Are You Listening #3
This short essay is about my experiences with high fidelity audio. I welcome your experiences and feedback.
Are You Listening #2
The second installment of my Listening Blog. Innocent Words picked up the series (so excited) and I am working on #3 right now. Well, here's #2! Click and read. Thank you!
Tonight is the anniversary party for a beloved establishment. Steve Wells used to own the bar/venue and I was thrilled to received an invitation by him to attend the party. There are many stories going around about how the many artistic endeavors were birthed here, and I wrote the following in The Stranger Slog:
I launched two bands at Re-bar in the early ‘90s. Maxi Badd opened for Sister Psychic and my nervous-partner-at-the-time Tess played our first few songs facing the wall, her back to a full house. (A skiddish musician playing with her back to the audience was featured in ‘These Streets’ in 2013 by a character played by Hollis Wong-Wear). Anyone who remembers the band knows that Tess’ stage fright didn’t last long, her playing and presence on stage was a force of nature! Maxi Badd enjoyed many many subsequent shows at ReBar. Especially Steve and Grady always made us feel at home and always welcomed us. After one of our shows I sat in a booth with Scott Griggs (who booked the music at the time), and my friend and fan of Maxi Badd, Alan Pruzan and his friend (soon to become mine), visual artist Eleanor Jones. Eleanor and Alan wanted to be in a band. Neither played an instrument at the time. We each had copious amounts of alcohol in our systems and in front of us while we discussed starting a band. Griggs had his calendar on the table and right then and there we drunkenly booked a show 3 months out. We laughingly dubbed ourselves PHuJ, an acronym of our last names (the “u” being written as a smiley face). We started practicing in Griggs’ basement. Alan on the bass, Eleanor on guitar and me on drums (an instrument I had never played). After two rehearsals Lisa Pritchard, who worked with me at CZ Records (home of 7 Year Bitch, Hammerbox, Gits, etc etc) expressed a desire to also debut an instrument. Adding her last name initial to the front of our moniker, we became PPHuJ, which was a little harder to say without spitting. Lisa wanted to play bass, so she and Alan split up bass duties thusly: Lisa on the D and G strings, and Alan on the E and A. Our entrance to rockdom too quickly arrived and Alan brought cupcakes to Rebar to hand out to our prospective fans, each sunk with a stick holding a piece of paper with our “logo” on it. These, he said, were to shield your friend when you said the name of our band. We had 3 original songs and one Sonic Youth cover. We opened for Butt Trumpet and the place was packed. It turned out that a writer from the punk rock zine, ‘Flipside’ was there to review the show. When his review revealed that PPHuJ was just another pretentious Seattle band who couldn’t play their instruments (this was during the Nirvana phenomenon and the corporate masses and cynicism were abundant) I cut out the review, blew it up and sent the lone piece of paper around as our press kit. PPHuJ went on to play a West Coast tour, and several shows around town, growing our set list, audience and our confidence. I was eventually kicked out of the band because I “already had a band,” Griggs replaced me on drums. The band later changed their name to ‘Isidor,’ after the wonderful man who checked your ID’s at ReBar. The rest- they say- is history…
Are We Listening?
I find myself in conversations with people of my generation lately: remember when we’d ride our bikes by ourselves all over town?; ‘member when we’d throw our books on the table after school and run out the door yelling, “bye Mom” and she’d yell back, “be home for dinner!”; ‘member romping around creeks and woods and investigating the landscape with our friends?; and remember listening to records?
I used to buy a record or two a week. If a record that I was waiting for was due out (usually on Friday) I was psyched –it was the event of the week. If no anticipated release existed for me, I’d rummage through the stacks at the local record store - located in the strip mall next to the high school- until I found what I wanted to take home. There were always records I craved as I built my collection, but records were expensive compared to my home chore allowance (until I worked at a record store while in college, where I used my earnings to buy record albums). I’d take the prized possession home. Peel off the plastic wrapper. Study the artwork. Take the record out of the jacket. Feel the weight of it. Smell it. Check the disc for warping. Clean it, careful not to touch any part of the surface with my fingers. Place it slowly on the turntable. Clean the stylus. Carefully place the stylus down on the spinning disc. And sit and listen. If the lyrics were included in the artwork, I’d follow along. At the end of the first side I’d get up, turn the record over and listen to Side Two. I’d sit back down and listen. When the record was over I would study all of the musicians’ names, the producer, and read the other details that went into making the record. Then I’d get up and listen to the record again until the music wormed its way into my heart, my brain, ear, into my psyche.
