Goodnight everyone, and have a real deal weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.

Knowing that I’m a huge Elvis fan a friend of mine several weeks ago asked if I was going to see the Elvis biopic starring Austin Butler that premiered today. I honestly couldn’t give a definitive answer.

I’m no fan of Elvis impersonators. With the exception of Kurt Russell who I believe gave a credible performance in a late 1970’s TV movie and the late Tom Green of Milwaukee I harbor a great distaste for impostors of the King. To me they only give, even unintentionally, a tremendous disservice to Elvis’ image and legacy. Not to mention they just simply aren’t all that good.

If I would see the biopic (I passed it on it today) I’d undoubtedly sit there and criticize over and over.

‘That’s not right.’

‘That didn’t happen.’

‘Elvis wouldn’t say or do that.’

‘The vocals are awful.’


And I could be wrong. The movie might be terrific.

Even so, there will be never be anything like the real deal, and that’s my focus this week.

A rap on Elvis is that he couldn’t act. Those critics probably never saw 1958’s “King Creole,” considered by fans and critics as his very best film.

Having flunked graduation for a second time and needing cash to support his unemployed father, Danny Fisher (played by Elvis) takes a job as a busboy in New Orleans nightclub, run by mobster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau). There he encounters Fields’ kept mistress – fading singer Ronnie (Carolyn Jones).

“He [Elvis] was an instinctive actor,” said Matthau. “He was quite bright…he was very intelligent…He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate, and refined, and sophisticated.”

“As the lad himself might say, cut my legs off and call me Shorty! Elvis Presley can act…Acting is his assignment in this shrewdly upholstered showcase, and he does it.” 
Howard Thompson, Review of “King Creole,” New York Times, 1958 

“A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.” 
Hal Wallis, Producer of nine of Elvis’ films

When Elvis came out of the Army one of his subsequent films was the immensely popular “Blue Hawaii.” The soundtrack album was on the Billboard Pop Albums chart for 79 weeks, where it spent 20 weeks at #1. It has been certified by the RIAA for sales of three million copies in the U.S.

“Blue Hawaii” and the previously released “G.I. Blues” were so big that they set the stage for a formula for future Elvis films with familiar elements:

A fight scene, usually ending with Elvis winning and fleeing the scene

Elvis singing in a car or while riding a motorcycle

“Silly” plots or insignificant plots that usually involve Elvis in romancing a female with songs

Beautiful young women

Elvis as a man trying to succeed on his own talents and merits

A soundtrack that sold a ton of records


From cheatsheet.com:

The Viva Las Vegas choreographer, David Winters, followed the co-stars into Ann-Margret’s dressing room one day to discuss the song (“Cheek to Cheek” sung by The Jubilee Four). But when he put on the music, all they could see was each other.

“He put on the tape,” Ann-Margret remembered. “We listened to it once, watching each other from across the room, staring into each other’s eyes and thinking. We didn’t say a word. We didn’t have to.”

After their silent bond was forged, Elvis asked the choreographer to play “Cheek to Cheek” again. Their connection came alive and developed into a full-on dance, right there in Ann-Margret’s dressing room.

“The moment the music started, Elvis and I just started to move,” Ann-Margret wrote in Ann-Margret: My Story. “Nothing had been rehearsed, but to watch you wouldn’t have known that. We covered the entire room, bumping into the furniture, shoving it aside, circling each other like a couple of caged animals.”

It was in that “spontaneous burst of creativity,” Ann-Margret revealed, that most of the choreography for “Cheek to Cheek” was set. A stunned Winters simply told them, “Great. Just do that.”


In Ann-Margret’s memoir, she wrote, “Once the music started, neither of us could stand still. We experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me…We look at each other move and saw virtual mirror images.”

As Elvis gradually lost popularity to other entertainers during the 60’s he gained it backed thanks to a monumental 1968 NBC-TV special.

Rolling Stone wrote:

“The King reclaimed his crown with one of the greatest performances of all time. The hour-long broadcast, then dubbed Elvis and now known as the “’68 Comeback Special,” proved that the then–33-year-old still had swagger. For years, he’d been exiled in Hollywood – making movies instead of touring, as the Beatles blew up and rock got bigger than ever – so the show was a long-overdue return to pure performing for the singer. 
 
