Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thanks, Bill:

I have of late--but wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone allcustom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof frettedwith golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

god as the gin of the heartless

Well, here it is... the abstraction of god I see the most. When someone falls out of societies care and love, that person is told again and again by the self righteous to look to god for love. Sure, pass the buck... smile on the bread line so that those who wont share bread can smile as they sit down in the warmth of their family...

be joyful in your pain so you wont be a pain to me... who rejected you, turned from you, shunned and lied to you... made false promises... used your faith to burrow into you... because it was not I who brought you this pain, it was your lack of faith, I should be able to tear at your soul and it is for your own good, so that you will turn to god... I should be able to push my agenda in his name, god is the best argument in the arsenal of I...

the gin served by the heartless to the hurt.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Who knows

So's yer old man...

or would you rather be a duck...

What ever.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fair Iona

Ah Larry:
I sent you a wee note on your email... not sure you got it. You may have misunderstood me. I am rather, and have always been, distrustful of religion, religion is learned, faith is experienced. Religion is studied in books and taught to you like the lessons quoted to me by folks who are one or another member of a alphabet soup communist party, the most religious folks you meet. No, - faith makes it possible that one might not blow one's brains out when some religious yuppie in a biz suit and a parks department van drives up when you and an old pal have an audience of 12 - 16 folks enthralled by a song about the loss of a trawler you saw go down in your youth...

this yuppie who's religion is protecting the park from spontaneous culture moves you on... moves you on when you are bringing song and news to the people as you have done since the age of nine, and your people have done for thousands of years... as the eight generations of poets in your family you can name, and the line of them running back into the unimaginable past of the Norse sagas before we took Normandy, before we took England and settled in Westmoreland, before we took Ireland, and came here to the new world with songs and stories and... a life now being strangled by the religion of capitol... of rules .... of fear... of youth, of move along... keep religion, I can't use it, I will take faith, the faith of my mother's people, moving on...

I haven't been able to dress in formal plain this week, can't do, it strikes me of religion. I have felt drawn to my old Harris tweed coat, bought when I was 18 from Irish Travellers, old at the time, fished in off the coast of Ireland, worn on Iona, as old now as it was when I bought it, warm to my heart and more like my skin than my skin...

Sing ye o' the Cuillins o'Skye, o'Harris, Dunvegan,
Fair Iona, Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh
Whether I wander east or west,
waking or dreaming, you are near me.
Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh.

Peat and heather, how they call me,
little wee bothan by the hillside,
Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh

Whether I wander east or west,
waking or dreaming, you are near me.
Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh.

Friendly hearts are waiting to greet me,
welcoming arms are there to hold me,
Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh
Whether I wander east or west,
waking or dreaming, you are near me.
Joy of my heart, Eilean Mulligh.

In my youth in Ireland, I was never turned out of a house by a dear friend telling it me it was for my own good, never at a great loss to find a place to busk, treated as a welcome guest if I had a song to sing... life was much more worth living, how can I find words to tell you the deep loving welcomes of Belfast in the seventies with danger and war all around, the loving embrace of song in the mountains of Kerry, the trust between master and aprentice in Maharees... and what .... where is it here today? Don't know... if I find it I will let you know.

Larry dear fellow, that is as positive as it gets, positive fully to my heart and soul, and useless to all but those who stand in the park to hear me sing, and dangerous to the wankers who drive Mary Pat and me out from the margins of society we have always owned... the Normans are on the plain and driving us from the common land again... the frontier is ended... and life as my people know it, nearly dead. What joy...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

No religion at my age... faith... I hope....

I have no religion any more

My dear dear Larry, who spoke to me out of the silence of this lonely blog...
religion is for the young. I have a spiritual path called Quakerism. I once had a religion ... Quakerism, and Marxism, not Communism or Socialism, and both at the same time, as I was also an anarchist... and I knew the difference, because of my religion, Marxism, and I could quote thee the difference. Religion is learned and memorized and catechismized, and quoted back at the tired and sad old grey headed fools such as I now am, by children who are sure of the faith of their religion. I hope the young learn to stop reading and quoting and look inside, but damn, didn't I once, I could quote Connolly and Marx and Molly Stiemer and Fox and Hicks, as they do their lights... quote those who describe light, it is so much more comfortable than looking inside at the darknesses that cause us our greatest fear... the fear of the Me we all can't face.

