Almost ‘and back again’ – last day in New York

Day 6 – last of the ‘Little Adventure’ – Thursday, March 19th 2015

One last burst of exploring the city – left to my own devices and full of confidence, I returned to Grand Central station, and this time headed North.

So what was on my agenda?

Thursday was about research and…. a bit of a ‘business meeting’……..

Throughout my posts about my New York visit, I have commented very little about my writing/novel.  This day was being driven with both in mind.  Whether it is an idea for plot or character for the next book or if it is a whole new book for another time, I felt New York would give me inspiration.  But, again, I wasn’t choosing the usual tourist path.

images (1)

I LOVE history now- not the big stories per say, but more the stories behind the big stories.  I also find, that  from a writer’s view, when I hear a date,  I find my mind relating it back to Kylemore.   What was going on there at the same time?

So for example, when construction was underway at Kylemore Castle in 1867:  the International Exhibition was opened in Paris – Jesse James was busy robbing a bank in Missouri – Karl Marx had just published ‘Das Kapital’ – The widow Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Albert Hall – the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed between US/Native American Indians – the Fenian’s were organising a Rising in Ireland…….  Needless to say the list could go on.

Did you know that 1867  was also the year Charles Dickens gave his first public reading in New York at Steinway Hall?

Anyway, for research there was a few places I wanted to visit,  to ‘put my eye’ on the locations that I had read about and filed away.

New York is a pulsing  city today – what was it like during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?

Here is what I did NOT get to see.

I had missed an opportunity to get to the Tenement Museum – note:  you can only visit here while escorted by a tour guide and that has to be pre-booked.  AND I also messed up on  getting to the Merchant House (it is open Thursday – Sundays)  AND with the week that was in it, Ellis Island was totally booked out! 😦 All/any of these,  would have been a fantastic opportunity to see how people lived (and died)  during the late 1800’s etc in New York.   I was very disappointed not to have been able to visit them.

I have promised myself to get to them on my  NEXT trip to New York!

We do have comparable tourist experiences  here in Ireland:  Living The Lockout, for the tenement side of things in Dublin, and our own Cobh Heritage Experience for the Famine Ships, Titanic and Lusitania stories, and of course we have our own fine examples of the Big Houses, Kylemore and Muckross House being two of them.

But would they be a similar experience?

I think not. ( I will endeavour to get to the Irish ones before the year is out)

I did get to seek out some places on my list for New York.  One was the Dakota building (built between 1880 and 1884) – I had recently finished a great time travel book (recommended by Stephen King) – Time and Again by Jack Finney,   where the Dakota was used in the book as the base for time travel – the building reportedly got its name from being built so far on the Upper West Side, that it might as well have been in Dakota.

 

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 - (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 – (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

 

Of course the building now sits nice and snug, blending in very comfortably with its’ towering neighbours….. I had great fun finding it, and then wondered what stories IT could tell.

Dakota Now,  2015

Dakota Now, 2015

 

On a side note, did you know that prior to establishing the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, that her torch bearing arm was first exhibited at Madison Square Park?  The story, as I understand it, is that the state couldn’t afford to build a base and erect the statue and so the arm was on display instead, tourists paying to climb up into the torch, while fund raising continued.

lending a hand of Liberty

lending a hand of Liberty

 

Lunch time soon snuck up on me and I had to attend my ‘Business Meeting’

For lunch I meet with a ‘Certain Someone’.  Now this person shall remain nameless as I do not want to identify them in this blog, until such time that they advise otherwise.  And as casual as it may have been arranged, it was actually a PR exercise for me to push the idea of my book and for ‘He who shall not be named’ to put a face and character to my name. In case you get too excited, they are not an agent/publisher or an author even, but they are in the industry and lets just say they were doing me the favour by giving me some of their very precious time.

On the surface it was all very relaxed and easy going, but I have to admit I was nervous and very conscious of not coming across as too cocky, or too wishy-washy either.  I had about 30 minutes to talk up my book and me, without appearing pushy and needy.

As a result the first 20 minutes we talked about everything BUT the books and my writing – and the last few I had my ‘window’ to try and capture the very essence of what I was all about and where I wanted to bring my book series ‘K-Girls’.  It was my first real ‘pitch’ without trying to make it sound too obvious that that is exactly what it was!

