Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Can't Beet A Good Spell Chequer

Shop window, John St. Kilkenny

Thou Shalt Repair What You Sow.

It's good, but not nearly as good as the butcher's sign in Carlow that fearlessly announced, "We sell lion chops."

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Beacon Theatre, Upper West Side

You know you're out of touch when you see a theatre canopy advertising KEANE and you wonder if it's Roy or Robbie.

It's hardly Dolores or Molly - and it's definitely not John B. What can I say, I don't listen to music anymore, unless it's reggae and I'm willing myself back to smoky Brixton in the late 70's and early 80's. I loved reggae. Loved the riddim. Pablo Gad, Hard Times, the hidden secrets in the language:

"Now I am a man I jus' a burn collie weed in a chalewa. I jus' a rub it in a chalewa..."

(Chalewa - a ritual ganja chalice, as referred to by U-Roy in 'Chalice in the Palace' about a heavy smoking session with Queen Liz of Buckingham. Ahhh, the narcotic mists of time overwhelm me.)

Sure, I recognise a few of the names in the top 40, Usher, Coldplay, Rihanna and Bieber, but who the hell is Aiden Grimshaw? Sounds like a sex toy carved by a sailor. 

Alex Clare? Wasn't he a TV psychiatrist? - The only music worse than music you don't know, is music you know too well. Classic Rock. Hotel California. Once that song checks into your head, it never leaves. 

 Shouldn't have done that. Now it's in there again.

Dolphins do WHAT to people??!!

I walk down Broadway and find a man, fearfully shining a flashlight into a hole in the ground...

Who you gonna call?

So, along with five other guys (of course they're guys) I stop to watch because, hey, this is New York City and it's really just a toss-up whether it's a live alligator or a radioactive squid or Will Smith being regurgitated by a foul-smelling film critic.

"They're probably checking it for Obama," one of the guys says.

"He ain't down there," fastballs another.

And then the first guy has to explain that he meant they might be checking it for explosive devices for the next time the president is in town, and there's probably miles of passageways down there and who knows how many lunatic al Qaida cells lurking in the shadows and...

He manages to suck all the humour out of the moment. Then the man with the flashlight drops an iron manhole cover into place.

"Show's over, folks"

Me and five other guys drift our separate ways.

Go Straight to 'L' , boys.

I hop a subway to 14th street...

Where I find this enigmatic sign/graffiti. I could of course ignore it, but I'm reminded of Hermann Hesse, in Steppenwolf, coming upon the Magic Theatre, Alice finding the Rabbit Hole and Bertie Ahern discovering all that money tucked under his mattress. In this world, anything is possible. 

So I follow the signage to a mysterious passageway on University Place. It's dark and strange. I hear a voice. I see shadows moving. And then I realise I'm in the company of the same five guys, all looking up at a nervous cat on a rickety fire escape, and one of them whines:

"I didn't really mean that the president was actually down a hole in the ground."

"Forgeddaboutit!" says another.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'll Have What She's Having...

Katz's Deli is the place where Harry met Sally and where Meg Ryan had her legendary public orgasm.

And the hot pastrami sandwiches aren't too bad either. I came here tonight because I've recently noticed how many chunks of New York have gone missing. Entire neighbourhoods have changed beyond recognition: Hell's Kitchen is no longer Irish, Yorkville no longer German, The Lower East Side no longer kosher.  
I was half expecting to arrive at the corner of East Houston and Ludlow and find the place gone, another pharmacy or Bank of America taking its place. But it's still there, a great big neon dinosaur in the Land the Health Inspectors Forgot. A Bewleys for ravenous carnivores.

The pastrami on rye gets delivered and it's a two-handed job to hold it. Some French tourists at the table beside me take photographs of their meal: A giant plate of what looks like corned beef hash with an egg on top. 

They seem troubled, perhaps even disgusted. I'm thinking of all the crap I ate when I lived in Normandy: Pig's nose and donkey's tongue. Yes, Pierre and Marie-Claire, what goes around, comes around. Bon appetit!

Not Just A Rainy Night In Georgia

"Sometimes, I feel like it's raining all over the world..."

Well, it's raining on Broadway and 73rd and, according to, it's absolutely pissing in Kilkenny. What's even worse, we're talking cold urine. 

Over there, people are lighting fires and turning on electric blankets and wrapping themselves up in warm public houses. Meanwhile, outside the subway station on 72nd, the man selling umbrellas is getting soaked, but he refuses to break out the merchandise for his own personal use. The sign of dedication and frugality, not to mention impending pneumonia.

"Hummmmm-brelllllas!" He shouts, "get your hummmmmm-brelllllas quick, before it stops raining".

I'm walking in mesh sneakers, designed by the same man who patented the Tetley teabag. Rain flooding in, flavour flooding out. I refuse to buy an umbrella ($5) because I bought one yesterday and left it somewhere. There is a certain mourning period that has to elapse before a replacement is acquired.

I pop into Starbucks and check out the history of the umbrella on Wikipedia. Yes, when you stop drinking, your life takes on an ineffable sadness. Drunks talk about end-of-the-world scenarios and the complexity of DNA and the irreconcilable differences between the sexes and the love they never shared with their father. - Sober people are fascinated by trivia. 

