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- Paddy’s Day with a Difference.

17th March 2015 – Day 4 of my ‘Little Irish Adventure’.  It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!

IT’s St PATRICK’S DAY IN NEW YORK CITY!

patricks day in NYC

And my day was all the more special.

First thing in the am,  Roz and I got to read some Irish stories to children in Mamaroneck’s Montessori – this was tough- not because I am shy at reading in public (as if!) but it is so hard to find an Irish story where it doesn’t end in bloodshed and slaying, or at the very least,  curses or banishment.

I didn’t want to scar the little innocents for life!

So we stuck to fairy tales.

Parental responsibility over, Roz and I headed back into Manhattan.

Now, I am the sort of girl that likes to do things a bit differently.

So, NO,  I didn’t go to watch the Paddy Parade.

For those out there who expect floats and giant air balloons or acrobats….You would be disappointed – because those type of parades happen on  Thanksgiving.  (think of the movie ‘Miracle On 34th Street’)

New York Paddy’s Day parades are all about marching bands.

Pre Paraders

Pre Paraders

Roz and I walked parallel to the parades and took glimpses here and there – but to be honest, we were on a different mission.

By private invitation (cough cough) we were off to Pier 90, where the NYPD were having their own Paddy’s Day celebration.

Where?

What?

Who?

cat I could tell you

I will let the pictures speak for themselves….

held in a secure location……

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

and some amazing  music – I promise there WAS dancing

The in house entertainment

The in house entertainment

and lots of men in uniform

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Who's got your back!

Who’s got your back!

Friends from San Fran

Friends from San Fran

Guardians of the Peace

Guardians of the Peace

best NYPD sandwich ever!

best NYPD sandwich ever!

And then we had our own private parade as the NYPD pipe band arrived……

 the pipes are calling

the pipes are calling

Short side view!

Short side view!

I never felt threatened or on constant alert (a natural feeling I get when surrounded by lots of testosterone) as these guys were natural minders.

True gentlemen  to the core!

We had a great laugh  – the NYPD gang were so welcoming and genuine.

And sure  after a couple of beers, I felt we both blended right in!

cagney and lacey

What an afternoon!

Roz and I were VERY tempted to stay on but,  we being good Catholic boarding school girls,  and not forgetting we are both married….

we took ourselves off out of temptations way…….lol

After resting some, and strolling  along the very pleasant Hudson river walk, in the sharp (and I mean very sharp) air…..

Riverside Rest

Riverside Rest

…..we linked up with Aileen (who had preformed at the fund raiser)

aileen

Aileen (pronounced ‘I-Lean’) has lived and worked for years in NYC -she currently is the Piano Artist Studio Manager working on a fab project Sing for  Hope – (she also is a fab musician/song writer) – note the plug Aileen!

Anywaaaays, I know Aileen as my old pal from Kylemore.  We have linked up over the years, and until this trip, always on Irish turf.

This was my first time to visit Aileen at her own base – and WOW!  If I ever had a ‘far away fields are greener’ moment – this was it!  City living is not for everyone but if I was without kids and didn’t own 3 dogs – I would gladly have what she has.  Aileen couldn’t live anymore central to the creative world that is the bones of New York.  As a writer I had little flashes of what my life  could be  like if I too lived somewhere similar…..how my writer’s world might be……..I wouldn’t give up my life now that as I have it….I have a fab husband and kids after all…….but if I lived in a parallel one?……..oh well, it might make a nice story someday.

We had a fab evening – it was lovely to see Aileen again, and have her show us a snap shot of what she is up to these days- I was tempted to take lots of photos of her super stylish apartment, but I thought that would have been just plain rude – but I did take a few to capture the evening – so I will let the photos speak for themselves!

When all was done and dusted – it was a truly amazing Saint Patrick’s Day – one I will never forget.   A huge thank you to NYPD, and Aileen,  for making it such a Paddy’s day with a difference.

Roz and I managed to get home before midnight, and not only that, but  managed to get home sober – ish.  As Roz  had an early start for work the next day (5am),we were both conscious of the late hour.