I think it went very well – not to any degree of signing any book deals but I certainly got some interesting feed back, picked up a professional tip or two.  I think they went away reasonably impressed, not just with my book series idea,  but with me too!  If they go away thinking this girl has some good ideas that go beyond the traditional, and they drop my name in their professional circles, then I would be very happy with that.

We shall have to wait and see what outcome, if any, comes out of that.

Meeting over, I sauntered for a bit near by and I have to say I was in my total element when I found this little Gem – not a building – but a book of buildings!

images

 

Fab imagery of New York back in its early days, with comparison shots from modern day – (hats off to author Marcia Reiss and photographer Evan Joseph)  I had great fun finding some of the buildings within and making my own comparisons.

As a result,  I walked miles around the city and felt I even did my own bit of  ‘time travel’  …….the weather was glorious and I got to walk across Central Park (where the pond was still frozen) and ‘popped’ in (how naive was I) to the Met Museum.   I would need a whole new trip to New York to get to see everything there.

Oh how weary was I by the end of it all – how wonderfully wonderfully weary.

At the end of the afternoon,  I made it ‘home’ to Mamaroneck with blistered feet and a very happy soul.

The next day was ‘Going Home’ day and so I spent it with my hosts, dear friends – and I will always appreciate those last few cuddles on the couch, from my beautiful and pixie-like god daughter ‘Berry-Boo‘.

It was a quick and sad good bye. (save having to go back to collect a forgotten purse!!!! – thank you AGAIN Rozzy)

I arrived home to Ireland in one piece – and I have to admit I was very happy to see the familiar patchwork green fields from Aer Lingus just before we set down in Dublin.

My trip was  – oh there is no denying it – AMAZING – as cliched as it sounds.

I would like to think that my one was one with a difference – I hope my  last few posts have caught some of that.

Looking back on the last year, it goes to show that you have to Put It Out There – whatever IT is that you want in life –

it might just come true –

After all

I got to New York didn’t I?

Little Erin stroll

New York – Land of Indestructible Wonder

Day 5 of my  ‘Little Adventure’ – March 18th 2015

My holiday  is coming to a close – I have 2 days left in New York, and as days off for my friend, Roz, have come to an end, I must fly solo.  As mentioned in my previous posts, I was nervous of going into the city on my own, but Tom’s advice paid off.

Tom(Roz’s husband) suggested to take a cab from Grand Central Station directly to the Staten Island Ferry terminal (approx. $20) Thus avoiding using the bus/subway.  The ferry is FREE and essentially works a loop journey; it brings passengers past the Statue of Liberty on the outward leg, while offering great panoramic views of the bay.  I have to admit that I was uninterested in doing the full tour of the statue and was quite happy to avail of a free ferry ride, while taking in the famous Manhattan sky line.

I was not disappointed.

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By the end of the trip, any anxiety was blown away by the Hudson breeze and I was excited to go and find the National Museum of the American Indian.  

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If you have read my earlier posts, you will have noted how I took an  interest in the American Indians, and so a stop off at the museum was a must for me.  The museum is located in the beautifully restored Custom House and houses temporary and permanent exhibitions.  And NO! This is NOT a place used to voice the woes and grievances of the native people – on the contrary, it celebrates their wonderful culture and talents.

I lost  3 blissful hours in this diverse world of history, art and exhibits – and decided in support, to buy all  my New York souvenirs here.  No apples on T-shirts for me or ‘Lady Liberty’  in miniature- I was bringing home some Native tees and handmade jewelry.

Leaving there, I found my way up to Ground Zero, or the 9/11 Memorial as it is now known.  This may be controversial to say, but I wasn’t really that keen on going there – not for fear of any emotional upset – I thought  I did not have any emotional investment in it. But as I was in the neighborhood, why not take a gander……

How surprised was I!

I called into the 9/11 Tribute Centre…..and left there a blubbering mess.

The Tribute Center, is just that, and tells the story of the before, during and after.  It is incredibly moving – there is no shame in crying in public here.

