Monday 23 December 2019

Merry Christmas, Baby

She was my first IAP (Irish-American Princess). Well the first that I lived with at any rate. Tara had somehow made her way down to the Lower East Side from the leafy, lace-curtain environs of Westchester, although she was anything but stuck up. 

Back then I had a regular Sunday gig in the less than ritzy Archway up the Bronx and she fit in there like a fist in a glove. Of course, she was quite a looker so that didn’t hurt with the lovesick Paddies. 

She had beautiful grayish green eyes that would mist over in any kind of conflict or passion; there was much of both in our relationship. The boys said that she could twist me around her little finger. They were right, but oh that twisting could be so sweet.  

Things came easy to Tara. She had succeeded at everything she’d turned her hand to. But she wished to become a successful singer, the rock that many have foundered upon. 

I must have seemed like a good step up the ladder; along with gigs in the Archway and John’s Flynn’s Village Pub, I regularly strutted my stuff at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. 

It was to be a match made in purgatory for both of us. Whatever, as they say, I was in need of some stability and moved into her apartment on First Avenue. 

I always seemed to have “just missed” her parents on their visits to the city. That should have set the bells ringing but I guess when you’re in love… 

Actually, our first major disagreement was over my parents - when I announced I’d be spending Christmas with them in Wexford.

“Our first Christmas together?” She shuddered.

“Well, you can come too.” Although I broke into a cold sweat at the thought of telling the Mammy that we’d be bunking together in the ancestral homestead.

“I couldn’t desert my parents,” she countered as though I was sentencing her whole white-picket-fenced clan to twenty plus out on Rykers.

“But what about my parents?” I countered. And on it went as lovers’ quarrels do until her eyes were so misty and beautiful I feared that her heart might indeed break.

Well, I wrote my Mother a particularly tear-stained letter full of half-truths (God rest her soul, I suppose she knows the full story now). I didn’t dare telephone; I wasn’t man enough to bear two loads of womanly angst. 

In truth though, the part that really hurt was that I would miss the traditional Wexford boys’ night out on Christmas Eve. And so I extracted a promise from Tara that we’d at least tie on a decent substitute.

“No problem,” she said and was good to her word. She was fairly abstemious for those times but, when called upon, could drink like a fish with little ill effect. 

We bought a tree, decorated it, and strung flashing lights all around the apartment. I almost felt like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Almost! For around 7pm I slipped on my black leather jacket, she dressed up to the nines and off we strutted up First Avenue to get well and truly shellacked.

God knows how many bars we hit, I certainly don’t; but I was feeling no pain by the time we reached Max’s Kansas City. Why Max’s on Christmas Eve? Well Tara liked to make the scene, besides I knew the doorman and got in free. 

I was also familiar with the bartender who slid many the shot of watered-down whiskey towards us. And then, through the shroud of smoky darkness, I heard the London accent.  

“Roight!” The spiky-haired ghost in black leather wearily exclaimed.

The platinum blonde next to him droned on as junkies do.

“Roight.” Sid Vicious reiterated whenever a response was expected.

I casually whispered his name to Tara.  

“Oh my God!” She shrieked as though Jesus had just hopped down off the cross and offered to buy a round.

Sid looked up blearily, whereupon Tara flashed him a smile that would have done justice to Marilyn Monroe on steroids. 

“The blonde looks like a piece of all right,” I countered and winked at Nancy Spungen.

“From a bottle!” Tara sniffed just as Sid laboriously hauled himself off his stool and stumbled towards the restrooms; whereupon Ms. Spungen laid her head down on the counter for a wee snooze.

We were still awaiting Sid’s return when Tara looked at her watch and gasped. “It’s ten minutes to twelve.”

“Expecting to turn into a pumpkin?”  

“No,” she moaned, “we won’t get into St. Patrick’s!” 
“What for?”

“Midnight mass, of course. What do you think?”

Was she kidding - from Max’s to matins? 

When we arrived at the church off Avenue A, I could tell it wasn’t exactly what Ms. Westchester had in mind. For one thing, the priests all wore shades and spoke Polish. Still, the place was packed and we reverently stood in the transept in close proximity to an ornate candelabra - wax dripping from its many branches. 

Perhaps, it was the heat, though it could have been Max’s watery whiskey; for one moment I was sweating and swaying, the next I was writhing on the marble floor painfully disengaging myself from a myriad of hot waxy candles. There was immediate uproar with many Eastern European ladies screaming at me, and Tara, no doubt, wishing she was safely home in leafy suburbia. 

When I awoke on Christmas morning much of her extensive wardrobe was laying atop me.  She was modeling a matronly gray jacket and skirt, the hem inches below her knees, damn near a foot down from its usual height. 

I leaped from the bed and grabbed my Doc Martens, pink shirt, and black leather tie and jacket.  Unlike my dearest, I had long before settled on an outfit appropriate for my first appearance in Westchester.

“You don’t look well, baby,” she laid a cool hand on my brow and cooed, “You’re just burning up.”

I did feel as though one of those monsters from Alien was ready to hop out of my stomach but I had much experience of that condition.  “No, it’s okay. I want to do this for you.”

She hemmed and hawed before blurting out the truth, “It’s my mother…she wouldn’t like you.”

“What’s there not to like?” 

“Well, your clothes, for one thing. I mean, are you serious?”

And with that, the fight fled from me. I could just picture the whole clan dressed in Kelly green singing Danny Boy around a turf fire - her auld one, no doubt, peering out at me through lace curtains.

Tara took me in her arms whispered that I should go back to sleep, and hinted that on her return Santa might provide some x-rated delights. But I wasn’t that easily mollified and delivered one last parting shot as the door closed behind her, “So what am I supposed to do, have Christmas dinner in an Indian restaurant?”

Well, I didn’t fall back asleep and the hangover was of the galloping nature, gaining ground all afternoon. But the hunger was no joke either and when I eventually sauntered up First Avenue the only places open were of the Indian persuasion. 

A dusting of snow was descending as I stormed into The Taj Mahal. The lone customer didn’t even bother to look up from his book; I sat there glaring at him, cursing all cruel-hearted IAPs and wishing I was home with my Mammy in Wexford.

