Dreams Came True!

Dreams Came True

For the past few months, I have been working on a new opportunity, researching and exploring the desire to start an Irish newspaper, focused on the state of Ohio and its surrounding areas and highlighting the pictures,  news, people and events of Irish America as it affects Ohioans.  Good friend and insightful DJ Shay Clarke, who also writes Raised on Songs & Stories, a monthly music and events column for Chicago’s Irish American News, and I were driving around Chicago last month, promoting my books and talking about things.  Shay was saving me bazillions of miles and time by hand delivering me to the Irish book stores, heritage center etc.. in and around Chicago.
Shay stops me, pulls out his phone and calls his Publisher, Cliff Carlson.  “Hey Cliff, it’s Shay.  You know you have been talking about starting an Ohio Irish paper?  Well, I have your man to do that.  Hang on.”
It was just that simple.  Cliff and I talked a few times, I did a lot of research and such, and then we met and hammered out his vision, my thoughts, procedures etc..  Well – it is started!  OHIOIAN – the Ohio Irish American News, has been formed, in a partnership with Cliff Carlson.  I am still stunned, actually.  Talk about being right up my alley.   Might have to buy Shay a pepsi or three!

So, whether in Ohio or not, interested in the Irish/Irish-American history, tradition songs and stories, pictures, festivals, concerts etc.., keep a sharp eye out for OHIOIAN, soon to be available in Irish connected businesses and locations throughout Ohio, online, or delivered first class to your door by subscription.

Please pass this on to anyone that might have interest in OHIOIAN, residential or business, and thank you for helping to spread the word about the OHIO Irish American News.

More updates and specific information will follow, as well as the official press release, as we map out this new endeavor and entertain, inform and fuel new thoughts and actions in the Irish American Community.  I have much more groundwork to do, but the next event is …  the Launch Party!

All the best,

John
Associate Publisher
Ohio Irish American News
OHIOIAN

Have you smiled today? This will help

What part of QUIET didn’t you understand?
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Everyone needs to feel secure……
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Couldn’t help it Ma, that first step is a killer..
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Now what do I do???
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It’s in there somewhere, I just know it!!
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I really need to get going, but I just can’t seem to get motivated…..
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Man…I’m getting so fat I can hardly scratch my own butt!!!
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These morning walks are killing me..
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HEY! Gimme my ball back!!!
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I said go to sleep….
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Nice doggie…Good boy!
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A little power nap….
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Sleeping in again…
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WHAT PETS DO WHEN WE’RE AT WORK
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HAVE YOU SMILED TODAY??
It’s done by moving the corners of the mouth upward.

Let me show you how

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New Poem – Gifted Tantalizing Tastes

Gifted Tantalizing Tastes
by John O’Brien, Jr.

I see so much future, in tomorrow.
New doors are opening and I am amazed by their breadth
How they fit, just me.
As if SOMEONE designed it just for me,
and I am speechless
(ok, not a good thing for a writer to be but…)

The multi colored panorama
the endless possibilities that shimmer and tempt
and dance before me
fill me with such a sense of relief!
Yes!,
it finally is happening.
The work.
Finally!
And I breathe again,
I can breathe again,
for the first time in a very, very long time.

The mountains that are on my shoulders –
they have made them broader,
when I thought they had, without thought or reason,
crushed them.
And now that those mountains have been lifted.
the newfound strength born of trial,
strength that I never really noticed
despite the kind words of others,
and their protestations
to the contrary,
is primed,
and salved only by action.

Self-esteem.

The smells and bells
of the new born morning,
Crispy twilight breeze –
and dew drops sparkling in it,
speak to me, so differently than before,
as I walk to work.
I can smell you winter,
hiding yet not.
Tendrils of ice loft on the tendrils of the breeze.
Checks written that cannot be cashed.
The well worn path
has decided to take an unprecedented turn, a fork.
And so it goes,
and I go.
But I hear the whispers –
in the breeze, of the breeze,
and the grass, and the flowers, and yes,
even of the people, good and bad, their comments good and evil
and so it goes.

Yea, tho I often see only one set of footprints in my life,
for I walk alone,
just me and my Lord.
I walk, and He walks too.
Or, as most often, He carries me.
And together, the rainbow,
the beautiful sunsets and rises;
brilliant oranges and reds,
the impossibly delicate curves of the violet roses
outside my back door,
deep greens in the thick grass
thicker rabbits burrowed in the yard,
and  trees canopy all full,
tug and awaken
stark in the muddle of life.

