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Kicking off April

“April, dear April, I beg you come soon-
And bring your sweet primroses too.
Let them join in with the daffodils’ play
As skies offer sunshine anew.”
“April, Dear April”
by Mark Slaughter

April, so far, has been very pretty. The sky, on most days, has been a pretty blue with white, puffy clouds. (We do, however, need rain in Boston and elsewhere because there is a high risk of forest fires.) Look around as you travel through the neighborhood. The azaleas, in many colors, are brightening up the area. There are still some magnolias and forsythia bushes in bloom. Our roses have many green leaves. Tulips and daffodils are everywhere. Spring makes me smile with its gorgeous blooms.

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Eileen Collins had mentioned that she was planning a trip to the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, NY, near Utica for the K Club. It was just an overnight trip, but it sounded lovely, so we decided to go. On Sun., Mar. 25, Hubby and I were in our car at 5:45 a.m., with daughter Sue driving, on the way to Florian Hall. Sue also picked up our friends Ken and Mary Bruynell. Eileen drove in on our heels. Because everyone was early for the trip, we left Florian at 6 a.m. and drove to the Keystone Apartments where we picked up more passengers. Ed, the bus driver, introduced himself and told us that two of his brothers were also bus drivers. No sooner had we left Keystone than Eileen’s pal Mary came up the aisle, passing out bags of treats for the ride: Pringles, peanut butter-cheese crackers, a small package of Cheez-Its, a bag of Snyders’ Mini Pretzels, and two pouches of Capri Sun’s Strawberry-Kiwi drink.

I don’t remember much more after we left Keystone because Hubby and I fell back to sleep. We woke up just before we pulled into a McDonald’s in Lee, MA, (We had visited the many outlets in Lee on our way to a wedding years ago and had a great time there then.) After having coffee at McDonald’s, we were able to stay awake for the rest of the trip. Eileen had Bingo for us as we drove along. Pals Mary and Ken were lucky during the games and we told them that we hoped they had just as much luck at the casino. Ed announced that he was going to bypass Albany because of the tough traffic. Even with the longer ride because of avoiding Albany, we arrived at the Turning Stone Casino at 11:30 a.m., which was very early; our original ETA was 2:30 p.m. We were told to leave our suitcases on the bus and just to take our carry-ons with us until we could get into our rooms at 4 p.m. Off we went to the casino. I couldn’t find a poker machine, so I sat down at a “Feelin’ Lucky” slot machine that had a picture of a leprechaun on it. With a leprechaun looking over me, I figured that my usual bad luck with slot machines would change, but I was wrong. Hubby fared no better. He lost at the slots also. Thank goodness we limit ourselves to $25 each day.

At 4 p.m., Eileen gave us our key passes for our room, which was gorgeous. We loved the huge TV set. The bathroom was beautiful, spacious, and bright white. Hubby’s eyedrops need refrigeration so I called Housekeeping and within five minutes, two young men came by with a small refrigerator. They even put the medicine inside the fridge for us. We had seen the Food Court in our travels so we found it again. We had a very nice meal at one of the little restaurants. Just before we left to go to the pool, our long-time pals, Gregory and Sarah Ashe, sat down at the next table. We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them. Time passed so quickly with them that we never did make it to the pool. We were all tired from getting up early for the trip, so we went back to our rooms and soon fell asleep. Gregory and Sarah were on one side of our room, and pals Ken and Mary were on the other side. The next morning, everyone raved about how well they slept on the wonderful beds. There will be a little more about our trip to the Turning Stone Casino next week.

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On Wed. evening, Mar. 14, Hubby and I were in the car on our way to Symphony Hall for the 50th anniversary tour of the Chieftains. We like the Symphony Hall area because after going to the Pops for so many years, we know where to park. We had heard the reports about the blackout in the area but we didn’t realize that our usual garages would not be open because of the blackout. Pal Ed had told us that he had been assured that the concert was going to be held that evening. We began to drive around the area, finally got a parking spot, then walked slowly back to Symphony Hall. We saw people out on the stairs of their darkened homes, chatting with each other. When we arrived at the hall, we saw and heard the hum of a huge generator inside a big truck outside the hall. There was subdued lighting inside the hall as we took our seats. Soon pals Ed and Della came in and sat behind us. They had found a garage that was open that evening.

