New Poem _ Ghosts Talking to Ghosts

New Poem – Ghosts Talking to Ghosts

Ghosts Talking to Ghosts
by John OBrien, Jr.

Old memories, old emotions
I hear ghosts talking to ghosts.
Hairs rise, goosies.
Hallowed hated halls,
that I havent seen in twenty-five years,
when I was young.

How many thousands cried
and laughed here, in the 1/4 century since?
Would they have laughed more,
cried less, in other halls?
Foundations of concrete, were built there.
or of sand.

Ghosts talk to me,
strangle me in the sticky,
panicky spider web
of what was,
or of what could have been.

Battle ball bruises
and bitter bad blows.
Buried in books,
so I don’t see, me getting lost in the shuffle.
Now I look for the loners
And gently blow them
to the road more traveled.

Snakebit – anybody got any venom?

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Milwaukee Irish Fest is the largest Irish festival in the world, with over 140,000 people attending and I was invited to present on my book, and have a signing, each day. I was so very excited. The only rule was that I had to have to books (Festival Legends: Songs & Stories – all about Irish music legends and their journeys) delivered by noon on Friday. Talk about the perfect market for the book – and ALL in ONE place!
So I took the opportunity to see my sis and her family while making the drive a little more reasonable. I went to my sisters on Wednesday, visit her family for a day or two and then just drive about 4 hours from there, to Milwaukee, rather than an 8 hour trip on Friday. I arrived there and the kids were in good form, excited about starting a new school term. My oldest niece and nephew even took me to dinner! Imagine that! Pretty cool, I thought. Got a chance to see where they live and what they are up to. Really enjoyed being with them.

Got up around 7 on Friday morning and headed out to Milwaukee. Was on Comiskey Park before I realized it – construction was baaaad.

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They are redoing the highway there, 65, and the Ryan Expressway – and it is expected to take FIVE years.

The grounds in Milwaukee are very unique – right on the lake and just beautiful. These pics are at 7:00 a.m. Saturday – just to give you an idea of how massive and polished it all is. They have a different festival every weekend and their Summerfest draws 100,000 people a day (for 10 days)!

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I met the Literary Corner Coordinator, a really nice lady named Veronica and helped her get the area set up for a bit, taping down carpets, unpacking books and arranging tables etc.. She is having both her knees replaced and moving was difficult for her – she did an amazing wonderful job and the place looked spectacular.

From a business standpoint with the book, the weekend itself was very tough. The program book and the schedule boards had a book, Spirits and Songs of Irish Festivals, listed as my book title in the program book and on the stage schedule for Saturday (instead of Festival Legends, Songs & Stories),

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but Spirits was spelled Sipirits in the program book – yeah, that’ll draw them in! Sorry.

The Saturday presentation went well enough, despite that. Then I went over to do my signing while Malachy McCourt was presenting. He finished 1/2 hour before my signing was done and mistakenly told those listening that he was going over to sign books right then, instead of a 1/2 hour later. Bunch of people crashed into the tent, demanding him, including a large woman who yelled at me that he said he was coming right over “and I am staying right here until I see him.” I said ok… it was too funny (Malachy was very nice about it, apologized for the mix-up, nice, friendly guy. We swapped books and had a nice chat). Did ok on selling there though and enjoyed talking to people about the book and sharing stories of the legends. Another highlight for me was getting to meet Mary Clancy, wife of Paddy, who was in Milwaukee talking about the wonderful Paddy Clancy Scholarship Fund.

I was not listed on the program at all on Sunday, even though they wrote me as doing a presentation at 2:15. Then when I went to do the presentation at 2:15 on Sunday, Ed Ward was doing his Milwaukee 25 book (an awesome, fun look at the history of the fest, stories, legends etc…) and with all the questions, ran thru my time. Neither Ed nor the MC even knew about me even being scheduled. I had a signing scheduled then for 2:45 till 3:30, but then they came and cancelled the signing and had me do a presentation instead. Many of the other fest directors came all the way over to my presentation both days and the support was just an awesome thing to see (and feel).

