeared scratch free, maybe there was trace of a nicotine hue.  

‘Here! I don’t know if you want this or not?” seeming to reply before I had a chance to respond.

He was handing it to me like it had been pre-arranged almost.  I found it bewildering, and didn’t comprehend any deeper motivation other than the plain act of giving me his watch.  I had a perfectly good watch, and didn’t want to take his away from him, how would he keep his own time?  

“I don’t want your watch”  I replied softly with ineffectual bewilderment.

“Aye, bates all you don’t want my watch”

He pulled it back on to his wrist and went back to eating breakfast.  We were the first ones up; the kitchen was quiet other than the thin sound of the transistor in the back kitchen playing “Oh to be in Doonerie” I was home from New York for Christmas, and as usual my Father was reminding me of his mortality.  Year in year out, it was always the same sentiment “I probably won’t be here when you get back the nixt time” and the usual refutation by myself. Now he was offering me his watch, this was a new and surprising twist.  He wasn’t a wealthy man, he had worked his whole life in a foundry called Pierce’s, where they made Agricultural machinery and was prudent with the money he earned, always keeping a nest egg in the Credit Union. Believing in the rainy day, he was ready for it.  He had enough he believed, he was a Union man, a shop steward and was a devout unimposing Catholic as well as believing in socialist values.  If my Mother ever wanted to go on a holiday at the behest of one of my older siblings, he had the money to pay for it.  The nest egg was for those occasions, and of course the covering of their funeral costs.  I couldn’t imagine that the watch was of much financial value, but that didn’t matter to me, I didn’t want it regardless.  

Later, when I found myself evaluating my response.  I knew that I didn’t want to think of my Parents mortality, or my own for that matter, taking his watch felt like taking his time perhaps; yes I have never been a person who cares that much about “things” – never wanted a fancy car, or a fancy watch.  But this was neither of those things; this, I realize now, was a leaf from the book of tradition that his generation observed.  He wanted to live on in my life after his death, every day I would look at the watch and remember him, perhaps, or was he just trying to do the best that he could do? I wouldn’t be inheriting any money after he died, in the pecking order I was at the bottom of the list anyhow (being the youngest) his watch was the most valued possession that he could give me, he wanted his sons to have something.  But he had given me enough, he owed me nothing, we were equally non-materialistic as people, I had gone off to America to play music, not to become rich, I hadn’t earned a fortune to show my parents big things, no trip to Italy to see Pavarotti, no palatial apartment in Manhattan to peruse the skyline or East River, I had inherited his modest ambition, I already had a watch. 

And I am watching it right now, and a little worried about taking this pledge campaign on for my next album without the help of a major site.  We are off to a good start though, almost reaching 12% of the goal this week.  I have found an amazing rhythm section and would like to get them into the studio asap, before someone steals them away for a tour.  Initially, we need to reach three and a half grand to capture them. They are so bloody good! I have to capture them.  This is going to be a bright summery album to go with the seaside and country drives.

 Thank you my Record Co of the Street, you are the ones who decide if I can make an album, and I love every single last one of you, thank you for your time.  And yes, I do wish that I had taken Jem’s watch.  

I Love your little cotton socks.  Pierce xxx

Flew and got the Flu

I’m definitely wearing one of them bloody masks the next time I get on an airplane; I don’t care how stupid I look. I mean every time I get on a plane I catch something. Going over to Ireland, I caught a cold off the baby sitting next to me, and coming back I caught the bloody flu, don’t know who I caught that from. But it doesn’t matter what the proximity is does it? I mean the bugs are all swimming around in the air aren’t they? They come out on the host’s breath and join in with the general bug traffic, into the cabin and from there through to the A/C where they are brought to the desired temperature of the cabin crew, back out again and up through the noses of everyone on board who is breathing. I saw a couple of people wearing masks this time and wondered what they did for a living, one guy looked like a musician, maybe even a singer. I looked at him once and drew those conclusions, but I didn’t bother looking at him again, so why not? Colds or flu are a nightmare for singers.

In spite of what you would think, I don’t like to draw attention to myself, and I care about what others think, even total strangers that I will never see again. But I must be moving into a different gear, because I am at the stage where I am willing to do this. I wouldn’t be walking around the cabin with it on though, would I? Just while I’m seated, that’s what that guy did, didn’t he? Oh shit I suppose not, you’d have to wear it from the start, before you get on the plane. Oh God I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I get enough attention as it is when I swing the bloody guitar up into the overhead, all 60 pounds of it in its travel case. All while that impossible traffic thing is happening, trying to get all the hand luggage that Clare had brought up above also, getting off the Canadian winter coat and finding the glasses and the book, standing and sweating profusely in the middle of a three foot wide aisle, while everyone else is impatiently waiting for you to get done. Trying to pull my arse in out of the way while stretching upwards. I think the mask might make that a lot harder, don’t you? Panting for air while looking like you have a compromised immune system, some kind of lethal disease. Ah shit I’m doomed; I couldn’t do that, could I?  

Any suggestions?

The good news is I am completely well now T.G (my mother used that one-‘Thank God’) and today I scouted my first gig in NY for nine months. 11th Street has upgraded its back room and made it even cozier, they got rid of the huge round table that used to trap people, and now they serve snacks as well as fine cocktails. They have installed a really nice new sound system also, I played the piano and felt the vibes, it’s going to be a lot of glee, like only the East Village can be, you can’t go astray, not a bad day for a Wednesday!!!  I advise that you get there at 8 p.m. for an 8.30 show. Fred will be there and Andriette and John, Kath had to be in England sadly for the funeral of her dear mother-in-law.

Tickets for 11th Street on Wednesday Feb 20th are available at the link on the Gigs page.  I look forward to seeing my NY brothers and sisters there. I love you enough to share your bugs, don’t I?  Pierce xxxxx

Christmas parking

Friday, December 28thGreen Acres, Wexford
Sunday, March 10thThe Saint, Asbury Park, NJ
Sunday, March 17thJoe’s Pub, New York, NY

I’m going around here, where am I going? Nowhere! I’m just looking for a place to stop, a place to park. It’s Christmas time in Wexford and the town is swamped with cars and dogs and buskers and shoppers, and them Christmas songs pouring from little horns overhead. There is an ice skating rink on the Quay, and a children’s choo choo train on wheels, all lit up and sparkling, only the bored driver sits inside, but it goes around just like me. I dropped Clare off in the Bull Ring, the most central place, and went off looking for a parking place. I have a gig here in town at Green Acres, that’s on December 28th.

I drive up Cornmarket past Paddy Kelly’s furniture shop, it’s been there for decades, they used to sell clothes in there too. Manly stuff -wellingtons, corduroy trousers and sports jackets. Every summer my father would require a pair of summer trousers and a new sports coat, clothes suited to the hot weather (sic). However he was a bit shy about fitting things on, so my mother would go there and order an assortment to be sent down to the house. He would try them on in the kitchen and my mother and sister would pass comment, it was a common practice all over town.  Lovely people the Kellys, they seem to be surviving with the furniture thank God. 

I go back down Abbey Street past Whites Hotel, nice decorations in the bar, not that many in there though, down past Selskar Abbey from the 1100’s (no roof now, for tax purposes) and shit I’m off on the one way street roundabout again, back down past Dunne’s and on to the Quay again.

There’s a spot on the right-hand side going in the opposite direction, but I can’t swing over there because so much traffic is coming off the bridge. And on I go, shit I’m going up past the Bull Ring again – I am sweating now from a singular position.  God I have got to get rid of this car, I would do anything, and if someone said ‘you can park here but you can’t have the car back’ I would say ‘OK’ I swear. 

Up past Kelly’s again and and and…… what!!! There’s a spot, I pull in and put money in the meter, and think, ‘Now what’ll I do, what was I out here for?” 

Are you coming to Green Acres?  If you are home for Christmas and live within 40 miles, I expect to see you. We have a grand piano on stage and an upright out in the audience, Mick Egan will play guitar with me and we’ll sing together, and laugh and drink all kinds of fancy wine and beer, work off some of that dinner in the process.  Back to New York at the end of January with Joe’s Pub on March 17th.  That’s one of the top five venues in America, in spite of the humble name.

I love you more than Paddy Kelly’s.

Merry Christmas.

Time for love again

Look, after a year of hurting and sometimes blurting, I just want to say to all my friends, no matter which side you’re on, you’re my friend and I still love you, and no matter what, if you’re my friend you probably love music, so let music be our language in unison, eventually we will learn harmony again. Px
Don’t forget, Christmas at home at Green Acres Dec 28th-tkts at Green Acres
and a very special St Patricks Day at one 0f the top five venues in America Joe’s Pub.

The Wesht is Besht

I’m back from County Clare, it’s four and a quarter hours from there to here.  Bernard, who was hosting the gig in the old reformed school house in Maghera, warned me that there were several Maghera’s and that everyone gets lost looking for his place.  This information put me into a bit of a panic, because Mike and I are now known throughout the world as the team who always get lost.  I went straight to Clare (my wife, not the county) with this issue and pleaded for help, she is pretty good at this kinda thing.  A day later Clare handed me my phone and said that she had programmed Maghera into it.  And yes there was one in Northern Ireland, and not to worry, this was the right one.  She had tried putting in St Stephens Church, which was next to the Old School House, but Mrs Google said NO!  Happy with Clare’s assertion that we were covered, I left it at that.

 

First we had to get to Limerick, that was easy enough, and then we turned on Mrs Google.  She sounded confident and even though she speaks with an American accent, she seemed to know her way around County Clare well enough.  She told us we were an hour and ten minutes away from Maghera, great said I to Mike, we are going to be early! 

 

The road signs began to indicate names that Bernard had mentioned in his warning about the different Maghera’s, there’s one up on the mountain too, he said, “Where there is an R.T.E mast, but we’re nearer to Tulla”  Said he, and I was heartened to have seen a sign for Tulla.  Now the road was getting narrower, and the sun began to descend behind the silhouetted trees and muddy sky.  Tulla became nearer and nearer, and I cheered Mike on. “We are really close now” says I.  “Only five kilometers to Tulla”  “wee-haw” Cried he from behind the wheel. 

 

Several clicks later Mrs Google gave us a new command “Veer slightly to the right in two minutes” What happened to distances I thought to myself, shouldn’t it be a hundred yards or whatever?  Then there it was, a kind of slide to the right, we took it and descended down a small hill.  This was a very narrow road, only fit for one car really, an S.U.V came towards us with the attitude that we were invisible, we pulled into the ditch, my passenger side buried itself in the wild thorny bush, we heard an aggressive thump, the S.U.V hadn’t bothered to slow down as he banged our side mirror back and went upon his way.  We had been climbing hills for a while on our previous narrow road, now we were climbing again on an even narrower one.  Bernard did say that he was a good bit out.  On we went for about fifteen minutes, and then Mrs Google instructed us to take another right in a couple of minutes.  This was a different matter completely, as soon as we turned on to it, we could see that it was a whole other class of ruggedness, we expressed some consternation out loud to each other, but like the good lapsed Catholics that we are, went onward. 

 

It was a down road, pitch dark with pools of mucky water and undisturbed rocks, in fact the road appeared undisturbed, like maybe no one ever went near it.  We kept going, Bernard did say it was a good bit out.  We came to the bottom of a muck hill in a swamp, and were on our way out of it while praying, when Mrs Google said “You have arrived”  “What?? Are you fucking joking me!” There was nothing, more of nothing than I had ever seen.  Empty black fields behind stark briary bush, scarecrow trees, Mucky ground, mucky skies, and a lonely moon that badly needed charging.  We were alone in the middle of a black and brown nowhere, and suddenly it felt a bit frightening, could we get out of there? And if we could, where were we? Why was Google maps saying that this was it?  I got out just in case, to take a look across the fields, maybe this was it?  Bernard did say he was a good bit out, Nope, not a light or a lamp to be seen for miles.

 

We needed to turn around and get out of there, how? Mike remembered that there was an old gate back there where we could probably turn. We were backing up through the slippery mud and deep puddles, when Mike said he wasn’t sure if it was front wheel drive or rear, panic again.  I got out and directed him, slipping in the muck and covering myself in it.  We turned around and made it back to the road, where a man was building a new house in the dark with a floodlit digger.  “We were in the middle of nowhere” said I to him like a broken man.  “Well you’ll have to go back to the middle of nowhere agin”  Said he in a thick Clare accent, pronouncing Maghera “Mowra”  I put St Stephens Church into google, and this time she recognized it because we were so near.  We found it! and now I have to stop and rest. Phew!

There were French people there from Bordeaux someone from Germany, a woman from Wexford, solicitors, accountants, film makers and musicians, and Sally the cute little Jack Russel, and Martin Hayse’s cousin who told us that Martin lived right where we had landed by mistake, in the middle of nowhere. This is a photo of the gig.  They say the Wesht is Besht.

A Sock and A Shoe

I Have a friend who does a sock and a shoe, and a sock and a shoe. He was very annoyed when we all laughed at the idea, and I have to admit it’s a bit odd that we all thought it was so odd.  It’s such a minor thing, isnt it? Who cares how anybody puts on their shoes and socks, who ever said that there was a right and wrong way.  Non-one ever told me to put my socks on first and then the shoes, it’s not any quicker.  In fact if something were to go wrong, like the building catching fire, it might be better to have one shoe than none, of course you’d have to hop out of the building, but if the ground was hot, it would be helpful.

 

But what is so odd is our asuumptions that the way we are doing it, is the only way.  I remember being equally shocked when a friend of my Brothers said that in his family they did not put butter on the bread before the Jam.  He didn’t see why it was necessary, what had butter got to do with jam he asked.  I once told my Brother (the same one) that I hated if bread was soggy, never would put tomato’s in a sandwich, because it would get wet.  Then I explained that I never have food in my mouth, especially bread, when I drink tea or any liquid, he just didn’t believe me, after I insisted, he thought it was really odd.   

 

Of course, since then, I have found that there are many odd enough things about me, one of them is that I like to play in Parlours-not exactly the road to world domination.  Furthermore, I have no desire to dominate the world. I have had letters of disapointment from people who are great supporters, regarding this. “Just give it one more major push Pierce, please”  It’s hard to be a fan of someones music, if they are in a vaccum, it takes a bit of courage to say I like this guy that no-one ever heard of.  After my recent London gig (thanks to those who were there, great gig)  a woman with a London accent came up to me and said she had really enjoyed the show but. “When I called my Irish friend and told her excitedly that I had tickets for you, she said that she had never heard of you, I was gutted”  she then made an expression that seem to suggest she had been cheated by the (real) quotes and the blurb in the fancy brochure for Crazy Coqs-even though she loved the show, she felt unfullfilled because her excitement wouldn’t  hold water when it came to delighting about her experience, because I wasn’t well known. I gave her the answer that I always give about her friend “well she’s heard of me now!”

 

Bernard Dowd, who is hosting a Parlour show in his wonderful converted School House in Ennis Co Clare, has asked me to give his number out for anyone who might want to attend, knowing that I seldom play in that area he is saving 10 spaces, so here it is-Bernard Dowd in Ennis, Co Clare.  0874686578-I am playing there on Saturday November 24th.

 

I love you more than my upright piano.  Pierce xxx

 

Tickets are on sale for The Hot Spot Greytones Dec 7th

And Greenacres Wexford on Dec 28th……Christmas.

Brighton the sea gull city

Blown away in Brighton.

I grew up by the sea, it lived across the road from us on the quay, upstairs in the sitting room with that blazing fire at my back, I often peeked past the curtains at its commotion.  From my bedroom on the third floor the seagulls announced the dawn with their yelps as they circled the Dutch coal boats in pursuit of their morning slop.

 

Now I am in Brighton U.K. where the seagulls play a much bigger part than they did in Wexford.  Their announcement of the dawn is like the sound of an advancing army, thousands of yelps, squawks and baby squeaks of laughter, many Brightonians would like to mow them down, or make them wear diapers at least. Sometimes you can hear the blood- curdling Banshee-like wail of a Fox as she fights with a Mammy Gull, I am told the Foxes go after their babies, and that sometimes the Gulls go after the Fox cubs. I go out and there is a baby Gull standing on the roof of the car, right in the middle, like an ornament.  I know it’s a baby because it is not white yet. They are beautiful animals, but they leave their mark everywhere, long brown splatters mixed with subtle feather clings to almost every available glass surface.  Shit- upon windows are more common than untarnished ones. 

 

Down by the beach (if you don’t presume a beach to mean sand) they stand still in the wind, like a suspended sculpture, it feels like you can reach out and touch them, and they seem unperturbed by that possibility, a live animal meditates within arms length, floating into the weather.  I retreat to the café (pronounced Caff here) on the waterfront, there guarded by canvas windbreakers I consume a sausage sandwich and a cup of tea and think of what I should write to you.

 

I miss my American friends, how are you?  I will be back in January; I look forward to seeing you.

If you are in England, I have a great gig coming up between here and France. November 2ndat Crazy Coqs in Picadilly Circus, the very heart of London-this is one of England’s great venues with a Grand Piano on the stage, it is the English version of Manhattan’s Joe’s Pub.

 

In the meantime I am writing and sleeping and looking and listening.

And I still love you more than fish……. and chips.  Pierce  xxxxx

 

 

 

To book tickets go here https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/pierce-turner-nov-2018?date=157370711

Also I am heading back to The Hot Spot for a follow up to the last great gig there, tickets at the Hotspot- On Dec 7th.  And Greenacres for a home town Christmas gig on Dec 28th tickets at Greenacres.

Astonished by the sun

Just got back from a couple of gigs in the West of Ireland. 

Hit Cork City, then drove south west to Ballydehob, or as I call it, Ballydequityourjob!  ‘cos it seems like most people who live in this idyllic little haven have moved there with the wisdom of a Buddhist Monk. 

I am sure that the waiters in the little café across the Street from Levis Corner Shop, were hording PHD’s in their biscuit tins above in the attic. 

Joe from Levi’s found time to run this great spot, share the minding of his beautiful daughter Johanna, one year and three months old, going on PHD.  His wife Caroline had a lap top attached to her as she levitated around with the calmness of a Ballydehobian, doing some kind of computer work and minding Johanna, as well as helping with shop. Joe’s Mother Joanne, always seem to be leaving as she was staying, and you’d be mistaken to think she didn’t have the run of the place.  I asked Joanne could we put the TV on to watch England playing Sweden.  Caroline, Joe and little Johanna were at the Farmers Market in Skib (Skibereen) and like all TV’s, their TV didn’t like strangers trying to turn it on.  It didn’t even recognise Joanne. 

(Astonished by the sun)

 

“Ara don’t worry about it Joanne” said I, picking up the Cork accent.

 

“Ara no, I’ll give Joe a call”

 

I really didn’t want her to go through all this trouble for me, and didn’t want to interfere with Caroline and Joe’s fun at the market.  Mike and I went in to set up the gear for the gig, Joanne kept fiddling away, she was intent on sorting this out.  We were hammering out my loudest song “The Sky and The Ground” with the drum machine at full wallop, when Joanne came in a said how wonderful it sounded, because she is a Mammy, I half expected her to recoil from the volume, but no! she loved it, and said I should stop while I was ahead.

 

“You’ll be worn out”

 

Off she went inside to have another go at the Tellee.

 

“I figured it out”  says she, “It wasn’t plugged in! How the hell could it work if wasn’t plugged in”

 

It was 3pm and they were singing God Save The Queen.  I made up a salad and sat down to watch, thinking how great Joanne was for going through this much trouble for Mike and myself.  To my surprise Joe’s Mother sat down too, folding her arms she became engrossed with the proceeding, she meant business.  I wondered how long she would last, she lasted!

 

“Ara how could he miss that?  He shoulda just kicked the bloody thing.  Ah shur he’s way off side for God sake”

 

He was! And the bloody Ref didn’t even see it.

 

The Sun continues to be lost, it must’ve confused Ireland with Spain, dementia I believe.  Long may its little happy head be muddled, for we are a gladder people, if this goes on we might even play like the Spaniards and win the World cup.

 

Next week…Wexford, the centre of the universe.  The beautiful Green Acres even has Air Conditioning, not put in there for us mind you, it’s for the Art, but we get to use it anyway, so cool beer and wine with cool air.  I’ll have something new for you, and we will sing Orange Coloured Sun in the summer of our lives. 

Two more gigs added just added, The AKA Kilkenny Arts Festival in an Elizabethan Pub called The Hole In The Wall, only holds 50.  And an ancient Church in Cellbridge Co Kildare – where they serve free wine on a grass covered mound mingled with ancient gravestones, as only the Protestants could.

I love you more than I can remember.

Pierce xxxx

The Green Acres show will be dedicated to my dear friend Michael Carroll who sadly died last month, still a young man-Michael helped me hugely through I.T. snaggery he was such a special person.  And to his beautiful young family who must be so heartbroken.

We love you Michael-hope you are getting to the bottom of one of your great passions; the paranormal.

 

Wexford Town-Greenacres Selskar July 20th-9pm tix at Greenacres

The Hole In The Wall -The AKA Kilkenny Arts Festival Aug 9th-9pm Tix at tickets.ie

The Tay Lane Church Celbridge Kildare-Aug 24th– 9pm

Rather be a tree

 

Yick, yick, yick, goes the Blackbird at the top of leafless Tree.  I wonder why it is leafless?  Clare say’s it’s dead. “Hmm, and yet it stands, way up high above all the living leaves, wonder why we don’t’ stand when we die?”

 

I start to imagine the possibility.  Where would we put us, would we still have graveyards?  If so, Undertakers would have to use different vehicles-stand up jobs-maybe like a Chariot, and of course there would be no reason to change the dress code that we now employ for our wakes.  A nice suit, shirt and tie, or her favourite dress , with full make-up of course, in both cases, as it is now.  Or we could return to the original shrouds, when death was gender equal.  Even big sturdy macho men adorned a gown for their trip to heaven, with nothing underneath of course, clothes wouldn’t be necessary in either of the supposed destinations.  The chariot would drive through the Town with him/me standing there in a black or purple smock (ecclesiastical colours) in full make –up, with the hair groomed back like Ronald Regan or Teresa may, and nothing but the wind underneath.  What if, like the Tree, we didn’t pong? Graveyards might not be necessary at all. We could be just stood in the corner, or sat in our favourite chair, to wilt away until we fall apart.  Sitting here at the Kitchen table with my morning cup of tea, as you can see, I have travelled to all kinds of crazy thoughts with my imagining dream-state.  The Blackbird continues to yick,yick. She sees Albert the Cat languishing in the hot sunny grass, but Albert has no intention of pursuing her Babies, he is a big softie.  Still the old Tree holds sturdy, would I rather be a Tree?

 

I have more than tree gigs coming up.  And if I don’t see you there, I won’t see you at all.  I have got my songs and my stories, and my love for all of you, only you and I can share what this is.  And no matter what happens, the memory will stand for a long time, just like the Tree.  Build your memories, they are our foundation for the present.  I am coming with fire in my belly, like a jumping jack flash!

And I love you as much as I love the Stones.  Dublin next week! Weeha.

 

Dublin-The Grand Social June 22 – 8pm 25  euro tix at Ticketweb

Cork City-Coughlans July 5th-9pm tix at Coughlans

West Cork Levis Ballydehob July 7th-8pm

Wexford Town-Greenacres Selskar July 20th-9pm tix at Greenacres

More dates to come.

 

 

 

We caught one! Joe’s Pub NYC Saturday April 28th-9pm

I was lying on the floor at the Gym, the Asser Levy, a public Gym, I like it because it’s cheap, and because normal people go there. No annoying music, and no perfect bodies preening themselves in the mirror. Was stretching away on the ground there, when a pair of huge flat feet went by in gum shoes. Atop those feet, a very big man was stuffed inside dark blue overalls with “Staff” written on the back. He walked with the ponderous gait of someone who was jaded with their job. He was trying to shake off a piece of white cardboard stuck to his foot, turned out to be a glue trap, a cruel invention covered in very strong adhesive. He shook his foot, no go, he tried to pull it off, his beer belly got in the way of his stoop, no go, he leaned against a machine and tried to rip it off, no go. He tried walking again, it was really getting on his nerves, he was stuck to it! A fellow staff member howled with laughter and shouted “Look everybody, we caught one!”
Pierce Turner Ensemble at Joe’s Pub Saturday April 28th 2018 at 9pm – box office 212-967-7555

I haven’t the time to write this

Photo taken at The Saint Asbury Park on Sunday March 11th 2018 (c) Kathleen Connally

I haven’t got the time to write this really. I’m rushing out to have breakfast with my friend Una Johnson, who is dropping off in New York for a few days on her way back to Ireland. It’s snowing like a whore outside. The weather-persons usually make such a big deal out of something small, but they did the opposite with this. The dog wouldn’t even walk in it, she kept trying to brush it off her face with a paw. I made sure she stayed out long enough to have a poo anyhow, God knows when we’ll be out there again today.

 

Una is coming from the South by South West Festival in Austin, she is one of its Euro rep’s for music. She used to live right next door to me here on First Avenue, literally my next- door neighbor. She was with Phelim O’Lunney then, he mixed the sound for The Major Thinkers (our Punk/new wave band) Una was a great help to me when I was organizing the Tour of Manhattan to go with my first solo album, sixteen dates in Manhattan within a month. This was 1986. Una and myself went all over Manhattan, up to its very tip and down below Houston, canvassing places that we liked the look of, almost never conventional venues. We even booked the New Amsterdam Brewery over on the West River. Philp Glass was there and that great filmmaker that he made the trilogy with, Godfrey Reggio. Standing up on that huge, tall counter with the massive beer vats at my back singing “How It Shone” was a great moment, thanks Una.

 

After that I toured America with the Smithereens one time, and Graham Parker on another-we had great shows at Toads Place in New Haven, and on April 8th I will play at Café Nine in New Haven, for the first time since then. Fred Parcells will be with me, as he was then. We’re getting in a car and driving all the way there, you better get in yours in you live nearby, twill be great. I am attaching a powerful photo by Kathleen Connally from our gig at The Saint in Asbury Park, trying to leave Manhattan!

 

And Next Wednesday March 28th we’ll be at the 11th Street Bar around the corner, that magnificent speakeasy back room with the piano. The last one was magic, they have been trying to get us back there since, this was the first and only chance. Twud be wise to book it now, we are keeping it down to 50 people. I love you more than my Dog hates the snow, and that’s a lot!

Pierce xxxx

11th Street Bar between A and B Wed March 28th – 8pm tix at brownpapertickets.com

Café Nine, New Haven Sun April 8th Matinee, doors 3 pm. Tix at Café Nine

Joe’s Pub on April 28th!

Ireland in the summer.

 

 

 

Manhattan in the 80’s. Pierce Turner blog

The front of my building.

Manhattan in the 80’s                                               Pierce Turner © 2018  

 

Philip buzzed me in. Buzzers were a luxury then. Some of us had them, but they seldom worked. Most of us kept our keys in a thick, knotted sock. Outsiders would shout up at the window, and we would pitch the sock down to them. Every day without fail, I heard the same voice shouting up “Yo Howie” outside the building next to me, he would shout it repeatedly in a thick booming New York accent. Eventually Howie would throw down the knotted sock. I didn’t know anyone in that building to speak to, but I knew some faces, and had supposed some of their stories. Twice, the building caught on fire and they had to call the fire brigade. On both occasions Howie had fallen asleep with a cigarette on the go. The second time the building had to be evacuated at two in the morning. I looked out my front window to see a woman being carried down the Fire Escape in her nightie. Down below on the street, the entire occupants of the building were looking up in anguish. I knew most of their faces, and took a guess at which one was Howie. The one with the frail skinny body that I had decided was an alcoholic, struggled on his gout ridden feet to angrily accost Howie, he swung a wild punch at his clueless nuisance of a neighbor. Someone held him back while he shouted angrily at the bed smoker in Italian. Eventually the fire was quelled, the army of fire engines went home, and we all went back to bed. The next day I heard it again “Yo Howie” And the knotted sock hit the ground.

 

Pierce Turner Parlour Performances in 2018

 

Greystones, The Hot Spot -Friday Feb 23rd at 8pm (last Irish date before returning to the States) This is a beautiful venue. Book here.

Tickets

 

Asbury Park N.J. The Saint (the legendary) Sun, March 11th- Afternoon session 4.30 start. (with Fred Parcells) And Avon Faire

https://www.ticketweb.com/event/pierce-turner-avon-faire-the-saint-tickets/8075875?pl=saint

 

Manhattan-Paul Muldoon’s Picnic-@ The Irish Arts Centre-Mon March 12th – 8pm

http://irishartscenter.org/event/muldoons-picnic-march

Manhattan The beautiful A.I.H.S Building – March 15th at 7pm (3D tour at thins link) https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=es26Y1iT9VT

For tickets visit the website here

www.aihs.org

 

Manhattan –(the luxurious) Joe’s Pub, one of America’s top 5 venues-Sat April 28th-9.30 Show.

January is a useless month

January is a useless month, steeped in disease and misery. It’s a terrible month to start the year with. We should shift it and start with a different month. Maybe July? That’s a pretty good month to start the year with. Just imagine, you have a New Years Eve Party knowing that the next day, day one, will be the 1st of July! Hang up the Parka, put on the shorts and sandals and head down to the beach with an ice cream in hand.

 

I woke up the middle of last night wanting to pee, a normal enough event in recent years. I burst into the sitting room, where our toilet is. Wanting to turn the light on so that I wouldn’t walk into the clothes -horse standing somewhere before last nights fire. But I didn’t want to wake Albert, cos if I did, he would demand immediate attention. So I resisted the light, and semi-sleep walked in the dark past the couch where he slumbers, he jumped up immediately with a delighted yelp “Good morning” said he, “forget it Albert” said I. As usual, he scooted out to the Kitchen expecting to be fed. I scooted back to bed, before he could catch me, he has been known to give me a little bite at times like this, or to jump up and grab my leg, with soft claws. Sounds cute, but not when you are trying desperately to hang on to the sandman.

 

The bed had all the warmth still intact, the covers wrapped around me, filling every cavity, snuggling up to the nape of my back where sometimes a pocket of cold can vex. But sleep seemed unnecessary, I felt done! Shit I can’t get up this early, the day will be useless. I should point out that I was in the spare room, right next to the main bedroom (everything is right next to everything in this little house) I have had a malady of some sort, they say it’s the Australian Flu, whatever the hell it is, it makes me cough all night long. So I went to the spare room, so that I could have the pleasure of coughing the night away without the added guilt of keeping Clare awake.

 

I hear Clare sneaking around and talking to the Cat, who was still pretending it was breakfast time. But then, remembering that it was January, I thought, what if it’s deceptively dark?

 

I reached down for my I- pad to check the time – 9;05 AM !!! I look out the window, and a woman is flying past on the opposite side of the street, she is pushing a pram with all of its weather resistant gear in full use, the rain, trying to get in at the Baby, makes sure to compensate for any failure, by drowning her and the green clad postman heading into the garden behind her, his glasses saturated beyond redemption. This is the morning?

January!! It’s enough to make you believe in God.

One week to Jan 16th at the National Concert Hall, an elevation over the hump, Come for a huge hug.

https://www.nch.ie/Online/Pierce-Turner-16Jan18

Life on Mars, January 16th-Dublin

Before I start-something urgent needs to be brought to your attention if you are in Ireland-On January 16th I will be at the National Concert Hall (JFR Room) what else could have to do on a Tuesday night? I want to see all the sausages there, or what is the point? book here https://www.nch.ie/Online/seatSelect.asp

Life On Mars

I walked into the spare bedroom and reached to turn on the light, but the light was already on. Strange discovery, but it happened before, recently enough. It’s not that I couldn’t see, I just wanted it to be brighter, even though I was only looking for a piece of cardboard to write a sign on.

We were having a New Years Eve Party, the musical theme was 1940’s. Having had several NYE parties in the past, I had no ambition to struggle through my music collection to find something fresh and contemporary, yet familiar, not too racy or noisy, that would suit a generational melting pot of all age groups and taste groups. The1940’s felt like a way to avoid all these issues, the music would be before everyone’s time, so therefore beyond debate. Yet, it was good fun, bopping along stuff – Glen Millar, Benny Goodman, and all that jazz.

 

As I was compiling the music, it began to feel a bit samey after a while. So I decided that it would be ok to stick in a bit of David Bowie, The rationale being that Bowie died in 2017, and that he was born in the 40’s. Just a couple of Bowie tracks “life On Mars” as a sing along “Let’s Dance” as dance along. But how many people know the words of “Life on Mars”? I don’t even know them myself. So I googled em and wrote the chorus out on a big yellow card board with a black sharpey. This part; Sailors fighting in the dance hall – Oh man, look at those cavemen go . I was a bit surprised, it turns out that I really didn’t know what the song was about myself.

 

New Years Eve. The kitchen table was pushed into the corner, the lighting all sexified, packed full of friends all swinging and swaying. When I produced that yellow sign everyone sang, even older people whom I’m sure had little or no knowledge of the song.   What a great party, how was yours?

 

I won’t pull that sign out at the National Concert Hall on January 16th-but there will be other signage. By the time we get to the 16th – January will be trying enough, and God knows Tuesday will be as dull as …….Tuesday. Except for where we will be, beneath that beautiful Chandelier in the company of Tuesday giants.

This is what a great friend wrote to his friends, please pass it on to yours.  I told my main muse Pierce Turner I would promote his gig in the NCH on 16/1/18 as a way to elevate spirits  early in the week early in the new year. details at

Pierce Turner

 

Reach for the light and make it brighter in 2018

Happy New year.

I love you more than sage stuffing.

Pierce xxx

 

 

Back in Ireland

  With Cillian Vallely and Fred Parcells at the 11th Street Bar last month in the East Village.

Got the fire going, the shed is falling down, but there was half a bag of coal in there, went out there in the dark last night with the flashlight, the moon was at a quarter and the sky was clear and northern, I picked the green sack up and poured the coal out of the cut off corner, even at half full, it’s heavy enough! My coal man is an ex priest, how the hell does a Priest get to be strong enough to throw these sacks around? When the bag is full, I have to take a deep breath and run at it- to lift it over the lip of my sheds door frame. He just throws it over his back effortlessly, and drops it gently by the back wall.
Now the fire is blazing, a rich red core with jagged amber flames curling up around the chimney path. My Sister Dolores was just here, as she warmed her arse by the fire she declared

“Oh that fire is gorgeous!”

Cork coming! Coughlans Dec 7th
Greenacres Wexford Dec 29th
The National Concert Hall Dublin, Jan 16th
England in between.

Rising Knife Violence Alarms Britain as Youths Take Up Blades

Everybody that has ever been to a meeting, can recall the all familiar “passing” of the business cards. This powerfull marketing tool is often used matter of factly.


Myspace Layouts The Missing Element

With the Internet spreading like wildfire and reaching every part of our daily life, more and more traffic is directed to websites in search for information. Imagine a website without any text and completely overloaded with pictures. Well Blogs serve as an unstoppable entity in today’s scenario for online promotion and branding. They are the latest selling mantra for websites. Many businesses, manufacturers and wholesalers use blogs to promote their products, services. Social interest groups also use blogs for airing their opinion on important issues. Writing catchy blogs is an art as much as developing a website. So how do you Make Your Blog Popular?

Now that I’ve explained the benefits of blogs, the important question is how to make your blog popular and attract wild floods of traffic to your blog. Listed below are some valuable tips that will enable you to become a successful blogger and attract increased traffic to your blog. 1. Write what your target audience wants

Search Engine Optimization Make sure your blog posts are keyword rich. Write blogs around the in-demand keywords for your subject.

With the Internet spreading like wildfire and reaching every part of our daily life, more and more traffic is directed to websites in search for information. Imagine a website without any text and completely overloaded with pictures. Well Blogs serve as an unstoppable entity in today’s scenario for online promotion and branding. They are the latest selling mantra for websites. Many businesses, manufacturers and wholesalers use blogs to promote their products, services. Social interest groups also use blogs for airing their opinion on important issues. Writing catchy blogs is an art as much as developing a website. So how do you Make Your Blog Popular?

