Books by Michael Cassidy
More Almost True Irish Stories
Although rarely mentioning Murphy by name, this sequel to The Longfellah’s Son: An Almost True Irish Story, mainly focuses on the author’s life after leaving Ireland. Stories are written in various locations around the world where the author has lived. They include New York, San Francisco, Costa Rica, Ireland, and the Philippines.
But the book opens with a non-Murphy related chapter called Love Story. Two individuals, Nora and Mario are outcasts in society since birth. Nora leaves the orphanage in Ireland to live in San Francisco where she meets Mario, a paraplegic, who is destined to live out the remainder of his life needing constant care. They take refuge in each others’ beauty before life, yet again, cruelly cheats them.
Most of the other stories reintroduce you to Murphy but under different names such as Brian, Scobie, Liam, Eddie, Cormack and He.
There’s a one-page story called Class Reunion when Murphy receives and declines an invitation to return to Ireland.
In another one page story, you will sense Murphy’s bitterness at the loss of his close friend Steve who is prematurely cut down by cancer.
Rockbottom describes a low point in Murphy’s already destructive life.
Like all active junkies and alcoholics, he sacrifices everything precious. He casually throws away the love of a special woman, now pregnant with his child, to slavishly follow his addictions.
Liam, yet again, “falls in love” with a prostitute in Costa Rica with inevitable consequences.
Scobie is equally ridiculous with a scammer in Cebu Philippines. Only the final paragraph in this story is untrue.
“AND THEN……” shows Murphy alive and willingly involved in a loving relationship. This time he’s living in Asia.
END Shows Murphy finally returning to Ireland for good or perhaps for bad.
This book provides disturbing insights into much of Murphy’s adult life. He’s clearly a flawed character who has always struggled living life within societal boundaries. With “And Then….” he finally seems to have redeemed himself, but will he ever be capable of surviving his demons? You will find the answer in the final chapter.
More Almost True Irish Stories will be released in December 2019.
“Never bring a nigger in here again! But yer always welcome.” The bartender in the Blarney Stone on 53rd Avenue in Manhattan roared before immediately changing from anger to warmth. A broad, warm smile broke out across a face that had the map of Ireland written all over it. “Gerry Ryan from Cork. An yerself?” A startled Brian mumbled “Limerick” as his hand disappeared into the enormous one the man had extended. Brian hastily picked up the drinks then pushed his way through the bar packed with patrons struggling to be heard above a band blasting Irish rebel music so loud it could be heard in Brooklyn. The taxi driver who’d brought him from JFK airport heartily gulped down the Guinness and smiled gratefully. The woman Brian had picked up in Ireland, who was indirectly responsible for his sudden arrival in New York, also smiled and anticipated some much needed sexual pleasure from her young buck.
This was Brian’s introduction to America, to what would prove to be a life diametrically opposite to anything he could have imagined. He didn’t know it, but Manhattan was experiencing its most violent crime wave in decades. It was a dangerous time to live there, but that wouldn’t have mattered. At twenty four, he was immortal, impervious to all danger.
Several hours before – but a lifetime away – he’d left full of drink, on a transatlantic flight from a rain-soaked Shannon airport. Soon after takeoff he’d fallen into a deep sleep. It was only after being prodded awake that he realised with shock what he’d done. The woman sitting beside him – in her mid-forties with double chin – with a beaming smile was vaguely familiar. She’d looked significantly more alluring and fifteen years younger when he’d met her at Durty Nellie’s pub. He vaguely remembered feeling tremendous affection for her inviting, bountiful breasts, then enthusiastically claiming he’d love to “Admire her beauty while drinking in Manhattan” only for her to respond, “Then do it!” She had provocatively squeezed his balls in the dimly lit bar. Being young and with more balls than sense, his manhood insisted her challenge be accepted. Two hours later he’d collected his passport from home, making sure his multiple entry visa for America was in it, gone to his restaurant, and emptied out the till despite the angry protests of his employees. He entered the Shannon airport, his American mama clinging to him, and enthusiastically bought a one-way ticket for New York.