The snow was swirling around First Avenue and White Christmas was leaking from doorways as I headed back to the apartment. I turned on the blinking Christmas lights and took a couple of fierce slugs of Jameson’s whiskey, turned the Clash up to eleven and rehearsed ever more vicious and vengeful ways of breaking up with Ms. Westchester.

She must have forgotten her keys for, at first, I didn’t hear her knock above Strummer’s bawling. I strode over to the door, angrier than any Old Testament prophet. She stood there, face flushed from the cold, snow in her hair; she was expecting my fury and accepted it with grace. She smiled gently, her grayish green eyes misting over, and I barely heard her murmur, “I missed you so much.”

She reached up, held a sprig of mistletoe over my head and kissed me as if for the first time. And when she whispered, “Merry Christmas, baby,” all the fight fled out of me and young love in all its passion returned.

Hollywood Here I Come

I once woke up outside Bakersfield hungover and disoriented. I should have known exactly where we were as hometown hero Merle Haggard had just come on the car radio. 

We had intended to visit LA but the back seat of our car went on fire somewhere in the Mojave Desert so instead we pressed on for our ultimate destination, San Francisco.

If that all sounds a little vague, that was the mood back in the GPS-less mid-70’s whilst doing one’s obligatory Keroauc On The Road trip from Brooklyn to the Wild West.

My friend, Bob Schwenk and I had contracted to drive a brand new Audi to the City on the Bay for a very unlucky stockbroker who was relocating there. 

We hit black ice some hours out of NYC, barely missed a state trooper and collided with a jackknifed truck on Route 80.

After managing to beat a reckless driving charge, a very large auto mechanic stood on the hood of the brand new Audi with a sledgehammer and beat it back into some kind of shape, then bound it with a huge metal chain and off we went. 

Let’s just say it was not a happy day for the stockbroker when we chugged down the driveway of his lovely Mill Valley residence.

I did finally make it to LA in some triumph in the early 90’s when Black 47 was the next big thing. 

Funky Ceilí had just been deemed the most played song on Alternative Radio when EMI Records flew Chris Byrne and yours truly out to do two solid 10-hour days of radio interviews. 

Now anyone can have a great time talking about themselves for an hour or so, but try doing it 10-hours straight two days in a row! It literally drove us to drink, not an unknown destination in those years.

Soon thereafter, the whole band and crew were flown out to do the Jay Leno Show. What an hilarious, salty guy – offstage - and then so staid the minute the cameras rolled!

I didn’t care, George Foreman was also a guest and being a boxing fanatic I couldn’t believe I was shaking hands with the man. His hands, by the way, were incredulously large and soft.

Hollywood was like a dream, but then Elliot Roberts was our manager and Elliot knew everyone – from the busboys all the way up to God. He never introduced me to God but just about everyone else.

Speaking of God, Black 47 always stayed at the Continental Hyatt (Riot House) on Sunset Boulevard, wherein lived Little Richard. At that time he was the self proclaimed King - and Queen - of Rock & Roll.  

Imagine a punk kid from Wexford hanging with this jewel-bedecked legend packing a large bible under his arm. 

He appeared to be preaching a mixture of fundamentalist Southern Christianity and equal opportunity sexuality – a lethal combination.

One of the Black 47 members after encountering him in the elevator famously noted, “I didn’t know whether he wanted to save me or… (I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

Ah, there was nothing quite like the dying days of Rock & Roll hedonism on Sunset Boulevard when men were men and sheep were nervous.

Hollywood was the land of opportunity. I got a call one day from a Vice-President of Fox TV wishing to buy the rights of Liverpool Fantasy, a play I’d written about The Beatles – if they hadn’t made it.

I made a huge mistake by asking Elliot Roberts to negotiate the deal. Elliot, without ever reading the play, stated straight out to the Vice-President that Liverpool Fantasy was a big-screen movie and that we were merely dropping by as a courtesy while on our way to gather offers from the major studios.

The Fox guy offered 50 grand on the spot as a good faith payment with more to come and a definite shooting schedule.

We passed. That was Southern California for you – the golden land of missed opportunity.

But hey, I’m ready for another shot. I just need to find a brand new Audi drive away and locate my well-thumbed copy of On The Road.

With a GPS this time there’ll be no stopping me. Hollywood, here I come!

Sunday 15 December 2019

Gay Byrne - The Man Who Rocked Our World

Sive, a play written by John B. Keane, caused a sensation in Wexford Parish Hall in early 1962. Its subject was illegitimacy.

Up until then this matter was spoken of in whispers, though God knows it was common enough given that contraception was banned by both church and state.

There were three main outcomes for pregnancies among the unwed in Wexford: the couple got married in a hurry, the lady went to England and returned without the baby after a seemly time, or the man absconded leaving the lady, and eventually the baby, in the lurch.

Anti-contraception laws were not fully amended until 1985 and yet in 1962 Ireland began to experience great social change due to the introduction of the Late Late Show on RTE-TV. 

The host was Gabriel Mary Byrne. Always recognized as Ireland’s most influential broadcaster, there are those who believe “Gay” singlehandedly dragged the country into the 20th Century.

From this vantage point it’s almost hard to imagine just how socially backward and repressive Ireland was on July 5, 1962 when the Late Late Show debuted.

Almost immediately Gay Byrne did something revolutionary. He got Irish people to talk about themselves and their experiences, thereby shining a light into all the dark places that existed in a Catholic theocracy.

Emigration, as you might imagine, had much to do with Ireland’s backwardness and social problems. From the time of the Great Hunger in the 1840’s people had been streaming out of the country. 

“The best left” was a common saying – after all, they were the ones with the get-up-and-go attitude.

There was a moment during the War of Independence (1919-1921) when things might have changed, then Michael Collins was killed, and much of the Republican leadership was annihilated during the ensuing Civil War.

The pro-Treaty conservative forces allied with the Catholic Church took control of the country and people either buckled under the new regime or emigrated. 

Forty years later Gay Byrne drew back the curtains on Irish life and within months the country came to a halt for the duration of his Saturday night show. 

It was television at its best and you dared not miss it, for you were never sure what taboo subject might arise. But right from the start guests began to question the right of the Catholic Church to run the country.

A silence would descend on those watching. It was as if President Éamon de Valera or Archbishop John Charles McQuaid might come hurtling through the television screen and demand that you drop to your knees and recite the rosary for merely entertaining such blasphemous thoughts.

