America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Sweet Caroline, so good!

Hands, touching hands/Reaching out, touching me, touching you – Sweet Caroline/Neil Diamond

And this’ll have you bopping on land or sea… Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh, good times never felt so good (so good, so good, so good).

Reaching out: Neil Diamond

You always know you’re onto a rousing stadium song and party favourite when the crowd know their cues.

And so randomly here are some of the places where those good times with Neil Diamond have never felt so good.

The duel in the crown

I don’t know what you’re having

Pat O’Brien’s duelling pianos, Universal Orlando: And you’ll need to bring a fistful of dollars with you (no, not the film though I dare say they’d play that soundtrack too).

Somebody will almost certainly ask for Sweet Caroline, and Piano Man, so that leaves the field open for your other faves.

Randomly I asked for (and got) Barry Manilow’s Mandy… ‘And I came and I gave without taking, and you sent me away, I’m Murty.’

Summer in New York

Holding hands… well, almost

The Beast, The Hudson River, New York: And on the hottest day of the summer with no space on the sidewalk (remember that) then the best place to go is the Hudson.

You’ll want to take the 70ft powerboat The Beast building up to 45mph around the Statue of Liberty.

And as you pass by New Jersey on the other side there’s a nod to that state’s favourite sons Bon Jovi and Livin’ On A Prayer.

Check it out as part of your New York CityPASS.

A gran old time in Austria

And that’s Ehrwald Presley there on the keyboards

Ehrwald, Austria: And what do you give a group of Irish senior walkers for musical entertainment?

The octogenarian oompah-oompah man laid on by Top Flight for Schools had tried some Austrian music and some Elvis.

But one of our group pointed out that we were an Irish group and ran off a list of Irish Wedding Songs… and obviously Sweet Caroline.

Booze cruise

And wait till the party gets started

Royal Caribbean, the English Channel: And we’re in the main shopping and entertainment area, of the Independence of the Seas rockin’ on our final night.

We’ve had the DJ belt out Hi Ho Silver Lining, 500 Miles, Delilah and It’s Not Unusual.

But the one that really rocks the boat is… you guessed it Sweet Caroline. So good, so good, so good.

America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Football’s back – take your pick

Now it all depends on whether you’re American, English, Irish or Australian who all embrace their football game.

It’s in the human DNA you see since the day Cain decided to kick Abel’s skull into a ditch.

So here are some thoughts on some of the teams I’ve adopted from my travels.

Touchdown

Off Pat

New England Patriots: I don’t know if you’re allowed it but I adopt all the American sports teams wherever I go.

It does make it easier to pick a winner if you’ve got the New York Jets (my Long Island cousins’-team), the Washington Redskins who are now looking for a new team, and the Denver Broncos.

It’s just that you go with the team where you spend the most time… and that was my summer after university in Boston.

Hoop dreams

All’s Well: Celtic v Motherwell. www.celticfc.net

And I had little choice growing up in Glasgow in the Seventies where Catholics and Protestants didn’t mix to choose Celtic.

Particularly as my Great-Uncles had built Celtic Park.

But Scots kids were allowed too to have an English team and I chose Liverpool.

Forward fast to the Nineties, had a son on Merseyside and it came full circle with The Son and Heir becoming a fully-fledged Red.

GAA-GAA

Prize guys: Donegal

In Ireland, soccer (football) was known as a Garrison game, a preserve of the occupying British Army.

And Gaelic Football, Camogie (the female version) and the stick game hurling were the Irish sports.

I could pick any of Donegal, my Dear Old Mum’s county, Dublin where I worked for 13 years or Co. Wicklow, my adopted home.

But as my Mum drummed it into us as kids that Donegal was the best place on Earth.

And that the rest of Ireland hate serial winners Dublin, it has to be Donegal.

Perth, WA

What’s up your sleeve?

My bonds with Western Australia started when my parents took me back a jersey of the West Coast Eagles. Minus the sleeves of course.