In anticipation of great crowds at Milwaukee Irish Fest, I got 150 extra books, because I was allowed to have the book for sale at the performer CD booth, since it is about Irish music. When I went to the booth that Friday night, they had no book displayed or mentioned and the booth coordinator knew nothing about it. I walked back to the Merchandise coordinator trailer, then back to the booth, and they found it under a table. The booth coordinator wouldn’t put it out because “It will get stolen.” So I left the grounds, walked all the way back to my car, grabbed 4 posters of the cover, plus write ups of the back cover and then I took them back to the booth coordinator. It was now 9:00 at night. He put out the poster, but not the writeup, at this booth, but the other CD booths did not have the book. So the next day I came back, borrowed a marker from someone and wrote at the bottom of the poster, “book available here.” For the whole weekend, I sold 5 – FIVE, for 140,000 people. I was really disappointed, after being so hopeful and paying for the extra books. I have sold between 40 and 50 at most festivals,e ven though they are less than 1/3 of the size, so this was painful.

Ahh well. It was no ones fault. As I said, I have great awe for the job they do there. The music was phenomenal. The genius pianist and composer Michaeal O’Suilleabhain (Mehal O’Sullowhine or Michael O’Sullivan) performed, here with a spoons player.

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He can take Irish music and stretch it in ways no one ever thought possible, while still respecting the tradition. He is also the Director of Irish Music Studies at the University of Limerick, where you can get a Masters Degree in Irish Music’s specialties.

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My favorites, the Makem & Spain Brothers

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Danny Doyle

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and Tom Sweeney

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were also there as were, as were the Elders, and the Irish Rovers (Wasn’t That Party, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer are two of their hits that crossed over into American Mainstream radio charts and were big hits in the U.S. as well) – The Rovers:

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There was an unbelievable special series featuring bands from Nova Scotia, like the Cottars, a group of 16 to 18 year olds that are carrying on the Cape Breton tradition with style, classs and great passion:

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JP Cormier – one of the worlds greatest guitarists: who floored the audience with a TWENTY-FIVE minute non-stop guitar solo – Un Bee Leeve A Bul!

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the amazing Jerry Holland, here jamming with JP Cormier. Jerry has nurtured and passed on the fiddle tradition with so many and has great stature in the Cape Breton community and throughout Nova Scotia:

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and the fantastic singer and songwriter Dave Gunning:

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just to mention a few.

I was given several story assignments, to do interviews and articles on this part of the festival. The articles will run in 4th Quarter edition of Irish American Post, God willing.

Other groups at the fest included David Munnelly Band, Young Dubs, Grada and dozens more. I had a wonderful time exploring the cultural areas and catching up with many old friends too. As a festival organizer myself, I was also invited to a networking meeting for fest organizers from around the country. The Milwaukee Organizers are incredibly open with their time, advice, insight and more. Very classy, down to earth people. I had a great time sharing stories and best practices. Many of us have grown to become friends, outside of the festival arena.

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Dana From Potomac Fest, Matthew from Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Kevin O’Shea, manager for the Makem & Spain Brothers and Tommy Makem, Me, Nan, Director of Pittsburgh Irish Festival and Rory Makem, of the Makem & Spain Brothers.

I did get to talk to Rampant Lion, a monster CD and book seller and they took some books. Met Michaeal O’Suilleabhain, the genius piano player and composer mentioned above, who I gave a book too,

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as well as Malachy McCourt, so I enjoyed those things. Monday I went to Chicago and did a radio show up there, Tuesday hit some books stores – and they took the book as well, before heading back to Cleveland yesterday afteroon.

Oh well, I am so snakebit, I just don’t even know how to react anymore.

Going to fests in KC next weekend, with the holiday, then Pittsburgh, then Indy so if you are near those cities, would love to see ya.

The Years in Her Eyes

The Years in Her Eyes
by John O’Brien, Jr.

I see the years in her eyes
A miasma that can only be caused by the pain of a life well lived
It may be the years, it may be the mileage
it may be all she has seen or lost – that took bits of her heart

A far off look, of things remembered, regrets
Then she smiles and those thoughts are supplanted, eradicated
The stories come forth, almost unwittingly, shyness overcome
Good memories flood and wash away the momentary darkness
and the present recedes, to become overloaded with recollections
Now so much to tell, an urgency, to beat the recorder and the march of time
Wouldn’t do to have the stories lost.
It wouldn’t do to have the teller not feel this cherished, all of the time.
At least while we can. Until the next injects its own urgency.
The kettle is always boiling, and the stories taste so sweet.

Hours give way. New memories are born in crying the old.
For both the teller and the awed.
Perhaps, in a different way,
even more treasured than the stories that brought me here in the first place
The recorder shuts off but my mind keeps turning, reliving –
the images so vividly reborn
giving context to the foggy images of history
that until now, only slipped in, and out of my consciousness.