He’d no idea what her name was. Apparently a travel agent – she’d reserved accommodation for them at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, wherever that was. Walking into the magnificent lobby, Brian recognised people he’d seen on television and in films quietly drinking in the tearoom. In the elevator heading to the twelfth floor, the woman impatiently kissed and fondled him. But Brian wanted to experience some nightlife before banging her. He’d been transported to another level of consciousness. The sounds, the different voices, the way people dressed – so many colours, shapes and sizes. The enormous cheeseburger he’d been given by the friendly Cork bartender was symbolic of the contrast. The gigantic buildings riding high beyond the sky, the nonstop honking of endless queues of yellow taxis on every street, the constant noise, the multifaceted music on the jukebox box with sounds he’d never heard – all of it filled him with uncontainable excitement. An unfathomable energy rose up in him. A freedom he’d never before experienced exploded and lost him forever to Ireland. He pummelled his chest and roared. He marvelled in delight when his behaviour caused zero reaction from the teeming millions pushing against him on Fifth Avenue. He then burst into raucous laughter and grabbed her hand, dragging her unwillingly into a nearly bar. Later, much later, after visiting several more bars, he finally brought his, by now, seething companion back to the hotel. But there he gave her what she needed. After hours of responding to her constant demands, daylight slowly arrived. Exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep. With his lust well spent and the buzz from booze gone, post-coital depression settled on Brian. Looking at her flabby, naked body, he felt disgusted and desperately in need of a mood changer. The mini bar provided a temporary solution. After emptying the liquor contents, he resorted to the ditchwater called Budweiser beer.
All too soon, the beast in the bed stirred and demanded more attention. Fortunately, by late afternoon, she left to return to her husband in Fairfield, Iowa. Brian was embarrassed by her tearful, suffocating farewell embrace that suggested they’d been long-time lovers being torn apart by life’s inequity. But he was pleased by the hundred-dollar bill she’d left for him on the table and her confirmation that the room was fully paid until check-out time the next day.
He passed a few welcome hours watching outrageously stupid TV shows where people either dressed up idiotically or had to answer simple questions they still somehow managed to answer incorrectly. He was astonished at the celebrity shows with canned laughter, people perhaps dead for years, laughing at jokes they’d never heard. He couldn’t suppress laughter while watching ageing male hosts and their pretty, young assistants who turned numbers and letters while being paid millions every year to do so. And the prizes were mind blowing – luxurious cars, holidays to exotic places with thousands of dollars spending money just for answering stupid questions or guessing the price of a hair dryer or a washing machine. You only had to guess the approximate price. Was everybody an idiot in America? If he stayed, he’d surely make a fortune!
After a lengthy shower alternating between piercing hot and icy cold, he headed out into the night. He knew nobody and was clueless about which part of Manhattan he was in. That was part of the magical sensation! Instead of everyone knowing what he’d done before he’d thought of doing it, here he was completely free. Nobody knew him or gave a tinker’s damn what he did. He moved through the crowds with a lightness he’d never felt before. Not wanting to be impolite, he repeatedly said hello to everybody. It was only after a half hour of receiving either blank stares or ‘Fuck Offs’ that he realised he was a ghost.
The size of the office buildings was staggering. Not only were they wide, they effortlessly climbed into the sky well above the clouds. His neck ached as he got lost in the sight of the buildings competing for ascendancy in the sky. But soon he felt overcome by the heat and a humidity he didn’t understand. Sanctuary was found inside one of the never-ending stream of bars that lined the streets.
The one he now entered was not well lit and had loud music. He decided to have a couple, and then head somewhere quieter. He’d barely sat down and was downing his second beer when he was shocked into disbelief. He thought he was looking at someone’s arse barely inches from his face! His consternation was increased by a voice saying, “Hi baby, you like it?” Brian managed not to vomit. Her arse resembled a combination of wobbly jelly mixed with jagged moon craters. If she farted he’d puke. He noticed dollar bills sticking out of her arse. In an effort to be polite, he shoved a couple in, quickly finished his beer and then hastily left the bar.
In an effort to stabilise his discomfort and get a much-needed buzz going, he switched to drinks called screwdrivers – vodka and orange juice. A variety of thoughts entered and left his head, but one that wouldn’t leave was the restaurant. He knew he wasn’t going back to Ireland, so he’d have to do something about it. One day in Manhattan had made returning to live in Limerick impossible. After several more screwdrivers, he called his manager and told him to either sell the restaurant as a going concern or close it down. He wasn’t coming back. Ireland had disappeared from his rear-view mirror.