I can’t put into words the emotions felt but one of the most moving for me was this (see photo below) – it is the jacket and helmet of a fallen firefighter.  His jacket was found in one place, the helmet another, and the fireman himself never found at all.  The jacket is ripped the full length of his  back  – I will let your imagination do the rest……

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Twisted girder of Twin Towers

Twisted girder of Twin Towers

As for the memorial place itself – Pictures can’t capture it – the feeling of a sacred place – the quiet (in the center of a city) – this hallowed space – I won’t go into detail,  as unless you have been there, it is too hard to explain – here are my poor efforts to capture it.

Here is a birds eye view, courtesy of National September 11th Memorial

Eagles View

Eagles View

I couldn’t help but think of my brother’s lyrics of one of his songs (written pre 9/11)

American Townland
by Fergus O’Farrell – band-Interference

(chorus)

Won’t you settle down, stop fighting for your gods…
Oh, settle down, stop fighting for your gods.
They can’t hear you now, not with the noise of your guns.
Once were towering steeples
Now there’s a soaring eagle
A crescent moon and a rising sun
Our prayers ascending, but what good will they bring?
If all that’s willin’ is more and more killin’

to listen to the full version of the song, introduced by Oscar Winner, Glen Hansard, click here

♥  ♥  ♥

Recently, while out walking with my seven year old, he took me into a ‘secret’ forest and talked up a great game of imagery and action – he called it the  ‘Land of Indestructible Wonder’.   I am not sure where he got that from, but I was impressed. It sounded great.

When you say it out loud it resonates beautifully.

The Land of Indestructible Wonder.

It would make a great fantasy book title……..and then I thought…..maybe it isn’t fantasy….

how apt for New York -because that is exactly what it is…..

The Land of Indestructible Wonder

The Land of Indestructible Wonder

New York – a Little Irish Lakota connection

Day Two in New York – Sunday 15th March 2015

In a previous blog,  I  mentioned that one of the many reasons that justified my trip to the Big Apple, was to visit relatives.

Do you know the exact address of YOUR  extended family scattered about the world?

Well, I had only a vague idea of where my rellies were,  and did not fully investigate their address until I was ensconced on site at ‘base camp’ that was Mamaroneck, and iphone in hand.

I knew the rellies lived in Scarsdale (remembered easily due to the mad diet my mother was always on in the 70’s and 80’s) but  I had no idea where Scarsdale was in relation to New York city and Mamaroneck.

Well would you believe it but  – according to Google maps, and GPS – we were a mere 10 minutes drive from the rellie’s house in Scarsdale!

hop skip and a jump away

hop skip and a jump away

Now here’s the thing – Rellies has a broad term doesn’t it?

 

friends are the family

My true blood relatives, are the O’Farrell-Gallo side,  and their very good friends, the Dunnes, have become ours too over the years.

Tim and Cindy Dunne visited us during the summer of 2014 in West Cork,  and naturally, the courtesy was being extended as I was now on their home turf.

There is no way I could have left American soil without linking up with them.

In any case, the arrangements were that we would all meet at the Dunne’s in Scarsdale on Sunday, for a  late morning brunch.

So we descended en masse to Scarsdale with a gift of a good bottle of wine, and obligatory giant bars of  Cadbury’s chocolate. I had an additional gift for the Dunnes.

My brother, Fergus O’Farrell, is a singer song writer.  And he wanted me to pass on a couple of CD’s of his two albums to the Dunnes.  While Fergus’s songs are available commercially (visit his web site here) one of these songs was particularly special and he wanted to give signed copies to them.

interference live in Dingle  interference

Bear with me as I now FLASHBACK to the summer 2014 when Tim and Cindy had visited us in Ireland.  Cindy was telling us as part of the general chit chat that she was now retired and had the time to volunteer with the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation and specifically, with the Lakota Children’s Enrichment foundation – this was as a result of their daughter, Maggie, who works very closely with the Lakota children on the reservation.  As it natural with these things, Maggie’s mother had taken an interest too.

I added my bit that, I felt the Irish could relate (if even just a little)  having had our share of colonisation and banishment, oppression, genocide, treaty breaking etc.  I shared the story of  how good the Native American’s had been to the Irish during the Great Famine (1845-52), sending over funds, following their own Trail of Tears.

To think, the Native American Indians had so little and gave so much to our people.