You can’t believe just how refreshing it was to hear people finally speak their minds on a public forum. 

Conservatives had their say too. Oliver Flanagan TD famously informed Gay that, “there was no sex in Ireland until television came along.”

On the contrary it seemed like everyone was at it around the clock, including the Bishop of Kerry, Eamonn Casey, and the singing priest, Fr. Michael Cleary, both of whom had children out of wedlock.

Eventually the show would broach such thorny subjects as divorce, homosexuality, abortion, censorship, and other issues that had been consigned to dark corners.

Gay was more popular with women than men. My father thought he was “smarmy,” and he did have a very smooth delivery. He was definitely unafraid to show the female side of his character, something that was anathema to most Irish men of the time.

Probably for the same reason, my mother and countless other Irish women adored him.

I got a look at Gay Byrne up close when Black 47 appeared on The Late Late in 1996. He was relaxed, welcoming, and totally in control. It was like stepping into someone’s warm parlor and having a chat.

How did he compare to American late night hosts? 

From my own perspective as either a guest or performer on Leno, Letterman, O’Brien, Fallon and Maher, he was as good or better than any of them.

He had the intelligence and acuity of Letterman and Maher, the warmth and comedic chops of Leno, O’Brien and Fallon. 

But unlike his American peers, Gay Byrne actually changed his country for the better, and for that we’ll always be grateful.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Charles Stewart Parnell and Wexford Quare Wans!

A girl from Liverpool once told me I was “smashing.” It was probably the best compliment I’ve ever received, coming as it did with a Beatles accent.

She definitely had more than a couple of drinks taken but what matter? How many compliments does a man get in the dreary daylight hours of sobriety?

Nowadays there are only two compliment choices - you’re either “hot” or more likely you’re not – “smashing” only applies to atoms and pumpkins.

Words are indeed on the decline. Some feel that President Trump got elected because his vocabulary doesn’t make the less loquacious feel inadequate. 

“Great,” “sad,” bad,” “perfect” do the trick – and who can argue, after all he’s the president and we’re not!

He’d never get elected in Wexford – you can bet the Bull Ring on that, hon - for the vocabulary back home is ever mutating and takes skill to deploy.

For over two thousand years Wexford has been sacked and settled by all manner of bowsies from Celts to Vikings, Normans to Limeys and returned Yanks.

No joke, but it gave us our own language – Yola – a mix of Middle English, Gaelic, and French, with smatterings of Saxon, Hessian, and Dutch – double and otherwise. 

When these invaders weren’t raping and pillaging down our narrow streets they were adding their linguistic licks to our arcane dialect, Wexford “shpake.”

Here’s a gentle introduction: a gentleman describing the looks of a lady might describe her thus: “She’s the real segocia, I’m not coddin’ yeh, boy, and not hard to look at either!”

Whereas a lady of my acquaintance upon being accused of fluttering her eyelids at a local Lothario was heard to declare, “If he was the last creatúr this side of the cyrpt, I wouldn’t ride him for the exercise!”

Words have always mattered in Wexford. When Charles Stewart Parnell gave a speech at the Imperial Hotel in October 1881 he was promptly accused of “seditious language” and deposited in Kilmainham Gaol.

His crime - denouncing Prime Minister Gladstone as a “a masquerading knight errant, the pretending champion of the rights of every other nation except those of the Irish nation.” (Try that line on your base, Mr. Trump!)

Whereupon, a Wexican hard chaw was heard to retort, “Divil a word of sedition did the man utter! Sure wasn’t he only actin’ the gatch.” (the clown)

As one approached puberty you had to delve even deeper into “Wexican shpake” to figure out the birds and the bees. What would you say this following statement meant?

“Did you get a gander at the quare wan from the Red City and her skidaddlin’ off to the Harbour bundled up to her tonsils on the lethalest day of the year?”

Well, simply put, this is a coded reference to a young unmarried lady from the Maudlintown area seen leaving for Rosslare Harbour to take the ferry to the UK while wearing a long coat to hide the evidence of her pregnancy on the hottest day of the year.

Ah now, “family way” used to be the great Wexford gossip item, and yet notice that even in our barbarous past the unfortunate lady was not named. 

With no contraception available “quare wans” (queer ones) were ubiquitous back then, but if you were of a charitable nature you could let matters rest and inquire no further into the lady’s identity.

Alas, all in the past, for on a recent visit I heard an auld wan comment on the current crop of unmarried pregnant girls: “Sure dem young hussies do be going around as brazen as brass monkeys, they’d do anything for a medical card!”

Take note of the “do be going around” for in Wexford we’ve always put great store in the continuous present tense and lament that proper English do be wanting in that department.

Americans, however, do be very welcome in our metropolis, for as Wexicans fondly note, “Sure didn’t we give yez John Barry, John F. Kennedy and ran Kirwan the hell out of here to New York!”

But always remember, the past is ever present in the old town, and the present is beyond active, and there’s often more to Wexican shpake than meets the eye – or the ear. And whatever you do, don’t go drinking with quare wans!

Friday 22 November 2019

Why Go Somewhere You're Not Wanted?

One of the best things about escorting 80 people to Ireland every year is that you are forced to see the country through their eyes rather than mooning about what used to be.

Many people are on their first trip, while others are seasoned visitors well read in Irish history and politics.

Still the US system of democracy can seem very different from the Irish and UK models, although both the US and UK are now led by white nationalists with unconventional hairdos.

The complexities of Brexit can be difficult to explain to Americans especially when out on the town in Belfast where Boris Johnson’s brave new border in the Irish Sea has thrown a real spanner in the works of partition.

As we traveled over the current invisible border to the Republic I was struck by the change in Irish attitude to the US. No one seems to care much any more.

It’s as if a veil has fallen between our two countries and we Americans have floated off to Tír na nÓg or somewhere equally incomprehensible.

Though there is a mass bewilderment as to why we’ve elected President Donald Trump there was no hostility shown to my fellow travelers – nothing like the days of Reagan or Bush when you might be forced to disavow such ogres before you’d be served a decent pint of porter.

I believe this change has to do with emigration or the lack thereof. Back in my own emigrant days we were invested in the very idea of the US, and during the 70’s through the 90’s there was a mass exodus from Ireland to the shores of Amerikay.  