And continued when I joined a Top Deck booze bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich and discovered they were all Aussies and Kiwis.

Fast forward six months and Brownie and Smutley had arrived on my Aberdeen doorstep and went on to set up a WA colony there with their friends.

My one and only Aussie Rules football game was with an English guy at Surrey’s cricket ground, The Oval.

I remember Collingwood were one of the teams but don’t recall the other.

Collingwood are the New England Patriots, Dublin or Manchester United of their country.

Everybody else dislikes them unless you’re one of them.

MEET YOU ON THE PITCH

America, Countries, Culture

How New York’s leaders are betraying 9/11 heroes

Firehouses aren’t on your New York tourist itinerary but they should be, and there are some native New Yorkers who would do well to visit one.

Like New York’s leaders who are betraying the memory of those heroes by pulling the annual light show memorial because of COVID-19.

Like most who have Irish blood coursing through their veins New York is part of my family’s story.

Three of my uncles decamped there, worked in bars and went on to open up their own businesses.

They never forgot what New York had given them, nor their children who went on to serve in their schools, hospitals, the NYPD and the NYFD.

Village route

And it was to his firehouse in Greenwich Village that my cousin Eddie took myself and my family when we visited.

Pride of place went to the lost firefighters, his friends who perished that fateful day, whose pictures adorn the walls.

The Village is notable, of course, for its artsy vibe and as the birthplace of the Gay Rights movement and that’s no coincidence.

As unlike the rest of Manhattan it predates the gridded road system.

img_8026
Gary the Fireman

Which was a hindrance to the 9/11 firefighters who had to negotiate the sharp bends on their way to the Twin Towers.

And Eddie took us up on an engine to show us how the firefighters did that with a hand-held turnilever at the back.

Which obviously slowed up their progress.

In the family

Eddie and another firefighter cousin of mine, Gary, worked 24/7 in the aftermath going above and beyond the call of duty.

So they and NYFD’s finest deserve a light being shone on them for what they did.

image

Oprah Winfrey did when she brought them on her show to cook.

While Eddie got his moment in the sun when he appeared in a calendar all buffed up.

Which we saw on a newstand on that family break.

Poster boys

We had, of course, got an earlier peek when Eddie showed it off at another Auntie’s funeral in Dublin.

When he took delight in alerting my other auntie’s, my own Mum among them.

And they all needed a seat.

We are that sort of family!

America, Countries, Europe, UK

School’s back for ever

I’m reminded in this month when classes return in the UK that my last school day was in New York

I had left school in Scotland three months previously and my parents had rewarded me for my efforts with a trip out to see my cousins in America.

Eddie was (and still is) my wee cousin, my junior by a year, and so was still at school.

And so for me to hang out with him I’d have to join him in class.

Yes Sir

Lady Liberty hasn’t chamged

I still recall his headmaster sitting us down and telling me I’d have to behave (my reputation had clearly preceded me).

And that I nodded obediently despite the principal in truth holding no authority over me.

The experience was fairly unique as holiday expeditions go.

And I might as well have been from Mars as far as Eddie’s schoolmates were concerned.

So when I stuck my hand up and answered the teacher’s question their jaws fell as they’d never heard such a sound as came out of my mouth.

Teacher’s pet

The way we were: Back in 1983

The story ought to end there with me being a minor celebrity for the day… only for Eddie to reveal more years later.

On my extended trio down Memory Lane three years ago with detours through Washington DC and Philadelphia which ended of course in New York.

I of course revisited the family bar, the iconic Irish Cottage in Queen’s.

With my NY cousins Gary and Maura

And I discovered that at least one girl that day back in Eddie’s school had wanted to meet me later to get to know me.

All of which ramblings are a celebration of the last summer after school.

Everywhere from the UK through Ireland and over to America, the three countries I know best it is a rite of passage.

And I dare say in other countries too.