My world shimmers with this newfound hope,
Promise.
I am secured in the palm of His own hand,
gifted tantalizing tastes of better days.

New Poem – Broken Navigation

Broken Navigation
by John O’Brien, Jr.

We are not close, you and I
Tho’ in reality, nothing could make us closer.
Different views, different ways,
different steel forged in wildly different trials:
Immigrant, stowaway, self-made, closed door
1st generation, spilt-reality, decimated, alone in a crowded hall.
Yet we each must make our own path
and have, and do,
separate, and bewildering to the other.
Finally, I have given up on your understanding, finally.
Tho’ I probably know that if I could melt the concrete
I would find that never expressed love.
I suppose you have given up,
on finding that same understanding.
Yet, yet you cannot doubt my love,
for I have expressed it to your wall
many, many times,
the silent echo of my expression
deafening,
in all that I think it says.
Life is slipping away
and I am too –
a different kind of American Wake.
Fragile tendrils, shallow roots,
navigation asunder, frayed cords snap
anchors away!

Guest Blogging for Loaded For Blog

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    I am guesting blogger on LFB (Loaded for Blog) this week – hope you enjoy it….

    This is called:

    Jesus Took the Wheel, One More Time

    This one was different. This athlete, a superstar, had turned the self-aggrandizing world of sports figures lost in their own posses, mansions and decadent lifestyles upside down, inside out, and so ashamed of themselves, that the ripples will reverberate for ever afterward. John Doe, a six foot, eight inch Hispanic quarterback of unparalleled success, took the money – and didn’t run. Laying low among the cactus and dry heat of Phoenix, he took the money – AND HE DIDN’T RUN.

    Instead, he built foundations; of homes, schools, rec centers and especially the “other” foundations, the ones that gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to build the former kind of foundations – to fund more state of the art schools, housing and rec centers, teacher education, adult training programs and so much more.

    No, John Doe was no flash in the pan, Milli Vanilli lip sync. Doe walked that walk that he preached, and his programs gained steam. First in Arizona, then all of the West Coast, then the Great Plains, into the Midwest and finally across the whole of the United States of America, one success led to another, and the huge endorsement deals signed tripled, and then quadrupled from that. The insatiable drive to find more money, more programs, and the fantastically talented people who could make them happen, consumed Doe. He gained nothing on earth, but his heavenly Father just HAD to be pleased. Doe catapulted past Tiger in earnings and just humbly kept on keeping on. Each time, he rolled the money into a new altruistic venture, adding battles against illiteracy, poverty and crime to his charitable resume. All followed Doe’s own simple yet unlimited creed, “Give back more than you got.” His small home became a retreat, a haven, as new programs discovered and refined new leaders, baptized in a new form of capitalism, where they saw firsthand what success can breed, and vowed to do the same.

    Doe didn’t feed them for a day, he taught them to fish, that they could then eat for a lifetime. The beneficiaries bought into his creed, and the pebble quietly shifting at the top of the mountain became an avalanche.

    Another nice side effect, one of those lifelong ripples that are impossible to track, but affect generations, was that other athletes in the same stratosphere of earnings, the top 1/1000 of a percent, soon felt tremendous pressure, from fans, employers and endorsements, to step up and imitate Mighty John Doe. The pressure crossed fields and “the other light meat,” movie stars, joined in too. Some lead, some followed, and some just plain got run over, watching as those aforementioned ripples spread out from Phoenix to Philadelphia and Hollywood to Hell’s Kitchen.

    A new generation of accountability was launched, and as life mirrors sports, it took effect even outside of the sports arena. The constant “it wasn’t my fault, I had no … ,” excuses got their just desserts and were exposed as cop outs, empty excuses for not stepping up and doing the right thing. Everyman, and Everywoman, got the message to live for others and our land of the free was reborn, truly becoming America the Beautiful; safe, modern, hard working and dedicated to being men for others. Poverty sliced in half, illiteracy virtually eliminated, free healthcare and a work force so energized and productive it made the Japanese model look like snails starting at the bottom of a mountain, with that avalanche still coming on.

