Saturday 25 June 2022

Let's Go Mets!!!

 How about those Mets!

I know I shouldn’t rave about the boys from Queens so early in the season for fear I’ll send them crashing down from their perch atop the NL East.

And I’m aware that New York is considered a Yankees town – but have you noticed that when the Mets are winning, our city comes alive.

I have a radical friend who claims it’s all part of the class system, that the Yanks are the corporate team, while the Mets are more working and lower middle-class.

He stresses that when the Bronx Bombers are losing by more than 2 runs in the middle of the 7thinning many of their more well-heeled admirers not only stretch, they also exit the stadium; whereas, no self-respecting Mets fan would dream of boarding the 7 train without getting their full 9 innings money’s worth.

How did I become such a Mets loyalist?

Like many things it came to pass in a saloon - Tomorrow’s Lounge on 86thStreet in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to be precise.

Our crew of immigrants, music heads, and general ne’er-do-wells hung out in this den of iniquity.

Bay Ridge was Mets country and whenever the team was playing, the muted television was turned to Channel 9. This was back in the early 1970’s when Cable - not to mention Roku or Apple TV - was still a techie pipedream.

‘Twas in the cool alcoholic shadows of Tomorrows I slowly parsed baseball’s arcane rules, and came to the conclusion that America’s pastime was simpler than cricket, but way more convoluted than rounders.

I barely remember our first pub outing to Shea Stadium, except that we were way up high (in more ways than one) in the nosebleeds, and a disgruntled neighbor remarked that he’d never seen so much beer consumed by so few.

Did the Mets win that game? I can’t even remember whom they were playing, so I guess winning – or remembering - is not of paramount importance to Mets partisans.

I do vividly remember the Mets glory years of the 1980’s when we ruled New York, led by such stalwarts as Keith Hernandez, Rusty Staub, Daryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden.

Part of this triumph was bittersweet, however, as my first cousin Charlie Kerfeld pitched relief for the Astros at the time and, blood being thicker than Budweiser, I was emotionally torn whenever the two teams clashed.

Imagine my elation when that remarkable Cavan impresario, Steve Duggan, succeeded in booking Black 47 for Irish Night at Shea, not once but four times. There we were out on second base playing in the same position as The Beatles themselves to a delirious multitude of the Mets faithful.

To this day I proudly cite that Black 47 played Shea Stadium more times than the lads from Liverpool.

I regret to say that neither of my two sons followed in my footsteps, but in fairness both were part of the Jeter Generation when even many in Amazin’ Bay Ridge turned their backs on Los Mets.

Such sporting loyalties spring from deep within the psyche. Thus, in my novel, Rockaway Blue, diehard Yankee loyalist Jimmy Murphy is still finding it hard to figure out why his son Brian became a Mets fan.

And yet, in an odd way, this puzzling “betrayal” gives him some small relief when dealing with the loss of Brian during 9/11.

I have to say my Yankee friends have been very understanding about my Mets obsession; nowadays, they merely sigh and shake their heads, though more in sorrow than anger.

One, however, continues to be politely condescending. But he stepped way beyond the pale recently when he suggested that the pep in the step of New Yorkers of late is due to the ending of the pandemic, not “the Mets winning a few games against the dregs of the National League.”

Enough of such patronizing pessimism! I’m willing to state now that come hell or high water this October I will not be mouthing my usual, “Wait until next year” mantra.

I wish you all a very happy summer, and I’ll see you at the World Series in Citi Field when autumn leaves are falling.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Turner & Kirwan of Wexford at The Boardy Barn

 So, The Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays, Long Island is no more. I can hear silent tears dripping into pint mugs all over BBQ.

You don’t know what BBQ is – well, then you probably wouldn’t have felt very comfortable in the raucous atmosphere of the Barn.

It stands for Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Queens, and was a pejorative term used for those who invaded Hampton Bays from the boroughs on summer weekends.

Because we were well known in most of the Irish neighborhoods of New York, Turner & Kirwan of Wexford felt right at home in the Boardy Barn.

We played happy hours there every summer weekend in the late 1970’s, where up to a thousand roiling, sweaty people would dance and carouse after making their way up to Montauk Highway from the pristine beaches of Hampton Bays.

On a good day up to 100 kegs of beer would be drained, and that’s not even counting cans and shots.

It was like going into battle. The only way to survive was to get the crowd on your side, and then hold them there for the remainder of the four-hour gig.

We were not your usual Irish Folk duo. Pierce Turner played a moog synthesizer on top of an electric clavinet and battered a high-hat with his left foot.

I assaulted a kick drum and an electric-acoustic Ovation boosted by a battery of effects. Between us we sounded not unlike a psychedelic A train roaring through a local stop.

We learned early that every song had better segue directly into the next, for any silence could lose you the crowd’s fickle attention.

The bartenders approved of this strategy – continuous noise equaled continuous drinking, with no time wasted on niceties.

To that end, before every set they topped off a pint glass of Southern Comfort for each of us. We had discovered that this sweet but fiery liquid was Janis Joplin’s favorite poison, and what was good enough for the Texan Blues belter was just the ticket for two culchies from Wexford.

The crowd was usually happily wasted, but one afternoon a guy seeking to impress his date grabbed one of our pint glasses assuming it was full of beer and tossed it back.

His eyes bulged as he dropped to his knees, and his date screamed as her paramour’s forehead hit the concrete floor.

We were playing Lola by The Kinks at the time. With a capacity clientele screaming the chorus no one even blinked.

I don’t ever remember a fight in the Barn. The security guys preferred gentle persuasion to the sadistic maneuvers favored in other establishments.

But the truth is owners dictate the mood and carryon in every gin mill; and Mickey Shields and Tony Galgano were princes in their field. Even at its most rip-roaring, the Boardy Barn always seemed friendly and well managed.

Tony, in particular, encouraged Turner & Kirwan to go over the top. All these years later, I can still picture him smiling broadly as we got the whole joint snarling the chorus of Bob Dylan’s elemental kiss-off, Like a Rolling Stone.

When I complimented him later on his acceptance of high-spirited behavior, he merely smiled and explained that he and Mickey were in the business of selling booze not cotton candy.

I guess Mickey, a large sized character himself, knew the place wouldn’t be the same without Tony who passed away in November.

A hurricane had been forecast for our last Boardy Barn gig, yet all appeared calm enough as the evening wore on. Suddenly, a blast of wind hit the huge marquee tent and the support poles shuddered violently.

Security took over, and though well oiled, the crowd departed in a disciplined manner.

In the spills of driving rain Tony helped us carry our equipment to the van and told us to make for Manhattan, but if the storm worsened to check into the nearest motel and charge the room to him.

We made it home safely, Tony, and it’s my loss that I never saw you again to thank you for your consideration.

I’m sure many readers will raise a glass to you for giving us all so many priceless happy hours back in the Boardy Barn of our youth.