A way that was only legend, has now become a history –
living and breathing – reborn, again.
For a few more generations to breathe, taste
Captured briefly, before it could disappear completely.
To what was, today, I know the light in her eyes has illuminated.
yet another window to what was, how it was.
The stories in her eyes, light, explain.
How I see, the years in her eyes.

Huron Irish Fest Fun

Imagine that, me going to a festival for the weekend, and selling my book.

Well this one was very different, for many reasons. It was held in Huron Ohio, almost 1/2 way between my home in Cleveland and Sandusky, which is where Cedar Point is. It is only Friday evening, and Saturday. Held in Huron Basin, where they created a natural ampitheatre style seating, on a bricked and grass hill, the one stage featured the bands Brigid’s Cross, Barleycorn, Guiness Stout, Morris & McCarthy and a pipe band and dancers.
My sister has a cottage on the lake, in nearby Vermillion, about 13 miles away, so I went there first, then over to the festival to set up my book booth. I got there around noon on Friday and there was NO ONE or thing of any kind in site. I mean NOTHING. I am thinking have I got the wrong weekend? I have been to this festival before, but not in a few years, and know the fella who used to run it, Pete O’Brien (no relation).
For Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival – We start set up the week before and here it is 5 hours before opening and I can’t see any sign of a festival. So I walk around the basin and see a tent with some tables overturned in it up on the hill above. Hmmmm. Eventually, I see Shay Clarke, the journalist, and owner of Blarney Fine Irish Jewelry, drive by. Ahhh, I must be right. Shay and his stores are in Chicago, but he and his wife Traci hit all the Irish festivals over the summer. I catch up to him and eventually we find someone who has a piece of paper telling us where to set up. The vendors have been moved from the basin to a road up above, that is why I didn’t see anything. Pete had a free festival, but when he relocated back to his home in Rochester, the city decided no alchohol near the boats and moved the vendors and such up above the seating area. They also added a $3 admission charge.
We are the first of the 8 “goods” vendors (plus 3 food vendors) there. Shay sets up his booth, I set up mine and we are ready – 3 hours before the fest starts. So we chat. A kettle popcorn vendor is 2 down from me and the smell is awesome. A wind that feels soft and warm keeps knocking over the easel holding up my display of the Festial Legends, so I get creative, get a few bungie cords and hang the thing from the tree behind me. It sways nicely but kind of feels weird. I have to throw the bungees up in the tree to attach them. Wonder if I’ll be able to get then down when this is over?

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Shay writes for the Irish American News, about Irish events. He did a nice plug on my book when it first came out and he is a wealth of knowledge on who’s who in Irish circles. I picked his brain and loaded my palm pilot with new opporutnites and people to look at/talk to. I am also trying to find small dollar investors in my writing and publishing business, called O’B Press and contacts are precious.
Shay knows I am going to be in Milwaukee, speaking on and signing my book, for the Milwaukee Irish Fest next week – the largest Irish fest in the world, with over 140,000 people. Shay also co-hosts an Irish radio show in Chicago, which airs every Monday nite. He invites me to come on the show on the Monday after! This is HUGE for me, in getting word about the book out, to the massive Irish poulation that calls Chicago home. I am estatic.

Finally the fest opens. We are ready but Shay and I just keep on chatting. Shay has his breathtakingly beautiful young daughter Saoirse (sheer sah Irish for freedom) and son Naile (Nile) with him, as well as two of their friends. The kids are a blast and like Shay, have such a great sense of humor. We watch each others stand, when one goes takes a break. As I said, we are ready, and waiting, and waiting…. It is very quiet, attendance wise, and a shame, because the setting is just gorgeous, good weather, light breeze etc.
Cleveland is very blessed, because it has some GREAT Irish bands based here in my hometown. Brigid’s Cross and Barleycorn are both internationally know and successful bands, who call Cleveland home. There are MANY others based in Cleveland as well. i don’t want to start naming them, because I’ll forget somebody. Brigid’s Cross and Barleycorn are both playing at the Huron Fest so the music is good. I do eventually manage to sell a few books, but I am worried.
Over this summer, I have/will hit 10 Irish festivals promoting my book, from the smallest (apparently going to be Huron), to the biggest, Milwaukee. This is the only festival that charges me a fee for my booth space – most don’t charge artists who are promiting the Irish culture (as opposed strictly selling goods).

