Honesty, Paul Verlaine & Woman

As I am becoming pigeonholed as a writer, the stronger I feel about ruining that perception. Over the last couple of years, I have been called a writer of historical fiction. Of gangs. A crime writer. A writer of Irish background. A writer of Brooklyn and New York City.

All of these things are fine, but I openly admit to feeling frustrated at being branded.

I do think it’s important not to simply rebel against being branded, because then you’re just rebelling. The key is to write what you love, and in the process you ruin the branding. To love what you’re writing.

Therefore, I am starting a new project. A very exciting one. Exciting for me, that is. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you won’t. But I know I will.

In March of 2016, EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET will be published by Three Rooms Press. It is the second book in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy of historical novels. The third book Concoctionswill come out sometime afterward. In the meantime however, I have started writing something a little closer to the first book I had published, AN AFFAIR OF CONCOCTIONS (2009).

Although this new project was begun a few weeks ago, I’ve long thought of what other writing projects I wanted to do. I have even come up with titles, story lines, detailed characters, settings, allusions, plot twists and more.

The fact remained though, it was still fiction. It’s made up! I mean it’s all based on real events and experiences, but it’s not as tangible, or palpable as I want the next project to be.

While listening to a new and very cute couple speak to each other in a coffee shop recently (yes, I eavesdrop, I’m a writer/reporter without guilt) a few weeks ago, they were explaining to each other how big a role lies play in people’s everyday lives. But, if they wanted to stay together, they had to vow to always be honest with each other.

It was so cute hearing them make that promise.  He kissed her from across the table, they held pinkies tightly and looked excitedly into each other’s faces.

“Honesty is sexy,” the guy said.

“The only thing sexier than honesty, is honesty in a thong,” she said.

The funniest thing about this? … It’s a lie. I just made it up. The conversation did happen, but I didn’t want to tell the story the way it actually happened. I wanted you to hear it a certain way. A writer tells stories, right? I mean you already knew that.

In any case, this new writing project I started is about honesty. There will be many lies and stories told within it, but the story itself is based on being truthful. So truthful, that it will lack the arch and conclusions fictional stories possess. There will be no didactic center, no meaningful allusions, no editorializing, no characters that represent immortal truths and no beginning, exposition and end.

In short, it’ll be like real life. Without conclusion, unless you make your own. Free-spirited and open to interpretation. And I like that.

A little idea of its contents? … Honesty, Paul Verlaine & Woman.

We’ve gone over honesty, so let’s attack the second part: Paul Verlaine! The bald-headed, Paul Verlaineabsinthe drinking, French Parnassian/Symbolist poet who had a most famous homosexual relationship with a teenaged Arthur Rimbaud has long been one of my favorite “lives of the poets” story. He is kind of a narrator in this new project, but that’s about all I’m willing to say about it now.

The last part is “Woman.” Yes, just plain woman. Growing up with a single mother and a younger sister, I feel I have a closeness to women. I also feel like the world would be a safer place if women were to rule it. Women are still cursed, it cannot be denied, but they are on the rise. And it’s beautiful to see. Here in New York City you can see it more than in other places, I think. Hard working, career-minded, strong personalities in smart and colorful dresses, whip-like intelligence, unapologetic and yet genuinely feminine to the core.

Let’s do this!

Eamon

“I’ll send you my reports, as long as you promise to read them with your senses.”

~LOVE AND MALADIES (2010)

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Tanner Smith’s

A great new bar & restaurant has opened in Manhattan, and it’s closely related to the Auld Irishtown trilogy. (I’ve only written one review of a bar before, so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t use the right terminology). Tanner's 1

Based on the real life West Side gangster Thomas “Tanner” Smith (1887-1919), who is also a character in the trilogy, the new establishment mixes classic early 20th Century charm with an elegant modern touch.

Tanner Smith’s, Located in the Theatre District on 55th street between 7th & Broadway (N, Q, R trains @ 57th St. station), is a perfect place to land after a show and share a cocktail with your group.

