by John Kearns
Photos by John Kearns and Tom Mahon

The IAW&A Salon began 2018 undaunted by a last-minute schedule change, large piles of snow on the sidewalks, and the frigid temperatures brought on by a “bomb cyclone”.  But in the words of presenter Tom Mahon, “We turned a quiet, freezing evening into another rollicking night of story, song and drumming.”


Tom Mahon

Tom Mahon started the salon with two vignettes.  The first was called, “I’ve Had Enough,” about a young intern’s first ER patient who dies before he can save him.  Then the man’s family arrives, and then his lawyers.  Altogether four wives and fourteen children, who all howl when they discover their former rich husband and father left them nothing.  The second story was called, “Before He Left,” of a vet whose reentry into his family and community goes awry when a bar patron’s shouting sends him into survival mode and he reacts and kills the man.  A week later the vet kills himself. The story, told from the father-in-law’s point of view asks after burying his son-in-law, “How did we expect him to do all he had to on his own?”


Rob Block

First-time presenter Rob Block’s  ‘Beyababa’ was written as a choral oratorio though decidedly secular – not a bit churchy. The story concerns the interior conflict of a king who’s nation is in peril of losing to drought it’s only crop: “beyababa.”  None of the advice or direction he receives from those around him seems useful or sound. What is a King to do? Rob sends all possible praise and thanks to Rosina Fernhoff for her magnificent interpretation of his work.


Rosina  Fernhoff

Rosina  Fernhoff then performed a monologue from Approaching Zanzibar by Tina Howe.  The very old character Olivia recounts her memory monologue of her wild youth and her unforgettable first love who ” taught her to eat orchids and read the stars” in Zanzibar.


Eddie Crawford

John Kearns was honored to have actor Eddie Crawford read an excerpt from his story, “Displacement.”  Eddie vividly portrayed the musings of 1940s Detective Raftery who tries to imagine himself in the place of a murderer, since it has proven difficult to get any information in his Irish-American neighborhood.  “Only way to shut the Irish up is come in with a badge and ask a question.”


Gordon Gilbert

Gordon Gilbert began with two poems written on the first and second day of the New Year and followed them with a singles bar proposal and a poem about acceptance of the
physical limitations that come with age.  He concluded with a “Winter Spell” of protection for his father’s land, written twenty years ago when the land was still his father’s.


Sarah Fearon acted as an understudy for Marcia Sanders (aka Marcia Loughran).  Sarah read new material on a character who moves through the real estate world in New York.


Kathleen O’Sullivan presented a chapter from her illustrated memoir, Isham Street, in iMovie form.  In this chapter, the innocent child in a spiritual euphoria sees life from her unique perspective, in which walking up Isham Street feels like she’s going on a pilgrimage to heaven.  With her angel by her side, the girl goes through her Saturday ritual that includes the butcher’s offering her a slice of baloney and the baker’s giving her the bread ends, while people are blessing themselves all over Broadway … returning home to her lyrical mother & the family feasting on baloney sandwiches.

kathleen OKathleen O’Sullivan (photo by Tom Mahon)


Malachy McCourt (photo by Tom Mahon)

Malachy McCourt shared some of his thoughts on religion and the afterlife and read part of the description of hell from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  He then sang, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle and wrapped up the salon with a rousing rendition of “The Bells of Hell”:

“The bells of Hell
Go jing-aling-aling
For you but not for me …”

After Malachy’s performance, the salon had a surprise guest recruited by Tom Mahon from the subway in Washington Heights — djembe drummer Matt Sweet!  Matt plans to return to the IAW&A Salon with more drums!


Matt Sweet (photo by Tom Mahon)

Don’t forget out Civil Rights Salon at the Cell on Monday at 7.  Reserve your free ticket here: