Absurd, maybe

Absurd, maybe
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Thoughts echo, overcome my mind
despite my angry, useless thrusts to push them away,
on the uselessness of life
or maybe just my life.
Theatre of the Absurd as Beckett lived
theatre of the absurd, as I live
is there more? Is there anything at all?
Life is such a gift,
a once in a lifetime chance to impact the world
to make it a better place, for our having been here.
Exchanging one day, each day,
waste not, this unrecoverable day.
Let my actions cause ripples upon ripples
that span even centuries
I do have faith, in God, in Her plan, yet
when I fall in the forest, will I make any sound?
Is the world a better place for my having been here?
I just don’t know
or can’t bear the truth.
But even legacies don’t really last
in the so broad spectrum of time.
Maybe it just doesn’t matter
(but I don’t think that is true).
What would a wonderful life’s view show –
for in the 20/20 vision of my past, the ripples are so small,
if at all – at least what I can see,
remnants, or the whole enchilada?
Is hindsight really 20/20?
or even … How could it be?
You can never know.
Whether lack of awareness,
or confidence,
or a deep seated, unseen wall,
somehow self-built, without ever being even slightly aware of that,
(as the lovely Black woman sings –  colder than winter, right here in my heart)
causes the emotional earthquakes.
But in the solitary office from which I work,
as I so, slowly, agonizingly, slowly, recover.
The ripples,
I wonder

Another golf joke

A fella goes to the golf course and his very first shot, it is horrible, slicing left, it goes far more to the left, then forward.  He slams the club down in frustration.  Suddenly, up pops a little man, from nowhere.  The fella jumps.  “Hey, where’d you come from?

“Never you mind that,” little man answers.  “You like to golf”?

“Aye, Tho’ you wouldn’t know it by my swing.”

“Faith & Begorrah, I can make you the greatest golfer to ever swing the club, if you’d make a deal with me,” says little man.

“Arghh, I’ve seen your kind before, the fella says, what’s your terms?”

“Never you worry, you’re a fierce desperate golfer alltogether, all ya have to do is give up the women.  No kisses, no, no oral, no sex.  And no better golfer will walk the land.  Do ya want the deal or not?”

“Yep,” the fella immediately answers, without hesitation.

“Now, I am not kiddin ya, no women, not even a tiny taste, ever again.”

“I understand, and I agree to your terms,” says the fella.

“Allright then, off ya go.”

The fella takes a mulligan, lines the ball up and Swoosh, the most beautiful stroke ever hit, 385 yards rigth down the pipe.  He jumps for joy and goes to give the little fella a high five, but he’s no where to be seen.  Along comes his playing buddies and the foursome continues on, with the fella shooting far under par, his best round ever.
They get back to the clubhouse and the fella is accepting congrats all around.  He hts the showers and finds himslef in a quiet moment as he is packing his bag.  Poof! the little man appears again.

“Well, did I come thru for ya, the little man asks?

“Jesus, wept, ye did,” the fella answers.

“And are ye going to keep yer end of the deal?”

“Ahh sure that’s no problem at’tall,” the fella responds.

“How can you possibly hold out?  Ye’ll never be able to stay off the women, no sex, no sweet tastings for ya, ever again.”

“Sure that’s nothin at’tall,” the fella responds, I’m a priest.”

A new poem – Kiss Me

Kiss Me
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Kiss me, I beg you, kiss me
Let me feel your heat take my mind
off the ache that resides deep,
to my very joints,
seemingly to my very soul
distract me
with what you make grow, fuel
banish the memories
of winters cold
autumns rain
spring’s lingering nip
you are the sun, kiss me.

overdue fest roundup

Wow, What an absolutley crazy, happy, stressful and fun week, with some drama thrown in, just to keep us honest.