The food is great quality as well. The “Small Plates” section of the menu is perfect for groups and friends to share a communal meal. The Lamb Sliders and the Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls were excellent. Of note also was the Artichoke Sun-dried Tomato Dip, a tasty Cheese Board, Duck Confit Spring Rolls and the House-Prepared Beef Jerky. All of the food is very fresh and five-star quality.

Tanner's

Albert doing what he does, looking good and having fun.

The staff is loads of fun. Albert, our bartender, an Irishman from Kildare is a handsome fella with a perma-grin who brings a charm and positivity that is infectious. There were lots of girls and their friends lined up along the bar who seemingly came just to spend time with him.

All in all, the atmosphere was positive and everyone seemed generally excited. But speaking of the atmosphere, what you’ll notice first about Tanner Smith’s is the old-world charm and the new world cleanliness, haha. Along one wall is the classic old NYC brick facade with extra seating and the other is lamp-lit with a clean-lined modern style.

Tanner's 2

Photo by Laura Motta

The lighting is fantastic, especially at night. As a big fan of dark Irish bars, Tanner Smith’s does not disappoint. But there is classic and romantic gas-light styled lighting in remote and centrally located spots everywhere, including a stairwell to a semi-private back room, or what was termed during the early 20th Century, the “rear-room” where thugs used to play cards (Tanner Smith was shot and killed playing cards).

The flooring is old-styled and classic and the booths and seating, as well as the wallpaper brings you back to pre-prohibition times.

The drinks, however, were quite possibly the best part of the experience. Albert concocted for a friend and myself an incredibly tasty and interesting “smoked” cocktail called the “Winona.” Mixing bourbon with orange peel and a few other ingredients, then smoking it in a separate, enclosed bottle and allowing us to pour it into a rocks glass on our own, which had one large round ice-cube in it.

Tanner's 3

The “rear room.” (photo by Laura Motta)

After enjoying the Winona, I had my favorite drink Jameson & Ginger Ale with a lime, then washed the food down with an ale.

The next time you’re visiting New York City, or going on a date or looking for a cool spot before or after a show in the Theatre District, check out Tanner Smith’s. You can thank me later.

Eamon Loingsigh

http://www.tannersmiths.com

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Interview with CLARION

Below is a link to an interview I had with Boston University’s literary magazine, CLARION.

http://www.bu.edu/clarion/18/loingsigh.htm

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Excerpt: Exile on Bridge Street

An excerpt from:
EXILE ON BRIDGE STREET (March 2016)
by Eamon Loingsigh

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scalpeen Memories
or The Death of a Gypsy

January 1917 and the bite is murderous. The whipping wind whistles off the water where under the bridges we bundle, hands covering ears. The sky is as hard-looking as the cement under our feet, and the same color too. Broken only by the Brooklyn Bridge above us, that sky over the city is as mean and thoughtless as some of the men that show hungry on the docks looking for a day’s wage. Same look in the gray eyes of them.

From inside the tenement walls come skirling flue pipes wheezing in the gales2146 new york old days boy preparatory drawing, and glims of light flash through crevices as if the tenements whelmed with many families were out to sea rudderless. Children bunch in front of the coal fire and the pot belly stove, if they have it. In memories, and the bones of our memories where reside the unconscious thoughts and recognitions in the marrow is a feeling where remembrances are signaled when our bellies rattle with the hunger and when the weather attacks the skin. It is a silent song that voices rarely dare to share, and no one cares to disturb the silence of it, for it is no more than a cognizance in our blood. But we all know it as it truly is; the past speaking to us. Coming out in our eyes and our need for fight. We know, even as most stories were withheld us due to the shame of our caste, we know of and are haunted in the mind’s eye of our fathers and our mothers and theirs, the elements hard on our bodies and the hollow yearn for alimentation. Evicted from the land. Evicted from our community and the closeness for which our people so long had found strength.