    Mighty John Doe played fourteen years in the NFL and eighty-eight years in life. He died at 12:01 a.m. on Easter Sunday. His legacy is firmly planted and flourishing beyond even his wildest dreams. He wasn’t undefeated, but Lordy, he was a winner. Some say, Jesus took the wheel one more time.

    Currently listening :
    Jesus Christ Superstar (Original London Concept Recording)
    By Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Release date: By 24 September, 1996

Festifying/Testifying – @ Indy Irish Fest

Had another fun weekend, at the Indy Irish Fest, in Indianapolis, IN. Took off after work friday and drove 6 hours to my sisters house. Got in around 11:30, had a chat with 2 of my nephews, so fun to talk with them about what is going on with them – God they grow up sooooo fast. I crashed. Off to Indy, which is only an hour away from my sis’s on Saturday. Was able to drive right up to my booth, after I spotted Rufus on the grounds. He is the entertainment director and he got me to the right place, without having to haul all my “stuff” from the parking lot to the booth – usually 4 trips. Heaven. I got the booth set up.

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and then took a quick look around – the grounds are a diamond arrangement, inside a city square block. So one stage is in each quad, kind of. I could hear 3 of the stages from where my booth was. Featured performers were The Prodigals, Gaelic Storm, Brigid’s Cross and Searson.
The Prods were only Friday, so I didn’t get to see them unfortunately – great band, but Gaelic Storm, Searson and Brigid’s Cross played Sat & Sun, so I got to see a bit, and hear almost all, of their shows. Patrick Murphy from G. Storm stopped by – they have been on the road for 6 weeks straight and this was their last gig before going home to California. Patrick got engaged the night before he left for the road – what a present to his wife to be!! We had a nice chat – They have a new CD out – called Bring Yer Wellies – great stuff, and Patrick was strolling around with a miniature camouflaged colored wellie – as his beer mug – given to each of the band members by a fan. Wish I had gotten a pic – too funny.

I had a presentation each day. I read some of my poetry, verse and a few stories from the book and talk about the people involved and how all going on around us is connected, from those currently playing at that particular fest – how the songs they are singing might be written by one of those in the book etc.. to how many of our youth seem to feel a deep sense of disconnect and being alone, and how they really are not – for out heritage goes back centuries and therefore, so do they.
The presentations are huge for me – not only in selling books, my primary goal in being there, but also in generating other business – I have gotten offers to go to other festivals, offers to speak on other topics at special events, offers to rewrite websites, and offers to MC events, from folks in the audience who liked what/how I presented.
The first day went well – had a few folks listening and the crowd grew as I read some of my poetry and poetry and stories from the book. They seemed to enjoy it and had a warm response. The second day was really memorable – I got there and there were no chairs, no sound system. As the time apporached, I realized I was on my own and quickly gathered up as many chairs as I could and brought them into the 20 x 20 tent. I looked 12 paces to my left, where Three Men in Kilts, a bagpipe and electric guitar band, were playing, in a cool open air pavilion. 25 paces to my right was a huge pen, where sheep and border collies were giving a demonstration of training and herding sheep, I think – they had a nice sound system as I could hear the announcer quite well talking about sheep and how to train the dogs.

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I turned off the continuous play movie and began – then a stream of fire engines went by – there must be a lot of fires or false alarms in Indy because the trucks went by many times over the weekend – quite loudly! Then, the pipe band arrived. Hey, I couldn’t make this stuff up. Oh well. I returned to the booth, the pipe band played on

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Then, 15 minutes later, there was complete and utter silence – 3 of the stages were doing changeovers, the pipe band was gone. Ahh, isn’t timing everything?

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So I bounced over and watched a few minutes of Searson, 3 sisters, their Da and a drummer – family name is Searson.

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The Fiddler sister stepped off a curb badly, while wearing flip-flops and badly sliced her big toe – so no Irish step dancing for her.

Erin, who plays the keyboards and guitar and a few others, plus dances, joined her other sister, on base, and her Da, on guitar.

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Right in the middle of a song, at a pause, she leaves the keyboards, and switches to guitar, without a missed beat.
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Erin has such a warm, engulfing voice, that reminds me of the great Kerry (Ireland) poet Clifford Sigurson’s words; her “voice could charm the hinges off the gates of hell.”
They are a great band, that you will be hearing A LOT from – great talent, great performances. Get their CD, it is new out this year. Erin and Da stopped over at the booth after and we talked a bit they were next on to Philadelphia and had gigs every day straight thru till the end of the month. Classy, genuine people.

