US Tour Summer 2009 – The Firth, The 4th

NB.  I’ve had some previously unpublished blogs from the US tour this summer that I’ve decided to release into the wild. They’ll be appearing here over the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy!

We spend the 4th of July in New York staying with the wild and wonderful Alfonso Velez, sleeping above the polished wooden floor of a dance studio.

Mick, Kevin and I politely crash a rooftop party being held by the friend of a friend (of a friend?).  We have a gorgeous view of the city, only obscured for a while by what we assume is a house fire nearby.  (We hope no-one was hurt – we couldn’t find anything in the papers about it.)  The fireworks are fantastic, but leave me unsatisfied as ever.  We start to talk about that peculiar, deadly fascination that humans have with blowing things up.  As far as I know, we’re the only species that actually cheer when a firework explodes, or grin maniacally when a condemned building is razed to the ground.  Ultimately, it’s an insatiable hunger – and if it wasn’t, perhaps gunpowder and wars wouldn’t quite have had the same impact on our world.  What would they call the prize named in Alfred Nobel’s honour?

We met our friends down on Houston (the wide line dividing NoHo from SoHo) and make our way over to Brooklyn wise-cracking our way through first-meeting anxieties.  Alisha and Shonda, our guides, show us a good night.  Even when some of the more demented interlopers shout intensely at us, “HEY! MAAAN!  Do you wanna have a GOOD TIME?”, we can honestly point out that we’re already “having the craic”, and certainly don’t want whatever they’re having, because it’s clearly not working out too well for them.

Eventually the fireworks halt, party fizzles, and the sunset’s no longer painting in the bold brushstrokes of earlier.  We set out for the Scratcher, which is not very like us.  No.  Not at all.  Every man Jack of us are four shades of Wednesday.  Gee-eyed.  Scuttered.  Pisshed.  Somehow we manage to take some of the best photos of the tour.  Admittedly they were with Alisha’s camera, but still!  Mick takes a portrait of me which is THE photo of the tour in my opinion.  Challenging Kev’s portrait in Portland – which is fantastic… but Mick’s wins out for the beauty and improbability of it – he was drunk after all.  Kev’s is more voyeuristic – more a photo for the Life magazine spread.  Unveiling the stress and struggle of a long tour.

The only celebration we have to rival Independence Day is St Patrick’s Day, the 17th March every year.  Our own Independence Day is not marked, although they do mark the passing of 1916.  It’s not a carnival atmosphere though.  It’s sombre as Hell’s reception.  Like the WWI war that it tried to benefit from, the over-riding feeling is one of loss.  Horrible loss; of family, brethren and leaders who might have achieved so much.  They called WWI, “The Great War for Civilisation”, believing it to be the war that would put a stop to all wars.  Yet here we are, fast approaching a century later, still trying to control Iraq and Afghanistan in much the same way as the armies failed to in the 1920s campaigns.  I don’t know how many veterans of the trench there are alive now.  The last British survivor died at the weekend.  It makes me want to write vicious rants about our nations’ ignorance of history, avoidance of lessons, and our failure to learn from the past.  But who’s listening?

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