We populated The Bronx, Broward Country, Geary Street, Tipperary Hill and the many South sides of cities across this vast country.

On Saturday nights there were so many people jiving in the pubs around 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue minor earthquake tremors were regularly reported.

That day is gone and with it the dynamic Irish-America we knew. Paddy and Mary are as rare as a decently pulled pint on Bainbridge now.

The talk back home is about saloons in Sydney, Christmas spent surfing on Bondi Beach and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s about brunching in Toronto, snowmobiling in Banff, and roping in steers in Calgary.

For Irish people are welcome in Australia and Canada while the doors have been slammed shut in our shining city on the hill. To top it all, as citizens of the EU Irish people can come and go as they please in a legion of countries across Europe.

The UK now wishing to make Britain great (or white) again is prepared to downgrade its economy for the privilege of keeping the great unwashed out.

Many young Irish are skipping this once desired destination – why go somewhere you’re not really wanted? 

The same story, alas, is true in relation to the US. We’ve been keeping people out for so long, the general feeling is – why bother? 

Who wants to sneak in, work illegally, and perhaps get collared by ICE when you can make good money in Melbourne or Vancouver in democracies that more mirror the values you grew up under back home.

Our immigration laws make no economic or practical sense. A country is as strong as its people and right now there are many Rust Belt cities and rural towns that are hemorrhaging their populations and could do with an influx of foreign-born strivers.

It makes you wonder about nationalists and wall builders in general. The EU may have its problems but there have been no wars among its members since it was first conceived as the EEC back in 1957.

Look at the history of Europe before that – a litany of conflict, hatred, and ethnic extermination much of it fueled by nationalism. 

Britain will inevitably learn a hard lesson from its Brexit delusions. Our modern interconnected world is not very well suited to solitary island states with a nationalist bent.  

As for ourselves - roll on 2020 and the opportunity to once again crack open the doors of our shining city on the hill.

To hell with nationalism! I miss the jiving on Bainbridge Avenue and the fast disappearing, dynamic Irish-America we once treasured.

Friday 1 November 2019

Belfast October 2019

Every year I accompany a couple of busloads of Americans and Canadians to Ireland to explore the history, politics, and music of the island.

At least every second year I make sure we visit Belfast, Ireland’s most interesting city. The changes have been remarkable since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and in particular over the last 10 years.

It’s as if a cloud has lifted and the sun is now revealing the city’s promise and possibilities.

And yet you can never forget that awful things happened and that deep wounds lie just below the surface.

Part of my purpose in visiting Belfast is to introduce North Americans to the Protestant/Unionist parts of the city and to the various points of view found there.

Music has always provided a great bridge between communities and the obvious place to begin is the East Belfast of Van Morrison. 

Any lover of Van’s music knows that there is a treasure trove of local references to be found in his early lyrics from the leafy lawns of Cyprus Avenue to the less salubrious environs “down the Hollow” in Brown Eyed Girl.

The Union Jacks flowing in the breeze can be worrisome to those who experienced the Troubles; but on the whole people are going about their business and happy to show off new projects like the Connswater Community Greenway or CS Lewis Square where the local author’s Narnia is celebrated.

Still, it’s hard not to notice an underlying unease over Brexit and what it might portend.

This came to the fore during a tour of the Shankill and Falls Road where we were guided by Loyalist and Republican ex-combatants.

Both sides have traveled great distances in the last 20 years, yet there’s an unmistakable fear that insensitive British politicians could help resurrect the conflict.

Concern is more pointed on the Loyalist side. Republicans are well used to “British perfidy” – it’s been a constant theme in nationalist history.

Loyalists have little faith in Boris Johnson and his lip service to the Union between Britain and Northern Ireland; they fear, and rightly so given the British Prime Minister’s recent agreement with the Republic and the EU, that they’ve become a disposable pawn in a game played out on the chessboards of London, Dublin, and Brussels.

Will there be a renewal of conflict - definitely not on the scale witnessed during the Troubles. A new outward looking generation has emerged – they were bred on the internet, they travel and are familiar with the ways and doings of the world’s capitals.

They’re invested in the bustling prosperous Belfast that struts around downtown at night. They have no interest in returning to the tragic thirty or more years of insurrection and sectarian killings.

But then you visit the Peace Wall and realize that it’s been standing now for half a century, and that many on both sides prefer that it remain, at least in the short term.

In some ways Ireland is already united. The steady stream of trucks and traffic flowing both ways between Belfast and Dublin shows how impossible it would have been to reinstate a hard border. Those days are long gone.

But in Belfast you can almost touch the psychological and social walls that still separate the communities.

And yet people of good will are reaching out on both sides. Take Turas – the word means journey or pilgrimage in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It’s a flourishing cross-community project in East Belfast formed by Linda Ervine, wife of Brian Ervine the PUP leader.

One of the goals of Turas is to connect people from Protestant communities to their own history with the Irish language – Catholics, of course, are welcome.

Let’s face it – Brexit has always contained seeds of disaster. From the start it has been fueled by lies and exaggerations – some spun by Boris Johnson himself.

Unfortunately, Brexit chickens are more likely to come home to roost in Belfast, not in London where they belong.

As we head into a winter of discontent let’s wish Belfast the very best, and that any problems raised by Mr. Johnson and his Brexit conundrum can be worked out across the negotiating table rather than in the brooding shadow of the Peace Wall.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Peter Quinn - Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award

Irish American Writers & Artists was formed back in 2008 when it was suggested that Irish-Americans were unlikely to vote for an African-American presidential candidate.

Although a gripping question at the time it pales in comparison with some of the issues that have arisen in the three years of Mr. Trump’s unorthodox presidency.

Be that as it may, IAW&A has thrived in its eleven years of existence. 

We’ve raised money for various causes, granted scholarships, and each month we provide two salons where members can perform their work before large audiences. There is no admission charge – all are welcome.

The level of creativity and performance has continued to improve as word has spread about a unique opportunity to present original material to a discerning and attentive audience.

And yet for me the real thrill is watching someone take the first daring step that transforms him or her from audience member to performing artist.

All of this comes at a price however, and to keep IAW&A functioning we hold one annual fundraiser where we present the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to a deserving artist.

How fitting that it should go this year to our first president, Peter Quinn. Irish Echo readers need little introduction to this handsome, erudite figure. He is a best selling novelist for his marvelous Banished Children of Eve among other works, and was a political and corporate speechwriter – ever wonder who put a touch of the poet into the oratory of Governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo?