French lessons

My Uncle Eddie showed me his adopted NY

The previous year to America I had hoped was going to be my last in school only for me to miss out on university and have to repeat.

And I spent Summer ’82 it in the French Riviera… it was St Raphael then and Cannes years later in the Noughties.

There were no girls then either but not for the want of trying… but then that’s a different story.

Oui, we popped by the Moulin Rouge

Now for all those who are licking their wounds after not getting the grades you deserve because of COVID I feel your pain.

And that you haven’t got the holiday you earned either.

Monte Carlo riches

But rest assured all good things will come to he who waits.

As the guy waiting outside one camper’s tent in St Raphael told me when I was 16 as he awaited his turn.

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Boxing clever

And in the blue corner ‘Jugular Jim’ Murty and in the red corner ‘The Clones Cyclone’ Barry McGuigan.

We ought to start at the very beginning here when a sallow cub reporter was sent by his news editor to talk to the boxing champion.

Barry was appearing in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I asked the former World Heavyweight champion which dwarf would he be playing.

Take that: Barry in action against Eusebio Pedroza

He bristled before regaining his composure.

On returning to the office my news editor fell upon the idea of us putting on a pretend sparring session.

All of which circling around the ring brings me onto the return of boxing in England this weekend.

There won’t, of course, be a crowd but one of the upsides is that we’ll be able to hear every thud and grimace more clearly.

Which you can only really do otherwise if you’re ringside.

Which I was lucky enough to be in my spell as a boxing writer in the Nineties covering the likes of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Pat Clinton in Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/.

A broad canvas: The Garden

Of course the Mecca for boxing is the US and it is every boxer’s dream to fight at Madison Square Garden and Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.

Next year: In Vegas

And every fight fan (hands up) too… and while I love both cities https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/ and Strip… the light fantastic I’ve yet to see ring action there.

See also www.lvcva.com and www.nycvb.com.

MEET YOU RINGSIDE

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe

Get an eyeful of these high-rise buildings

My Uncle Eddie pointed up… that’s the World Trade Center? Where I asked?

Two cranes of the neck later and there it was, touching the clouds. I was dumbstruck.

As the French announce the reopening of the Eiffel Tower https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/news on June 25 here are my five top tall towers.

Highful Tower

Mais oui

The Eiffel Tower, Paris: The best things in life are worth waiting for.

And when the rigging was up around the Eiffel Tower when me and my buddies visited France post-school I missed out.

I never imagined that it would take another 30 years before I would get another chance.

It was made all the better because ma famille was with me. Bravo! See https://en.parisinfo.com.

Two for the price of one: The Twin Tower’s. www.history.com

Up, up and away

The Twin Towers, New York: You always remember your first time… an ear-popping experience at the top of the World Trade Center.

They say in NY that you can always tell who the tourists are because they’re the ones looking up.

True! But equally thrilling is looking down at the specks of people and the moving yellow taxis.

NY has an abundance of iconic buildings but the Twin Towers will always be magical.

Today you can visit One World Trade Center https://www.wtc.com/about/buildings/1-world-trade-center. And also check out www.nycvb.com and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/.

Turn, turn, turn: The CN Tower

Canada high

The CN Tower, Toronto, Canada:

The CN https://www.cntower.ca/en-ca/home.html was taller though at the time.

And as luck would have it my brother was living up there at the time.

We didn’t get to eat at the revolving 360 restaurant but you always need to leave yourself with something to come back for.

See https://www.seetorontonow.com.

A positive sign: Prague

Clock this

Astronomical Clock, Prague: Not the tallest tower, of course, but the Astronomical Clock should also be seen from the inside too.

Where one American loudmouth kid got more than he bargained for.

As our guide shot back at him that her city had been bombed.

I love those sparky, big-drinking Czechs. See www.czechtourism.com and Hope springs eternal.

City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia storey

One Liberty, Philadelphia: The cityscape of Philly reveals this buzzing metropolis in its best light.

But it is as much the story behind One Liberty that is as enthralling.

