Ducky Boys, Shmoozing, and the Irish-Mexican Alliance

Hanging with a Ducky Boys and the Irish-American Writers and Artists again!

Last night, I took advantage of another networking event thanks to the fine folks of the Irish-American Writer and Artists group that I belong to, and had a great time and helped do some good in the world.

If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest fan of networking events – especially ones that do double-time as a benefit, but theres something special about the IAMW&A group where I actually look forward to these events.  See my first interaction with the group in my blog entitled “WIDOMV 2010 – Part 4 – Irish American Writers and Artists

Last night’s event was called the Irish-Mexican Alliance and it was to benefit the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Rather than interpret it, I’ll just grab the description right from the IAMWA website

“A group known as the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has been seeking to draw attention to the issue of journalists in Mexico being murdered, intimidated and forced to seek political asylum in the U.S. for doing their job, i.e. reporting on the Narco War in Mexico (click here to view the incredible CPJ report on the subject).

As an organization devoted to freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of expression for all artist, we at IAW&A wholeheartedly support the efforts of CPJ.

We have formed THE IRISH-MEXICAN ALLIANCE, a group of writers, artists and their supporters, who are in the process of organizing a night of Celtic and Mexican music, Chicano and Irish poetry, etc., all to raise money for CPJ.

Among other things, we are hoping to summon the spirit of the San Patricio Brigade, a group of Irish Americans who fought on behalf of Mexico in the mid-19th Century.”

The organizer and emcee of the event T.J. English – who is on the board of directors of the IAMWA and the author of The Westies and Paddy Whacked.   He’s also a helluva nice guy.

Scheduled to appear last night were Larry Kirwan (a god amongst men – see the previous IAMWA blog for a history of how great Larry has been to me), Ashley Davis (an awesome singer), Pete Hamill (legendary Daily News writer and author), Ruben Blades, Celtic Cross, Joe Hurley’s Rogues and a unnamed Mariachi band direct from Mexico.

I had to get up early for work the next day, and getting home from NYC is a trek, so I bailed a little before 10pm and missed Celtic Cross and Ruben Blades… But I still had a great experience there…

As last nights organizer and emcee, TJ English did a great job – There was a perfect balance of music, speakers, and “quiet mic time” where people in the audience could have conversations without screaming…   I know a lot of events frown on things being quiet EVER, but dammit, I love being able to talk to people at a normal volume…

After some history of the I-M Alliance, the Mariachi band from Mexico went on.   They were really good and looked exactly what I would picture them to look like – They played the traditional (if a little stereotypical) songs that you would expect, but the crowd loved em, so I’m not complaining.

Click here to see my video of them doing the traditional “mouth bottle rockets” song – Once you hear it, you’ll know the song and see why I called it that…  LOL

Afterwards, some more history of the San Patricio Brigade (read about em on Wikipedia here) and then my pal Larry Kirwan went up on stage with singer Ashley Davis for a killer version of The Pogues “Fairytale of New York

Click here for that video:
–When I was leaving to go to the show today, I was debating whether to bring my Flip Video camera.  I am so glad I did, because this song was an unexpected pleasant surprise.   To have one of my favorite singers doing one of my favorite songs was just worth all the hassles of getting to NYC on a weekday night!  Ashley Davis also did a great job as the female part of the duet…

Afterwards, we were treated to a passionate reading of a poem by the Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca.   I wish I had gotten the name of the reciter, but he was awesome at it.   And the poem was wonderful.

Then Daily News legend Pete Hamill got up to speak, and I realized that in addition to being a great writer, he is also a great speaker.   No notes at all, and a very empassioned speech.  The “soundbite” that I took away from this was  (paraphrased because my memory is shot)

“Somebody asked me if there would every be another family like the Kennedy’s in the United States.  I told them absolutely, but their name was going to be Rodriguez or something like that.   They would be a family that came to this country with nothing and achieve everything”

It made a lot of sense to me on a personal note – Whenever some old ex-Bronxites get to talking about the neighborhood, it always comes back to “will the Bronx ever be nice again?”   I have always told people that it may become safer to live in, but the faces in the neighborhood will not be the Irish (or Italian or Jewish) ones we remember from our youth.

When I interviewed Bronx Historian Lloyd Ultan for my book  (Lost Boys of the Bronx – The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang if you haven’t heard LOL), we discussed that the Bronx was like a starter house for immigrants  – Its cheap, sometimes too crowded, and you can get experience with housing there, but the minute you can afford a nicer place in the suburbs, you get the hell out of Dodge and let the next wave of incoming immigrants replace you…   (Ok, most of that is my analogy – but Professor Ultan didn’t argue it)

Ok, back to the Irish-Mexican alliance event…

After Mr Hamill gave his impressive speech, we grabbed him for some pictures (see below)…  One with Ducky Boy Kevin Byrne and one with me and Mike Farragher.   Mike,  as you may have read in the previous IAMWA blog, is the guy I stood next to for an hour without either of us recognizing the other, even though we had dealt with each other prior during the startup of an Irish-American social networking website.   Mike and I had a lot to talk about last night as he is about to publish his book “This Is Your Brain On Shamrocks” in February 2011.   I can’t wait to read it as it is a bunch of stories about growing up Irish)

Also had a chance to talk to TJ English a bit.  I introduced him to Ducky Kevin and they seemed to get along pretty well being that Kevin has done a lot of work in the Javitz Center where the Westies had a stronghold years ago.   I also got my copy of The Westies book signed by TJ, and got another picture with him –this time with the wondeful Ashley Davis.

The next band Joe Hurley and the Rogues started up, and they were pretty good, but it was getting late, so Kevin and I decided to call it a night…  My pal Kevin gave me a ride back to my car in Weehawken, NJ (which I appreciate immensely)  and I was home by 11pm…

Overall a great time – Met some new friends and was able to catch up with some old ones… I can’t wait for the next IAMW&A get-together…  A few more of these, and I may know everybody in the room!

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