I was privileged to catch a particularly close look at Peter while serving on the board of the IAW&A during his presidency. 

Though we operated close to the edge financially, and otherwise, in the early years of the organization Peter radiated a sense of graciousness and quiet confidence that got us over many the hump. 

Of course, he’s from The Bronx, and like many who hail from the only borough on the mainland he’d already overcome much before ascending to the presidency of a non-profit arts outfit.

What is it about those who emerge from those storied concrete fields above Manhattan? In small ways I’ve benefitted too from spending so many nights playing in Bronx saloons and dancehalls.

You gain a wry acceptance of the slings and arrows that attend life but also a feeling that if you keep a weather eye open you just might upset the odds and beat the spread.

Peter has done that time and again and has provided a quiet inspiration to others who have observed his many victories, hard won and otherwise.

When someone is needed who can wring poetry from the reeling march of New York’s immigrant Irish out of the Five Points slums – Quinn is your man.

It’s never easy for an Irish person to become a successful artist – we’re constantly haunted by the shanty whisper: “What makes you think you’re so special?”

Eugene O’Neill did it – beat the drink and forsook the hobo West Village life to become the dominant playwright, and artist, so many of us look up to.

Peter Quinn did it too. He once told me how he used to rise every day at an ungodly hour and arrive at his desk early enough to put in at least a couple of hours of writing before his corporate toiling began.

Becoming one of the best is never easy – the hours are long, the sacrifices many, but that’s the gig.  

At IAW&A salons we provide a springboard for entry into that life. Somewhere along the line Eugene O’Neill and Peter Quinn grasped their opportunity and ran with it.

If you want your shot find out more about Irish American Writers and Artists at

We have new leadership, Mary Pat Kelly, an author from Chicago’s South Side is President, and New York’s Maria Deasy, actor and producer, is Vice President.

Join us on Monday, Oct. 21st for one of Irish-America’s premier social evenings when we bestow the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award on Peter O’Neill, artist and gentleman.  See you there.

Mon, October 21, 2019  6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Manhattan Manor, Upstairs at Rosie O'Grady's
800 7th Avenue, NYC
For tickets and information visit

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Farewell Ric Ocasek

It was the summer of 1992 and I was walking downtown from an MTV interview accompanied by Black 47’s manager, Elliot Roberts.  

We were passing by Gramercy Park when Elliot pointed at a house straight out of an Edith Wharton novel.  “Ric lives over there.”

“Ric who?” I replied trying desperately to mask my lack of coolness.

“Ocasek! Who do you think? You wanta meet him?”

We were admitted to an amazing reception room with a ceiling somewhere up in the stars. I was commenting on this when I became aware of a presence behind us. I spun around and a very tall, gaunt figure in black, including shades, loomed over us.

Elliot, used to such spectral appearances, laconically remarked, “By the way, Ric would like to produce your new album.”

That’s managers for you! Elliot managed Ric, Neil Young, and a legion of others, and did well by all of us.

A couple of nights later while onstage at a jammed Paddy Reilly’s I noticed the crowd separating like the Red Sea before Moses, as Ric arrived with a blonde goddess so lovely even Steve Duggan’s worldly Cavan mouth dropped a yard.

Not only that, this apparition in chic designer gear floated throughout the beer-splashed room signing autographs and bestowing smiles on all and sundry.

I sat next to an abandoned Ric who smiled bemusedly at the scenes of abject Paddy adoration.

I refrained from inquiring “Who’s yer wan?” I was obviously the only one who didn’t recognize Paulina Porizkova, supermodel and delight of paparazzi.

 “I can make this independent album of Black 47’s great.” Ric casually noted and fired off a couple of suggestions that made eminent sense.

“That’s fine but there are things I want to do with it too.”

He looked at me for a long moment then nodded. “So it will be a co-production?”

“Your name first, of course,” I allowed, and he chuckled at the thought that it might not.

“We’ll have to finish within 3 weeks as Paulina and I are off to St. Bart’s. So, start tomorrow?”

And we did in the basement recording studio of his amazing house with a ceiling up in the stars.

“You had some ideas?” He said.

“Yeah, I want to lay down some other guitars on Fanatic Heart.”

He pointed over to a rack of axes almost as impressive looking as Paulina. And that’s how we worked. I would add to the independent album. Ric would sketch, listen, and whenever I was stuck – which was often – make a succinct suggestion that was always what the song needed.

Around 4am I would crawl home and he would continue. He never made an appearance before dusk, so in the early afternoon I’d check out what he had added or mixed the night before.

It was always magic. Listen to the intro for Fanatic Heart from Black 47’s Fire of Freedom CD. I still shiver when I hear the gorgeous layer of digital guitar from which the Uilleann Pipes emerge.

And when I suggested that the song Black ‘47 should reflect the pain of the Irish who had endured The Great Hunger, he bade me channel a legion of their anguished voices until I was near catatonic.

He adored Mary Courtney’s voice and one day I discovered two vignettes that he had casually chiseled from Livin’ in America. I named them Fordham Road 8:00AM and Bainbridge Avenue 2:00AM. They became the bookends of the album. 

As the deadline loomed we worked separately and together around the clock. He only once lost his patience – when I was taking too long to mix Maria’s Wedding. 

He swept into the studio, adjusted a couple of faders and knobs that instantly transformed the recording. Then left without a word.

When Paulina would look in all work stopped. Their “love of the century” was so intense I would excuse myself and stroll around Gramercy Park for an hour - be the weather fair or foul.

Ric’s creative mantra seemed to be – trust your instincts but never hesitate to question them! 

He passed away recently. I learned so much from him in those magical three weeks spent in the house with the supermodel under a ceiling somewhere up in the stars.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Why Is Everything so Loud?

Did you ever think that things are very loud nowadays? This might sound strange coming from someone who stood in front of two Fender Amplifiers with Black 47 for 25 years.

But while dining with a companion in my local recently each of us had to implore the other to “speak up” on various  occasions, such was the level of background noise.

There was no music playing, I might add, and the customers were far from three sheets to the wind.

It made me long for the days of the former bartender – a Serbian heavyweight boxer – who would periodically bellow, “Shut the ?!!!? up!”