I discover that the Latin word 'umbella', a flat-topped rounded flower, is the source of the modern word. Why did we fell the need to insert an 'r'? It sounds like something that might have started in Kensington & Chelsea; the 'r' has always been problematic for the English. Of course, some people never went with the 'r' version. People from West Cork.

I look out the window. It's still raining. I'm leaving two foot-shaped puddles on the tile floor. I look up 'galoshes' on and discover it comes from Old French, Galoche, wooden shoe. I need to seriously consider going back on the booze. The true meaning of life is out there, in some comfortable tavern, waiting to be resolved.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Somebody Shoot Me

Balusters lined up like Kalashnikovs in a bedouin tent.

I ate lunch in a Mexican restaurant and ended up with something that looked like a severed limb on a paper plate (that's the last time I order the brazo amputado con salsa.) 

On the way back to work I passed a couple wearing interesting T-Shirts. Hers said, "My name is Karen. Ask me about my Meth lab". His said, "If life hands you melons, you might be dyslexic". Their clothing was happy, but they looked miserable. They were putting so much energy into sartorial epigrams, they had nothing left to spend on love.

'Prometheus' is on in the movie theatres, but by all accounts it's missing an alien. In space, nobody can hear you snore. Put that on a T-Shirt. - A couple of nights back I went to see Wes Anderson's 'Moonlight Kingdom'. It wasn't without charm. On the one hand, it had Bill Murray playing Bill Murray, and Frances McDormand playing Bill Murray. 

Summer is here, so the movies have to be dumber than Harpo. There must be a logical explanation. Do brains shrink in the sunshine? Would this explain Hollywood?

I had to change my ticket to Ireland last night; I'll be home for a couple of weeks at the end of June. The lady with Air France/Delta told me I couldn't choose a seat, and she offered me 34d, which I actually thought was a cup size. I've never been that far back.
"Are you sure that's still inside the plane?" I asked.
"Our premium seats are towards the front of the aircraft, sir. If you'd like to purchase one for $80..."
"Do I get to take it home with me?"
"I'll put you down for 34d".

I expect the seat belt will resemble a giant bra strap and, like most men, I won't be able to figure out the clasp.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Back Of The Bus

Roach Coach, 42nd Street

We call them 'Roach Coaches',

the small independently operated buses that run between Jersey and Midtown Manhattan. They're not properly insured, they don't pay their tolls and the Department of Transport regularly shuts them down. But they're frequent and they're cheap and we could do with a few of their kind in Dublin.

The young black guy sitting behind me is talking loudly into his phone and using the word 'Niggah' with an unbelievable extravagance:

"You are my go-to Niggah, you hear me Niggah. My Niggah with a capital Nig. You are the main Niggah. The Niggah of Ceremonies..."

And so on. Meanwhile, a few seats in front of me, an older black man is clenching his fists and staring fixedly at the back of the driver's neck. Nobody likes being trapped in an enclosed space with his stereotype.

Thirty years ago I was upstairs on a London bus when it was boarded by a flush faced Irishman in a jumper that looked like it had been chewed by a farm animal. He carried a lump hammer spattered with dried mortar and though the morning was cold, he was heated from within by twenty years of serious drinking. He threw himself down in a seat and looked around at everyone. Everyone looked away.
"Ha-haaaaaah!" He roared "Did yiz all have your Weetabix?"
Nobody answered. 
"Frank O'Connor!" He said with a bow. "F-O-C! FOC-Me!! Ha-haaaaaaah!"

Passengers shifted nervously. The bell went 'ding-ding', and a few got off. We rolled down the Seven Sisters Road. "They were trees, did yiz know that? The Seven Sisters were trees. Trees!" He bellowed.

We stopped at an early morning building site, hidden behind a hoarding, but all its inner workings visible from the top of the bus: Yellow machinery and churned-up mud and the remains of a red brick terrace, smashed by a swinging ball.

"Desthruction boys, desthruction!" He roared as he stood up. "Frank O'Connor has come to town. You'll put them up and I'll pull them down. Ha-haaaaah!" He waved his hammer like a vexed Thor, and then turned his eyes to slits. "Yiz are all cunts," he shouted, "cunts!" And then his eyes settled on mine. 

We looked nothing like each other. I was neat and tidy and office bound; he was raggedy and patched and worn to the bone, but we were somehow connected by an invisible wire, two distinct strands in the double helix of Irishness. "But not you, boy. Not you."

Heads turned. The man in the torn jumper bounded down the stairs and left me the centre of attention. On the pavement, he waved the lump hammer and mouthed words upwards: "Not you, boy. Not you."

The roach coach pulls up beside the Port Authority. The voice behind me says, "I want to do some outdoor stuff, know what I'm saying, Niggah? Outdoor stuff, like maybe play dominos on the sidewalk with the other Niggahs. I'm an outdoor kinda Niggah, you hear me Niggah?"

The older black man continues to clench and unclench his fists. When the bus door swings open, he is the first one off.