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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

New York – Exciting gateway to the northern USA

There is an old Italian adage that says – ‘Vedi Napoli e poi muori’ - “See Naples and die”, and having been to that exciting, edgy, food riot of a city on two memorable occasions I can understand the underlying message, which basically implies that once you have been to Naples you have seen and experienced everything that life has to offer. There can be nothing more. All your senses (including the sixth one) have been satiated.
Well, I drove a car and then on a separate occasion a big white van containing a film crew across Naples and I believe the experience will stay with me, even beyond the grave. If you don’t show your balls (as in cojones – courage) when driving in Naples you will be cut up and cut off and never get to where you want to go. You see a gap and you go for it like all the rest; even if that gap is on the tramlines. If you hesitate, kind of half go for the gap, in the nanoseconds and millimetres that separate all traffic, you get the finger, the flick under the neck and a cacophony of horns and mothers. Readers who want to see this in the flesh, as it were, should check out various YouTube sites. This for instance –
which gives fantastic examples of overtaking on the inside “slow” lane of a dual carriageway as most Naples drivers could not be bothered waiting their turn to get into the fast lane, preferring instead that imaginary middle lane in their heads. But then, there are other kinds of white knuckle rides and we’ll come to that subject shortly.

Yes, Napoli is a great place to visit but, as someone who has been lucky enough to travel across the world and see many things, my vote for must see before you die destination goes to the Big Apple – New York. My dear readers, I speak not in jest, drop all your other general travel plans and make arrangements to go to New York as soon as you can. It is true that this essential trip in your history of travel, should probably not be made in the middle of the summer when the crowds, the constant stifling heat, the barbecue haze coming off the sidewalk, the hot rush of yellow taxis, the sweltering wait for a subway train, the night humidity – where the steam is literally rising from the pavements and roads, the fact that the heat in no way disappears at any time of day, rain or shine, that it is there 24-7, all make for some discomfort. However, if you have to leave Ireland or anywhere else, New York is the must go place and not to have seen New York before your earthly demise is nothing short of a sin.

My loyal blog followers will be aware that I recently won an award at a New York film festival and I duly went to New York to pick up the prize last month (at the end of June 2008). I was particularly proud of this award as it was given specifically to me as a film director and to acknowledge my directing skills rather than for the film itself. The award was for best international director of a documentary (in my case a drama documentary). Of course, the film in question – Imeacht na nIarlaí (The Flight of the Earls) - received great praise and in my award speech I made a point of lauding the production crew and cast – in particular the producer Blaithín ni Cathain and the lead actor Stephen Rea, as well as the Grianghrafadóir (Photographer) Ronan Fox, who is the best cameraman working in Ireland today, and the designer Maree Kearns. It was nonetheless gratifying to be hailed by my peers in New York solely for my vision and creativity as a director. All human beings, and in particular creative human beings, are in need of praise and thanksgiving. I have also previously made the point that Imeacht na nIarlaí had not received the praise it deserved in Ireland. See my article below on this blog site and check out the award website-

So, yes, I was in the Big Apple in the middle of the summer and yes I found it hard to sleep because of the heat and the fact that I was still on Irish time but so what! New York was magnificent and by the time I have I have finished this article you will indeed be furiously changing next year’s travel plans if you are lucky enough to be able to go away.
I landed at JFK airport in the early evening but by the time I had been twice fingerprinted and gone through the grilling as to why on earth I would want to be in the “Land of the Free”, the sun was slipping away from the eastern seaboard of north America and in our sweltering shared mini bus - Driver can you hit the AC please coz we are dying back here! – we crossed the East River at Williamsburg Bridge to see Lady Manhattan bathed in a partial velvet darkness that suited her myriad twinkling diamonds and the purple and ochre shades on the horizon of her skirt. See the Art Deco sparkle of the Chrysler Building in the evening light and you will see all that was great about the dawn of the machine age and weep tears of joy for the genius of mankind. The customs hassle, the dripping heat, the travel fatigue, all just faded away. Anything, anything is worth it to see her in her glory. At around midnight, when I finally arrived at my hotel, I asked the bellhop about breakfast, forgetting that unbelievable OMG! breakfasts are sooooo much available in New York that the concept of B and B just does not exist. The two have no need to go together.

Breakfast? You want breakfast sir!
Well, I didn’t mean right now. I mean it’s midnight..
Sir, if you don’t mind me speaking a little bluntly, you are in New York now and you can have your goddamned breakfast anytime you like. You want my own opinion?
Our club sandwiches always hit the spot and you take a cold beer with it and relax over by the window and you are gonna feel just fine!

