By Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
That was Malachy McCourt’s summary of the Irish American Writers & Artists Salon on Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at the Bar Thalia. Of course, the talent, versatility and generosity of our members were also on display. The night featured some works-in-progress by Salon regulars; pieces by some old friends; a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, and the introduction of a bright new actress to the group.
An attentive Salon audience
Our producer, the poet and author John Kearns read the second half of an excerpt from his novel in progress, Worlds, which he began to read at the October Thalia Salon. In the excerpt, the adult Paul Logan looks back on a schoolyard tussle over a peewee football between sixth graders and eight graders. Paul remembers the struggle in epic terms, in the way Homer described combat on the plains of Troy.
We heard the dramatic final scene from Ray Lindie’s novella, Lone Hero about a returning Vietnam vet. The “hero’s” ultimate fear has been realized — he has been fully invaded by his alter ego. Unable to look in the mirror, his overpowering paranoia allows him to commit (accidental) suicide. Ray has also finished rewriting a screenplay called Mad Dogs of August. In 1985 when NORAID was going broke and the IRA couldn’t get any arms shipments past the Brits, Irish born Thomas (Bullets) Brennan, former NYPD narcotics detective, comes to the rescue.
Robert Haydon Jones
Robert Haydon Jones has read several stories at the Salon. Tonight he delivered a riveting read of “The Right Place for Love.” Jimmy O’Hara, a 75 year-old lung cancer survivor, who is still active as a baseball umpire, takes his dog for a walk and meets a woman undergoing chemo for breast cancer and her teenage son, a high school pitcher who starred in a game O’Hara recently umpired. The piece was originally published on Spark, an online site that promotes collaboration of artists and writers: getsparked.org.
Kathleen Vaughan shared a chapter from her forthcoming book, describing in detail how she evolved, grew, and healed herself by supporting people with disabilities. The chapter, called, “The Koi Phenomenon!” demonstrates that when someone has the space to grow, anything is possible. Koi fish need a large pond to thrive. Kathleen is grateful to work with people with disabilities and reminds us that they are a gift to all of us. It’s about ABILITY not disability.
Tom Mahon gave an animated reading of a chapter of his novel-in-progress Mastery (formerly called American Mastery) in which Charlie Fenton confesses to the real reason he won’t go to Asia with his brother Ray –he’s deathly afraid of flying. Charlie comically rants ( as does Tom) about what “Real Fear” is. Because no one can prove that the plane he’d board won’t crash, that fear is as real as his heart or hand. Charlie Fenton isn’t going to die in an airplane! PERIOD!
Mark William Butler
Mark William Butler paid tribute to one of his first literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, on the occasion of what would have been his 91st birthday. Mark shared an anecdote involving his mom and Mr. Vonnegut, and read a passage from the author’s novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Unfortunately, Mark also confessed that he had failed to return this same book to the library some 35 years ago. He has since been taken into custody, and according to his lawyer, Kilgore Trout, is being held in detention somewhere in northern New Jersey pending his trial and almost certain execution. And so it goes.
In her Salon debut, Elisabeth Ness did a wonderful job of bringing to life a monologue from John Kearns’s play, Sons of Molly Maguire. In a piece that seemed fitting for Election Day, her character gave voice to the feelings 19th century upper class people had toward the poor, urging the audience to spare their sympathies for people more worthy. Elizabeth just completed a run in a musical adaptation of Molly Shannon’s book Tilly the Trickster at the Atlantic Theater. She is co-producing and editing short films for non-profits and co-writing a web series. And she hopes to collaborate with other Salon members, as she did with John: www.elisabethness.com.
Karen Daly taking it all in
David Coles read a brief vignette from his book, In the Midnight Choir, based on his days tending bar in Greenwich Village in the 1970’s. He is currently looking for a publisher and working on his next book. He lives in Washington, DC.
There were two discrete views of the approaching November anniversary. Kathy Callahan told a mournful story of her first indelible childhood memory, being near Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas when JFK arrived and traveled by motorcar on November 22, 1963. In so many ways, her life was shaped by the catastrophe experienced on that day, as her family had the deepest affection for JFK and his children. Kathy’s grandfather, James Aloysius Leddy, an NYC union man told her countless stories on his knee about the brave and triumphant first Irish Catholic President and the stories kept on coming, long after the assassination.
Crime writer Gary Cahill delved into his atmospheric short fiction, reading from two stories. “Fathers, Sons, Ghosts, Guns” describes the come-uppance of an arrogant Texas oil baron whose family helped put an end to JFK. This story is included in the new print anthology, The Kennedy Curse published by Big Pulp Magazine. Gary also touched on memories of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and a character whose childhood was scarred by it in “Ninety Miles, A Million Miles.” Find it online as a free read on the Plan B Magazinewebsite, and as part of their Volume II e-book anthology: www.plan-b-magazine.com.
Longtime salon member Jim Rodgers returned with a moving section from his novel Long Night’s End, about Johnny Gunn of Sunnyside, Queens and Manhattan. Unlike some of the more rollicking sections of the book, a very emotional Johnny describes his desolation at the loss of his toddler son.
The night did end with laughter, courtesy of Malachy McCourt.
Dave’s bartender piece prompted the story, complete with metallic voices, of how Malachy got “hell into the NYC telephone directory.” Malachy owned a bar named Hell’s Bells. Then in recognition of Election Day, he gave a speech full of malapropisms, supposedly given by an Irish politician. Finally, in recognition of the pleasure of not working for a living, he finished with the song… “I Don’t Work for A Living.”
Working or not, join us next time at The Cell on November 19th!