Friday nite had record crowds, great weather, and, when Quagmyre, the opening act on the Celtic Thunder  Stage, out of Toronto, lost a few of their members to immigration problems, a special fill-in guest appearance by Seven Nations Fiddler Dan Stacy added even more spark to the Quagmyre appearances of group members Cara Butler and Jonathan Palastke.  Cara and Jonathon both have toured with the Cheiftains, just to give you an idea of the level of stunning and electric talent here.  Jonathon plays the fiddle and dances in the same high-energy, no holds barred style of Dan Stacy and they are good friends.  When Jonathon and Cara started off in a duet dance, I could only shake my head in wonder.

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The cultural hall got a lot of attention and patronization – it just keeps growing more and more popular each year – the new display on Irish-Americans in Hollywood was a huge hit.

The afters party was rocking when I got back to the hotel, a little after 12, but my “gonna lay down for 1/2 an hour, then go,” plan, failed and I put off the afters party until Satruday nite, then crashed.

Saturday came in what seemed like seconds after I closed my eyes – a quick shower, quick bacon egg & cheese bagel at McD’s (I don’t know why but I just love those things) and back to work.  We have 6 stages that run all 3 days, but add 3 more that run only Sat & Sun.  This includes a workshop stage (for instrument workshops and presentations), like here, with Irish author Cathal Liam, who writes the Aran Roe O’Neill series, now featuring Blood on the Shamrock.  Cathal and I each presented over the weekend on our books, signed and had meet & greets.

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Abbey Theatre, which features plays, comedy and special presentations on the Ballad Tradition and The Fit-ups Life and a childrens stage, with tons of activities besides the entertainment, round it out.

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We fought off a ton of rain Saturday am, but then the crowds started rolling in, and rolling, and rolling.  The odd thing about the Fairgrounds where the fest is held is that the parking lot and one building are in the city of Berea, the rest of the grounds are in Middleburgh Hts.  So when there is a problem, we have to consider that, before making a call.  Well, we weren’t aware of the problem this time, until they called us.  Apparently the entrance, on Bagley Road, was backed up to I71, about a mile plus away. This has happened in years past, but never this early.

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All I could do was laugh.  Ahh to have such problems.  The guy in the blue shirt facing you above, with the two bearded guys, is Nathan Palatske,  facing right is Dan Stacy and left, is Jonathan, so the rest of Quagmyre arrived in time for Saturday’s show.  I didn’t even notice them in the pic until just now.

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Saturday was anotehr record crowd, with some amazing shows from  Eileen Ivers, Cathie Ryan and the David Munnelly Band, just to name a few.  Great entertainers, but I have found them to all be really classy folks as well.

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Conor Coleman,, Reigning and 2 time world Champion Garrett Coleman,  8 year Lord of the Dance regular Pat Campbell and Keiran Coleman wowed audiences repeatedly withhigh flying moves and fast paced action, while dancing to accompanyment by Cherish the Ladies.

I made an oh so brief appearance at the Saturday nite afters party, my joints were fried and more of the same promised for the next day.   Walking was difficult. I hear 4:00 a.m went by without a break in the sessiuns, oh how I wish I could.
Sunday was more of the same – fantastic weather, huge record-breaking crowds and performances that just blew people away.

Two volunteers passed away over this past year.  We had a special tribute to Bridget and Mike, at the outdoor mass, and in our Celtic Heritage Cultural Hall:

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By Monday all had cleared out of the hotel and the 4 day prep was reversed – all had to be completed – and we had to be out – by 5:00 p.m. Monday.    Maureen and Jack got to the grounds before me and started hauling all the displays down, for packing until next year.  So long to set up, just a few hours to tear it all apart.  Jack was joined by John and a few
nephews popped in for brief periods.  Soon the whole thing was dismantled.  I shuffled along – thank God for Jack and Maureen.

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Soon all was stacked up, until we loaded it into the Box truck.  The process was repeated for the Abbey Hall, then we ran a convoy over to the box truck and stored it all away.