He was right. I took my bulging and beautifully prepared club sandwich to the table in my room, necked the cool head of the bottle and then opened the curtains. It is a good thing that the window was not open, because the vertigo of what I saw from 24 floors up pulled me across the threshold of all sense. There was the neon Mecca that is Times Square pulsing away in the distance. I switched off all the lights, sat on my good firm bed and just stared in awe as flashes of red, purple and gauze green light fizzed across my room. I woke up fully clothed, and on top of the bed, some five hours later having enjoyed a wonderful sleep. The club sandwich was only partially eaten. A situation which did not take long to rectify.
When I stepped out onto the street my legs wobbled in the heat and I heard a disembodied voice, or was it dismembered?, calling on me raucously to pull over to the left side sidewalk which I immediately began to do before I realised that the female voice I was hearing was being broadcast from an NYPD cop car whose heavy looking occupants – she all dyed blonde with busty shoulders and he swarthily looking ready to kill dead things – were directing a poor fat slob who had broken a light to pull over and get booked. Nobody else seemed interested but my eyes remained glued to the drama.
Later, over my syrup pancakes, crispy bacon, easy over eggs and coffee, I recalled the drama and realised the extent to which these images have taken over our lives on the European side of the pond. I had stood there feeling sorry for slob features and his even slobbier wife – she was a lot of pancakes – and part of my fascination was that I felt like I was watching a film and maybe I was in the film. Don’t be ridiculous Paul, says I, sure you’re a film director yourself! You stand BEHIND the camera remember? Well that's fine, but the film running in my head saw slob features getting carted off downtown because he had a few ounces of crack cocaine stuffed down his shorts (at which point my sympathy for him vanished – it’s the slammer for you fatso!) and the doors swung open as he was bundled in for interrogation just as the Chief of Police and the DA wiped through shot. Then I got a text message from Stephen Rea (who played Aodh Mór O’Neill in my film) congratulating me on the award and as I neared Central Park I intuited, as they say here, that I really was a film director, and that I was in Manhattan to receive an award. I had nearly said this to the broody cop but thought better of it. Thoughts of Stephen brought me back to the café and the last of my pancake and maple syrup. The Hispanic waiter of flashing teeth refilled my cup with steaming damn fine coffee and hit me with the check. Wake up and smell the.....there was a little speech to prepare. Good time for a commercial break. So back to my notes and the map which told me the location of the awards ceremony - The Times Square Arts Centre, near Times Square. Well, that was easy.
After breakfast that was really lunch, I walked round the south facing part of Central Park. It was nice to get some shade. I sat down on a bench and watched two guys practising Wing Chun sticky hands which sounds like a late night Chinese supper but was actually Bruce Lee's favoured form of defence in close quarter combat, whilst other people took pictures of squirrels or played serious baseball or softball in the serious sun. Some kids ran by me as I made my way out of the park, inadvertently spraying me with water as they fooled around and giving me my first real pang for Ireland, for herself and the kids, my family, the wind and the rain. They apologised softly but had the correct sense that I just didn’t give a damn.
Back in my cool hotel room, I worked on my speech and got nervous and then left things so late that I just walked out and walked towards Time Square. Walked? Why, in New York, do I always think that my destination is just a few blocks away and that I can reach it with a brisk walk? I stopped amidst the blare of traffic congestion – DON’T BLOCK THE BOX! but after a few blocks I realised that I was many blocks from the location of the Times Square Arts Centre, which is on the corner of 42nd street and 8th avenue just down from Broadway. I had this address like a mantra in my head and repeated it to the taxi driver who surprisingly was not a Pakistani or from the Caribbean but a real New Yorker. The ceremony was supposed to start at 8 sharp and I was kind of B flat at 1950 hours as I nonchalantly mentioned to the driver that I had won an award.

You won an award! Hey congratulations – you’re in films? (Car swerves to avoid onrushing garbage truck) Yeah you look like some kind of actor or sumthin….a usual suspect if you don’t mind me sayin...Hey, I was an actor once! (Car swerves to avoid onrushing fellow yellow cab) Whoha.. dumb fuck! Like the suit man, Style! – Respect to the man! Hey what time is the ceree moanee?
Well it says here 8 sharp…
8 sharp!? Are you kidding!?

