Tuesday, January 16, 2018

DOLORES O'RIORDAN R.I.P.

When I heard yesterday that Dolores O'Riordan had died, it felt like a personal and devastating loss. I never met her and, like most of us, knew her chiefly as the lead singer for The Cranberries. But her historic place in the popular music sphere (although her voice, and the band's arrangements, were often more punk (or new wave) than pop) isn't what I reacted to most. It was her Irishness and how comforting and at times challenging it could be to my sensibility.

Though "Zombie" and "Linger" are the tunes most cited in the obits being written about her, for me "Ode To My Family" has always been the song that touches my heart the most, and in what other music video have you ever seen someone playing with a hurling stick and ball (hurling is the Irish national native sport that is one of the most excitingly fast paced and no nonsense games in the world, or at least it certainly seemed so when I was a boy)...

Monday, January 15, 2018

MY MARTIN LUTHER KING SONNET

When Martin Luther King was shot I felt the
sudden shift in the atmosphere, like trying to
breathe underwater. It was three years since
Malcom X’s assassination and my new radical
friends and reading had opened my eyes to the
realities of class in the USA. Malcolm verbally
attacked white folks with impunity, but the
minute he decided it was not about race but
about the poor and the wealthy, BAM! King
spent years fighting racism and despite attempts
on his life and tons of threats seemed invulner-
able, but as soon as he organized a poor people’s
campaign talking about the haves and have-nots,
BAM! I wondered if the Marxists had it right.

(C) Michael Lally 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

ANOTHER FAVORITE QUOTE

"Well, listen, everything's weird. You tell me something that's not weird."   —Bob Dylan (in an interview)

Friday, January 12, 2018

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"A few months ago, I took my wallet full of money and credit cards and a large suitcase to a limousine that drove me to the airport and 7 hours later I was in Ireland driving to a luxury hotel. A few days later, I was standing in the stone barn in Raheendanore where my paternal grandfather for whom I am named, the oldest of 14 children, slept before he left for Brooklyn 35 years before I was born. The cows and the horses shit in that barn and I suppose he went outside the barn and around the back to shit there himself. I had spent the previous night in a re-constructed oat barn on a nearby farm which had been ingeniously converted to a luxury guesthouse. Dada had two years of schooling...... Grandma had one year and the house she grew up in in Ballinlough was a stone hut serving as a chicken coop when I first went to Ireland in 1972. (The house that replaced it was a nice cottage but still didn't have running water or a toilet when I was last there in 2010.) Still she knocked my father on the head when she heard he called a kid up the block a derogatory ethnic term and told her pride and joy, "He's as good as you are."...... On the other side of the family are famine Irish who sent three sons including my great-grandfather to fight with the Union. One of my great-grandfather's brothers, Daniel Curtin, is buried at Antietam. They all came from shitholes, I guess you could say..... I grew up in a nice house, went to Fairfield University, UC Berkeley and Columbia University, have two cars and two pensions, a profession I enjoy practicing and no complaints. There are lots of places I can go and things I can do today. I know where I came from and I remember the brave, loving, family-oriented, hard-working people who paid the price for the privileged lives I and my children are living.
What I really can't do is pull up the ladder they climbed to place me on top. I cant' pull it up and say to those down at the bottom, people who look different from my people, but have the same family-oriented, work-oriented values,"Sorry, times have changed. The country has changed, people like you are no longer needed. I guess it's tough in the shitholes you came from, but that's none of my business. The luck of America ended with me and mine."
I can't do that and if they start sending those kids back who grew up here, then I'm going to take all my meds with me and do my best to stand in front of the paddy wagons-----(Who do you think those wagons were named for anyway?)"

—William Lannigan

Thursday, January 11, 2018

OLD STYLE

After watching the TV series PEAKY BLINDERS I can say it was wildly inconsistent but wildly entertaining. Part of what made it so much fun to watch was the styles of that time and place as exaggerated by the show's creators, which evoked for me the family I come from, who weren't violent like the Peaky Blinders, but shared some other things with them.

My seventh-grade-drop-out father's attempts to create and run businesses to support me and my siblings and grandparents, and his brothers and their families when they needed help which in some cases was almost always, evokes Tommy Shelby, to me. And like him, one of my father's businesses was "making book" as they called taking bets on the horse races. I grew up, in fact, answering my old man's home repair business phone only to hear instructions for bets: "So-and-so across the board in the fifth" etc. And my old man worked with the political forces like Tommy as well.

So here's some shots that evoke for me the same kinds of immigrant Irish style of the times in the show and beyond.
my father as a young man with a cousin and Irish aunt c.1920
my father (white pants) and a friend on a trip to Florida in the 1920s
my father and my three oldest brothers down the Jersey shore c. 1932
my father and one of his younger brothers we called Lydie (his name was Michael Lydon Lally but since his Irish father was also Michael everyone called him by a version of his middle name, and yes, I did once have a conversation at a party with John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) about the name and turned out his people came from near where my people came from in Ireland) c. 1940.
my father, cigarette in mouth, with his youngest brother, John, behind him in striped tee shirt c. 1940
my father, his Irish mother, my oldest brother, my mother's mother and my mother and me during WWII c. 1944
my father in the dark hat and coat when he was an old man but part of the Essex County Democratic political machine and still stylish, early 1960s