Records are making a comeback. I wonder if this expensive and limiting medium is an echo, or even backlash to this era where music seems, er…disposable. Music is so plentiful, so abundant that people certainly don’t pay for it anymore. And artists feed us their music one song at a time, so the idea of the LP would require investment in a culture of fast-paced multi-tasking. Who has time anyway to even listen to a full song- let alone a 38 minute, two sided album? I attended a music symposium a few years ago where a guy on a panel delivered his research stating that the average listener decides in 10 seconds if s/he will continue to listen to that song. I wonder if that statistic has gone down to 5 seconds in the years since I heard it? I understand that. My listening habits have changed and developed with the seeming near onslaught of music that I cannot keep up with. Compared to the 2-5 releases per week on average that came out during my tenure as record store employee in the 1980s, literally thousands of new songs/bands come out a day. Computer companies aren’t including CD drives anymore, so we are consuming most of our music on streaming sites. I love that so many people are making music. More art. More music. More passionate creativity and productivity is a great thing. But I ask myself, as I reflect on my own listening habits, and as I contemplate the medium on which I will deliver my new music, are we really listening?
[This is the first in a series of short essays on listening and the LP (Long Play). And how our cultural habits are shaping the way we listen. And how the way we listen shapes the way we think. The choices we make. I am investigating these thoughts for myself, and sharing them as a project in process. I invite your thoughts and comments.]
Fathia Atallah was my friend. I met her in 1998 or 99 when I was a student at Cornish College of the Arts. She and her husband Gerry X Diamond came to nearly every student recital that they could attend. They were very supportive of my music, and of so many other fortunate students who were bathed in their sincere appreciation. They loved music. The two of them opened up the French Cultural Center on Broadway, a little basement space under a Japanese restaurant. I would visit them often on my lunch breaks, and eventually I began renting the space to teach my young students Dalcroze Eurhythmics on Saturday mornings. I also held my student recitals there, and Gerry and Fathia were always present, so appreciative of having young musicians in training in their beloved space. Gerry would often sit with me at that old, somewhat out of tune upright and ask me certain details about the piano. He would play a song and ask for advice on technique, voicing and theory. Between sharing music he dazzled me with his quick wit, and high intelligence. He was the embodiment of a true humanitarian with decades of experience. Fathia and I walked in Volunteer Park and drank tea and ate cake. I began slowly to learn of the deep lives that each of them had before meeting, and I was always in awe of the humility and kindness they embodied given such sophisticated human experiences.
The space that they created was a bit of magic on Capital Hill. There were French conversational parties on Tuesday evenings; and eclectic cabarets on a regular basis. They created a very special place. And they loved building their community. But they didn’t “try.” They just did it. They sought it out by introducing themselves to others and inviting them with sincerity into their lives.
And then the flood. A life change. Never showing despair, and always a smile in their eyes to share with the rest of us, Gerry started to hone his piano skills playing at retirement homes several days a week. He rode his one speed bicycle around town with his cabby hat and calf ended pants tucked into high socks. Fathia, decades younger and a flower always in her thick mane of hair, played guitar. Gerry arranged for her to get voice lessons and he started helping Fathia get gigs, and soon she was performing French songs and her own compositions around Seattle with good musicians. Gerry entertained coffee drinkers on the piano at Victrola on 15th every Saturday at 11am. Sometimes Fathia sang with him.
The two of them were lovely, beautiful, colorful people. And they loved Seattle. And they loved music, and community. When Gerry passed away 3 years ago, Fathia struggled without her supporter, her grounded champion. She continued to play her beautiful music at the Sorrento, and restaurants, festivals, retirement homes, and church.