He booked into an inexpensive hotel for a week then went out looking for adventure. Raw energy pounded through his body. He was absorbing the energy that pulsated throughout Manhattan. The intense heat from the sidewalks fuelled him. He was absorbed by the sights and sounds, the different accents – and everybody so well dressed and apparently confident, busy, going somewhere on important business. And the women! Merciful hour, millions of elegant multi-coloured women! All he needed was a few dozen.
The screwdrivers weren’t working enough. After downing many, but getting only a marginal buzz, he switched to a drink called the Long Island Iced Tea. They had so much alcohol in them, they had to work – and they did! He decided to order food, but apart from a cheeseburger and chips, he didn’t recognise any of the myriad choices available. On several occasions, he was shouted for taking so long to decide. Taking a break from the bars, he wandered into Macy’s before they closed and strolled around in a leisurely fashion. He felt a sharp knock on the back of his leg. Turning around, he was faced by an old lady roaring at him while pointing a stick. “Hurry up. Damn you. So slow.” He burst out laughter at the absurdity. What was she in a hurry for – with death soon to come calling? Outraged by his reaction, she tried to beat him over his head. Brian laughed even more. Fortunately, a security guard intervened to protect him from the old woman’s wrath before he quickly moved away and out of Macy’s.
Two of the lads, one with wife in tow, were due to arrive soon from Limerick. He could hardly wait to tell them about the madness. He’d show them around his city. They’d arranged to meet at the Green Derby on 52nd Avenue that Friday evening. There barely a week, Brian had been transformed. The freedom, the excitement, the pulsing energy, the colour and rhythm of the city, the welcomed anonymity, the callous disregard for convention, the constant unknown and so many new experiences filled him with joy. He’d never return to Ireland and face the sameness, the inevitable certainty of every boring day before finally waking up about to die and wondering what the wider world was like. Fuck that!
Nobody turned up at the Green Derby that Friday. Unconcerned, Brian left a message with the barman and headed out on a pub-crawl. Early dawn was slowly breaking when he found himself wandering aimlessly in a rough looking area. Black girls were everywhere, dressed for business. One took him into a flophouse. “Name?” Asked the receptionist. “Give a name honey “Mr and Mrs Ryan.” Oh, if only his mother could see him now! The hooker knew she had an immature kid and finished him off in a few minutes. She generously advised him to get a cab back uptown before he got killed. It was only then that he realised he was the only white person anywhere in Harlem. The bemused, black cab driver shook his head while asking him was he fuckin’ crazy, and then quickly driving him to relative safety. Manhattan had over six thousand homicides in nineteen-seventy-four. On that and subsequent mornings, Brian was fortunate not to have become another statistic.
The Limerick contingent finally arrived and so began an adventurous summer Brian would fondly remember for the rest of his life. Edi and Johnny had a similar reaction to Brian’s. They had stepped into a unique life experience. Nothing could have prepared them for the madness and the fun they were experiencing. An endless procession of choices was offered up to them. Anna, who was Johnny’s young wife, was less thrilled. The twenty-four-hour cycle stretched into days before they lost all sense of time. They rambled from bar to bar, then stumbled into a variety of clubs offering all kinds of depravity. It was impossible for these unsophisticated boys from Limerick not to be consumed by the cornucopia of goodies on offer. By then, Anna had quite understandably decided to end the nonsense and insisted she and her new husband separate from the boys.
Brian and Edi took turns finding a girl with an apartment where they could crash. The stay usually only lasted a week at most before the girl wised up to the fact that she was being used by the increasingly less charming Irish boys who were drunks and party animals. They intuitively always knew when the game was up. Then it was time to find a new girl. Fortunately – or unfortunately – it was all too easy.