Now that I’ve explained the benefits of blogs, the important question is how to make your blog popular and attract wild floods of traffic to your blog. Listed below are some valuable tips that will enable you to become a

With the Internet spreading like wildfire and reaching every part of our daily life, more and more traffic is directed to websites in search for information. Imagine a website without any text and completely overloaded with pictures. Well Blogs serve as an unstoppable entity in today’s scenario for online promotion and branding. They are the latest selling mantra for websites. Many businesses, manufacturers and wholesalers use blogs to promote their products, services. Social interest groups also use blogs for airing their opinion on important issues. Writing catchy blogs is an art as much as developing a website. So how do you Make Your Blog Popular?

Now that I’ve explained the benefits of blogs, the important question is how to make your blog popular and attract wild floods of traffic to your blog. Listed below are some valuable tips that will enable you to become a successful blogger and attract increased traffic to your blog. 1. Write what your target audience wants

One thing you have to understand is this, that writing articles for a newspaper or magazine is completely different from writing for the Internet. A blogger should keep this mind and strictly adhere to the principles of online copywriting to make your headlines and copy appeal to the to the people viewing it. Unlike writing for print media, writing for blogs is very different because web traffic is very impatient and any thing less appealing is not likely to generate any interest by the people viewing it. Blog posts that captivate reader’s mind and that are understandable, share good ranking from search engine optimizers as well as from the readers. Make sure that your posts stick to one topic and the topic should be burning and topical. Remember to write at least one post a day to make the visitors keep coming back to your blog for more. 2. Search Engine Optimization Make sure your blog posts are keyword rich. Write blogs around the in-demand keywords for your subject. This enhances the visibility of your blogs on the search engines, thereby increasing your success rate. Also adhere to following norms:

  1. Introduce some complimentary gifts/stickers along with your blog’s URL and tag line.
  2. Write a newsworthy press release as an addendum to your blog topic.

Thus, by following the above tips you would be able to drive floods of traffic to your blogs. The more readers you have viewing your blogs the more traffic you will generate for your website and profits.

New Yawk New Yawk

The National Concert Hall 2015- back to that beautiful chandelier room with the incredible Steinway Piano on January 16th, 2018-ideal Christmas present, to wipe away the January blues-for you’s. Tickets on sale now at the NCH.

It’s a crazy morning in New York, I can feel the vibes in the air already. Walking in to a restaurant, I changed my mind half way through the door, when I noticed that the tiny place was full. Pulling back from the door, I backed into a woman who was right on my heels “Oh sorry” said I, she threw me an impatient look and was about to say something, but withdrew after the first syllable, a vague sound-but not a vague suggestion, the message was clear she considered telling me off-so what would she say? “Why didn’t you put your brake lights on?” Or “ You are a stoopid human being?” Anything is possible in New York.

I have always said that being here, is like living with a large dysfunctional family. This woman acted like a Sister who is sick to death of her Brother, I mean what stranger would think of telling off another person for changing their mind to enter a restaurant?

Once when I was at a very boring Tom Stoppard Play on Broadway, having not eaten since breakfast I picked up at Kit Kat in the foyer to give me some sustenance, sugar in other words. Clare and I sat in our tiny seats made for tiny people eighty years ago, way, way up in the Gods. Squeezed between strangers on both sides, winter anoraks underneath us, handbags in between, scarves, gloves and hats filling every cavity. It was claustrophobic and vertaphobic, and it was hot! Really hot! The Play was on its way and it was pretentious and strained-my eyelids became heavy “ Oh God I can’t go asleep here” I know, find the Kit Kat! There are so many pockets in that blasted Canadian Winter coat, will have to do this like an FBI spy, slippery and slowly I felt my way down the rough weatherproof exterior of my coat, feeling around almost every pocket before I found the right one. I pull the paper wrapper off it very carefully, so far so good, I’m now down to the silver, it makes a soft crackle. This play is excruciatingly quiet, I break off a finger, and let it melt in my mouth without chewing. All was going well, I think it’s ok to go for another finger, a little less gingerly this time. They are in a boat now with an oil lamp, it’s beautiful looking, but what the fuck are they talking about? I reach for a third piece, thinking nobody cares what I do…… SMACK!! A woman sitting a couple of seats away from me slaps me on the hand with her glove, like lighting, without even looking. What?? I mean, is she my Mother? I tried to get her attention to express my astonishment, but she didn’t seem to even give it a second thought. See what I mean?

So back to the Restaurant, after leaving I went around the block to another place that I like, but there was a line outside the door. So I just walked back to the scene of the crime to see if things had changed, sure enough it had, there was plenty of room. So I sat down, read the paper and had some Italian coffee with a Caprese sandwich, delicious.   As I finished my breakfast, I notice the woman across from me is nasty with the waiter. Pointing at her empty plate she snaps “ Just take it away!” dismissing him with the back of her hand. He brings her the check book and she starts foraging around in a small crumpled white envelope, she pulls up a five dollar bill and a few ones-with her coat off and seated I hadn’t recognized her-it was yer one who almost told me off for changing my mind at the door, while she was so close she could have run me down. The waiter brought back her check in the black plastic book. She opened and removed the three dollars and put them back in the envelope-picked up her Sunday Post-pushed it into her bag, and chinked a few quarters on the marble table top.  Yikes.

I leave for Ireland soon, might be good timing. I love you more than Mozzarella.

Dec 7th Coughlans Cork

Dec 29th Greenacres Wexford

January 16th The National Concert Hall (JFR)

These last two would make great Christmas presents don’t ye tink?

Pass the hat….NOT-back in New York

The first time that I came across a venue that didn’t pay its artists, was Sine over on St Marks Place. Shane, the owner, was an expert at socializing, at spreading his charisma. I had enough of a following to demand payment for a gig. But Shane had been building a name by getting all kinds of famous people to play in Sine for fun. Sinead O’Connor was hanging out there, and Jeff Buckley had been a regular. Shane came to one of my shows and said that I would be welcome to play at Sine any time. I (like most people) can only play so often in one area, if I want to maintain my drawing power. So playing at Sine for nothing meant risking my income for that period. But I also was drawn towards it, like a Lemming to the cliff. So I did it, Shane said it was most that he had ever seen in the passed hat, I Think it was around $280 (for Fred Parcels and I)-he also said that it was the most beer he had ever sold, they had to keep going to the Bodega on the corner. I couldn’t even get Shane to pay for Fred’s taxi from four blocks away, he used an amplifier, Fred wheeled it over on a trolly. Afterwards I wondered why I did it. I knew that the spirit of it was wrong. For young artists who can’t find anywhere to cut there teeth, this kind of thing is important. But for anyone who has done all that, and established a hard earned following, it’s insane. The only one who really benefitted from this was Shane! from a business point of view he deserved it. But, he started something horrible, for musicians, as far as I can see. Now, everywhere you look in Manhattan, there are places presenting free music, being played by high quality, mature musicians.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s (pre Sine) Venues paid musicians to do that, it might not be a whole lot if you weren’t a draw, but $300 or so was the common fee. Now they pay you a compliment by allowing you to play. I have volunteered to do one of these new places recently, for the same reason that I did the insane Sine gig, some kind of peer pressure. They said yes, sure, and offered me a gig next March 2018 !! It’s not even impromptu. Needless to say, I ain’t doing it, get stuffed!
Please remember when you are in the audience at one of these places, that what goes in the hat, is all the musician gets. I have seen great artists blowing the audience away, and watched people either putting nothing in the hat, or just one dollar! We are supposed to leave 20% tips now for being waited on in a restaurant. If musicians play for 40 minutes at the minimum wage, you should be putting $8 in the hat.
Thanks to initiatives like Sine, exploiting musicians has become so normal, we don’t even know it is happening.

Pierce Turner performances in the NY area.
Beal Bocht Riverdale Oct 14th – 8pm Tickets at The Beal Bocht site.
Staten Island Maritime Museum October 20th

Poems Stories Songs And Yokes That Fitteth Not Any Description

This paper was presented by Dr Irene Lucchitti of the University of Wollongong at the 2017 conference of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  • Ireland’s rich literary heritage and cultural reputation have long been enhanced by the work of musicians such as Pierce Turner. For many decades Turner has pursued a musical career, producing a number of critically acclaimed albums supported by a lengthy, story-filled correspondence with his audience.  His work is musical, literary and performative and, in theme, performance and relationship with audience, shows clear links to the Irish oral tradition.
  • Turner’s engagement with music dates from his childhood days when he sang in the church choir and played in the Confraternity Brass and Reed Band of his native Wexford. The sacred music he encountered in these formative years, including Gregorian chant, remains a potent influence, as does the music of 17th century blind harpist and composer, Turlough O’Carolan, and that of Seán Ó Ríada, whose mid- 20th century work contributed to the successful revival of Irish traditional music. His tastes broadened in his teenage years to include all kinds of contemporary music. He enjoyed the music of contemporary Irish bands Emmet Spiceland and Tir Na Nog, as well as the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Who, among others that he encountered while working in his mother’s record store. Later influences would include jazz and techno, classical music and choral harmony.
  • Critics see him as a creator of music that is ‘complex and accessible’ and as a ‘consummate lyricist’. These skills coupled with his ability to tell a good story well have made him a writer’s writer – his literary fans include Val McDermid, Eoin Colfer, Billy Roche, Colum McCann, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry and Liam Fay.  Screen writer and film director, Jim Sheridan, credits him with awakening him from a creative ennui and stimulating a renewed interest in things Irish, leading to the creation of My Left Foot.
  • His album ‘3 Minute World’ was voted one of the top 100 Irish albums of all time in nationwide polls and his song ‘Wicklow Hills’ as one of the top 25 Irish songs. His music has featured in several films and television shows and he has written scores for several movies, most recently ‘Emerald City’. He has been the recipient of many awards, including Hot Press Awards as Maverick of the Year and as Irish Solo Performer of the Year. The Irish Times described him as one of the most important artists of the last several decades. Career highlights include his performance of his “Yogi with a Broken Heart” on stage with avant-garde American composer, Philip Glass, at Carnegie Hall in 2010 and the Wexford celebration of the Mass he composed for Ireland’s The Gathering of 2013.
  • In addition to his music, he has also created a literary artefact that takes the form of a lengthy correspondence with his audience, his ‘Pierce’s Newsletters’ and his current blog, ‘Monday Morning Milk’. Although both sets of writing were produced episodically over many years, and although they function in part to publicise upcoming events, their subject matter, as well as the cohesion and balance one finds in them, endows them with a significant degree of artistic integrity. They contain material that is sometimes autobiographical, sometimes philosophical, often funny and occasionally sad. Whatever their subject, the pieces are always entertaining and written with great competence and style.
  • The two bodies of writing are held together by a variety of literary devices including a narrative structure that see-saws back and forth between Wexford and Manhattan, offering autobiographical tales and observations of life and culture in both places. Occasionally, for the sake of added colour and amusement, he might enhance a tale with a textual rendition of the distinct accents of each place.
  • A recurring cast of characters, including Turner’s wife, Clare, his parents, Jem and Mollie, even their cats, adds another layer of cohesion to the texts. Elton John is mentioned now and then, usually in regard to questions about the impact of fame on artistic independence. Philip Glass appears several times, as an artistic authority and as a touchstone of innovative creativity. David Bowie also makes several appearances in the text – as an elusive and unseen guest at some of Turner’s gigs and, after Bowie’s death, as a prompt to reflection on the question of mortality that colours Turner’s texts, lyrics and music.
  • His preoccupation with this theme often takes the form of urging his reader to slow down, to live deliberately, to stop racing headlong towards his tombstone.  His related concern with the transitory nature of life, of relationship and of community, also leaves its mark. As a Wexford man living in Manhattan, and as a philosopher, he also, naturally, concerns himself with the fluid nature of identity, be it Irish, American, or simply human. Ruminations on his craft also run through his texts: his ‘1,000%’ commitment to it, his ambition, his lack of ambition, his periods of creative indolence, the corrosive effects of fame, the measure of success, the contest between artistic ambition and financial reward, and the joys and perils of the performing life.
  • As he explores his themes and the various lives he lives – his Irish life, his American life, his creative life, his performing life, his busy life, his lazy life – we see that they are all lived in relationship and dialogue with his readers. As the letters proceed, he addresses them, his ‘sausages’, ‘his sausage pudding pies’, in ever funnier, ever more extravagant terms of endearment, sometimes apologising for not writing, sometimes reproaching them for not writing back, and often expressing his love and need of them. ‘I hope you are out there, you never write any more, you must be so busy, and here I am loving you more than sushi!’ he writes, and later, more earnestly perhaps, ’Without you, I am toast.’
  • His audience is relatively small but highly valued. It is, he says, the kind of audience that musicians crave. He sees his career as ‘a collaborative effort’ between himself and the audience, and believes that it is the receptivity of his audience that endows his music with whatever beauty it might have. His relationship with his audience is personal and often expressed humorously – ‘please come to the gig, I need your company,’ he writes on one occasion; ‘please say something, squawk or squeal, inspire me, humour me,’ he writes on another. But it is also heartfelt: the illness and death of a member of his audience, moves him very personally. He acknowledges her suffering and death in his newsletter, and responds to it artistically by composing a piece of music in her honour.
  • Most of all, the letters and blogs are held together by a highly idiosyncratic narrative voice. Often funny, self-deprecatory, casual and intimate, and often couched as letters from an old friend, they offer a portrait of Turner, his life, his people and his art that is built up layer by layer. There are numerous highly crafted pieces among them, some of which would not be out of place in an anthology of short stories. Several of his New York stories come to mind. First is a cunning piece announcing an upcoming gig at Joe’s Pub dressed up as a story about the little apple blossom tree that stands outside his apartment in Manhattan. Something of a coquette, her beauty matches that of Hopper’s ‘Lady in a Summer Dress’. She mesmerises, she soothes, she coos in his ear, allowing him to work, all the while eliciting the details of the gig. Another New York story, ‘Henry and Delores’, meditates on the mysteries of friendship, the pleasure in its arrival and the lingering mystery and sadness of its going.
  • Wexford stories of note include ‘My Father Was a Fireman’ which offers poignant reminiscences of childhood, of his parents, and of performing with the Brass and Reed Band. He remembers the Band’s involvement in all the religious celebrations of the year, their procession through the town and their audience, his first audience, made up of neighbours standing in their doorways, holding candles in the dusk, waiting for the Band to pass by. In another story, ‘Leaving on a Jet-Plane’, the title of which intimates something of the musical life he is seeking, he shares his own experience of emigration. A personal story and a familiar ‘Irish’ story at one and the same time, his story of the train trip from Fishguard is reminiscent of Muiris O Suilleabhain’s account of his departure from the Blaskets and from Dingle. But this story, this version of the Irish story of leaving, is filled with sounds – the percussive rhythm of the train on the tracks, the absence of female voices, the low murmuring of male voices, their sotto voce long confessional conjuring the requiem he will write one day. It is an account of emigration that could only have been written by a musician.
  • Interesting and significant though this writing is, Turner is best known for his music. His musical composition reflects the depth and breadth of his diverse musical experience and taste. He possesses a strong and beautiful voice that ‘drips emotion’, a voice that makes him sound, according to Joseph O’Connor, ‘like a choirboy on acid’. While his voice is the perfect vehicle for the expression of the sacred and the sublime, somehow it is also the perfect medium for the expression of the romantic, the forlorn, the silly and even for the carping venality of small town gossip.
  • His innovative approach to his craft is not confined to the elements of composition, but extends also to his creative use of performance space. He has performed in spaces both intimate and grand, in cathedrals, pubs and concert halls, in the parlours of private homes, in his own home on occasion, and in concerts delivered live online. Whatever his venue, whatever his medium, he creates an environment that is interactive and dialogic.
  • Although his music is instantly recognisable, there is no such thing as a typical Turner song, as a brief sample will illustrate. Wicklow Hills is an exuberant, energetic escape song. Life in a Day offers a gentle meditation on the little joys and moments of life in his town, his thoughtful meanderings turning him into a little Wexford Bloom. Musha God Help Her shows the downside of small town life, perfectly ventriloquising the small town gossip, its growing raucousness reflecting the gleeful crescendo of a scandal spreading. All Messed Up gives voice to the powerful emotional dislocation that follows the end of love. Equally at home covering St Thomas Aquinas’ Tantum Ergo and Nirvana’s Lithium, he is perhaps uniquely equipped to compose a song that seamlessly integrates elements of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side with a rousing rendition of the old hymn, Faith of Our Fathers.
  • He confides that he loves music and he loves entertaining people. His art is always dialogic. He is always aware of the other that he is addressing. He also loves language and uses it playfully, expressing his delight in word-craft with the mantra – why use two words when ten will do? These three aspects of his craft combine to create something unique. In combination, they reflect Turner’s identity as a latter-day shanachie, a modern-day story-teller, an heir to the Irish oral tradition.
  • Recognising this himself, he explains his place in the tradition in Colin Murnane’s film ‘the Song for the Year’. He points out that his parlour gigs, which seem so innovative today, are a very old idea. ‘Travelling musicians did it in the 17th and 18th centuries, and perhaps even earlier, he says.  ‘[…] songs and stories were all they had.  People would get up and sing a song in a room full of people who would appreciate it’. This, put simply, is what Turner continues to do today.
  • Lawrence Mackin, reviewer from The Irish Times, also implies a place in the tradition for Turner in his review of a gig he had attended, writing that ‘the set was exciting stuff with plenty of humour and skill and a real traditional feel, in that the audience wasn’t so much listening to a series of songs as being told a long story, with all the different elements interlinking along the way through song, spoken word and even the few odd shapes that Turner was throwing on stage’.
  • We also find many echoes or shadows of the old tradition in his writing – a philosophical response to weather perhaps, or a scene from nature motivating a reminiscence, a story about the old days and ways that imply comparison with life today, or autobiographical snippets interwoven through his performance – all customary elements of the oral traditions through which Ireland expressed herself for hundreds of years. Similarly, in his music, we hear echoes from down the ages – plainchant, sacred music, modern popular music, jazz, sometimes even in the same song.
  • It is however his relationship with his audience that is perhaps the surest marker of his place in the tradition. His dialogic performance in congenial, hospitable settings reflects the customary practices of the oral tradition. Acutely aware of the audience’s important role in his musical composition and performance, Turner nurtures a symbiotic relationship with his audience, and does so to great effect. Liam Fay once remarked that Turner’s grip on his audience is so tight he leaves fingerprints.
  • The endlessness of tradition and Turner’s place within it is fully declared in ‘The Song for the Year’, a song narrated by a bird who must each year create a unique song with which to woo a partner. The bird is a lover, a poet, a musician. He composes and performs with his very specific audience in mind. Only his audience can give it meaning.
  • Both timeless and ephemeral, the song is linked to tradition in purpose, word and melody. The song the bird is calling out is ‘an ancient song’; it is a gift to him ‘from memory’, from time immemorial. It is mystical – he opens his mouth ‘and a song comes out’. It comes from him and from beyond him. Its reach fills the earth. Although it is the urge to renew that drives the bird’s composition and performance, the elements of plainchant link it to the past and to tradition, while the sounds of the organ overlay it with a quasi-religious, philosophical layer. Behind the vocals, behind the main melody, we hear the sounds of a bird filled forest canopy. The song ends with plainchant intonation of the mantra to ‘sing your song’.
  • An expression of tradition incarnate, this is a mystical song that reflects the cycle of life. It is a hauntingly beautiful song. Its lovely harmonies and shifts between minor and major keys signal the bird’s shifts in emotions and offer a musical rendition of the tension between enacting tradition and achieving renewal, between the self that is called upon each spring to create a new song and the self that, in so doing, conforms to the age-old practices of its species. The bird’s forest home becomes a cathedral of the bush, a place where age-old customs are endlessly repeated and refreshed in performance, where the newest song is old and the oldest song is new.
  • But this is also a mystical song about the life of an artist, compelled always to create something new yet touched always by what has gone before. Like the bird, Turner calls out his unique songs, ancient and modern, his gift from memory, to woo his audience. In obedience to his own mantra, to ‘sing [your] song’, he opens his mouth and his dreams come out. His art, gifted to him by those who went before, is a gift to those who hear him and to those who will follow.

The Little Greek Basil Plant-Pierce Turner- Monday Morning Milk blog

The Little Greek Basil Plant.

 

Clare takes the Greek Basil plant out of the car and apologizes to it, it’s been scrunched in the back seat behind me from Brighton to Pembroke Bay. She waters it and baby talks the plant in its pot.

“I. ….sorry baby”

 

Then resigned.

 

“I want to go to bed early!”

 

We awakened this morning at 5 am – didn’t want to drive all that way and be late for the ferry like twice before. The last time it sat there on the other side of the gate just looking at us, like all stuff that we are punished for missing, it seemed to wag a self -righteous finger at us, sitting there, after a white knuckle ride, we had literally missed the boat. No, this time we would get there ahead of time, us and the Greek Basil plant. We would tare down the M4 and get there well before the check in time of 2;45 only stopping once for a coffee and cardboard sandwich to go.

 

The Ferry between Wales and Ireland has been a mainstay travel connection throughout my life, the Rosslare Port, twelve miles from Wexford Town, is our Airport in the South East. Waterford, forty mikes away has had an on-off romance with the metal birds, I did use it once to fly to Luton just north of London, but upon return from there the Pilot announced some dissatisfaction with the weather conditions, and threatened to land in Cork, nearly a hundred miles further away from our destination. This was with a clear summers day! Never bothered with Waterford Airport again.

 

At two o’clock the boarding began, they appear to have a haphazard system at Irish Ferries, the men and women who work there act like it’s not their normal job. I never feel sure that they are addressing me, and they use sign language a lot, a cupped hand with bending beckoning fingers, obviously means “come towards me” but when the face above it is deadpan and is looking absent mindedly to the left, you find yourself looking around to make sure that it’s not another car they are addressing. The women tend to work at the early stages, like checking your ticket, or beckoning you towards the check-in kiosk. We were there early, and chose to stand on the wrong line by proxy, with no signs or instructions of any kind, I wondered out loud about the dividing white lines with up side down faded numbers at their head in the distance.

 

“Which should we take, I wonder?”

 

“I would go over there behind that red SUV”

 

And so with absolutely no solid reasoning, I drove up behind the SUV with the silver spare tyre holder attached to its rear door, and the bicycles on the roof. It was somewhere in the middle, I would guess out of ten parking lanes, we might’ve been on lane five. So even if we chose wrongly, we should have been in the middle. I think Clare’s logic was based on the fact that we were right in front of the check in kiosk. Anyway, when the woman arrived in her peak cap, sharply pressed dark blue uniform and aluminous yellow waist coat, she casually beckoned the last row to our left, barely bending an index finger on her right arm which was hanging down by her side, where it would be resting if she was doing nothing at all. Off they went, the people who had arrived long after the Greek Basil plant and ourselves, and then the next line, and the next, until finally she arrived at the red SUV. All in all it would be about fifteen to twenty minutes before she go to us, still barely moving, but conceding a side ward step, and a glance in our direction. After we identified ourselves to the mature woman with a wry smile in the Kiosk.

 

“What’s your last name?”

 

“Turner”

 

“Clare?”

 

“Yes”

 

We both laughed as she stooped to see Clare in the passenger seat.

 

“You’re in here, we’ve got your information all prepared, off you go”

 

She handed me a boarding card and we drove through a roofed inspection area, this was the customs and excise area, a plump fifty year old man in a peak cap and the same aluminous vest, leaned down and smiled.

 

“Where are you from?”

 

“Ireland”

 

“Ok so”

And into the belly of the great beast we drove.

Here all the commands were imparted by men. A sturdy fella with a grey five O’clock shadow, seemed to be directing us towards him with a reluctant cupped fist. He looked like he was there by accident, like he happened to be in the pub having a pint between shifts in the Engine room, and someone said;

 

“You better go up above Tommy and tell them cars where to park when they board”

 

I looked at him and gestured

 

“Me?”

 

He gave a careless nod, and I followed my common sense to a lane, driving in a state of total ambiguity, thinking “If I am doing the right thing, it’s nothing short of a miracle”

An announcement came over the PA.

 

“Please turn off all the engines before going to the upper decks”

 

Noting that we were on Blue Deck 5 we stepped into an elevator with a merry red haired man and his female friend, he started talking to us in German.

 

“Ele-vaw-torr, das iss de elle-vaw –torr, no? tee hee”

 

I expected that he would break into fluent English soon, as most Germans in Ireland usually do, but no, he got more into his native tongue, and looked at us with the open faced assumption that we understood. Now the short heavy- set woman who accompanied him was joining in with the same joviality. I know a few words in German, but by Jasus, I wasn’t going to encourage them, they seemed to already assume we were German. We were starting to feel over whelmed when the lift halted at God knows what floor, we ran for it and left them giggling on their merry climb.

 

Up above, Clare laid down with her head on my back pack and fell asleep while I read the New York Times on my I Pad. Eventually I found a corner to lie down and fall asleep myself. It was a bit startling to see myself in the mirrored ceiling, I was a bit red from the heat wave we had experienced in England. When I awakened there was an elderly woman seated and facing me, she was blocking the only way out of my corner, I felt boxed in. She looked like like a friendly old Irish lady, she was smiling in a giving fashion. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I offered some confused pleasantry.

 

“Das iss shlavvin und %*#..??”

 

What! She’s German too? And she’s talking away to me like I am German. I just didn’t know what to say and tried to offer up a silent pleasantness as I squeezed out between her and the corner table. It was hard to even explain to Clare, who was annoyed that I woke her up.

 

Getting off the ship was the same as getting on, we were inexplicably last, the man beckoning us was equally ambivalent, his fat hand equally covert.

 

When we got out of the car up here on Davitt Road North, the Greek Basil Plant had it’s face scrunched up against my back seat where I had pushed it back to its furthest point, befitting my legs. I shushed the little plant up a bit and put it on the Kitchen table where Clare discovered it. I suppose the Ferry will be on its way back to Wales by now, I can still smell it’s taste of oil and salt water.

The next gig will be in New York, right now it’s October 14th at the Beal Bocht in Riverdale, and there will be a Staten Island gig (a first) don’t know the date yet, something in Manhattan of course also, Boston? Will be back in Ireland for Christmas. Coughlans of Cork on December 7th….Wexford Arts Centre Dec 23rd?

Who knows what else.

Send your love out like the seeds for a rose garden, the world needs those, to fight the pleather of weeds threatening to strangle our wisdom.

 

Love will protect us all, my lovely sausages. Pierce xxx

Irish Tour in Progress-Wexford Week finale this Saturday

                                          This photo taken in Cork on Thursday June 8th by Jens Uhl

The first gig of this Irish Leg, Cork! Started off as sweater, and became a cracker. Good sweat though, Otis Redding sweat, Bruce Springsteen sweat, that kinda ting, ye know what I mean? Because we were late the last time I played there, we set off extra early

this time. We were late the first time because we got lost, Cork is a maze of one way streets, and I have no faith in my sense of direction anyhow. I did a lot of studying on the google map, and almost understood where Coughlans was. But we got lost anyhow. It’s on Douglas Street.

 

“Excuse me do you know where Douglas Street is?”

 

“Douglas Street?” scratches his head with the shopping bag hanging from his thumb

 

“Ara Now, it should be around here somewhere, I mean Douglas Road South is over there”

 

“ok thanks very much”

 

Eventually after many’s the dodgy looking housing estates (dodgy because they appeared to be going nowhere) and narrow one way hills, we landed outside IMRO’s Venue of the year. It was a truly brilliant night. Especially inspired, and funny!!

 

Then I went to see my home county hurling team beat Irelands toughest opponent Kilkenny, up at the Wexford Park, I love hurling, and this was a killer match. This Saturday (June 17th – 8pm) we will finish a perfect Wexford week at the St Iberius Church on the Main Street.   The 200 year old organ is so sweet, in this great Church, with its back to the harbour, one time the sea went right up to its back wall. The acoustics are incredible, and this may be my last gig there as it is hard work to organize. So if you want to experience this porous musical gem with our guitars wrapped in that beautiful organ played by Josh Johnson, with the lovely Paula Cox on vocals and percussion, Garvan Gallagher on Bass, Mick Egan on acoustic and electric Guitar, and Myself on Grand Piano and acoustic guitar, get your tickets at the Wexford Arts Centre.

This same line – up will also be at Whelans with me on June 25th, It is years since the classic gigs at Whelans when people hung from the ceiling and sang like football fans. They are bringing back the old classic wooden tables, so I can slide along them like a lunatic. The Irish Times did a special offer for this event, running an ad every day for a week. They also compiled these quotes from Irish authors. Come outa the house, you’ve been in there long enough.

And as if that’s not enough, I will return to London’s Slaughtered Lamb On July 13th Angeala De Burca will join me on fiddle, this is always a blinder, and happens rarely enough, God knows. Tickets at wegottickets

I need you, honest I do.

Love Pierce xxx

 

 

The Pierce Turner Ensemble.

This Saturday June 17th St Iberius Church Wexford at 8pm-tix at the Wexford Arts Centre

 

Sunday June 25th Whelans Wexford St Dublin at 8pm tix at WAV and Ticketmaster.

 

With Angeala De Burca

Thursday July 13th The Slaughtered Lamb London at 8pm tix at wegottickets
Top Irish Authors say why they like Pierce Turner:

 

Joseph O’Connor; “Pierce Turner is a storyteller, soul man, poet, heartbreaker, with the voice of a choirboy high on rocket fuel. His songs sound like nobody else’s. A true and beautiful and utterly unique artist”

 

Kevin Barry; “For many a strange moon, Piece Turner has been creating some of the most indescribably odd and luminous and beautiful music anywhere – for the Old Weird Ireland, he is something close to a national treasure.”

 

Eoin Colfer; “Pierce Turner’s lyricism has had a huge influence on my writing. He is a one of a kind genius poet. I wish I had never heard him so I could listen for the first time. Pierce is the only songwriter I know who has made me laugh and cry during the same song”

 

Liam Fay; “Like his songs, Turner’s live shows are spellbinding: his grip on an audience is so tight he leaves fingerprints.”

 

Billy Roche : “Ray Davies meets Brian Wilson with a little pinch of James Joyce and you have it – the sublime taste of Turner!”

 

Pierce Turner Ensemble performing “Love Can’t Always Be Articulate” and more.

Coughlans Cork City June 8th – 8pm

St Iberius Church Wexford Sat June 17th at 8pm

Whelans Wexford St Dublin-June 25th 8pm

The Slaughtered Lamb London July 13th – 8pm

 

A Whelans review from The Irish Times;

“Clambering across tables little shimmies and clattering a smashing ashtray to the ground to the screams of adoration, Turner breaks sown the barrier between audience and performer and really gives himself in a way that makes him naked”

 

 

 

Yesterday I took the C train up to W96th Street

Pierce Turner Ensemble at Legends On Sunday April 23rd 5pm-at 6 W33rd St bet 6th and 7th Avenue.

“Yesterday I took the C train up to West 96th Street”

Pierce Turner (c)2017

As apathy and other forms of distraction take a hold on the majority of my already meagre size audience, I wonder if am I doomed to fade into oblivion with the usual trappings, babysitters and T.V addicts, fearful agoraphobiacs.

Still inspired and bursting with ideas, I try to convince myself that it doesn’t matter what size my audience is, just get on with it! something will give, somehow, some way, new freshly inspired lovers will find me and mingle with the still lively ones. Some of us have many more lives to live.

Yesterday I took the C train up to West 96th Street. My friend Jeff MacCulloch invited me to talk with his class of (I think he said 8th Graders?) kids seemingly around fourteen year olds. There was about 16 kids there, two thirds Girls, most of them were African American.
When I arrived at the School (in the nick of time at 2pm) the security guard pulled over the nearest kid and instructed him to bring me to Mr Mac’s class. Mr Mac? I was just about to correct her and say that it was Jeff MacCulloch when it dawned on me that Jeff was Mr Mac.

Jeff had primed his writing class for this event by having them study 2 of my songs “3 Minute World” and “Orange Colored Sun” He also had them read my short story “The Permist” – But I hadn’t really thought about what he had told me.

The event started with one of the young Ladies reading out a short Biography of who I am, and then the questions began. A lot of hands shot into the air, Jeff chose one, it took me a while to realize that I could pick too.

“In 3 Minute World, what did you mean when you said you were stuck in the shop suspended by a heartfelt song?”
I was flabbergasted! these Urban New York kids knew the lyrics to that song? Jeff wasn’t kidding. I mean, it is such a Wexford song. The question came from a cute impish black Girl with a massive head of hair pulled back and tightly tied with a blue velvet band. She had sparkling eyes and a mischievous smile.

“On Saturday evening when all my friends were strolling up and down the Main Street and my girlfriend was probably flirting with them, I felt trapped in the Record Shop listening to broken hearted love songs”

“were you in love with her?”

“It felt like love, I was definitely heart sick in her absence”
She kind of crumbled into a heap, covering her eyes with her fingers.

A young shy boy puts his hand up and Jeff pulls him out of the sea.

“When you say ‘Anywhere is happening better than this God Know’s and wherever you are is where I wanna be’ what’s that?”

Again – shocked at the notion that these black kids are asking me about such an extremely personal song, from what I would’ve thought to be a kind of alien culture – I delighted in digging up the meaning of those words from my memory bank.

” Let me see, I can’t really remember the words to this song” The tall black boy to my left hands me the lyric sheet that Jeff had printed out.
“Oh thank you”

“you’re welcome”

“OK, I’m kind of saying saying, even if I was on a rock out in the middle of a windy ocean, I’d be happy if she was there”

“Oh that’s soooooo sweet!!!!” the little black girl chuckled and all the girls melted into a romantic union of giggling. I was delighted with myself, it took 30 years offa me, my heart was flying, I was at one with these kids, there was no ageist wall between us, I was speaking their language and feeding off their liveliness. And what I was saying resonated with the world they inhabited.

The tall black boy to my left asked a question about “The Permist”

” Were you in love with that girl who danced with your finger?”

“No, but I was infatuated, she had me wrapped around her little finger, she was 19, I was 15 and a half. Girls are more mature than boys anyhow” The girls laughed out loud.

“In Orange Colored Sun, I thought of a warm sun down by the ocean, is that what you wanted us to think?” Asks the the tall friendly girl with the glasses and the headscarf.

I explained that both songs were based on the memory of my first girlfriend whom I realize now was only about fourteen, while I was barely sixteen. And that heat was very much the emotion I wanted to convey.
“I wake up every morning to the heat of your heartbeat, is a strong way of connecting that present (when I wrote the song) to the past, when I was with her in that orange colored sun”

“So are you married to her now?”

“No, but we are very good friends, ironically my wife re-connected us by finding her through Facebook” This brought the house down.

“It’s imperative for an artist to partner with people who are open minded to what we write about, my wife puts up with me writing about all kinds of personal things, I think that I’m disguising stuff, but she knows what I’m at. I lost contact with most of my peers when I emigrated to America, my wife understood the importance of me connecting with my first girlfriend again, we are all good friends now”

Thanks Jeff (Mr Mac) for this great day, and thanks you sweet young students of life, for your curiosity and interest. Maybe one day I will see you out in the audience, maybe I can grow old surrou
nded by the likes of you? and anyone else who feels the same.

The Permist

 

THE PERMIST   © Pierce Turner 2017

 

I remember when there was a hairdresser in my hometown of Wexford called Tony Myler, who gave gorgeous perms, he was known far and wide to be a terrific Permist. And he had an assistant called Kate whom he had taught his technique to, and Kate was nearly almost as good as him- and “nearly almost as good” was the standard in Ireland, at that time.

My Mother got wind of the fact that Kate was nearly almost as good, and booked her to come down to our house on a Monday night do a bit of perming on the side. She roped my three sisters into it too, so that she could get a job lot.

Kate arrived with her bag of curlers at quarter to seven just after the evening news. She went up into the sitting room and went at it hammer on tongs.   She permed the whole bloody lot of em! Anyone that was within reach, got permed.

