Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sixties

In the late sixties I had an uncle who was a Benedictine monk. He made a name for himself in monk circles. Got into meditation and mantras. He came back from the states for a visit and he asked me if I had seen the movie Easyrider which had just been released. I said I had just seen it twice; two days in a row. So he asked me what I thought of it and so on and I asked him what he thought and he said that after seeing the movie, it had such an effect on him that he took off his watch and either gave it away or threw it away— I don't remember which. This had a profound effect on me. Here was a guy, clearly from the older generation who was totally hip to the idea that time actually didn't exist.
He talked about America and the rock concerts there which hadn't even started in Ireland and were just barely coming to the UK. He saw them as a huge youth movement that was sweeping the nation with change. He said all you could hear at these concerts was the throbbing of the bass, and all you could see was a giant cloud of marijuana smoke.
Here was a country at war having attacked the Vietnamese and everybody at home was getting stoned and I wanted to be there in this land where the monks threw away their watches and the soldiers threw away their medals.

All That Jazz

Jack Keroac sparked my curiosity for jazz music. At first I didn't get it. It was like music from the moon; all lit up but inside you knew it was blue. I had a friend Pat who was an American kid living in Dublin with his mom and dad in the basement of their house on Ailesbury road. The top part was always rented out. His mom was a cherokee indian. His dad was an ex jazz musician now trapped in a  wheelchair and suffering from Parkinson's disease. 
After school Pat would come home and he and his dad would play chess together. Occaisionally we'd get a glimpse of him in his chair through the opened door in the living room, frail and bearded, the room always with closed curtains and Pat would raid his stash of Jazz albums and we would spend late afternoons listening to these beautiful LP's from Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis. We would have lengthly, opinionated discussions about Keroac, Harleys, hitch-hiking and the American highway system. Most of my education, it seemed to me happened after school. 


 They had been my reality. They could sleep outside all night with just a bedroll and a few flames from the fire. Well, in Ireland you could never do that. You'd have to have a tent or a caravan. The rain would never allow a fire to burn all night. There'd be no dry wood around anyway. And you'd get drowned if you tried to sleep outside. And we had no desert, no high plains—only wet fields and soggy cigarettes. Furthermore, we couldn't get beans like what they ate in America. The one's we got came from England with tomato sauce and sugar. I wanted the real stuff with pork, chiles and tortillas on the side. I had to wait another fifteen years.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


The first time I saw television in our home I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas Texas, November 24, 1963. Gunned him down in our living room. Oswald was dead within forty eight hours. America burst like a runaway freight train into our living room. It was the day before my birthday. I thought it was just another show like Bonanza, but set in the modern west. I was nine. My brother and I had been hounding our father to get a television. Most of our friends had them. After school we'd walk over to someone's house and watch the BBC. It was always an American western.
But our dad was a hold out. He thought TV was bad news. Well it took Oswald's bullet to finally persuade him to get one. We got the thing home after the assassination and took it out of its box and plugged it in and right away bang bang, there goes Harvey. He just crumbled into a bunch of Texas hats. I've never forgotten it. We weren't even sitting down—just standing around fiddling with the screen. It was a dose of reality, a wake up. I think that's when childhood ended for me.

Road Kill on 39th & Clay, Denver, CO

It was just a fox. Lying there like that dead on my way to work. Had someone moved it to the curb or had it stumbled over and figured it was a quiet place to lay down one last time with some pride and dignity and not connected to a bunch of wires and cables and drips with experts and students looking on and taking notes and learning.....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My sister's bedroom in the west of Ireland looks out onto a field of cows. One night, I dreamt of a hamburger in a field....