Remember in us the scalps dug in the onset of winter under some stray hill a few miles from the icy Shannon. And the scalpeens and lean-tos of the shanty emigrants of Jackson Hollow south of the Navy Yard here in Brooklyn. The seasons of cholera and yellow fever that swept through Irishtown from the human cargo dumped on the shoreline, amassed there. And those shoeless and gaunt in Darby’s Patch before Warren street was ever paved and before Dinny Meehan, our leader, had come to it.

Unsaid. Simply known, we work in the wintry conditions and the empty air that strips the body to a barrenness where survival is top of mind. Just how we like it. I am sixteen years of age and with two bailhooks, I dig into the work. Piercing wheat sacks. Picking them up with my back and legs and thrusting them up into a traincar shadowed by the long torso of a transport steamer. Dinny Meehan working right alongside us, watching over us and reminding us that in this work we live. Down here. Below the Anglo ascendency and his laws, forever. Forever reminding us where we come from. Forever living by the underbellies of ships, outside in the weather, with memories remembered only in the distance of our blood.

After a word with Dinny, the pavee fighter Tommy Tuohey heads south alone. A man of any and all weather, Tommy strides down Columbia Street. Down Furman Street where to the right is the shit-green New York Harbor, left and above him is the bluff that separates the Brooklyn waterfront from the old Dutch and English mansions of another time, now divided and subdivided for the peasants and the newly arrived. He walks. Passed the old Penny Bridge on Montague street that now brings the workingmen from the street grade above to the warehouse and pierhouse roofs below to the blacked out area where the ships let off and the gangs that take to their ways there.

Of course, Tommy knows nothing of such histories for he lives only in the weather on his skin. A free man who lives in the love of the company of others and in the contests of will

The piers under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The piers under the Brooklyn Bridge.

and individual struggle, ignorant by nature and by choice of the constructs of the settled people and seeks only work for his next meal and drink and talk. Tommy Tuohey is walking toward his death now, and turns on Imlay Street in the morning air, an emissary for the gang run by Dinny Meehan from Bridge street in old Irishtown, The White Hand. He is going to die, for Bill Lovett and his followers have decided on the dawning of this day to take Red Hook and to strike out on their own.

A late-night drizzle had turned much of the sidewalks to sheets of ice and men walk gingerly with their legs opened, hands on wood fences and brick walls for balance along the two giant masonry buildings owned by the New York Dock Company. Not many of the men in Red Hook own gloves or winter-wear in general and instead stand round donning the same coats they wore at summer, but with long underwear underneath and vest and hat, hopping in place. The breath that come out of their mass gives them the appearance of ranging cattle and heads of beef. Awaiting the line to be called for to pick men to unload, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder patting down their own upper arms like cows swatting away flies dumbly.

Walking through their gaggle, Tommy Tuohey looks up and points at the barge just dragged up off the Imlay bulkhead, “Who dat spakin’ widda captain?”

“Darby Leighton,” says a man Tommy doesn’t recognize.

A tug driver and his son look to Tommy, then turn their backs. The father rushing his son back onboard with a hand under his elbow and quick he is to the throttle and the river.

“Dat right?” Tommy says looking up to Leighton who’d been banished from the gang since 1913.

“Ya scared?” says another man.

“Scared o’ what?”

“Scared? Are ya scared?”

“I’m not scared of a damn thing. Kinda question’s this, ye feckin’ sausage?”

Among the horseshoe shape of longshoremen gathered underneath the ship on the Red Hook docks Bill Lovett turns round, his ears red and splayed off his head, cheeks rosy in RH picthe biting wind. Many others turn toward Tommy Tuohey too as he approaches. Next to Lovett is the teenager Richie Lonergan who leans on his one good leg, the peg of his other is there for balance only.