I had nothing to do on a Monday night, and we had a boarder in our house from Cork who had nothing to do either. We decided to go upstairs and check out the goings on. We entered into that feminine terrain with great trepidation because of the smell of burning hair and sickly perm solution, but once we got inside there, the atmosphere was terrific.

The fire was blazing, they were all laughing and hooting and hollering, telling jokes, hopping around like Tele Tubbies with great big curlers in their hair, telling blue jokes. I was taken by surprise that my Mother was laughing at those jokes, I was not aware that my Mother had any knowledge of sex.

Kate had a friend with her called Joyce, and I couldn’t help but notice that she was a very attractive woman. Joyce started asking me questions-

I think she was confused because the guy next to me was from cork-

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from here”

“Where did you grow up then?”

“I grew up here?”

“And where do you live now?”

“I live here!”

 

After a while they left and the cork guy and myself sat there looking at my mother and my three sisters on the couch appraising the job that had been done. I thought that they looked a little bit like four Irish Jimi Hendrix’s,

but I think that they thought they looked more like four Irish Elizabeth Taylor’s.

Then the Cork guy said; “I couldn’t help but notice like, that that girl like, Joyce like, I think she fancied Pierce!”

I was mortified, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be looking at girls yet, at fifteen and a half – I had never talked to my mother about girls, but I noticed out of the corner of My eye that she seemed a little chuffed.

That Thursday I went to my first dance in the parish hall. I entered into that place with some trepidation too, because of the smell of all the different aftershaves and perfumes mingling with cigarette smoke, which curled up around the huge mirror ball that  had a big blue spotlight shining on it-sending little blue satellites all around the room.

Up on the stage in a blaze of lights, a live Band played an old soul classic.

I was in a state of awe, when out of nowhere came Joyce, she took me by the tip of my index finger and pulled me out onto the dance floor.

It’s not easy to dance like that I can tell you, eventually she let go of my finger, and we danced all night long.. and… I took her home, and… I kissed her..and I had very little experience kissing, but she was well used to it, she nearly choked me ! Of course she was nineteen. (I forgot to say that) That night I went home on the wings of a dove, a man in love, for the first time, I seemed to have a girlfriend.

The following Thursday I went back to the parish hall again, this time I entered with less trepidation, but as soon as I got in there, it was plain to see, everything was going to be very different.

Joyce was already up on the dance floor wrapped around another guy, I went around the other side to get a look at him, hiding behind people’s heads. She was wrapped around him so hard I couldn’t see who he was.

I went over to the other side of the hall to see from there, and still couldn’t.

Then I went back to the front, and hid behind someone so that she wouldn’t see me looking, finally I saw him, he was a sailor home from sea. I knew him too, he was a merchant seaman. Wexford is full of merchant seamen, they are very confident blokes who have been all over the world. They’re always goin on about how beautiful the women are in Guatemala, Yokohama and Panama. I knew he was never going to let go of her.

For the rest of the night I sat there downhearted, and the band played all these old romantic songs that I never cared about, but now I understood them, they were singing in a language that I had just learned.

I went home that night brokenhearted. The following day a mutual friend told me that she said I had been following her around all night long like a lapdog.

I was angry now and decided to get over her, you can do that kind of thing when you are fifteen. When time moves very slowly, when a day last for a month, and a month last for six months, when six months last for a year. You can get an awful lot done in no time at all. But I have to say this;

she did put me off Perms for the rest of my life.

More stories from the house on the Quay

2 Commercial Quay- continued.

 

I looked out the window at the old black Anglia, silently parked on the quay by the tracks where the Boat train runs twice daily. It was a big old black thing that we had bought second hand for a hundred quid. It’s tall and long body gave it the appearance of a nineteen fifties hearse. I picked up my old acoustic guitar and started picking out notes to accompany my thoughts “maybe my Mother and Breda were right about Sputnik? Maybe it was some kind of tragedy?” I had no experience with real tragedy, and I suppose I had never really believed that he was our dog because of the way we inherited him.

 

He was not a housedog that’s for sure. No one kept tabs on his actions at all. He got up in the morning after sleeping on the landing in front of my Parents bedroom, ate his breakfast, usually bread covered in left over tea with milk and sugar, and went off for the day to do whatever he liked. I often met him in far off places just walking along like a stranger. One time he was with an older widowed woman who seemed to know him, she signaled to him that it he should wait for the traffic before crossing the street, he respected her advise and acted like he was hers. He did a double take when he saw me, and came running over, he wagged his tale profusely and circled me a couple of times, going all floppy with admiration and delighting in the surprise of us running into each other so far from home.   I gave him a bemused look and carried on, thinking he would follow, but he didn’t. As soon as he was finished bidding me good day, he went back to that woman, they continued on their way. Was he her dog too? I know that he used to visit his original owner – my Brother – occasionally too, just pop in for a wag and a saucer of tea. If I wanted him to mind the shop I had to grab him before he went out on his daily rounds, tell him to stay where he was. He was very obedient like that. I looked out the window one more time at the old black Anglia, I imagined him in the boot, it all happened so fast. But so slow is the evening upon approach, with that old black machine sat motionless awaiting someone with a key to finish a day of upheaval.

The Dublin Rosslare Boat Train travels so close to the main road; passing cars are often deceived into thinking that it is actually travelling on the road with them. Strangers are confused to find passengers sitting at a train window seemingly driving along side. The tracks follow along between the River Slaney and the road to the foot of the New Bridge where they cross over the road. It’s a very busy intersection from the Dublin Road, it was assumed that cars would know not proceed on to the Bridge at the sight of that mammoth machine cruising along in their path. But sometimes they couldn’t fathom the reality of the train’s route; was it not going to veer off? Was it really going to drive across the road! into their flank…….Yes!… BANG!!! Too late.I’m slightly ashamed to say here, that I did run for my camera on one of these occasions, my resulting photo made the front page of a National paper with full credit; the sight of a car crumpled beneath a train was pretty sensational. However there were people in there trapped! A woman standing next to me said that I should be ashamed, I was then! But I had been there….right there on the spot, wasn’t that my job as a photographer? Thankfully no one was seriously injured, that woman’s words did affect me though, the next time it happened (and there was a next time) I left the camera behind. Eventually they installed traffic lights at the bottom of the bridge, they went red when the train was coming, however they were the towns first traffic lights, and because they were only active if a train was coming, some unfortunates didn’t take them very seriously either, a costly misjudgment. Still no one was ever killed.

 

 

It was a tall shop counter, one that I could easily hide behind while seated on a low stool. I could be as busy as I chose to be. Rec-Pho was my brainwave, I had many, only my Mother could compete with me for brainwaves, I was her brainwave actually, and she displayed a keen desire to see her ideas through, so I tried to follow suit. Before Rec-Pho the shop was called Molly Roche, my Mother’s maiden name. She had already failed with a corner grocery shop, but quickly enough moved on to the Molly Roche idea. She had always been extremely proud of her Father, Jem Roche, who had been a successful heavyweight boxer, a Champion of Ireland who had fought and won against many world-class fighters. His biggest claim to fame was fighting against the Canadian Tommy Burns for the world heavyweight title. Burns was touring the world trying to get away from Jack Johnson, and stopped off in Dublin to fight her Father for a purse of twenty five hundred pounds, a phenomenal sum in
1905. Jem was beaten in the first round; I once read an article that suggested the loss was inevitable. His role in the fight was not just that of a boxer, he had the morale of that entire poverty stricken country on his back. Bets were placed at pubs and marts, not against him, but for which round he would murder the Canadian in. Dublin was besieged with visitors from all over the country just hoping to be near the hall where the fight was to be. Word got ‘round on the whereabouts of his hotel, and drunken enthusiasts gathered outside to show support. Unfortnately they lost track of their intake, and forgot to be mindful of Jems need to sleep, he shouted down at them to shut up from his hotel window.

 

“Aw is datyew Jem?”

“Yis it tiss, now for Gods go somewhere else and let me get some sleep”

 

“Aw look at him, it’s da wan and owndly He’s goin to give yer man some leashing tomorra I’m telling ye now ”

 
Apparently it went on for a long time, pushing Jem’s tolerance to the limit.

 

“If you don’t shut up and fuck off, I’m goin to come down there and knock your block off”

 

“Oh yeah, gettin all big headed now I see, well dares more den one of us down here young fella”

 

Ultimately it did come to blows, the article said, Jem had to get dressed and come down after them, th
eir belligerence continued, he had no choice but to knock the noise out of them, and crawl back to bed exhausted. The next night Tommy Burns had the edge on my Grandfather in many ways – besides his skill and stature – he also had a team around him who knew how to play every advantage. Jem was marched into the ring through the jam packed Theatre for an Eight O’ Clock fight, and left there to stew in the bright lights, waiting for almost an hour before his opponent arrived. Within a very short period a smattering of punters came pouring out of the Theatre in disarray, some held their tickets up high and offered them for sale. One was heard to claim that Roche was murdering Burns and he couldn’t watch it any more, it was a ruse to get their misspent money back. Perhaps because the fight had started an hour late their story was believable. Otherwise the outsiders would have been suspicious of the hasty exits, in fact they were leaving only minutes after it began, Burns had knocked Jem out in 59 seconds.
I never met Jem Roche, he was dead long before I was born. The way his story was presented to me, it didn’t feel like a tragic loss, it seems that the power of the man and his many achievements overcame all disappointment. He went on to manage the County Football Team through a record six All Ireland wins, a massive achievement by Irish standards, and to own his own Hotel in the heart of Town. So when my Mother had the brainstorm to call the shop
Molly Roche she was aware that the neighboring country people still held the name Roche in high esteem. If she sold something that they needed under that name they’d be interested. She knew a lot about them, her Father had come from Killurin a small farming Village outside Wexford Town. She knew that Farmers needed clothes to work in; they weren’t going to wear boiler suits; they weren’t factory workers, they were businessmen. They needed to do all the manual tasks of a Farmer, and also conduct meetings to buy and sell their wares. She knew that they wore suits, shirts and ties. So she stocked the shop up with large dark suits, outsize only, nothing flashy or easily stained. As usual, the most successful brainstorm was to come from the most natural place

2 Commercial Quay (Sputnik)


Tried to find an old photo from the shop, all I could find was this one which had been superimposed on the shot for Love Can’t Always be articulate-shop was cut out!  but this was taken at that time.

The lazy Saturday morning was split into pieces, by the rude screech of a breaking car over on the far lane of the Quay, the driver had done his utmost to stop in time but couldn’t, the two foolhardy victims lay motionless beneath his mud-covered bumper. My friend Ray and I had been standing outside the shop admiring the breadth of our view across the clear horizon, we could see way out beyond the black man at the end of the breakwater, so far out we pondered aloud the possibility that one distant inkling of sparkling sand near the centre, might be a part of the Welsh coast. To its left the silent forest of Raven Point boomed in the bright sun, it’s virgin sand sloping down to the shallow water at the tip of the peninsula.   We stood there in a perfect spell, with the heat of the sun warming our bones, absorbing the communal good humor of Saturday strollers, when our attention got snapped in half by the frightful sound of animal and machine, screeching for the lives of each other.

I shielded my face with an involuntary hand.

 

“Aw…….. Isn’t that your dog?”

 

“Yes!” I swallowed hard, knowing that for this public spectacle, I was not going to be an impartial observer; all that had been expected of me up till then, in my young life.

 

We made our way over to confirm the worst; Sputnik lay there with his eyes closed, still hot. He had been in some fierce scrapes before I thought; maybe he will survive this one as ably as the others? But Ray knew better. He pointed at the pool of warm water surrounding his body.

 

“That’s a sure sign! There’s not a scratch on him, but ye see…. their liver gets split. There’s no way of surviving that”

 

He pointed down with forensic detachment, but Ray knew these kinds of things, he was only two or three years older than me I believe, but he was a lot older than me by a different measurement than time. If information, confidence and facial hair had it’s own clock, we’d be a decade apart. He was a good man to have around in a spot like this.

 

“We better get him off the road” He advised.

 

I grabbed Sputniks back legs, he the front, and we ferried his taut body over towards the railway tracks where our old Anglia sat idle. I opened the unlocked boot and we gently swung him in there to await his final journey. As we walked back over the road, brushing the dust from our hands, I noticed the man who owned the other dog being more upset than I expected. He carried him off the road towards the shallow railway bank.

 

The driver of the car was beside himself with apologies, he looked like a farmer who was just popping into town for an errand from the country, I could tell by his mucky wellingtons and the tell tale suit; a Farmers uniform in Ireland at the time.

“I have an ould dog at home that’s not worth a curse, but sure I wouldn’t want anything happening to him either, I’m very sorry, the two of em just came outa nowhere”

 

It’s true, they had! Sputnik was very territorial, and his territory was everywhere. The other Dog must’ve been the same; maybe they even knew each other, wandering warriors looking for trespassers. Anyway they both laid eyes upon each other from opposing sides of the street and were so filled with rage that they lost all awareness of the fact that it was the busiest road in town. At the point where they met, with the intent of all out battle, there happened to be a big black car flying along at a healthy pace with no knowledge of their impending action. The dogs screeched, the car screeched and a heavy price was paid for the blindness of their rage. Two dogs that seemed to belong to no one had more going for them than you would think. That black dogs owner carried him off like a dead child. And when I went into the kitchen and announced nonchalantly that Sputnik was dead, my Mother and my Sister Breda went into a fit of loud keening.

 

“What’s wrong with the two of you” I chastised.

 

They looked at me with pale curiosity, shocked it seemed that I made so little of our loss.

 

“What happened to him?” my Sister sobbed, I had never noticed her notice him very much. Me Ma I could see, she had nursed him back from the brink of death when he had been in a battle near our house while out for one of his patrols of the Town. He wasn’t our dog; he was belonged to my Brother Seamus who lived all the way up in Fishers Rowe at the other end of Town. Instead of ferrying him back up to Seamus’s house, she took him in and bathed his wounds every day with hot water and Dettol; he was in bits! I had never seen such raw wounds, hadn’t thought that what lay beneath a dogs coat was similar to the carcass hanging in a Butcher shop. She nursed him for weeks, and gradually the raw red withdrew beneath his pale brown mane. I supposed (upon thinking now) that they had created a greater bond than I had given credit for. So I got it that my Mother had a special place for him, but Breda I hadn’t noticed caring about him too much, obviously there was a lot that I hadn’t noticed about Sputnik. I was fond enough of him myself; he was a clever mutt, and a great guard dog. I would leave him minding the shop when I was in the dark room. If I heard him barking I knew there was customer out there. I often went out there to find him baring his teeth; crouched in attack position, his back hair up, only the bravest customer or most desperate would hold position until I appeared.

 

“Don’t mind him…… Sputnik, Shut up or I’ll brain ye! ” He immediately obeyed and cowered behind the counter.

 

I had always assumed that his bark was worse than his bite, but knowing how fierce he could be in a dogfight, meant that he had a fair enough bite. He was gone now, they would have no reason to even see him again. I had acted like the man of the house and locked him away out of sight. I presumed that someone with more experience in this area would take him from the boot of the Anglia to where dogs get dumped when they are dead – probably where the surplus of newly born pups go – sinking in a stone filled sack. My parent’s generations were less sentimental about such things. Obviously some of that had rubbed off on me though. I had acted surprisingly mature, and calculating. However, I wasn’t going to finish the next part of the job, I‘d had enough maturity for one day.

 

While I was casually informing my Mother and Sister about Sputniks demise, Ray kept an eye on the Shop. When I returned, he was out on the footpath having a chat with a Girlfriend, leaving two friends of mine, who had come by for a Saturday chat, in the Shop. I told the lads about the dog and they gave it a couple of seconds attention, they were at that anti sentimental age, it wasn’t cool. So we turned the conversation to our favourite subject, music. Deccie walked around with an acoustic guitar strapped across his back, he would swing it around and start playing at the drop of a hat. He started to play a chord sequence that was familiar and beautiful, I recognized that it was the Beatles song “Something” he played a chord that I didn’t know how to play. I asked what it was, he hid the fret board so that I couldn’t see. It was a competitive place, Wexford. Dick asked for his favourite song, he would never own it, a lot of people did this, our record shop was like the Bank where they kept their favourite songs. They come in and made a request.

 

“Play that one by the Byrds that you have here”

 

“What from the EP?”

 

“Yeah, the single”

 

I put “8 Miles High” on the old Phillips Gramophone, it used to be our house player, but I claimed it for the shop. The house never got a replacement, but I put speakers in the kitchen and ran a long wire with a switch. They didn’t sound great, it was a long journey, but the Gramophone itself was high fidelity, it had a lot of punch. Ray had left his cigarettes on the counter and the lads thought it would be pleasurable to have a smoke while listening to the jangling guitars and harmonies of the Byrds at full volume. I cautioned restraint; Ray was a big man, in every way! He was a bit of a Hemingway character; he believed that it was honorable to have a boxing match over a disagreement. The two lads were his polar opposite, they were both scrawny musicians like myself, if they had any muscles it was just an adequate amount for ferrying their young skinny frames up and down the Main Street. They giggled as they offered each other a fag from the silver lined pack of Afton’s. I cautioned them again.

 

“Ray won’t like this, I’m tellin ye”

 

The two lads exaggeratedly pulled on the fags, creating a fog of nicotine around their bravado, giggling like schoolboys. Which of course they were! They were still attending the secondary School with two years to go before their leaving cert. I should’ve been in their class, but had left school the previous year. They weren’t real smokers yet, but Ray was. Ray was working as a lifeguard over in Ferrybank, so he had a few bob. He was also a fine painter and had sold some to the local café’s. It was a common summer sight to see him at his easel beside the lifeguard chair, fearlessly spreading great swaths of paint with an oil knife across a canvas; depicting his view of the Town and the River from the other side of the Bridge.

Unlike the two lads and myself, he lived in his swimming trunks while there, we thought hard of removing our suits as we gawped in awe at Johns painting skills, We seldom dipped into the river after we heard the Beatles. He was a sand devil browning in the sun, fearlessly diving off the rocks when he needed to cool down, drying off in the sun, a mans man! He was not going to take kindly to the lads smoking his cigarettes.

 

Youth has a funny effect on danger and time. Deccie and Dick seemed to think that they had all the time in the world to finish off the fags before Ray would return, and because danger wasn’t imminently present, they seemed to presume its non – existence. But danger was just outside on the Quay having a chat with his latest crush Mary Gilltrap, and I noticed with some alarm through the shop window, that their chat had come to a close. Ray was smiling when he came through the door, the chat must’ve went well, he was swinging his strong tanned arms playfully in unison. I hoped that his good humour might supersede what he was about to discover, but I knew he was a moody character and that he could switch from pleasantness to anger in a flash. The two lads had their backs turned and hadn’t seen him come in, they were chatting away, having a grown up moment with their ciggies burning away, picking the tobacco off their tongues. Ray did a quick double take; he looked at me, then at them, then down at the wooden counter where his cigarettes lay. Keeping the smile frozen on his face, he coolly went over to the two lads and took the cigarettes out of their mouths simultaneously, dropped them on the tiled floor and crushed em with the ball of his foot. He then picked up his cigarettes and matches off the counter and left. Deccie and Dick stood semi paralyzed with just their eyes following his movement, the Byrds sonorous harmonies, wilted into background noise as we stood there in silence.

 

Ray had shown us once again how much more he knew about the world, embarrassment was more powerful than violence. The two lads left the shop nervously smiling, they probably wouldn’t do that kind of thing again, and they weren’t going to admit that they felt a pinch of discomfort. Ray smarted up Charlotte Street after Mary, chuffed I imagine with himself that he had been so cool. I looked down under the counter where Sputnik used to sit and felt what I had withheld before; I hadn’t noticed his presence until he was gone. Like most of us, Sputnik’s stature had increased with his demise.

Flying back in the snow

Flying back in the snow!

 

We were flying over JFK in the snow, Dublin had been a hairy experience, sitting at the departure lounge with regular ding dongs and muffled PA announcements. “Flight mmmmm to New York is cancelled”

“Which one did they say?” Clare, looking as worried as everyone else.

“Fuck knows”

The lounge was looking pretty empty and those who were there; were scrambling to check the monitors to see what was going on. It turned out that most people from the canceled Air Lingus flight were transferred over to our Delta flight, and we took off pretty much on time, with me wondering why JFK was fit for us, but not for the other planes?

Now (seven hours later) I was getting the answer as we circled over Long Island, waiting for the one runway that was open to be cleared of snow. The Pilot had warned us that we only had enough fuel to hang around for fifteen minutes, and then we’d have to fly to Cincinnati! Fucking Cincinnati!!

“What was that song, by someone?”

“The Lights of Cincinnati, by Scott Walker, we used to do it in the Arrows, Dave Heenan sang it, Dave’s coming to the gig in the Harp, he’s retired now, stopped doing the cruises as a stand up”

 

“Well I’m afraid we have run out of time, so here is the plan that I have just received from the ground, we are to head for Dulles Airport in Washington DC, where we will put down and refuel. Once we have achieved that, it shouldn’t take any more twenty minutes, we will turn around and return to New York”

“ Jesus Christ, I was just about to run up there and tell him that was enough circling, I mean fifteen minutes worth of fuel”

 

Dulles, was dull, lots of anonymous jets sitting there with no logo’s, big tan coloured things, I wondered if they were Government, odd but not odd enough to be more than dull.

The Captain again, speaking in low frog range “We are just waiting for the oil truck to come and refuel us now, shouldn’t be too long, once they fill us up we’ll be out of here, about a half an hour or so I’d say” If he was any more relaxed he would stop.

On comes a female voice, full of outside world vigor.

“Hi my name is Madeline I am part of the Delta ground crew here in Dulles, while we are here, if there are any of you who would like to get off, please hold your hands up when I come round the Plane and I’ll do my best to sort you out”

Clare and I laughed, “Yeah right! Who’s going to just hop off the Plane here, I mean it’s not a fucking local bus”

Madeline, a tall young one with dark skin and a massive head of ragged energetic hair came through the cabin like a whirlwind, addressing those who were interested, and communicating with the ground through her mobile. To our astonishment a heap of people wanted to get off. So we sat there, with the cold fresh air coming in through the open cabin doors. A long queue of pale, over coated passengers formed along the isle with back packs and hand luggage, stacked up and waiting to get off.

Madeline; “ Those passengers who are getting off, your bags are now being taken off the plane, you can pick them up at the arrival hall, you may need to show your ticket tabs”

“What, Now we have to wait for their bags to get off” I felt like going up to Madeline and saying “couldn’t you have kept your mouth shut” we were getting cranky now.

Pilot; “ Well it turns out that the fuel guy was here, and just as he was about to fill us up, discovered that his tank was empty, so he’s gone back to get more fuel”

 

“Is he joking? I mean this wouldn’t happen on the Wexford Dublin Bus”

I decided to walk around, got talking to two flight attendants while looking through the open doors, one was a bald sixty something year old, he shared stories of insults that he received because of his age and lack of hair, one guy told him he looked like Kruschiev, another said, within earshot, is this old guy really working here? The Woman had put my guitar in the closet when I boarded.

“My husband plays guitar too, he has a six string and a twelve string”

“Great, everyone has more guitars than me, I really just use one”

“What’s a twelve string sound like?”

Before I could answer, she jumped in.

“It’s a very specialized sound, you can’t play songs on it, it’s just for expression”

This was a very unusual way to describe it in my book, but couldn’t be bothered arguing. Still he was a nice bloke, and puzzled by her description.

“Have you ever heard a Band called the Byrds?”

“Yes of course, and how kind of you to suppose I am too young to not know them”

“Well I always assume that everyone is too young to know these things, anyway the sound of their guitar is an electric twelve string”

“Oh, yes I know that sound”

 

The Captain; “Well the Fuel guy is back, this time with a tank full, and he is now filling us up, however; we have been on the ground for so long now in the snow, the wings have gotten iced up, so we need de-icing, as soon as all that is done, we will close up and fly back to JFK”

I crawled back to the seat, disheartened.

“Oh no” said Clare. “I’ve been through de-icing before, it takes fuckin ages”

Another hour passed, I went up to look out at the de-icing, there was a black man in blue over-alls washing the inside of one of the jet engines with a mop. I decided not to tell Clare ( a nervous flyer) about that.

We figured out that by the time we got off the Plane in New York we’d be travelling for over eighteen hours.

Eventually we got out of that big smelly hot thing, and just in time, it had run out of food and booze.

So after all that, you better be planning on coming to the Harp on March 12th! ! (if you are in NY that is?)

Of course I’ll still Xove you if you don’t.

Pierce Turner Ensemble (dignified pre ST Paddys Day) March 12th at The Harp (upstairs) 729 Third Avenue bet 45th and 46th-doors 5pm show at 6pm The Pierce Turner Ensemble with Fred Parcells and Andriette Redmann, Kath Green, John Rokosny (AKA Avon Faire-check out their debut album)

Only holds 60 call 212-818-0123-Food and booze served, with the lovely hosts; Bruce and Jim.

Irish Summer tour in the making; major announcement;

WHELANS !!!Dublin with the TABLES!!! For the first time in years at the top Indie club in Ireland-on Sunday June 25th at 8pm-this will be magic, tickets on sale imminently.

AND The Wexford St Iberius on Saturday June 17th – tix at the Wexford Arts Centre.

Also big news, BBC6 has been playing “Tantum Ergo” from Love cant Always Be Articulate” If you could drop a line of encouragement to this DJ I would really appreciate it. Stuart Maconie stuart.6music@bbc.co.uk

BBC – Music – Pierce Turner

The BBC artist page for Pierce Turner. Find the best clips, watch programmes, catch up on the news, and read the latest Pierce Turner interviews.

BBC.CO.UK

“Steven’s Preparing To leave” PT 2

                      My Father is the last one on the right, front row

“Steven’s Preparing To Leave” Part 2 (Tom in the morning) © Pierce Turner 2017

 

The seagulls began the new day with their usual tiffing over slop from the Dutch coal boats , they were my pre alarm. I was well used to their baying, they appeared to have little or no effect, other than to introduce the day, and prepare my ears for the official wake up call.

 

“Pee-arce!! It’s twenty a past eight”

 

I dreaded leaving my cosy bed for the cold linoleum floor. Ten minutes later my Mother called again, this time closer and softer over the rattling of delph on its way to the sitting room for Toms breakfast.

 

 

“PIERCE, this is my LAST time calling you mind” Her strong sinuous voice travelled like an arrow even when she was restrained, she was now only one floor away by the sitting room, the nearer she got, the more trouble I was in.

 

“That shop needs opening!!”

 

This one carried a warning tone with it. I opened the shop at nine, regardless of the fact that there were no customers until ten at the earliest. Sometimes the Band would have gigs hours away, and I wouldn’t get to bed until seven or so, it didn’t matter, I was expected to open the Record shop on time. My Mother didn’t fool around with this kind of stuff, her Father had been an entrepreneur, owning a Hotel and Bar on the South Main Street, apparently he was undisciplined about how he ran it, way too soft hearted with staff and the customers. The result was a well – loved man that ran his business into the ground because of unpaid credit, flexible time keeping and a one way till – the wrong way!

 

I never knew what was best to start with, once the pajamas were removed, the preferred thing would be to somehow put all my clothes on at once, but failing that impossibility, I usually went for the socks and underpants first, with the phrase “balls naked” always horrifying in the imagination; it was best to expel that image first. The under shirt, the shirt and the jumper will have stayed dressed within themselves on the chair, they would go on next with arms stretched high to avoid tearing. Shivering then with crocodile skin, the trousers and shoes got fitted while skipping towards the door in an effort to get away from that God forsaken ice box as quick as possible. Down that stairs I’d bolt two to three steps at a time, swinging around the bannisters, to the smell of heat and tea in the comfort of the brightly lit kitchen

 

My Mother was in the back Kitchen having brought the house to life.

 

“Good mornING” she exaggerated, glancing sideways with a glint of sarcasm”

 

“Ga MorNING”

 

I cut a large wedge off the Kelly’s Loaf and covered it with creamery butter, sat at the table with a cup of tea from the massive pot drawing on the Jubilee, a fair size wedge of sharp Wexford cheddar often sat in the centre of the table and the combination of a chunk of it sat upon the bread , washed down with the scalding hot tea was a very pleasing combination. My brother Paddy sat across from me having the same breakfast, we had little to say as we sat there in a pleasant enough daydream listening to the radio from the back kitchen. Normally we would have been out the night before playing in the Travellers, a semi professional band that we were in, but the gig had been cancelled because someone died at the Hall, so we were fresher than usual, he after his date, me after a good nights sleep. My Sister’s Breda and Bernie rushed around in their black cardigans and skirts putting on make-up in readiness for their shop assistance job at Healy and Collins, – one of Wexford’s large female clothing establishments. – And chatting about last nights dance. My Mother turned to me for assistance, being the youngest and in family employment.

 

“I’d say the heart is going crossway in Tom up there waiting for more tea, you might bring him a fresh pot Pierce will you?”

 

Tom sat at the good dining room table by the window, someone had pulled the lace curtains across so that he could have the view of the harbour, it wasn’t too sunny, a typical limbo day, not raining, not shining, but there was a Saturday bustle on the Quay, and looking down upon it from the second floor through the bay window entertained away the weather’s shortcomings. From there it felt like you could almost touch the cranes unloading coal while the Sailors shouted directives in Dutch, Tom was mesmerized. It was certainly not a dull view while eating breakfast. The Cat seemed to have taken to him too; she sat patiently by his feet watching what he watched. He had opted for boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast, the cat was partial to boiled eggs and was hoping that Tom would read her mind and accommodate that pleasure, she was an expert at exerting pressure with inaction; she’d put Mahatma Gandhi to shame.

 

“Morning Tom, I’ve brought you a fresh pot of tea” He turned stiffly in my direction.

 

“Good man, thank you kindly”

 

He seemed quieter than the night before, maybe he wasn’t a morning person?

 

“Are you ok for everything now?”

 

“Yes”

 

(What? no “young man” or “good Sir.” Hmm!)

 

I took the empty teapot back to the kitchen where my Mother was voicing a complaint to me Da as he sat at the table eating his late Saturday breakfast, reading the Irish Independent.
“Well there was no mention of it last night, and none this morning either”

 

He crackled the paper and looked up from under his ill-fitting glasses – gripped to his head above his ears. He was studying form! He backed the horses on Saturday, was probably figuring out how to back three or four horses on a four shilling bet, a frugal weekend extravagance. He would often run me up to the bookie office with the ticket, a very complex cross plot, if the first horse won, the winnings would go on the second, if that horse won it would all go on to the third, and so on, the chances of them all co-operating with each other were slim. I don’t recall any big winnings. It really didn’t matter. He was working off whispered tips from his mates. The whole experience of it, win or lose, fed into their conversation during the post-Mass Sunday pint.

 

“Is that so? I mean to say, do he know the arrangement?” He said half annoyed.

 

“Yes he does, I told him when I showed him the room”

My Mother made a point of speaking properly, and my Father pointedly refused to, he was a Wexford man, an ordinary one, it was important to speak like that.

 

He crackled the paper again, tightened his cheeks and squinted out the kitchen window to the hall as if to send his appraisal all the way up to the sitting room. He didn’t like having strangers in his house; he had come from a quiet unadventurous family on the outskirts of Town, the polar opposite to my Mothers industries roots down here in the heart of the action. But he was protective of her dreams and schemes; no one was going to make a fool of her either.

 

Tom’s soft footsteps were heard descending the stairs at a steady deliberate pace, my Mother rose on her toes and leaned over to look towards the sound. There was never a dull moment with my Mother, I had thought she was so enamored with Tom, now all of that was history, his charming company, his beautiful strong but sensitive touch on the piano, his apparent classiness had all become fading speculation. Our lodger’s final review would be determined by his next move. My Father still held the paper like he was reading it, but was now in a state of readiness as he scrutinized the dark hall, still squinting. The main front door had been hooked open so that the sun could brighten the hall through the secondary glass doors. But the backlight made it only harder to see who was coming in or going out. He folded the paper as he walked, quickly turning the doorknob and dipped under the coalhole to the bottom of the stairs. He let himself be known with a perfunctory giggle as he smiled at Tom who was about to land on the ground floor.

 

“Ha-teh , g’morning to ye I say” At times like this my Father sounded like a highway man from Robin Hood with his antiquated terminology

 

“aye, up and at em for the hard day ahead, ha?”

 

Tom curtsied with a raised hat.

“Oh yes indeed, you must be the man of the house, thank you so much for your hospitality. Please give my gratitude to your good lady”

 

“Oh definitely, I’m sure she’ll be delighted, Gob a man, shur, I dare say you’ll be back this way again”

 

Tom’s grandeur of action and speech was starting to affect me Da now too. He was opening his mouth more and broadening his words to their proper width: agAIN instead of the more Wexford, ag-IN.

 

“If I am, I will certainly make sure to avail of your wonderful hospitality once more”

 

Steadily walking towards the street he was now pressing down the handle of the glass door with one hand while he gripped his small leather suitcase with the other. My Father close behind with his glasses in one hand and paper under his arm.

 

“What’s this I was goING to say boss, are you okay about the tally?”

 

My mother and I were now standing with the kitchen door open, mouths agape, wondering how me Da was going to deal with this one, knowing that he was uncomfortable with language at the best of time, now he was talking to a master of the tongue, how long would he beat around the bush for?

 

“The tally? Yes everything should be in order I believe”

 

“Well, the Missus, that’s Mrs. Turner, siz dere’s some class of arrears to be settled”

 

Now me Da had abandoned the nervous giggle, aware that there was some urgency, yer man was nearly out the door!

 

“Oh of course, would you like my address so that you can forward me an invoice?”

 

“What’s this I was go-ing to say, it’d be nearly as easy to fix it up now, I suppose, ye know yerself. As they say, a bird in the hand is as good as two in the bush”

 

‘”Pardon me?”

 

“will! The gineral policy as far I know, is to pay up before ye leave the primises like, ye know what I mean to say?”

 

He had gone around the bush now and was on the other side, had stopped smiling and was making it clear that this was no nonsense. Suddenly Tom seemed aware that me Da, in spite of his humility and verbal insecurity was relentless in pursuit of seeing things right. Me Da was a man of his word and usually left others to their own devices, but he wasn’t too keen on injustice, or bullshitters. Although he wasn’t easily goaded into violence, it was clear that he would be a formidable foe.

 

“Oh of course, dearie me, I am so sorry for the misunderstanding, what is the damage then Sir?”

 

‘As far as I know it’s twenty one shillins all togedder”

 

Tom put down the case and pulled two notes and a shilling coin from his pocket, the exact amount had been in the ready there. He counted it into my Fathers hand, shoving the crumpled money into his pocket my Father offered his hand.

 

“Thanks very much so boss, sure safe travels, wherever you’re off to”

Once that unpleasantness was put to one side, me Da’s soft side surfaced, he pushed his hands through his tussled Saturday hair and held his elbow high for a moment while he appeared to empathise, wondering perhaps about Tom’s destination.

 

“Yes indeed”said Tom

 

“Wherever I’m off to?”

 

I still wasn’t sure where he was going, his accent was not from around our area, his case was so small it suggested expediency; I had so many questions for him, but we had been so overwhelmed with the pleasure of his inquisitiveness, our curiosity had been blanked into resignation. Now we would never know, and although annoyed that he tried to skip out without paying, it seemed wrong to think of him as bad, I had a feeling that I would be a fool for his ilk for the rest of my life. And that life needed him.

Steven’s Preparing To leave

Steven’s Preparing To Leave” (Had to cut this into 2 parts) Part 1

 

Why beat around the bush, when you can go right through it? Of course if you go around it, there would be less damage to it, and if you go through it you get to the other side quicker. My father Jem, had a habit of taking a long time to get to the point, especially if the point was unpleasant. He was a strong physical presence, tall with broad shoulders, never violent, but when someone picked his pocket at a hurling match in Dublin he just turned around and decked him with one punch. So it wasn’t cowardice that made him beat around the bush, it was more like civility, lack of verbal confidence and the desire to make his point without doing too much damage to someone else’s.