Such was the menace in his voice the din would invariably subside to a low murmur. Japanese tourists, in particular, would look for the exits in alarm while we New Yorkers would exchange knowingly cool glances; whereupon the Serbian who had lasted two rounds with Larry Holmes would growl, “now, start again from that level.”

This is not just a male New Yorker disorder either. While at Buffalo Airport recently at the ungodly hour of 6am, four lovely lassies trundled by with their rolling cases stridently comparing the relative merits  – athletic and otherwise - of the Jets and Bills Quarterbacks.

And it’s not just me. Frank Bruni, former food critic of the NY Times, has proposed opening a chain of restaurants so quiet it be known as Geezers. He claims to be unable to hear himself think nowadays while dining out.

What’s going on? A drummer friend who lives above a well-known musical saloon tells me that the volume of customers has risen drastically over the last thirty years.

In fact every bar owner of my acquaintance laments that people are drinking far less but speaking much louder.

Subways, where once you kept your eyes and voice lowered, are now deluged with people disclosing private details that would have your grandad adjusting his hearing aid and blushing from the sheer booming salaciousness.

I blame my colleague, Howard Stern, for much of it although he himself appears to be a very mannerly and quiet-spoken gentleman the few times I’ve spotted him at SiriusXM.

For he has given license to every pip-squeak to unload their vitriol whether it be screaming from behind the wheels of their cars, or just favoring us with their unalloyed opinions in a volume that would make Ozzie Osbourne envious.

The difference, of course, is that Mr. Stern has a refined – if riotous – sense of humor and rarely raises his voice.

Now, liberals would tend to blame the national loudness on our current president, but allow me to disagree. Mr. Trump rarely raises his voice, because he knows full well that he’ll be haranguing the world for 20 hours a day and cannot afford an attack of laryngitis. 

Nor is the national inflated decibel level coming from the Left – Speaker Pelosi addresses us in very measured terms, while I often have to stick my ear closer to the television to pick up Senator Schumer’s Brooklyn whisper.

So who or what is to blame for this audio-explosion? I believe it comes from the ubiquitous earphones. 

Who hasn’t got a set of them nowadays? I bet your Grand-Aunt Bridie has a couple of pairs to match the current tint in her hair.

Think about it, more and more people are walking around in their own private universes. They can shut out the world and raise or lower the volume of those around them at will. Mostly raise, I would wager, for if you speak to anyone wearing earphones, they always reply in an oblivious bellow.

Is there any solution? I can’t think of one unless you bring back the random violence on New York streets in the 1970’s.

Back then one would not dream of wearing earphones while outdoors for fear of getting the head beat off you.

Perhaps it’s time to bring back my old Serbian bartender. We could appoint this man of few – but pointed – words to the newly created position of National Quiet Enforcer.

We better grant him a decent salary. He will have much work to do as we go slouching towards the loudest and most ferocious presidential election of our history.

Sunday 25 August 2019

A Kind of Love - Long Ago

It was the sweetest farm you can imagine: one hundred acres of lush grassland almost within sight of Wexford’s spires.

I can’t say I remember every blade of grass but I can still summon up every stream, hill, lake, and valley though I haven’t set foot there since the 1970’s.

I think of the farm often, particularly in times of stress. Life seemed a lot simpler then in the big old house at the end of a rutted avenue where my grandparents lived.

Theirs was not a marriage made in heaven. He was from stolid cattle-dealing stock while my granny was from a nautical family and cut from more dramatic cloth. 

As my father, a plainspoken merchant marine once remarked, “There was no small problem she couldn’t turn into a full-blown crisis.” 

And yet, my grandparents were in their own way devoted to each other.

They didn’t seem to converse much but I’m not sure many married couples of their generation did.

They did have a certain comfort level though, or perhaps by the time I was old enough to observe they had come to understand that neither was going to change the other. I suppose that’s a kind of love in itself.

They did like to attend race meetings together and we’d often head off to Gowran Park in Co. Kilkenny, Tramore in Co. Waterford, or even mighty Leopardstown. 

They didn’t care for Wexford Racecourse. My grandfather complained, “That place is so full of auld nags it’s hard to predict form there.” 

Television, oddly enough, brought them closer because with its arrival they could attend Aintree, Ascot and even Longchamp for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, without leaving the comfort of their armchairs.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of racehorses in Irish life. There’s almost a spiritual connection between these highly-strung ponies and the Irish people.

We all bet on them for back in my boyhood there was no age bar in a bookie’s office. The lowest wager allowed was “a shilling each way” and I remember my first win. ‘Twas a French filly, Petit Etoile and my grandparents beamed their approval.

Yet, if horses were sacrosanct, then cattle were beyond importance to my grandfather. He had no time for milch cows and would barely cast them a glance, for the bullock was his bread and butter.

He bought them at fairs and cattle markets; had them delivered to his farm where they would sate themselves on the rich green grass until they were deemed fat enough to be transported to Birkenhead, outside Liverpool, for slaughter.

He moved among these gelded bulls as if he were a ghost. They barely noticed his presence whereas they would gaze sullenly at me or bound off in a haze of horseflies.

He counted them every morning after breakfast and immediately after evening tea, unless Raymond Burr or Jackie Gleason were lording it on the black & white television in the kitchen corner. 

Shep, his faithful sheepdog, accompanied him on these excursions and I watched them grow old together. Finally Shep could no longer make it past the outer haggart and would sink down in the grass to await his master’s fatigued return.

My granny would watch fretfully out the window awaiting the peak of her husband’s cap to come bobbing home above the yellow gorse hedgerows. 

By the time his faltering step would echo in the scullery she would have composed herself. I used to wonder if he knew the turmoil she had gone through in his absence.

I would have accompanied him on his rambles for there are few things as lovely as an Irish farm on long summer’s evenings. But he preferred his own company, this taciturn man who merged effortlessly with the trembling rural silence.

When you’re young you think all things will last forever. But what does youth know?  Shep died first, then my grandfather, and finally my Granny was forced to move.

The farm is long gone, replaced by one hundred acres of suburban homes that I’ve never seen. 

And why should I risk viewing such a blasphemy, when I can summon up fields and trees and streams, and grandparents that are as real to me now as they ever were as a boy.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Is President Trump a racist?