At the service today one of her friends eloquently voiced the bravery Fathia exhibited in continuing her music career after Gerry’s death. Fathia was pure artist. She was not naturally equipped with the necessary mundane skills to book, promote, and the other million details it takes to perform and record, and which Gerry enthusiastically did so she could live unfettered in her world of natural, innocent beauty. But she learned, and not without reaching out for help. She continued to perform. I am so proud of her. The music had to be shared. Music was always so important to Fathia. It was central to her life.
Fathia was elegant and lovely and sincere and I miss her terribly. But here’s the thing…I was not present in her life the last few years. I got busy first with These Streets and then with my record, and then with my back pain, and and and…AND IT IS SO VERY IMPORTANT that we LOVE each other. Because ALL of us will shed this mortal coil. And we never know when that will happen. There are many people whom I love, and who I KNOW love me, and whom I have not seen in years. I’m thinking: let’s love each other while we are here. And let's reach out to each other when we are feeling lonely, when we are in pain.
I am listening to Edith Piaf, drinking a glass of French red wine (of course) and loving you, Fathia. And I am appreciating and loving all those in my life who have given me so much. Thank you. The cherry pie is almost ready. I smell it.
This year has been difficult. We lost my step-sister to cancer. Marion Kimes, my friend left the planet. Another friend suffered a brain aneurism (and after 5 brain surgeries is rockin it!) I likely contracted meningitis (or something horrible while visiting people regularly in the hospital) and was quite sick for 6 months. I had a bad fall resulting in 7 months of severe back pain. I’m usually not very public with personal things, but I guess I’m sharing this cause: I have SO much appreciation for LIFE, and for several people in my life. I hope the people I have regular contact with know how much I love them. And I often think, what a crazy cool person he is. Or what a really smart person she is. WOW she can reeeeaaaaally sing. Loved that show he spent 2 years creating and having two performances of…so….here it is: I THINK I NEED TO TELL PEOPLE more regularly HOW MAGICAL THEY ARE! How Weird, Special, Fantastical they are. WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE. WHILE I AM ALIVE. Cause there aint no guarantee…ever. Be well. LOVE WELL. Thank you for reading this. If you have made it this far, I think we are friends.
I have been nursing my several months' back injury since I've returned from Europe. I've spent a fair amount of time horizontal, and visiting doctors of various persuasions, and massage therapists, physical therapists, and taking pain killers, all of which has been exhausting. Managing pain is intense. But I feel like I am finally moving into a place of real healing, which feels unbelievably liberating. And it's time to get back to work! Although I haven't been able to work on anything of substance since returning from Europe, I have had time to daydream.
My record was scheduled to be released this month, but the label has stopped putting records out. So I am planning to release it myself. I decided to create a live performance around the release of the song cycle that will be very special. I booked a date in early February and have begun contacting musicians. I have started orchestrating the songs on paper and I am slightly terrified. Video and other performance aspects will be part of the performance. I'd love to hear from anyone who might like to be involved on any level of the this production.
I have some family in America who would like to see these photos I took in Ballyvaughan, our Irish roots on my mother's side. I feel this place in my bones.
Amsterdam and Berlin
AMSTERDAM: Amsterdam was wonderful. I spent 3 days there- one more than planned (cutting my Berlin trip by one day as I was able to fill the date with a gig.) I stayed at a friend of my old NYC roommate- Mariette and her wonderful family- on a house boat that sits on the Amstel River! It was such a treat to stay there. Mariette was generous with her time, knowledge, food (!), and even loaned me her bicycle. I have met wonderful people here. I took a bike ride around this beautiful city during one of the days. I have ever seen anything like it here! The roads are designed to make way for bicycles, trams, pedestrians and cars easily and safely. (Seattle should take a note!). The city was clean, the people friendly. And I was able to track down my package of CDs, which is good because I had run out of them by London.
Zaal 100 is a funky little place. I was one of 3 artists to play that evening. The room was full. The people kind, and I was finally able to meet Jonathan Brown, an artist I quite like, introduced to me via email through our mutual producer, Kramer who got me this gig.