And I shared news of how, in recognition of this wonderful aid, there is a sculptor planned to be unveiled in Cork. (For details of this see more here)

 

proposed 'Feather' sculpture

proposed ‘Feather’ sculpture

Back to us at brunch in the USA Spring 2015 and I was delighted to pass on my  brother’s CD which features his song ‘Gold’ (as sung in the movie Once, and performed as part of the Broadway show)

These CD’s do not have the original version  which includes has a speech recorded that precedes the song.

Fergus had written a personal note to the Dunnes, included in the CD, explaining that the song, although perceived as a love song, was actually an environmental song that had been inspired by a  speech he had heard.

I played the original version song to the full room and wasn’t I thrilled to be able to report that the speech was delivered by the Great Grand daughter of Chief Hollow Horn, of the Lakota tribe. ( I will include a link here once I figure out how to upload to audio to the blog so you can hear the full rendition)

This as you can imagine made a wonderful impression.  Great discussion followed as to the coincidence etc.

Admittedly, while Fergus never knew the Lakota connection when he wrote the song, we are only delighted to now put the two together.

Serendipity?  Fate?  Maybe the Great Spirit would have a say on that.

In any case,  the morning was filled by a circle of friends, new and old, sharing food, chatting, and exchanging stories.

There was that special moment when I realised how wonderful these kind of gatherings are – and how lucky I was to be right in the middle of it.  My mind slipped back to a time when the same lands might have had a tribe somewhere near by where others too may have gathered, shared stories and exchanged gifts.

There was no mass for me on that Sunday – but I figure any God wouldn’t have minded.

Hollow Horn Bear  (ca. 1850 – 1913)

Hollow Horn Bear
(ca. 1850 – 1913)

New York – There and Back Again- a Little Irish adventure.

March, Friday 13th – an omen for some – but not for this lady.

Would you believe it but in July last year, I ‘put it out to the universe‘  to be able to go to New York for March 2015.

This was not a trip I could easily afford, time nor financially.

So it really was a case of ‘making a wish’ and hoping it would come true.

And it did!

Fast forward to Friday 13th  2015 and I was on a plane enjoying the great service of Aer Lingus and in-flight movies.

Amazeballs!

So what brings me to New York?

A VERY good and generous friend I have to say.

And why?

But of course, the Kylemore Abbey Fund raiser!

And wanting to see a very good friend who moved there in the last year or so,

And because of rellies who have been asking me for years to come and visit

And it was so close to Paddy’s Day……

What better excuses eh?

So the next few blogs will be a capsule of what I got to do while on American soil and hopefully you will enjoy, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way……….

 

 

 

Putting it out there

I am a great believer in asking for something.

What is the worst you can hear after all?

No?

If we don’t ask, we don’t get.

Some might believe that our paths are set and what is due will come in turn.  Rubbish I say! – okay, not total rubbish – I do believe that our paths are somewhat laid down but just for the pure fun of it, GOD (whatever type yours is) throws in a bit of choice to see what we can come up with ourselves.

if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I have encouraged my kids to be confident in asking for something.  There is a skill to this I think – there is a lot to be said for good manners, good humour, and sure, doesn’t everyone love a charming chancer?

It all boils down to asking for something ‘cos you, well, want it.   So you have to put it out there.

please sir

 

As a boarder in Kylemore, I took chances at asking for permission  – A lot of the time, I was told no, but it was a real bonus when I was told yes!  I  got home early from boarding school  once – I didn’t expect that result myself!

As an adult I was often on the receiving end.  Having worked in the hotel industry, while us managers had to manage complaining guests and going with ‘the customer is king’ attitude – I always acquiesced so much more easily to the polite guest with the issue, than the demanding loud condescending rude one.

And who doesn’t love the try-er – ‘Is there any chance we could get an upgrade?’

Did you hear about the student at a Richard Branson convention somewhere out of state?  – he was receiving texts from the audience as part of the Q & A at the end of the session before he had to dash to his next commitment that was the inauguration of the new President Obama in Washington.  Some bright spark texted him asking was  there any chance they could get a spin with him to the swearing in  – and would you believe it, Richard was impressed enough with their taking a chance and their charming cheekiness, that he said yes!  The texter and their friend were whisked away there and then along with Richard in his helicopter and not only got to see the inauguration but got prime view with Branson’s entourage! (or so the story goes)

I just love that.