I have learned to love Subway and their coupons. I buy a few subs, some iced tea and load the cooler and I can last the weekend. But now I am worried that I won’t even cover my costs. Thank God I didn’t have to pay for a hotel on top of that, thanks to Tricia’s cottage nearby.
I guess about 200 or so people attend the fest Friday nite. Shay talks to his wife, who is at a fest in Minnesota with another son, Conor, and she says it is very quiet there too.
It is getting dark there but I am fairly close to a street lite. Doesn’t matter, within minutes, young Pat Foley of Irish Imports International, out of Columbus, Ohio, comes over with two of those lights that you can twist every which way and some extension cords. I put the lights around my booth and thinks look smashing!
The moon is right behind the stage and there is this little triangle gap between the trees. Suddenly, the moon settles right in the gap, and it is gorgeous. The folks playing on stage don’t know what everyone is looking at, as the moon is at their back, and folks are taking pics. I CANNOT figure out how to take a good pic at night, I blurr everything, but here is the best I could do (any advice would be GREATLY appreciated on the photo technique stuff)

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The upper light is the moon, the green stuff is tree branches and the lower lite is a street light – God it was gorgeous. Sorry the photo sucks. Barleycorn has a new piano player, very talented and engaging Caroline Taylor. We have had some great chats and she offers great insight on me and on some of my poetry (I have another blog and all my short stories, essays, poetry and other writings on my author website – She has a sway when she is playing, from one foot tapping, up thru her hips, and across her shoulders, kind of a soft breezy shimmy. A few of us were standing at the top of the basin, swaying just like she was, but she didn’t see us – it was pretty funny. Alec spoke of having problems with his G string again and the music in such a great setting, was grand.
The fest closed up around 11. I drove back to the cottage, but couldn’t sleep. It was weird being there by myself. So watched some odd movie with Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O’Hara about a summer vacation place, trusting your true love, and looking at life a little closer, with a little more humor, for it is very rich if you take the time to engage in it. Finally fell asleep a little after 3. Up at 7, I took a nice long walk along the lake, such a view:

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then I look up and see:

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It is about 8 am or so, and the moon is clear in the sky. neat!

So then I drove into town and got a coffee, sipping it while I walked around Vermillion – love the small town feel. They have a Maritime Museum there, full of the history of Lake Erie, Port of Vermillion and all the Great Lakes:

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I found a drug store, got some hearing aid batteries and then found Jimmy Buffett’s A Salty Piece of Land at my sister’s. I good read that I am thoroughly enjoying. Around 11 I head back over to the festival, hoping for a much more productive day – at least let me break even Lord. I don’t know if even a thousand people came thru the gate over the two days. There was a big race in Vermillion that morning but no advertising about the fest. The Noland’s stopped by, with two gorgeous friends:

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I am 6’1″ and that dog is at my waist! Irish wolfhounds are the largest dogs in the world, powerful and bred for fighting alongside their horse riding masters centuries ago. They are incredibly gentle with friends tho, and great with kids. Because of their large size they don’t live a long time, maybe 7 to 10 years on average, their hearts give out. I wonder why evolution didn’t kick in here and fix that? Just lovely, lovely animals. Standing well over 7 feet on hind legs, Giants. I want to get a Wolfhound badly, and have a great sized yard for it.
Anyway, the fest went fair, I JUST broke even, so at least that wasn’t a wash. Met an artist, Joyce, who was really cool, always smiling and full of laughter, gonna look for her stuff out there too.

Now, prep for Milwaukee, with great hopes of selling a ton of me ould bewk.

Jilly went and opened up an emotional door, damn her

The Vacant Chair

                                by John OBrien, Jr.

I asked her if she could go home or did she have to stay out all night
She looked at me kind of funny, her laughter peeled with delight
My heart broke in two and I can still freeze the moment
But a terrible devil had been born, its destruction to foment
We saw no sign.  We were young, without a care
Now I sit alone at the table, cross from the vacant chair

We struck up a friendship, there was nothing more at first
Yet every time we separated, I felt an unquenchable thirst
Friends grew to lovers, in body and the spirit
We finally faced our fate, no time to hear it.
We found each others joys, She loved the teddy bear
And she nearly keeled right over, when I built the vacant chair