I had sent an email to Max who co-runs a Tuesday night of songwriters on the next eve. He wrote me back that he saw I had joined the page on Facebook and that he looked me up on the internet and had already put me on the bill. When I showed up, he was so welcoming and kind, and gave me an incredibly nice introduction to the audience. What a great event he has there each week, in a wonderful room with a supportive audience. I met a fellow musician there named Otto who offered to walk me over to Anita's where Jonathan was playing. We just missed Jonathan though I saw a great performance by a solo singer/guitarist/songwriter. The audience was so attentive. The musician played squeezed behind a small bar on a little step. Kind of strange set-up, but very special place because of the warm reception the musicians received. No one spoke during the set. I got home early because the early next morning I had to catch a plane to Berlin and play that eve. ( I have to monitor how much sleep I get. When I am sleep deprived my voice feels it!) I had originally wanted to take a train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin, but having another opportunity to play music in Amsterdam nixed that plan. This leg of the tour was the only one I had not secured the travel plans, which allowed me room to change them to no detriment.
BERLIN: My first time in Berlin! I am staying in a very comfortable flat. It's a 4-story walkup so getting my luggage up with my back bothering me was a challenge. But the view is beautiful and the room very large with high ceilings, and a balcony. It is very comfortable there. The woman who rents out the room through Air BnB was very helpful and welcoming.
My first gig in Berlin was at a little spot in Preuzlauer Berg called Intersoup. I had booked this show back in April with a woman named Nina. She was very lovely on the internet and my understanding was that there would be one or two other people on the bill who would bring in a crowd. I was clear this was my first time in Berlin and that I didn't know anyone in the city. She said they did a lot of publicity for their shows and that there are always people at the shows.
It's a cute place- not too small on the main level, made up of little niches of living rooms. It’s dark and smoky and attractive. Downstairs there is one small room where the live music is held. That room is not as nice, or welcoming. The folding chairs are set up in rows. There is not that sense of character that dominates the upstairs. The woman who worked there that eve (not Nina) was merely doing her job. She informed me that I was the only artist, didn't I have friends here and handed me a box of microphones and cords to set up the sound system. One of the speakers didn't work.
It was pouring rain and cold outside this eve (I was told it was the first cold, rainy day of the upcoming autumn). I had walked about 20 minutes and was drenched when I got there. There were 5 people in the whole place. Upstairs. After setting up the broken sound system I walked upstairs and got a nice Belgium beer and started talking with people. Julia owned a little store around the corner. Nina (a different Nina) was a music therapist. They were very nice women and didn't mind my interrupting their evening. We talked for a little while. 3 people left and 2 others arrived. I talked the 4 people who had just come in for a drink into coming downstairs to hear the music. After 5 songs the 2 guys left. But Nina and Julia stayed and they were a great audience.
The next day I got up late to a gray day outside, made coffee and strolled down to the venue for that eve to introduce myself and make sure I knew where it was. Linnen Hotel is a small boutique hotel with a beautiful room next to the bar where they have concerts. I introduced myself to the man smoking outside and he was Bene- the guy who I had been emailing about the show. He has a bright shiny moon face, and warmly greeted me. He was so excited to see me. He kept saying, “I can’t believe you are here!” He told me that a journalist had done some research on me and published a good piece on the show in the local arts paper. He hoped there would be people there. I walked around Preuzlauer Berg all afternoon. The sun came out. It was lovely. I took photos. I sat outside and ate a burger and had a beer. I went back to the flat, changed clothes, grabbed my guitar and went back to Linnen and played a fun show to a small but attentive audience.
London was a bit of a hustle. And joyous. My luggage did not arrive with me on Thursday from Ireland. I just received it last night at midnight- Sunday, mere hours before I left England! It was a nail biter. So I spent three days in the same clothes! I do travel with my toothbrush and mobile items, so it was bearable on that level. You do appreciate very much an ease of traveling once you're separated from the crucial items you've chosen to accompany you for 3 weeks- and faced with the chance of never seeing them again.