It revolves around the Curse of Billy Penn.

Which was placed on Philly’s Big Four Teams after One Liberty Hall was built, higher than the-then tallest building which houses a statue of the founder of Pennsylvania.

Only one thing for it, put Billy back in his rightful spot on a beam on the Comcast Building, higher than anybody in Philly.

He approved and the tams started winning again. And I saw all their achievements in an exhibition too.

See https://www.visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/must-see-attractions-philadelphia/ and Philadelphia Freedom

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Paul Simon in New York

We’ve lived so well so long But when I think of the road we’re travelling on I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong Paul Simon, American Tune

Rhymin’ Simon never billed himself as a protest singer but his American Tune spoke to the Nixon Years… and to today.

It is apt then that he is singing it now in his virtual set.

And chose it as the penultimate song in Dublin in his farewell tour. See him perform it here on American TV https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pHZ72yHQ0K8.

In American Tune, the New York prophet has caught the zeitgeist.

Paul Simon in his pomp. www.paulsimon.com

I unashamedly and boldly sang it on the streets of Manhattan on my last visit.

As I jostled through the throb of Times Square.

Sweltering in my cowboy hat, a rucksack on each shoulder, and dragging a suitcase behind me.

Simon & Garfunkel’s protests were never in the same vein as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

But they spoke to a Scottish adolescent in the 70s and sang of a different freedom, of travel, in a greyhound bus.

I went to look for America https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sFAoWwUwknc in the Eighties in the iconic coach from New York https://www.nycvb.com to Boston https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston.

Where we came across our first Native Americans, a vagrant, but alas no shifty-looking spy in a gaberdine suit.

Thirty years later I was on another Greyhound on the way from Washington DC https://washington.org and Easy DC to Philadelphia https://www.visitphilly.com and Philadelphia Freedom.

And I was thankful to the driver for making up the time we had lost waiting in DC for passengers.

You see I only had an afternoon to see the cracked old bell and follow in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin and Rocky Balboa.

Before it was then off to NY https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/.

When I ‘counted the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.’

Another famous New Yorker was waiting for me in Times Square when I got there.

And he obviously had his hand out.

MEET YOU BACK IN THE USA

Countries, Europe, Flying, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – Pigeons and high-fliers

Not everything is grounded just now and the clearer skies have been a Godsend to pigeons and their fanciers.

Pigeon fancying sounds like it should be the preserve of old men in anoraks.

But try saying that to sporting hard men Mike Tyson and Duncan Ferguson.

Which one is yours?

Iron Mike, the self-styled ‘baddest man on the planet’ is even said to have thrown his first punch at 10 after a thug ripped the head off his pigeon.

Struggling for sports to report on during lockdown…

Britain’s award-winning radio station talkSPORT https://talksport.com has been turning its attention to the Sport of Wings.

And educating us in the ways of birds – it transpires that pigeon-fancying originated in the Lowlands of Belgium.

So that’s where they go

They came in useful during the First World War www.visitflanders.com and In Flanders fields to carry messages.

But had in truth been a sporting pursuit since the mid-19th century and was taken up and developed after the war.

And why do we think that these are perfect circumstances for new pigeon racing records.

Well, it’s said that pigeons find their way back the 100-1,000kms distances through sound.

Spread your wings

And there are fewer distractions in the skies right now.

For more on pigeon fancying (and they are the perfect social distancers) then visit https://www.rpra.org/about-rpra/getting-started/.

Now Venice’s St Mark’s Square, Dam Square, Amsterdam, New York’s Washington Square and London’s Trafalgar Square may be renowned for their pigeons.

And here are some thoughts that will make you coo with delight.

Fuel for the journey

In https://www.visit-venice-italy.com, www.nycvb.com and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/, www.iamsterdam.com, Pictures of Amsterdam and https://www.visitlondon.com and The London life.

But if you want to hear some other birdies twittering then try www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.