 

My Mother put our three-story house on the quay to every commercial use she could muster. If there was a major event in town – like a hurling match up in the park – that drew a rash of visitors, she would fill the ground floor shop with long forms and tables, put a big sign outside “Tea and Sandwiches served all day” borrow some massive tea pots, bribe my Sisters and brothers to become waiters with the promise of pocket money. We were the crew, it was instilled in us that we should be capable of taking part in assisting with any task, I don’t remember ever minding, we were integrated and excited. That evening we would all marvel at the money lying on the kitchen table as we separated the coins from the notes. Inevitably she would reward the house with something afterwards, pebble dashing the front e or fitting new weatherproof windows facing the windy river Slaney. I often crossed that river for a walk if the day was pleasant, taking in the lunchtime music from the BBC on my tiny transistor Radio. Our house was the first home in view when crossing the bridge back into Town; it surprised me to find pride at the sight of scaffolding erected in the front for renovations, it hadn’t dawned on me that it was necessary or registered that I cared. But it was another lesson in the power of action. Life around my Mother was exciting.

 

Because the house had five bedrooms she managed to make two of them available for paying guests. One room had three single beds and the other a double. When we had full time residence like the three girls from the telephone exchange, payment was never an issue. But when we had one nighters for bed and Breakfast: the business was lacking an orderly system of imbursement. If someone did stay, had slept in the bed and consumed their breakfast, but still managed to avoid the subject of payment, the responsibility fell to my Father at the eleventh hour to exact the twenty-one shillings from them before they were gone, with neither hide nor tail of them to be seen again. There was no such as thing an ID card at the time, and even in hotels you were not required to give proof of identification. I always wondered where these people came from and where they were going. How did they happen upon our little B&B sign swinging and creaking on the windy Quay?

 

One dispensable Friday night I reclined in the cozy Kitchen , hands dug deep into my pockets like I was searching for something, when the doorbell buzzed. My Mother looked up from under glasses at the clock and wondered out loud who that could be at twenty minutes to ten?

“Pierce, you might go answer that will ye”

 

She was in the middle of crocheting a large Swan, which she had planned on hardening with sugar water to make it stand up, turning it into a fruit bowl. The idea fascinated me and I pondered the craziness of it as I ran up the dark hallway, flicking the light before answering the door to the silhouette of a rain soaked stranger. He shielded his face from the wind as he held on to his hat, straining to be heard over the howling wind off the River.

 

“Pardon me for calling at such a late hour, I just happened to be passing when I noticed the sign overhead”

 

With the other hand holding a small leather suitcase he nodded in the direction of our overhead B&B sign.

“Are there any vacancies in the house tonight? He grimaced through a pleading smile.

 

He was wearing a green oil coat that had an extra flap on the back covering his shoulders, the kind that you could only buy in select Men’s Boutiques frequented by the upper class, separating them by garment from the rest of us. He removed his leather hat to reveal an orderly quiff pushed back in the way of a man who was secure with his own fashion. And although he was wet from the rain, he appeared like he had not been subjected to it.

 

“ Oh come in and I’ll ask for you, horrible night isn’t it?”

 

‘Oh gosh it’s fierce” He stamped his feet on the mat and shook his hands as if to rid them of excess rain.

 

I ran down to the kitchen, remembering to dip by the coalhole where the ceiling lowered. My Mother sat up more alert and ready for action. I spoke in a low voice, but loud enough for him to hear me.

 

“Mammy, there’s a man out there and he wants to know, do we have a room for the night”

 

I believe she could sense from the way I said it that I was imparting a tacit signal that he was no scallywag. She put down the Swan and smarted out to the hall like a woman on a mission, there was no need for her to dip at the coalhole. Once she got a look at him, her tone of voice altered to suit his upper class appearance.

 

“Oh heloooo, she smiled reservedly through pursed lips, God that’s a dreadful night isn’t it, can I help you?” Her expression negated any real doubt, she knew what he wanted and he was going to be welcome.

 

“Good evening Madam, a thousand apologies for arriving at your door so late on this horrid evening, I wondered if you had any accommodation available at all”

 

“Well we hadn’t planned on any one arriving tonight, and there are no reservations, but we couldn’t possibly turn you away in this weather, sure come inside for a cup of tea while we arrange the room”

 

He followed her down the hall as she effortlessly cruised under the coalhole dip, I could hear his head ram into the ceiling from the kitchen where I was putting the kettle on, a loud dull thud, I awaited the reaction, he may have been too aggrieved to speak? I knew how painful it was, having experienced it upon reaching that altitude myself initially. Because the floor came up at that point while the ceiling sloped down, collision had the effect of pushing your head back and down all at once, creating skeletal damage to accompany the lump at the crest of the head, as well as humiliation, even without a witness! He had all of the aforementioned and the later to deal with in front of my Mother maybe you could add anger to that too – for not being warned until afterwards.

 

“Oh that BLOODY ceiling, I always forget to warn people, are you alight?”

 

“Oh gosh Mam if I was to get a shilling for every time I hit my head in a Georgian Household”

 

I was very impressed that he gave our old house the dignity of a period in architecture. Granted the most comfortable armchair in the warmth of the Kitchen, he sat there unconsciously rubbing his head and neck. After laying the table, I made him a sandwich with Wexford Cheddar and Kelly’s white loaf to go along with the tea, the Irish always have to have something with the Tea, unlike our Brothers and Sisters across the Sea. He talked about the heat that our Jubilee cooker produced and waxed lyrically on the crocheted Swan, he bent over and looked at it on the chair almost afraid to touch, in case he might stain the pure white yarn.

 

“Gosh it’s remarkable, the work of a true artist, there is no doubt about it”

 

I had been listening to The White Album by the Beatles on the turntable, telling him that I was in a Band and had a gig the next night, he jumped to the conclusion that Paul McCartney was me singing “Martha My Dear” it was a while before he gave me the conversational space to disappoint him, and myself.

 

After the sandwich had been washed down by strong black tea my Mother – having made up his room – invited him to the sitting room on the second floor where the fire was lighting and the T.V available if he liked. This was the fanciest and largest room in the house; generally we kept our guests to this room. His eyes lit up when he saw the upright piano sitting there open and ready to play.

 

“Oh gosh you have a Piano too Mrs Turner” We had learned each others names now, he insisted that we call him Tom.

 

“Oh God yes, the house is full of musicuans, and my Son Pierce never leaves it alone, breaking strings too, mind you” She threw me pretended annoyance.

 

“ Are you musical your self?”

 

“Oh I live for music Mrs Turner, it’s one of life’s great pleasures, would you mind terribly if I played something?”

 

“Oh Lord no, we would be delighted”

 

He put his strong weathered hands on the keys and played a beautiful familiar melody, a semi classical piece with all the required Tchaikovskian flourishes, he had a gentle romantic touch and we found ourselves glued to the seats enchanted by the pleasure of hearing a stranger caress our old Piano.

 

My Mother, held her hand on her breast.and pined breathlessly.

 

“Soo deep is the Night, uh, I declare to God… NOW I !(pause)… Have ALL-ways loved that melody, HOW on Gods earth do THEY do it? “

 

When she spoke, it was highly expressive and impassioned almost like she was singing, emphasizing a point by raising the volume on certain words or letters, with a fluid musical cadence, rising up and down from chest to falsetto. For a moment she almost seemed disappointed with herself as she let the beauty of it sink in.  It was so ingrained in me that she was a Mother – being the youngest of her seven children – It surprised me to see her lapse into a romantic daydream like a young girl in love. She had always said that there was nothing like a mans touch on the Piano “so gentle and strong”

 

 

We moved over to the blazing fire to watch the Late Late Show, my Mother sat in her armchair leaving him the sofa.. He asked a lot of questions, and my Mother being not the slightest bit secretive, replied with disarming honesty, an endearing quality she may have employed unconsciously to encourage rapport. He was happy to take in all the family truths and was quick to remember names and descriptions; this allowed him to refer to freshly produced names like a long held friend. My Mother insisted that we have another cup of tea, with cream crackers this time (a Friday night treat) and as I was descending the stairs to make it, I overheard her leaping to the Piano to sing her newest composition “When hawthorn Blooms” When I returned with the tea and the crackers, he had progressed to a new level of comfort, his arms spread across the sofa, legs outstretched with feet crossed, goading my Mother about her enormous talents and humility. Her lips were even more pursed now than before and she was flushed with delight at this wondrous turn out to an ordinary evening. She relished nothing more than company of good manners and conversation; in fact it’s all she really asked for. She didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t smoke. Taking away those two vices left her with a lot of room for crafts, composing, conversation and her newest hobby, landscape painting, which she did from magazine photos, using a frayed matchstick instead of a brush. If she didn’t know how to do something, she would teach herself from a tutorial book, if she wanted to do anything she just did it. Tom – a compelling mystery – could see this in her and knew her like only a well-travelled man could. She was trapped in a small Town marriage and possibly that was the only thing that separated her from being a celebrated woman of the world? He knew the correct questions to pose in order to release her hidden ambitions. She even surprised me with the plans that she harboured. I never knew she was planning on booking the Cinema Palace for a concert of her songs to be performed by a Welsh Choir? Tom wasn’t even remotely surprised, and if it was only a plan in its infancy when she brought it up, his encouragement had brought it a great deal closer to the planning stage. Knowing my Mother she could be at the writing pad finalising the arrangements the next day. For someone like her a little encouragement was never wasted. She thrived on his charm and encouragement. If he was around her for a year she would be running the country. They continued to chat until the TV played the National Anthem behind footage of our glorious land; they even discussed those hackneyed images with enthusiasm. I loved to see my Mother like this, and was content to just observe it all with an amused eye. But I wondered about Tom, where was he from? What did he do, why was he here on a Friday night, was he married, if he was, where were his never mentioned family? I found myself staring at him, studying him. He sat upright in the sofa from his slouched comfort, planting his hands on his knees with a conclusive gesture.

 

“Well now I must thank you for a wonderful evening Mrs Turner”

 

“Oh NOT AT ALL Tom, thank YOU”

 

He stood up and took a glance out the tall windows past the lace curtains.

 

“Gosh the river is looking angry tonight”

 

My Mother stood behind him on her toes, peaking out absent-mindedly.

 

“That’s the Spring tide, sometimes it blows the woodenworks up and comes RIGHT across the ROAD, very RAREly now, but just the same it CAN happen” The silver tipped waves of the Slaney slammed angrily against the Bridge. The moon managed to reach them between the passage of bleak clouds

 

“Isuppose it depends on the wind Missus Turner, does it?”

 

“Oh God yes, sometimes it’s as calm as a pond out there. Would you believe, in all the time we’ve lived here, it ONLY came in the front door ONCE! And I NEver want to see it again I can tell you, but there are people who live MUCH further away from the River that get flooded ALL the time, it goes RIGHt up to their mantelpiece! RIGHT UP!”

 

‘Flooding does fierce damage, you need very good insurance Mrs Turner”

 

“INSURANCE! A lot use that’ll do Tom I needn’t tell you, it doesn’t matter what we apply for in this house, our insurance man finds SOME REASON why we’re not covered” Now she pursed her lips in annoyance at the thought.

 

Talking the round faced alarm clock off the mantelpiece she began winding it up.

 

“Do you need a shout in the morning Tom?”

 

She called across the room.

 

“ Ah nine o‘clock will be grand Missus Turner” he reached for the door handle and took one more admiring glance around the room.

 

“Once again, thank you for a very entertaining evening. God bless”

 

“Good night now and God bless”

 

After he closed the door, she took her rosary beads out of her handbag and knelt down at the armchair, I said goodnight and went up to my unheated bedroom at the top of the house wasting no time getting beneath the blankets to begin the process of warming the bed with my own shiver.

 

I am never sure if it’s better to talk to myself or to go blank when in pursuit of sleep. Well if the truth is said, I know now that silence is best, but the debate is always there with the great temptation of some entertaining recollections, a very pleasant way to drift off, if you can. That night I was young and had no issues with sleep, so there was no debate at all, I had to look back over the evening in detail, I had to scrutinize Tom, imagine his story.

 

“He appears to suggest some kind of opulence, but even before the suggestion gets a chance to give birth, it’s a non starter. If he had money he would be staying at one of the Hotels surely. And how could he not know that young fellas like me living in the back of beyond, could NEVER make a recording like the Beatles White Album.

Where has he been, where is he from?  He’s not that old, maybe thirty, yet he seems me Mammy’s age. Why wasn’t he in the Pub tonight? This is Friday night, ALL the men are in the pubs!”

 

As if on cue, I could hear my Father coming in from the Pub himself. He would never miss Friday and Saturday night in the pub with his friend’s playing cards. My Mother didn’t join him, seldom did any of the wives. He would go into the Kitchen now have a cup of Bovril with two slices of home made brown bread, his usual nightcap. He was a cheerful drinker but during the nightcap stage he could get melancholic and try to relay the horror he experienced losing his Mother to the Spanish Flu when he was only seven.

 

“Wonder what me Da’ll think of Tom? He wasn’t backwards in coming forward, he didn’t mind asking for a hot water bottle. Jesus that was beautiful Piano playing. There musta been a Piano in his house. Is he going on the Boat?”

 

We were right next to the North Rail Station where he could get the Train to Rosslare Harbour a mere 12 miles away. – And from there the Boat to Fishguard Wales,

 

“He’s one of them Rugby player looking fellas, a suggestion of a broken nose, and the schooling that comes with it. Like the fellas in Town here that hang out with the Doctors Solicitors and teachers, beating the up scale Women offa them.

Where are those women from? I don’t know any of them, well I Know Wendy McCourt from around the corner, the Chemists, but she’s the only ONE. That other one she hangs out with, the one with the short black hair is gorgeous too, I wouldn’t even know how to speak to her, Wendy tries to encourage me but I’m paralyzed in her presence. I bet Tom would know how to speak to them! He would charm the knickers offa them. Jasus it’s cold out there tonight, listen to that howling wind? Just imagine there are fishing boats out there, with men resting in the galley after a hard days work, having tea and brown bread by the stove, maybe playing cards while the black waves bash the bow, and low foreboding clouds mask the faint moon”

 

I imagined looking through their little port hole lights to see them in their cosy nest so close to the elements. They would be family men with a Home on shore, and on a night off they’d go for a pint just like me Da. But now there out on the dark Sea alone, working on a different schedule, living from a different harvest, flirting with danger, capable if need be, to sail off to Spain or Scandinavia with their mates,beds, pots and pans.   On a calm night- from this window – you can see their tiny lights out on the black horizon.

 

“Tom seems at sea, like he is not fixed anywhere, I can’t nail him down, he’s very pleasant company. Of course after tonight I will probably never see him again, wonder who’s Piano he’ll play tomorrow?”

 

STEVENS PREPARING TO LEAVE from the CD “Angelic Language”

 

Steven’s preparing to leave

He has to go to the sea

He’s been so mesmerized

By glistening port hole lights

Along the horizon line

Imagining the life inside

Steven believes in he blue

Nothing but water and the roof

Just like a burial ground

Where the mourners are gone

And there’s nothing around

But the silence and the corpse best friend

The weathered stone

And the massive wild deep sky

He has to leave while he can

Otherwise he could lose his chance

He knows he’s blessed with this

A curious need to leave the nest

Before the heart inside his chest

Becomes too old to experiment

He wants to conquer his fears

Counting the mounting years

He wants to face the place

Where nothing is but thoughtlessness

A bed of sea

And a roof of stars

There to be until he feels

At peace with the dark

 

Oh darkness

I know you are my friend

And in the end

I’ll be with you alone

I knew you every night

And I knew you in the womb

You wait beyond the light

Inside my tomb

And I know I have to kiss you

Before our wedding day

And I know I have to kiss you

Every night

And I know I have to love you

Before I let you go

Then I’ll laugh at grey dark clouds

Then I’ll see the setting sun with you

And know darkness

© Pierce Turner, from the album Angelic Language. (part 2 next week from NY)

A Day without speaking

                              I always wanted a toilet in the kitchen

Six days before my gig in Glasgow last week I came to the realisation that my voice was not ticketyboo (English term for not right) I had gotten through the Christmas bronchitis by a hairs breath, with a lot of cautious behavior; ie. Not much drinking and as little talking as possible, talking is the worst thing for our voices, no, actually whispering is even worse. But that was behind me then, and I should’ve been handily on the mend. I googled my new symptoms to see if I could fish out a clue, and came away with the conclusion that I might have laryngitis? Apparently it was going around, my Sister in Law said that her grandchild Emily even had it, aged six! This Town has been a bag of bugs this Winter, everyone says it’s not cold enough. No morning frost on the grass to kill the germs. There was only one immediate cure; stop talking. On Saturday night I broke the news to Clare, I wasn’t going to talk the next day at all. I thought she’d be happy, but she kind of groaned, probably because it seemed so nutty, or perhaps because it would make Sunday even more like SUNDAY. But I was adamant, I had to get my voice back to speed, it was so depressing to sing like this. I had tried doing this before and didn’t go through with it, this time I would prepare. Before I went to bed I put my notebook and a pen on the bedside table.

 

Clare awakened early the next morning and in an effort to let me lie in, slipped quietly out to read in the sitting room. It musta been eleven when I opened my eyes. I could hear Clare talking to Albert.

 

“I saw you looking at that big ginger pussycat Albert, is that why you’ve been asking to go out a lot? I think it is! I bet your jealous, that poor pussy was minding his own business”

 

This moment of lying there listening gave me time to remember before I forgot, that I was not to speak. I reached out for the book and pen, Clare heard me stir and peeped in around the door. By then I had already written my first words in the book (my first day of silence, since I had learned to make sound btw!)

 

“Saw the ginger cat, he was afraid of Albert” I drew a cats face with whiskers next to it.

 

Clare’s face lit up with amusement, I had scored big time. Not only did it make the silence funny, I was also on her favourite subject; animals! I had not mentioned seeing that big ginger cat until now, and she was amused that Albert was guarding the premises. Clare mimicked Albert’s expression by raising her shoulders up around her ears and pushing her nose forward mocking a threat.

 

“He’s all ssshhzzzz” she said as she made the face.

 

“Minding the Garden….I know, he thinks that’s his job”

 

It dawned on me that writing down stuff, could be funny.

 

I wrote another note in book and tapped on its hard cover to get Clare’s attention.

 

“What’s for breakfast?”

 

“Are you taking the piss now” she teased. I realized now that I could ask for things on paper easier than by mouth.

 

“I’m going to pop over to Pettit’s mall to get the Sunday Papes, do you want anything while I’m there?”

 

I scribbled hastily;

“Can you get me three cooked sausages and some B&W Pudding”

 

Clare turned the book towards her and wrote down “No” I wrote down “Cunt!” and the two of us fell around laughing. I grabbed the book and wrote down.

“Tomatoes”

Once again she was looking the other way, so I clapped my hands. Clare took the book and wrote down.

 

“I am going to TK Max to get a T Shirt and can go to Pettits after!”

 

“For fucks sake, that will take ages” I wrote

 

“ I wont be that long, I know exactly what I want, I’ll be in and out” she said with her mouth.

 

“Good” I wrote down.

 

She picked up Albert and put him on the bed next to me, he started kneading the silk eiderdown (the house is full of antiques) he was purring profusely and seemed to enjoying this silent communication. After all he uses this method successfully all the time, to great effect actually now that I think about it. If he wants to eat and I’m ignoring him, he will start scratching the good sofa. He gets what he wants by using signals; if he wants to go out he’ll sit quietly by the door and just stare at me. Because I know he can’t speak, I’m often on the look out for what he’s up to. Clare didn’t exactly get to this level with me though. I often had to bang the table or tip her on the shoulder so that she would see my notes. Sometimes I just let things go, they weren’t worth the trouble. Of course then there are no arguments, no corrections or disagreements, just vital stuff in Pigeon English. I have the book right before me now, another advantage, there is a record of what you say! (good or bad??) In the book there are things like.

“will need Pounds for S-land”

“Wallet? Spose I couldn’t find the bloody passport wallet, men can never find anything.

“Do I need a Scottish long distance number to call Glasgow-in Glasgow?” I am stupid about this kind of thing. The answer is yes btw.

The next morning I published my new Monday Morning Milk on time, I had the whole of Sunday to write non stop. As usual very few people responded, but I know you are out there reading this, every where I go people casually mention something they’ve read in here, just recently a friend from Australia said so. Who has time to respond?

My voice was much cleaner the next day, I could see that it paid off. It wasn’t perfect, but a lot better. Through the rest of the week I still tried to use it sparingly. I hardly spoke a word on the way to Dublin for the Glasgow flight. As soon as I got there a Taxi came for us (Mike Raftery and myself) and whisked us to the Glasgow Concert Hall. The place was hopping with a beehive of activity, the vibe of the Celtic Connections Festival was omni. The young lady at the front table gave us our badges and meal vouchers, and took us to the exhibition hall where the Scottish quartet were waiting to rehearse by a prepared electric piano. I spoke aloud for the first time in ages (I had to for Jasus sake) explaining that I would not be singing out, just enough to guide them through. They were extremely sweet and assured me that they were sympathetic. I almost forgot that I was in Scotland, I looked at these four lovely women with their gracious smiles, and remembered to forget the rest. I gave them each their book of music, and we began to play, it was perfect, they were superb! What a relief.

The show in the Tron Theatre was completely sold out, and a lot of people even flew over from Ireland. My niece Jennifer and her husband Diran came up from Cobham. It was comforting to see them all in the front. The time had come to unleash my voice now, hopefully it would be alright, no more taking care. The string quartet had not really heard me sing the songs properly, so it all unfolded before their eyes in the same way as it did to any new comers in the audience, which made for an extra magical atmosphere. The voice held up well, considering I could barely talk six days earlier, all because I didn’t talk at all, five days ago.

 

Not talking was different, funny things happen, you should give it a go.

love (to hear from you) Pierce xx

 

I will be at The fabulous Seamus Ennis Centre Naul Fingal Co Dublin Saturday Feb 4th –last date this tour.

Is that an E or a G? (More American exploits with Turner and Kirwan of Wexford)

                 The Tron Theatre Glasgow Friday January 20th, 2017-The Celtic Connections Festival

Communication was a major problem for me when I came to America first – especially on the phone. My friend and roommate Bob Schwenk from Bay Ridge always found it hilarious when he witnessed my desperate attempts to communicate my name over the wire.

“Pee-ersss TuRRneR” Trying so hard to emphasize the consonants that my tongue was in a knot.

Irish people tend not to open their mouths too much when they speak. And where I come from it’s almost a badge of honour to be seen withholding your clarity during conversation. It’s important to be ordinary. And trying to communicate is fancy!

“A rale Wexford accent ain’t supposed to be clay-er”

So I brought some of that stuff to America with me. No one could understand a word that I said at first. It seems to me that I got so used to no-one understanding what I was saying, I began to misunderstand what people were saying to me. There were numerous incidents where I misread what was being said; to such a ludicrous extent that the sayer appeared to suspect derision. Usually I wouldn’t cop on until they were gone beyond apologetic reach. As I said, I believe that I was so nervous of being misunderstood, that I began to try too hard, causing me to elaborate on a simple statement. Small things; like a guy came up to me after a loud Major Thinkers gig in a crowded venue in the East Village called the UK Club – after you play a gig it’s not that uncommon for people to approach you about joining the band – saying things like “that drummer is not right for you guys, I’m much better man!” or, “Yo , do you need a roadie?” On the night in question a bloke came up to me and said   “Do you have a lightman?”

“No, actually we don’t! Do you do lights?”

“What????” With a look that suggested I was being a smart ass.

When he left, Hammy, the Major Thinkers drummer fell around laughing.

“I think he just wanted a light for his cigarette”

He had disappeared into the crowd by then. I mean, we really did need a lightman! But that wasn’t the worst one. By far the biggest mishap occurred at an Irish wedding in the Bronx. The groom was a big ‘Turner and Kirwan of Wexford’ fan and managed to talk his partner into having us play at the reception. The only thing smart about his choice was that we were not expensive by wedding band standards. Wedding bands are expensive for a good reason, they know all the reception rituals, they can play everything from the top 50 to evergreens, including standards from a host of different cultures. It’s a business, and they expect to be paid extremely well. A good wedding band could charge somewhere in the vicinity of three thousand dollars. I think we charged about three hundred. I believe he gave us a bonus of two hundred, we were so pleased, he wondered out loud if we were hard up?

“Ah no, but just the same, you’re a decent skin and we really appreciate it!”

I suppose we knew that we were doing it for too little and had hoped he would do the right thing. We left a lot to supposition. It was some kind of a bare bones function hall, nothing too fancy. We brought our own Shure sound system and set it up in the corner near the entrance. We were a two man band in the truest sense, in that we were really loud and made the sound of a full ensemble. People were known to stand outside and say “how many musicians are in that band, do you think?” Usually the answer was three or four. Larry played bass drum and guitar while singing, and I played clavinet (electric piano) mini-Moog and hi-hat while singing. The drum and hi-hat were mike’d and the guitar and piano were over-driven, it could be a helluva roar.

So there we were in the corner setting up. I had to tune the piano almost every night. The clavinet has actual strings inside it on an iron frame with pick-ups. The beauty of this was that I could make it feed back into my fender tube amp, giving it that Jimi Hendrix effect. But when it was moved around and thrown in and out of a van, the strings would shift and slip out of tune. Each string had a screw at the end of it that I would turn with a short fat screwdriver. So there I was with the piano plugged into a strobe tuner tweaking away on the strings, getting them up to pitch, it was tedious and slow.

We had arrived at this bizarre line-up a couple of years previous while we were doing a summer residence down in Cape Cod. The owner of the place had seen us playing at one of his other places in Lowell Massachusetts and thought that we might be interesting to have on before the main attraction at his club on the beachfront. The place in Lowell was a two hundred capacity folk rock club where bands did residencies for a month at a time playing mostly covers. We were kind of folky at the time and sang Simon and Garfunkel stuff mixed with Cat Stevens etc. I can’t say if we drew the crowd or if it was just a popular place, but I know that it went well and there was a lot of young girls there. I remember once, during a break, kissing some young one at a table and seeing Larry at the far end of the room kissing another. The accents were going over big time with the locals! We must have done well enough there if he offered us the Cape Cod gig. We were absolutely elevated, getting a gig at the Cape during the summer was sort of big time for a cover band, not to mention three months work with bed and board included. We had put our originals on the back burner for now, until we found our feet.

His club at the Cape turned out to be a very different scene than we expected. The headlining band was typical of what most of the clubs down there were presenting. A top notch cover band from Boston, they could re-produce Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” to perfection – the singer had a range like Robert Plant, the guitarist thought he was Jimmy Page and had learned every single note down to minute detail, even having the double neck guitar with twelve strings on one for the opening section. The keyboard player had a massive A.R.P Synth with a patch bay and numerous wave controllers, just like Keith Emerson. Naturally he could reproduce “Lucky Man” by ELP and the recorder part in “Stairway to Heaven”.

They were loud and powerful with a full light show and a stadium size sound system. We were the mis-match of the century. And the owner didn’t beat around the bush about telling us that he had made a mistake giving us the gig. Everyday we began playing at 3 p.m. to a few stragglers at the bar and a slowly filling room. He hoped that we would draw people in at that time, allowing him to start making money before the main attraction. This would also guarantee them a full house when they began, which would make them look good too. Unfortunately the crowd didn’t know what to make of us with our little folky sound. We turned the Irish charm up to Disney level, but even that didn’t seem to work. The main band liked us though and was beginning to feel sorry for us, we told them that we were afraid we might get sacked.

One day when we were preparing to play, the drummer told us that he had an idea that might up our sound a couple of notches. He explained that our sound was too small and if we were going to compete in this environment we would need more oomph! He had some old spare drums that we could have if we like. He suggested one of us could play Bass Drum and the other Hi-Hat! Without further ado (and without rehearsal) he put the Bass drum in front of Larry’s right foot and the Hi-hat under my left. Off we went. Some songs we decided were better with, and some without. Clearly the idea had potential. It was exciting, and God forbid, maybe even had some originality. The next day we bought two drum stools and tied our new additions to the legs to stop them running away as we beat the living daylights out of them. Then we put microphones on them. Now we started to get louder. I started overdriving the piano and Larry got a fuzz box for his Ovation. Because of this we managed to hold on to the gig for the rest of the summer, not cos we were blowing them away, more because we were such good triers. By the time we reached that wedding in the Bronx we were creating such a roar that we sounded like Mott The Hoople. One audience member in Boston’s Inman’s Square Men’s Club heckled. “Turn down for Christ’s sake, you sound like a Boeing jet!” I suggested he go down the road and find a James Taylor imitator. Jon Moss, the Boston Globe critic, gave us a rave for the same gig. Apparently he arrived late, we were ripping into the climactic instrumental of “Travelling People” our most “Boeing Jet” moment, he had never heard two people sound like that. He gave us a critic’s choice the next time we played there.

The guests were starting to arrive at the reception; I recognized a certain style about them and even knew some of them from seeing them at other people’s gigs when we were out on the tare. I had a very bad habit in those days of pre-supposing what the audience would think of us before we’d even started. I decided that they were a straight looking Irish and Irish American crowd. And whether it was real or imagined I cannot say, but I believed that they were aghast upon realizing that we, were the band. There they were in their Sunday best, while Larry and I were in denim jeans and T-shirts with shoulder length hair. I imagined them negatively confiding.

“Please tell me they’re not the band?”

The tension was building up in me now, my shoulders were up around my ears when this very straight looking older bloke came over to me and pointed at me.

“Is that a he or a she?”

This drove the fume that had been building up inside me to take complete control of my mind.

“Would you like me to take my prick out and show it to you?” I snapped.

Well that soon shut him up. He was absolutely astonished and walked away shaking his head from side to side looking dazed. Larry turned to me and said.

“What did you think he said?”

“You heard him! He pointed at me and said is that a he or a she?”

“No, I think he was pointing at the piano and said, is that an E or a G?”

I looked out into the once empty room, now filling up with guests arriving from church. Mulling over what Larry just said, it felt more and more like it was plausible that I had heard wrong. At first I had jumped to my defense in the heat of the moment.

“Gimme a break, why would he ask me what note I was playing?”

But then I thought about that guy’s demeanor

“He was a little bit harmless looking to be leashing out insults”

I kept tuning the piano.

“In fact, he coulda been a silly Billy type with a miniscule knowledge of music, trying to show off and be all pally with the band – is that an E or a G? -He was smiling after all! And my reply was; do you want me to take my prick out and show it to you? JESUS CHRIST!! He must think I’m a really nasty bastard to respond like that to such an innocent, albeit, stupid question”

Larry said that we should start soon everyone was in. Thinking it would be best to start off easy, we gently tested the water with Tom Paxton’s “The last thing on my mind” This crowd was up for it, they immediately hit the dance floor. I saw yer man going past doing some kind of a foxtrot, he was moving fast. I tried to get his attention while projecting the most congenial smile I could muster from my drum stool. But he seemed afraid to look at me. While we were playing he went by several times with many different partners, he obviously liked to dance.  And even though I am aware that I was displaying some paranoid tendencies, I still could swear he was retelling the story every time I saw him, nodding his head in my direction and exclaiming something to his dance partner with an astonished open-mouthed delivery, which was met with an even more open mouthed, gaping, response of disbelief.

I never did get to apologise to him, and even if the opportunity had arisen, I wasn’t sure what I would say. It seemed almost better to pretend it didn’t happen, and with time I had almost convinced myself that it was an exaggeration. But Larry was there, and he confirms that it happened all right. Whatever ideas the guests might have had about us being unsuitable when they arrived, were certainly confirmed.

I wrote this song many years later for my Beggars Banquet album “the Sky and the Ground” I was inspired by that time in Massachusetts and New Hampshire when we drove around in a beat up old Dodge Polara that we bought for three hundred dollars. The song is about the futility sometimes of trying to communicate a belief or a line of poetry. We especially experienced it while writing a song, I might feel sure that a line works and Larry might feel not. There is no point in arguing, my belief was based on my experience not his. Eventually it would be ok for me to sing it, but maybe not Larry. These things are so subjective, and are contrived by our past personal experiences.

You can never put yourself in my brain

And feel what it felt like in a Dodge Polara

Speeding down a New Hampshire highway

Leaving on a Jet Plane (Turner and Kirwan of Wexford)

It was a cold lonely feeling, to get dropped off on a rainy Monday in January at the tall wall of Rosslare Harbour by my Sister Bernie, and her Husband Dave. It was good of them to take us there, but we had already said goodbye to everyone and now we just wanted to pursue our dreams and forget the lament of leaving. We would like to have just slipped away while they were parking the car, but of course we wouldn’t. And so we waved goodbye from the lofty gangplank, my heart in my boots, and seeing in my Sister’s brave smile -the childhood that made me what I was – our deep closeness and passion as a family – yet another tare in the umbilical chord, a step further away from the womb.   Once we got inside the brightly lit Boat, the sadness began to ebb and soon enough we were making jokes and yapping to strangers- eating our sandwiches. We are animals after all, and after we are pulled away from our loved ones, we soon look around for the nearest comfort.

It’s only a short distance from Rosslare in the South East of Ireland to Fishguard Wales, thirty miles or so! But it took us three hours to do it. Shuffling between the Boat to the train on that cold damp Welsh night, the official wooden buildings looked more like sheds. It brought to mind Death Camp Movies from the Second World War. The night train smelled of tiredness and second hand Guinness.   Compartments were lit with low wattage light bulbs, giving it all a soft amberness. There was a hissing noise coming from under the seat, I reached down close to see if it was producing any heat. Unfortunately the heat was just being turned on as we entered; too bad, because that meant adding “cold” to all the above descriptions. This one element, made the difference between quaintness and depravation.

It was a harrowing six – hour train journey from Fishguard to London. I tried to sleep, but the padded seating was hard and covered with coarse material. All I could do was listen to the chugging of the train, a repetitive glitch, like a needle stuck on vinyl. A pleasant murmuring of men talking in Irish accents sprinkled with London-ese hummed like a haunting wind over the percussion of the tracks, there was an air of resignation in their manner, the fun was over, their fate was sealed, back to work, back to being alone with the lonely. Cigarettes were generously shared, and it was a comfort for me to hear them comforting each other. Most of them were married men heading back to England, after Christmas, where they worked to support their Families. They, in part, were the reason that I was going to America not the U.K.- All my life I had seen the sadness of their departure at the Railway Station in Wexford. Just as I would find myself drifting off, a smokers cough would jolt me back. There was a noticeable absence of female voices, where were the sopranos? Where was that brightness? The murmuring droned on, it sounded like a long Catholic Confessional, a requiem I would one day write.

We stopped over in London for a few days with two platonic Wexford women that we knew, we fancied em alright, but knew we shouldn’t, or maybe that they wouldn’t.   Jackie Hayden from Polydor Records in Dublin had arranged a meeting for us with an English A & R man from the same label. He sat us down in his small office and listened to our demo tape over a cup of tea. One particular song struck his fancy “A star shone over Belfast” which sounded a bit like the Bee Gees from their baroque period. He seemed to think we had some real potential. We were delighted, and came to the ludicrous conclusion that if he liked it, they would surely love it in America. Packing up our tapes, we thanked him and bade him adieu.

The next day we were on our way to Heathrow where we hopped on a plane bound for New York. There was great excitement on the way across. We had taken sleeping pills at our Doctors recommendation, however we were too excited to sleep, so they seemed to have a reverse effect, making us very lively. Larry had been to America before, so I made him re-tell stories about that experience all over again. I wrung every nuance out of his descriptions and we conjectured liberally on the brand new world laid before us, two young lads in their early twenties

As we were circling over JFK in the January snow, the pilot addressed us in his in his American twang.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to New York, we expect to land within the next fifteen minutes or so. At minus five degrees Fahrenheit it certainly is cold down there, so I hope you get home to your warm beds all safe and sound, as soon as possible, thank you for flying with us. And hope to see you again”

 

Larry turned to me surreptitiously.

