By Maureen Hossbacher
Photos by Jay Wanczyk

Brendan Costello

The piano stylings of Matthew Paris welcomed a capacity turnout as they gathered at the Thalia Studio, for the first Salon of the new year, curated and hosted by Brendan Costello.

In the wake of U.S. drones and Iranian missiles, longtime member, Tom Mahon, presciently tapping into the anti-war undercurrent in the room, led off with his story “New Highways,” about two Vietnam vets spending Veterans Day together. The narrator’s attempt to connect with his friend and their shared experience is thwarted by the other’s obsession with his phone, a dating app, and the myriad women responding to his profile.

Fresh from his trip home to County Cavan, singer/songwriter/saucier John Munnelly, accompanying himself on the ukulele (easier to take on a plane than his guitar), started with a ditty tentatively titled, “Don’t Teach a Pig to Sing.” That was followed by two more original pieces, “Julius Caesar” and “Brooklyn.”  As usual, John had a supply of his Hattwood Hot Sauce on hand. Fans of both his music and the sauce should check out his website and Hattwood Hot Sauce on Facebook.

Miranda Stinson presented two short essays,” The Cat” and “The Bee.” The first was a poignant story of love and loss; the second, a beautifully paired piece about leaving pain behind.


Actor/writer Alan Gary read the opening and closing sections of his forthcoming book Brooklyn Dreams: Alan Gary’s Memoirs and more about . . . Me, Myself and Pie!  Additionally, he shared a piece, included in the book, about a childhood lesson in kindness when he was a shy kid going to school in Brooklyn.

Satirist and folk musician Mike Glick once again brought his original songs and deft guitar picking to the Salon, favoring us first with “We Poor Are Strong,” set to a poem by southern poet Don West, author of Clods of Southern Earth.  Mike’s second song was his own “Let’s Build A Wall Around Jesus” — a brilliant satirical jibe at white Evangelicals — poking fun at their anti-immigrant politics. His new CD, Alternative Facts & Other White Lies is due out next month.


If you’re at liberty and seeking a unique enterprise to upgrade your economic status, you can check out Suzanne Gannon’s satirical essay “VAGA-LUXING: A Franchise Opportunity for the New Economy,” published in October in Fleas on the Dog. A New York journalist whose work appears in a plethora of newspapers and lifestyle mags, Gannon covers food, wine, travel, culture and” everything else inconsequential to real life.”  On the contrary, the topic of the comical essay she read this evening was both consequential and relatable, judging by the audience’s merry response to “The Tooth.”  

Special guest, Iranian-born Dr. Maryam Alikhani, read several poems that took us to her hometown of Tehran and showed us its mountains, highways, alleys, squares, parks, bookshops, and schools. She showed us the peaceful and resilient people of Iran who value art, culture, and education. She reminded us of the biological and cultural significance of trees and the importance of preserving them. She ended with a light-hearted ode to “ Ghormeh Sabzi,” a stew nationally loved by Iranian people. Professor Alikhani’s poems were pertinent, moving, and well-received. They carried the central message of empathy, compassion, and love.

The proverbial pin could be heard to drop, as Ian McCourt, grandson of IAW&A founder Malachy McCourt, captivated the crowd with two of his original songs, “Lullaby of Complaints” and “Been There.”  A delicately played ukulele was his supporting instrument (apparently enjoying an uptick in popularity).

Gordon Gilbert, West Village writer, monologist and affable host of spoken word events around the City, tonight assumed the character of an angry elder who, after a fall, finds himself in the predicament of losing his independence, his domicile and his bearings.  Gilbert’s affecting performance obviously raised the consciousness of many listeners regarding the plight of elders caught up in a dysfunctional system.

Malachy McCourt brought the Salon to a close with a few thought-provoking words about cowardice, fear and war — and the song, “Mrs. McGrath,”  the final verse eloquent in its simplicity and truth:  “All foreign wars I do proclaim/ Live on blood and a mother’s pain/ I’d rather have my son as he used to be/ Than the King of America/And his whole Navy!”

Professor Alikhani summed up the event: “I am positive that art and literature can transform us and change us for the better, so then we will change the world and make it a better place. We held a night of poetry for peace and compassion amidst all the war rhetoric.  It is a small step but can go a long way.”

Mark your calendar for our next Salon at The Cell theatre, 338 West 23rd St., (betw.8th & 9th Aves) on Tuesday, Jan. 21st, at 7:00 p.m., hosted by Jenifer Margaret Kelly.