Working backwards, I had the joy of spending the weekend in London with my dear 'ole friend Hilde, who flew in from Oslo, Norway. Hilde arranged for us to stay in a suite in a posh hotel near Battersea Park. Thank you Hilde! Her wish, while in London was to experience high tea. And that we did. An incredibly luxurious few hours with amazing food and continuos flow of Laurent Perrier champagne. The earlier part of the day we visited some places together that we used to traipse around during the 80s when we shared a squat in Camden Town. There were no high teas in those days on our radar. The day had its interruptions as I was obsessed with tracking down my bag. Not only wanting my clothes, my books, the few gifts I had brought with me and bought along the way, but I had only a few CDs of my new recording left and wanted them available for the next few shows I have left. I had arranged for a box to be delivered in Amsterdam but they did not arrive at the destination, so it looks like my merchandise has run out.
The other thing I never left from my person were the three Kate Bush tickets. THANK JEEZUZ! I can't imagine the upset if I had packed those tickets!!! OK. Kate Bush. I have purposefully not said too much on Facebook or Twitter. Up til now. (Spoiler alert to anyone who is going and doesn't want details.)
I don't think of myself as being fanatical about anything or anyone really. But I think I might be a fanatic about Kate Bush now. I've always really liked her music, her ingenuity and her integrity. I mean I did buy a ticket to see her in London. But this was hands down the best show I have ever seen in my life. It was the best sounding concert I have ever heard in my life. And I've been to a lot of concerts. It exceeded ALL expectations - and my expectations were very high. I expected multi-media. I expected a great band. I expected to hear great music. I expected great attention to detail. I expected to be wowed by Kate. I did not expect the length to which Kate went, or how much I'd be wowed.
Hilde and Carol (from Chagford) accompanied me to the concert. We walked into the theatre- which had recently been refurbished and is lovely. We were excited to see that our seats were excellent (the venue does not offer a bad seat in the house). The large stage was set up as a standard concert filled to the brim with instruments (including a huge and interesting array of percussion instruments in addition to a full kit. Of course. Kate loves percussion). The band started. The lights went down, the crowd rose to their feet and erupted as Kate walked out waving, with 5 others in a row and began singing Lily." I thought, OK, it's a concert. That's cool. Unexpected, but I was happy. An arched scaffolding that crossed behind the band lit a beautiful lighting display. The band played about 6 songs. They sounded incredible. Her voice was clear and strong- better than I expected after a week plus of shows. No fatigue. After "Running Up That Hill," and then "King of the Mountain" a screen came down and the great percussionist, Omar Hakim came out and whirled above his head a whooser. Smoke billowed and thousands of tiny little pieces of paper were blown all over the audience. They appeared to be hand pressed yellow paper I later found out was a poem from Tennyson calligraphied on each one. Kate is an avid lover of literature (obvious if you know her lyrics). That is the kind of detail that encapsulates the rest of the evening. A large screen came dow and a video of author David Mitchell acted out an impassioned plea for help to the coast guard as a sailor who heard a distress signal from a downed ship. The screen went up and the stage was now the innards of a giant boat. It was obvious at that point we had left normal concert land. Gone was the scaffolding and the band was pushed up stage right. Then a video of Kate floating in the water wearing a life vest with a little red blinking light singing the first song from The Ninth Wave. Thus began the entire 2nd side of the Hounds of Love record, in order, acted out with various sets, each elaborate and gorgeous- with costumed dancers /singers and sophisticated lighting techniques that showed the nightmares and hallucinations of the stranded boat victim. The images were riveting, each one taking my breath away. Images such as: an ocean -complete with realistic looking foam made by fabrics manipulated by the dancers underneath and lighting which created the most authentic ocean I've seen using similar techniques; that frame of the ship; the Dali-esque room of her dwelling with her family (her real son playing her Ninth Wave son) where she visited them as a ghost; the underworld (complete with fish skeleton creatures.) Outside of her dreamscape, the rescuers tried to dig her out of the ice floor with a chain saw. They tried to find her with a friggin helicopter on a dolly from the ceiling that went up and down and whirled throughout the theater; they looked for her from a large floating buoy. She was finally taken by the fish creatures in a funeral procession through the audience. The use of technology, lighting, music, theater was masterful. Then she returned to the stage with the band in a line and sang the last song on the album, the lovely and grateful "Morning Fog" while she "thanked" her mother, brothers, son and everyone on stage. Then she welcomed us back after a 20 minute intermission. I couldn't believe there would be more!