The recent shenanigans between Donald Trump and various Democrats of color raised the question - could our president be a racist? 

Not that he would be the first. George Washington was a slave owner and chances are a majority of our presidents bear some taint of racism.

Not to be outdone, President Trump accused Squad members, Representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib, of being socialist - a disappointing turn of events as I felt that Senator Bernie Saunders had finally taken the sting out of the “S” word back in 2016.

However, Mr. Trump’s accusation caused me to question my own socialist credentials. Like the Squad I had often been told to “go back to where you came from.” Although my detractors usually felt that Cuba would be a more fitting destination than Ireland.

Being a socialist was no big deal back in Wexford where a Labor Party TD was always returned. 

In fact, local socialist Brendan Corish became leader of the Labor Party and Tanaiste in the Coalition Government of 1973.

Brendan was also a devout and principled Catholic. He would have been delighted to meet Rep. Omar, get the story of her flight from Somalia along with a blow-by-blow account of her kerfuffle with Speaker Pelosi.

But am I still a socialist? Well, like Senator Sanders I believe in a single payer health insurance system. 

Like Senator Warren I don’t trust big business, nor do I think it’s a good idea for college graduates to owe a fortune in student loans.

To add fat to the fire, I don’t believe in invading other countries and blowing the hell out of them.

I guess that means I can still step into Mary’s Bar in Wexford whistling “James Connolly” and enjoy my welcome home pint without being accused of “selling out to the Military Industrial Complex.”

But if I am a socialist, I’m also a canny one. In these cantankerous times why advocate changing the current failing health insurance system to “Medicare for all?”

That’s sure to antagonize the vast majority of voters who receive private health insurance from their employers? 

Far wiser to let them keep their current coverage but provide a public option that will eventually prove its economic feasibility. 

That will keep everyone happy, particularly rust belt union members who’ve fought long and hard for their “benefits;” and remember those states must be carried in 2020 or Ivanka will be our next Secretary of State.

I’d love to give free college tuition to the masses – everyone deserves four years out of the rat race playing beer pong. 

But it’s too late. President Trump already gave away the shop to big business with his 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In fact, the “King of Debt” will be coming for your Medicare and Social Security benefits when his deficit hits trillions. 

As for the Squad, I agree with many of your sentiments but politics is the art of the possible.

And lay off Rep. Pelosi! You may think her day is done but she passed the Affordable Care Act when President Obama was going “wobbly.”

She and Mr. Trump are the two pre-eminent politicians in this land. Whatever about the president Nancy is no more of a racist than Brendan Corish ever was.

Don’t play into the president’s hands. He needs the Squad as you are right now, outraged and outrageous.

Americans, socialist and otherwise, also need you - to be incisive, logical and bold, as you strive for a new and fairer America. 

Discretion, however, is usually the better part of valor. There are other strong voices in the Democratic Party – particularly those who must fight close elections in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016.

Think before you speak and don’t suck all the air out of the room lest you provide an oxygen mask to a flailing president who will use the basest methods to get re-elected even if that means kindling racial animosity.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Hooked on your phone?

Last summer I was faced with an existential conundrum. It was a blazing hot day and I had left home without hat or cap.

This was far from a fashion problem. A doctor had recently warned me that being of a fair complexion I should protect my exquisitely delicate skin.

“To hell with it,” I rebelled. “I’d sooner end up the color of an Enniscorthy strawberry than go all the way back.

And then calamity struck. I had forgotten my cell phone. My heart leaped, a cold sweat broke out on my burning forehead, and I engaged in a fit of self-recrimination that would have done justice to Judas Iscariot.

There was nothing for it. I’d have to hoof it back the many blocks in the humid heat.

“Why?” A voice of reason inquired from deep within my psyche.

I stopped in mid-step. There was no compelling reason to retrieve my phone. I’d only be gone for a couple of hours. 

But it was obviously deeper than that. A wave of anxiety swept over me that brought to mind a hungover morning long ago when I didn’t have the price of a pint. I was hooked – to a bloody phone?

I paced to and fro on that narrow sidewalk blocking matrons with strollers, anguished hipsters, and the homeless before I bit the bullet and headed off phoneless into the great unknown.

I’ve been “clean” for a year now and often leave the house without my cell. As far as I know on those phoneless rambles no one has called to inform me of a lottery win, but I have missed many messages from mysterious Chinese women and emails from gregarious West African princes all of whom assure me that they have my best interests at heart.

Going cold turkey wasn’t particularly hard, but then I’m probably not hooked as most. I’m not a big texter and have never activated notification sounds.

So, what’s this smart phone addiction all about? Is it a need to be constantly in the mix? I have some rapper friends who feel that they need to be online at all times to see what’s trending.

For myself I’ve stopped even checking news online as I’ve found it ruins my appetite for the more in-depth analysis one might get in the Times, the Journal, or the sports pages of The Post.

Then again we live in exhausting times. We have a president who never sleeps and governs by tweet. 

Perhaps he’s trying to keep the rest of us awake and on our toes?  I recently heard a millennial friend inquire, “Has anything of value ever been tweeted?”

I couldn’t even hazard an opinion as I’m not a tweeter. The very thought of having one’s sleep interrupted by the random offended thoughts of our president is alarming. I know this might sound unpatriotic, and please don’t tell Ivanka, but I already find it increasingly difficult to think straight in a world tangled up in apps, memes and emojis.

Which brings to mind a 19th Century poem beaten into me at Wexford CBS.

“What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…
A poor life this if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.”

I wonder what the Christian Brothers would make of President Trump or contemporary social interaction? 

In a restaurant last night I looked around during a break in conversation at the dozen or so other diners, all gazing raptly at their cells. For a moment I wondered if Wexford had beaten Kilkenny again or had another royal just delivered her baby. 

I have to confess there are times I long for old-fashioned answering machines and those long lazy afternoons spent on my couch wondering what I might do next – if anything. 

I had all day at my disposal, a six-pack cooling, and time to dig into that big volume of Proust or Steve Duggan’s tips from Belmont.

Those idyllic days are gone to be replaced by an ever present niggling anxiety that I can’t quite put my finger on. Excuse me while I check my cell.

Saturday 13 July 2019

The Boy From The Bronx

You can take the boy out of the Bronx but you can’t take the Bronx out of the boy. That thought struck me when I first met Elliot Rabinowitz back in 1992.