Although Presley began work on his next movie, a Western called Charro, a week after shooting, the special transformed his career. When it aired on December 3rd, it was seen by 42 percent of the viewing audience, making it the number-one show of the season. Moreover, the show’s soundtrack album made it into the Top 10 and was later certified platinum, and the single, “If I Can Dream,” made it up to Number 12 and went gold; both were his highest-charting releases since 1965. 

Elvis’ movie contracts ended, removing the chains that prevented him from doing live concerts. He hit Las Vegas, and eventually all of America. No, the movies of the 50’s and 60’s never won any awards, but his documentary chronicling his shows on the road captured a Golden Globe.


That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

This week the LA Times ran a column wondering if Elvis mattered anymore. Here’s a portion.

Chris Isaak, a singer who has kept the fire of early rock ’n’ roll alive throughout his career and who appears on the “Elvis” soundtrack as well as providing the vocals for country star Hank Snow in the movie, has seen how Presley’s peers are being forgotten.

“I was talking to a young girl, and she’s a successful singer, so she knows music,” Isaak recounted. “I said, ‘Are you putting harmonies like the Everly Brothers on this?’ And there was a blank look in her eye. I said, ‘Are you acquainted with the Everly Brothers?’ She had no clue. That was kind of shocking to me. I think a new generation will see this movie and go, ‘Wow. I love this music. Who is this guy?’”

Elvis’ amazing special, “Aloha from Hawaii,” aired on January 14, 1973, and it was the first entertainment special by a solo artist to be broadcast live around the world.

There was no set ticket price for the concert; instead, donations were given. The more the donation, the better the seat. Elvis actually purchased a ticket for himself and his entourage at $100 each (which, with inflation, would be over $575 in today’s money).

He asked that donations and merchandise sales go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund, which had been established following the songwriter’s death in 1966. Lee wrote “I’ll Remember You,” which Elvis covered in many of his concerts, including in the “Aloha” special. The goal was to raise $25,000. A total of $75,000 was raised for the fund.

Elvis’ “Aloha from Hawaii” aired in more than 40 countries across Asia and Europe. The special didn’t air in the United States on January 14, though. There was another major TV moment happening on U.S. televisions on January 14 – Super Bowl VII – so “Aloha from Hawaii” aired on April 4. It is estimated, though, that between 1 and 1.5 billion viewers watched the king’s special.

Kyla, yes we’re celebrating our wedding anniversary with you, and it’s just fine

Today our lovely daughter Kyla competed in her 126th feis.

What in the world is a feis?

 “FEIS” (pronounced FESH) is a Gaelic word that means festival. Many years ago in Ireland, the local towns would hold a Feis where the community would gather–Many entered contests to show their baking, music, dance and art skills.  

We keep these traditions alive today!  At a feis, registrants can compete in a variety of Irish cultural activities. In addition to the dancing competitions, we encourage our dancers and their families to enter the other competitions available: music, baking, singing and art!  Even our parents have entered (and won!) baking competition! Yum! 

Kyla danced today at a feis in New Berlin hosted by the Kinsella Irish dance of Milwaukee. These competitions are held for dancers to attempt to rise all the way to the World Irish Dance Championships, and then who knows where else.

These feis events are a big deal.

Today my lovely wife Jennifer and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary.

Trust me, we made no big deal about that. Instead we prepared for what we hoped would be an exciting day for our daughter.

We arrived on-site quite early at 7:30, and we danced, sorry, and Kyla danced and danced over and over again, eight times to be exact.

At one point late in the day, out of nowhere Kyla approached Daddy, slumped in a folding chair and surprised him with, “Are you okay with spending your wedding anniversary with me here?”

I had to assure her twice before she was satisfied (good girl).

In less than two minutes Jennifer turned up from nowhere in tears. The results were in. In the reel Kyla came in 1st, moving her up in the next class on Irish dancers to PRIZE WINNER.

For the day, Kyla earned one 4th (Treble Jig) two 3rd’s (Hornpipe) one 2nd (Slip Jig) and a FIRST PLACE in Reel which moved her up a level to Prizewinner! Oh so very close to four 1st place finishes.