Religion is for the young zealot. The sadness of faith, the joy of faith, the tears of faith and the uncertainty and loss of faith of faith comes with the sadder wisdom of age. It comes of seeing so many that thee loves die, and seeing thy death, sometimes, lonely death approaching, and knowing that the young don't know, can't know the difference between love and lust, and passion and patience, and fear and caution, and dependence and dependency, and all the subtlety of age which brings tears to the old and disgust to the young... all this... all this I wish we never have to learn.

But learn we do, and we keep on. And today, an old friend and I speak of how we can keep on, wounded as we are, in this cold city full of cold and zealous hearts, who know so much of what we once thought we knew... and this friend and I pledge to try and keep on that road we have been on, two buskers, making our parent's music, in a world where that music is a commodity... a thing to be traded and sold, and performance, when to us... it is what it was, the language of our people's souls...

And we may be beaten down, and I may be reduced to tears, and I may not survive the struggle against my whole world being thrown on the young people's scrap heap of change... to hear dear young hearts tell me, "this is not working for me..." as they deny the effect of the "me generation" that we had a part in creating by challenging old values... and so... well, a dear old heart and I are setting out... on a new voyage.
pray for us.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Becoming old in New York...

Becoming old in New York happens too soon.

Becoming old in New York means knocking on a thousand and one unanswered doors a day
and the thousand and first breaks your heart.

Becoming old in New York means listening to the clock tick 64,801 times a day, and that last second wont stop ringing in your ears.

Becoming old in New York is to have all your careers yanked out from under you, and very few people honest enough to look you in the eye and say, face it ... you're over the hill.

Becoming old in New York is to have your talents no longer worth the heart's blood they cost you.

Becoming old in New York, is to join the parade of old folks wandering on the street looking for something, anything, looking away when your eyes meet and you see the same look that is in your heart.

Becoming old in New York is having nothing of worth and value for anyone, when all around you ... well, you are the once new car, that got traded while new, then traded again with a dent or two, and the rust is showing a bit, and it runs with a certain dependability, but is now sitting on the scrap heap waiting to for the joy of being crushed and melted down...

looking down at the comments on your blog and seeing that you have stopped speaking to any other heart, even your own...

Being old in New York, is not giving up on yourself, but the world giving up on you.

Friday, April 01, 2005


I am sick to death of Anti-Quakism. Let's face it, we are a hated minority.
All this talk about women in combat. Let's get real! We are the ones discriminated against! We get all the sh*t jobs in the army! We peal potatoes (well before that was contracted out to Haliburton)... we carry the wounded off the field... we ... well damn! We don't get to do the fun stuff like drop the bombs and shoot folks! That's the stuff they make movies about!
Then courts! Every one comes in and takes their hats off, but do the Quakers get a break?
Noooooo way Jose! We have to sit there in the stuffy court room and keep our hats on our heads... standing out like a sore thumb! Open to ridicule and scorn. Then it comes time to take an oath, everyone gets to put their hand on the bible, but do they bring us the bible? No! They say, "Ah, hell, it is another one of those Quakers... Look Charlie, do you affirm?"
We don't get included in the pledge of allegiance, or sing the national anthem at ball games... let's stop this discrimination, folks! We want to play too! And when was the last time a Quaker got a belt of wine at a Catholic Mass, everyone has a drink but the Quakers, and well, maybe the Jews, and the Hindus and the... well, I am just sick of it.
And all the Quaker jokes... like, how many Quakers does it take to screw in a light bulb? I don't know, ask the property committee, or, we will sit in the dark and wait for the light, or we will bring that up at the next Biz Meeting, so you should have an answer in about eighteen months... or... ah look, lets just cut the you know what.