 

“Do you know where we’re going to stay?”

 

“Ha?…… I thought you knew where we were going to stay!”

 

“No, I don’t know where we’re staying” he shrugged

 

“But I don’t know where, do I?” Panic was creeping in now.

 

And so began a relationship based on supposition that was to last for many years.

 

Our cheap, but precious guitars came off the carousel miraculously in one piece. It never even crossed our minds that they should be in travel cases. Our cases were made from some kind of thick cardboard with a faux black leather finish, held together by white nylon saddle stitching. The instruments were typical of what young fellas played in Ireland at that time. Close in visual resemblance to a Gibson, but beyond that there was nothing similar. The strings were so far out from the fret board it was almost impossible to play bar chords, so most of us didn’t. The sound was crude and hollow. Very few musicians in Ireland could afford professional instruments. By ratio of the average wage, the prices were ludicrous. A fender Stratocaster cost around six hundred pounds and a married man’s weekly wage was averaging twenty-one pounds at the time.   I had bought a Hohner Organ when I was seventeen on hire purchase from the local Furniture store. It cost six hundred pounds and I was still paying for it a year after it died. Organs were even more expensive than guitars, I should have been buying the sexy Vox Continental with its reverse couloured keys, I had seen my favourite English and American Bands playing them on T.V. But that was more like eleven hundred pounds, and I didn’t even know a shop that had it in stock. Even though I was a professional musician, I couldn’t afford a professional instrument and it wasn’t rare to see imitation Fenders and Vox’s being used by talented musicians.

 

Once we got our guitars and half empty suitcases, we took them through customs. Big serious looking men, with crew cuts and holstered guns. I was shaking with fear, never having seen a real gun before. They weren’t too friendly either and gave us a long hard look, before stamping the passports. We had business visas, which allowed us to work, but not to earn money. Jackie Hayden from Polydor Ireland had written us a letter saying we were going to America to scout for him or something ambiguous like that. We had to show them our four hundred saved dollars, declaring them as our living expenses.

 

There was so much to take in at the arrival hall, I found myself unconsciously stopping, to look around, Larry had to come back for me and jolt me to awareness, reminding me that this was New York and it was not good to be seen looking awestruck.

 

We found a bank of public telephones, and I pulled a crumpled piece of paper from my under stuffed wallet. Dave Heenan had been the lead singer in y last Band “The Arrows” and had given me his number in case I should ever come to New York. Perhaps Larry and I had been hatching our plans at the time, I don’t know, but I kept his number safely and Larry knew that I had it. I presume it was supposed by him, tacitly, that we would stay with Dave on our first night. Thankfully Dave was full of “wows” and “are you kidding me?…. no problem!”

 

“Of course you can stay with us tonight! Renee it’s Pierce from the Arrows, he’s at the airport with his friend Larry” I could hear Renee giving a hospitable wow in the background, Dave returned to firmly confide his directions.

 

“Go straight out to the Taxi rank and tell him to take you to Washington Square in Manhattan, tell him to take the Tunnel and that you’ll give him no more than twenee dollars! Act like you know what you’re talking about, or those scumbags will rip you off, don’t forget , through the Tunnel and no more than twenee dollars”

 

It was like Calcutta outside, chaotic traffic, Policemen whistling angrily at cars as frantically loaded suitcases and scrambled to leave. We went over to the long line of yellow cabs. I explained in my thick Wexford accent to the first driver at the head of the Queue.

“We’re goin to Washin-tin Square in Min-hattin, I’ll give you twenty dollars, and ye haff te go tru de Tunnel dough”

“ Are you kiddin me buddy?” he snapped. I found myself in retreat, I wasn’t counting on an argument with a New York Taxi driver the minute I got off the Plane. He was a short stocky bloke wearing an old greasy army jacket which seemed to be stuffed with several layers bursting underneath. His small head sat on top with a peak cap pulled over his wild black curly hair. He talked from the corner of his mouth and the words seemed to fall out rather than travel direct.

“Hey Dommy, kim-ay” He beckoned with a cupped hand.

“Tell Dese guys how it woyks, they want to gimme twenee dollas for the ride to Manhattan”

“It’s whateva is on the Meedah Buddy” Tommy wearily replied.

“Well we can’t gi ye enny more dan twenty dollars” I mumbled.

They looked at each other in astonishment. You could tell that this was a familiar battle for them, yet we seemed to be presenting a new slant on the idea. I later found out that some Airport Taxis had been caught driving Japanese customers all over the place and charging them two hundred dollars off the meter. So now they all got tarred with the same brush. However, in retrospect, I think these guys were actually on the level, or forced to be, by Dave’s preventative instructions.

He beckons another driver who is now showing an interest.

“Yo Sandy c’mere! Listen to dese Guy’sss,….gwan kid, tell him what ye sayin!”

Sandy appeared to be about six foot four, and appraising us suspiciously, was clearly not in the mood for us little hippy foreigners.

“well I wuss just explainin to him, dat we want to go tru the Tunnel and dat we’ll pay twenty dollars” I said, reluctantly following the command.

Sandy spat out.

“Waddaye tawkin about? It makes NO DIFFERENCE BUDDY!!!!! Dru the Dunnel or over the bridge, I’m tellin ye, da money is on da meeddaa!!!

 

We were now causing a bit of a scene, people were waiting behind us on the queue, several Taxi drivers had come forward to voice their annoyance. Larry and I decided we might need to confer, we pulled off to one side.

“Jasus, I don’t know? They all seem very annoyed don’t they. Maybe we better give in”

Larry had been thinking the same thing.

“Ok Den” I relented to our cabbie, now looking at us like we were a case study, quizzically cocking his head from side, incredulously inviting agreement from the rest of the motley crew.

“Can we put our stuff in da boot den?”

“Excuse me?”

“Would it be ok if we trow or stuff in da boot?”

“I don’t know what yer talkin bout Buddy”

I put my hand on the back of the cab and said.

“Can we put our stuff in here?”

“Oh, oh, in the Trunk? Sure”

He reached inside the cab and popped it open. We slid in on the well – worn leather seat.

“Em…what’s this I was goin ta say? Don’t forget to go tru the Tunnel dough…please”

 

Glasgow next Friday at the Celtic Connections Festival, The Tron Theatre 8pm  – I’m really looking forward to it, hope you are too.  Love Pierce xx

More adventures of that poor little car

This is Not the Renault 5, an Austin I think from the 50’s or 60’s?

I’m not complaining or anything, maybe the amount of odd things that have happened to me concerning cars are just par for the course after several years of involvement with the four rubbered buggers. However the following is one of the more bizarre events that could happen to anyone through absolutely no fault of their own.

It all happened on a cold wet December night, we were fast asleep up on the third floor of our friend Dot Boswell’s house in London. I had played a gig the night before at a club called Ocean in Hackney. I find it hard to sleep after gigs, so when the moment comes, it’s nice if there are no disturbances, if the delicate balance is scuppered and a thought slips in, it doesn’t take long for one thought to couple with another, and before I can scream stop! to myself, there will be a football field of thoughts running amok in my head. Often this happens because of something relatively minor. A small sound, or a rogue ray of light will do it, so a gunshot would be more than enough I’m sure you can imagine.

I do know what a gunshot sounds like. I played in Northern Ireland as a teenager and witnessed a violent stand off between the police and protesting Catholics, quickly discovering my sprinting talents, when a smoking canister landed near my feet. I also remember kissing a Belfast girl when a bomb went off in the distance, the ground rumbled with manmade thunder. Another time – as I sat in a New York taxi on the corner of 12th Street and 1st Avenue – two guys started shooting at each other across the street behind me, it still seems imagined, I don’t recall even mentioning it to the taxi driver, the light changed, we moved on. So when I awakened in London to the sound of multiple rounds being squeezed out in rapid succession, I leapt out of that bed like a trained marine, taking cover behind the wall as I sneaked a look through the window for the source of my alarm.

I could hear the crunch of shattered glass and people shouting, what could it be? A shoot out between the police and who? It couldn’t be the IRA, that was all over, this was the 90s! There was something different about the sound, it wasn’t the same kind of pop that I had heard from past gunshot sounds (listen to me, I sound like a seasoned veteran) these eruptions were bigger and differed in volume, five or six in consecutive, then after a moment’s silence, a far bigger bang. All that breaking glass made it sound like there was a specific target that was being mercilessly hammered, I had to get a better look. I looked over at Clare, she was fast asleep under the covers without a care in the world, there didn’t seem to be any movement downstairs either, Dot and twelve-year old Jack were slumbering away. Lights began to reflect on the ceiling, the way they swirled suggested the police or an ambulance. My guitar was nearby in its travel case “not a bad idea, they say those cases are so strong that you could drop them from the top of a six story building, might it be bulletproof?” My curiosity was now superseding all rationale (See? This is how bravery comes to be, mindless curiosity!) I turned the case upside down so that the big part was at the top and peaked around the edge using it as a shield. Down to the left, blocking off the street was a parked fire engine with its yellow emergency lights oscillating frantically. The sight of a friendly authority gave me the courage to seek out the source of the commotion.

There it was down below in the middle of the road, a massive crater stretching across its full width and at the centre, a water eruption jetting with great power towards the sky, it had effortlessly ripped its way through the multiple layers of dirt, stones and tar that had been withholding it for many years beneath the ground, all those layers were now been dispersed every which way and not in a benign fashion, but with titanic force! Loud explosions were followed by the sound of damage being inflicted on their haphazard victims. Innocent by-standing cars parked over night along the perimeter were being mercilessly hammered with large stones travelling at frightening velocity. But one car in particular was getting the brunt of it all, bouncing on its springs, recoiling from each wounding blow, the roof dented, only barely hanging on. It was our poor little defenceless Renault 5. I hurriedly took the car keys off the side table, threw on a pair of trousers and shoes, ran down the stairs grabbing Dot’s PVC raincoat from her hallstand, put the heavy Georgian door on its latch, and ran to the edge of the danger. I stood there with my hood up grimacing from the downpour and helplessly watching the poor little Renault, I had to save it, there was still time, it was rescue-able surely! We were driving back to Ireland in the morning, I had to save it. The fire brigade!!! I ran up to it at the top of the street. Inside of the dark cabin, a fireman peered down towards me with a retired expression, he steadily lowered the window. I knew he was trying to calm me with his demeanour, and he partly did, but I still attempted to make him feel the urgency of what I was experiencing, regardless of his outgoing futility.

“Hello! That car over there getting most of the pounding, that grey Renault, is mine, can I get in there and drive it out of there, do you think?”

“Oh, sorry to hear that, no I’m afraid I can’t allow you to go near it, it’s a burst water main, very dangerous, we have had fatalities with these situations before”

The other fire men sitting behind him dressed in theit full gear, seemed curious about my dilemma and maybe my half Irish, half American accent. It seems to become more American when I am in a neutral country like England, not sure which way to go, it can choose either direction, sometimes in the middle of a sentence.

“Really!! But we are driving to Ireland in the morning” I pleaded; now almost talking to myself.

“We really can’t do anything until Thames Water arrives I’m afraid”

He was polite but firm. They seemed almost bored with this trivia, it looked like they would be sitting there all night with their arms folded, one face peering from behind him seemed incredulous, I supposed it was for my willingness to brave the flying rocks, in order to save a car.

I turned to face the scene in disbelief; the damage was increasing with every passing moment. The front windscreen was now battered in, the mirrors were smashed and the water was pouring in through the back window, this mains burst seemed intent on putting all its might into destroying Clare’s precious Renault 5, the first car she had ever bought brand new, it was her baby she said. She loved that car.

The next morning I broke the news to Clare, we looked out the window at the devastation, she took it well, considering, the spectacle of it all blew the setback out of the water – so to speak. Jack ran to get his camera and photographed the car from every angle. We were surprised that the engine started, but the stench inside was horrendous, it smelled like the bottom of the Thames. At that point the car was about ten years old, so the insurance company scoffed at the idea of mending it. We, however were still intent on fixing it up and driving to Ireland, after a few phone calls we found a place in Wembley, a long way from Dot’s house in Primrose Hill. We covered the side windows with plastic and tape and drove there without a windscreen. Other drivers looked down their noses at us as we shivered along, lowly beggars driving in a battered tin can. The seats were soaked in water, so we covered them with black garbage bags, there was one saving grace, the radio worked! so we listened to music at least as we brazened our way through the heavy London traffic.

Once we got the windows fixed we packed her up and headed off on the five hour journey to the Irish ferry in Fishguard, Wales.

I suppose we got used to the smell, but we had very uncomfortable sweaty bottoms from the garbage bags, I began to feel like a fish, humidity was everywhere. That cute little car, Clare’s baby, was now a holy show. There was no shortage of comical comments in Wexford when we got there “Were you in a shoot out?” “I’d like to see the other car!”

That poor car, just wasn’t meant to go to Wexford.

Love Pierce xxx

Please say something, squawk or squeal, inspire me, humour me.

Glasgow Tron Theatre January 20th as part of the Celtic Connections Festival.

The Seamus Ennis Centre Naul Co Dublin Feb 4th (last gig this tour)

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese

Come to Glasgow’s Celtic Connection Festival on Jan 20th – first time I’ve played there in years.

http://www.celticconnections.com/events/Pages/event.aspx?ev=d19ab5be-59e5-4789-90f7-a6a601314b39

Seamus Ennis Centre Naul, Fingle Co Dublin Sat Dec 4th last Gig this tour.

 

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese.

It was Christmas 1988, I had flown from New York to London to do a photo session and talk over promo plans for my up and coming album “The Sky and The Ground” I stayed with Clare at her London flat in Holborn. We were now a couple and planned on our first Christmas together. Once the tasks were all wrapped up, the presents purchased and dispatched and the cards in the mail, we loaded up the Renault 5 with everything we could possibly fit in her, including a portable TV and more than ample food supplies. We knew that we would be staying in my family home on the Wexford Quay, an unoccupied three story house with all the furnishing and curtains intact, almost as if my parents still lived there, a ghost house I suppose, but with remnants still of Molly and Jem’s warmth and all the songs, laughter and love that had permeated it’s walls. There would be scant luxury, it had electricity and that was it, it would be a bit like camping. But we’d be fine, we were young lovers and the idea of basing ourselves in the large 2nd floor sitting room with windows looking out over the bay and a blazing fire in the hearth seemed both romantic and bohemian. So off we set for Fishguard Wales where we would board the ferry for Rosslare Harbour just eleven miles outside my home town of Wexford.

 

It takes about five hours to get to Fishguard and another four on the ferry, even though the latter is only a distance of thirty miles. So altogether it takes close to ten hours. Clare of course organized everything down to the tiniest detail, including bunks on the ferry and a meal in the restaurant, luxuries I had never bothered with before.

 

When we landed in Rosslare it was dark and the harbour appeared all the more Christmassy because of it. The multi layered Ferry glowed like a Christmas tree as we drove out of her belly into the bustle of home going travellers. We would drive out on to the main road past the multiple warning signs in German and English “WARNING –ACHTUNG- KEEP TO THE LEFT SIDE!!” It had been too common for Europeans to come out of there exhausted from the journey and drive on the wrong side of the road into an oncoming car in the two way traffic; being extra mislead by their left side steering wheels. Just a couple of miles beyond the harbour the road turns back towards the mainland, bypassing the once popular beach Village of Rosslare. Being in a festive mood and excited by Clare’s first visit to Wexford, I suggested that we deviate our plans for a moment and take the slip road into Rosslare Village.  It’s a place filled with very fond memories for me, a place that I looked forward to as a child all year long, when (provided my Parents could afford the splurge) we would rent a hut in Boyles field for the month of August. I guided Clare up over the hump back railway bridge down past the white washed Edwardian Summer homes, and up along the main street lined with Palm Trees, past a couple of elite hotels with rear access to the beach, that café on the corner where I would suck on a Brazil Orange and daydream to the Village’s only jukebox, usually preferring the B sides “Got a feeling” by the Mamas and Papas “See that Girl” by the Righteous Brothers; I wasn’t aware, at the time, that the Café was owned by Larry Kirwan’s no-nonsense Aunt.

It was dark now and everything was closed but for the Hotels and the Bars. I directed Clare up past the Golf course where we used to hunt for stray balls in the tall grass, golfers were glad to buy them back at sixpence each. And then, just when it seemed like the road was coming to a narrow end, I asked her to keep going around the curve to the right where the water softly ebbed up to the stony edge. I got out and swung open the farmers iron gate so that we could go a little deeper on into the pot holed gravel, I wanted to get us in a position where we could face the car towards the sound and view the lights of Wexford Town across the Bay. In the pitch black with the car engine turned off, the whole scene was reminiscent of a romantic movie; I was Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember bringing Clare to my secret cove on the beach. We had a little puff of the funny stuff to amplify our experience and put Pink Floyd on the stereo. Clare is from Brighton in England, a much bigger Town to mine, but nonetheless, a seaside Town, with many similarities, we pleasured in exploring our history while gazing at the dancing lights in the distance. After about half an hour I looked at my watch and thought of my family, “They might start wondering about us, maybe we better head in”

Clare turned on the engine, and began to back away from the water, we were not moving, she put her foot further down. We moved even less. Realising what was happening I asked her to stop and jumped out to take a look. The tide had come in a bit and even though our back wheels were on solid dry ground we were not gaining traction. It was then that I realized that Clare’s Renault was front wheel drive. I looked at the front and could see in the scant moonlight that we had been only been digging ourselves into a wet hole in the soft sand. I threw my jacket under one of the wheels in desperation, that tide was coming in! All it did was spit the jacket out. Our situation was quickly progressing from a curious problem to a possible catastrophe of major proportions; we could loose the fucking car! There were no phone booths around, we were a long walk from the nearest hotel, looking around in the pitch dark there was nothing except silent sand dunes and black clouds overhead; no mans land to Clare, but this was my country, I had been in Ireland’s butt fuck nowhere, before.

“let’s walk back a bit, I think I saw a little light deep in behind the bushes as we were driving in here”

 

Sure enough, with our eyes now adjusting to the dark, a small yellow light was visible over and above the dense bush. A little inroad became apparent, an entrance into some kind of yard. We followed it in, and before us an old white washed outhouse paralleled the road creating the familiar shape of what I knew to expect in traditional farmyards. Over to the right standing alone where it had been built in far more recent times was a small two-story house. The Woman of the house pulled the door open without hesitation.

“Really sorry to bother you” It was beginning to spit rain now and the wind was whipping up a bit too, I held the collar of my coat up around my eyes, Clare of course was not the overcoat type, she had on a nice little two piece jacket and skirt, she looked perished.

“We were down on the beach admiring the Town whe…” “FERGUS!!!”

 

“Yes Mammy” Came a male voice in prompt response.

 

“Get the tractor will ye? dere’s a nudder wan stuck in de sand!! “

We could hear someone rummaging around for something in the distance.

 

“C’mon in shur, Fergus’ll be here in a minute”

 

“Mammy do ye know where the Battery is?” Fergus, a twenty something fine big strapping chap comes rushing out from the back of the tiny house, with wellington boots up to his waistline, raincoat, and peak cap.

 

“It’s in the tractor already, shur I used it earlier when I was haulin up the straw”

 

An old man sat in a low chair by an open hearth fire, he looked bemused as he pulled away on his white clay pipe. We offered our names and I explained that Clare was English, but that I was a native of Wexford man. She suggested that Clare sit down by the fire while I go off with Fergus to find the car.

 

Outside, Fergus switched on an industrial strength lamp, it cut a bright beam through the blackness and revealed a mud covered red tractor with those typical massive wheels and an iron drivers seat with holes to let the weather through.

 

“Kin you hop on the tow bar dare, and hould de light out so I kin see what’s in front of me?”

 

I looked at where he wanted me to stand, and wasn’t sure it was possible. It was one of them metal yokes that stick out the back of a tractors with a knob on it for hauling trailers, or eejits like us that were stuck in the sand.

 

“Just hang on to me shoulders, and hould the lamp out”

 

I did the arithmetic in my head, one hand to hould on to his shoulder and one to hould the lamp, seemed to me like one hand too few houlding on to his shoulder! But up I got on the slippery bar, and before I could think about it, Fergus had the engine running and we were out the lane and bouncing along the beach towards our sinking car. Desperation is great leveler, I found the perseverance to stick myself to the round bar, a nearly impossible feat, and I was practically having a romance with Fergus with my left arm now wrapped ‘round his neck. It was hard to believe that just twenty minutes ago we had been sitting in our London car listening to Pink Floyd through a super hi fi stereo cooing at the view. Now here I was with the wind and rain blowing through my hair hanging on the back of a Tractor like a chariot, one arm around a strange man and providing his headlights by holding a very heavy lamp up above his head!

Fergus was well used to the routine, in no time he had the rope in under the car where it was secure, and that tractor effortlessly hauled the Renault 5 back to solid ground. I drove behind him back to the house, where Clare was now drinking tea by the fire looking absolutely puzzled by the old mans accent. I thanked them heartily and grabbed a couple of bottles of wine from the boot of the car, they seemed a bit confused about that, and I did wonder would they have preferred money, but was afraid they would be offended.

 

“Really sorry for interrupting your evening, thank you so much, you saved our lives”

 

“Ah shur you’re not the first couple dat got stuck down dare in de dark, people do be up to all kinds of tings down dare”

 

She seemed to be suggesting that we were there for a bit of rumpy pumpy?

 

We pulled out of the farmyard and up on to the main road laughing at our ordeal. We drove down past the hotels and the café and up on to the hump back railway bridge, we were at it’s precipice when Clare announced with a slap to her forehead.

 

“Shit, we have to go back, I just realized, I left my hand bag in the bloody chair”

 

“Are you fucking joking me?”

 

The laughter subsided as we did a U-ee and headed back past the Café, the Hotels and on to the old dirt road facing towards the once lovely view of Wexford town. Clare sat in the car as I fumbled my way in the dark towards the distant light. I sensed a strange presence, an odd animal sound was coming towards me, my inability to see it increased my alarm. I quickened my pace towards the house, disregarding my unsure footing, Honk!! Honk, honk, went the sound that drew me to look left. Coming in my direction with their necks stretched towards me in extreme enthusiasm was a gaggle of angry Geese, I increased my speed dramatically and ran at full pelt for the plain wooden door of the farmhouse. Fortunately Fergus’s Mother was expecting me and opened the door before I touched it. She went over and got the purse from the chair by the old man, who still sat in the same position by the fire smoking his clay pipe.

 

“Fergus!!! Dem Geese are after de man, don’t worry about dem, Fergus’ll send dem off”

 

Fergus came out and waved a backward hand at the Geese.

 

“Gi way outta dat”

 

They ran away, chasing there extended heads. Honk, honk, honk!!

 

I jumped back in the seat on the Renault with my heart still racing. Off we drove again, down past the golf club, the palm trees outside the hotels, the café, and over the hump back Railway Bridge, feeling  less enthusiastic now.

 

When we arrived in Town, I went into my Brother Paddy’s chipper, which was part of our family home, to say hello and get the keys. We told him the story, he raised his forehead and nodded a knowing giggle, I thought that he seemed to assume we had been up to no good?

 

After being in Wexford for a few days, we gave up telling the story, everyone was sure that we had gone to that dark quiet spot for a bit of nooky like all the other couples that got famously stranded there.

 

“Ah yeah, Fergus! ah shur everyone knows him, he’s pulled us all out, one time or anudder! And dem feckin Geese are like guard dogs shur”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your TV in the closet

I confess to have slipped of late, slipped into a kind of slothery called TV. It all began in earnest about six weeks ago with a suspicious sneeze. I began to analyze its source; did a mere dust mote travel to my sinuses? Or had I finally succumbed to the cold that Clare had harbored in her gurgling head? It had been going on for a couple of weeks, she had sneezed up every tissue in the house and was now well into the ample supply of toilet paper. I had washed my hands after every transaction that seemed remotely connected to Clare’s last action. At first she had been trying her utmost to take care – she knew I had a bunch of gigs coming up and didn’t want me to catch it – but once it got inside her body and began its mission of sabotage, clogging up her head with an ever increasing supply of wall paper paste and slithering down into her lungs where it settled in for the long haul, she lost the will to live and dropped all attempts to contain prospective damage caused by discharge.

Panic began to set in when I realized that fight was all but lost and the first symptoms began to show. I had two weeks to let it in, and then get it out again. They say that it takes a minimum of five days to go through its routine, but if you fight it, you can stall it before it begins those five days, and no matter how much you delay it, it’s eventually going down on your chest and you are going to splutter and cough for another ten bloody days….at best! I began to fortify for the battle. I got the steamer out, dripped a couple of drops of tea tree oil into the water, plugged it in by the armchair and began to watch TV while the oil began to do battle with the rogue bacteria in my respiratory tract. Needless to say, the bacteria won hands down, and within days I was doing multiple sneezes that were infused with deep and desperate submission, sometimes toppling across the room in a series of explosive fits. The infection was down on my chest and wanting me to cough. All singers know, what ever you do, don’t cough! Coughing can cause a blood vessel to blow in your vocal chords, and it can cause the membranes to swell, not only are our lungs not supplying the necessary air that we need to sing, but the mucous membranes that vibrate across the larynx are now damaged as well, and dysfunctional…”Don’t cough whatever you do!!” So I found myself retraining any attempt to do so. Soon I noticed the beginning of a deep – seated lung ache developing during these refusals, I was heading into new territory, I called the doctor. “Bronchitis” said he, and bejasus I took about 2 seconds to succumb to the suggestion of antibiotics. I was sick now for real, and rehearsing as well, driving up and down to the Church in Dublin. In between I was going to have to shut up, the TV addiction, then began in earnest.

Watching TV is about the only thing I can do when I’m steaming, my electric steamer ( a small device with a tiny element which heats the water and creates a steady flow of steam up through a soft plastic funnel) was broken, so I had to use a saucepan and a towel to funnel the steam into my mouth.

Will someone explain to me why TV is so bad between 7pm and 11? Why do the movies begin then? I’m talking about Irish TV and the UK, The BBC used to be one of the best TV stations in the world, making some incredible in-house productions, now it’s just reality shite from morning to night. “I’m (not) a Celebrity get me out of here (and make me famous)” and drivel like “Eastenders” I have tried to like it, my wife likes it and many of my friends do. I just peek in at it through a jaundiced eye to see if I can understand what people see in it. I always come out with the same conclusions, visually so ugly, the story line is ridiculous, they entire cast seems to have divorced and married each other at one point or another. Complete villainous crooks become really soft hearted and sweet, new children come in from afar as long lost relatives, and it’s really hard to keep track of who is related to whom. Even pretty women are made ugly by the clothes they wear and the way they talk. Actors leave to try and make it outside, so they write them out, then they fail (because everyone says, “that’s ye man from Eastenders”) and return, so they write them back in again.

Ah lads, ye can’t be serious about liking that yoke.

But why is it that during normal waking hours the programming is crap, and all the good stuff comes on when normal people go to bed? They occasionally do something good during that time, and it’s often extremely successful, so why do they want to make so much shite? It can’t be a great pleasure to write and record this stuff.

After being trapped to that steamer for long periods with bad TV, I get this strange aching in my head, not a proper headache, but a kind of dark cloud forms in my brain, and I yearn for silence and wisdom, I could die under that towel, just so that I can sing properly.

Now the cold is well gone, but the TV addiction has not gone with it. I find myself wanting to watch this thing that I grew to hate. A friend of mine in New York used to keep his TV in the closet, and only take it out for special programs, like the way we treat the electric carving knife, taken out for occasions like Christmas. Seems like a good idea, it certainly is of seldom use.

How many hours do you watch per day then lads?

Love Px

Pierce Turner photo of santa on 14th street 2015

That Petrol Emotion

East village photo 2

The mood was jubilant driving away from Coughlans of Cork on Thursday night. The gig had been sold out and extra stools had to be employed to make use of every nook and cranny, getting on stage was even a maneuver, getting off was even harder. The atmosphere was magic and I could’ve sung any song really, the more obscure the better, even the new comers seemed to know them.   When the audience sang, they sang out without hesitation, and when they laughed I had to wait for them to stop, and when it got deep, they dove down with me to feel what was there; magnificent people. So the mood was jubilant as beaming Mike and I drove delightedly away up the one-way Douglas Street in the opposite direction of the determined way for everyone else. Cars backed up to get away from our unfettered advance, as we breezed ahead to the nearest turn off heading down the hill towards the quay. After our usual quota of getting lost, our chronic lack of direction became overwhelmed by our unbridled enthusiasm, and we somehow got taken to the Waterford road by a series of one-way streets that seemed to have been designed to ferry the likes of us in the right direction, in spite of ourselves.

It was all going swimmingly as we pulled out on to the open road, with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” blasting out on the stereo. Mick, the sound man at Coughlans had told us we would encounter a garage pretty soon (we needed fuel) and we should keep an eye to the left. Sure as shit there she was coming up on left, bright clean lights shouting out “we are open”. I was ravenous, and went straight to the Indian gentleman behind the bullet proof glass to enquire about sandwiches. I could hear Mike humming away as he rammed the pump into his car and fiddled with the screen read out.

“Hi, how are ye? Do you by any chance have sandwiches?”

“Yes we do indeed”

He was a young friendly man with an strong Indian accent, but I could understand him clearly enough as his voice squeaked out through the tiny speaker below my side of the counter.

“Would you have tuna by any chance?”

“I have” he replied unhesitantly to my surprise.

“Could I have it on brown bread?’

I couldn’t believe my luck as he nodded in the affirmative.

“Great I’ll have a tuna sandwich on brown bread and a lucozade please oh and hold on” I shouted over to Mike as he delightedly gazed at the sky humming even louder now while allowing the nozzle to administer the much needed gasoline into his car’s receptacle.

“Mike! Would you like a sandwich and a coffee or something”

“Oh, just a coffee will be fine Pierce, with milk, thanks! ” Mike is not a needy type.

Off went the young teller, confidently around the floor of the fair size store, knowing exactly where everything was and returning in no time with all our needs in a white plastic bag. He added the cost of the petrol from pump number 2 to the bill, and I put a fifty euro note in the drawer which he had shoved in my direction. He calculated the change and pushed the drawer back to me with the bag of goodies and the coffee standing up in a carton along side the change. Mike was already in the car and as soon as I hopped in we took once more to the Waterford/Wexford dual carriageway, with gusto.

“This is very nice coffee I must say Pierce, and Hassy back at the bar gave me a gorgeous cup of coffee at the end of the night, wherever he got it from, I think they had a machine”

Mike had now progressed from humming to singing the words (almost) to Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” I was delighted that I had brought that box set along, as I prized open my sandwich packaging in the dark, and shoved it enthusiastically into my gob. Ugh, I thought

“What is this?”

“Eh?” said Mike

“I don’t know what the fuck is in this sandwich, but it’s not tuna”

Mike put some light on the subject, there it was, a ham salad sandwich in cold white bread, a sloppy rag type of white bread, the kind I really hate, with ham (which I don’t care for either) tomato (Bad in sandwiches unless eaten right away, they make the bread wet) a lot of mayonnaise and a bit of lettuce. Christ, did that guy understand anything that I said?

Mike became silent, he stopped humming, he caught my attention.

“Ugh , hmm, that’s a bit odd, she’s chugging” said he, with an uncharacteristic tone of fright.

“ I ope I didn’t put petrol in instead of diesel, cor blimey!”

“Well didn’t it say Diesel on the pump that you used Mike?” I ensued with the calmest voice I could muster, as the car began to lose pace.

“Well, I didn’t really look, the nozzles are supposed to be different sizes, I presumed it wouldn’t fit if it was wrong”

The car was now slowing down and Mike could see his life flashing before him, and in it he saw a green pump (which represents petrol) not a black one (diesel) he now had the presence of mind that he didn’t have back then, his heart sank visibly as he pulled into the shoulder. The car was now screaming out visual alarms on the dashboard “FATAL FLAW !!!”

We had been driving in the fog with low visibility, but now the rain began coming down too, beating heartily against the glass, as the winter wind of the Irish countryside howled around the car. Only five minutes before, we had been driving along in the lap of luxury with Bowie singing and the heater warming the cockles of our heart. Now we were pulled over by a tall wet stone wall in the dark, hazard lights flashing, music halted by the car itself “POWER ECONOMY!!” it now flashed. It dawned on us both that we may not be going home that night, it also dawned on us that we hadn’t the foggiest what to do. It was 1.30 on a Thursday night, everyone would be in bed. Cars and trucks flew past at such a pace, we could feel the car rock from the pressure of their wind.

“ 911!! Let’s call 911” said Mike

“A great idea” said I. But! Said I

“What can they do?”

“They can siphon it off”

“Can they? 30 Euro worth of petrol! ”

I imagined someone sucking a hose (the way thieves do to steal petrol) in the pissing rain with the wind blowing in four directions and trucks flying past so fast they were bending the grass, I was dubious to say the least, we might be doomed.

But Mike was right! After we were piggy backed on the phone from the police to their break down crew, through to their suggestion of someone else because they had to stay on duty, to another guy who was 40 minutes away , to someone else who was 20 minutes away, a big beautiful yellow van with flashing lights appeared in our rear view mirror, oh the brotherhood of man, hallelujah!!

This van, and this man, had everything. He insisted that we get the car way in off the road, he got his shoulder to it and just pushed us in, while I sat there like a twat. I got out as soon as it stopped and introduce myself. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in.

“Mind yourself! this road is fierce, they come flying long here shur, ye could be kilt in a flash”

Then he opened up the back of his van, upon opening the door it automatically lit up like an operating theatre on wheels. On the floor in the middle of the very efficiently organized pumps and other gadgets was a big white tank with Gas Scavenger written on it. Sure as shit that was for sucking the rogue petrol out of the diesel engine. All I could think as I sat there – cold enough now – was Mike’s mistake must be common enough. After sucking all the petrol out, and some cajoling with the cylinders or something like that for about a half hour (not sure what they are called) we were repaired, and the Cork break down man sent us off flying towards home again. David Bowie was on “China Girl” now and Mike began to hum again.

“Isn’t that an Iggy Pop song?” I offered.

“Is it?”   mm     ♬   ♪     ♫   mmmmm

wonder what little surprises Limerick has in store for us on Monday night (dec 12) at 1 Pery Square?

Surrender to the present “now is heaven”

st-iberius-photo-o-head

St Iberius Wexford Dec 3rd 2016 with the Irish Ensemble: Mick Egan in the front, behind him Paula Cox, on my other side Garvan Gallagher, and up overhead on the organ, facing us Josh Johnston.

My legs were stretched out as far as they could possibly go landing smack bang before the heart of the blazing fire. It was comforting on my feet to feel the heat, and the stretch felt like I was pulling on a knotted rope, trying to get it untangled and straight. But it didn’t work! Something was tight in my gut and I couldn’t unravel it. I had been subconsciously aware of a discomfort before, but now it had gained a new priority of direct awareness, I began to ponder why? We are all aware that tension is insidiously dangerous, but sometimes it’s impossible to even recognize, at least I seem to have learned how to do that. Once these thoughts registered with myself it became time to launch an investigation.

“What was causing this?”

and

“What was it?”

I couldn’t fix it without figuring out what it was. The last book that I read since attending the school of Practical Philosophy in New York’s upper west side taught me to recognize the power of being present; not dwelling on the past or living for the future. It claimed that most of our depression and pain is derived from this manner of thinking. And that we think this way because of our ego; that voice in our head running a constant commentary is our ego. The idea is to notice that voice and shut it up as much as possible, by focusing on where I was then and what I was doing.

I could see clearly now that that was what was wrong with me! That knot inside my stomach was a knot of anticipation. I wasn’t present. I was only partially listening to Clare talking, only partially aware of my surroundings or where I was, no I was waiting for the gig on Saturday night, then I would let go, and give it a hundred per cent, then I would allow myself to be free and happy. How ridiculous it seems when it’s spelt out, but it’s the truth. Then I decided to try and do something about it, easier said than done.