The imparting of this temporal piece of information was a mistake – I was slammed back into my seat by the driver’s mother of curses and the G force of a body – the award winner’s - being subject to the stress of very rapid acceleration, deceleration for jammed traffic boxes DON’T BLOCK THE BOX! and torque stress from the cab being twisted at some speed around other onrushing cars and the odd foolish human playing chicken on the road.
The “cerree moanee” was never going to be 8 sharp but the driver didn’t care, he had his Warp Factor 6 fare for that night. A police car came up behind us and this time it was myself being hauled downtown in the neverending film that runs in my head but it just sailed on by, oblivious to my Captain Kirk who must have broken every rule in the book. Napoli, you have just been Out-Napled! I said to myself as the beautiful cab rolled to a gentle stop with its plush black upholstery and cushioned suspension and I stepped out of the hovercraft and right on to the red carpet musing that, in fairness, this New York cab driver had more celebration in him than the whole of the Irish media where my Flight of the Earls film was concerned. Respect to the man and respect to New York. The nicest bouncer I have ever met gently accosted me at the door where a very large group of people were assembled beyond the red carpet.
Do you have some form of I…dentification?
No, Im a director but!’
Ha ha – Sir – there are one thousand directors standing right there in the line if you would care to join them..
But I won an award, I swear!

A female hand tugged at my arm
Excuse me did I hear you say that you won an award?
That’s right - best international director of a documentary. A drama documentary actually..
Wow, pleased to meet you! I’m an actress myself. You won an award as a director? How comes you are you being so cool about it? Do you realise how mega that is?
I guess I am just that kind of guy.

She was Shirley Temple, Gena Rowlands (the greatest and sexiest actress of all time) and Madonna’s older sister all rolled into one. Her name is not Shirley but I called her Shirley and she didn’t seem to mind. Shirley suits her. On the face of it an ageing dumb blonde but, in truth, a remarkable and also talented lady, who just never grew up. It occurred to me as we shook hands and exchanged mock air kisses that the world needs Shirleys like this. Then, in her lumpy soft wool zoob tube dress and heels, she strikes a cocky pose on the sidewalk.

Ok Mr Director! Who said this –
“You got some nerve standing me up! Who do you think you are Franki Valli or some kind of big shot!?”

There was a smattering of applause from beyond the red carpet, the doorman laughed, and I smiled too because I was in luck - I knew the movie.

That was Karen to Henry in Goodfellas
Yeah – you do know movies! I was good wasn’t I ? You have to admit it. I was good!
You were good OK. Is your man going to let me in?
Ha ha you talk funny. A bit like Colin Farrell? What? Oh sure we’ll get in a little while. He's just a little stressed. Why don’t we take a stroll and get some water. It’s kinda hot out here.

We walked to one of the myriad corner shops in New York whose breathtaking displays tell you that their vegetables are fresh and tasty, their salt beef is divine, cool beers are in the fridge and there is water for the parched and increasingly nervous mouth of an award winning film director trying to recall his acceptance speech. We made our way back to the awards venue where my escort told me that she was also a stage comic and proceeded to belt out a string of really funny gags about her alcoholic mother who (just for the purposes of the gag I hope) had been drunk for all ten of her birthing experiences. Wow mum you must have had a double six pack inside a ya when ya had me!
Then she turned to me.

Do you know, you’re kind’a cute in your suit… Did I tell you I was also a poet?..You should be in films, well I know you are in films but I see you in some big movie. Kind of dangerous but sensitive ya know….
Yeah yeah.. Usual Suspects I know
No’a!...easy on the irony sugar. I was thinking more Breakback Mountain or is it Brokeback
Well Brokeback. Do you have a gay side?
Emphatically not.
You need a gay side in the movies but then you are a director so you are behind the LENS instead of the LEAD - Oh My God - did I just say that?..I can’t help it. It just comes out.

As we finally made our way into the auditorium, which had a downstairs cocktail bar presenting reams of luminous green liquid in glasses to arriving guests. I declined my free shot and walked into the stage area itself where the plush seating was convivially arranged around a small stage and at that point my nerves left me. I like comfortable venues where there is little separation between stage and audience. Part of the reason I rarely go to plays is that I feel a tremendous separation from the action going on up on the stage. Give me theatre in the round or a Greek ampitheatre anyday. Readers who want to take a look at the award place can go to - - to see what I mean.

