Wednesday 24 August 2022

I Miss David Bowie

 I miss David Bowie.

 “Sure, what would the likes of you be doin’ hobnobbin’ with a superstar?” You might counter.

Well, back in the late 1970’s he bought Pierce Turner and myself a large brandy each.

Turner & Kirwan of Wexford were debuting some tracks from a Science Fiction album, no less, in an uptown club called Hurrah when some yahoo roared out, “Play Suffragette City” – a Bowie song we were known to perform.

To which Turner snarkily replied, “We’ll play it when David buys us a double brandy.”

Lo and behold, at the end of the set we were presented with two large Rémy Martins in fancy tumblers, with a message from “Mr. Bowie” that while he loved our extra-terrestrial explorations, he would have been honored to hear our version of his ditty.

New York was a very different place back then. David probably hopped into a checker cab and dropped by Hurrah on a whim. He had no security detail with him and left as discreetly as he arrived.

Nowadays, Kim Kardashian wouldn’t check into the Ladies without a couple of beefy bodyguards in tow.

Celebrities were as common as cockroaches in the New York City of old. My brother, Jemmy, while plying his trade as a waterproofer on the face of the Carlyle Hotel once had Mick Jagger roar down, “Jesus on high, can’t a man get a decent night’s sleep in this kip?”

That was nothing compared to the profanity-laced tongue-lashing he received from Lauren Bacall when shoring up the Dakota.

One of his crew was so taken aback he was moved to whisper, “I wonder what Bogie ever saw in her?”

Lest you think this column is devoted to name dropping, I will refrain from mentioning my favorite Hendix story that concerned a window frame slicing a centimeter from one of Jimi’s divine fingers.

Andy Warhol called it correctly - everyone is a celebrity these days, however, instead of his projected 15 minutes of fame, better use your 15 seconds wisely.

I can barely walk down my block anymore for fear of losing an eye - there are so many wannabe Kardashians brandishing selfie-sticks while inanely mugging for their iPhones.

Will someone tell me what the Kardashians are famous for anyway? I’ve been out of the celebrity loop since the Murdochs quit flogging The Post in the subways. And don’t tell me to read it online – I’m already wasting so much time in the digital netherworld I can barely spare an hour for the pub.

Speaking of which – what’s the greatest cultural loss in New York City since the pandemic was visited upon us?

Dive bars! Remember that hole in the wall you used to frequent whenever your spouse or significant other questioned your authority or sanity? Yep, the venerable dive bar is gone with the wind - and the astronomical rents.

Next thing you know that bastion of nightlife Paddy Reilly’s will be shuttered, and Steve Duggan will be heading home to manage the Cavan Senior Football Team.

But then New York was always a changeable place. People laughed at Archbishop Dagger Hughes for building St. Patrick’s Cathedral up in the rural glades of Fifth and Fifty-First.

Who’d travel all the way up there to do the Stations of the Cross? For that matter, does anybody even remember, let alone attend, the Nine First Fridays anymore - although it wouldn’t surprise me if you could observe them through the Internet.

The city changes and we change with it. Am I mistaken or was New York at its peak in the years before 9/11? In some ways the city never seemed to recover, but I suppose that depends on your perspective.

I knock on wood as I say it, but just suppose we have weathered the curse of Covid. What kind of city will we be inheriting this time? One utterly divided by wealth – no doubt, but when was it ever any different?

And then you look at the bright side of things – most of us are still standing; although in one arena all is changed, utterly changed – the Mets now rule New York as we hurtle towards October.

And yet, I still miss the good old days when celebrities ranged freely around Manhattan and David Bowie bought me a double brandy.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Is America Broken?

 Is America broken? It’s a question that is posed with increasing frequency.

I used to dismiss it out of hand. This country has come through so much – escape from British colonialism, a civil war to prevent the Southern slave-owning states from seceding, a Civil Rights campaign allied with national protests against a disastrous war of choice in Vietnam.

Yet so much divides us nowadays, you might say. Indeed it does, but that’s the nature of a democracy. Unlike Putin’s Russia, we debate our differences publicly, that’s a strength but also a burden.

In a healthy democracy there’s usually a center, often a majority to whom differing factions turn for validation of their arguments.

When that doesn’t work, elections are called, or regularly scheduled, where the people decide.

In a country of laws like the United States of America, a vast majority of people accepts that elections are sacred and that the winners will form the next government.

But what happens when the leader of the losing group refuses to accept the verdict and contests the result?

The courts decide, as ultimately happened in the Bush v. Gore election of 2000.

We currently find ourselves in a situation where the defeated president in 2020 not only refuses to accept the result, but he even attempted to influence election officials in his favor.

You would imagine that his wiser colleagues would intervene for fear their party would suffer even a greater rejection in the coming elections.

Yet, it would appear, that Mr. Trump has convinced the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan that he won the election of 2020 despite all evidence to the contrary.

Does the Republican Party actually believe this “great lie?” On the face of it, this hardly seems likely, yet there are people who are utterly convinced that voting machines were tampered with and other forms of election chicanery perpetrated, without even a whit of evidence.

What happens now? Well, voters have a chance to send a strong message to both the Republican Party and its leader in the November midterms, and again in the 2024 presidential election.

Democracy, however, is nothing if not gloriously messy, for we are currently afflicted by a rate of inflation unequaled since 1981, and, of late, it’s “the economy, stupid,” that has driven most people to the polls.

It will take time and much massaging for our US market economy to correct the surge in prices caused by a pandemic, rusty supply chains, and a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

We should always bear in mind that part of the reason for the current soaring inflation rate is because workers are finally demanding and receiving higher wages.

However, as long as the Federal Reserve doesn’t cause a recession by randomly raising interest rates inflation will eventually return to a manageable level.

But if we succumb to economic alarmism we could throw the baby out with the bathwater, and that precious baby’s name is democracy.

We have a stark existential choice in the coming elections. Do we choose democracy or one man’s refusal to admit that he was beaten fairly and squarely in the 2020 presidential election?

Despite party labels, this is not a partisan issue; democracy, despite its flaws, is something to cherish, while Mr. Trump’s self-delusional dream of autocracy is not.

He’s already done grave damage to American democracy by causing many of his followers to doubt our election process.

We may differ on many issues, but in the end we can settle matters at the polls. Let’s vote rather than harangue each other on the platforms of an increasingly vicious and vacuous social media.

Had Mike Pence not done his job as Vice-President on January 6thand certified the election of Joe Biden who knows what the end result would have been. But, at the least, it seems likely more lives would have been lost while President Trump sat on his hands and allowed a mob of his followers to run amok in the Capitol Building.

We do have a very safe election system and should treasure it rather than allow one man to disparage it, and then hide behind inane conspiracy theories.

Is America broken – far from it! But democracy is under attack and it’s our turn to defend it.