She was beautiful, she was gorgeous.  The kindness that I saw
How she left me after the night, and always in constant awe
I was never so happy, we traveled and we laughed
We danced and we sang, she was a master at her craft
I wrote while she painted, her skill extraordinaire
Poems and fond memories, engraved deep in the vacant chair

We never had such happiness, each was wide with wonder
That kindred souls found each other, amidst the din and the thunder
No children had we, tho in the thought wed often revel
For the sickness had already started, the bastard of the devil
Waiting, throwing up, more chemo left to bear
And when the pain got too bad, I widened out her chair

Time slipped away, but the devil wouldnt let go
The drugs and the treatments rained blow upon blow
She fought it so valiantly, she cried that we might part
Then I learned that it was winning and a knife ripped apart my heart
I did all that I could, she loved when I washed her hair
Damn you devil, Damn the empty – the vacant chair

Day after day, yet her smile was still bright,
When Id walk in the room, see her body there so white
She was home now, in her own home, peaceful here at last
We planned out her funeral, and remembered about the past
The pain and the fashion, were more than I could bear
For one last night, I held her close, as we sat in the vacant chair

I asked her if she must go home or could she stay out all night
She looked at me kind of funny, then laughed with remembered delight
My heart broke in two and I can still freeze the moment
But the terrible devil had won, deaths taking it did foment
We were frozen in time, lost, without a care
Now I sit alone at the table, cross from the vacant chair

The time it goes so slowly, the moments hard to wait
This that brought such delight, now Ive started to hate
How can it sit empty, when I am still sitting here
How can the crying stop, when every single thing brings a tear.
I miss you love, we were a once-in-a-lifetime pair
So I search out the polish.  Lovingly, I caress the vacant chair

Currently listening :
Singing of the Times
By Tommy Sands
Release date: By 05 January, 1993

Dublin Irish Fest, Golf in the sand and life is NOT a bed of roses

This is a LONG one, bitching at first, then great fun and pics.

What a mighty weekend, after a few not soo mighty weekdays.

I am in the 3rd printing of my book ( ) Of the 3 orders placed for my book. The order has been screwed up 3 times – NOT a good record AuthorHouse. The 1st time, my “Author Rep,” “assigned to help me in any way they can to make my book a success” was “out for 3 days” – so my book was delayed 2 weeks (I know the math doesn’t add up, I am just telling you the excuse used). I lost sales of 250 books, or more, – because I was a featured speaker at a convention for festival organizers, people from all over Canada, Ireland and the U.S., with no book! These folks put on Celtic festivals, work with tourism boards and travel groups etc..- kind of a made to order market for my book, they are talking up things in their home states/countries, and gladly support worthy causes, the grassroots spreading words about my book could have been huge. Instead they had nothing to take with them but a flyer. I was crushed.
All I got from Authorhouse was excuses. Once they finally got the order placed, it arrived in a day and a 1/2 – remember that number. I was livid at the lost sales. There are numerous hints of future problems before this, but I figure it is new, we will work it out. An example, I asked my rep for info about a program they had, to get your books in Borders/Barnes & Noble/Joesph Beth Booksellers, under a local author banner ( ONE store, not all). I sent 3 emails about this too him. No response. I finally get a hold of him, after 3 weeks. I ask him about what I had emailed him about. He couldn’t remember what the question was (so he hadn’t done anything on it). I tell him, and he says “Oh yeah, I got your emails.” Period! While I am delighted that he got them, I would probably appreciate that he actually respond to them. No “I am working on it,” or I am waiting for …” NOTHING. So he got them but didn’t bother to respond to his customer. MY Author rep is so unconcerned, I ask to speak to his boss. (by the way, I got my book in Borders, Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton and such, ALL oif them, all by myself, at no cost to me).
The boss talks to me very briefly. It is Friday. He says he is going to look into it, and get back to me on Tuesday. No problem. I have managed as many as 300 people at a time, I understand. You need time to research, read the client contact notes etc… Tuesday passes, so does Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with no return call. I get a form email, telling me how I can buy, at what I feel is exhorbitant prices, more services from Authorhouse (an example is, they charge $150 to copyright the book while anyone can do it themselves, for $31). This is supposed to be his answer to my saying I was not getting any support from my rep?? He passed the buck back to the very rep I was struggling with -It wasn’t a partnership at all. So instead of taking care of the customer himself, he had his employee send me a form email.
NINE Weeks later, when having ANOTHER problem, I mention to my rep that I STILL haven’t heard from his boss. His bosses response? Oh I didn’t realize there was still a problem. i.e. he had passed the buck, again, hoping I would go away (this is a recurring problem in my contacts with AuthorHouse). He says he is going to reassign me to another rep, but that doesn’t happen either.
The second time I placed an order, I got no explanation, but the book was delayed again. Once the order got placed, I got it in 3 days – yes, remember that number again.