Was her Irish grandmother Audrey Fischer looking down on her today? What do you think?

Happy Anniversary Mommy and Daddy!

We’ll take it!

Maybe I didn’t see the longest HR in baseball ever, but then…

Decades ago when my father worked for the US Postal Service he’d come home and quickly change from one uniform to another: usher for the Milwaukee Braves at the old County Stadium.

In 1965, the final season for the Braves in Milwaukee before moving to Atlanta, Dad would take me to the ballpark and slip me under the turnstile so I could roam the stands and take in a game. No one in authority batted an eye. Everyone knew the Braves were history, so the seats were mostly empty.

I’ve blogged in the past that my father was not the overly emotional type. But on one September 1965 car ride to County Stadium I’ll never forget how dad, without crying, still couldn’t hide his sadness from this young sharp kid. When I asked dad what was wrong as we approached the stadium parking lot, he answered succinctly that the team wasn’t coming back next season. My questioning stopped. Once Hank Aaron left the Atlanta Braves I stopped following and liking that team for life.

Baseball wasn’t totally dead for County Stadium. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2018:

If you can’t get a team, rent one. 

That was the idea in 1968, when Milwaukee, still smarting from the loss of the Braves to Atlanta in 1966, lured the Chicago White Sox to play at County Stadium.

After the 1967 season, White Sox owner Arthur Allyn announced that the team would play 10 games in 1968 — one game against each A.L. team, and a preseason exhibition game against the crosstown Cubs — at County Stadium. The games were “sponsored” by the Brewers, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported on Oct. 31, 1967. The White Sox did play at County Stadium again in 1969 — 11 games, one against each team in the league, which had expanded to 12 teams for the season.

So when the White Sox came calling, Dad’s phone rang, asking if he could usher once more, and he did. And yours truly got to sneak into more games, even if it meant being subjected to, as Dad called them, the “banjo hitting” White Sox.

I checked the online stats, and the old Washington Senators played the White Sox at County Stadium on August 2, 1968, and again on August 6, 1969. In BOTH games, huge powerful slugger for Washington Frank Howard (who later became a coach for the Milwaukee Brewers) blasted a homer in each of those games.

I don’t know which game I attended. Maybe it was both. Just don’t know. But this I do remember, vividly. Watching from the stands with a perfect view from behind home plate I was soon awestruck when the Senator’s imposing first baseman Howard launched an atomic bomb to straightaway center field.

Gone for sure. Just a matter of how far. As the ball soared, kids my age in the outfield bleachers immediately were in retreat, quickly running upwards, one row after another until they ran out of rows. No longer facing the field they now looked over the back wall to the parking lot. No chalet housing Bernie Brewer back then to obstruct Homer’s missile. The ball landed, who knows where, smashing a windshield or any other part of some innocent vehicle.

If there was technology at the time measuring hits over the fences I’m unaware. How far did Howard’s onslaught travel? You got me.

This is all a long prelude to what happened 35 years ago today. That would be reportedly baseball’s longest home run 35 years ago today. And it was belted by a guy who later played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988 and 1989.

Read about it here.

Meyer gets credit while he was in the minors. Howard got this wide-eyed kid excited when he was in the big leagues. When I walk down Memory Lane Howard will be there. Meyer will not.

FLASHBACK: A very meaningful graduation speech

It’s cap and gown time. Heading to a graduation soon? You’re bound to hear the same themes main speakers have spewed for decades.

Set goals for success.

Take responsibility for your own actions.

Learn from your mistakes.

This is just the beginning of a lifetime trial.

Have integrity.

Be determined.

Let your expectations be high.

All well and good of course. But not very original, or memorable for that matter.

Here’s an old blog of mine about a speech that’s quite impressive, but unfortunately few graduates will hear anything like it.


Goodnight everyone, and have a CELEBRATION weekend!!!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!

This week’s musical installment is dedicated to my Daughter Kyla who turned 13 today. We’ll feature some of Kyla’s favorites. Don’t worry, you older kids. I know you’ll enjoy, and we’ll sprinkle in some photos of our dear Kyla having the time of her life.