I stopped by my folks, for a brief bite and we found my dad in a lot of pain.  By Tuesday he was in a great deal of pain and mom took him to the hospital, 3 days later, after surgery on a very bad gall bladder, he is in much better shape today – thank God it happened after the weekend, not during – can’t run without the leader of the pack.  He gave us a scare tho’.

I spent the day organizing the box truck, sorting, cleaning etc..  A LONG day ends a long 2 weeks – we made it!  Now it’s time to prepare for the 25th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival – only 358 days away – July 20-22, 2007!

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and so it continues, Wednesday edition

nd so it Continues… Wednesday’s edition.  The blog was getting too long, so I am breaking it up.  Here’s what happened today (go back to the last blog if you’d like to get Sunday thru Tuesday’s blog and pics).

Got up nice and early, around 6ish, getting all the final pieces to take out to the grounds.  Jack met me there and helped me unload the car.  Got the rental company set up with what buildings were getting what tables and chairs and then started opening all the dozens of boxes in which we had our displays stored.  Once we got them all opened, then we started the sorting process for the more than 200 displays.  We show them by theme, like Tourism, Sports, Irish Life, The Arts, military and political and more.  Kathy and her sister Vickie showed up out of the blue and I was sooo happy to see them. We got all the displays sorted, then started putting them up on easles, the walls and special props we have made.  After a break for lunch, my nephew Anthony showed up and since I wasn’t able to bend at all, he got my socks and shoes on for me and I could finally lose the flip flops.  Kathy and Vickie had to go, but right then, Maureen called, she was on her way.
Jack was joined by John, and my B in Law John, and my nephew John and another  John – I am not kidding, it was Anthony and 6 guys named John !  Maureen and Anthony helped me get the displays placed and Jack and John adhered them.   My B in law John, got an extension ladder and hung 40 flags.

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A really cool new display, on Irish-America in Hollywood, just stands out – Maureen created the display from a display done by the Milwaukee Irish Fest.   – it is more than 30 feet long and really stands out.  You can see it below, dead center and going left, but I’ll get a better pic of it tomorrow

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More than 40 phone calls on hotel issues, performer issues and people calling in to ask if we have bathrooms, were addressed as well.  Alec DeGabriele arrived, ready to build up the stage where he does a Fit-ups, or Travelling Folk recreation, from the shows of the late 50’s and 60’s in Ireland.  Alec creasted from scratch a recreation of the original style stage sets that the Travelling Folk used and in his presentation, he then talks about what life was like as a member of the touring troupes.  Alec’s performing troupe were called the Shannon Players.

Once we got all the displays for this building caught up, (we have another building to do tomorrow), we set up the floor plan with tables, for the 3 authors, Bodhran and uileann pipe maker (Irish drum and on your lap form of bagpipes), Make-A-Wish Foundation, Case Western Historical Society, Akron Hurling Club and the Fighting 69th Volunteer Infantry group.

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Thats Maureen and Anthony above

Folks had to head out, so I stopped for a beer, with my B in laws and the guys setting up tents and lights.  Just then, Jennifer, from Make-A-Wish arrived.  A stunningly beautiful woman, she was dropping off literature and banners for the foundation, one of the beneficiaries of the fest.  bright, funny, and dedicated, she is a class act.  Of course, the conversation came to an abrupt stop when she arrived, while I went and got her info and promotional material.  Another beer and time to wrap it up for the night.

My aunt came in from Toronto, to help out with the fest, so we all gathered at my folks for dinner, then home to empty the car, to get it ready for another load tomorrow.  Hot tub here I come, it is 11:30 and I am crashing.

I will get many mroe pcis tomorrow, when things are almost complete, then of course, during the fest itself as well.

hope you are enjoying this behind the scenes look.

And So It Begins – And Continues [Updated]

A Continuous blog about the week around organizing the 24th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival – It goes from the bottom up, from oldest to today. 

Tuesday July 18th

It all started out so well.  Got up early, got a lot of paperwork caught up, did the radio show with Gerry Glennon on Midwest Irish Radio and raced out to the grounds to meet the stage rental setup crews.  Location, location, location – very important to have the stages in the right places.

