Made In The A.M.

Performed live at Serving The Sentence March 2019

“All my favorite conversations are always made in the A.M.” I sat right there and wrote this sentence on February 12 and submitted it to the show. I never thought it would get picked! There was a good size crowd! I just wrote it because I was self conscious about not submitting. I like to be included and I like to include myself. 

I submitted the sentence for the show I’m participating in. And for that I’m sorry. I contemplated whether or not to tell you all but then my Irish guilt got the best of me (it is Lent and Paddys day is on Sunday). I realized I had to explain myself.

I’ve always wanted an excuse to talk about “Made In The A.M.” My favorite One Direction album and I guess it was selfish by submitting this lyric but first of all I’m a Gemini sun/ Leo Rising so I am of course selfish by nature and second of all it came to me when we were prompted for a sentence to start a story. I also thought other people could make it work because the song is sort of a universal story about how you make some of your best connections with people talking deep into the night, or “the A.M.”

Niall, Liam, Louis and Harry all wrote the song together along with some other writers and it closes their last album as a band. Fun Fact– it’s also the only song One Direction “swears” I’m doing air quotes for the podcast listeners.  I won’t sing it, anddddd you’re welcome for that!

“Won’t you stay ’til the A.M.?
All my favourite conversations
Always made in the A.M
‘Cause we don’t know what we’re saying
We’re just swimmin’ ’round in our glasses
And talkin’ out of our asses
Like we’re all gonna make it, yeah yeah” 

The irony of the biggest band to come out of the UK in the 21st century singing about “Making it” always makes me tear up. You can’t deny the comparisons to The Most Beloved Band In The History of the World– The Beatles. Had One Direction stayed together I could and WOULD argue that they would have become even bigger than they were in the first half of the 2010s. By the end of their time as a band they were making songs like A.M. and the boys were writing a lot of the songs themselves. They’ve said in interviews how they felt inspired by Fleetwood Mac and other bands of the 70s and 80s. They were owning their authenticity and showcasing it in songs on “Made In The A.M.” and I know that would’ve been appreciated in a Post-Obama Administration world. That’s what we’re all looking for as artists, right? Authenticity? 

This band, or “The Boys” as they’re known to their fan base came out of the UK X Factor and hit it big in England before coming to the states. I first became aware of them on tumblr during their X Factor run and then when they performed on SNL in 2012 I became a STAN! The boys all auditioned separately on X Factor and were all eliminated until Simon Cowell–X factor Judge, American Idol Judge, and Spice Girls creator decided to team the five boys up for the competition. They came in third place in the X Factor but went on to huge success in the UK and eventually the states and the world.

If you get the chance I’d recommend their 2013 documentary This Is Us, it’s very well done. Morgan Spurlock–the guy from Super Size me filmed the boys preparing for and on tour. You get some great glimpse into their personalities. At one point Harry and Niall talk about how Zayn almost didn’t show up to their first rehearsal. Harry jokes “Good thing he showed up or Niall would have to be the mysterious one”. I always loved their self awareness, something they showcased in later songs like “Perfect” which Harry wrote about dating Taylor Swift.  

So at this point I was a sophomore in college and well past what I thought were my Boy Band days. I’m old enough that I experienced the *Nsync & Backstreet Boys days. I saw both live in concert– *Nsync in their glory days and then Backstreet Boys on one of their comeback tours.

Also, I’ve never really connected with male artists, I’ve enjoyed their music but I was never a full fledged Stan in the way I loved girls like My Holy Trinity–Britney, Beyonce and Gaga. I’m a girls girl which is middle school circa 2006 language for Feminist and men are hashtag disappointing. But there was something so special about One Direction. They were mostly younger than me so I felt sort of paternal towards them? Don’t get me wrong I’ve had some pretty not paternal dreams about Harry Styles but I never felt anything more for any of the other boys except defensive. They don’t dance. That’s a thing in the extended fandom that we love about them. It somehow makes them more loveable because they aren’t trying to be something they’re not.

1D gave me an outlet in college to just enjoy some teenage boys singing pop songs like their first hit “What Makes You beautiful” that begins “You’re insecure, don’t know what for….You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful” 

While there’s obviously some mildly problematic word usage in that song that made me fall in love with 1D it isn’t that song I go back to when I’m in a “1D mood”. It’s their later stuff, the stuff they actually were a part of writing that draws me back three plus years after their “indefinite hiatus” (I’m doing air quotes again for the podcast listeners). It’s honestly songs on their final fifth and so far final album “Made In The AM” that keep me coming back. Rolling Stone said “Made in the AM is 1D’s Let It Be — the kind of record the world’s biggest pop group makes when it’s time to say thanks for the memories”. So don’t get mad at me for comparing 1D to your beloved Beatles earlier–Rolling Stone did it first! 

Although I have never seen them live I feel like I’ve participated in the fandom online in such a way that is like very real. I’ve met friends on tumblr via 1D and I often talk to my real life friends about “the boys”. Whether they’ll come back, whether they can recapture the magic, whether we can recapture the magic of our teen years. I always felt kind of embarrassed of my love of One Direction, they’re no Sufjan Stevens who all my college friends fawned over and loved. 

In 2017 Harry said the following to Rolling Stone “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”

Harry has always been my favorite member, since the moment I saw his floppy curls on a gif on tumblr in 2011. He has this pirate quality about him– he wears a lot of jewelry and he seems to live by a specific moral code. Most people aren’t exactly looking for moral codes in their pop stars but I guess I am? I love what he had to say about young female fans and I agree wholeheartedly. I understand The Boys had to take time after doing five albums in five years to try out being solo artists and I support all of them! Except Zayn who left the band after 4 albums but I won’t get into that! 

In AM the boys sing “Feels like this could be forever tonight, break these clocks, forget about time. There could be World War Three going on outside…Feels like this could be forever right now, don’t want to sleep cause we’re dreaming out loud. Trying to behave but you know we never learned how.” 