Let’s get started.

Any idea on how we should get rolling?

I surely do. Isn’t it obvious?

During the final years of the Beatles the group was at a recording studio one day, but in a big hurry to get to Paul McCartney’s house in hopes of catching  the British TV premiere of the 1956  rock ‘n’ roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It.

The Fab Four found themselves kicking around a simple Blues track as opposed to recording anything too complex.

So the guys watched the movie with the bombshell Mansfield and completed the song back in the studio later that evening.

“With ‘Birthday’ we had a few friends around and it was one of our party’s birthday, can’t remember who. Pattie Boyd was there, Terry Dolan, just a few mates, ” said Paul McCartney.

“Normally we didn’t have friends around to sessions so it was very unusual. We didn’t know what song to do so we decided to make one up. We did what Roy Orbison had done with ‘Pretty Woman’  and Little Richard had started with ‘Lucille’, ‘ do-do do-do do-do do-do; Roy Orbison goes, do-do do-do DO-DO DO-DO- he just changes the end a little bit. We changed basically the same riff of Lucille and Pretty Woman into Birthday- do-do do-do do-do do-do…’You say it’s your birthday’.”

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Regular readers know Kyla is an Irish dancer, a proud member of the Glencastle Irish Dancers based right where we live, in Franklin, WI.

Her favorite musicians are international stars, The Byrne Brothers. Kyla met them last August backstage at the La Crosse (WI) Irish Fest.

And again the following week at Milwaukee Irish Fest.

The group has corresponded with us. Even sent Kyla a brand new, yet to go on sale sweatshirt last month for her birthday.

And we’re going to see them next month in Milwaukee. Excited Kyla?

She’s a dancer alright.

Next, a Kyla favorite.

In 2013 American rapper Pitbull along with artist Kesha recorded the dance tune “Timber.”

In a nutshell the song’s message if you will is that before you call it a night you need to party hard.

It’s going down, I’m yelling timber
You better move, you better dance
Let’s make a night you won’t remember
I’ll be the one you won’t forget

And it goes on.

Thankfully there’s a PG version for the little ones.

We dig into Kyla’s very own oldies vault.

Swing your partner round and round.

Since this week the feature is all about Kyla she told me this is also a song she really likes.

The artist is Phillip Phillips.

That’s it for this week.

Goodnight from a proud father.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

We close with this track from THE HITS: RELOADED.

I think you’ll recognize this huge hit from Kool & the Gang who are joined by famous British singer from the 60’s, Lulu (“To Sir with Love”) and the London Community Gospel Choir…

Lulu
Lulu

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Kyla, we asked, and you didn’t listen

Our darling Kyla turns 13 on Friday.

13.

From my blog of August 25, 2009, exactly five months after Kyla was born:

When I’m loving my little baby girl and being a dad, please don’t say, ” Just wait”

Words cannot describe the joy of being a new father of a beautiful little baby girl. I now fully understand that which so many in the massive society of fatherhood have had the pleasure of appreciating before me.

You wish time could virtually stand still so this tiny little miracle could forever retain her angelic innocence. That being impossible, you try to soak in every glorious baby moment. Pondering what lies ahead, however, is part of the deal. The focus on the present is often broken by well-wishing friends and relatives with those two now oh-so familiar words: “Just wait!”

Ah, yes.

So much to look forward to.

So much to worry about.

I was reminded about my future father role working backstage at the Main Stage at the Wisconsin State Fair during the Demi Lovato concert. Lovato is the latest Disney Channel star.

Prior to the show, I joked with some of the handful of fathers who looked less than thrilled to be on hand.

“Do you have any idea what you’re in for?” I asked them, knowing that 5,000 screaming prepubescent girls can shatter eardrums a mile away.

“Oh yeh I do,” chuckled one dad. “I’ve seen Britney Spears.”

Britney’s path from cute bopping teen to adolescent tramp is legendary. Following such a transformation, there’s always another young girl to step in and play the part, selling mega tickets, CD’s, videos, and merchandise. The latest is Miley Cyrus who has grown out of her sweet, Hannah Montana character.