In reading that book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle I had found myself facing the greatest challenge to everything that I had come to know. Eckhart presents a very solid case; he says that our ego is the cause of all our insecurities and tensions. That voice in our head says “what about me?” and we become insecure immediately because we think that we are not getting what we deserve. In my case on that evening it was saying “This is boring, this is not important, the important thing is tomorrow night, I just have to put up with this horrible time in between, prepare myself for tomorrow” On these occasions the book advises to surrender to the present, if you are always present at all times, all times will be important, not just the chosen moments. He says desert that voice, that ego, walk away from it , reject it. By Jasus that is like saying goodbye to yourself, of course it’s not really yourself, it’s just this bloody thing we develop with time, a companion for to entertain us when we are alone. The problem is; the more attention you give to it, the more attention it demands, starts off with “where’s my bottle?” as a baby, and grows into “I deserve better than this” It wants to talk to us when we are talking to someone else, it wants to talk to us when are working, distracts our attention when we are watching a movie, when we are trying to sleep, it never stops. I was aware of this before, but no-one had ever spelt it out so clearly. So now I am at war with the bugger, everything that I do, no matter how mundane, I focus on that thing only and try to shut out the commentary. I am definitely feeling steadier for it. But however, some things overwhelm me and the bugger slips in when my guard is low, like the other night!

So I dropped my weight into my feet and surrendered to where I was, tomorrow would look after itself, especially if I look after the present. I felt this calm come over me like pleasant pins and needles, I sank into the chair and smiled. I was stronger for not carrying that knot in my stomach and that weight on my shoulders.

So my lovelies, Surrender!!!! to the present, now is heaven. Love Pierce x

1 Wedding 1 Cat and an Organ

PierceCamille

Camille and Pierce singing “More”

Mike’s cat sleeps in the back of his car, he parks it around the back of his house somewhere down around Rathangan in Co Wexford. He was having a cup of tea on our sofa when he relayed the story about his new car and the cat in his thick Manchester accent.

“I ope no-one is aleer-gik”

I looked at Clare for a minute and wondered about her allergies, they hadn’t been so noticeable of late, but of course we don’t have a cat in New York. However, we’ve been in Ireland for a couple of weeks now and our cat Albert (shared with a Wexford friend) doesn’t seem to be affecting her. So we all tittered in union, and brushed the question aside.

On Friday at one o’clock everyone congregated at our Davitt Road bungalow for the trip to Dublin and after we loaded the gear into the back of Mike’s car we all piled in. I bagged the front passenger seat hoping for a nap. Clare, Paula and Mick, slid into the back (where the cat sleeps) and off we went to Dublin for our show at the Dublin Unitarian. Late the night before, Josh Johnston the organist had slipped into his text a small bombshell, the church had accidently double-booked a wedding rehearsal at 6 p.m. during our planned soundcheck. This is typical of the stuff that happens when you are playing in churches. “Nightmare!” I replied, Josh wrote back that we would start at 4.30 and have plenty of time, and if needed we could resume after the rehearsal at 7.15.

“If everything goes swimmingly Josh, that won’t be a problem, but the doors open at 7.30, what if something goes wrong?” We hadn’t played together yet as a whole unit, I had rehearsed with Josh on organ and Garvan on bass at the church, and with Mick on guitar and Paula on vocals and percussion in Wexford, but we hadn’t played together as a unit yet, the soundcheck was going to be the only chance. I had this kind of thing before and knew how to pull it off, but a wedding rehearsal in the middle of it? Yikes!

We pulled up in front of the church at half three, unloaded and set up the equipment. The heat had been on since ten in the morning because during the rehearsal on the previous Tuesday we found that the cold front blowing down from the North had lowered the pitch of the organ by a ¼ tone. The organ tuner had advised us to put the heat on early with the hope that the organ would move up to the standard A440 pitch by gig time. It wasn’t exactly boiling in there at half three, but the edge had been taken off of it, and Josh excitedly greeted us on the church steps with the news that the organ was going upwards, only two cents below 440 now! By the time we began playing it was only one cent below. Of course we could always tune to the organ, but the bloody piano still stayed at 440, we had only one tune in which both of them played “Sorrow is a Solid Feeling” I had already begrudgingly restructured the set with its exclusion, just in case.

At around quarter to five we were ready to go, so we checked the organ once more, we tried playing “Sorrow” and it seemed alright to Garvan and me , Josh didn’t seem as happy, but I figured if it didn’t hurt Garv and me, it couldn’t be too bad. We began rehearsing and checking the sound at the same time. It was sounding good and we were just about to hit another song when I noticed a change in the atmosphere. A frumpy looking woman in her fifties with a forward keel, and a “here’s me head and me bum is coming” posture, swung her brown handbag like a weapon as she busied across the aisle. I suddenly became aware of her and was clocking her Michael Caine glasses and Clancy Brothers cardigan more than anything else, when a second dawning came upon me (Josh and the sound man Kevin – who lives and works in the Church – had gone into a state of reverence). Of course, this was Bridget the Pastor, and the four people behind her giggling, were the wedding party! Without much being said we all laid down our instruments in surrender and sheepishly crawled away to the basement cum dressing room.

At five to eight Josh went up to measure the organ again, it was a ½ cent short of the target. I put “Sorrow” back in the set. And we lighted the stage for a blinder.

On Sunday Clare woke up coughing a weird kind of dry cough, unlike the ones we both had when she had a chest cold the previous week.

“What’s wrong with you?”

She was wheezing, I found her inhaler.

“That’s odd, why are you wheezing now?”

“Mike’s cat!!” It dawned on me, he slept in the back of the car where Clare sat going up and down to Dublin, Mike leaves the car window open for him so that he can get in and out. Jays, we’ll have to give it a good hoovering before the long drive to Scotland.   Mike will be amused.

Now for the Wexford gig at the St Iberius next Saturday Dec 3rd where the 150 year old organ, with the sweetest sound, tends to hover around 5 cents sharp of the desired pitch, all 1350 pipes.

Synthesizers are for wimps, this is a real living thing. Love Pierce x

Christmas In Ireland

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa
The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

Christmas In Ireland

“What do you fancy for dinner?”

“I dunno”

I was hunched over the piano warming down my voice after rehearsing with Paula Cox and Mick Egan, a bit miserable I was; nursing the latter half of a stinking cold. Clare was half way out the door, and was fed up making decisions about food. And tired of looking at me slumped in the corner like a heap of misery.

“Well give me a clue, smoked Haddock?”

“Ugh, no thanks……….. Actually!…….” I lit “I think I fancy a stew”

“Well it’s all there, some of the filling from that Cottage Pie is still there in the pot, and there is a pound of minced Turkey in the fridge” Said she, relieved that I was contributing.

“Frozen?”

“No, it’s fresh”

“Oh ok then I will make a stew, with the Turkey, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Pearl Barley, onion, stock and herbs ( I didn’t really say all of that) ”

So I made the stew, and we just ate it here by a blazing fire, on this freezing cold Wexford night in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen.

Last night my good friend the Wex Doc- David Curtis sorted me out with some penicillin, I begged him for help cos I was losing my mind. Every time I coughed my chest hurt, and then my mind hurt with worry about being able to sing properly on Monday night for the RTE Show Arena, on which they have asked me to sing two live songs. The pills are kicking in now thanks be to Jasus, and I’m on the mend.

Doing these Church gigs is not easy, but they are worth it. I drive to Dublin for rehearsals with the Organist Josh Johnston, and Garvan Gallagher (the bassist) who drives down from Westmeath to meet us at the Dublin Unitarian in Stephens Green. And then I rehearse with Mick and Paula in Wexford. I go up and down like a whores drawers, and with the cold it’s been extra tough, under-singing all the while so as not to strain the voice. We also have a trombone player joining us, have yet to meet him. Each unit sounds great on its own though, and the magic is when they all come together.

It’s been a cupla two tree fy years since I’ve been in Ireland for Christmas. I’m beginning to feel it in my bones. There’ll be night in the day, and everywhere the fairly lights will wrestle with the winters way, and a pilot has dropped me, dropped me down from the Christmas clouds, December 22, 23, 24, I can hear the Angels sing.

I look forward to seeing you.

Love Pierce xxxx

The Pierce Turner Ensemble/Christmas in Ireland

Nov 21st at 7pm RTE Radio One Pierce will sing two live songs and talk about all kinds of things.

Dublin Unitarian Nov 25th tix at tickets.ie

London/Irish Film Festival Nov 27th The film “Emerald City” with an original score by Pierce Turner will close the festival, Pierce hopes to attend. Just google London/Irish film festival.

The Wexford St Iberius Dec 3rd tix at Wex art Centre

Cork City-Coughlans Dec 8th

Limerick 1 Pery Place Hotel Dec 12th

Glasgow Tron Theatre Jan 20 – 2017 The Celtic Connections Festival.

Encore at The Church Of Dudes Oct 21st

“It’s come to the end of the season; everyone’s brooding or teething”

This is a line from You Are Leaving, a so-far unheralded track from Love Can’t Always Be Articulate. It’s a favourite of mine: of course it may be favoured by others out there too, sometimes no one speaks out loud, sometimes a song can quietly hum beneath the surface and it’s preferred to keep it there (I had no idea that people liked Drumsna from Boy To Be With until I had several requests for the lyrics during the Pledge campaign). But the real litmus test for a song is when I have to sing it repeatedly. If the song has an Achilles heel, it soon buckles after a couple of renditions before an audience. I sang You Are Leaving with Zach Dean, the church organist at the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran, and once again I found it moving as I sang it out over the empty church.  Zach added something new to it with his command of the organ, it was clear that he has a rock sensibility.

I have now sung these new songs in churches and clubs and even at the Irish Consulate in front of dignitaries, and there is no sign of fatigue. No sign of the world at large knowing about them either though. That’s just the way it is, they are yours and mine alone: can that be enough? Why the hell not! Van Gogh only had one fan, his brother Theo, but were those paintings diminished by the absence of notoriety? No! Of course if the world knew that he had cut off his ear, they would’ve been more interested while he was alive, “Clare, pass me the bread knife”

I do have one on him though, I can perform, and I love to sing to people, and the performances at these churches have been amazing to take part in, cool places, run by cool dudes. There are a bunch more special shows coming up too.

Starting October 21st at the Gustavus Adolphus Church where the album was recorded, this is an encore of the performance we had there earlier this year (some extra songs though) for the launch of Love Can’t Always Be Articulate – we raised $3000 for the repair of the stained glass window the last time, the window is now in place, we will help pay the enormous bill with this show also, and you will get to see how beautiful it is. The ensemble backing me up will be all these amazing people:

  • Fred Parcells on T-Bone and vocals,
  • Kath Green and Andriette Redmann on vocals, bass and percussion
  • John Rokosny on acoustic guitar
  • Mark Brotter on drums
  • Zach Dean – the house organist – on piano and pipe organ.

Tickets available now here – what more can you ask for? This involves a huge amount of rehearsal and organisation, please spread the word and let’s fill that incredible space – wine and food in the basement afterwards. Maybe you will sing this time?

Then to Ireland, the first 2 shows there will be private, and then on Nov 25th 2016 we – me and the Irish Ensemble – will encore at the lovely Dublin Unitarian Church in the heart of Stephen’s Green. Tickets available here. Then to my home town on Dec 3rd at the St Iberius Church on the Wexford Main St – where last time, the whole gang stood outside arm in arm and sang “Faith Of Our Fathers” incredibly touching for me.  People came from Cork, New York, Gortahork, Kerry, Mayo and Glenamaddy. I love singing in these churches.  Tickets for that show are available here. And if I can’t find a church, give me intimacy, nowhere is more so than Coughlans in Cork city, that will be on Thursday Dec 8th, tickets available here.

Dec 12th will be my return to Limerick through the back door so to speak, it’s an invitation only gig at a hotel called 1 Pery Square. For tickets you should contact Tom at tpprendergast@yahoo.com and say I sent you. There are a couple more private gigs and then in 2017 I will be in Glasgow for the first time in decades, why I haven’t been there is a mystery, it always went down a storm there. This is a big one though, and maybe the romance will re-ignite.  The exact date is not set, but it will be at the Tron Theatre as part of Celtic Connections Festival during the weekend of Jan 20th to 23rd – keep an eye out here.

I think that’s enough for now, as always I am in your hands, without you I am toast.
Love Pierce xxxxstained-glass-window

I’m on temperature control

City photo

I’m on Temperature Control

It’s Tuesday morning; late with the Monday morning milk, again!

Last night we went to a fancy pizza place with our friends Paul and Niamh who were visiting from Dublin.  I knew we were in trouble right away because the double doors were wide open at the entrance, I knew it meant that they were either avoiding the use of AC completely, or that they were trying to do both outside and inside at once, in an effort to attract customers.

It was absolutely boiling outside, with the humidity it musta been at least a 100 degrees, but they were pretending we were in Spain on the esplanade by the water, what a load of bollox, this is Manhattan, and this summer we are under siege by the biggest predatory sauna-like heat known to man outside of Calcutta. I couldn’t wait to get home to the air conditioner, in spite of the wonderful company. They did close the doors after Niamh innocently enquired, “Is the AC in the back?”

This morning came as usual, and the sun was there again, shining bright and appearing innocent enough beyond the protective doubled glass out on First Avenue. Rumour had it that it wasn’t as bad today as yesterday, so I put on the TV to see what the temperature was out there, It said 78 f,

“That’s not bad” said I to Clare.

“What’s the humidity?”

“Fuck knows!”

I leaned down to peer under the blinds at people walking along the pavement on the far side of the street in the shade of the sun-scorched School. How were they walking? Were they struggling along or breezing it?

A young woman wearing khaki calve length trousers seemed to be moving effortlessly enough, but she was young! I’m wondering can we open the windows and let some fresh air in, save some electricity as well. Our last bill was hefty enough, that AC eats electricity.

I know; I’ll open the tiny bathroom window as a tester and see what the air is like? It’s almost good, I can feel something resembling a breeze, and it doesn’t feel like a hairdryer is aimed at me. I decide to take a chance and open up the whole house.  It’s a big decision, a risky one. Clare says that it’s my job to control the temperatures; I’m on temperature control winter and summer.  We have a railroad apartment so it’s important to get the cross breeze. I open the sitting room windows and run to the kitchen so as not to lose a second on this gamble. I’m like a Sailor trying to balance a ship, the AC will be off and we will need air moving in here fast if it’s going to work at all, if I fail and let the big sauna into the house without a rewarding cross breeze, I will have failed, humidity is a bugger to remove. It tends to sit down everywhere and doesn’t like to shift its fat arse back out again. It will cling to the carpet and the sheets, tonight when I’m sleeping it will fill the hollow in my back and surround my neck with a Collar of sweat. The decision is made now and I’m going to the Coney Island for a swim.

Hope to Jaysus I made the right decision.

I’m the captain of the temperature control, tonight as the city screeches past us sleeping sailors, we will feel the heft of my measurement.

P.S We have added the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow to the next Irish visit-Jan 20-23

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

My Father was a Fire Man

 

wexford-fire-brigade-photo--e1469518022688-680x522

(Please let me know that you are out there, make a short comment, it can get lonely otherwise. And thanks for an amazing gig at Joe’s Pub).

My oldest sister Delores gave me this photo of the Wexford Fire Brigade for my birthday, it’s an unusual one that I had never seen before, my father Jem is the last one front right. He later became the Captain, and so we had the phone (incoming calls only).

My first legitimate musical experience was at the age of nine when I joined a brass and reed band in my hometown of Wexford in the southeast of Ireland.

We had just moved down from a fireman’s bungalow at the top of the hill to a three-storey house on the quay with a shop underneath it. My father had been a part-time fireman, while the other part of his time was spent working in Pierce’s Foundry as a turner, those names are coincidental incidentally. The bungalows up on Davitt Road came with the Fire Brigade. Ten semi-detached houses in a row all connected by a loud alarm bell to the Captain – Mr Crosby’s – house, he had the Fire Brigade’s telephone to the outside world. If someone wanted to raise the alarm, they would call him and he would press a button that would ring through all the houses. He would also turn on the siren in the fire station which would travel through the entire town and beyond. If anyone was at work it was understood that they had dispensation to leave. My father would hop on his heavy black bike with the iron spring saddle and make his way up the many hills on the way to the fire station.

My mother was an ambitious woman and she wanted to move up in the world, so we came down the hill. When we got down there she was a bit nervous about me and my brother Paddy hanging around with a rougher crowd down around the main street, so she got us off the street by having us join an all male Catholic brass and reed band called The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band. Father Bernie was the main benefactor for The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band and he was a very nice man, but he had an unfortunate style of sermonizing, instead of going up he went down, and instead of going down he went up. It made for an unfortunate effect upon the entire congregation bringing us to within a heartbeat of slumber.

 Father Bernie got us involved in all the main religious occasions of the year, the biggest one being the Mary Queen of May march when we marched out to a grotto on the outskirts of town where there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin. I always thought that we were marching out there because she had appeared there but it turned out we were marching out there to try and get her to appear there. When we got out there, Father Bernie said mass in his usual sing songy kind of voice, and it was then for the first time in my life I came to an understanding of how horses fall asleep standing up.

After he had said mass we would turn around and start shuffling back into town. We sang hymns as we went along the way. We had a female choir and a male choir, the female choir were all dressed as the Blessed Virgin herself and the male choir were not. We sang hymns like Oh sacrament most holy, Oh Sacrament divine, all praise, and all thanks giving be every moment thine. Now it was turning into dusk and we lit candles as we came up the hill into the outskirts of town where people stood in a state of reverence at their doorways, and down to the folly where we dispersed, some people went for a cuppa tea and some went for a pint, but we all felt vindicated, we had done something for an hour and a half with absolutely no material rewards, and now we were floating on the security of tradition and the infinity of a silent conscience.

As much as my father liked being a fireman and the few extra bob that came with it, he soon packed up the house and followed us down the hill. On the evenings during the interim when he was obligated to stay there overnight, my mother would send one of us there to have his tea ready for him when he came home from work. I remember running down the hill in the dark having sliced the brown bread and cheese and laid it out on the small wooden table with a fresh pot of rich amber tea.

“Oh be the holy mack” he would say with discomfort, I knew what he wasn’t saying, he didn’t need to articulate his affection.

“You better go back home now, your Mammy will be waitin for ye”

New York New York sizzzzle

N Y Skyline

Thursday morning 11:07 it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity, not sure if we should open the windows or keep them closed.  We’ve had the AC on all night in the back of the house where the bedroom is, and it’s nice and cool, but we don’t want to live in AC all day with the windows closed, Clare says its like living in a cave, and I agree.  She is heading out for a breakfast meeting and I need to work on the set for my gig at Joes Pub next Thursday, she suggests that I should go to the Italian cafe on the corner of 10th to get out of here.  As I’m heading out the door I am confronted with a dilemma; should I open the windows or keep them closed? For someone living in Ireland this is a no-brainer, but this is New York, in the centre of Manhattan.  When I came here first I remember being astonished when someone told me that they aimed their fan outwards in order to exhale the humidity, as opposed to blowing the air in. Humidity is the real problem here, not so much the heat, obviously you would only do this if you have no AC. The next best cure was to keep the windows closed, try and keep the humidity out, just grin an bear the dryer heat, that seemed nuts to me. Truth is if you don’t have an air conditioner you’re fucked no matter what you do, and I didn’t even have a bloody $26 fan at that time. Anyway I never bought into it, kept the windows wide open, and nothing moved except the mosquitos, not an ounce of air or wind. I just walked around in my underpants with the sweat dripping down my chest, hadn’t acquired shorts yet, went against the Irish grain, I found them a little embarrassing, or uncool, not David Bowie enough.

However now I’m a grown man, and I have AC! (and shorts) but I don’t want to have it on all day. So should I leave the windows closed as I’m going out, or close them? I decide to leave them closed and keep whatever cool air that is there within. I’ll re-appraise the situation when I’m out there; decide what I should do upon my return to the cave.

I push the tired old metal street door open – top-half cracked glass, covered from head to toe in graffiti – and there it is the force of damp heat bearing down on the half naked sweaty citizens hauling their tired arses along the pavement.  A tall unshaven man in a sweaty undershirt thuds his beaten body towards me, soggy denim shorts, off white socks and shapeless dirty sneakers, he has a long tired face, long hair in a ragged pony tail, ear buds attached to his phone and an old cloth bag twisted around his hand. He is an ugly unhappy looking bugger, almost dangerous, but probably not, he only has half of my attention until he makes an ugly leeching sound “chu-wawwwww” and casts his tired head downwards at two passing women passing him by.  Now with their back to him and me are two young women in their early twenties, I can’t see their faces, but can tell from their skin that they are young and that the one he is panting at, is black.  The two women completely ignore him, obviously used to this shit.  I am always astonished at this, I see this all the time in New York, big ugly looking assholes oogling women to their faces, what do they think; that they have a chance? That the women like this?  I try to imagine what it is like to be the woman, it seems like they are used to it as part of the daily routine in this city, I can’t imagine adding this to my life as part of the difficulty commuting in this overcrowded city.

Only once did I come close to this experience, it comes back to me now as I try to get inside the thoughts of these women.  Back in the eighties my friend Larry Kirwan and a guy called Jacque from Lyon used to bounce around New York bars looking for fun.  When our usual haunts were dull and too familiar, Jacque would exclaim “Gypse!!” imminently we would hop in to a yellow cab and head towards 49th and First Avenue where there was a cabaret club owned by a transvestite performer called Gypse, of course it was predominantly a gay hang-out, but that never even crossed our mind.  One Monday night with nothing going on anywhere, we swung into Gypse half stoned and up for the Craic.  Gypse was up on the stage, a tall skinny drag artist with a sharp tongue and wicked sense of humor.  We were glued to the stage laughing and yelping in support, when suddenly I noticed a table of men to my right, they were all staring at us, looking us up and down, one of them said ” alright…that’s more like it” I felt like a lump of meat, it made me withdraw and want to hide behind something, that is the nearest I ever came to what these women must feel like, and this guy was not being rude, he was doing what people do in singles bars, I can’t imagine experiencing that when I’m just popping out to get some milk.

To my surprise, the apartment was pretty cool when I returned, even without the air conditioner, keeping the windows closed had kept the humidity out, they were right all those years ago when I didn’t believe them.

Just rehearsed “Thunderstorm” with the full ensemble, including the original drum part with Mark Brotter, Andriette Redmann on Bass Synth, John Roksony on Guitar and Fred Parcells playing the original Trombone that he played on the album Now Is Heaven. Forget all the agony of the world, leave the heat on the street, and come to our love fest at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on Thursday July 21 at 7pm.

Don’t worry, I know you’re busy, I’ll play for the Japanese tourists

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Joe’s Pub Thursday July 21st at 7pm The Pierce Turner Ensemble http://publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/Joes-Pub/2016/P/Pierce-Turner-Ensemble/

It’s Monday July 4th, it hasn’t been an easy week up till now. The previous Sunday June 26th was a wondrous day at the Sheen Theatre on Bleeker Street in the Village. The author Joseph O’Connor had invited us to perform at the Angela’s Ashes 20th Anniversary Concert in this newly renovated hi tech auditorium, it was a bill filled with a mish mash of talented people, all strung together around one simple premise; respect for the deceased Frank McCourt and his hugely successful memoir. It was mostly an evening of spoken word, other than that; Jean Butler (of Riverdance fame) Danced, Larry Kirwan my old cohort from Wexford sang, and I sang with my NY Ensemble. All performers were asked to stay within a four-minute framework, and most of us did, so it was a quickly paced event that never allowed the usual absent-mided types to hog the limelight.

At the end of the evening Malachy McCourt and his youngest brother Alphie took to the stage in their own time, Malachy at eighty four pushing his grey walker, and Alphie at Seventy Six with his silver tie hanging out and swinging slowly from his forward leaning gait, a dry under-pronounced pleasantness etched into his milky pale Irish skin; skin that suggested his hair had been ginger before it turned grey. Malachy beamed from ear to ear with long grey hair that curled over his large white dinner jacket, it was easy to see in him the child that Frank described in the book as so charming and inquisitive with his little pearly white teeth. Before them Gabriel Byrne had been at the podium, he had just come from the Theatre where he had completed the final performance of the four-hour Eugene O’Neill play Long days journey into night. As had been the pattern throughout the evening his presence was natural and understated, he spoke in a soft deliberate Dublin accent and compared O’Neill’s play to Angela’s Ashes in the way that they both dug deep into the microcosm of one family, the hidden shame, pain and truth. He also talked about how Frank could be charming company one minute and then in the next decapitate you with a knife. It was easy to become totally immersed as he delivered his gentle thoughts on why this evening was important, and why he was there and why we were there, he hadn’t much to say he said, and because he wasn’t trying, he was all the more powerful.

The same applied to Alphie and Malachy, they had no intention of knocking us out. Malachy sat down on his Walker as Alphie underwhelmed with the might of a humble Guru, saddened by the fact that his Brother Michael had died six months previous, he motioned the shape of an arc with his hand and said, I’m sure he’s around here somewhere “Michael was always fighting with Frank, I remember coming out of some place one evening with drink taken, and Michael had been arguing with Frank for some time, Frank just brushed him off with clever reposts, finally Michael shouted, you’re nothing only a tortured version of James Joyce! of course all of us, including Frank, just fell around laughing” Alphie pulled out a hanky from his brown jacket and wiped his nose periodically, occasionally coughing with a dry throat, after a roll of droll humour, then he just quietly strolled off stage through the wing, malachy pulled the goose necked mike towards him and thought out loud He’s probably gone for a drink, OK, so I’ll just say a few words, as King Henry the Eighth said to his many wives, I won’t keep you long! Eventually Alphie returned, and they finished with a song, encouraging us all to sing along, and try we did, even though we didn’t have the foggiest what the words were, but the song was infectious.  The humility of these two unpretentious men reminded me that you don’t have to jump through hoops to touch an audience; you just have to be honest. It was a magical event, and all I can think is that Frank McCourt and his masterwork had hovered over the whole affair and turned the mish mash into a coherent homage.

That was Sunday. The next day, Monday, I was standing in my kitchen leaning against the countertop, still quietly pleased with the previous days happening, there before me seated by the door was Kevin the owner of an Irish Wheaton Terrier called Murphy, and talking to him with her back to me sat Clare, in between them sat upon the floor was Murphy. We had been minding Murphy for Kevin for several days, and I had walked him, fed him, patted him on the head, rubbed him under the chin, and only made him wear his muzzle while I was walking him, he had sat on the couch with me when I watching the European cup. It seemed cruel to make him wear the muzzle around the house, although he had to wear it because of some unclear personality trait. He is a medium size, very muscular dog that is excitable. I was waving my hands about, talking of who knows what, when Murphy with a viscous growl lunged at me and took a lump out of my index finger, I looked at Kevin with the fear of God in my eyes and the word HELP screaming in silence, pulling my hand away only suggested attack to the dog, now he went for my stomach tearing a hole in my shirt and puncturing the skin, his growl was as ferocious as his action, I felt completely helpless, if I moved, he would get worse, all I could do was let him attack it seemed. Kevin jumped up and shouted HEY!! Grabbing Murphy by the collar and pulling him back, a little too late for me.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know what happened” I said, shaken, embarrassed and uncomfortable, for the dog and the owner, while my blood was spilling all over the kitchen tiles. Clare who was feeling all the same emotions as me about the dog and owner (Catholics) explained that I was probably bleeding that much because I take a baby aspirin every day. That split my emotions for a second, I was now feeling that some sympathy was in order, and that this was still real blood, so what if it was a little thinner! The dog and the worried owner left, my favourite shirt was ripped apart and we went to the emergency ward at Beth Israel where three hours later I got stitches in my finger.

That was Monday. Tuesday comes and it’s a hot one, Clare and I decide to go for a swim over at Asser Levy, an excellent Olympic size public pool over on 21st Street and First Avenue. I point out to Clare that my favourite American Camper sandals are starting to fall apart, the rubber souls are flapping in the front and in the back, it had been going on for a while, but now they were getting dangerous. She had ordered a new pair with Amazon but they hadn’t come yet. Clare suggested that I wear them over to the Pound Shop along the way, and that we would get a cheap pair for three dollars there that would get me to the pool and back. After going though a heap of very bright plastic sandals we finally settled on a black pair that were a bit on the big side. The pool has its rules though, you must have a lock for the locker, no magazines, no phones, and you must shower before going in the pool. So Clare goes to the women’s to change and I go upstairs to the Men’s locker room. Clare reminded me that you can get verruca’s in public showers, so I should wear my new plastic sandals to the shower, after all they are waterproof unlike my campers. I wet myself and my shoes, lock the locker and swing down the stairs, the wet stairs! BANG!! My feet went flying up in the air… the hard plastic shoes were now like boards in a water slide, I hit that hard stone stairs screaming involuntarily, beyond all Catholic restraint, my pain echoed up the stair well so loud that the two jaded janitors came and asked me was I alright, my feet had gone so far into the black shoes that they were stretched over my ankles now, I had landed on my left arse, and it was swollen so bad I barely recognized it, I was half of a hippie person, half big bum, my neck hurt, the ring on my finger had carved a purple bruise where it tried to travel towards my wrist, every muscle in my body ached, and people were looking at me. I was in agony, and I was embarrassed, AGAIN!

 

I hobbled out to swimming pool where Clare was frolicking around like a baby seal, I hobbled towards the ladder mouthing my agony towards her, finally, after boring a hole into the back of her head she glanced in my direction “ I have just had the worst fall of my life” I mouthed towards her. She had “what now?” on her lips as I descended into the cool soothing water. On the way home Clare insisted on bringing the shoes back to the Pound Shop, I stood outside while she argued with two Chinese teenage girls about how dangerous the shoes were. I think this was her way of showing she cared, so I let her, even though I thought it was unreasonable. She got the three bucks back, and I hobbled home in my flappy campers.

 

To this day I am covered in bruise patterns, a myriad of colours like an angry sky, deep purples, black and blue, with a translucent sulpher yellow, they are in the front of my leg, the back of my leg, my left arse, reaching up over the front of my stomach where they almost meet the ones on my right stomach with the puncture wounds left by Murphy. The ground they cover is so vast, it’s clear now that I had so many spots that were hurt, I had lost track of them, but the bruises are there like a map to show where they were.

 

That was Tuesday. A few days later I heard that Alphie went to bed for a sleep and never woke up. Another bruise, this one on the inside.

 

On Monday July 4th I sat by Clare’s cousin Amanda’s pool in Philadelphia, they had a party that was set to climax with a fire works display by the local Chamber of Commerce come nightfall. It was absolutely pouring rain, and we sat huddled under umbrella’s drinking beer and eating bread and cheese. A woman whom I knew, but wasn’t sure how, lamented that she hadn’t been to an Irish music festival in ages, she heard that the Milwaukie Irish beer festival was great as usual and when was I playing again?

 

“July 21st I’m at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan”

 

“Oh I can’t possibly go to something on July 31st, I have a School………etc”

 

“No it’s not on the 31st, it’s on July 21st

 

“Oh that’s even worse, I can’t possibly go to a gig on the 21st….etc”

 

I jumped in the pool and watched the fireworks over the high trees, above the occasional lighted windows of a passing train, in the rain.

Tears come easily at airports and conversation

A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner's performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he
A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner’s performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he

I am back in NYC getting ready for the Frank McCourt 20th Anniversary show this Sunday at the Sheen Centre in Manhattan (sold out) it’s a new Theatre on Bleeker Street.

 

Having just spent a lot of time waiting in airports, I found myself noticing the effect of it and wondering if there is a song there? It’s a kind of neutral ground, a place where all of our normal responsibilities go by the wayside; the bills piled upon each other in the hallway, the cost of an Airport sandwich, our guard towards strangers; it feels like everyone there is the same club! And tears come easily, for no particular reason. There is a sense of freedom; everything is put off until tomorrow, and no one can reasonably expect you to do a task regardless of the urgency. It’s like you are in outer space and can’t be reached until you land, you don’t have to watch what you eat or drink, and it doesn’t matter if it’s morning or night. Travelling can be hard, taking off the belt and the shoes, the in and out of the computer, explaining all the bloody wires that I have to carry with me, shoving it all down the line while holding on to my trousers, counting the gates for miles and miles, only to find an elevator that takes me to the next set of gates. But once you get there and put down the bags, there is a great moment of respite to relish as you people watch with a very expensive pint and sandwich in hand, knowing that you are such a cad at that moment, that you are not phased by doling out a small fortune.

 

Thanks everyone who came to the Irish gigs, they were really thrilling for me, singing in those acoustics with that organ coming from behind the audience while we came from the front, created something truly unique, so special that I am adamant about doing a bunch more the next time, and it seemed to bring people out of the woodworks, some old and some new. A gentleman called Donal from Waterford has found a beautiful Church there that we are working on, if you know of a good Church with a working Organ and the right vibe (not stiff or depressing) please get in touch, it doesn’t matter where, let’s look at it first before we decide. And I mean In the US or UK also.

But what about Manhattan? I am asked, that other show is sold out! No need to fret, we have a good one coming up at the glorious Joe’s Pub. We will have the full ensemble from the last NY Church gig; Andriette Redman on Bass and vocals plus Kath Green on vocals and percussion, John Rokosny guitar, Fred Parcells on the Bone and vocals, and Mark Brotter on Drums and percussion, me on the Grand Piano and guitar, we will do the new album and the old ones, tickets are on sale starting now. I hope to see all the familiar faces and those new ones that have been popping up with the gleeful surprise of virginity.

One gets the feeling that these are golden days judging by the reaction in Ireland in New York, please come and celebrate with a nice cool cocktail, bring your vibe and I’ll bring mine. BTW, I made it a Thursday to suit your summer weekends. Px

PIERCE TURNER ENSEMBLE

JOE’S PUB (PUBLIC THEATRE) THURSDAY JULY 21ST AT 7PM

http://www.publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/Joes-Pub/2016/P/Pierce-Turner-Ensemble/

 

 

 

Irish Press for Love Can’t Always Be Articulate

 

The Irish Mail on Sunday June 12-2016

This album’s songs quiver in the natural acoustic’s of the Manhattan Lutheran Church where he recorded it… Tantum Ergo and Billy Sunday have a Churchy resonance. Not so, the rousing Sorrow is a solid feeling or the acoustic cover of T Rex’s Life’s a Gas. His devoted fans will be delighted. * * *

 

The Irish Times interview May 30 – 2016

“There is very little melody in the current pop idiom” The same cannot be said of the uncompromising Music of Wexford’s Pierce Turner, who wears his ecclesiastical influences proudly.

 

The Sunday Business Post Magazine June 12-2016

Turner’s vocals are laden with sentiment, with a fragility that is emotionally affecting, most powerfully on I Think It’s going to rain today, Adios Romeo, and warm swaying closer, the Paul Simon like Human Prayer. There’s even an enchanting version of Marc Bolan’s Life’s a Gas. LOVELY.

 

 

Drowning in a Pool of Monday’s Rain

The weather man on Channel 2 is a red haired fella with black horn-rimmed glasses. He’s a dapper little fella and always makes a crack pertaining to the previous news announcement from the charming presenters on the morning show. He is introduced with such regularity; it would be impossible for him to not be annoying. It may be every 7 minutes or something as ridiculous as that.

This Monday morning I turned on the T.V at the once unthinkable hour of 7.30 a.m. Now I have to admit that it’s become very thinkable, ever since Clare introduced me to morning T.V. The announcer who reads the news was on, a likeable fella with slicked back hair and some kind of sinus problem, I always look right into his face to see where the sound problem is coming from. I can clearly hear the squeezed pressure in his voice, and yet he shows no visible tightness in his nose. After his brief update on the latest news he made his usual announcement – “And now over to Billy Elliot for the latest on the weather”. I thought to myself “here we go”: Billy seemed to hover in under a bleak fog and cloud swamped concrete shot of Manhattan skyscrapers.

“Take a good look at this, and get used to it” he perked with a wobble of his head and a smirk.

“This is what it’s going to be like all week l…o…n…g.”