As someone know never really learned how to behave I find these lyrics hyper relatable. Sometimes I’ll drive home late at night, maybe even in the AM and I’ll roll down my windows (weather permitting) and blast “AM” for all to hear. I do sing in my car and I don’t apologize. It’s one of the only times I feel like I can be myself. I’m just feel free to be me and One Direction is a huge part of that for me. They came to me in a dark time in college when I didn’t know what I was doing, I was “swimming round in my glasses and talking out of my ass(es)” doing internships in the wrong field and basically living a lie. But when One Direction comes up, usually at parties late into the night. I can be myself. I can be my lucky self that I was as a child that got her sentence picked for this show. I can be real. I can be authentic. Because all my favorite conversations are always Made In the AM.

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The Narrative Song Tradition in Irish Political Music

Introduction to Celtic Music

Final

10/20/13

The Narrative Song Tradition in Irish Political Music

 I would like to make clear that this paper has not been impacted by my family history in terms of politics. I was exposed to these “rebel” songs because they were enjoyed by my parents but I aim to examine the way in which these ballads and lays were crafted and how they fit into the living tradition of Irish music. For the remainder of the paper, whether or not the songs should be classified as songs of rebellion or patriotism I will refer to them as political. Sources I am citing may or may not refer to them as “rebel” songs.

There is no lack of stories to be told about Ireland, the triumphs, the defeat , and the tragedies all seem to be especially spectacular for such a small island. As the 65 year anniversary of Ireland becoming a free nation looms, it is important to look back on the way political uprising has been portrayed through songwriting. There are innumerable books written on Irish politics, from the early years of the Norman invasions to books written about the year 2013 but it is the songs that will last forever because music is so easily accessible. I chose this topic for my final paper because I grew up listening to these political songs. It was only later in my life that I learned they were written about actual events and these songs inspired my interest in knowledge about my Irish ancestry. 

These songs are especially important because they convey the emotions of the common people who were genuinely affected by the political discontent. Examining the way Irish politics have been interpreted by scholars worldwide is also important but there is no denying the stories recorded on the ground in Ireland during and after the events are our most sacred means of remembrance. It is these invaluable primary sources that act as a time capsule of the passion felt throughout Ireland during and even years after the events that lead Ireland to be the nation it is today. 

According to world renowned scholar Mick Moloney, the sub genres within the living tradition of Irish music can be referred to as classical, elite, folk, traditional and popular. There are examples of political songs within these sub genres but Irish political songs generally have two main themes. The first are ballads from the perspective of the tenant farmers struggling to possess the land they work and the pleas for help during the famine. These songs did not have an effect on politics on a large scale because they were mostly regional songs, sung in the Catholic reservation of Connaught. These songs were not generally heard by the ruling class because they simply did not live there. There is no evidence that these songs were written for posterity and due to the rural setting they were written in and lack of technology many have been lost. Possibly the first song that could be categorized as political was called “The Downfall of Trade”,  which can be found in the book Songs of Irish Rebellion, is fairly calm, merely commenting on the lack of food available. 

“Our pork it is down and our butter also

And no price for yarn, the flax or the tow,

And nine pence per yard for ten thousand, that’s all

If those times they continue we  can’t live at all.”

One of the single instances that peasantry affected politics was in the 1798 Uprising which was  small scale and primarily consisted of guerilla warfare. The leader of The United Irishmen was Theobald Wolfe Tone, who inspired the name of a contemporary Irish band that specialized in politically themed songs.  In later years, the songs are less somber and more akin to battle cries from the middle class craving emancipation for the Catholic majority. These songs were heard by groups with power and did impact politics.

There was a revival of the former theme when The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who would be classified as folk revival bands, made it into mainstream American music in the early 1960s. The band was made up of Tom, Paddy, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem. The men played folk music casually in Manhattan and were made popular due to their Irish heritage, they were a novelty during the 1950s. It was only when their manager suggested they record an album of “Irish Rebel Songs” that they were recognized nationally in the United States. The band hit their peak of success when they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. One of the songs The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem performed on the variety show was “Johnson’s Motor Car”. The song was written by Willy Gillespie about actual events that transpired in the 1920s when The Irish Republican Army seized a car belonging to Dr Johnston because they needed transport to a town over fifty miles away. The IRA called on the doctor then ambushed him to steal his car. The song is written from the perspective of the IRA officers. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang “When he came to the Reelin Bridge, he met some rebels there. He knew the game was up with him, and at them he did stare. He said I’ve got a permit for travelling out so far. You can keep your English permit, but we want your motor car.” to millions of Americans.   It’s hard to tell whether their success was due to the content of the song or the appearance of four charming Irishmen in Ayran sweaters but the fact remains that the group became an overnight success in America and later Australia and finally Ireland. 

Tommy Makem of The Clancy Brothers emerged as a composer after their Ed Sullivan performance. In 1967 he wrote “Four Green Fields” which according to Mick Moloney is one the most popular songs in both Ireland and the United States in the past forty years. “Four Green Fields” is an allegorical song that personifies Ireland as an old woman with four green fields that were subject to invasion over the course of many centuries. Ireland is often referred to metaphorically as a woman. During times of prosperity she is referred to as a Queen specifically Gráinne  Mhaol the 16th century chieftain of The O’Malley Clan.  In this song and in general songs of sorrow the woman is frail, her four fields refer to the four provinces in Ireland, Connaught, Leister, Munster, and finally Ulster the county that is still under British rule today.  She cries for the sons she lost fighting to protect her four fields but hopes for the fourth to prosper once again. “I have four green fields, one of them’s in bondage. In stranger’s hands, that tried to take it from me. But my sons have sons, as brave as were their fathers. My fourth green field will bloom once again” said she” . The song is so popular it is mistakenly thought of an old rebel song by many Irish Americans. Tommy Makem did not consider the song to be a rebel song, rather a plea to end the fighting. 

“When I wrote “Four Green Fields” it was a plea that we should be left alone. For three hundred years we had people telling us how we should run our country, and it was time for people to just leave us alone. We had suffered enough. There were people perfectly capable of running the country. It wasn’t meant to be a rebel song.” 