Cyrus stunned moms all across America recently when she performed a pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards.

Lest we forget, Cyrus is 16 years old. Doesn’t matter to her big lug, achy breaky heart father, Billy Ray Cyrus who defended Miley’s stripper-like routine:

“You know what? I just think that Miley loves entertaining people. She loves singing and songwriting. I always tell her to love what you’re doing and stay focused for the love of the art and not worry so much about opinion,” said the proud papa.

So, is this the only way for young girls to “make it?” Dress and behave as provocatively as possible? That certainly is the message they’re getting.

Then there’s the music.

When I was growing up, parents (the ones that weren’t cool) were having heart attacks about anything even remotely more exciting than Pat Boone.

I’ve never understood what all the fuss was about. Elvis simply wanted to be your teddy bear. The Beatles just wanted to hold your hand. Today, almost every song is scandalous in its sheer obscenity.

The Culture and Media Institute provides the breakdown that would make any parent panic:

“From June 10 to July 22, 29 songs were listed on the top 20 airplay charts as posted by Mediabase. An astonishing 69 percent of the songs made at least one reference to sex, alcohol, drugs, or contained profanity. Nearly half (46 percent) of the songs contained sexual lyrics and 31 percent of the songs referenced drugs or alcohol. Profanity occurred in 41 percent of the songs.

Despite these troubling numbers, the media has been generally indifferent to the obscenity, and often praised the artist. Some of the artists even performed on the networks’ morning shows.”

Great.

Let’s move to the computer.

The London School of Economics reports nine out of 10 teens who go online will view pornography. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 70 percent of those who viewed porn stumbled across it – many while innocently doing their homework – and had not been looking for it.

That’s the current state of affairs.

Who will be and what will the teen tramp star be like when my daughter is 12, 13, 14?

What kind of trash will be on the radio, on the Internet and other outlets?

I trust my wife and I will be up for the challenge.

And we haven’t even discussed boys!

I’ve already addressed how I’m going to handle that whole issue. There will be two simple rules young males will have to follow:

1) The young lad will have to get out of his car, walk up the driveway, ring the doorbell, expect to enter and meet me face to face where he will be subject to a series of probing, not so subtle questions about himself, his family and just about any other topic I choose for interrogation.

That’s rule #1.

Rule # 2 is even easier.

2) The young lad is not allowed anywhere on or near my property.

I can always turn to this gem, a column by one of my favorites, Doug Giles:

“The Ten Commandments for My Daughter’s Potential Boyfriends”

Here is a sample:

“Thou shall not touch my daughter, or I’ll tear your hands off and you’ll have to ‘whip the bishop’ with a stub. Not only am I not cool with your being around me, I’m sure as heck not down with your touching my daughter. Therefore, when you’re in my space (and in my absence) you’d better treat my daughters with the utmost respect.

Do not under any circumstance hang all over my daughter, fondle my daughter or soul kiss my kid until you have a wedding ring on her finger, a joint checking account and MMA at Wachovia—or I will shove your Justin Timberlake backside off my 3rd floor balcony first chance I get, capisce?”

Here’s the rest.

Happy 5-month birthday, Kyla.

Please.

Please, sweetheart. Please don’t grow up so fast.

—This Just In, August 25, 2009

Fast forward to today.

Nope.

Didn’t listen.

It’s Christmas time all over again for our Irish girl

That would be 12-year old (soon to be, ugh, 13) daughter Kyla.

These days it’s one thrill after another.

Just last month a special package addressed to Kyla came from Florida.

OH…MY…GOODNESS!

An early birthday present. A brand new, not yet released sweatshirt from her friends, the internationally known Irish family band, the Byrne Brothers.

This could be the first time she ever attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Milwaukee, marveling at the dancers on the street. And when we’d visit Milwaukee Irish Fest and see all sorts of dancers she’d say to Mom and Dad that she “wanted to be an Irish girl.” We chuckled and reminded her she already was. And who knows. Someday.

Now she’s been in several parades. The latest was this past Saturday.

Fun with friends, and cool shades.

Hey, another package to check out.

Tickets to see… the Byrne Brothers at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center next month we got her, right Kyla?