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Then off to the Celtic Heritage Hall building to begin the unloading, assembling and placing of the props, easels and walls that hold the more than 200 varied and colorful displays.

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I got them all set up, ready for the arrival of all the foam core boards filled with displays on anything and everything – new favorites include Newgrange, Irish-Americans in Hollywood, The Connemara Pony, The Fighting 69th, 8 Decades of Mickey Rooney and much more.

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My back is on fire, but we are making great progress.  The guys wheel out the monster Irish cottage from storage, which doubles as the storage shed, off-season, for the easels and walls. I empty it out, assemble the easels, which range from 4 foot to 8 foot high, and arrange them in semi circles and lanes, based on the set up plan.  Easels, easels everywhere, all arranged in this years plan, at least until all the displays are out and the final look forces a few moves.  The plan is on time.
Tomorrow all the displays themselves are unpacked and the setup really begins.  After stopping for a beer with my B in Law Phil and Bichl, Tommy, Rich and Ben, who put up all the tents at the festival (Lucky for us, Phil owns and operates Tip Top Tents) it is back to the unpacking and making the cultural hall cosmetically nice while adding to the presentation of the Irish culture and heritage.  I head home when I can no longer bend over – my back is seriously locked up and stiff as a board – so after finding a great salami and cheese sandwich left in my car for me,  Mystery Chef dropped me a present!  Mmmmmmmm. I head home.  Boy this place is going to look differnt come Friday!

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            After about 2 hours of clearing email, answering phone calls, coordinating with dad a few hotel last minute changes etc I am starting to feel a little looser.  Then on to cutting up more of that infamous Velcro, cut to size for all of the literally dozens of pop, beer, tickets, hours, stage names, times, locations and more, signs that we put up for the weekend – we put the velcro on before, so the mounting on beverage trucks, pop stands, tents and anything else,  is quick.  My Irish twin sister (11 months older than me) comes over, with 4 of her 5 kids, plus another of my nieces and they help me finish up the last of the displays and then Velcro the beer, pop and ticket signs for me – life is good!  I had visions of a very late nite doing that.  The last of the new displays are gathered, fine tuned and then packed into large 40 x 60 cases for transport to the grounds.
Hopefully a few volunteers will show up tomorrow to help get all the displays out and arranged.  Only 3 days till the fest begins.  Nervous?  NAH Me and immigration get along GREAT and we will pray and work hard to make sure that is true this year – please pray yourself that all the non-U.S. performers can get in. The kids all head off to the hot tub while I finish loading the car and my sister goes and gets the missing child.  More emails and returned phone calls after the kids head home.  Still praying on immigration.  Please Pray, pray, pray.  The sched will undergo massive changes if all the bands cant get thru, even if any of them cant, and the trickle down effect is extensive.  The 16 page program book has obviously already gone to print at this point, so we wont be able to change that.  All the stage signs are velcroed, so we can switch them around as needed, but people arent going to walk all nine stages to find out where we switched their favorite band, to cover any open slots due to 1, 2, or 5 bands not getting thru immigration. 

Another B in  Law arrives into town and wants to grab a beer – well twist my arm.   A few beers, a few wings, and then the phone rings.
Where are ya, wanna go for a beer? says another B in Law, Phil.
Me and Lang are at the Public House now.
Oh Good, were in the parking lot.
And in comes Phil.  Home by midnite – ish. Sort of.

And So It Goes:

Monday, July 17th

And So it Begins:

Well, it really began last October, when we had our first wrap up meeting from the 23rd Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival.  A discussion of what went well, what didn’t, and what we need to do differently for the 2006 edition was followed by ideas and requests from the committee for what charities to donate to.  Make-A-Wish Foundation, Holy Family Cancer Home, and West Side Catholic Center were among those selected.  More than $350,000 has been donated to local and national charities since the   first festival, held in 1983.