“Da hell goin’ on here Bill?” Tommy says, the big gray motile sky churning like the current of the bottom of the ocean, swaying the obscure clouds. And moaning like great dinosaurs in the waterway distance are barge horns, and the hoo-hooing of tug whistles mingles with the ca-click, ca-click, ca-click of elevated trains inland. As Tuohey stands over Lovett, the labormen envelop them in the fighter’s circle

Lovett reaches behind him and pulls from the back of his trousers a .45 and puts it on the chest of Lonergan, who looks at the gun in his hand and pulls back the hammer as naturally as a boy and his toy. And from the cold morning comes a sharp clapping blast that would divide the soldiers of the dawn into two factions just as the Anglo above them all had hoped, conquering the natives again. Starving out their communal ways so as to splice their souls and throw their ethnic bonds and ancient codes into a great and inner strife.

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Press Release: Exile on Bridge Street to be Published

I am very happy to announce that a contract has been signed and an agreement struck between myself and Three Rooms Press for the second book in the Auld Irishtown trilogy: Exile on Bridge Street16364_101636159865060_3533431_n

The friendship between author and publisher began with the publication of Light of the Diddicoy in March of 2014. Strong sales and positive reviews helped the two sides to decide to move forward with the second book.

Publication of Exile on Bridge Street is slated for March, 2016 to coincide with the centenary celebrations of Ireland’s Easter Rising. In April of 1916, Irish rebels took control of locations in Dublin. The rebels were executed by British authorities, which inspired a countrywide revolution over the next few years.The Proclamation of Independence, written by rebel leader and poet Padraig Pearse, came to fruition years later.

Light of the Diddicoy took place from October 1915 to April 1916. Exile on Bridge Street takes up where it left off, covering the time frame of April 1916 to February 1919.

Three Rooms PressIn the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods, the story of the teenage Irish immigrant William “Liam” Garrity who was taken in by the waterfront, Irish-American gang known as The White Hand continues.

For me, Three Rooms Press and the Auld Irishtown trilogy is a perfect marriage. I am very proud to be associated with a gritty publisher of Dada Poetry, punk rock memoirs, NYC poets and, of course, historical novels of the Irish in Brooklyn.

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Sitcom from Purgatory

On January 1st of this year, myself and many others were shocked of news that a British television outlet (Channel 4) is funding a sitcom about the “famine in Ireland.” Hugh Great Hunger 1Travers, an Irish writer is behind it, was quoted as describing it, ““we’re kind of thinking of it as Shameless in famine Ireland.” (Showtime’s series called Shameless chronicles the comic tribulations with a family led by a drunken father of six).

I wasn’t planning on writing this topic as I’m deep into writing the second book in the Auld Irishtown trilogy, but the controversy hasn’t gone away. When I heard the writer behind the Irish show Father Ted, Graham Linehan, was supporting the British network’s plans, I tweeted my opinion to him after he tweeted about “the idiots protesting the famine sitcom.”

In response, he tweeted back:

For which I tweeted back again:

Not that the world is concerned about my opinion, but I would like to say just a few words. First off, describing this as a sitcom about a “famine” in Ireland is very quickly offending many people. There was a blight on the potato in Ireland in the 1840s, yes, but there was not a famine on food in general in Ireland. In fact, it is extremely well-chronicled by mainstream writers all over the world that England, who used Ireland as one of its colonies, exported millions of dollars worth of grain, beeves of cattle, ham, oat, provisions and much more during the worst years of what the Irish have come to call The Great Hunger, or An Gorta Mor.

Here is a video of Christy Moore, a famous Irish musician listing off the British exports on the day of September 14, 1847.