Saturday’s post-parade party was held at the ICHC, and seats are still available for the Byrne Brothers who put on a great show, like the ones at Irish Fest last summer. Kyla and friends had a blast in front of the stage.

And St. Patrick’s Day Kyla will be dancing with Glencastle at various locations to celebrate the wearin’ of the green.

Yes, she is truly an IRISH GIRL!

FLASHBACK: My dear Irish mother

From my blog of March 17, 2010:

“THE YEAR OF MY MOTHER” IS A YEAR-LONG SERIES OF BLOGS DEDICATED TO MY DEAR, SWEET MOM WHO DIED IN EARLY JANUARY OF THIS YEAR. I PLAN TO DEVOTE SPECIAL BLOGS THROUGHOUT 2010 TO MY MOM WITH SPECIAL REFLECTIONS AND MEMORIES THAT I HOPE WILL INSPIRE READERS AND CAPTURE THE TRUE SPIRIT AND CHARACTER THAT WAS THE GREATEST WOMAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN.

It was Christmas Eve, 1991.

The Fischer family was gathered at my brother’s house. Dad had been gone for several years.

No one knew what was coming.

We alternated from person to person, each opening a present from his/her stack, one at a time, in order.

Eventually, my mother opened up a relatively large gift from #2 son, me. It was one of those large coffee table books featuring brilliant photos of Ireland.

“Go ahead, Mom. Look inside at some of the pictures.”

And she did, paging and paging until she got to an envelope containing a card informing Mom that yours truly had already made arrangements to take her to Ireland in March.

My mother was extremely, extremely, extremely proud of her Irish heritage. And being the unselfish way she was, had I not made all the arrangements ahead of time, she would have never been satisfied and insisted that the trip she wanted for a, lifetime, her first to her beloved Emerald Isle, be totally on her.

No way.

I have so many wonderful memories of that 1992 trip.

On St. Patrick’s Day, we headed out that morning in Dublin to find a spot for the parade. There is no green beer and acting bonkers on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. The day is reverent, a national holiday. Everything is closed, schools, businesses, banks, restaurants, pubs while the 3-hour plus parade winds its way through the Dublin streets.

Following all the advice from the travel experts, Mom and I had dressed appropriately with winter coats.

Wrong move.

Bright sunshine and temperatures around 65 degrees.

I asked the natives if this was unusual. Highly unusual was the response. Normally, a gloomy, cloudy sky greeted parade-goers with rain or even snow, 42 degrees if you’re lucky.

Don’t ask me what street my Mom and I found us on, but it was in some financial district. Irish kids and teenagers and adventurous adults found their way up to the second and third story windows of bank and office buildings and perched themselves for ideal parade viewing spots.

I was struck, but not surprised by the families in attendance. Mom and dad didn’t have one or two children. No… they had 4, 5, 6 or more. Talk about your Catholics!

The parade was amazing. It had everything and lasted, as I mentioned for hours.

At one point, my mother and I heard exclamations from the multitude of children on either side of us:

“Look,” they shouted.

“Here they come! Here come the Americans!”

Hanging from the upper story window perches on those bank buildings you could hear and see the excitement that someone (in this case, Americans) was making its way closer.

Naturally. Mom and I trained our gaze down the street to, in this instance, our left. Who is coming? Who has created all this buzz?

They marched in rows, dozens and dozens of them.

They were beautifully uniformed in orange and blue.

And then, I made them out and looked at Mom and said, “Oh my goodness.”

There I was on Irish soil, a red-blooded American filled with native pride. I have never felt since that time the tremendous love for the University of Illinois Marching band that I felt that morning in Dublin on March 17, 1992. Here I was, thousands of miles from my home, and nearby friends and neighbors approached. The Irish folks around me applauded loudly. So did I.

And then, as the band got right on top of us, you know what happened. Parade roadblock. The Fighting Illini band stopped dead in its tracks right in front of Mrs. Fischer and me. So I did what I do best. I started talking to the young kids who were like statues a few feet away.