Then the work for the 2006 festival began.  Gathering new display material for the cultural hall is my main focus.  The other responsibilities, like the website, program book; schedule, mass and other printing material, workshops and presentations, the Abbey Theatre program and sched, the kids area programming and sched, the MC and entertainer communications and packages and such don’t kick in for a few more months.  We try to be as ahead of the game as possible, letting each know exactly what is happening/needed and when.
My dad, who is the director (and founder) of the festival, is busy on booking bands, PR initiatives, etc..  We try to hit 10 or 12 other festivals each year, for screening bands, getting new ideas and the great sharing of knowledge that occurs with other festival directors and staffs.  The cultural hall has grown so much in the last 5 years, since I was asked to design and develop the exhibits for it, with over 200 exhibits on anything and everthing there is to celebrate and/or acknowledge about our heritage.  It is 1:30 a.m. and time for lites out.   I am going to bed.

6:00 a.m.
back to it.  I have to finish packing up all the displays, to be transported to the grounds.  20 plus cases from 5′ x 6′ now to 18″ x 24″ are all getting sorted and boxed.
All the signage – everything from enter and exit signs to stage lineups and where to go for what, are all splayed out, organized and fitted with velcro for instant application on site.  I grab 3 or 4 of my young nephews and go around the grounds putting up all the signs and banners, mostly with velcro – that wondrous material, or with rope – we got away from duck tape a fair few years ago, thank God.

Now on to me dear ould folks house, to move all the stored up supplies, to get ready for transport.  Oh me ACHING back.  On to Byrne Sign, to pick up the aforementioned velcro, that stuff is EXPENSIVE,  but we have a new supplier, Byrne, who gave us a great price and really worked hard to find what we needed – great guy that Paul.

Got a call from Gerry Glennon, a fantastic DJ at Midwest Irish Radio, who had finally gotten my new book, Festival Legends: Songs & Stories, sent to him in early May.  He invited me to go on his show tomorrow, at 3:00 Irish time (10:00 EST, U.S.).  I listen to the show ALL the time and really excited about that.  Will talk about the book and the festival.  It is www.midwestirishradio – 24/7 music and events in Ireland and around the Irish Diaspora ( if I am using that word right).

Back to the folks, for a bite, with them and one of my sisters family – great future volunteers – those kids don’t know WHAT they are in for!  Then off to a meeting with the videogrpaher, we are taping several of the presentations, like Tommy Makem on the Ballad Tradtion, Johnny McEvoy on All Our Wars Are Merry, All Our Songs Are Sad, and Alec DeGabriele, on the Fit-ups Life. plus lots of the other fest highlites, like Dogs Native to Ireland, Pipe Bands, 9 stages, dance schools, workshops, children’s area, cultural hall and more.  The videographer is a sharp guy, with such an appealing desire to do a good job.  Say a prayer the tapes come out well.  Really want to preserve these legends, live in action.    Finally, home again, clear the 120 emails on the fest and then catch up some of the paperwork.  Grabbed some of the supplies needed tomorrow – my first day at the grounds themselves, even tho my B in L Phil and my dad have been out there a lot – started on Sunday with the banners and lights being put up.
A quick hello to my MySpace friends and then time to crash, it is not too bad, only 11:30.

Sunday, July 16th


New Blog of what’s coming/going on – from an Organizer’s perspective

    Hi All,

Only 5 days till the 24th Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival!

Started by my father, and a group of incredibly dedicated, creative and engaging volunteers, which now number over 425, the festival is a living passion, to present, promote and preserve our wonderful Irish heritage.

So, each day you will find a daily recap, from Monday July 17th thru Thursday, July 20th, then again, when I return after the weekend itself, with a recap of the weekend festival, and the week long pre, and post festival activities, going thru the cleanup on Monday, July 24th.   Lots of pics, if I am able, will be included but the blogs will mainly talk about what it is like and what happens, from a behind the scenes, organizers perspective.