Then Gary Dunning, president and executive director of the Celebrities Series, came to the microphone and told the huge audience that he had to thank the mayor for obtaining the generator. Once the generator was set, the Chieftains were assured that the concert could be held.
I had never seen the Chieftains in person but had heard much of their music over the years. They were amazing! I especially watched Paddy Moloney, who played both the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes. I looked at Kevin Conneff as he played the bodhran. I have a small bodhran but I do not have the dexterity to keep up with the music. It, however, does make a pretty decoration in the living room. I loved hearing Kevin sing so many of the songs. I also kept my eyes on Matt Molloy. I feel a special kinship with Matt. He bought my relative’s store in Westport, County Mayo, and turned it into Matt Molly’s Pub. (I still get e-mails from the pub every so often.) The final member of the group was Sean Keane on the fiddle.

The special guests joining them on their 50th anniversary tour were some terrific performers. Alyth McCormack, looking “sparkly” in her lovely silver dress, sang beautifully. Triona Narshall played the harp. Cara Butler, Nathan Pilatzke, and Jon Pilatzke danced, much to the delight of the audience. (Jon also doubled on the fiddle.) Jeff White sang with the group and doubled on the fiddle. Also joining in were the North Shore Pipe Band and the adorable step dancers from the Smith-Houlihan Irish Dance Academy. As the 90-minute concert came close to the end, the regular lights in Symphony Hall came on, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

If you want to read all about the Chieftains, get a copy of Irish America Magazine, the April/May issue. In it is a terrific article, written by Michael Quinlin of the Boston Irish Tourism Association, all about the group’s fiftieth anniversary. We were all wondering how old Paddy Moloney was since he is one of the founding musicians of the group. Michael told us in the article; Paddy is 73. It was great to read about this wonderful group after having the pleasure of seeing them in person.

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I must mention that on our trip to and from Cape Cod, we had some great music on the bus on Mar. 16. Eileen Collins, who organized the trip for the K Club, played CDs of Trooper Dan Clark, whom Eileen had recently see in person, and also the Irish tenor Dan O’Donnell, her favorite. I know that I was singing along (very quietly) with both of them.

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I was so glad that last Saturday morning while we were in the car, Hubby and I heard, on radio station WROL, the Irish Hit Parade. The host from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on ‘ROL, is Paul Sullivan. Someone had just called into the station to congratulate him on being the host of the show for 30 years. Paul mentioned on the air that he had started working on Apr. 10, 1982. After the first show, the station manager complimented him on doing a good job on the air and asked him to come back the following week. Paul said, “I can’t come then; I am getting married.” So Paul is not only celebrating 30 years as one of the hosts on the Irish Hit Parade, he and his wife Claire are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary on the 17th. Paul is a school teacher so he definitely will be celebrating both occasions during school vacation week. By the way, the first song that Paul played as host in ’82 was “A Jug of Punch.” This past Saturday, Paul played that song and also the song he always plays on Holy Saturday, “The Holy City,” (Jerusalem! Jerusalem.”) Also last Saturday, Bill Bailey, the third host for the Irish Hit Parade, from 4 to 7 p.m., announced that he was going to go over to Castle Island for the Easter Sunrise Mass. He joined quite a few of our neighbors at the island for the service as we heard car doors open and close just about 6 a.m.

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Tomorrow, all those attending the 100th anniversary game at Fenway Park will be given some Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice Cocktail for the World’s Largest Toast, with 37,000 Fenway attendees hailing the park’s opening day a century ago. I hope that the Sox win. Go Sox!