My sense of ease was also enhanced by the really interesting mix of people who were either also receiving awards or were there to lend support to people, or were there just because it was an event. There were Jamaican rappers (big guys I’m telling ya), Italian American guys from Brooklyn in sharp suits and even sharper smiles, Black activist and environmentalist film makers from New York and Canada respectively and a great line up of very talented actors and musicians. Lots of people clearly knew each other and, of course everybody knew Shirley, or as she put it - everyone had either had a piece of her ass, or was looking for a piece of her ass. This was purely in reference to her acting skills she assured me.
I was announced onto the stage by Briege McGarrity from Tyrone. Briege was running the PR for the awards ceremony and I must say she was incredibly organised and also great craic. I went to the mike and firstly spoke in Irish, which really grabbed people's attention, I thanked the judges and my own production staff (see above) and told the audience very quickly about Hugh O’Neill and why his demise was such a huge blow to the cause of Irish freedom. The point which really hit home with the audience was when I told them that the film had been more or less ignored in Ireland - unfortunately I said, we have an alleged intelligentsia, which prefers not to think about the fact that we fought a long term revolutionary war against the English. An intelligentsia, moreover, which actively denigrates our revolutionary past and its heroes – including Hugh O’Neill. I rounded off my short speech by saying that our film had successfully rehabilitated Aodh Mór O'Neill after over half a century of negativity, primarily engendered by Sean O’Faolain’s novel - The Great O’Neill. Yes it was a novel. A beautifully written novel but a novel nonetheless and not a historical record. The legacy of O’Faolain’s book was particularly damaging because Irish playwright Brian Friel then wrote his famous play – Making History – on the basis of O’Faoilain's book. Now, the film that I directed has set the record straight on the big screen at least.
With the last of the above points in mind, I will conclude by saying that the making of the film about Hugh O'Neill took me on a remarkable journey, not least because it allowed me to make a film which engaged my society in polemic. I have no control over the fact that media intellectuals don’t want to engage in that debate and that will not stop me making films, or writing books, which challenge lazy spoon fed pro colonial journalists. I view myself as a film poet and would not (thus far anyway) be interested in making standard feature films. My interest in making a film is in its possibilities as a visual and aural personal essay. Actors tend not to like these kinds of films because they (quite rightly from their point of view) want to act out the psychology and physiognomy of a specific character, not the inner workings of the mind of a director. In this regard, Stephen Rea, a truly brilliant A List actor, showed great patience and commitment to the ethos underlying the film. His dedication to the art of acting and his recognition of the need to tell the truth about what has happened in our country represents, in my view, a beacon of hope for us all.

In making (and writing) the O’Neill film poem I read several fascinating accounts of O’Neill’s life, some of which I list below. I doubt that I would ever have read these books and studied other graphic material – maps paintings etc, but for the fact that I was making the film. What a privileged position to be in.

Books about Hugh O’Neill
One fascinating and very well researched book is quite hard to get hold of in Ireland but it is actually available as a free download on the internet. The book was written by one of our great patriots, John Mitchell, and is called the Life and Times of Aodh O'Neill, Prince of Ulster. It can be downloaded and/or read at the Internet Archive site -

Another great patriot, an Cairdinéal Tomás O Fiaich (Grásta Dé ar a anam) also wrote a brilliant book in Irish, along with Pádraig De Barra, about O’Neill which also includes an annotated description of the route taken by O’Neill and his fellow earls as they crossed Europe to get to Rome. In fact, our film followed Tomás O Fiaich’s lead by using the same title as his book - Imeacht na nIarlaí. This was to stress the fact that O'Neill's leaving of Ireland was a departure (Imeacht) and not a flight (Teitheadh)

Cardinal O’Fiaich’s book is not generally available but I believe it can be loaned from libraries. Finally, it should be said that despite the fact that a person, who shall remain nameless but who is something of an expert on O'Neill, advised me not to read the above mentioned book by Seán O’Faoilain – ‘The Great O'Neill’ because it might influence my thinking, I still recommend this book and profoundly disagree with this kind of censorial attitude. For, whilst I believe that it is crucial that Sean ÓFaoilain’s book is challenged, it should in no way be censored. Most Irish people have enough ‘cop on’ and understanding of our history, to realise when they are reading pro-colonial propaganda. For all its faults, ‘The Great O’Neill’ is a great and sometimes exquisite read. It is available in most bookshops in Ireland and if you like you can take a quick preview of it at Amazon:

Tiocfaidh ár mbláth.


Dear Paul,
Thanks for a super rendition of an exciting story. The 24/7 city by the sea is one of the most captivating places I have had the fortune to go to. Here's to as many congratulations as you will cherish for the film, the award and being you.
Lots of love from us all in France.
by: Finn (contact) - 06 Aug '08 - 10:10
I just pressed the wrong button on the Karma voting.
So the up by one vote for the Bad is actually meant to be a Good one.
I was just trying to find out the whys and whats of the Karma system.
by: Finn (contact) - 06 Aug '08 - 10:14
Thanks Finn! To be honest with you I like it more when I get bad karma votes from people as at least I know I am annoying them but they continue to read!
Thanks for you kind thoughts!

Love to the family.

un abrazo fuerte

by: Pol (contact) - 07 Aug '08 - 08:31


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Title: New York – Exciting gateway to the northern USA
Date posted: 28 Jul '08 - 09:14
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