This sentiment is echoed in one of the most popular songs of the early 80s, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was about what is commonly referred to as “The Troubles”.  The song was written and recorded by the pop band U2 who are native Irishmen, it was not written in support or opposition of either side of the discord. Members of the band have spoken out a number of times to explain that the song was written in opposition to the glorification of the conflict. In April of 1983 the drummer of U2, Larry Mullen, was interviewed by Lucy White. When White asked Mullen about the discourse surrounding their music to be primarily concerned with politics he clarified that U2 was

“into the politics of people, we’re not into politics. Like you talk about Northern Ireland, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ people sort of think, ‘Oh, that time when 13 Catholics were shot by British soldiers’; that’s not what the song is about. That’s an incident, the most famous incident in Northern Ireland and it’s the strongest way of saying, ‘How long? How long do we have to put up with this?’ I don’t care who’s who – Catholics, Protestants, whatever. You know people are dying every single day through bitterness and hate, and we’re saying why? What’s the point? And you can move that into places like El Salvador and other similar situations – people dying. Let’s forget the politics, let’s stop shooting each other and sit around the table and talk about it… There are a lot of bands taking sides saying politics is crap, etc. Well, so what! The real battle is people dying, that’s the real battle.”

Sunday Bloody Sunday is one song that can and has been universally applied. This is most likely due to the success of the song given that it would be classified in the Irish Music Tradition as “Pop- Irish Music”.

After an especially riveting performance of the song on November 9th, 1987 at The Nichols Arena in Denver, Colorado the lead singer Bono proclaimed that the song may never be performed again because the performance was so harmonious that the song was “made real”. The reason the performance was so passionate was due to the events of the day before, when a bombing that has come to be known as The Remembrance Day Bombing in the town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland killed ten civilians and one police officer. The lead singer, Bono proclaimed mid song that he was tired of Irish Americans glorifying the deaths caused by the revolution, specifically civilian martyrdom. “What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children”. He speaks about the events that transpired the day before explaining that “the revolution that the majority of the people of my country don’t want”. He goes on to call for the audience to cheer  “no more”, an interlude that was still performed in their most recent tour. This song is especially important to the Irish tradition of political songwriting because the song was written about an event that transpired decades before and was performed around the world while the conflict continued in Ireland. 

In response to U2’s proclamation that “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was not a rebel song, Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor wrote a song titled “This is a Rebel Song”.  Although the song is nowhere near as popular, the discourse between songwriters surrounding Irish political songs is important because there are a multitude of opposing viewpoints. The conflict on the ground in Ireland is mirrored in the varying means of songwriting about the politics in Ireland. 

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were primarily a cover-band in their early years, as were most Irish Traditional musicians in recent memory. There was already a cornucopia of lyrics and poems on hand and the subjects were still relevant. One of the reasons so many songs about Irish politics are categorized as “Traditional” is due to their age. Most songs have been reappropriated and translated over the years but the stories  the songs are based on date back hundreds of years. There were surely songs written even earlier but they have been lost forever because they were not recorded or even passed down orally.  Because the oldest songs were passed down orally, many transformed over the ages, when they were finally written down it is likely they had transformed from their original content. 

Not all songs about Irish politics are “rebellious”,  there are many that promote Irish Nationalism. Some of earliest political songs were allegorical odes to the island of Ireland.  One such song ,Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile , only became known as a “rebel” song in the twentieth century. The title of the song roughly translates to “Welcome Home” in English. (I was introduced to this song by my grandfather when I was a toddler. I honestly had no idea what I was singing as a child and it wasn’t until about an hour into my research that I realized what song I was dissecting. I only mention this because it is evidence of the way these songs have been passed down over centuries. Seeing the title in Gaelic I had no idea I knew the song. I even read the lyrics in English and I had no idea. It wasn’t until I tried to sound out the lyrics in Gaelic that I finally realised what the song was. I listened to a few versions by contemporary musicians and the tune was not exactly the same as the one my grandfather sang. Even more interesting is the song’s relation to Gráinne Mhaol, the former leader of the O’Malley clan. Nearly twenty years ago my great grandfather was the honorary chieftain at the “O’Malley Rally” and next summer my great aunt will be Chieftain. Growing up I heard numerous stories about my ancestor, The Pirate Queen but I don’t recall hearing that the song had anything to do with her story. A few weeks ago when I saw Matt and Shannon Heaton perform at Glucksman Ireland House I met a man from Boston who mentioned the song at one point in our conversation)  Patrick Joyce Weston recalls in 1909 book Old Irish Folk Music and Songs that a number of airs, this one included, were sent to him from a man he describes as being at least 70 in 1884. His version is only recorded as having a chorus. The song is classified as a “Clan March” about the practice of “hauling home” a bride to her husband’s house about a month after the wedding presumably after the honeymoon. Later accounts of the song are referred to as  “Dord na bhFiann” or “Call of the Fighters”, a departure from the upbeat marriage tradition. The song stopped welcoming home newlyweds and began to welcome Catholicism to England at the hand of Prince Charles III. The song has been performed by everyone from The Clancy Brothers in theaters to my grandfather in his kitchen. Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile is no longer considered a “rebel song”. It is sung in primary schools across the country as a welcome back at the end of the summer. The song has transformed to fit whatever situation it found itself in.  Across hundreds of centuries, people sang the song, welcoming each other home to Ireland. 

These political songs are an important part of the living Tradition of Irish Music. They tell the history of the island as the lines on the map changed decade after decade. The books may burn, but as long as there are Irish people on this Earth the stories of Ireland’s politics will live on in song. 

Works Cited 

Bono, Edge, and B. B. King. “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” The Best of 1980-2000. U2. N.d. Web. 

Clancy, Tom, Paddy Clancy, Liam Clancy, and Tommy Makem. “Dr Johnson’s Car.” Rec. 1961. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. N.d. 13 June 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX94OZm0qLE&gt;. 