I introduced myself as their neighbor to the north. God bless these kids, they didn’t turn in rejection once they learned my homeland. These nice youngsters told how they paid their entire way in order to march in this amazing parade. I wasn’t that much older than the band members I was glad to speak to, and yet I felt fatherly. Shy Mom was listening to every word of the exchange, and just when we were having a good ol’ time, the logjam broke, and my new friends from Champagne, Illinois, my only friends from Champagne suddenly started walking.

No, it wasn’t Michael Leckrone and the Badger Band. But it was darn close, and it made that day even more special. For one day, I was oh so fond of the Fighting Illini.

The Marching Illini band from the University of Illinois in 1992 became the first American college band to participate in the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade.  It can cost a band of this size about $500,000 to come to Ireland to march in the parade. Photo: Irish Times

AFTER the parade, the doors of every pub in town fly wide open, and it’s a celebration.

BEFORE the parade, in our hotel the night before, Mom and I had settled down to what we thought would be a quiet, pleasant dinner.

I was amazed at the Irish cuisine and its high quality, especially their beef, seafood, and the freshness of their vegetables.

When in Rome, do what the Romans do. I learned early that if you order a hard boiled egg with shaved onions and some cream on the side with your Guinness, the Irish will think you know what you’re doing. That was my hors d’oeuvres every night.

Back to our dinner March 16, the night before St. Patrick’s Day. As huge as the hotel dining room was, I didn’t imagine it would fill up. Suddenly, an outburst erupted and every table was filled with an adult or two accompanied by a host of American teenage girls, all of whom were marching in the next day’s parade.

Our waiter, who bore a strong resemblance to Gopher on The Love Boat, was in seventh heaven.

It was great to see fellow Americans having a great time after they had scrimped and saved to make it all possible.

That night, I discovered my mother had developed Ireland-itis. All of a sudden. My Milwaukee mother was speaking with an Irish brogue.

Gopher would ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine, fine.”

Except my mother didn’t say, “Fine, fine.”

My mother said, “Foo-ine, foo-ine.”

You know what I’m saying?

I almost dropped my Guinness.

“Mom,” I said after she did this about 100 times. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

“No, what?” she answered in the most perfect Dublin accent.

When I told her, she laughed so hard and so did I, and I’m so glad.
Mom was amazing. Back home, on trips to Irish Fest, this lady would get so excited that despite possessing not the best of legs, she’d find herself 25-30 yards ahead of the rest of the pack.

On our Irish trip, my mother was like a 16-year old in Blarney. She was all aglow at a bubbling brook leading up to the famed Blarney Castle. Heading up the, and I forget, is it 132 steps to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone, I asked Mom if she needed to stop and rest because those steps were so narrow. Some 20 steps ahead of me, my Mother shouted back, “Did you say something?”

“No, Mom. Just keep going.”

“Well, of course.”

“Are you alright?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” said Mom with not an ounce of huffing or puffing.

My mother was always afraid of heights. At the top of the Blarney Castle, she wanted to sign up to give tours.

On the left, Mom outside the Blarney Castle

Audrey Fischer was a treasure trove of Irish goodies. She had Irish sweaters, Irish jewelry, Irish perfume. Saturdays meant watching Fighting Irish Notre Dame football. She cried every time she watched the Knute Rockne Story.

Mom was buried with Irish Connemara rosary beads.

Her immeasurable Irish pride has been passed down to her children and grandchildren.

If she were here today, she’d be watching QVC for all their 24-hour Irish special programming. She’d open the St. Patrick’s Day cards she’d receive, even from friends and family that aren’t Irish, but know all too well that she was. My brother and his wife would no doubt get her Bailey’s and I’d get her some soda bread. And my mom, even if she’d never leave the house would be ok because it didn’t matter. Wherever she was, usually in the warm confines of her very own home, she was far more than content knowing she was, indeed, comfortable in her own home, Irish, and darn proud of it.

There is but one and only one whose love will fail you never. One who lives from sun to sun with constant fond endeavor.

There is but one and only one on earth there is no other. In Heaven a noble work was done when God gave man a Mother.

Irish mother’s blessings:

With the first light of sun …Bless you. When the day is done …Bless you. In your smile and in your tears …Bless you. Through each day of all your years …Bless you.

Mom with granddaughter Kyla the morning after she was born. Note the sweater.