I will add the day’s blog to the previous days post, so watch out for that.

Hope you enjoy, pray for great weather for us and keep cool.

I will be on MIDWEST IRISH RADIO Tuesday

I got a call today from Gerry Glennon, a fantastic Disk Jockey on one of my all time favorite radio shows, Midwest Irish Radio, out of Mayo, Ireland, on the internet, at, surprisingly enough, www.midwestirishradio.com.  Gerry finally got my book, sent to him about 2 months ago and he kindly invited me on the show tomorrow to talk about me bewk, as well as my other passion, Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival, which is this coming weekend (www.clevelandirish.org).

THANKS JUDY B, you know why!

The show is 24/7 but I am on about 3:00 Irish Time, 10:00 a.m. EST here in the U.S.

If my blogs don’t drive you nuts, wait’ll you hear my voice!  Hope you can have a listen, email in on the cool “request line” email format they have and have a chance to hear a GREAT Irish music radio station.

I am really looking forward to being on a show that I listen to ALL the time.

God Bless,


It is Festival Week

Hi All,

Only 5 days till the 24th Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival!

Started by my father, and a group of incredibly dedicated, creative and engaging volunteers, which now number over 425, the festival is a living passion, to present, promote and preserve our wonderful Irish heritage.

So, each day you will find a daily recap, from Monday July 17th thru Thursday, July 20th, then again, when I return after the weekend itself, with a recap of the weekend festival, and the week long pre, and post festival activities, going thru the cleanup on Monday, July 24th. Lots of pics, if I am able, will be included but the blogs will mainly talk about what it is like and what happens, from a behind the scenes, organizers perspective.

I will add the day’s blog to the previous days post, so watch out for that.

Hope you enjoy, pray for great weather for us and keep cool.


no punctuation a new poem

no punctuation
by john obrien jr

I was told my life must be cold
and it freezes my blood
my very being
that it is actually true
self caused
life caused
years of blindness or oblivion
brought on by years of my own silent world
when chosen
peaceful when not – earplugs with batteries
isolation by the random happenstance
of this family
I dont know

doesnt sound cold
describes me

synonyms for blankets
emotional coverings in others
from others
that I have tasted
but didnt grow old and familiar and treasured with

life is random
people are fair or unfair
so maybe it is just

Is Anybody Out There?


I have a briefly free evening (it is 11:30 p.m.) from preparing for the 24th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival, to be held next weekend, July 21-23 at the Berea Fairgrounds in Cleveland, Ohio – www.clevelandirish.org.
This will be our 24th year and it just keeps growing and growing and (knock on my wooden head) great weather will allow us to continue that streak of growing each and every year.
We have some of the coolest new displays at the fest this year, including Newgrange, a tomb like structure that predates the Pyramids by more than 1500 years, Irish American’s in Hollywood, Round Towers & Castles, profiles on dozens of bands, political, sport, business and cultural personalities and some spectacular displays on the gorgeous land and people that is – Ireland.  All in all, more than 200 displays on the Irish life and culture will be presented in the Celtic Heritage Hall.

I had a really great time doing the Akron Hibernian Irish Radio Show, taped Monday nite, with host Paul Callahan, promoting both me ould bewk, and the festival.

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Paul knows a lot about the songs and performers and we had great conversation about a passion we both share, the great ballad tradition – songs with a real story, that are covered in the book.  You can hear the show on Thursday Nite, from 8 to 10 p.m., WAPS 91.3 FM.

After that, we stopped by the Akron Hibernian Club, for a pepsi.  I had never been there but it was a great place.  Hibernian President Mike McKenzie was waiting for us.  We had a drink and gave a sincere toast for safe passage on his tour to young Kilroy, a Marine heading for Iraq in September, that came by for a drink with his dad.  God Bless you, keep safe, walk proud, for we are so very proud of you and walk side by side with you every step of the way.

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Had a great time in the Akron Hibernian Club and look forward to the chance to stop by again.