Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Danahey on the loose at the Purple Pig & CYSO


On June 16, it will be Bloomsday, when nerdy literate types play dress-up to celebrate the date in 1904 Dublin on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set.

It’s their version of a Star Trek convention, I guess. Two years ago, some Joyce  fans even attempted to tweet the whole damn book, 140 characters at a time, which would take a long time and make for even more unnecessary online chatter as there are about 265,000 words in the novel.

A better way to mark Bloomsday is to head out for your own adventures, which I did (again) this past Sunday in downtown Chicago.

Don’t worry. Most of us have Internet-caused ADHD these days – myself included – so I’m not going to stream-of-conscious this and won’t even write past 1,000 words.

There is no Molly Bloom in my story, either, but a redheaded waitress named Taylor at The Purple Pig, the latest hot spot on North Michigan Avenue.

She gave me another good title possibility for my autobiography: Loving the Lardo.

Lardo from The Purple Pig
Lardo from The Purple Pig

Lardo is made from pig fatback, and spread on toast, it’s as tasty as any non-stinky cheese. If you fed it to a vegetarian, she would change her environmentally-challenged ways.

Lardo was the highlight of an order than included a board filled with cured meats – the best of which was a coppa – and roasted bone marrow with herbs.

Yes, it was like being in Game of Thrones, but without the violence, windy dialogue, or clothing that would be really uncomfortable and smelly to wear in summer.

There was some of the tedium, though, as places like The Purple Pig don’t take reservations. Our wait was an hour, which paled next to those who showed up a half hour after us and were told it would be three hours to get served. Why can’t places just charge patrons a fee if they don’t show up in time for their tables instead of making everybody wait like it’s a thrill ride at Six Flags?

Still, to sit outdoors eating like a High King of Ireland at a restaurant up for a James Beard Award named after what allegedly happens to a hog if it drinks wine is nothing to whine about.

Besides, I had a Belhaven Scottish Ale as thick and creamy as any Guinness. No sour grapes here.

And after eating, it was time to head over to Symphony Center to hear the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Running late, we cabbed it, with a driver who looked like Korean pop star Psi crossed with Justin Bieber. And the other reason he scared me was that he had an earbud in so he could talk to somebody on his smartphone.

The 123-member CYSO is one of those organizations which shows the diversity that is Chicago, all on one stage –  and which makes me realize that my talents might be limited to power eating, cracking wise and being able to hit deadlines.

I got in touch via email with a few of the Irish American kids in advance of the performance – meaning I am just using Bloomsday as a hook on which to hang this column.

Anyway, Patrick Dunaj of Orland Hills noted he’s been playing the French Horn for seven years, and “since I can’t reasonably say that in 5th grade I had fully formed opinions on music, I chose the instrument simply because I could.”

“I was not raised with any emphasis on my Irish heritage,” Dunaj stated. “I enjoy listening to traditional Celtic music and will not complain if I hear it, but I am not an overt fan.”

Dunaj noted “there are not many similarities between Celtic music and the music I typically play. The horn is not particularly conducive to Celtic music.”

That’s not the case for Julianne Kennedy of Orland Park who stated she was “initially interested in playing the violin (nine years ago), but I preferred the richer tone of the viola compared to the violin.”

Julianne Kennedy Tour 2012 credit: Photo by Amanda Goedde, Courtesy of CYSO  Students clockwise from top L: Jim Daniels, Julianne Kennedy, Benjamin Manis, Austin Huntington
Julianne Kennedy Tour 2012 credit: Photo by Amanda Goedde, Courtesy of CYSO
Students clockwise from top L: Jim Daniels, Julianne Kennedy, Benjamin Manis, Austin Huntington

“I listen to some Celtic music like Loreena McKennitt and Celtic Thunder,” she noted. “Both classical and Celtic music can be relaxing to listen to. Also, Celtic and classical musicians both have a strong passion for what they play. Being Irish influenced me to play a string instrument, because I’ve always been interested in fiddle music.”

Personifying that passion was Claire Bourg of Aurora, who was the featured soloist in Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, part of which was featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey (odyssey being the Greek work from which the Latin word Ulysses is derived and a hint that this opus is coming to its coda).

If was one of four works used in that film were featured in the concert, and in the words of Irish funkmaster George Clinton, Bourg tore the thatched roof off the sucker.

Dressed in a magenta gown like something out of a Celtic Woman show, Bourg played with an intensity beyond her years and held the stage for 20 minutes or so.

You can see for yourself on June 16, when the CYSO plays most of the same pieces in a free Fathers Day concert at 6:30 p.m. in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Bloomsday is Fathers Day, too (which means I am really clever with the literary conceits, maybe even conceited), so until then, try reading Ulysses while watching Kubrick’s movie.

Then tweet about it. I dare you.

Or just have your own Bloomsday like I did, preferably with inspiring meat dishes and wonderful music.

Or what’s a heaven for? Which ain’t Joyce, but very Victorian of me.

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