He was charming, intelligent, and hilarious but he had never lost his sense of the immigrant underdog going one on one with the system.

By then he was known as Elliot Roberts, one of the world’s most powerful talent managers.

Who had he not handled – Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Still & Nash, The Cars, Devo, Tom Petty? And now he wished to manage Black 47.

He loved our songs, the explosive stage shows, and the political beliefs that led Time Magazine to pronounce, “Finally, Rock ‘n’ Roll that means something again.”

Elliot and I shook hands on a very simple and fair management deal – “no need for a contract,” he said.  “That way either of us can walk without putting our lawyers in a higher tax bracket.”

Within a month the scouts from every major record company were lined up outside Paddy Reilly’s, for in our proletariat zeal we insisted that they pay admission like every other punter.

We eventually signed with EMI. Rick Ocasek of the Cars and I produced Fire of Freedom, and the world and her mother seemed to be dancing to Funky Ceili or pumping their fist to James Connolly.

It all came back recently when I heard that Elliot passed away.

What a character, as tough as barbed wire and yet with a degree of sensitivity and understanding rare in a man!

He was a joy to hang out with, he rarely gave any direction, and yet he could be lacerating if he felt you weren’t living up to the band’s talent and potential.

I once tried to explain that we played loud because it enabled us to jam better. He dismissed such twaddle with the cursory, “People come to hear your songs for the stories. If they can’t hear the words they won’t come back.”

Being Irish and a musician I’ve often felt that if you ignore a problem for long enough it may go away.

Elliot knew better. “Who do I call and what’s the number?” was his standard response to any crisis. Whereupon he would suavely fix the issue or engage in a blistering phone rant regardless of where we were or who might be listening.

He loved musicians, probably because he understood just how rigged the music biz is. 

There are no pensions or 401(Ks) in this game. There’s no longer even a Bowery to plant your butt on if all else fails. That’s why he treasured all our dreams and fought like a lion for his artists.

Lately, I’d often thought of calling him to get his take on Spotify, Apple and all the other “dot commers” who have finally beggared musicians in a way that the most cutthroat suits up on 57th Street never managed to do.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this issue was on his mind in his final days, for despite his battling soul and native optimism Elliot took things personally.

Losing Bob Dylan as a client was a blow that weighed deeply on him during our business relationship.

It didn’t surprise me for Bobby could never play second fiddle to any other artist, and Neil Young was Elliot’s main man. The affection and loyalty between these two titans was legendary. 

They once gave me a beautiful turquoise Stratocaster that Fender had made for Mr. Young. 

“Neil has hundreds of guitars,” Elliot waxed eloquently, “You only have one. What’ll happen if you break a string on stage? 

Neil winked at me. He’d obviously heard the line before but he enjoyed his manager’s Bronx shtick.

When it was time to end our business agreement, Elliot was as good as his word. We shook hands, called it a day and remained friends.

The boy from The Bronx traveled many roads and lit up the lives of those he loved and represented. I continue to learn from his example.

Saturday 15 June 2019

The Most Transformative President

Donald Trump may be the most transformative American president ever! Look what he’s done to the GOP – once the bastion of free trade the party of Lincoln has effortlessly morphed into the party of tariffs.

As if that wasn’t enough, with a couple of waves of his tweety wand he’s converted the party of fiscal rectitude into a posse of hardcore deficit ballooners. 

But perhaps his greatest achievement is to defang the anti-Soviet, All-American party and unite it in a mutual admiration society with Mr. Putin’s Kremlin oligarchy.

That’s not to take away from his stunning political feat of converting blue Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to red in the 2016 election; if he holds on to those gains in 2020, he will have done the near impossible - unite large swathes of the American working class with its union-hating bosses.

Only Abraham Lincoln comes close to Mr. Trump in the transformative stakes and it took him a four-year civil war to achieve limited emancipation.

Meanwhile President Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In” era is now little more than a vague memory. In these braying days it’s hard to remember that the first African-American president inherited a tanking economy and saved our economic system from collapse.

Lucky for us Donald Trump wasn’t elected in 2008, a time when a steady hand was sorely needed. In fact, every time he mentions Iran I check my fridge to make sure I have a six-pack of strong IPA to soothe my own nerves. 

Brinksmanship on tariffs is one thing, these Persians under Xerxes The Great were ruling the roost a thousand years before St. Brendan caught sight of the green hills of America. They won’t fold easily and are not people to be messed with.

But let’s get back to the Republicans. They must be wondering what hit them! Everyone and their granny knows that free trade ultimately trumps tariffs.

Sure, some industries suffer and workers need help in making a transition to other fields of employment; but on the plus side, imported goods become less expensive and working families can afford more. 

But whatever your views, trade wars are never a good thing – because like all conflict we have no idea where it will end. We do know, however, that the less wealthy will suffer most.

The blink-of-an-eye conversion from a deficit-fearing Republican Party to one that embraces massive debt is truly stunning. Though perhaps not for President Trump, the so called “King of Debt” – and in fairness he’s always managed to walk away relatively unscathed from his financial disasters, albeit with the help of bankruptcy.

And the man has a point – the country has dealt with ever-increasing debt since President George W. Bush frittered away a $200 billion surplus given him by President Clinton back in 2001. 

President Trump is also correct in stating that a growing economy can sustain more debt now than ever before. But only while interest rates stay low!

A rise of a couple of percent could balloon the deficit, and guess who’d end up paying for it – President Trump’s purported “base” in the form of slashed Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Still, these are all greenback matters easily settled with a timely lottery win or a lucky streak out at Belmont. What is going on with Russia? 

Our president is nothing if not an alpha-male! Yet, any time I’ve seen him with Vladimir Putin, he seems deferential, even cowed.

What’s wrong with that picture? This ex-KGB dude has been meddling in our elections. Can you imagine how Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Reagan would have handled such an affront?

It was a sad day for the US when John McCain departed this mortal coil. For it would appear that no other elected Republican will demand answers from their leader.

I have many friends among the president’s base, most of whom intend voting for him in 2020, basically because they don’t see any politician improving their lives, and at least Mr. Trump “speaks truth to power.”

But President Trump is the “power” now. He has transformed the Republican Party beyond recognition. The question is – how far has he transformed the country? 

I guess we’ll find out a year from November when the election results start pouring in.