I had a good overall weekend, sold a fair few books and had a lot of fun, Learned about sheep and border collies and saw some great music. Cleveland’s own Brigid’s Cross ended the weekend and as the stage close to me closed early, I packed up my stuff, hauled it off to the car and then watched the last few songs of their show. Another great group, very talented, extrememly funny and with a HUGE following that redefines the term “groupie”.

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You laugh as much as you sing with Brigid’s Cross and in their ten years together, they have worked their butts off to build a following that rivals any groups. Peggy is a great keyboard and Bodhran (Irish hand drum) player and Paul played with the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra at 8 years old. But it is their stage presence and banter that makes them stand out. Paul had on a Browns shirt, in Indy, and says – “So, you guys haven’t won any championships either huh?” The crowd roared. Many would get booed, but Paul, with his big grin and Browns shirt could pull it off – he almost always does.

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So, it is a break for a while – I hit many, many festivals this summer and I guess I don’t mind a little break from being away every weekend. Get to watch my beloved Buckeyes and Browns for the first time this coming weekend.

p.s. BIG news is coming and I WILL NOT be idle this winter……… let you know in about 2 weeks, when all is finalized – PRAY for me!!!!

Here’s how I ended the presentation, you have seen this before, but I like it and it rings in my head:

Invitation
by John O’Brien, Jr.

You are welcome in my home
Wait for no invitation,
for it was given the day we met.
Pull up a chair, warm your hands
as the sweet tastes of the turf and the tea, linger
in the rare air

My door is always open,
the kettle always boiling.
Scones warm vapors awaken.
I am so happy you dropped by.
There is a place for you here.
We’ll sing. Bards and sean nos,
friends of friends come freely
and stay, and go, leaving memories
passing on songs, sharing history
adding to the fabric of my life
barely lived, generations old.

I want no rules here
yet invite you to join with my ways
around the hearth.
Only you have seen,
what you have seen,
the places you’ve been,
stories you’ve breathed.
Friends and foes of the past
and how they walked their path
their ripples, and jokes,
their memorable moments in time
and so will live on
as we pass on.
There are no strangers here
only friends who haven’t met.

I Had Freedom

I Had Freedom
by John O’Brien, Jr.

I ran so hard
Iron in my eyes.
Bursting thru
I had freedom, for just a second
then,
then
the world went black.
Later, as I came to
I wondered where I had been and what had I missed
what had happened.
And I will never know.
Fog, blurry thoughts, even though they are my own
I see, I feel, sort of, but I can’t hear a thing.
And the gap unsettles.
With painstaking slowness, from deep within a tunnel
sound comes back, almost in layers.
Blinks, white lights, blinks
Strangers, asking can I hear them
No
but I can read their lips, so I nod yes,
and shake my head no.
Black.
Later,
the room is quiet, shaded, dimmed but not dark
my head pounds out a beat unbearable.
I don’t know, how I got here.
Alone, all alone,
in a crowded hall.
Concussion.

Oh MY!!

You are a South African bush pilot. You fly in some critical medical supplies, then stop to enjoy a quick lunch at the hospital.  It’s a stifling 100 degrees in the shade and you’re eager to get back up to the cool, high blue yonder but…. On the way back to your plane, you discover that the only bit of shade, within 1 mile, has become very popular . . . You start calculating the distance to the plane door and wonder .

“Do I feel lucky today?” Well, do you?

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Essence of My Dreams

Essence of My Dreams
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Deep within my soul
I hear you calling.
I reach, and only can grasp air.
Novellas in your eyes
forged through hardships
tempered in the ecstasies of life –
balancing, always balancing.

An image so concrete, I can smell your skin,
taste your lips, feel your touch
and in those drowsy hours between the dawn,
and the coming of the day,
I snuggle deeper, trying to recapture
the essence of love.

This that I long to give
has no cup.
and wastefully tumbles
into bottomless crevices
that have no return,
seeds falling on rocky ground
unnourished, untended,
wasted.

Tho’ you are in my dreams,
a figment found only in that netherworld
as concrete turns to sand.
The vessel sifts with day’s dawning
and the sand falls free
tendrils of memory
déjà vu all over again.

