Monday 16th March: The real reason for my visit to New York!
As explained briefly in my earlier blog – ‘New York – There and Back‘, it was the fundraiser that kick started off my whole interest in getting to New York.
This fund raiser was an Irish concert to raise money towards the building of a new monastery for the nuns. It took place in Saint Josephs Catholic Church in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. An evening of Irish entertainment was organised where supporters could purchase tickets, $100 (which included admission to the ‘reception’ afterwards and meet the performers) or $50 for ‘just the concert’.
Having grown up with my brother performer/musician, I am old hat to sound checks and stage presence and no longer in awe of celebrities – I do not gush over the famous. So while I appreciated the generosity of the wonderful line up that was the front stage for the concert, (including class mate Aileen who, I was of course, very excited to see again) I was more keen on being part of the machine that made it happen.
For those that are interested to learn who was performing, and seeing the playlist, here are the details below:
But I am going to skirt around the event for now, and will report on the ‘pre’ evening that introduced me to the heart of the community of ‘Greenwich Village’.
While this was my 3rd day in the U.S of A, it was to be my first to actually traveling into the ‘City’. Roz and I were going on a full day mission, and one of the Holy Orders kind. This was no shopping or tourist trip.
I will admit that I was both excited, and nervous, about the day ahead. Why was I nervous? I always find strange city commuting daunting, and so I was relieved to know that Roz would accompany me on my maiden voyage.
For Roz, this daily commute and city hanging is a breeze for her. It is all part of working downtown and living elsewhere. For her, the late start to the day was a welcome lie in to her usual 5am wake up and express train to be at her desk for 7am. Roz makes this daily sacrifice to allow her to be able to enjoy the lifestyle balance that is working in the financial district, and getting home to her hubby and small ones. Hats off to Roz in managing it so that her family can live the dream.
And so I happily scurried along with Roz, as we made our way into the city. Tom stayed at home to mind his girls and to allow us ‘K-girls‘ escape and fulfill our promise as volunteers. We got the train from Mamaroneck, which took us directly into Manhatton, with a few stops along the way.
So we arrived and even at this stage, having witnessed the city come out to meet me, I still didn’t really believe I was in New York – Grand Central Station.
We left the station through one of the famous arches, and Roz led me along busy paths. Before long we were at the National Library, with the Chrysler building in the back ground.
I am grateful to Roz taking photos or I might not have believed I stood there at all.
My mind kept wandering to familiar scenes of movies (King Kong, I am Legend, Day After Tomorrow…….take a look here if you are interested in a web site that shows you what was filmed where.)
Anyway, Roz isn’t one for hanging around and so a taxi is hailed and off we go past sky scrapers ‘downtown’ and before we know it we arrive at Saint Joseph’s –
So the fund raiser,
well these things don’t happen by themselves.
As with all these type of events, there is great reliance on volunteers and the generosity of performers – it also involves a lot of sweat and tears to boot. The macro and micro planning that goes behind such events relies on a whole hive of busy bees. And I got to be part of that.
So in typical volunteer style, Roz and I skipped to the side entrance of the church, to find the office and where we met with Mary Reed.
Mary, bless her, was the producer and professional fund raiser/organiser, who was orchestrating the whole event – Roz in her official role was the Event Co-Chair along with Fr. John McGuire – and between them and the many volunteers at St Josephs – the whole event was unfolding before us.
Fr John, greeted us warmly, and was impressionable in both size and manner. He offered one big warm swoop of a firm handshake and met all the attributes that go with the word ‘affable’.
Sr Magdalena, who had traveled from Kylemore, Ireland , was due to link up with us and along with Mary, we were to have some lunch before we rolled up our sleeves to volunteer. How wonderfully strange it was to greet Sr Maggy on the steps of St Joseph’s instead of my usual encounter with her at Kylemore.
The plan was that we were to eat first. ‘An empty sack won’t stand’ after all. And then when re-fuelled, Roz and I would help with preparing finger food for the reception party after the fund raiser.
Father had a place booked, a ‘nice little Italian near by’, and with Father’s bad knee and parking privileges, he drove us all there. Less than 5 minutes later, call it a local miracle, but Father finds a spot immediately outside the eating house that is ‘Volare’ (147 West 4th Street)
It is in a basement and as we step down and in, it is dark and secretive looking – When my eyes adjust, I am surprised to see the walls painted with colourful painted scenes of the half clad women. In true Italian style, there are dining booths, and center tables dressed in crisp white linens. The waiters stand to attention with long white aprons and polished looks. You would think I had never been in a restaurant in my life but this was something different – I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I bet those walls could tell a thousand tales.
Back in Volare, the Maitre D’ greets us with a strong accent and I am grateful that I am a guest so I don’t need to understand what he has just said. Judging from his body language and the casual greeting, Father is a regular here.
Two hours, fabulous fresh pasta, and a very large glass of Chardonnay later and I realise that I have had my first New York dining experience in the company of a nun and a priest in, decoratively speaking, what could be a basement boudoir!
Only in New York!
I ask Roz is it far back to the church; ‘could we walk off the overload’? What a hoot to discover, when we walk around the corner, there opposite us is St Josephs!
Saint Joseph’s Parochial House is impressive. There are many floors and I was only privy to the kitchen and dining/sitting space that occupies a certain floor – but this was enough to see how lovely it must be for the traveling religious who stop and contribute in their way to the parish.
I was in my element, catching up with Sr Maggy, Roz and Fr, while getting to meet another K-Girl, Juliette, for the first time, and meet the many volunteers and some not-so-local (some as far out as the Bronx) kids who have come in to help out as well. We set up a catering train as one sliced bread, another buttered, another sliced salmon and yet another was in charge of capers. There were crackers, patés, cheese/pineapple sticks, all sponsored by locals as their contribution to the fund raiser. It was not long and the huge dining table was covered in plates of finger food that would feed the many $100 guests later.
It was never said out loud but I got the impression that Father is much loved and appreciated, that St Josephs is still the heart of this ‘village’ and is productive in its way of ensuring that the simple sense of neighborhood values are going strong.
A true village in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world!
Time ticks on, and soon we were assigned our tables at the church door to welcome paying guests.
Did I mention that TV crews were there? – the whole thing was recorded and news of it broadcast the following evening back home in Ireland.
It was a wonderful evening. Of course the performers preformed beautifully – but I have to make a special mention of our own Aileen (pronounced ‘I-lean’) as a beautiful singer and I have to say a natural entertainer (not all could claim this skill) , and the headliner Eabha (pronounced ‘Aay-va’) breathtaking while also a natural at keeping the crowd engaged and smiling.
At the end, we made it our way back to the reception where the fruits of our earlier efforts were being enjoyed by the masses – I think I was forgiven for turning it down, one can eat only so much salmon in the same day after all. We mingled, pressed the flesh, chit chatted and all the while promoting the great cause that is building the Monastery for Kylemore.
I am grateful to those who took photos – I was so invested in the ‘here and now’ that I forgot to record those special moments. Thanks to Mary Reed for being on the ball again there.
It was over too soon, and like the fairy tale, Tom has Roz and I back in Mamaroneck before midnight!
Was it a success? I certainly believe so – I will leave the money counting to Mary Reed et al – as for myself…..I would never have thought when a student back in the the 80’s, that 30 years later, I would be linked in arms in New York, all in the name of Kylemore –
for that alone, the whole trip to New York was worth it!