“The Dubliners Óró Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile.” YouTube. N.p., 13 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRNou-7gI4o&gt;. 

Joyce, Patrick W. Old Irish Folk Music and Songs: A Collection of 842 Irish Airs and Songs Hitherto Unpublished. New York: Cooper Square Publ., 1965. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. <https://archive.org/details/oldirishfolkmusi00royauoft&gt;. 

Lee, Joseph, and Marion R. Casey. Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print. 

Makem, Tommy. “Four Green Fields.” Rec. 1967. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. 1967. Web. 

Mullen, Larry. “Larry Interview.” Interview by Lucy White. U2 Interviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. <http://u2_interviews.tripod.com/id18.html&gt;. 

“Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile-Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem 3/11.” YouTube. N.p., 30 Mar. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZdRgQLLCgs&gt;. 

“Óró ‘Sé Do Bheatha ‘bhaile- The Irish Tenors.” YouTube. N.p., 15 Mar. 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfqjTq0yw9Q&gt;. 

Rattle and Hum. Dir. Phil Joanou. Perf. U2. 1988. Online. 

“The Rising of the Moon: At the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.” The Rising of the Moon: At the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. 

Rolston, B. “‘This Is Not a Rebel Song’: The Irish Conflict and Popular Music.” Race & Class 42.3 (2001): 49-67. Print. 

Shields, Hugh. Narrative Singing in Ireland: Lays, Ballads, Come-all-yes, and Other Songs. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1993. Print. 

“Sinead O’Connor – Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile.” YouTube. N.p., 05 July 2011. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Sje2VYw99A&gt;. 

Sinead O’Connor. “This IS a Rebel Song.” Rec. 1997. This IS a Rebel Song. John Reynolds, 1997. Web. 

Zimmermann, Georges Denis. Songs of Irish Rebellion ; Political Street Ballads and Rebel Songs, 1780-1900. Hatboro, PA: Folklore Associates, 1967. Print. 

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Bad Romance

Performed live at Beast Women Fall 2019

I don’t always do the Bad Romance choreography at weddings or parties, but when I do it means I’m genuinely having fun.

I fell in love with the song and video as any high school senior dreaming of headed off to NYU the next Fall would. I was obsessed with Lady Gaga from the start of her career and Bad Romance took the obsession to a whole new level.

It started nearly exactly a decade ago, the day the song premiered at an Alexander McQueen fashion show in October 2009. I saw a low quality clip of the song as models walked down the runway on Perez Hilton.

Hearing the song for the first time, playing through my MacBook’s speakers in my childhood bedroom, I felt this was a whole new level for Lady Gaga. I would come to understand it would bring me to a whole new level as well. The song was unlike anything else she had produced in her fairly fresh career but somehow made all the sense in the world. It was dark and gothic but still pop. It was everything I needed to hear at Seventeen. Full of dark emotions but still apple pie sweet in my bubble of a suburban childhood. 

From the outside you would have thought I was a confident high school senior but deep down I was living a lie. I was actually extremely insecure and unsure I would ever get into my dream college of NYU. I had been told by school counselors, teachers, and even the parents of my friends that my dream of attending NYU was unrealistic. It was 2009, one year into The Great Recession and NYU was the most expensive college in the nation. Not to mention my grades and test scores weren’t perfect. They were solid but I had no actual idea if I could get into NYU. 

Just a few days after the song had been played at the Alexander McQueen fashion show and before it had been officially released as a single, my friends and I had figured out how to rip the audio from the youtube video of the fashion show and burn it onto a CD. That day we were headed to Six Flags Fright Fest and I was nervous. I was a nervous Nellie in general because I had just turned in my NYU early decision application, the only college application I turned in. I had everything riding on getting into and going to NYU because I had projected this false confidence of getting in to everyone who would listen. I just felt it was my destiny in a way only a teenager can believe. Before the experience of your early 20s tears you down and makes you hard and realistic. 

I was also nervous because I had never been on a real roller coaster. I was just going to Fright Fest because that’s what my friends were doing that day. The entire way to Six Flags we listened to that ripped from the runway version of Bad Romance. I now believe in that way you believe in magic as a young child that hearing that song over and over again and singing the words over and over again gave me the power and the bravery to get on Raging Bull one of the scarier roller coasters at Great America.

As I sat in the seat I suddenly realized I could actually get into NYU and go to NYU like I had been telling everyone who would listen for the past year. I knew I could move away from everything I knew and loved and have the freedom to learn and live in New York City. Lady Gaga likes to say “if you tell yourself a lie enough it becomes the truth”. That moment on Raging Bull was a moment of total clarity that I owe completely to the power of Bad Romance and Lady Gaga. 

After that day, I walked a little taller. I had more genuine confidence, unlike the false confidence I had been portraying the months & years leading up to that day at Fright Fest. 

It’s been ten years since that song came out but it’s still my go to dance song. I know all the choreography, even the part when she lays on the ground and kicks her legs up and down to the beat of the rah rahs. 

The sad thing is I’m not always confident enough to do the dance anymore, as I was when I first gained confidence ten years ago. But every time I do muster up the courage and do that dance at a wedding or party I remember how I felt when I first heard that song, how I felt when I knew I could live my dream and go to NYU. How it felt to be genuinely brave. 

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Traveling With Just My Thoughts And Dreams (N17)

1/23/21

Well I didn’t see much future

When I left the Christian brothers school

So I waved it goodbye with a wistful smile And I left the girls of Tuam

And sometimes when I’m reminiscing

I see the prefabs and my old friends

And I know that they’ll be changed or gone By the time I get home again

And I wish I was on that N 17

(Stone walls and the grasses green)

Yes I wish I was on that N 17

(Stone walls and the grasses green) Travelling with just my thoughts and dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about what it means to me to be American. New administration. New day.  Or so I’ve been told (and told and told and told). For me, I’ve always seen myself as Irish-American. I remember the day my dad got his American citizenship with great pride. My dad, like my maternal grandparents, and so many others before them from Ireland came to “This Great Nation” for “A Better Life” and “More Opportunities”. I am grateful every day for their sacrifices, and yet I find myself called to my Irish heritage and disconnected from my American nationality more every day.