This is Wednesday, and I’m way behind on my Monday morning blog. I have been so incapacitated by the weather, I found it impossible to write. This evening we were so exasperated, Clare and I looked at each other and both blurted HELP!!!!! We called up our friend Carol downstairs and said “where can we go?” She suggested this place over on 14th Street – 5 napkin something – and we went there for their happy hour. Six glasses of wine later (for two) and 2 sliders (small burgers) and some sushi yokes, we came out of there $60 lighter, and braved the Irishy sea fret back home.

On the street there was a lot of tension, people were arguing. A tall, sixtyish black woman, sat on a stoop beneath a scaffolding arguing with an angry man with an Eastern European accent. He shouted in a heated rage.

“When you gonna gi-me dat durty fy dollahs you owe me?”

They both looked like they had a few, and a white male friend looked on with bemusement.

“you neva gonna let dat go are you?”

“How many times I godda ask?” he shouted, his small nose now curled up in anger above his six o’clock shadow.

“We made a arrangement dat you seemed to forgot, but you aint neva gonna let me foget are you, no never!!!”

“Why should I fo-get, you neva paid me back, it’s durty fy dollahs, you got no principle”

Soon their blood pressure voices trailed off behind us, Clare linked me as we headed home towards First Avenue, in the cold fog.

New York’s not normally like this. Bad weather of this description, usually tails off after a day or two. But this is hanging in there, and according to Billy Elliot, the weather man, it will be like this until Friday.

And then I recall my 19th year in Dublin, walking through a leafy park in the soft afternoon rain, a small park designated to the memory of some old wealthy west Brit, paid for so that the likes of me could have a place of green to daydream in away from the traffic, a place of green for me and a memorial for them, so that the world would remember they once had been here. I, almost hallucinating from the lack of meaning and direction in my life, with the regular companionship of rain and weather mixed with teenage pain, the desire for love, for success, for meaning, for an answer, felt it was such a potent cocktail that it rendered me numb and beyond the ability of intellectual appraisal. I may have been severely depressed half the time, but didn’t know about that kind of thing really.

Now, here I am moaning about five days of rain, after living with fifty in a row, repeatedly in my Irish youth.

New Yorkers are ripping each other to pieces because of it, in Ireland we turned it into art. What else could we do, there were no therapists.

Why do Italian restaurants make such a big deal out of pepper?

pepper photo for blog

Why do they keep the pepper off in a sacred place? They make such a big deal out of it. The table has a little white porcelain holder with sachets of brown sugar, white sugar, fake sugar – two different types of fake sugar actually, and salt, and of course ominous in its absence, the star of Italian cuisine PEPPER!

If there was no salt and I asked for some, I would get my own salt cellar or a small dish with an unhealthy helping of that historically relevant powder. But if  I should ask for pepper, there would be a “one moment please” reply, and a disappearance into the back to procure the precious spice. It feels like we should almost genuflect when it is brought out, a large wooden phallic-shaped device is maneuvered above your food and the large knob at its head is turned two or three times, if you look hard some tiny motes of dark dust will have landed on the food, the waiter appears to be saying “surely that’s enough?” and you reply to his tacit expression “That’s good, thank you” even though I would like some more, the guilt is too great, I don’t want to be greedy do I?

But wait a second, it’s just pepper, it’s not truffle. It’s a big yoke with a dollar’s worth of pepper corns inside of it, I bet those sachets of fake sugar cost more. And at this rate of usage, it must last for a week. You can buy these pepper corns anywhere around here, with great ease. They aren’t sought out by special pigs in deep leaves at the base of a swollen tree!

When my sandwich arrives – a small spinach omelette type of thing in a heated croissant – it’s pretty good. This is an Italian café at the corner of 10th Street and First Avenue, it is run by real Italians and the latte is authentic with a rich brown coffee cream on the top – it sets me up for the European vibe of the sandwich, it’s small and I’m fine with that, not that hungry anyway this morning. My eyes immediately scan the table and the ominous absence of pepper only leads to its greater importance. I don’t want to annoy the waiter, it’s breakfast, it feels inappropriate to ask him to bring it out into the sun from its resting place to the sidewalk where I listen to two New York women bullshitting each over-affectionately, and with rap music pouring out of every car stopped at the traffic lights; it seems sacrilegious to bring the pepper out here, just for my breakfast. So I just eat the bloody thing as it is, all the while thinking that it’s good but could use a sharp flavor to cut through the buttery croissant and add colour to the neutral tasting eggs. And you know that the waiter is holding, it’s written all over his face, he’s like an undercover cop, you know he’s got the power, you know he’s got a gun behind there, he doesn’t need to show it. He will only produce it if he has to.

The two women finish their espressos and leave, they kiss and hug, one of them would be honoured to be involved in whatever it is that the other one was proudly proffering, they walk away.

Five minutes later one of them returns and orders my sandwich. The pepper remains in its sanctuary though, awaiting the evening worship.

Madama Butterfly

Met Opera House Madama Butterfly Pierce Turner Bloig

The flu came on Friday afternoon, my sister Bernie and her son Gareth arrived in New York on Sunday afternoon. We planned to prepare a nice Sunday roast for them as a New York welcoming. But I was a pale version of myself that day, the shivering had ceased, and the muscle pains, but I was limp and incapable of expending any energy. So we regrouped and decided to have a very New York delivery of pizza from Stromboli’s on the corner of St Marks Place. It was a good idea, and with a nice salad, we weren’t too glutenised. It was Gareth’s first visit to NY so he got a bit of a kick out of the large pie box sat in the middle of the table with its Italian motif.

On Wednesday we continued the Italian theme with an evening at the Met Opera House for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – I adore Giacomo Puccini’s orchestration, and we sat way up high where (cheap seats) I could watch the orchestra following the masterful direction of the conductor. Puccini had come from a musical family, they had dominated the area – Cattedrale di San Martino in Lucca – where they lived for over 120 years, all church organists, one after another, and when Giacomo’s father died, his talented son was in line to do the same, but he was only six.

However, in his early twenties after going through the conservatory he did take over the organ for a while. As I said, I have always loved his work, but it’s been a while since I last witnessed one of his operas live. Many thoughts came to mind, firstly that the original Met had been built by the same man who created the church where I recorded my new album. Secondly, I could hear the organ in his orchestration, sometimes it sounded like a huge organ, with more moving parts of course. And then I thought about how I may have been sub-consciously seeking this while recording in the church, through the organ! It has such a human quality, with the wind blowing through its pipes, it can sound like flutes, or trumpets, or like a full ensemble.

This Friday morning, I took my family to the church to show them around. Madama Butterfly was still ringing through our ears when I sat at the organ and played an improvisation using an array of sounds, I was inspired, Puccini was in my heart. I believe that there is another album in this church. Madama Butterfly finally chased away the cobwebbed flu residue. Music has saved me once again.

If you are in New York maybe you can come share the love with us this Sunday 17th at the Harp 45th st and 3rd Avenue-6pm. It will be a special night I believe, after the Church and Puck Fair, there is magic in the air.

Love px

 

Forty dollar cup of coffee

N Y Skyline

The house is creaking like an old ship; I hear a woman’s voice that I don’t recognize in the apartment up above, she is talking to a higher-pitched male voice than the usual tenant who lives there. Could it be Airbnb or just visitors from out of town? It’s definitely someone who is experiencing new things to speak about, I can hear the relish in their voices. A truck beeps its reversal warning somewhere in the cavernous collection of random sounds that siren, shout and scrape out there in world behind this house. Even though that world back there – referred to as Alphabet City – has transformed from drug-addled poverty to upscale restaurants and valuable real estate, I still think of the front of the house as the place the important stuff happens. The front is where the numbered Avenues begin, First through Tenth, as opposed to A to D.

“Is that the phone?” My heart raises.

“Oh, it is the same ring but muffled, must be the next door phone.” Disappointed, I sink back into the mattress, wish the bell would ring or something; even the postman would be a lift. I never knew raindrops could be so loud, and the tick of that big old secondhand clock that we bought on the street, there goes a church bell, the hoo hoo of the turtle doves that come to our window to eat the flowers, a fire engine scream, a staccato truck brake, and the building never stops creaking! What the hell is that about? It seems to be groaning at the weather, it is a miserable grey wet day, very reminiscent of Ireland, the building seems to wince at every raindrop.

I’m lying in the bed on Monday morning with the flu. I went to the gym on Friday morning and worked a little harder than usual. Instead of just riding the bike for a half-hour aerobic I ran for 15 minutes too, at a fair pace. And then I did a little extra on a few of the weight yokes, came home, had a hot bath, and was feeling a bit sore. Thinking that it was because of the extra stuff at the gym, I dried off and sat on the bed to put on clean socks and felt the urge to just lie down for a second afterwards. About a half hour later I woke up feeling really sore, a bit confused, I dragged myself out of the bed “God I’ve got to get going, I’m wasting time here… I know! I’ll go across to the Italian café and get a latte to go, that way I’ll get some fresh air and some caffeine”. It was bizarre weather on Friday, the temperature soared to 78 degrees, so I put on a t-shirt and shorts. Boy, everything hurt; just lifting my leg to shove it into the shorts was a strain. I decided that I would take forty dollars with me for the coffee, on the way there I would amble past that Korean massage place and see if that bloke was in there, maybe I would get one of their half hour deals for $24.99. The bloke was the best, I had tried it before and got him by accident, he had been sitting behind the counter while the other ladies stood around, I talked to him because he seemed like he worked there, not knowing that they all did too. He worked on my shoulder knot and was getting somewhere when I heard a bloke come in and ask in a booming voice “Is the man here?” They answered in subservient broken English, next minute a woman’s voice is whispering furtively through a slit in the makeshift door behind me, he whispers back, and I can feel the hands change on my neck, I could hear the men talking in the reception as she continued the job with her small hands. That’s how I knew he was the best, he came back in five minutes and the hands changed again, and the difference was huge.

Once I got outside into the blaring sunshine, I felt that coffee was not an option and proceeded to the massage parlour. Mike was there they said (found out his name) and he came out from his lunch to sort me out. But when I left there I was even worse and was only barely able to walk home, I got in bed and my head was on fire, it dawned on me then, that I had the accursed flu.

So here I lie in my empty apartment, Clare is at work, the world is in school. Watching the television or reading gives me a headache, so I listen to my mind having a field day with my …. mind? Apparently I’m a complete fuck-up and no matter how good my new album is, no one will give a shit (according to it/me /him) I can usually shut the bugger up, but maybe that’s why we get the flu, so that he can a word in. Every inch of me hurts, even my hands! How fondly I remember last Thursday, of course I didn’t know how well off I was then. Where did I catch it? That ould one behind me at the gym sneezed countless times all over me and never covered her mouth, I even threw her a look, she looked puzzled, she was always a cantankerous prat, is this house sinking to the south? Can you get the flu from a sneeze? I’m falling asleep once again, zzzzzzzzzz

Last Night I Had a Dream

A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner's performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he

Last night I had a dream.

I had a dream last night that I wrote the perfect hit song. I was able to look at it objectively and decide that it had all the necessary content to be a hit. It had a catchy melody, but not obvious, it twisted slightly just when you thought you knew where it was going, and after turning that mysterious corner, just as you were feeling a little lost, it returned to a hook that looked and felt like home, like the familiar wallpaper of my parents sitting room, it made me feel at ease, a hand in glove, and it broke into groove with slight edge making me want to dance. Remember this was a dream, so there were no practical issues that could interfere with the appointed outcome, also, because it was a dream it may have begun with the outcome before it started, so it could be pre-designed to not fail. Maybe I wished that I could write a hit song and then dreamed that I did, so therefore I knew what I wanted before I began, so being that it is a make believe world anyhow, there was no reason for my wishes to have any obstacle to impede their conclusion.

However, there was a snag. I sat there looking at the song for a while and thought of what the consequences might be if it was a hit, or should I say “when” it was a hit, in the dream there was absolutely no doubt, I just needed to put it out there. It was all very clear and exact in the dream. If I put the song out it was going to be a huge hit, it would be all over the radio, it would have millions of hits on YouTube, instead of booking venues that hold 100 to 300 people I would be playing in six thousand seaters like Radio City Music Hall. The newfound wealth that would come with this played no part in the dream at all by the way.

A cold plastic feeling came across me, I could see the song as an island of architectural precision, it was like a ship or a spacecraft, everyone wanted to get on board it, and it was clear to me that it would sink, crash and burn pretty soon after it was launched with all my present friends on board , some new ones would die too, when it was over there would be no-one left, and no new ones interested either. It was a one hit wonder, I would live in the world of novelty for the rest of my days. It was horrifying to me. When I woke up, I lay there on my back staring at the ceiling fan stood still with a cobweb reaching across to my signed Angela’s Ashes in its zip-locked bag on the shelf above my head, one day it might be worth something? Money! Fame, fortune, I believe that I once assumed those things would come my way one day, lately I have become more and more skeptical about that outcome. But I have to say that dreams can straighten out this kind of confusion. I woke up this morning with a slightly clearer idea of what it is that I want, and a little more sure that I may have known all along. Just like the dream, I planned the outcome before I began.

Either be there or you’re a putz!

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

I may be digressing, or maybe this is progression. One time I played five times a week, and had a team of roadies to set up my gear, all I had to do was get in and out of the bus. They even strung my guitar. And all the rehearsal and preparation was to perform in front of thousands of people a week, albeit, usually as an opener for someone else’s audience, often the wrong one, still it seemed to make commercial and artistic sense to everyone.

Now I am spending all my time rehearsing and preparing to perform in a church for a one-off performance on March 12th that is purely for the sake of art and the repair of a stained glass ceiling. Is this nuts? I am carrying amplifiers up and down stairs, turning on the speaker on the left of the church and running around the horseshoe balcony to the other side to turn on the right. Setting up the mike stands, plugging in the pedals and the keyboard, arranging rehearsals time with the pastor, the sacristan and all the musicians who are working for free, the sound man and the videographer, screaming for publicity and …oh figuring out the set list and memorizing the songs and arrangements for myself. A couple of rehearsals ago everything was perfect as we ran the set, we were cruising along through “You Are Leaving” when suddenly I realized that I had forgotten how it went! So much time is going into all the other stuff, including with a capital A ..administration! So I went home and began to rehearse MYSELF – put myself staring at the wall and performed for the pictures. I was sure that all these songs were embedded in my brain, but when we are rehearsing, at first, we tend to focus on the tricky parts for other musicians to pick up, and sometimes things have to be tailored differently for live performance or a different line-up. It’s very important stuff, but it can mean forgetting to focus on just singing a song from beginning to end. However, if one keeps an eye on it, it’s a process that comes back to my awareness that I have to start singing to the wall if I have to. This week I know it will all come together and I know that artistically it is far superior to what I did before tens of thousands when I was on the road – including the sixty thousand at Glastonbury unfortunately – it’s exciting to know how special it will be to perform in the perfect acoustics of this church, I hope you are there to witness it. The audience will have a natural surround sound. Behind them, Nic on the grand organ and piano, and in front guitars, bass, vocals, trombone and drums. I wish we (and wonder if) we could perform there more times (residency in a church, yikes) it is so much work for one very special evening. If you are in New York or nearby and you have a paltry excuse for not being there, you are a putz.

But I still love you, Pierce x

 

The Blog! I nearly forgot the Blog, the album has taken over!

Battery Park photo

The blog, the blog, jays I nearly forgot about the blog. I’ve been watching the Oscars all night, the back of my head is embedded into this cushion, it’s not comfortable, and it hasn’t been all night for some reason. And yet I insist on continuing watching and keeping away from the computer. I swore last night that I would take the day off today by hook or by crook, and that I wouldn’t go near the computer, because it is sucking the eyes out of my head.

Yesterday, Saturday, I rehearsed in the church, our first full rehearsal with the organ and the full ensemble. It was by and large a great success, but hard work, we didn’t have a sound engineer yet, so I had to run up and down from the altar to the organ loft a lot. When I got home Clare had made a very nice meal and she had gone to Trader Joe’s to get the shopping alone, she was looking exhausted after working all week and commuting back and forth in the over-crowded subway. I felt bad that she was working so hard on her day off, and was worried that I was turning her into a musician’s widow.

So I decided to take today, Sunday, off (which really means, no computer) and to be willing to do whatever Clare wanted to do. It turned out to be a sunny Spring-like day, and a good plan. We went down to Clare’s favourite restaurant by the water looking over the Hudson River towards New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty. Ferries criss-crossed in the gleaming sun as we sipped wine and split caprese salad and dipped Italian bread in peppered olive oil. Clare deemed it a perfect day and her face glowed with radiant evidence. We got speaking to a beautiful couple with their 18 month old son. His mother was a high-spirited French woman with that certain open smile French women can possess, and a natural beauty that defies the use of make-up. She and her Argentinian husband live in Williamsburg Brooklyn and were doing what we were doing; pretending they were in Spain on holidays. They asked us what we did, and when I told them I was a musician, they wanted to know “What kind of music?” I dodged the impossible reply by giving them a card for the album launch at the church on March 12th. Who knows maybe they will be there, Clare swears that they will.

Then we came home and started watching the red carpet stuff before the Oscars. I thought I would lose my mind, it was so boring looking at all these beautiful women, ruined by shit over the top make-up and sparkling dresses that promote the designer above their wearer; interviewers telling them that were gorgeous!! By the time the actual Oscars came on, Clare was so tired she went to bed, and I forced myself to watch it without ever once picking up the computer. After two and a half hours of pure shite, I decided to go to bed myself. I started turning off the lights, and just as I was about to don my long white sleepy shirt, I realized that I hadn’t written my blog. So here I am on the computer after all.

The response to the album so far is very exciting, it feels special. If you have a favourite D.J please tweet them about it. The album hasn’t gone to radio yet, but it would be great to have them wondering about it ahead of time. Please don’t burn it, but don’t keep it a secret either, in this day and age, the internet word of mouth is all powerful.

Love Pierce x

Give the dog a trombone

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

We started minding dogs through a website that offers boarding jobs for animals. At first we did it for the extra dosh, but right away we realized that it would be good for us as an animal fix too. But nine times out of ten when a dog is offered to us, we are unable to take them for one reason or another.

By the way, if you are in Europe and you didn’t get your Pledge CD yet, it’s because I made a miscalculation and didn’t send enough to my pal Paul in Dublin who is sending them out for me. He will have them very soon, and yours is on the way – sorry!

So where was I with the dogs? So, yesterday, a woman firefighter got let down, and at the last minute asked us to mind her dog Carla. I had a rehearsal planned at my apartment for the same time, but went ahead with it anyway. Fred Parcells arrived from New Jersey with his trombone, Andriette Redmann brought her skills to play bass and sing, John Rokosny brought his acoustic guitar with the built-in tuner (both came from Brooklyn where they live together), Mark Brotter brought some skins for percussion from around the corner. Kath Green had to see her mother in Pennsylvania and Nic the organist needs the church organ, so I will see him separately (we are rehearsing for the Premiere in New York of “Love Can’t Always Be Articulate” on March 12th – 7.30 pm). We went through “Billy Sunday” to get the tambourine part and the bone going. Then we hit “Life’s a Gas” with Mark on the sticks (claves?) then applied bass, skins and bone to our guitars on “Sorrow is a Solid Feeling”. It all feels so fresh and inspired to me, there is nothing conventional about it to bore. And then the dog arrived; it’s a big dog! A sweet friendly one that wants to play all the time. Straight away she discovered the tennis ball under the couch.

“Will someone throw this for me?”

“Not right now, Carla”

I sing: “I am Billy Sunday and this what I do”

“Pant, pant, can you just throw this once, please?”

Clare came in and took Carla to the kitchen.

This is going to be a slow burn; we will release this CD to the world at the pace of my life, the scenic route to the summit. Beginning with a very special experience at the The Gustavas Adolphus Church on 22 Street and the corner of 3rd at 7.30 p.m. on March 12th. Spread the word and lets pack this event, we have some really big shots coming, including Martin Mills, may be the most important indie record company executive on the planet, owning XL (Adele, Prodigy) 4AD (The National, Bon Iver, The Pixies) and many more. He signed me to Beggars Banquet originally and still likes what he hears, ye never know. And Ireland!!!! Are you ready? June 11th at the Unitarian Church Stephen’s Green Dublin tickets now on sale – details HERE

Remember lads I need you, word of mouth is powerful, but even more so now because we can reach the world through the Internet. Please encourage your friends to strike a blow for us, the man on the street, the un-superstars, share, tweet, spread the word. Order the album from us HERE.

Love Pierce x

P.S. Carla goes back today, she’s lovely.

To Kiss a Man

First Avenue
First Avenue

We went to our favourite restaurant in the village the other night. Our friend Chris came down from Westchester for his birthday and we went together to Pylos over on 7th Street to celebrate it. Pylos serves gourmet Greek food, the kind of Mediterranean food that they say makes you live longer. It’s the kind of place that you need to book in advance, once you have been there once you’ll go there thrice. And all those thrices add up to backed-up, it’s always good, and people always go back, so it gets booked up.

The owner, Christos, is Greek as is his manager Alex and many of the staff. Christos greets me with a kiss on both cheeks, I’m getting into it, but I’m always a little reticent. I come from Ireland, no actually I come from Wexford, and that’s not the same as coming from Dublin. A Dubliner might give you a kiss, but you won’t be getting one in Wexford.

The other night Alex was on duty and I greeted him as vivaciously as possible, I was ready for him, and threw myself at him immediately, offered my upheld hand for a hi-five while he offered me a hug on top of it, we got a little mangled and I lost my bottle when it came to the kiss. He knew what was going on and retracted a little, it’s extra complicated because Alex is gay and I worried that he thought that that was why I was hesitant, I also thought that he was being sensitive to the fact that I knew he was gay and might think that I, like an idiot, thought that he wanted a kiss for another reason. I felt bad that he was uncomfortable and the whole thing was ridiculous, not a big moment, but I wanted to kick myself. Alex is such a nice bloke.

The Ireland that I grew up in wasn’t very kissy. And it wasn’t hand shaky either. You only shook hands with someone if a close relative had died. And you only kissed a woman if you were courting, or making out, as they say in America. When I returned home after my first three years in America (I wasn’t allowed to leave while I was applying for a green card), my mother met me at the airport with my brother Paddy and his wife Kathleen, I kissed them all except Paddy. That was the first time I had kissed my mother since I was a baby, babies got and gave plenty of kisses of course. What surprised me was how easily it came to us, it was a motion that I had picked up in America, and she liked it.

Now of course there is a lot more social kissing going on in Ireland. But not man to man very much. And some women are uncomfortable with being kissed too. I tend to adjust to the situation very quickly. My sensors are on from the moment I enter someone’s home, I am ready to kiss or shake hands, or bid good day from a distance. But my wife Clare insists on kissing everyone, regardless of who they are, so I have to kiss em too. One woman was so uncomfortable she blurted out with restrained annoyance “of course you love kissing, you have to bloody well kiss everyone” I was thinking “jays, no I don’t” I wanted to cancel the action entirely, but Clare was already halfway around the room kissing big red-faced men and shuffling women, they were only too happy when I stopped short with a wave.

I have to say that there is something lovely about a man greeting another man with a kiss. My friend Pat McGuire, the great Irish-American singer, always greets me with a kiss, and I feel genuinely that it is about deep friendship and affection, he is a very warm person, and it seems that shaking hands just doesn’t cut it. It never feels uncomfortable because he has no hesitation, and right away we know that we are really glad to see each other, there is no uncomfortable small talk, we have already knocked down the wall.

Maybe European men experience this all the time, it certainly seems that way from here.

Henry and Delores Part 3

Back-yard-photo-2

That evening I told Clare about what happened, and she was sympathetic, seeing that I was plainly upset. She had no answer however, and was just as confused as me, and surprised. I found myself searching through our recent encounters, looking for instances when I might have accidently blanked him during a walking daydream, or done something that he witnessed and disapproved. But it was a futile exercise, because we really didn’t know each other properly, and to boot, I wasn’t close enough to him to bring up such an intimate discomfort. We knew each other to see, and to exchange frivolous pleasantries, but we weren’t “in” enough to fall out. I just had to suck it up and hope it wouldn’t happen again. But it did! The next time he was talking to the Puerto Rican guy that owned the Bodega on the corner. Before it had closed he ran a pretty successful business there with his brother Peppi, however their replacement renter had made a mess of it and had to quit, leaving it boarded up for the best part of a year. Ironically, I knew Peppi’s name but not the name of his much friendlier brother. Henry was always pally with the friendly brother, and here they were having a right old laugh about something outside the now busy Bodega. “Goodnight” said I with the wave of my hand, doing the best I could to not seem hesitant – they both looked at me as if they were saying “do I know you?”

Now this is where you may begin to question this writer’s character: Henry’s second blank was a shock to me, but not the friendly brother guy, he had blanked me a couple of years ago after several years of charming exchange. I was so offended I didn’t bother with him again, he had always seemed like he loved himself too much – but not Henry, he was special. What in God’s name was going on?

The next time I saw Henry, I didn’t have any choice but to blank him too. Every time I saw him from then on was horrendously uncomfortable, and the hurt stayed with me for hours beyond. We continued to be friends with Delores however and I wanted desperately to talk about it to her, but couldn’t. The years went by, the cats grew older. Alice died at the age of nine; her genetic weakness had caught up with her. She was panting her last breaths on my lap when the young vet Jana arrived in her skintight checkered slacks, she kneeled down to look at Alice with compassion and on her way up she caught a glimpse of my escaping emotion. At first I hadn’t cared much for Alice, she was too scrawny with big ears and a rat’s tail, but with time I stopped being an asshole about her, she was just an innocent animal after all. Prejudice, as usual, was just an outlet for sanctimony. After living in New York for a few years Alice’s kidneys had begun to fail and the vet instructed us on how to give her dialysis. Every day we would hang a bag of saline water from a hook that I had screwed into a wooden shelf above the bed, and Clare would bravely insert a large needle into the folded skin on the back of her neck, going through this with Alice raised my affection for her considerably. Now I sat there rocking her as she reached for her final breath, extra torn because of my previous callousness towards her, her tiny life was slipping away on my lap.

Jana the vet gently laid Alice out on our bed where we had shared our fearful routine for a couple of months, however this needle was to be her last one. Jana was a sensitive generous person, and we became friends with her after that, bringing Frankie up to her at the Animal Hospital for his booster shots and any other ailments that he might have. One day we noticed that he was limping and hesitant about jumping up to the back window where we kept his cushion. Jana had him x-rayed at the Animal Hospital where she worked uptown. She had grown very fond of him over time, he was a strong gentle animal, and never caused a fuss, a sort of Zen presence.

The Animal Hospital is a very slick place, geared up for effortless financial intake. They take your animal with one hand and credit card with the other. An assistant in blue medical overalls took Frankie away while we sat on the red enamel chairs in the large waiting area akin to the waiting room in an upscale private clinic. It can be an entertaining place to sit if you are not worried about your reason for being there. If your attention is not taken by the sniffing of a large dog or a terrier, your curiosity is aroused by the site of exotic birds or something small like a gerbil or a budgie, cats, snakes, mice, rats, you name it, all carried delicately by their concerned owners.

I needed to call my manager about a meeting that was proposed for the following day. Things weren’t going well between he and I, he had recently handed me over to an assistant manager, and another artist with a squeaky wheel mentality seemed to be taking precedent over everything. I was speaking to his assistant when Jana sheepishly came over and softly pulled me by the index finger towards an enclosed room. Clare was already inside the small room sitting on a chair facing me as I entered, Jana seemed nervous and her sad brown eyes betrayed any professionalism that she projected behind her white coat. With a shaky hand she took a large negative out of a folder and clipped it into a box light up on the wall, She pointed at the black negative line of Frankie’s rib cage, inside it there was a cloudy mass of white, Jana pointed with a shaky finger “This white stuff is not normal, I’m so sorry to show you this, but this is – she stopped to take a deep breath and gulped – some kind of cancer” We stood there, all three of us, staring up at Frankie’s rib cage, hoping to stare it away. Normally in a situation like this, the doctor is the hard ass that keeps a check on reality, but Jana was not only a young vet, she was also a friend now, and as she had put it, had a crush on Frankie. Clare had said more than once that he was the love of her life (I didn’t mind, he’s a cat after all) and I loved the little bastard too, he had been sleeping on my head for years. But I hadn’t time to get emotional; the two women beat me to it. Clare started to cry,

“Isn’t there anything that we can do at all? I love him so much, he’s the best pussycat that I have ever had” now sounding like she was about six years old. Then Jana lost all control of her composure, I knew she had been holding it in, And I was holding on to mine for dear life in case….just in case.

“Well all I know is if it was my kitty……..” exploding tears like a burst water balloon, her face and frame now small and shaking. “I would give him chemo …. to … try and reverse the damage…or at least slow it down”

I tried to hug the two of them, as sad as the situation was, Clare and I caught each other’s eye and shared the hilarity of what was happening. Jana showing this kind of humanity meant that she was in with us for life, especially with Clare, vulnerability is the key to her heart.

Delores noticed that Frankie wasn’t out on his cushion so much anymore, and asked Clare one day on the street if he was all right. We were sitting in our kitchen when Clare told me, I had just received a box of new albums that Beggars Banquet had released called The Compilation, a “best of”. We reminisced on how long we had been aware of Delores and Henry, I had made around ten albums during that time period, and this was technically an eleventh, but why did Henry stop speaking to me? It was still a bewildering mystery. Clare said that I should go to him now and reach out by giving him a copy of the album.

“Just go down the fire escape and say hello to him, give him the album”.

Our kitchen window was wide open, it was a lovely summer’s day, and Clare had just waved at Delores, seeing her put a mop out to dry outside her own kitchen window. “Fuck it”, I thought, and swung my feet out through the window landing on the old wrought iron fire escape with its peeling green paint (the iron is thin and rusty and it crossed my mind that it must’ve been challenging enough for it to hold my two hundred pounds). I stepped over my next-door neighbor’s portable barbecue, dormant and unused, and held on to the railing as I veered past the old flowerpots with dead plants. I peered down into the dark kitchen, inside Delores was cleaning the small narrow stove with a brillo pad, and Henry’s sallow eyes looked up with incredulity from behind the newspaper in the corner by the back wall. Delores said “Hi” but he said nothing, just crackled the paper. The austere apartment harked back to a different time, linoleum floor, white enamel Kitchen table, with matching chairs, no music, no TV,  just a small Panasonic fan, dignified silence and cleanliness with available daylight cutting sharp lines in the shadow. I threw some words together with great discomfort and handed over my album as a peace offering.

“ I have no idea why we stopped talking, maybe I can just give you my new album as a token and we can be friends again”

Delores smiled her cute smile and reached up to take the album from my hand, she was sympathetic and maybe amused, but loyal to her man too, I could hardly believe what I was doing, it was a big gesture that fell to the ground like a drunken sailor in a strange port. Whatever I was talking about – and I’m presuming that she knew as little as Clare – she was not going to intervene. Henry said absolutely nothing, and I scooted back along the fire escape feeling even more of a fool now than before.

A couple of winters after that Henry died – Delores told Clare one day on the street that he had been hospitalized for several weeks with lung cancer. She carried on with great dignity and, amazingly, found a reason to keep her smile handy. She still maintains her apartment over Neptune (rent stabilized I presume). I occasionally see her buzzing around, if I don’t stop she doesn’t seem to be aware of me, but when I do she still has that cute smile and always seems to be going somewhere seeming to have plenty to do.

I will never know now what I did to turn Henry away, I knew of him for thirty years, but of course I never actually knew him, the most intimate thing we shared was falling out, that was as close as I got to knowing him. Maybe he was a friend after all, only friends fall out. You can’t fall out with someone you don’t know.

Henry and Delores Part 2 of 3

Pierce at the papered wall
This is the photo taken by the French Photographer at my papered wall on on the corner of 12th Street and First Avenue

A French photographer that had been looking at me said it was magnificent and wondered could he come by the next day and photograph me in front of it. I still have the photo; I’ll rummage around for it (as you can see I found it). What fascinated Henry and I was that the plan worked! It was left like that until the gig the following weekend, completely untouched. Every day I would go by there and Henry would be sitting on his chair with his back to it, almost like he was guarding it.

Delores first came to Clare’s attention when she noticed her flying her clothesline over to the back wall behind her building. The neighbourhood was changing; some of the things that were allowed to happen in a community that shared a similar economy were going to be frowned upon soon by the upwardly mobile.  But in the meantime Delores was allowed to carry on using the washing line that Henry had hooked up many years previous to these times. The line went from the back of her building across to the old stone wall that traversed the end of all of the yards on our block.   One time we all had yards that were there for us to do what we liked with, some of us grew vegetables, and some of us kept our bicycles there or held the occasional barbecue. Now the landlords had given them away to whomever was renting the stores on the ground floor to sweeten the package.

Behind Delores’s and Henry’s building the Polish restaurant on the ground floor had built a wooden deck and turned it into a summer garden section of their restaurant. I often went there myself for breakfast; on a couple of occasions I stuck my speaker in the window and played a CD to accompany my coffee. They also erected large umbrellas to shield us from the sun. It was all pretty upscale for our neighbourhood, so long as you didn’t look up, if you looked up you would see Delores’s bloomers and Henry’s boxer shorts, and t-shirts, socks, tea towels and sheets, flying overhead. There was a system, one day it was her bras, the next time it could be Henry’s underpants, then came Delores’s knickers and so on, all done by hand incidentally, they kept their apartment in the same manner and style of its origin during their youth, no fancy electronics like washing machines, besides the plumbing and electricity couldn’t handle it. Clare and I always found the clothes line amusing, and loved how it kept things in place. Eventually however the restaurant put a stop to it and the line was lowered forever more, like a flag that signaled the end of an allegiance; No bugle reverie however, just eggs and coffee without that natural human eyesore of a clothes line over head – the beginning of a new more lucrative world in the East Village and the higher the rent, the fussier the tenant.

The fire escape for our apartment travels sideways along the back of our building to the adjoining ones. If there is a fire we are expected to scoot along to the next building and knock on their window ‘Excuse me, our house is on fire, may we go through your place?” For the most part we had no idea who was living in the adjoining buildings, except for now, we knew Delores and Henry, sort of. We were coming into our second year of Clare living in New York since she moved from London, and she had had her fill of living without her two cats, they were pining for her as well back there in London. Frankie was an old mutt tabby without a tail – which he had lost in a car accident, and with a bald spot on his back from the same incident. Alice was a Siamese that was born with some kind of congestive issue causing her nose to drip constantly, she was also going blind. Before I met Clare she was sorta married to Frankie, and used him to imitate Davy Crockett’s hat by placing him on her head with his tail-less arse at the front – he loved it; she also waltzed with him over her shoulder every evening after work. This cat adored her, and she him; she had gotten Alice, the Siamese, to keep him company while she was at work, and after an initial rejection he had grown to love her too, they slept in the basket with their arms around each other. Now it was time to bring them to New York.

Alice was a house cat and never went outside, if she did it was a disaster, she once went along the ridge of the London apartment building having escaped clueless through an open window, fortunately the neighbour gave her back, although she did question our ownership for a moment, originally she had cost 300 quid! But Frankie had been an outdoor cat, that’s how he was hit by the car, so Clare encouraged him to go out on the fire escape. He had a cushion there where he sat and looked out over the hood like a cat king. Delores took note of him as she pulled her wet clothes out over the Polish restaurant. This became a talking point with Clare when they met on the street, so Frankie gave us one more link to our charming octogenarian neighbours.

Sometimes months would go by without having contact with Delores and Henry, so it was never an issue if we hadn’t seen them. One day we ran into Delores as she was entering the building on her own. She looked harried and her constant smile was tainted with the gravitas of something troublesome. She held her hand to her mouth like she hoped to reverse the enormity of what had happened. We asked her how she was.

“He has been in the hospital for the last three weeks”, she shook her head in disbelief. “He almost died on me”.

“What? What’s wrong with him?”