Johnny became a millionaire one night when they were drinking in the Green Derby while Abba sang Waterloo on the jukebox. A call came through from Ireland telling him his favourite aunt had left him a bar, a restaurant and valuable land with lush pastures in county Meath. This resulted in the lads and Anna going on an all-mighty piss up that lasted several days. Shortly after, Johnny and Anna returned to Ireland to take care of Johnny’s new business interests. Brian would never again see them. At far too young an age, Johnny would die from cancer, while Anna’s young children would see their mother’s eyes bulging out of their sockets as she swayed from a rope in their luxurious country home.
It soon became Edi’s turn to find a place to crash. He did well. Rifka was a Jewish beauty who had no problem with Edi and Brian crashing at the place she shared with another girl. After two days, Brian moved in but had to pay rent. Apart from occasionally being with Edi, Rifka was also having a torrid affair with an Italian who was connected to organised crime. “If his family eva found out about us, it would be lights out fe us both.” Within a year, Rifka mysteriously died in a skiing accident in the Catskills.
They were not joking when they said New York was a city that never sleeps. After the bars closed, there was always an afterhours place to party or clubs to play in. If he wanted to remain close to home, Brian only had to go upstairs to an apartment where all kinds of everything happened. The apartment was run by a monk-like Japanese man in his thirties and his exotic Caribbean girlfriend with flowing dreadlocks, legs that went on for miles and breasts that, with a casual flick, could knock a man unconscious. Brian instantly fell in lust, but never got a sniff of her treasure.
Just being present in that environment was sufficient to get Brian high. It resembled a United Nations event, with people from many countries and cultures packed into every room. Brian, who until his recent arrival in New York had only seen one non-white person, was now moving among a colourful rainbow of exoticism he found precious. Their accents, bodies, smells and laughter all combined to heighten the intrigue.
It was in that room he was introduced to the powder and the pipe. A mountainous Caribbean man offered him a try. Fer free Mon! Brian watched passively as the man used a card to separate lines of powder beside which lay a pipe with what seemed like jagged little pieces at the bottom. He rolled up a fifty-dollar bill, and then handed it to Brian who looked blankly back at him. Laughing, the man put his head down and snorted enthusiastically on two of the lines of powder before shouting “Of Fuck!” that went almost unheard in the Reggae beat that was bouncing off the walls. He beamed a welcoming smile to Brian and motioned for him to sample the joy. Seconds later Brian was transported to yet another place he’s never experienced. He was floating, oblivious to everybody, sensing a perfect mind- and body-altering euphoria as energy moved through his body. He didn’t argue with what moments before would have been an outrageous price when the man handed him a sachet with the magic power inside. But that was just the beginning! Next came weed, but that had little initial effect on him. The same could not be said when the bowl was lit and he was deeply inhaling the crystals. The black man told a girl to be nice to de white bhoy frum Irelande, lit another pipe for the new couple, took his money, and went on to work others in the crowd.
“Ya got a place sugga?”
Fortunately, they only had to go up one flight to Rifka’s place. Although it was five in the morning, nobody had yet come home. Brian was surprised when his new girl insisted on him paying her fifty dollars before their romancing began. But after it began, all reservations were forgotten. His first black girl was incredible. Perhaps novelty was a factor, but it was undoubtedly the hard drugs that created the intense, continuous sexual frenzy. They finished the power and then he rested a few minutes while the girl, whatever her name was, went downstairs for more sachets. Eighteen hours, seven hundred dollars, and several indescribable orgasms later, she finally left. Brian lay in a stupor, close to semi consciousness, wanting to crawl downstairs for more, but too exhausted to move. Although dehydrated and badly needing water, he was incapable of making it the short distance to the fridge.
He began to come down. It was as unpleasant as the up had been delightful. He needed more stuff to get back up. He began to feel afraid, and then he was terrified. What the fuck had happened? He loved his booze but it was a hopelessly slow and boring delivery system compared to what he’d just experienced. Excited about his next trip, he finally crashed into a disturbing sleep full of dark images and sounds he heard himself making. Oblivious to the mixed sounds of others coming and going from the apartment, he finally woke up fifteen hours later.