Currently listening :
Across the Water
By Irish Descendants
Release date: By 02 March, 2004

Festifying/Testifying – Our Culture in Pittsburgh

What a weekend!  I spent Saturday and Sunday in Pittsburgh PA., at the 16th Annual Pittsburgh Irish Festival.  Invited to present on my book, Festival Legends: Songs & Stories, I also got to see some amazing performances.

6:00 a.m. start came way too early, especially for a Saturday, but my view was just awesome: on the Ohio Turnpike, 80 East on the way to Pittsburgh.

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I got into Pittsburgh at 9, checked in and then was met at the fest by the incredibly organized and gracious Julie, who got me situated and I hauled all my “Stuff” in and set up the book booth.  I had a great view of the main stage too:

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Between promoting the book and doing the presentations, I got the chance to see some wonderful groups, including Pipeline, from Germany.  Funny, incredibly talented and genuinely nice guys, they were phenominal.  Had a great ould chat with them.  Just outside the stage was the view of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, which I haven’t seen before:

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Others groups included the hugely popular Gaelic Storm, who rode their appearance as the steerage band in the movie Titanic to great success.  Through hard work, perseverance and constant touring, they then became a great band on their own and have a huge following all over the U.S.

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I sold a great number of books, 2nd most of any event/signing I have attended since the book came out, and I was very happy with the weekend, but I have to say that the highlight of the weekend had to be the appearance of the Godfather, Mr. Tommy Makem, on Sunday.  Tommy has written over 400 songs, many of them standards sung all over the world wherever the Irish gather, including Four Green Fields, Winds of Freedom, Gentle Annie, Boys of Killybegs, Winds of Morning and so many more. The legendary Godfather of Irish music, who started out as The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, then thru Makem and Clancy and finally as an amazing solo performer, overturned the Irish music world, when he and the Clancy Brothers appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 4 times from 1961 thru 1966.  Irish music, which has existed, isolated, for centuries, was suddenly thrust into the international spotlight and the “No Irish Need Apply,” inferiority born of descrimination was suddenly shttered.  Many realized that if others could appreciate and celebrate the Irish song tradition, throughout the world, we, as Irish, should also appreciate and celebrate it.  The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem had the same kind of impact on Irish music in the early 1960’s as Michael Flatley and Riverdance had on Irish music and dance in our generation.  He is a national treasure, in many countries, from his past, as mentioned, but also because of his relentless promotion and presentation of the Irish culture, preserving and passing it on to new generations with each new show.  Words are NOT enough to do justice to this genuine, humor filled and once in a life time gift, that is Tommy Makem.  He is the first chapter in my book, and the most fascinating man to talk to.

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Then, his sons band, the Makem & Spain Brothers, came onto the stage with Tommy, the past, present and future were all on stage together and the performance was just awesome.

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(above – Shane Makem, Liam Spain, Rory Makem, Tommy Makem, Mick Spain & Conor Makem).

Tommy’s youngest son, Rory, of the Makem & Spain Brothers band, plays with Tommy when the two groups are appearing at the same festival.  If you turn your back, you often wonder if that is Rory singing, or is it really Tommy?

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There were several directors from other festivals at Pitt.  We all try to catch as many festivals as we can, for ideas, see different bands, share ideas and best practices and for the chance to actually enjoy a festival, rather than just work it:

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Organizers from the Great American Fest (Utica NY) suround Pitt Irish Festival Director Nan Krushinski (in blue) and I, in front of my book booth on Saturday.

It was a wonderful weekend, saw lots of old friends, and sold books – life is good.  A piece from my presentation – it applies to you too….

Invitation
by John O’Brien, Jr.

You are welcome in my home
Wait for no invitation,
for it was given the day we met.
Pull up a chair, warm your hands
as the sweet tastes of the turf and the tea, linger
in the rare air

My door is always open,
the kettle always boiling.
Scones warm vapors awaken.
I am so happy you dropped by.
There is a place for you here.
We’ll sing. Bards and sean nos,
friends of friends come freely
and stay, and go, leaving memories
passing on songs, sharing history
adding to the fabric of my life
barely lived, generations old

I want no rules here
yet invite you to join with my ways
around the hearth
only you have seen,
what you have seen,
the places you’ve been,
stories you’ve breathed.
Friends and foes of the past
and how they walked their path
their ripples, and jokes,
their memorable moments in time
and so will live on
as we pass on.
There are no strangers here
only friends who haven’t met.

*****

On to Indy next weekend!