I too was keen to get some sleep.  The next day I was going to be flying solo and heading into New York again for some research.  I would be going in wearing with my writer’s hat

– but that my dears, is for the next post…..

New York – Day Three – putting the fun in Fundraiser

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:

Program coverEabha McMahonProgam Page 2

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.

hats off

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.

THE Clock!

THE Clock!

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.

Spot the tourist

Spot the tourist

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 –

St Josephs exterior

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.

volare

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!

Delizioso!

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.

Pictures from March concert

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!

L to R:  Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

L to R: Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

putting the fun in fundraiser

putting the fun in fundraiser

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 – Mamaroneck

So Base Camp for my trip to New York was the town of Mamaroneck -home to Matt Dillon for any fans.  In Irish how-to-get-there terms, this ‘village’ is a ways out of New York’s Manhatton, on the North West side of New York state, on the way towards Greenwich CT (Connecticut).  It actually lies in Westchester County of New York but lets not go too much into that.

According to wikipedia pages, is one of the top 10 places to live in NY.

I can vouch for that.

For a country bumpkin and an Irish one at that, I had no idea where I was to be staying, only that it was the address of my friend, Roz and family.  As far as I was concerned I was going to New York and linking up with one of my bestest pals.  I wouldn’t have cared if I was stuck in a shed with a sleeping bag.

 

Mamaroneck

Fortunately, that was not my penance and instead, I was gifted the lap of comfort at its best.

First impressions in daylight on day one left me in awe of the size of everything in the area- the houses, the cars, the supermarkets…..I am such a tourist…..but then I started to look beyond that, and I was touched by the lay of the land.

Mamaroneck by unknown artist (c)

Mamaroneck by unknown artist (c)

Houses built sensitively around giant boulders and rocks that form the natural terrain.  My eyes were forever drawn beyond the houses to the grove of trees, hillocks and streams that flowed freely to the sea and as a result, I found I could easily imagine what the lay of the land was like originally.

Back yard barn in Mamaroneck

Back yard barn in Mamaroneck

 

For the time of year, the trees were bare and the ground scantly clad in pockets of snow.  Picture postcard.  But what was it like originally?

Snow time in Mamaroneck

Snow time in Mamaroneck

 

Well the area that is now the town in Mamaroneck, was purchased from Native American Chief Wappaquewam and his brother Manhatahan ( of the Siwanoy tribe)  by an Englishman named John Richbell in 1661.  The rest as they say is history ( and not necessarily a pleasant one for the Native Americans)  and yet I could clearly imagine some scouts or braves, weaving in and out of the glades where the big houses now stood.

I have a hunger for background, or the story behind a place/person, and so I found myself always asking questions, that not necessarily people had the answer to.

So where does the name Mamaroneck come from? – In Ireland traditional place names mean something e.g. my own home town, Ballydehob – Beal Atha Da Chab (place of the two rivers fords) or Dublin  – Dubh Linn – the black pool. I wondered the story behind Mamaroneck……

I am saddened to say that the Siwanoy Indians do not exist any more (another discussion for another day) and so the actual Indian meaning of the name behind the town has been lost – but there have been some educated guesses handed down over time.  Here are a few of them that I found online –  For the full article please see here:

Mamaroneck is named after the Indian chief, Mamaronock – but he was a  chief of the Wiquaeskeck Indians who were located in a different area so this doesn’t ring true.

Mamaroneck means “the place of rolling stones” but  there doesn’t seem to be any documentary evidence supporting the idea that the Indian word ‘mamaroneck’ translates as ‘the place of rolling stones”.

Mamaroneck means “the Gathering Place.”  ‘mama’ means ‘to bring (or gather, or join, or meet) together with the ‘eck’ meaning ‘place or land’ – maybe maybe not……

In any case, all the above moved me as I could picture all of these explanations in the friendly picturesque town and I related all the more with the historic place.  I am please to report the town plague at least acknowledges the Indian connection.

Mamaroneck town plague

Oh, and by the way, for the golfers out there – the famous Winged Foot golf club can also be found in the area…..

Entrance to Wing Foot golf club

Entrance to Wing Foot golf club

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……….