The next "act" began with Kate at the piano. And then the full "Sky Of Honey" suite from her gorgeous, "Aerial" release, complete with scenic accompaniment of a 40 foot door; a huge gold- framed painting that was ever changing through elaborate video editing; gorgeous images of slow motion birds in flight. Feathers floated down from the ceiling; a giant birch tree penetrated the grand piano. A fantastically elaborate black winged Kate fought a guitarist in a bird head; and she literally flew (although I think they blew the lighting cue). It was just gorgeous.
There were flaws in this act- but not many. The extra singers/dancers in these scenes as park visitors got in the way for me. Her son, Bertie had a solo. He is clearly young- I think only 16 (a magnificent primer for him with his mother as mentor.) And I thought the puppet and man attached to him roaming around the musicians was a bit distracting. I interpreted the puppet as a young boy- representing her son and perhaps his roaming around her music represented both literally and figuratively their relationship to music and her relationship to music in his life. There were so many layers of intentional symbolic meaning throughout the show. It was clear that every choice was deliberate, and all executed to perfection. There was even an encore -of a gentle piano solo from her latest record, and the band playing "Cloudbursting". The whole show from start to finish clocked at 3 hours. I was full and felt exhilarated afterwards. My ears were not ringing. It truly was an incredible sound. I thought often through this show when she wore the head mic (that she had made for her first tour in 1979) why Broadway can't get their head mics right? Clearly the technology is there, but the vocals in Broadway musicals sound tinny and horrible. This show had the perfect volume, the perfect mix. My ears were not ringing after leaving the theatre.
Continuing from the Kate show and moving backwards...directly before I went to see an osteopath on the other side of London, which took half a day. (It is very time-consuming to travel in London. AND VERY EXPENSIVE. And extremely crowded.) I really messed up my back with a fall in March and after the long flight coming over to Europe and carrying my guitar around, I was in a good amount of pain. The osteopath was very informative. It's little looser now. The day I landed in London -later than scheduled and without my bag that had mouthwash spilled in it- I had begun to think that my Irish craic had run out (that's luck), but even before we landed, there was a young Irish girl about 4 years old who screamed: "Muuummmmyy...WOW...Look!...there are stars on the ground!"
At the airport in Dublin. (Flying in London.) I had a wonderful time in Dublin. It was only 24 hours, but it was action packed. I met some lovely people and partied heartedly. I was in Galway yesterday and was invited on a radio show to play today, but I had to be in Dublin, so we arranged for a phone interview which happened today from Galway, to be aired on Galway Bay FM. It looked like the interview might not happen for about a half hour because the phone connection kept dropping out. I thought for a moment I was losing my "craic." But just as we were going to give up and even after a Skype attempt, I said a prayer to the leprechauns who have guided me thus far in Ireland and then phone call number 5 worked! The faeries have been everywhere for me in Ireland. Most of the people I speak with volunteer that magic does exist in Ireland and that time exists on a whole different plane here. That is accurate to my experiences. It's a very beautiful, mythical, magical place. It has welcomed me with open arms, and as my newly found 89 year old cousin 3 or 4 times removed said to me in a thick Irish brogue on Monday, "you've come home."