Then I sold out at Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival! Very Cool! Things are looking up.

Due to even more problems with my rep ( I had Kenny’s, one of the largest sellers of Irish books in the world, want 10 copies , they were featuring it isn their August catalog – that is VERY cool, very exciting and hopefully, the start of breaking into Ireland big time. Now Authorhouse has a distribution center in London, so I wanted Kenny’s to order from them directly, saving a ton of time and money is sending from here to there, with customs etc…. We went back and forth, with my rep, trying to work it out. He emails me “This guy is wasting my time and yours.” I have NEVER felt ANY customer was wasting my time, NEVER, but evidently Authorhouse does. I was so delighted they wanted my book! So, eventually, I just ate the bullet, sending Kennys the 10 books, at a LOSS of about $30 to me).
That’s the final straw and I finally get reassigned to another guy. I can’t just pick up the book and go elsewhere, publishing doesn’t work that way – so I am stuck with the company. The new guy does seem way more on the ball, sends me some info, resources and things like that. Ahh, a partnership, helping me to maximize opportunites.

So I placed another order on Monday. Tuesday comes, I get a message that there was a problem. I call them (notice, they didn’t call me), get the problem worked out and place the order. They are very aware that I need the books by Friday. The author rep says I can’t guarentee that they will arrive by Friday (implying since there was a problem and the order was delayed one day.) I acknowledge that, and figure I am ok, 1 1/2 days and 3 days in previous orders, I can even wait until Saturday, if I absolutely have to, that’s 5 days. My “Author Rep,” tells me, “here is my home phone, call me if you need ANYTHING, after hours. I am here to help you make your book a success.” He sounds so good, on paper.
Now, It is Tuesday. I need the books Friday, to go to Dublin for the meeeting early Saturday. I got the first books 1 1/2 days after order, the 2nd 3 days after order. There is time, right?

Festival organizers were gathering for a meet and greet and discussion of issues relevant to us early Saturday morning – Dublin is only 2 hours south of me, so no problem (I help put on Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival, started by my father, I was on the committeee that put together this year’s fest organizers convention in Pittsburgh, PA. – remember, the one where I was speaking at – AND HAD NO BOOKS, so I needed to be at this meeting, to discuss issues, and to begin the prep for the next convention, city/site selection process etc…
Friday passes, no book – 4 days after the order. So I have to bag the organizers meeting, wait for the book to arrive on Saturday and book like hell to Dublin, where I am scheduled to speak and sign, from 6 to 8. Not too bad, I can do that, I can leave as late as 3:30 (I do have a lead foot). 11:00, 12:00 1:00 all pass, 2:00, 3:00. I HAVE to go, even though I have no book. I made a committment to be there, I will be there. At this point I am so pissed I can’t even speak.
I leave, and call my dad, who lives 1/2 mile from my house and ask him to drive by later, see if the books arrive, then I will drive back from Dublin early Sunday morning, get the books and go back, to speak and sign from 4:00 to 6:00. A pain in the butt, but you gotta do the right thing.
Remember that my new rep gave me his home number? I call it and get this message – “The number you are calling is not yet connected.”


I get to Dublin at 5:15 (I SAID I had a lead foot). Go to where I am to present, and find a 2 table, 10 x 10 tent, no mic, no chairs for people to sit and listen – there will be no presenting here. I set up my little display stuff, figuring I can at least talk about the book and maybe get a few orders anyway.

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So, I get this REALLY cool view, from my signing booth:

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Yes, it is sand. They do a different one each year. This one is on golf, obviously.

Now Dublin, Ohio is a MONSTER festival, drawing over 85,000 people last year, 2nd only to Milwaukee Irish Fest, which I am going to and presenting, next week. In the course of the 2 hours, a little less than 40 people pass by my tent on Saturday, 12 on Sunday, no orders taken, but I do talk to a few people about the book. I met Myspacers Annie, who runs a fest in Raleigh, N.C. in October, and Princess Kim, who I met up with later, but lost in the maaaassssivvve Saturday night crowd. Annie kindly invites me to come to Raleigh with the book! Friends come by too and I really appreciate their support. Merv & Mary, who are deeply involved in putting on Cleveland’s Irish Festival, even came back to my booth at 8:00, and help me get all my stuff back to my car afterward! Now THAT is a true friend, they are the best of the best.