After three months, Edi decided he’d had enough of New York. It was too crazy even for him. Money wasn’t the issue. Although Edi wasn’t working, Brian earned plenty to support them both. The catalyst for Edi leaving was twofold. First, one night while drunk, he’d been riding back and forth on the underground in a deep sleep. He woke feeling pressure on his leg. Sneaking a peep, he was horrified to see a big, black man using a knife to cut open Edi’s front pants pocket where his wallet was stupidly in sight. He’d been warned always to carry serious money in his socks but also to have twenty dollars to hand over if robbed at gunpoint. Fortunately, he remained still, with his eyes closed, hoping his balls wouldn’t get cut off.
Next was his falling into Brian’s arms at the apartment door after being carried up the stairs by a generous black taxi driver. Edi had no clue what had happened, or where he’d been. His face was cup up, his body badly beaten. It took him three weeks lying motionless in bed before he was able to move. During his convalescence, he decided to get the hell out of Manhattan.
Brian decided to stay. His heart was heavy saying goodbye to Edi – and with good reason. The next time he’d see his beloved childhood friend would be at Edi’s funeral. Of the four young people who had come from Ireland to Manhattan during that wild summer of nineteen-seventy-four, only Brian would be alive twenty years later.
He was now on his own now in the teeming jungle – and he was comfortable with that. It was a pattern he’d repeat throughout his life. He knew when travelling alone and reaching a fork in the road, choosing which direction to go was effortless. But if he was with someone else, it became complicated. His only concern was that the money from the restaurant sale was quickly vanishing. He’d have to find a solution fast – either a rich woman with a fondness for Irishmen or a job – but it had better be soon. He had no intention of returning to Ireland.
The sign outside the bar on 72nd Avenue on the East Side said Molly Malone’s. Inside he was served a beer by a stocky Irishman from Croom. It turned out that Edi O’Connell knew of Brian’s father and had, in fact, made a substantial amount of money from shares in the publicly traded company his father ran. When Brian mentioned he needed a job, Eddie told him to call him in a few days and he might have something. And, fair play to him, he did. Down to his last fifty dollars, Brian suddenly found himself working at Molly’s and earning a hundred dollars from tips every night, plus wages and free meals. He also met fun American girls who just loved his Irish accent and hot young body. He moved into a small but comfortable sublet. All was going so well.
Inexplicably, despite life being good, four months later he woke with the usual hangover, coming down from a high. He looked at the ceiling and impulsively decided he was going to leave Manhattan. This continued a lifetime of impetuous and sudden changes. He never understood where the impulses came from, but they always demanded immediate action. Where would he go? He’d recently met Johnny Ryan, a Limerick man visiting from Toronto, who extolled the virtues of Canada and offered to let Brian stay in one of his properties if he moved there. He also had an invitation from an affable Irish American to move to New Orleans and work in his bar down there.
Pondering his options while sitting alone in the bar adjacent to his pad, he decided to let fate decide. He tossed a coin along the sawdust-covered floor. The only other person there was the barman. “If it comes up heads, I’m going to Toronto. If tails, New Orleans.” The barman looked blankly as they watched the coin slow and then stop. He walked over and picked it up. “So, where am I going?” “Toronto.” Not bothering to hand in his notice at Molly’s, three hours later he was on a Greyhound coach travelling north to Buffalo then on to Toronto.
At Buffalo, the bus was boarded by US immigration police. Brian had thrown away his entry paperwork for America, and this did not amuse the officers who had pulled him aside for inspection. Neither his hippyish shoulder-length hair nor his confrontational manner helped.
He explained the bruises from the beating to the immigration people on the Ontario side. Inexplicably, despite having no papers for entry into Canada, they allowed him entry. He was looking forward to meeting Johnny Ryan, getting a much-needed clean-up and then deep rest. But Johnny never showed up where they had agreed to meet, and the phone number he’d given Brian had been disconnected.
With only fifty dollars and no job, he couldn’t afford a hotel, so he slept that first night on a park bench, almost freezing to death. Early the next morning, after drinking several cups of scalding hot coffee, he went out looking for work. By dusk he had three part-time jobs – one as a janitor, another as a security guard, and a third as a waiter in an Irish bar.
He began at Fiddler’s Green that same night and made more tips than anyone else. After work, he ate the most wonderful meal of his life, and then booked into a comfortable hotel. After sinking into a steamy hot foamy bath, he went to bed. Then, with a smile on his face, he fell into a deep, contented sleep.