It due to this Great Hunger that so many Irish came to port cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other countries such as Canada, Australia and more. Boney, starved, sick from more than a month-long journey in the worst ships in the British empire owned by profiteers that sought to make money from the catastrophe. These horrid vessels became known as Coffin Ships because so many Irish died in the hulls (30% mortality rate) or, being left on the deck to the elements of the sea, died on the way to America and were dumped overboard unceremoniously. Some ships even sunk on the way. Great Hunger 2

Worse off were those that were stuck in Ireland. More than a million having died a very slow and horrifying death due to hunger and related diseases such as yellow fever, cholera and typhus. To add shame on top of these shames, many were evicted, often during the winter and left to die on roadsides alone. Children were the most vulnerable and died in the worst poverty Europe had known in centuries. Drawings of women gaunt and crying for their babies, themselves dying not long afterward. Homeless and despised.

The Acts of Union, forced upon Ireland by the English in 1800, clearly outline that Ireland was part of the British Empire and therefore responsible for the welfare of its people. But the British mercantilists, closely associated with the English Parliamentarians, strictly believed in the economic philosophy of Laissez Faire. Or, most agree, at the very least abused this “hands off” economic approach to the benefit of the landlords and to the detriment of the subjects. Irish tenant-farming peasants renting English-owned lands (within Ireland’s proper border) did not procure the type of profit grazing cattle would, and so the landlords lobbied against helping the starved and dying and got their cattle fields.

Those in power also used God against the peasants in Ireland, stating that the famine was a divine intervention, and sited His Providence as a reason the Irish suffered because of their supposed laziness, feckless nature.

During this time period, the British Parliament made half-hearted attempts to help with schemes such as road building. Though many died working on these roads that didn’t payGreat Hunger 3 enough to feed families in any case. Workhouses were supposed to be places to shelter the evicted and the starved, but instead came to be nothing more than a covered area to die in. There were also the soup kitchens, some of which became famous because of the requirement of the starved and dying to renounce their Catholicism for Britain’s Protestantism in exchange for the soup.

During this time period, some of the more well-off Irish took advantage of the situation and gave food loans out to the desperate and needy at ruinous interest rates. These Irish became known as gombeens and were reviled by the survivors in Ireland for generations.

These are all true stories. Even the English do not deny their truth. And cannot deny it. But still to this day, the Great Hunger is mostly ignored and oftentimes made fun of by some rude and overly-entitled English. It is, without being divisive or polarizing, a horrible chapter in world history as reprehensible as the enslaving of Africans or a Holocaust against Jews. And for the Irish (and even some Americans like myself), it is still as inflammatory.

Can you imagine it? A British television outlet funding a COMEDY about the Great Hunger? Wait though, can you imagine a British television outlet funding a comedy about the Great Hunger WRITTEN BY AN IRISHMAN? There could be nothing more inflammatory than going through with this, unless of course Germany planned to fund a comedy about the Holocaust written by a self-hating Jew. Or if Americans fund a sitcom about slavery, written by an Uncle Tom because writing a comedy about the Great Hunger by a gombeen will cause great and very divisive chaos.

I believe it is my right, and yours too, to voice my opinion about this idea, which I believe  is in very bad taste. I do not feel as though I am restricting someone else’s right to free speech. In fact, I am exercising my right to free speech in speaking out against it. Of course, being a believer in free speech means that if this really, really bad idea does come to fruition, I will allow it without any action against it. Accept for my right to protest it.

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Interview: Portraits of Faith

Here is an interview done back in March on location in Brooklyn. The sit-down part of the interview is at Rocky Sullivan’s bar in Red Hook. The poem about Irishtown is read right in front of the gang’s headquarters at 25 Bridge Street, the old “Dock Loaders’ Club.” Other shots are taken on Plymouth Street in DUMBO where the old freight rails are dug into the rough cobblestone streets and in front of the Empire Stores under the bridges. The last shots are at Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in Williamsburg.

I had a great time doing this interview and special thanks goes out to a lot of people in their efforts in getting this together, but Three Rooms Press had a particularly powerful vision and really succeeded here. Terence Donnellan and his film crew were exceptional, as well Kevin Davitt and many more.

Check it out! The Brooklyn Irish in focus via Light of the Diddicoy.

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