“He had pneumonia and he was in an oxygen tent, thank God he’s on the mend now, but I really thought I was going to lose him, after sixty years living together, can you imagine? I just don’t know what I would do” Her words stood us still, it was easy to put yourself in her place, the inevitability of it, the loneliness that it conjured up drove a bolt through my imagination.

The worst was over now and she still managed to squeeze out one of her cute smiles. It seemed so strange, Henry had not shown any signs of illness at all; He appeared very strong except for a slight hesitance in his step. But this is the thing about age I suppose, younger people bounce back; later in life, it’s not so easy.

The following spring I was pleased to see Henry back in his chair outside the building watching the action on the sidewalk, bantering and joking with anyone that presented a suitable reason. He seemed a little less robust, but otherwise the same subtle charmer. The bodega on the corner found a new renter and it pleased us all to see lights and action brought back to that corner.   And then! I can’t say why – but in the same way that I don’t remember meeting Henry, I came to lose him. I thought that it could’ve been my own paranoia at first, or just a side of him that I didn’t know. After all there must have been so many parts of him that were unknown to me, he had actually never told me anything about himself, our relationship was entirely above surface, as I said, a series of guesses. I was walking up 11th Street just by Veneiros the famous Italian pastry shop – if it had been a busy street I wouldn’t mind, but there was just Henry and me. I saw him coming towards me and was already to make some kind of sociable remark designed for short encounters. He smiled as he came towards me with his slight arthritic hobble, it was beyond our usual territory, I rarely saw him outside our block.

“How’s it goin?” I smiled.

He looked right at me! Wearing that same worldly expression, one eyelid less open than the other, olive skin scrunched, that incredulous smile, I waited for his response as he came inches away, but he kept going, and to my absolute horror; said nothing at all! I felt a cold wind cross my face as I walked on completely bewildered.

Storm Story

Today New York has been hushed by a blanket of virgin snow – this beehive city is slowed to the gait of a polar bear – and we are forced to make our hyper bodies halt beneath a blanket and just wait it out. Not sure why I need to write this blog,  am I just trying to get attention? I don’t think so, I also don’t even know if have your attention, or interest. Today I looked back a bit to see why I even began to do this, and found this story “Henry and Delores (hearsay from the East Village)” People say that a blog is supposed to be short and current, off the top of your head.  But that’s not what I had in mind entirely, I wanted to tell stories, and hone in on my writing a bit.  So here, in the snow, against all bloggers wisdom, I would like to give you a little story about my neighbours Henry and Delores.  Please let me know what you think. Pierce x

“Henry and Delores (hearsay from the East Village)”

I can’t remember exactly how he and I first spoke, it just seemed like we knew each other without initiation. I could tell that he knew I was a blow-in and also that he was retired from a good job that hadn’t been too hard on his hands or body; all presumption of course. Like all the other faces that I knew in the Village, Henry had become familiar through deduction. My curiosity had taken the information gathered from a thousand small encounters and logged it in the elaboration section of my mind – so close to the fact section that some of my suppositions fell in there by mistake. Nobody would die if I was wrong and we didn’t know each other well enough to have acquaintances that could loop my thoughts back to him decorated with trouble-making embellishments. So why not build a profile based on assumptions! Unfortunately Henry may have been doing the same thing with me, and somehow, somewhere, got a piece of rogue information, that later caused some disrepair between us.

Henry and Delores lived two buildings up from me on my small block, just after the mysterious Medina shop with nothing perceptible for sale and below the Polish diner called Neptune. He had always acted like he knew me, greeting me with a lop-sided knowing smile, he seemed to find me amusing without ever having shared our history. Of our course I found this very pleasant and tried to respond in a likewise manner. I often saw his wife Delores clutching her handbag and nipping along the Avenue with an agility that belied her age, she wore stylish black slacks and three-quarter length coats to match her permed hair and headscarf; making her look like she just walked off the set of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. She too smiled like she knew and liked me. I knew she was Henry’s wife, I had seen him drive slowly up to the front of their building in a cream-coloured Cadillac, and sit there staring straight ahead, patiently being impatient as old husbands do. Eventually Delores would come out smiling, place her small weekend case in the back, and slide in on the leather seat next to her quiet man, nothing needed to be said because of the marital bluetooth between their minds. Later she explained to my wife Clare that on those occasions they were heading out to Long Island where they had moved with there kids many years ago – holding on to their old Village apartment because they still had a yearning for the East Village buzz – it kept them young and in love.

When the weather was warm Henry liked to bring a chair out to the front of his apartment building and sit there with folded arms watching the world go by. He treated the Village passers by the same way as he did me. And they often responded in a likewise manner. Bringing your chair outside is an old New York tradition that stems from the days when large families lived in crowded apartments with no T.V. to watch or air-conditioners to keep them cool, it was an extension of the apartment, a ground level balcony, so to speak. This was the world that Henry and Delores had come from, and still clung to, albeit with the forward momentum of optimists.

Henry must have known that I was a musician somehow; perhaps – unbeknownst to me – my Italian neighbours, or even my Italian landlord had spoken to him about it in passing, I suppose it’s feasible that us Irish and English blow-ins are included in the Italian network of gossip, it had never crossed my mind, I had always assumed that it was just us observing them! He certainly showed no surprise when he witnessed me wall-papering posters on the wooden partition barring up the closed Bodega on the corner. It was constantly covered in a rash of loud ugly concert posters; as soon as one row was pasted, someone else came along and covered them with theirs. Professional poster companies always seemed to have a monopoly on these closed up premises for as long as they were shut. They came around every day and replaced the ones that were covered; it was effective, and soon the punk bands playing in CBGB”s and the New Wavers from the Peppermint Lounge caught on too. Black-clad musos with spiky hair and bovver boots could be seen late at night, outlined by the yellow lamplight and glare of passing cars – trying to maintain a modicum of cool while carrying a bucket of paste and a brush with a pile of small posters – keeping a wary eye out for the cops, as they tried to gain attention on walls covered with massive music industry names.

The cops had been cracking down on the small clubs, issuing tickets to them if one of their bands had posted bills for their event, rumor had it that the mafia were involved in the bigger bill postings and they were allowed to carry on without hassle, charging handsomely for the service. I had done the midnight poster run too with the Major Thinkers, wearing the crappiest clothes I could find, my band partner Larry Kirwan watching out for the cops while I pasted. He would slap the poster on then, while I kept an eye out. The next day we looked like we had sex with an elephant, our clothes covered in hard wallpaper paste, massive swathes of white stains.

But now I was a solo artist, an older and wiser man, I knew it was a mugs game, there were so many posters all on top of each other, it was impossible to stand out.

Henry sat outside on the edge of the pavement looking inward for a change, perhaps to look at me. What I was doing certainly was different. I had a gig coming up in my friends restaurant/bar called The Pharmacy over on Ninth Street and Avenue A. They used white paper to cover their tables instead of tablecloths, they simply threw the old one out and replaced it with a new one torn from the giant roll in the Kitchen. I asked Jan, one of the owners, for six big sheets off the roller, and took them over to the closed Bodega on my corner. I borrowed a stepladder as well and with bucket and paste I covered the busy obnoxious bills with white paper, creating a visual silence that was beguiling by comparison. An auxiliary policeman came along scratching his head (they tend to be clueless).

“So what’s going on here?”

“Oh I am just covering up this horrible eye sore.”

He stood back and lifted the front of his hat to appraise the job.

“Oh really I see, huh” and off he went.

I then took three of my 12” x 18” black and white posters with the date written on them and put them in the middle of the huge white space. I had a hunch that if I did this, it would stick out, and that no one would want to cover it up. I climbed down off the ladder and stepped back to admire my work, Henry – who was out later than usual sitting in the changing evening light

“Is that it?”

“Yep” I giggled

He leaned back on the rear legs of his chair and nodded with finality.

Part 1 of 3

Bowie sing song in New York

David Bowie in Union Square

There was a sing song of Bowie’s songs in Union Square on Friday night – a young attractive crowd seemed to know every word.

David Bowie is dead, and New York is reeling. Bowie’s effect on the city was similar to that of the writer-performer Quentin Crisp – another transported Englishman of note – but seeing Quentin Crisp wasn’t such a huge conversation piece, a Bowie sighting was reported with wide-eyed glee and hugeness. It was akin to saying you just saw President Obama on St Mark’s Place eating a slice of pizza. Descriptions flew around with abandon: “he was very old looking” “he had a big hat, and looked frail but smiled sweetly” “he sat quietly at the end of the bar and nursed a pint of Guinness while he stared into thin air”.

“There was a big kerfuffle by the small round table at the door, the waiters fussed and everyone stared towards the light that came sneaking in past the curtain when he and his entourage entered” – this is how my friend Lori described Bowie’s attendance at one of my gigs in Joe’s Pub over on Lafayette Street, not too far from where he lived (we now know) on one winter’s Saturday night. Apparently there was a little too much fuss – or it was too crowded – or he didn’t like the music – but they left after a few songs. This was my second brush with the great man, and in both cases he slipped in and left, leaving nothing but a story for me to pick at in search of more-ness.

The first time was a long time ago when Larry Kirwan and I had a band called Turner and Kirwan of Wexford, he being the K and I being the other. We had been trying to get a gig for ages at a hip club uptown called Hurrah. It was a very cool venue, one of THE venues in Manhattan for new wave music at the time. The snobby booker wouldn’t entertain our advances for a second, in spite of our reasonably high profile (the top station in the City W.N.E.W FM was playing our self-produced album to death). But eventually he grudgingly complied, giving us the worst day in the week, Tuesday!

We had a loyal following, and 150 of them turned up that night regardless of the inconvenience (youth is a great leveler) – however in a club that held 800 or so that didn’t look like a lot of people. It was shaped almost like an old fashioned ballroom, and our loyal friends sat around by the walls on the cinema style chairs, I have never known a groupie-like audience that would stand up front and stare.

We were a two-piece band – Larry played bass drum and guitar while singing, and I played high hat, clavinet and mini moog while singing. We were loud (one person complained in Boston’s Inman’s Square Lounge, that we were “louder than a Boeing jet for Christ’s sake” I told him to fuck off and check out James Taylor who was playing down the road) – while we were hammering away in Hurrah that night, someone shouted up ‘Suffragette City” and we joked that David wasn’t here tonight. When we came off the stage, the snobby booker was standing there with two glasses of brandy in his hand and wearing a shit-eating grin: “Well David was here tonight, and he bought you these brandies, said to say he loved it, and was sorry he had to leave”. We had turned from the ugly ducklings into two swans – at the time Bowie was massive and, as usual, cooler than Antarctica. The joy that he gave us that night was immeasurable, and I believe that he knew the effect those brandies would have on that ‘too cool for his own t-shirt’ booker.

Today, as I was walking home from the gym I saw a Bowie poster crudely taped outside a Chinese restaurant. It had a black star at the top of it and under Bowie’s photo it said “New Album Out Now” someone had scribbled on it R.I.P. I tore it off the wall and took it home.

There was something eternally youthful about Bowie, even now that he’s dead, he seems young. Are you as shocked as me, to think of him lying lifeless?

1916 Down Rising..and then Up

Pierr A pic small1916 Down rising, and then up Rise (photo of Pier A that night)

The black waves are crashing against the jetty, far off and silent. I’m reminded of my childhood when we lived on the quay opposite the New Bridge in Wexford. Ferocious nights when the wind spat the wooden works up like matchsticks, and all that lay between us was a couple of curtains and a single glaze window. It was a melancholy meditation for my teenage wonderment, what was this feeling of dark mystery that came with the wind and rain from out there where the fish and birds felt at home? With the curtain resting on his head, Sputnik would stare out there with me, he seemed to wonder too, and we were at one, Sputnik the dog, me, and the whole out there. All the loneliness of love and forever came to dwell in my empty mind, and a feeling of homesickness in the hearth of home itself.

Now I am not there anymore, now I am an American, now I am in a fancy new place called Pier A, staring out at the Statue of Liberty with my wife Clare by my side. It is the launch of the Irish American Anniversary celebration for the 1916 Rising. There are hundreds of people here, mostly mature, well-heeled Irish or Irish-Americans. A band plays Irish trad tunes to accompany the nervous chatter of small talk, the booze is free and fine appetizers are proffered plentiful by attractive maids and men. I can see that Clare is exuberant and I want to be too, but I am looking out the window at the yellow lighted Staten Island ferries criss–crossing, and the coal black waves chewing at the small wooden boardwalk where I imagine summer libations are served. Clare is trying to shake me out of it, and I want to, but I can’t. God I’m a miserable sod, I can’t look back into the crowd; I have to stare out at the starkness. I am ready to scream, what the hell am I doing here? I don’t know anyone; they don’t even seem to know each other, what is the point? 1916! That was so long ago, and as much as I admire those people that died for Ireland, I can’t feel anything for them now. Isn’t this just another piece of bollox where people are hustling to make a few bob out of history.

The ceremony begins, Barbara Jones the Irish Consul makes a genuine plea for silence as she introduces a lady who will sing the Anthems. The first strains of the Irish National Anthem stir me to attention, this woman sings her heart out, some people join in, I do too, the air in the room begins to change, I find myself looking into the room instead of out. She turns to the musicians for a note and launches into The Star Spangled Banner, it’s high, really high, I know what a mother of a song this is to sing, and she’s started really high. But she seems unperturbed, I trust that she would know if she was in trouble, people begin to join in, the band plays support, she goes for the end “the land of the freeeeeee” and I swear she won’t make it, but she does, she nails it with a very lilting Irish traditional, slightly nasal vibrato, but from the chest, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, I look around the room and realise,

I’m here!

Happy New Year means nothing? Try this

So my dear ones, if I say Happy New Year, will that have any effect on you really? Probably not.  Why? Maybe because it will not actually affect your coming year.  All I can really affect is this moment here and now, because you are reading this I presume. Here is a meditation that you can practice anywhere, I learned it at the School of Practical Philosophy last year.  You can even do it on the Subway/ Tube/ Dart/ Underground/ Luas ( all the different modes of hustling to work).
Seated upright with both feet firmly on the ground, close your eyes and listen as far to the left and right as you can until you reach the limit, imagine crossing the land, the rivers and the mountains, the planet, even up into the galaxies if you can, suspend yourself there for a little while and think of absolutely nothing else, then slowly bring your thoughts back in again to where you sit, feel the air on your skin, feel each part of your body starting from your feet upwards, open your eyes and see where you are – you will see everything around you more vividly now, you will be present.  Stay that way as long as you can, don’t think, just feel. As I say in one of my new songs Heal  “leave yourself and you will heal.” So much of our pain comes from the past and the future, we are very seldom in the present nowadays, but we can only get to where we need through the present.  This is my New Years PRESENT to you. Thank you so much for your support this year. Look after each now, and the year will be great.

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

Red Grooms painting

Are You a Success?

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.

Quentin Crisp

It was a common enough occurrence to see the artist Quentin Crisp strolling along the street in the East Village. You knew with absolute certainty that he would say hello to you, even though he didn’t know you from a hole in the wall. It was easy to spot him way off ahead even with all the foot traffic around here; his outfit was so distinctive. A big black floppy hat, a suit with exaggerated shoulders and wide lapels, a loud (red or green) cravat draped underneath his soft white collared shirt, pinned down with a diamond studded tie-pin. His elegant walk – characterised with a sideways sway – went perfectly with his attire. Effeminate and pale, his soft skin appeared all the more milky set against his black mascara. People often stopped to talk with him and he seemed to delight in the opportunity. Many years previous I had seen the movie based on his book “The Naked Civil Servant” – a masterpiece. It was broadcast in 1975 with John Hurt as Quentin, he was so convincing, I thought that he was him. The program made both John Hurt and Quentin Crisp into stars. Crisp was a brilliant raconteur and successfully toured his one man shows to sold-out theatres. After he performed in New York he was smitten and moved here to East Village in the 80’s, living on East 3rd Street.

New York is full of people trying to get attention, but you have to be careful, they could turn on you for getting what they asked for. Today I passed a woman that I have seen numerous times on the street around here. She looks like she could be Native American, or Asian. She is tie-dyed from head to toe. Her waist-length hair is tie-dyed the colours of the rainbow, her t-shirt the same. Her sweatpants and a long shop coat the same, even her boots. She wears a full size black visor that covers her entire face, and she pulls a small shopping cart that has a sign on it saying “I’m not in the mood for being stared at”. Of course I’m thinking “Then why the hell are you dressed like a Martian!” This is another reason why I loved Quentin Crisp. He dressed outrageously and drew your attention, when he got it he reveled in it.

I saw him perform once at a P.S 122 Benefit. It was a performance space on the corner on 9th Street and First Avenue. He started off by saying how much he loved New York and that he didn’t miss England at all with its fussy ways and social reserve. America had a much healthier attitude he reckoned, people said what they thought, and brought stuff out in the open. He then told a story to illustrate his point.

A woman goes into a railway station in London and finds that she has some time to kill before her train departs. So she goes to the café and finds that most of the few chairs there are taken. She sees one little round table is occupied by a single man, after clearing that it was available she places the cup of tea that she was carrying down on the table with a Kit Kat. She then removes her coat and places it on the back of her chair, shoves her suitcase underneath and begins to unwrap the Kit Kat. She breaks a finger off and washes a bite down with the tea. It’s hot and muggy in the café. “Too many people and too many coats and cases” she thinks. The steam from the cooking and human breath fogs up the glass windows looking out into the bustling station. The man sharing the table breaks off a piece of the Kit Kat for himself. She is astonished “The bloody cheek of him!” She knew it was a small table, and that her presence had taken away his privacy. But really, does she owe him a Kit Kat? Couldn’t he at least ask? She quickly has another piece, and so does he. “Well I never” she thought. She thinks, it’s time to find her platform now anyway, so much for a bit of relaxation. She throws on her coat and heads off for her train, astounding at the cheek of that bloke.

After the train pulls out of the station, a conductor announces “tickets please”. She opens up her bag to find the ticket and their she sees, an unopened Kit-Kat.

A Thousand Percent

The readout on the colourful dashboard read 110 rpm and I had the level up to 12 where it usually is. I was cycling at what seemed to be full pelt and took a moment to observe my own sincerity. Then, looking over at my neighbour’s bike to see what he was doing, his rpm was 39 and his level was 6 – he was pedalling slowly and as he pushed his glasses up on his nose he seemed distracted and uncommitted. It was then that it dawned on me that I was giving it a thousand percent, and he was definitely not. Being in a stationary position with nothing before me but a black and white gym full of sweaty men I allowed my mind to wander.

“Ye know, I do always give it a thousand percent!”

I hadn’t thought about this before.

“Could this be a blessing and a curse?”

Every time I play a gig, I give it a thousand percent. It doesn’t matter where it is or how large the crowd. I give the same to Carnegie Hall as I do to the Parish Hall. I rehearse like a maniac, and get there four hours before the show to do a lengthy sound check, so that the sound is as good as possible from the first word out of my mouth.

But I don’t perform that often! Could it be that I am afraid to take on too much because I know that I will have to give it a thousand percent? I remember being at a gathering one evening here in the Village with two famous writers (I wasn’t going to say who, but why not – it’s only a blog) – Philip Glass and the play/script writer from England, Christopher Hampton. We were celebrating Chris’s play opening on Broadway, he already had another one “God of Carnage” which was hugely successful, now he had two. Chris looked stressed, like someone was chasing him all the time, his shoulder-length hair looking stringy and vitamin-deprived. Philip was calm like a duck, but maybe pedalling like mad underneath the water.

“Do you guys take on stuff when you are already up to your eyes with other commitments?”, I pried, half-knowing the answer before receiving it.

“All the time” said Chris, with a resigned shake of his head.

Because he gets hired to write film scripts – he wrote the hit movie “Atonement” – he tends to take on these high paying jobs while he is also working on his own stuff. Movie scripts are notoriously difficult, not only is the director on your back, the producers are vetting it too with $ signs pre-empting every thought.

“I ask this question, because of late I am questioning myself and my achievements, I really don’t take on more than what I can do, could that be holding me back?”

Asking this of two people who are really successful was pretty clever of me, no?

“That’s really smart in my opinion” Chris replied.

Phil just observed, and appeared to be addressing his own response tacitly (And yes I call him Phil, as do all of us).

But now I wonder if is it is smart. What would happen if I just bit the bullet and didn’t worry about the consequence. Possibly I might have to give up on the thousand percent. But might this change my world for the better? Could it be possible that I would end up doing more things and keep the standard up to a thousand percent also? Jesus, if I did I could rock the world. And all those people that are not sure about me, might say “Jesus, you’ve got to hand it to him, he’s a bloody hard worker”. As I ride the stationary bike, I think – that stuff doesn’t interest me, but I am fascinated by the notion that not worrying about my standards could free me to be more alive.

I lean down on the bike and ride like a bastard, bringing it up to 130 rpm. I am now almost at 7 miles, that’s how far Curracloe Beach (featured in the movie “Brooklyn”) is from Wexford Town. I am at the Asser Levy Gym on 23rd and Ave A surrounded by poets and painters; all who seek to reach a thousand percent at what they do. None of us appear to be rich, yet many are well enough known artists in their field. It may be that we are all there in this public gym because we will not take on more than we can handle at the standard we believe to be 1000 percent. No?

Don’t be surprised if you see me out there more often in the near future. I’m sure you’ll call me on it if it’s less than a thousand percent.

Positively 11th Street

This is a crazy city, every year it just gets crazier. In the 80s it was crazy dirty, drugs everywhere, lawlessness like the wild west. I remember wincing in the back of a taxi, stopped at the light on the corner of 12th and 1st Ave, there was a small popping sound that projected a sinister bigness behind me. I looked around while ducking, two guys were shooting at each other from opposite sides of the street – bad shots obviously ‘cos no-one was hit – but they were only about twenty yards behind me, the light changed, we got outta there. Another time, cops waved people past the corner of 13th and 1st Ave, behind them you could see a pair of expensive sneakers protruding from a grey blanket, rich red blood flowing towards the drain from the victim’s head. It was a given that his death was drug-related because of the expensive new sneakers, us New Yorkers just walked on by. Forensically thinking, it had to have been be recent. Fifteen minutes earlier I might have seen it, could’ve even been shot. No-one gathered though, it wasn’t unusual enough.

Now, past the noughties and into the teens, New York is somewhat gentrified. The drugs haven’t gone, but they are less visible, more legit perhaps. But the city is still crazy.

If you have a lot of confidence, New York is for you; if you have no confidence, New York is for you; if you are sexually adventurous, New York is for you; if you are lonely, or want to be someone else, this is the place. If you are a conspiracy theorist, or believe that your most abstract dream should be shared over dinner with strangers, or if you believe you are writing a book, come here, everyone is writing a book in New York as far as I can see. And lastly, if you want to keep talking like a baby until you’re ninety; not extraordinary here.

My friend Beverly waved me into her shop one day as I was passing by. It’s a shop filled with curiosities, curious to Bev or her co-owner Sharon Jane. Antique typewriters, 50s lamp shades, jewelry, musical instruments, colourful glass ashtrays, watches and ornaments. Movie stars love to root around in there with little fuss from the proprietors: Tom Hanks and Rachel Weisz immediately come to mind. Rachel lives with Daniel Craig just across the street, I saw her outside one day when it was closed, a “Gone Fishing” sign hanging on the glass door. She’s very underdone and pretty “girl next door” looking, approachable, normal but aware that I was looking at her, no make-up, slightly exotic. Beverly treated everyone the same, bums, junkies, alcoholics, down and outs, and superstars. Bev will talk about Joseph (let’s say) in such a way that you have an image, a normal one of someone who might be even slightly industrious “Well Joseph was here earlier and he says…. “. Then one day you’re in the shop and a guy with no teeth comes in, a red kerchief wrapped around his forehead, a big clump of lumpy sweaty hair falling over it, a rough looking grey sweat suit, and sneakers that could walk away on their own “Hey Bev how are oooo?” “Oh Hi Joseph” Your mind goes into a tailspin “That’s Joseph?”  You’ve got to love Beverly … oh and Sharon Jane is the same.

One day while passing by, Bev beckoned me towards her from behind the small glass counter.

“Come ere, can you do me a favour and stand up here?”

“What! where?”

“Can you stand up on the carpet?”

She pointed directly downward, I had been standing a little bit away from the counter cos there was a large carpet rolled in front of it, it was over a foot tall and almost twice as wide. She silently pointed down again with a mischievous grin. Bev is from a small town in England  and has been here even longer than me, we share a similar sense of humour. Eventually I copped that she wanted me to stand up on the rolled carpet. I stepped up but found it a little hard to balance, it was lumpy. Bev shushed with an index finger to her lips. I made an incredulous expression with my face. She broke the intrigue.

“Just stand there for a while”, she announced calmly for all to hear, but who was all besides us? and where were they? Bev drew up the sleeves of her black leotard, signaling a change of subject.

“So how the hell are you?”, she asked with a big smile.

I nodded. “Good”.

“Anything strange?”, she asked, with a knowing reply etched in her smile.

“No, there is nothing strange”, I denied with an exaggerated shake of the head.

“How’s business?”

“Good, it’s fine”.

We were distracted now and the elephant in the room was underneath me. I felt a movement in the carpet. There was somebody in the bloody thing! Bev – seeing that I had copped on – asked could I stay on there a little longer. I did my best, but it was too weird.  She beckoned me outside.

“What is goin on Bev?”, I asked, astounded.

She explained that this guy had come in and offered to pay her if she would allow him to roll up in a carpet and encourage customers to stand on him. It was an art project, she explained.

“That’s all there is to it?”

“Seemingly”, she said.

“Yeah, right” said I, and we both laughed knowingly.

This is a crazy bloody city, who would live here?

Novak Lives in a Wheelchair (part 2 of 2)

Today I decided it was time to find out more about Novak. He was standing in the sun on the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue just across from the new post office. My zip code is 10009 and unfortunately for me, that means I am married to this particular post office – it has always been the meanest most inadequately run place I have ever set foot in, a full diatribe will come in a later blog. For now, suffice it to say, knowing someone has to go there to pick up a parcel can break up a family.

Perhaps this deathly mission is what provoked me to speak to Novak. It may be a dying deed – after all, the term “going postal” came from the countless incidents of post office workers mowing down the customers and fellow workers with a rattling gun.

He was clean-shaven and seemingly sober. I estimated him to be younger than my first impression, maybe in his early fifties. He moved his upper body without difficulty and, but for his filthy soiled trousers, he seemed almost salvageable from the street. He had acquired a clean shirt and from the waist up looked normal. But still, as he stood leaning on his wheelchair, it was clear that there was no turning back for him.

“Hi, I met you before a long time ago, you won’t remember, how are you?”

He raised his eyebrow and, with a glint in his eyes, he held out his cupped and weathered hand.  I ignored it.

“What’s your name?”

“Novak”, he shouted, “Vat’s your nem?”

“Pierce”

He squinted his eyes.

“Beers?”

“Yeah. Where are you from?”

“I from Poll-land. Where you from?”

“I’m from Ireland”

“Eyer-Land!”

He seemed to find that a little amusing, his curiosity was awakening, you could tell that he wasn’t used to talking to the customers. I continued to disarm him.

“When did you come to America?”

“I coms, durty years ago.”

He was  smiling now and shouting a little aggressively, he wasn’t sure he wanted to behave normal.

“What did you work at when you came here first?”

“Clubs, I work in clubs. Eight hours, I was earn, one undred and pifty dollah for eight hours.”

I was pleased to hear him say this, he had some pride, he was acknowledging that his life had gone wrong. Before, he seemed to be trying to project an arrogance, he didn’t owe anybody anything.

“Where did you live?”

“I liff, I just liff”

He pulled down the neck of his blue shirt to show me his shoulder.

“It’s  mettle, I have mettle ere, and down here.”

He shows me his hip.

“I have metell havery-veer. Whatever you do, don’t sleep over deere!”

He was pointing across the way up towards 14th Street, with the nod of his head.

“What do you mean?”

He pulled down his lip.

“They kutt me! Here and here.”

He pointed inside his mouth and at a swollen gash on his forehead, his face was  so weathered and scarred, it was impossible to see any difference between his newly acquired complaint and the ones of yesterday.

“Don’t sleep in dat park behind dat, they will beata you up and robb you.”

He was talking about the small park behind Beth Israel Hospital, a tiny sanctuary of green grass and ivy shaded by trees and a broken circle of park benches surrounding an ornate water fountain. I had no intention of ever sleeping there, I needn’t tell ye. Now it seemed that he and I were on the same page, he was warning me about the dangerous places to sleep on the street. I liked the fact that we were now communicating man to man. Yes, I intended giving him some money, and with Novak he had always given the impression that this was the only reason to communicate. But now this wasn’t the case, we were just talking.

“I sometimes would dake One Undred and Pifty dollahs, but den my moddah got seek, I send all my money back to Poll-Land, she get seek.”

“Oh that’s a shame, so you had to look after her from here?”

“Yes, she got seek, ever-ting vent, I lose my job.”

I had a dollar in my hand to give him.

“I am a musician Novak, I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you this.”

“I used to play dee acordian.”

“Really? Which one – button key or piano?”

“I donna know.”

He dismissed this as an unnecessarily complicated question.

“Iss impossible, you need two brains, one for each side”, he demonstrated with his hands.

“But the brain has two sides!”

“No, only one brain, impossible.”

He took the dollar bill and seemed genuinely grateful.

“You got a cigarette?”

“Don’t tell me you smoke as well as drink”, I goaded with a laugh.

He smiled with devilment and immediately switched his attention to another guy that seemed to be preparing to give him money.

“You got a smoke?”, he said cheekily, suggesting that the guy should be good for something.

Novak Lives in a Wheelchair (part 1 of 2)

It’s 12:46 on Thursday morning, I am sitting on the futon by the window next to First Avenue. Outside somewhere, a saxophone is playing, wailing away endlessly to the accompaniment of a piano. It has the celebratory feel of the Saturday Night Live finale, when the whole cast stands on the stage waving at the audience and congratulating each other on taking part in such a hugely cool show. It’s one of those exclusive fraternity moments; looking at a club you wished you could be a part of, but knowing it’s not possible, and if it were, you would never experience what you think it is from being outside it. The saxophonist has the aching soulful cry of a craftsman with a powerful pair of lungs, riding the top notes where they unburden their speechless heart and speak to ours. It has been going on for a couple of hours now, where is it coming from? It’s not an apartment, is it a stereo coming from a parked car? Or something new that has begun to happen in one of the so many new cafés or bars around here? They open and close with the frequency of a Chinese fan in mid-summer.

I spoke to Novak today on my way to the dreaded Post Office (I’ll explain that later) for an undelivered parcel. He lives in a wheelchair on the busy intersection at the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue. He didn’t always need a chair, he has slipped to that necessity over the years by hammering his body with endless homelessness, alcohol abuse and the broken limbs, lumps and crevices that come from sleeping painlessly in his own waste and broken body parts for ill-advised lengths of time. I have seen him unconscious at all hours, and countless times, being loaded on to ambulances by resigned paramedics.

I saw him for the first time about eight years ago. He was sprawled like a rag doll on the ground in by the wall of a side street. It was a rabid hot summer’s day just like this one – New York has just endured fifty days with temperatures of over 80 degrees, most of which were closer to 100 degrees (the hottest run of all time apparently). It was a Sunday morning and I felt some compassion for him. In this city we see so much of this and there is only so much room to let this information in. I was due to pay some mind when I laid eyes upon the sorry sight of Novak in that heat.

“Hi, can I get you something? Coffee?”

He looked up at me as I leaned over him with hands on my knees. In an instant you could tell why he was in this predicament. There was no apparent embarrassment for his circumstances, or humility about requesting assistance. He seemed to see it in a sort of matter of fact way, he had drank a lot and fell asleep in his own piss, more excrement stains to add to his other ones, on a piss-stained street, so what!

“No!  I’d like a cold Coke”, he said abruptly, lying with his two hands beneath his head like a baby.

I was taken aback, one would think his reply might be “yes please” to what I had suggested. But he seemed to think it only right that I get him what he needed. Breakfast in bed, so to speak. He seemed to think the world owed him support for his lifestyle, and this – I thought later – could be why he has ended here; he would rather be here than have to appease someone else. For the most part, the stuff that happens to us happens because we can tolerate it – even if it’s just barely – and if we get too close to “barely” that’s our warning. We must retreat when “barely” gets too close, straighten up and turn around. Sometimes we can’t, those are the times when we need a good friend, a sibling, or a spouse, to pull us back. My guess is that Novak didn’t have that, so he let go. The reason he didn’t have anyone I don’t really know, but I may have sensed it that morning when he felt that I owed him a cold Coke.

(Next week I find out more about Novak)

An Irishman living in the East Village

I’ve been living in the East Village now for the better part of my life. And yet I know very few people by name from this neighborhood. Still, I do … know them.  Here, I have seen teenagers grow up into adults and then disappear; businesses that were around from the turn of the century fold, and newer ones open and close – some after decades, some within a year. I have seen normal-looking young men from seemingly good families, mostly Italian or Eastern European, go from step to step with each passing year; from soft white complexion to bristle and shadow, from Coca Cola to beer and sometimes from there, tragically, to serious drug addiction. Some get through it and some die. In most cases I wouldn’t know that they died of course, but it’s not hard to believe the worst once you you’ve heard a couple of horror tales through the pipeline. And if you see them flopping around for a few years, then disappearing for good, they’ve gone somewhere! I can’t imagine it’s to an aunt in Montana somehow.

Just the other day I held the door open for the daughter of an elderly Italian lady that lives upstairs. We had a short discussion about her mother “how old is she now?” (thinking she was ancient) “Actually she’ll be 82 next month” she declared with a ‘how about that’ smile (I thought she was about ten years north of that). I had seen the daughter pretty much grow up in this building, raised by her single mother (I had never been aware of a father figure). They were always a quiet family, and lived here through all the changes from a half-empty building looking for tenants, to that vacuum being filled by dodgy drug dealers, to Yuppie political types instigating rent strikes – to where it is today, part of the N.Y. University rent boom, which has driven the rent of these tenements up beyond all  reasonable value. She and I had never really spoken to each other, other than to say a neighborly hi on the landing. Then one summer evening back in the 80s, she was at the Schaeffer Music Festival in Central Park to see Cyndi Lauper when she noticed Larry Kirwan and I in the opening band The Major Thinkers (Larry and I had shared this apartment at the time) – she was there with her husband-to-be. The next day she stopped me to share her surprise as I descended the stairs with the garbage. After that I got to know them better. Her slightly older brother Sandy stopped me one day too “Hey my Sis saw you guys at the Schaeffer Music Festival, how about that, so you’se guys musicians?”. He had a Saturday Night Fever wardrobe and hairstyle, and it turned out that he had a small speaking part in the movie too – “How’ye doon Tony”. I presume that was why I never saw much of Sandy in the building – he was going out to Brooklyn to dance.

So I got a little piece of them that day, and they of me. We have not gone much further than that after all these years, it’s willful of course, we prefer to keep it down to a rhetorical “Hello how are you?”. It could be fear – or laziness – not sure. I left behind a small town in Ireland where it felt like I knew everyone. Before going on to the Main Street one always had to do a full self inspection: hair, clothes, demeanor – otherwise you risk a scathing review right to your face. Here I have no such concern, and if I see one of the faces that I know – know as well as any family member to see – looking rough, or drugged or having a spat in public, it won’t matter: I don’t KNOW them, don’t know their name and they are none of my business.

I suppose we will go on like this forever, guessing how each other is doing, based on a handful of small clues. We will all go away one day and never come back, and someone else will take our apartments. The double-decker buses will continue to look into my 2nd floor window and, instead of seeing me in my underpants, they will see someone else.  But before that, I have things to do and places to go.  And you and I should see each other as much as we can before then, at a safe enough distance, through the window.   Time flies when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Every week from now on till the day I die, I will do a blog about my life in the East Village, it will be delivered to you like the Monday Morning Milk -it’s a colourful existence, come in to my crazy world, it might lighten your load or something.  This is one hell of a spot. Love p