I truly wish I could tell you I’m proud to be an American, no hyphen or caveat needed. I think my life would be easier if I wasn’t so critical of “The Land of The Free”.  I guess I wish there wasn’t a reason to be critical. I wish the United States were Great. Unfortunately for me, I am far too sensitive to the struggles of so many marginalized communities that live on this land that was brutally stolen from Native peoples hundreds of years ago.

Having grown up on mostly meat, potatoes, and anti-English rebel songs, I found the social media posts made by my fellow Irish-Americans in support of the police, bigotry, and white supremacy to be extremely upsetting. How would our rebel ancestors feel to see their descendants supporting systems of evil and upholding white supremacy.

From my time spent learning about Irish Studies in college, I have grown acutely aware of how the Irish assimilated to whiteness, often through joining the police force. I understand it, but I do not respect it. To quote Michael Jordan “And I took that personally” — every time. If you’re interested in learning more about this phenomenon check out “How the Irish Became White” by Noel Ignatiev and “Making The Irish American” by J.J. Lee and Marion R. Casey. These resources really helped me in my understanding of the assimilation of the Irish in America. 

My friends often tease me when I inevitably mention being Irish, “oh, are you Irish? I had no idea!” they laugh as they’ve heard it thousands of times. And yet when I’m in Ireland, I’m “the yank”.

I remember watching the movie Selena (1997) in Spanish class in middle school. There’s a quote that always stuck out to me, said passionately by the actor playing Selena’s dad “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time!”. This quote made an impression on me at 12, and now at 28 I feel it even deeper. Isn’t that a truly American experience? Isn’t that one of the great struggles of immigrants and their offspring, to be caught between two worlds?

As I sit writing this in my parents home I am surrounded by Ireland. We have framed posters of Irish Cottages, Irish Castles and of course, Pubs of Mayo. A replica of a thatched cottage with working lights sits below the mirror engraved with my parents family crests. The thatched cottage sits on a cabinet with glass doors to display dozens of fine pieces of Waterford Crystal (only authentic Irish-made Waterford is acceptable in this household!) and Belleek vases, plates that will never touch food and mugs that will never hold liquid. Cadbury Roses chocolates, Digestive biscuits + Jam Mallows take up space on the coffee table. Former president and noted war-criminal Barack Obama once said “So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue.” That is especially apparent in my childhood home.

I’m aware of Ireland’s issues. I read about the Mother and Baby homes in disbelief. Their divorce laws are archaic. A man with a mental health crisis was shot dead by Garda just this month. And yet, I find myself holding up Ireland as a promised land, not unlike the way my family viewed The United States when they immigrated here all those years ago. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. This is especially (literally) true of Ireland.

I do not connect to people who are patriotic in the American sense, especially the past 4+ years. But even before that you wouldn’t catch me dead in anything with Red, White and Blue. Those simply are not my colors and I don’t like what they stand for. When I see a house with an American flag I don’t feel safe, even as a white woman with great privilege. I don’t believe America has ever been capital “G” Great. I don’t believe this current administration will make it capital “G” Great, at least not for the vast majority of Americans.

“American” has been an identity I haven’t felt proud to own for many years. I remember being in Ireland many years ago hearing my peers out for a fun night discuss the atrocities of the Obama administration abroad. I was completely unaware. My politically minded friends didn’t discuss these issues (back then) and I didn’t keep up with politics other than marriage equality. At that time Obama was a hometown hero who gave me a reason to be proud to be American.

Then in 2016, a literal hometown hero ran for President. Although I had grown more politically aware, and to be frank Left-leaning in the interim, I was still excited to see a woman who had grown up in my hometown have the opportunity to win the nomination. Although I didn’t vote for her in the primary, I voted early for Hillary in the General and I cried when doing so. It meant so much to me. Looking back, I realize I wasn’t excited about Hillary, I was excited about defeating Donald Trump. That all came crashing down early November 2016.

The morning after election day 2016 a co-worker who I considered a friend used a racial slur in my presence during work. It seemed all the niceties of the Obama-era were gone, quite literally overnight. When I brought this up to my managers they warned me that I could ruin this man’s life if they followed through with discipline and fired him. It wasn’t my decision whether or not they got fired but those managers passed the buck to me. If I hadn’t brought it up, he wouldn’t be in trouble. There was even mention of the amount of paperwork they had, because of me. No mention of the man who broke the workplace code of ethics, it was my fault. The onus was placed on me, the individual who spoke up and not the man who used a racial slur in the workplace.This was especially difficult for me given that I was raised to speak up for others, but that is easier said than done. It was extremely hard for me to speak up in this instance, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. I didn’t even consider the others that were present that didn’t report this co-worker as complicit until I thought about it recently. Looking back, I’m disappointed in these co-workers and friends. I don’t know how they were processing November 9th 2016 but I know it was one of the darkest days in my life and I still found it in myself to speak up. (extreme Jeb Bush voice “please clap”) 

That’s all to say– I’m so happy so many are so full of hope about the current administration. It doesn’t give me hope, but it’s nice to see people who have been grumpy for many years a little less grumpy. 

I have so many dreams for this country but after the primary and even the election I don’t necessarily see them coming in my lifetime or even my future childrens.

So, what does being American mean to me now? I’m starting to look forward to the next four years and understanding that to me, being American can mean being hyper-critical and a little cynical.  That is, afterall the Irish-way. I look forward to challenging the Biden administration when it comes to issues that I feel passionately about. 

The gift of the gab has already come in handy when discussing politics with my family, something I used to dread. I hope as the COVID-19 pandemic comes to a close I have the opportunity to speak to people outside my pod. I most look forward to learning from others and their experiences. I look forward to being challenged to be proud to be American. 

