My last day in California meant a day in San Francisco. I'd been once before but that was 1987 and so I was looking forward to it a lot. Being driven from Santa Rosa was perfect, took about 45 minutes and among beautiful scenery. It gave me the chance to reflect as well, the previous night had saw a packed bar watching The Asterisk Years in a place I hadn't even heard of six months ago. One of the questions I get asked is why certain people, in the media or on the lunatic fringes of it, never mention the film. I used to give a few different opinions on this but Santa Rosa made me realise: Who gives a shit? Most, if not all, of these people are in the game for a career or to protect one and therefore their opinion matters to me as much as Bomber Brown's. What I care about is what the people in the street think. I'd shut myself down for good before I'd go down the road of doing or saying anything controversial just to stay relevant. Which of course we all know they would be doing if the film was shite, so their only weapon is ignorance from an ivory tower. How ironic.
San Francisco is a beautiful city and I loved being there but I was itching to get back to New York. Anyone who knows me knows how big a bearing the city has had on my life. I was on the red eye from SFO and incredibly we boarded on time with no weather issues on this balmy Californian night. All was good as we got ready to taxi to the runway when...BANG! A coffee pot explodes. So we have to wait twenty minutes on a guy to come and rip it the fuck out, something I could have done in two seconds, before leaving. Incredibly, some middle aged woman piped up "Wait, does this mean there's no coffee on the flight now? Can't we wait til we get a new coffee pot?" A few of us looked at each other in that "Yeah, I'm in if you want to throw her out the window" kinda way but thankfully the stewardesses were in no mood to indulge this cry baby. What it did mean though was there were no films or TV on the plane which suited me as I had three seats on the plane to myself and could stretch out. I could never normally sleep on planes but have slept on all bar the short one on this trip. Thank you God. Hitting JFK at 5.30am, I was in my hotel in Manhattan for 6am, finally finding the half hour the traffic isn't crazy in New York.
It was great to be back.
I was back in October and so normality had crept in again, something that hadn't taken place for me in New York for almost a decade and when my head hit the pillow, it felt good being alive. Or as good as it can be at 6am on a Sunday morning.
My friends from Nairn, James and Donna, were flying into Newark at 12pm and we were meeting up with Jock Kennedy and Frankie Fraser at Grand Central at 2pm to be picked up by Chas Duffy to go to a screening in The Bronx. They arrived incident free and it was great to see everyone again, in particular Chas and Kev Devine whom I didn't know would be there. There was that lovely "never been away" feeling as we sped up the FDR and poked fun at MetBhoy Frankie as we passed Yankee Stadium.
I lived in The Bronx for two years and most of it was an unhappy experience but that Sunday Chas, Kev and everyone who packed out Ireland's Thirty Two washed that all away with the skill of an Upper West Side window cleaner. It was made even better as Yahmpy and family made another appearance too. It was a great day and great catch up and another box ticked in the promises I'd made around this film.
James, Donna and I had intended to get the Metro North from Woodlawn back into the city but decided instead to call in on the most bizarrely named cab firm in the world (Break To The Border) and just taxi it back to midtown. We hit Faces and Names on West 54th St but the guys were struggling and went to bed for around 10pm. I was buzzing though and knew my best friend on the planet would be in midtown for 11. It's hard to overestimate what Gary and I have been through but needless to say it was like we had never been away. He came bedecked in Celtic colours and just added another reminder that New York is indeed green and white. We talked and drank the night away in O'Lunney's and things seemed normal again. I've struggled with a lot of past shit affecting my mental state but I've moved on and feel stronger, better.
Monday came and I took the Nairn crew to the village and Little Italy. My Donnie Brasco obsession meant another visit to the Mulberry Street Bar (formerly Tony's Bar) before my Sopranos obsession meant another visit to Cha Cha's restaurant for sausage and peppers.
We went back to the hotel via Union Square and a look at America's debt before decanting to Jimmy's Corner for some cheap beers before a meal that could choke a buffalo in Virgil's. Of course, I shouldn't have been doing any of this, I should have been in Boston but an almighty snowstorm put paid to that. I was gutted because I love Boston but not a single mode of transport was available.
Tuesday I knew would be a day off so I had already made my mind up to take the guys to Queens and see some of New York that the tourist guides won't tell you about. So we did a good diner on Queens Boulevard and had a little walking tour before going to Donovan's in Woodside for an afternoon drinking. Except it was closed. Frustrated, we took the 7 train back to Manhattan not realising fate had just played her hand. Through a serious of bizarre circumstances, far too strange even to relay here, two hours later we were sitting in the Ed Sullivan Theater, the one The Beatles changed America in, watching a live recording of the David Letterman show. It's hard to describe how surreal this was. I'm an avid fan of Letterman and at times it felt like I was watching the best HD picture ever.
Minds blown, we decided to have a big night out in Hell's Kitchen and I'd like to say I was the target of a cougar except a friend in Cali pointed out that I am too old to regard anyone as a cougar.
A drunken night was had by all though and Gary put in another appearance.
Wednesday was game day, for Celtic at Firhill and me at Jack Demsey's. So I watched Celtic at Firhill in Jack Demsey's. This gave me a chance to hook up with Big Tommy again, the lynch pin of the NY Fenian Bhoys. Guys like Tommy are one in a million. In fact, ten million. Another successful screening ensued and this part of tour was over.
Jack Demsey's gave me a chance to meet a whole load of new Tims and reaffirm my belief that the fans are the club. These are the people I made this film for, not for the press, the careerists or the critics, but the folk for whom Celtic is a way of life. I was given gifts by most of them and that's the best aspect, a recognition that we are in this together. Celtic have millions of these people all over the world and through the film I've met over 2000 of them since November. They are the ones who suffered most through the two decades of cheating, which explains why they get it and probably answers why others don't.
Oh, and God Bless America.