So dad calls me late that night, during the middle of the Saw Doctors show – NO BOOK!

He can’t hear me, I can’t hear him, but I got the idea.

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It is time to just forget it, make the best of it and enjoy the festival itself. Dublin Irish Fest is a city run festival. They have lots of volunteers during the event, but are one of the very few festivals that are not all volunteer run, they have a paid staff that put on the fest, as well as other events, during the year. The director is one of the most dynamic people I have ever met and is not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the job done ( I saw her carrying sweat towels – yeah, exactly what it sounds like – for the performers at one point, delivering them to a stage). She’s a true leader and the Dublin Fest organizers are classy, classy people, who get the big picture of corporate partnership, building the festival and treating people well.

The music was (oops, it is 12:25 p.m., Monday – the books have arrived!) great – Saw Doctors, Cathie Ryan, Irish Tenors, Prodigals, Hothouse Flowers, Brigid’s Cross – great day for music. I saw the amazing Liam O’Mainlei of Hothouse and one of the most amazing performers – incredibly gifted musician, composer, arranger, performer … and the list goes on and on… join the Saw Doctors, what a great show:

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That’s Liam in the cap, above

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Then, the best part of a festival – the afters party! A ton of performers gather in various places around the hotel, have a few pepsi’s and sing songs/play tunes. The first time I looked at my watch it was 4:40 a.m. Seeing O’Mainlei and Gregory Grene, of the Prodigals, each jamming, someone singing a different song, someone else singing in Gaelic (Irish). Oh it was awesome. 5:30 went by in a flash too. Then to bed. Had a late (10 a.m.) breakfast with Nan (Pittsburgh Irish Fest Director), and Dana (Potomac Irish Fest), then headed out to the nearby grounds.

I got to see one of the truly great ballad singers and a songwriter whose reputation grows with each new song she writes/ records – Cathie Ryan. Cathie will be featured in the 4th book in my Festival Legends Series, Safe in the Hands of a New Generation. She was a founding member of Cherish the Ladies and her vocal talents remind me of the full, gorgeous voice of Frances Black, but Cathie’s voice stands alone. I just closed my eyes, leaned back and let it wash over me like the coolest breeze on a simmering day. Lovely, lovely voice, lovely, lovely woman. Did I mention I just love her voice? and she is one of the warmest, most down to earth people I have ever met. She has played our fest 2x before as Cathie Ryan Band, including this year, as well as many times with Cherish the Ladies. But I don’t get to see many of the bands at our fest, too busy, so I really relished being able to stand and enjoy.

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Speaking of simmering (no, I wan’t referring to Cathie, pictured above, although that is certainly true), Sunday was HOT! I love the heat but a lot of people do not and Sunday was much quieter than the mad fun and packed fields and stages of Saturday. My R.A. joints were cryin (from the humidity I suppose – the alcohol from the nite before couldn’t have anything to do with it) but Patrick Murphy, of Gaelic Storm, was lookin pretty cool when I caught him by surprise on this one:

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I snuck in a few minutes of the incredible Green Fields of America before my signing time – Mick Moloney’s seminal group, now playing about 30 years, in various lineups. Green Fields were the first to have dancers and musicians on stage together and Michael Flatley (of Riverdance fame) was their first dancer. It seems that every great musician had time with Green Fields and most make guest appearances as their scheds allow, even now.
Mick has so many accomplishments and successes (including forming and guiding Green Fields of America and Cherish the Ladies and winning the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship), that I couldn’t begin to do justice to the list here. He is a renowned and accomplished musician as well, and the stage was loaded with talent, with Mick, Robbie O’Connell, Billy McComiskey and more. Mick and Robbie are both featured in the 2nd book in the Festival Legends series, Trads & Ceilis, due out around February, God willing.

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(Robbie, then Mick, The amazing Billy McComiskey is in black, 2 down from Mick)

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(Robbie and Mick)

Later that night, I put all my stuff away from the signing and slipped in to watch Mick and Robbie do a presentation of songs and stories, just the two of them telling stories, singing songs and telling more stories about the songs. I could have seen only them, sat there for 3 days straight, and been so happy. It was amazing to watch as one song reminded them of another and we got to hear some stories from the road, how/when they learned a song, or some background on the songs and the times when they were written. Oh it was just something I will not forget.