Recently, a cover of one of my favorite Irish songs from my childhood was released. This cover is full of both hope and melancholy, emotions I am all too familiar with.  Afraid to be hopeful because I’m so terrified of being crushed again and afraid to be melancholy because that’s no way to live. I think I’ve started to come to terms with the fact that you can be both at the same time, and that’s actually a good thing? 

Please enjoy the beautiful rendition of The Saw Doctors N17, performed by Tolu Makay and the RTE concert orchestra.

I wish I was on the N17, travelling with just my thoughts and dreams.

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Introduction

Performed live at Arts & Culture Club August 2018

Hi I’m Jaclyn, I mean Jax. My parents named me Jaclyn (spelled J-A-C-L-Y-N) after Jaclyn Smith of Charlie’s Angels and KMART fame but they always called me Jax. Jaclyn is the confident one and Jax is insecure to her core. But, they’re both me. 


I feel like this is a good time to let you all know my natal chart in case anyone was wondering. My sun is in Gemini, my moon is in Pisces and my rising is Leo. My Sun is in Gemini, meaning I’m (these are Co-Star’s words not mine) “fundamentally dynamic, quick-witted, eclectic, and curious.On a social level, this may come off as gossipy or flaky.” 

The moon rules your emotions, moods, and feelings. My Moon is in Pisces, meaning my emotional self is empathetic, dreamy, sensitive, and gentle.

Your ascendant is the “mask” you present to people. My Ascendant is in Leo, meaning I come across as bright, good-natured, and magnetic. My energy makes you seem either like a know-it-all or the life of the party—but always the center of attention.

So basically being a Gemini — the sign of The Twins– I have a split personality, and am always changing. But because of my Pisces Moon and my Leo Rising I have a double split personality. Which I’m not even sure makes sense in like a grammar-way but it definitely doesn’t make sense to me as a human being, trying to live it. 

The dichotomy between these signs is the basis of all my issues as an adult. I would very much like to blame the Catholic Church for my identity crisis but I think this one is all on the Stars. 

I feel like Jax is more of a Pisces the inner me and Jaclyn is the Leo the outer me. To put it another way Pisces is Rihanna, all emotions and teary eyed at the piano opening of Thunder Road. The Jaclyn Leo side is more confident, almost too confident and wouldn’t cry in front of anyone, think Whitney or Madonna.

I was “Jaclyn” to most of the world up until I was about to graduate college and I gained over 50lbs in under a year. I was put on a medicine to help me sleep because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping at the time and one of the side effects was weight gain. At first I didn’t notice too much but after about 15 lbs and some tight jeans I went back to my third parent, the internet, and googled and the first thing that came up when I typed in the medication was “Weight Gain”.

I went straight to the doctor and asked her to take me off right away because I was uncomfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life and she basically refused because it was doing its job. I backed down because I’ve always had an issue with authority figures, something I can blame on the Catholic Church. 

I quickly went from a size 2 petite young lady to a size 12. Now, to be fair, a size 12 is pretty average; I’m just saying that I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like myself, who I identified with a certain size. 

So when I gained “The Weight” as I like to call it because I’m a dramatic Gemini I felt lost. I was about to graduate college with a pretty weird useless degree and I was offered a job in Tennessee working on a congressional campaign. I decided to change my Facebook name from Jaclyn to Jax so future jobs wouldn’t be able to find my Facebook. This meant that a lot of my new post college friends were introduced to me as Jaclyn because that’s how I introduced myself but they called me Jax because that’s how they saw my name on a regular basis, in print. 

I rebranded myself unknowingly and I started to morph into Jax. Jax is a lot quieter than Jaclyn, keeping her thoughts to herself. Where Jaclyn would speak up in groups of people Jax stays silent, letting her mind run. Jaclyn just makes more noise in general. 

When you gain a considerable amount of weight in a short amount of time you start to notice things you’ve never noticed before, like how uncomfortable the summer is. I remember that summer in Tennessee I experienced what people refer to as “chub rub” for the first time. The already sensitive skin where my thighs touched for the first time began to get raw and painful when I walked outside in the Summer when wearing dresses. I honestly thought it was some kind of allergy to Tennessee but when I asked my friends they just looked at me like I was bananas, haven’t I ever had chub rub before? They told me to get bike shorts or to apply an expensive LUSH product called “silky underwear” to my inner thighs to help combat it. I just saw it as one more thing that was wrong with me.

I suddenly got extremely sensitive, everything from a look I interpreted as snotty to a critical word made me dig deeper into myself. Jaclyn never cared what anyone thought of her, she wore floral dresses to high school and when she wore one brown shoe and one black on accident she just laughed and Made It Fashion. Jax would be genuinely embarrassed to wear anything that brought attention to her body. 

Today Jaclyn only comes out after a few glasses of wine. That’s when I get chatty and feel the need to let the world know what I’m thinking. I guess it’s true that your rising sign comes out when you’re drunk. 

I suddenly enjoy debating people about things I care about and I speak my mind. I get all warm and fuzzy and do things I would never usually do, like apply to a storytelling show. 

Everything makes me cry now, I can’t even think about Moana or basically anything reported on the news without welling up. I’m starting to see the merging of Jax and Jaclyn though, in little ways. I don’t think the journey back to Jaclyn means losing Jax all together, because I’ll always be both. I’ve carried them both for so long. How I feel on the inside and the person I project on the outside are starting to come together. I’m starting to feel more sure of who I am, the tiniest bit every day.

Jax has taught me to be more compassionate but I need to find the balance between Jax and Jaclyn so I don’t spend every waking moment crying over other people’s problems and my own. I don’t know exactly who I’ll be in the future but I hope it’s a healthy balance of Jaclyn and Jax. Isn’t that what every Gemini is looking for? The balancing of the Twins?  

You can call me Jax-lyn. 

JK please don’t call me that. 