I got off the small plane from Bristol last Saturday, and was absolutely shocked at the exorbitant prices of rental cars at the airport, but got one anyway and white knuckled it for an hour from Shannon Airport to Kinvara where I booked an AirBnB. Driving on the left side of the road in the right side of the car was challenging at first. By the second day, I was totally comfortable- a duck in water. Maybe being left/right dyslexic came in handy in this situation? (When not a debilitating challenge, it is often mildly annoying to me, and usually funny to my friends.) I plopped my stuff down at the B&B, threw my travel guitar on my back and walked down to a pub to find a jam. Steam and screams poured out of the first place I opened the door to. Big match between rivals Mayo and Kerry counties. (This Irish football is quite a bit different than European futbol / soccer. They get pretty physical and hold the ball, and kick it over the goal and the different angles and distances to the goal result in various points. Since I couldn't get in past the front door of this pub, I walked back outside and started talking to a few guys sitting on kegs outside drinking a pint. "Play us a song." So I did. Half time miraculously forced the innards of the smelly confines to the street right in the middle of "Breathe." "Play another one!" "What kind of guitar is that?" The guitar was passed around and soon the entire lot of us were singing Green Day, of all things, at the top of our lungs. (The young ones often consider Green Day to be old school). The guys were on their way down the coast to the matchmaking festival in Lisdoonvarna and invited me to go along with them. Ha ha. As they boarded the bus a bunch of these guys started throwing money at me (unsolicited - I didn't put out a hat), thanking me for the songs, which bought me a lovely dinner.
Later on I walked to a different pub where I heard a traditional session was going on. The guy playing the button accordion invited me over to play. And we did- together for 3 non-stop hours. Really good players. It was thrilling for me to be in Ireland remembering songs from the Stevedore days and just playing by ear and following them without too much embarrassment.
The next day I drove into Ballyvaughan where rumor had it my great grandfather was born. This little fishing village on the coast is as cute as Kinvara, which I absolutely love ((I hear John Pryne lives there.) I took a long walk toward the water and spoke to my dead relatives- my ancestors and my mother, my grandfather and aunts. I asked them to help me find some relatives. I walked into a pub and walked directly out again. I wasn't feeling it. I walked into another. There were 3 older gentlemen sitting at the bar in suits drinking whiskey and pints. The barmaid said hello and I announced that I was looking for my family. She responded, "Oh no. Where did you see them last?" I chuckled they were dead. After divulging what little information I had on the family they wrote down a name of a B&B and pointed me toward it and said to talk to a woman named Breada. Then I was shown the church announcement welcoming home the Keane family. Apparently Keanes from all over were embarking on Ballyvaughan the next day. (My family spelled their name "Kane," the way the guys at the bar pronounced the name.) I went to the referred B&B and met an American woman and an Irish man. Breada was not there but they told me to come back at 5pm. They showed me a picture of Breada's father who, to me, looked a lot like my grandfather. But I still wasn't sure that I had the right family. There was a painting on the wall of an old thatched roof farmhouse that Breada grew up in. It looked familiar for reason I couldn't describe. I knew there was a thatched roof house that was most likely still in the family. I left the house after a cup of tea. I wandered over to the church I assumed my great grandfather was baptized in. (I thought he had left America when he was teenager and got married in Worcester MA.) I am not a practicing Catholic, but my ancestors were. I lit a candle for them. I wandered around some more, trying to feel the village. I went back to Breada's a few hours later and as we chatted we both felt fairly certain that we were from the same family. She invited me back the next day to meet her mother, Mary Keane and to visit the farmhouse and to extend my visit an extra day (she would arrange a room for me) to meet "The Americans" for the reunion, and especially Aggie who kept all of the stories. I would lose my money on the AirBnB in Dublin by staying, but I thought it was worth it. And Breada was arranging for my accommodations in Ballyvaughan. The next day I met Aggie's son, Michael who opened up an ancestor.com site. And there it was confirmed. My mother's name, her brother's name, my grandfather and his three sisters. His youngest brother was missing. And rows and rows and columns and columns of Keanes and Kanes. We think that when my great great grandmother mother came over to US with her younger children, she probably didn't read and write English. It sounded like "Kane." The American Keane's are my great grandfather's older brothers who arrived earlier. One of the brother's Michael, stayed behind in Ballyvaughan to care for the farm. That is Breada's lineage.
So...a woman walks into a pub...in Ireland....magic happened.