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War clouds loom as 2020 opens

Outgoing Salon Producer John Kearns accepted a gift of thanks from Salon founder Malachy McCourt. See Karen Daly's report on the pre-Christmas Salon below. PHOTOS BY DAN BROWN AND JAY WANCZYK

By Maureen Hossbacher

The piano stylings of Matthew Paris welcomed a capacity turnout as they gathered at the Thalia Studio, for the first Salon of 2020, curated and hosted by Brendan Costello.

In the wake of U.S. drones and Iranian missiles, longtime member, Tom Mahon, presciently tapping into the anti-war undercurrent in the room, led off with his story “New Highways,” about two Vietnam vets spending Veterans Day together. The narrator’s attempt to connect with his friend and their shared experience is thwarted by the other’s obsession with his phone, a dating app, and the myriad women responding to his profile.

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Fresh from his trip home to County Cavan, singer, songwriter and saucier John Munnelly, accompanying himself on the ukulele (easier to take on a plane than his guitar), started with a ditty tentatively titled, "Don’t Teach a Pig to Sing." That was followed by two more original pieces, “Julius Caesar” and “Brooklyn.” As usual, John had a supply of his Hattwood Hot Sauce on hand. Fans of both his music and the sauce should check out LaughJohnLaugh.com, and Hattwood Hot Sauce on Facebook.

Miranda Stinson presented two short essays,” The Cat” and “The Bee.” The first was a poignant story of love and loss; the second, a beautifully paired piece about leaving pain behind.

Actor/writer Alan Gary read the opening and closing sections of his forthcoming book “Brooklyn Dreams: Alan Gary’s Memoirs and more about . . . Me, Myself and Pie!” Additionally, he shared a piece, included in the book, about a childhood lesson in kindness when he was a shy kid going to school in Brooklyn.

John Munnelly, the singer, songwriter and saucier from County Cavan, sung about Julius Caesar and some topics not related to ancient history.

Satirist and folk musician Mike Glick once again brought his original songs and deft guitar picking to the Salon, favoring us first with “We Poor Are Strong,” set to a poem by southern poet Don West, author of “Clods of Southern Earth.” Mike’s second song was his own "Let's Build A Wall Around Jesus" -- a brilliant satirical jibe at white Evangelicals -- poking fun at their anti-immigrant politics. His new CD, “Alternative Facts & Other White Lies” is due out next month.

Miranda Stinton read a couple stories -- one on love and love, the other on leaving pain behind.

If you’re at liberty and seeking a unique enterprise to upgrade your economic status, you can check out Suzanne Gannon’s satirical essay "Vaga-Luxing: A Franchise Opportunity for the New Economy," published in October in “Fleas on the Dog.” A New York journalist whose work appears in a plethora of newspapers and lifestyle mags, Gannon covers food, wine, travel, culture and “everything else inconsequential to real life.” On the contrary, the topic of the comical essay she read this evening was both consequential and relatable, judging by the audience’s merry response to “The Tooth.”

Special guest, Iranian-born Dr. Maryam Alikhani, read several poems that took us to her hometown of Tehran and showed us its mountains, highways, alleys, squares, parks, bookshops, and schools. She showed us the peaceful and resilient people of Iran who value art, culture, and education. She reminded us of the biological and cultural significance of trees and the importance of preserving them. She ended with a light-hearted ode to “Ghormeh Sabzi,” a stew nationally loved by Iranian people. Professor Alikhani’s poems were pertinent, moving, and well-received. They carried the central message of empathy, compassion, and love.

Maryam Alikhani read “Ghormeh Sabzi,” a light-hearted ode to a popular Iranian stew.

The proverbial pin could be heard to drop, as Ian McCourt, grandson of IAW&A founder Malachy McCourt, captivated the crowd with two of his original songs, “Lullaby of Complaints” and “Been There.”

Gordon Gilbert, West Village writer, monologist and affable host of spoken-word events around the City, tonight assumed the character of an angry elder who, after a fall, finds himself in the predicament of losing his independence, his domicile and his bearings. Gilbert’s affecting performance obviously raised the consciousness of many listeners regarding the plight of elders caught up in a dysfunctional system.

Malachy McCourt brought the Salon to a close with a few thought-provoking words about cowardice, fear and war -- and the song, “Mrs. McGrath,” the final verse eloquent in its simplicity and truth: "All foreign wars I do proclaim/ Live on blood and a mother's pain/ I'd rather have my son as he used to be/ Than the King of America/And his whole Navy!”

Professor Alikhani summed up the event: “I am positive that art and literature can transform us and change us for the better, so then we will change the world and make it a better place. We held a night of poetry for peace and compassion amidst all the war rhetoric. It is a small step but can go a long way.”

Christmas gifts for service to IAW&A

In the final Salon of the 2019, writes Karen Daly, we had more Christmas celebrating, and marked two significant events for IAW&A: President Mary Pat Kelly and Salon Producer John Kearns’s ending their tenures on the Board. We celebrated them with tributes and gifts, and sincere appreciation for their roles in the success and growth of our organization and of our Salons.

To Mary Pat and John — Mílle Buíochas!

Outgoing President Mary Pat Kelly accepting gifts of appreciation from Karen Daly and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy.

As for Christmas celebrating, the wonderful Kristine Louis sang the tender love song “If You Could See Him Fly” from Mark William Butler’s “Ugly Christmas Sweater; The Musical” — now an IAW&A Christmas tradition; Charismatic performer Derek Dempsey sang his own composition "Every Christmas" and the Pogues’ song, “Fairytale Of New York”; Singer, writer and actor Guenevere Donohoe paid stunning tribute to the Winter Solstice; Jazz saxophonist Jon Gordon offered a beautiful rendition of “Winter Wonderland” as well as improvising with other artists.

William Leo Coakley’s poem celebrated our chief “Ringer of Joy” — Malachy McCourt.

Mark William Butler wearing his Christmas sweater, aka Christmas jumper.

Keeping it in the season, and bringing some mischief, a scene from Dublin playwright Derek Murphy’s “A Very Irish Killing” was set on Christmas Eve. As the murderous O’Brien sisters hire a professional killer to knock their father off. Shae D’lyn produced and directed three fine actors Sarah Street, Aimee O’Sullivan and Tom O’Keefe.

Among the literary offering, novelist Remy Roussetzki shared a piece of memoir, “The Drifter, about his good luck in finding an apartment on Riverside Drive. Larry Kirwan read from his novel in progress, about a NYPD family in the Rockaways who lost a son on 9/11 and performed a capella “Jesus Was A Working Man.”

Singer-songwriter Derek Dempsey joined forces with jazz saxophonist Jon Gilbert.

Poet and translator David McLoghlin read from his two collections, “Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems” and “Santiago Sketches” (Salmon Poetry). They included “Euclid Avenue,” inspired by an old map of the subway system and another portraying an aged woman, “wearing her beauty like dried flowers.”

Next up: the Salon on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Thalia Studio at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway (at 95th Street), New York City, at 7 p.m., and that on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the Cell Theatre, 338 West 23rd St, New York, NY 10011 (between 8th-9th Aves.), also at 7 p.m.

Happy 2020!