by Mark Butler
Photos by John Kearns
It was a beautiful late spring evening this past Tuesday as we gathered for the IAW&A Salon at Café Thalia on the Upper West Side to share stories, sing songs, and have a few laughs. John Kearns manned the microphone as our amiable emcee for the proceedings. And away we go…
Tom Mahon got things going by reading his short story called, “What We Can’t Live Without,” in which an old farmer’s wife dies suddenly and he’s left alone at his own choosing. He walks his fields and the rooms of their home and realizes he’s never known his wife or their kids or himself. He’s known his stubbornness, his work, his need to make things grow, when those same traits drive him to an extraordinary event. One night he wakes to experience his spirit as a living, thinking, feeling entity completely independent of himself. That changes his life and he leaves the farm he’s needed and loved.
Robert Haydon Jones then read from “The Blindness of Yearning,” a story about Gloria, who has been an outcast ever since she got fat in high school. She was widowed while pregnant with her first child and has lived alone with Jerome for eight years. Now she has met a man who says he likes being with her and Jerome. There’s something not quite right about this guy — but Gloria is so needy — she’s willing to look the other way.
Robert Haydon Jones
Ray Lindie followed with a reading from his novella, called Lone Hero, that deals with a Vietnam veteran who has a difficult time readjusting to civilian life, and wonders who he has become. Ray described his presentation as “shot down but still alive after taking a few deep breaths for oxygen to his brain.”
Nancy Oda then offered a taste of the upcoming Bloomsday by reading the Gerty MacDowell episode. Nancy commented that “Joyce is a genius in manipulating language to show the interior mindscape of the character. Thus, for this episode he writes in the style of a romance novel that a teenage girl with burgeoning sexual urges would avidly read.”
IAW&A board member Mary Pat Kelly treated us to a passage from Of Irish Blood, the sequel to her historical novel Galway Bay which is based on her own family history. Of Irish Blood covers from 1900-1930 and features Nora Kelly, grand-daughter of Honora Kelly, heroine of Galway Bay. Nora spent time in Paris. In the section that Mary Pat read, Nora’s new friends Maud Gonne and Countess Constance Markievicz try to recruit her to the cause of Irish freedom on the eve of World War I.
Mary Pat Kelly
Richard Butler brought the house down with two songs: “Those Were The Good Old Days” from Damn Yankees (music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross) and “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles (music and lyrics by Jerry Herman).
We adjourned for a short break involving cold beverages and lively conversation.
Upon our return, Tim O’Mara read from his Barry-nominated debut mystery, Sacrifice Fly. O’Mara spoke of his parents and shared his personal formula for motivating Irish American men to write: anger and a publisher’s advance.
Tim O’Mara and Malachy McCourt
Salon Producer and IAW&A Treasurer John Kearns read next from the final section of his novel The World. In the passage, the 16-year-old Artist wanders the streets, alleys, record shops, and arcades of autumnal Center City Philadelphia, trying to escape the pain of the unrequited love he has for Claire Larkin. When he sees a blonde girl who reminds him of Claire, he recalls the last time he had seen her, saying goodbye to her friends and leaving the swim team banquet with her mother.
A native of Co. Galway, Philomena Connors’ first reading at The Salon was a memoir piece about her father, “the Doc.” A poignant story about growing up in the 1970s, when Ireland was slowly beginning to open up to some progressive ideas with “the Doc” as a forerunner of these in the eyes of his young daughter. Philomena began writing in recent years and thinks this could become a complete novel if she would just sit down and write it.
Mark William Butler performed a monologue about dirty clothing and bodily fluids from his one-act screwball comedy, “The Laundry War,” which will be in The Players Theatre Short Play and Musical Festival in NYC from June 20-23.
Sarah Fearon considered taking the pressure for laughs off by just presenting as a poet. Instead, she shared some new comedic material in progress, including her hysterical theories on memoirs, cruises, recycling, trying to keep up with current catch phrases, and people who are on a Bravo TV documentary in their own mind. She may be launching a new dating site based on matching people by their dysfunctions, not their alleged assets. She ended with a short poem titled, “LUCK,” with life as a parallel to a card game.
The festivities were brought to a close by the man himself, Malachy McCourt, who shared a moving story about his childhood and the death of his brother Oliver, when sympathetic friends showed their compassion toward Malachy and his brother Frank in a unique way – by letting them score lots of goals in the soccer game after the funeral. He then sang us into the starry night with a powerful anti-war song from the Napoleonic era… “My Son Tim”.
And finally, one for the road… “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” – Napoleon Hill