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The Irish Were Not Slaves

3/29/19

Performed live at The Skewer

I’m pretty Irish, I mean I’m not saying I’m pretty and Irish but I am satisfactorily Irish. I just walked in The South Side Irish Parade for Saint Patrick’s Day 2 weeks ago. I walked because I’m doing an Irish pageant or “selection of women” called “The Rose 

of Tralee”. It’s a 60 year old pageant for Irish women or women of the Irish Diaspora. 

I fall in the Irish Diaspora category because my maternal grandparents immigrated here from Ireland in the 50s and my dad immigrated here in the 70s. I have a deep connection to my Irish roots–traveling to Ireland during the summers and some Christmases to spend time with family and growing up in a Chicago suburb full of Irish cousins and pseudo cousins- the children of the men and women my dad grew up with in Ireland. Being a part of a Diaspora is a purely immigrant experience. And I want to be clear here. The Irish Immigrated. 

I never did Irish Step Dancing thank god because my mom didn’t enjoy it when she did it and instead I played Irish Football a sort of mix of soccer, basketball and volleyball. I also went to Irish camp in 7th grade in North Carolina to play what they called “celtic cello” and learn the tin whistle and group ceili dancing. I really enjoyed growing up Irish in Chicago. It was a great way to be raised. I really felt I had a community– something I’m now searching for as an adult. 

This community was largely in the Chicago suburbs where all our dads worked as carpenters, electricians and plumbers to name a few industries. We all grew up doing projects at school about our heritage and saw each other on Aer Lingus flights back “Home” in the summer. We always called it home, something I think a lot of children of immigrants can relate to. Something I’m not so sure others can relate to is calling it “God’s Country”. That seems to be purely Irish and a little too Catholic for my lapsed Catholic ways. It is a beautiful country but like please guys, Hawaii exists! Have you seen Moana or Planet Earth? 

Hearing about how our parents came here with very little money and struggled to find their footing is basically Americas Tale As Old As Time. For the Irish in particular our brand of discrimination was actually Anti-Catholicism and Anti-poverty, one of these we’ve gotten over and one we’re still working on. Good luck guessing which is which! When the Irish came here, for my family in the 50s and 70s they had the privilege of their white skin to help carry them to success. 

Growing up I learned about the history of “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” and “No Irish Need Apply”  in the 19th and 20th century in this country and abroad. It was a point of pride in the community-we were discriminated against! And look how we’d succeeded in this country despite having been discriminated against. Hell! We had a first generation American Irish president! Arguably the sexiest president until the recent past at that! I’m talkin Kennedy people and I’ll tell you us Irish love to bring him and his family up! 

I’ve been to bars in Boston that proudly post “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” signs by their bottles of liquor in the past few years. We as Americans LOVE a comeback story, we love the underdog and no one likes to believe they are the underdog quite like the Irish. In college I took quite a few Irish Studies courses and was told over and over again about that struggle. I took one class called “Cinematic Representations of The Irish” (Gotta love a Liberal Arts School!) where we watched film after film where the Irish were depicted as ruffians, fighters and sometimes invalids. As the class drew to an end we were watching more modern films where the Irish were described as “go to stock characters that are still ethnically ambiguous”. That depiction of the Irish as fighters is something that has carried into today. 

We have the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” for example, a team my Irish dad LOVES and sports their fan gear like its Fenty or IVY PARK. Seriously, it’s all he wears. I always wonder why he’s okay with this depiction of his countrymen as fighters but I’ll probably never ask. He’s an Irish dude and he doesn’t like to talk about his *FEELINGS*. 

That’s all to say I’m Irish and I love being Irish. I love our history in Ireland and our history in this country. We have struggled to assimilate in the past and now that we have we’ve turned back to our heritage, celebrating our Irishness by celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, with our dancing and our sports and so much more! If Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations 2019 have proven anything to me it’s that maybe we need to calm down a little. I’m still exhausted from celebrating! Maybe that’s just fatigue? Who knows. 

One point of Irish history I hate to have brought up is our history as “Slaves”. I hate it because I know it isn’t true and deeply rooted in racism. During the 90s lot’s of truthers came forward proclaiming the hidden history as the Irish as slaves in America and the Caribbean. I’m here to tell you all that while the Irish were indentured servants they were never slaves in America.

I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir here but when it comes up when I’m surrounded by Irish folks–educated Irish people who should know better do not or choose not to know better. Even this past February Virginia Governor Ralph Northam famously known for sporting black face referred to actual slavery as “indentured servants”. Luckily the mother Oprah never had–Gayle King was interviewing him quickly collected him by replying “ Also known as slavery”. 

It’s moments like these I find myself referring to facts, the fact is that the Irish never were slaves. They were indentured servants sure but we cannot be comparing that to slavery. Both are horrible circumstances but we cannot be comparing indentured servitude to chattel slavery. In one case a person is considered a person and in another the person is not legally considered a person. Indentured servitude came with a time limit and often a means of passage to the colonies. 

The ending sentiment when this comes up is usually “We got over it so why can’t you?” This us vs them mentality is what is keeping the Irish back in my opinion. First, we can’t get our facts straight which is embarrassing and second of all we look horribly racist. Because that’s what some of us are! 

Racism in the Irish community is one of the reasons I don’t consider myself a part of the community, I recently saw a picture from Saint Patricks Day with a t-shirt saying “Irish Lives Matter”. I thought I got rid of all the riff raff during the 2016 election but I guess one slipped through! We know Irish lives matter because they are valued in this country and honestly a large portion of the police in this country are of Irish Descent. 

There was a video on Facebook for Saint Patrick’s Day this year of the Irish members of Chicago Police Department talking about where they’re from in Ireland and encouraging viewers to celebrate the holiday responsibly–effectively humanizing this organization that very recently has worked to conceal the murder of Laquan McDonald. I won’t even get into how a black man got an Irish last name because you all know how that happened. So I wasn’t surprised when it was shared by my Irish friends and family here in Chicago and home in Ireland–one of the police officers is from my dads little village in Ireland. 

This race to see who suffered more is fruitless. There’s no competition. It’s like putting Beyoncé up against anyone–literally anyone. It’s just not fair. 