But what has this got to do with anything?

 

take a chance

While the self published route has been very satisfying, now that I have written my second book in the series, I have realised with confidence that there is more to my book series than, well,  books.  I firmly believe that the idea as a whole has so much more potential and that realisation involves not being able to do it on my own.  I can, and do, write, but I need experts in all the other areas to do what they do best and so need to be part of team.

To achieve this,  I need to go back to the traditional approach that is to getting “Published” – and I think that means getting an agent.  So I am back to the asking again.

purrrlease

Permission seeking.  ‘Can I be part of your gang?’ sort of thing.

Little_Rascals

Now I have to up sell – ‘cos this time I am in a queue of askers.

Rejection is a little more commonplace when it comes to putting it out there – and I have had my fair share of those.

I am beginning to wonder do I need to revisit my  approach?

Writing my blog and completing my various pages on ‘About me’ and ‘So who is Ruth?’ has made me realise that what I actually share with people when telling them about my book series is not what I have been actually sending out to the various agents/publishing houses.

Perhaps I need to take another look at that?

I recently sent out some new query’s to agents in New York – the thinking that the American market might like the idea of an Irish boarding school story and so after carefully studying and selecting the agents that I thought would be the right fit, I dusted off my submission page and query letter and sent that off.

I have received one rejection so far (1 week after submitting – good going considering some can take up to 6 weeks and beyond)

 “Thank you so much for writing me about your project. I carefully consider each query I receive, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not quite the right fit for yours. I do appreciate that you wrote to me and wish you the very best luck finding the ideal agent for your work.”

 Nicely put,  but it is still a big fat NO!

It is a bit like going for that new job – but that role you really really want.

The fate believers will tell you that it will all come right in the end – and that you have to keep kissing a lot of ugly frogs before you find the right one – eggs to be broken to make an omelette – many doors to be knocked on before the right one opens………

It is reassuring to know that JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie among others, received many rejections before finding their right fit.  I wonder how often they changed their approach?

And so I am now wondering should I not be knocking on doors but instead, say,

throwing pebbles at a window?

Maybe that would get a ‘special’ someone’s attention?

 

We Want You

Kylemore Abbey School – Crest and Moto

Pax et Nos Avi

Did your school have a school moto/crest?

I am not going to suppose that all of you do but if you did have one, is it something that you can quote and recall at a moment?

‘Kylemore Abbey School for Girls’ did – I can’t tell you how many of us ‘K-Girls’ would have seen this crest over the years.  Specifically the ‘Pax’ part remained with us –  Pax (‘Peace’) being the motto of the Benedictine order.

Our full school crest was ‘Pax et Nos Avi’ – but what did the ‘et Nos Avi’ mean?

There are conflicting theories of the true grasp of its essence as there appears to be no clear translation.

And so,  I contacted the Community at Kylemore,  and specifically the Abbess, Mother Maire Hickey, for more detail.

As it turns out, there IS no clear translation – and for good reason – the motto capturing the essence of what Dame Scholastica, the original Head Mistress at Kylemore Abbey School in 1923, first conceived for the new school.

For those not in the know, Kylemore Abbey School was founded by the small community of nuns that survived, having fled war torn Ypres in 1914.  I can’t imagine what the  ‘Irish Dames of Ypres’ must have experienced first hand in the battle torn city, and then the relief  to settle in Connemara’s bleak yet beautiful landscape.

Back to the crest.

I believe that ‘Pax’ couldn’t have been a more poignant and powerful motto at that  time.  But Dame Scholastica’s thinking I am told, was that something needed to be added for the new students that would be educated and excel at Kylemore.

And so, it has been suggested that the school motto incorporates both that of the Benedictine Order, and a reflection of what K-Girls, would carry forward,  that is  to inspire girls to seek peace, work for justice and peace, and commit ourselves to handing it on to the future population of the planet’ – Pax et Nos Avi – Peace is Our Heritage

And so, have we lived on to fulfill this?

I can only let others be the judge of that…………..

2013-06-28 17.32.00 School Blazer Crest 1984