My job is to facilitate networking between the freelancers and start-up companies who rent space in my office, making it easier for them to grow and collaborate together. In my spare time, I'm the volunteer Technical Director for Liberty Church NYC, and it's my job to raise up and train a volunteer team to run our lighting, audio, and projection systems every week. These may sound unrelated, but at the core, they are the same. It's my role, in all that I do, to personally invest in the people around me. Thanks to that, everyone knows my name. Everyone knows my name, which is very obviously Italian, and as soon as they see the shamrock tattoo on my arm, that question comes out: "Are you Irish?" My answer is always the same, "I'm three-quarters Irish, but my dad was adopted into and took an Italian name."
When my father was old enough, he made the choice to meet his biological family, the Mackeys. They had to give him up due to their own poor health and inability to take care of him when he was born, but they were overjoyed to reconnect later in life. My dad grew up knowing his biological parents, but I never had the chance to meet them until just a few years ago.
But it was long before then that I fell in love with Ireland. I was born in Boston, MA and spent the fifteen years of my life living less than an hour outside of it. In that area, it was pretty rare to find anyone who didn't listen to Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. For most people, that's where their taste for "Irish" music began and ended, but for me, they were my gateway drug. The moment I heard Flogging Molly's What's Left of the Flag, I was hooked for life. The sounds of Boston Irish Rock opened the door to all ranges of Celtic music, starting with The Dubliners, and The Pogues, transitioning to groups that sang more traditional music, Great Big Sea and Tommy Sands.
The soft sounds of the tin flute called out a sense of home and peace that I had never known. My interest in Irish music gave way to art and film, which was shortly followed by history. During high school, I would spend hours each day seeking new music and trying to learn how to sketch knotwork, even if I still haven't been able to do that. There was something about Ireland and its vast culture and beautiful that spoke so deeply to me back then, but neither my parents, or my younger brothers had no shared interest in it.
A few years later, while I was in college, my parents called me asking if I wanted to visit Massachusetts for Saint Patrick's Day. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it was a chance to see my parents and get a hearty homecooked meal, so I agreed. What they had left out, was where and who we would be spending the holiday with. On March 17th, 2011, my parents drove my brothers and I to Watertown, MA where I met my father's biological parents, the Mackeys, my Irish Family.
I was the only one in my immediate family who was interested in my ancestor's culture and history. But that day felt like I had the chance to discover how deeply my Irish roots ran. I spent the day learning about my grandparents' lives growing up in Clare County, and why they came to the United States. I spent the day listening to cousins spontaneously sing classic folk songs like Irish Rover while playing the bodhran. I spent the day experiencing my family in way I never had before. If I learned anything from that day, it's that Ireland runs through my blood.
For the last few years I've been living in New York City, regularly going to any backroom bar that will sing traditional folk. I've spent a week camping in Maine each summer, just so that I can fulfill the role of Volunteer Production Manager for the Saltwater Celtic Music Festival each year, which brings together larger Irish bands and smaller musicians from Cape Breton for a weekend in July. I've had the chance to meet and drink with The Young Dubliners, Enter The Haggis (Jubilee Riots), Maeve Gilchrist, Nic Gareiss, Chrissy Crowley, and The Gothard Sisters. I've spent hour upon hours with Kevin O'Hara (Author of The Last Donkey Pilgrim) asking him about his adventures touring the Irish countryside in the 70's, with nothing but a donkey and a wooden cart. I've volunteered to help Joseph Keane, founder of Celtic Revival, at his Union Square Holiday Market location for the last two years.
And despite my love for my heritage, the music, culture, and people, I have never had the opportunity to go to Ireland and experience the real thing. I want to go to Clare County to meet my extended family, I want to sit on the docks of Galway Bay, and I want to feel the winds on the Cliffs on Moher. I want to experience the country that feels like home. For I know that my first trip will be the first of only two trips I take to Ireland in my lifetime. The first trip, will be to visit, and the second, years from now, will be to make it my home.
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