I guess I’m here to repent. It is Lent and even though I’m a lapsed Catholic, traditions die hard. I just have such mixed feelings — being so proud to be Irish in so many ways when there’s this underlying racism in the community that I do not accept. 

Irish people have suffered enough atrocities from centuries of British occupation to famine to decades of armed conflict in Northern Ireland– why do we have to have the false slave narrative too? It devalues the actual suffering the Irish have endured. I know we all love a meme but the use of a total falsity to perpetuate racist ideology is not a good look. It makes me not only not proud but embarrassed to be Irish. 

I’m participating in this pageant The Rose of Tralee this Saturday. I just hope I don’t have to hear anything about the false tragedy of the Irish being slaves in this country. God forbid it comes up I’ll have to show my true Irish self and let the fiery woman inside come out. Maybe the stereotype of the fighting irish isn’t so far off but I hope when I have children–children who will be Irish–this myth of Irish slavery will be dead and buried. I do have hope we as a community can stop believing this far right lie and confront our racism and othering. 

And now I’ll get off my Irish Spring soap box. Thanks for letting me share. 

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If I Go There’s Just No Telling How Far I’ll Go

10/19/19

Performed live at “Is This A Thing”

This past July, the story of a 26 year old with a Moana birthday cake went viral on Facebook because the bakery heard her age and assumed when her mother said “Moana” she meant marijuana. The bakery couldn’t imagine that a 26 year old would want a birthday cake of Disney’s story of a Polynesian girl fulfilling the quest of her ancient ancestors and discovering her identity. 

My 26th birthday was last year and I did have a Moana cake. The bakery I used understood me when I said to pipe “Happy 26th Birthday Jax” in gold frosting over the photo of Moana. 

It all started about sixteen months before, the day a friend randomly asked me if I wanted to see Moana. I was 25 and although I love Disney I hadn’t loved a new Disney movie in years. I really only went because I don’t know how to say no. 

For once my people pleasing came in handy. Sitting in the movie theater I saw my 25 year old Irish self depicted on screen in the form of a teenage Polynesian girl sailing over oceans, defying her family’s wishes for her to stay on her island. 

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember, never really knowing why

The story of Moana is a universal hero’s journey that I would argue we all can relate to, hence its box office success, but I am not the daughter of a chief, I have never been to any of the Polynesian Islands, and I certainly have never sailed the ocean to save my people. Even still, I sat in the audience of that AMC and I cried as if I was watching a movie about my own struggles.

I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try

I’ve been working for my parents for almost two years. They have a property management company that manages buildings in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. I work in the office managing the expenses, income and tenants issues that come in like the tide, heavy and constant. The great dynastic plan is that when my parents retire I take this business over. Similarly, Moana is the daughter of the chief of her village and is expected to become chieftess when she comes of age. 

Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go, where I long to be

I never grew up wanting to be a property manager, and it isn’t what I studied in school. I went to NYU and created my own major, it was called “Fashioning an Identity and The Culture of Clothing” which is code for Fashion Psychology and Anthropology. To be frank, I didn’t have any idea what I’d do when I graduated. I just started working on political campaigns then moved home to do Real Estate leasing. In December. The worst time of year to lease apartments in Chicago. I was struggling leasing when my therapist recommended I go work at Trader Joe’s. They had great insurance, it was a kind of a cool job and it would give me structure. All the things I needed at that moment. 

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes

See, I grew up performing, I was a member of the Screen Actors Guild before I was four years old because at age 2 I pointed at the television and said “I want to be on TV like him”. The man I pointed at was none other than Michael Jordan and right around my fifth birthday I was cast in an AMF Bowling commercial with him. I tell this anecdote not to brag but to explain that I’ve always believed I was destined for Great Things that I manifest through positive thinking. 


If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

I came close a few times, ending up as one of the last two girls auditioning for the lead role in the movie I Am Sam. Dakota Fanning went on to win a Critics Choice Award for Best Young Performer in the role and star in countless movies. I quit performing when I was twelve to concentrate on school and being a kid. I now see the irony in concentrating on being a kid at age twelve-right on the cusp up adolescence. 

I know everybody on this island, seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

I had long given up on Being A Star. When I came home from working on political campaigns in Tennessee and New Hampshire my mom, tired of me puttering around the house, recommended I take a class at Second City. I didn’t really feel called to take an improv class at age 23 but I am never one to pass up a free opportunity. I ended up falling back in love with performing, over ten years after I had prematurely retired. I realized I could no longer roll with my life, just as Moana realized she had to sail out to sea despite her parent’s wishes for her to stay on land. 

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

Suddenly I was feeling the urge to perform again but I felt I was too old to chase my dreams of being a Star. Yes, I realize it was ridiculous for someone in their mid twenties to feel this way but that is how I felt. What is wrong with me? 

See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding
But no one knows, how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me, so come find me
And let me know, what’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?

I finally took the plunge and got new headshots a few weeks ago. I plan on submitting them to agencies in Chicago and start auditioning for commercials, movies and tv shows soon. The plan is to follow in the footsteps of my hero Moana and find a way to both defy my parents and please them. So, I won’t end up working in Property Management but I will fulfill my Irish ancestral destiny of telling stories, whatever medium that may be and discover my true identity as a gutsy performer. 

The line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, how far I’ll go

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Welcome to Thin-Skinned

Logo by Sara Phillips
https://www.spdesignsllc.com/portfolio

A thick-bodied yet thin-skinned lady attempts to blog. Please be kind, I’m thin-skinned after all!

Live from Chicago it’s Jax Barker!

On this blog, you will find old papers written for College Courses, Narrative Storytelling with accompanying video of the live performance and general musings on the state of my world.

Some subjects I just can’t seem to quit are the Irish-American experience, coming-of-age tales , Lady Gaga and personal stories that will (hopefully) make you cry and laugh in the same breath.

I’m hoping to connect to writers all over the world in order to spread some love and learn a little bit in the meantime.

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