I stayed for the finale, where John Whelan led almost ALL of the performers from all of the different band who played over the weekend on stage at the same time, in various songs and tunes. I left around 9 and was home by 11. Other than the !@#$vamp;*() books, it was a fun weekend.

Now I am going to find some investors, people who will help me get this book series off the ground the right way, with no more screwing around. the book is deeply relevant, on a historic topic, extremely educational and timeless, plus it’s entertaining too. Send me to them, or them to me, if you know of any one who can help.

Currently listening :
The Farthest Wave
By Cathie Ryan
Release date: By 26 April, 2005

She believes, even when I don’t

This song has been running thru my head over and over the last week.  I used to sing it all the time, but it has kind of faded, maybe with my marriage, I don’t know.  With the blog I wrote on what I love about women, maybe the responses from so many brought it back, even tho your support is virtual, rather than cryin beside me in bed.  Does greater awareness bring greater ache, longing, greater emptiness?  I used to sing a long slow, drowsy version of this.  The sentiment and longing feel so raw and real to me.

She Believes in Me
(sung by Kenny Rogers, written by Steve Gibb)

While she lays sleeping,
I stay out late at night and play my songs
And sometimes all the nights can be so long
And its good when I finally make it home,
all alone
While she lays dreaming,
I try to get undressed without the light
And quietly she says, how was your night?
And I come to her and say, it was all right,
and I hold her tight

And she believes in me,
Ill never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl,
I could change the world
with my little songs,
I was wrong
But she has faith in me,
and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe
on some special night,
if my song is right
I will find a way,
find a way…

While she lays waiting,

I stumble to the kitchen for a bite
Then I see my old guitar in the night
just waiting for me like a secret friend,
and theres no end
while she lays crying,
I fumble with a melody or two
And Im torn between the things that I should do
And she says to wake her up when I am through,
God her love is true…

while she waits
while she waits
for me!

Farewell Dear Immigrant

One of the great teachers in Irish music died yesterday.  Mr. Tom McCaffrey, from Ireland, but living in Cleveland for more than a 1/2  century, passed away, at 90 years old.  He has taught so many music, but he has affected many times that, by his gentle spirit, constant laughter that simmered just below the surface until bursting out like he couldn’t contain it anymore, kind words only way of living, steady guidance while showing the possibilities that the fiddle had to offer and great love of a sessiun.
I remember we were roomies in Milwaukee, at the Milwaukee Irish Fest a few years ago.  He had on his trademark hard shoes and black socks, but he broke from trad and wore shorts to the blisteringly hot fest.  His feet had to be painful, walking all over the festival, but he didn’t slow down.  And when the sessiun started in the entertainers hotel afterward, Tom was so happy his feet danced right alongside his fingers.  Throughout the weekend, entertainers came up to him and thanked him for his influence, but that night and the one after, Tom played long, long into the night, so happy to just play, with otehr great musicians, maybe more well known than he, but no less gifted, giving or memorable.   I crashed somewhere around 3:00 a.m., Tom came in a fair bit after that.

He was the gentlest guy you could ever meet, yet he had strength – of character, of passion for the music and passing it on to each and every person, of any age, that would listen and absorb what he had to say, and to teach.  Seeing those long fingers glide over the fiddle, seemingly dancing of their own volition, while he seemed to be looking somewhere else all together.  Then he would catch your eye, wink, slip his tongue out at the corner of his lips and bounce his head with a smile, while the music flowed steadily, gracefully, and like Tom, with great love of life, people and the awesome tradition that is, Irish music.

by John O’Brien, Jr.

Fleet fingers, delicate, long
Yet like you, cordwood,
light presence, unwavering yet strong
ripples whose end is never known, seen,
or maybe even imagined.
The future generations,
whose music and art were, are and will be,
prickled by Tom, or his ripples.
And they will ripple onward.
Generations forward and backward
all from the simple, loving, humorous guiding touch
of Tom McCaffrey.

Safe Home.

Poem – Sunshine

by John OBrien, Jr.

I see the sunshine
in the mist of driving rain
lite my world
no trace
I see the sun shine
in the midst of driving pain
and I feel nothing
but peace and warmth
I see the sunshine
it is all I ever needed
for I know it well.

It is your smile.