Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Five (Part Two)

That’s me somewhere behind the mic and Bill Broderick’s arm/improvised mic stand

Wednesday May 30th

By that morning I was less worried than the previous day, but still a little jittery from making sure that the speech I was going to give later would turn out to be as perfect as possible. Hence, I made sure to wake up a little late and have a very light breakfast before departing for Manhattan.

The luncheon was hosted in the building of an important financial firm located in midtown. The guests of honor were a delegation of physically disabled children from Ireland who visit the New York area every year on a goodwill trip. Their visit was funded through the same charity that helped pay for part of my undergrad tuition and gave me a boost during my darkest days a few years back: the Physically Challenged Irish and American Youth Team. Unfortunately, it’s not a very well-known charity despite all of the benevolent actions they do including pay for reconstructive surgeries of severely disabled kids. Nevertheless, it was a great honor for me to get to attend the luncheon and try to welcome these kids to the U.S. and New York.

Though I was not told to prepare a speech I knew I had to have one ready just in case I was instructed to speak. Sure enough, after arriving to the ballroom where the luncheon was being held I was greeted with a bear hug by the charity’s director and subsequently instructed to speak to the audience soon after.

“I just want you to greet these kids and welcome them to the States and tell them a bit about yourself.”

“No worries, sir. I’ve had it all planned out for days.”

“Just make it short cause there’ll be a lot of things to do.”

“Trust me Bill. Everything’s under control,” I replied while recalling all the mistakes I had made in the previous year’s speech such as drawing blanks, forgetting my main points, and stammering terribly.

After about an hour where I talked with a few VIP guests/prospective charity contributors, drank a glass of wine to ease my nerves, and headed to the bathroom to splash some water on my face, I was directed to come up to the podium to speak.

A lo que Dios quiera (it’s God’s will now),” I said to myself as I spoke.

In retrospect I’ve replayed those three minutes in my mind many times to try to pinpoint any errors. However, I can say the following without a scintilla of a doubt:

I was flawless.

Though nobody seemed to know who The Pogues were I introduced the song I was about to read as a double metaphor; one for the voyage the Irish delegation took to New York and second, how the charity helps kids in the U.S. and Ireland attain their goals much like the ship in the song. I read some lyrics from "The Irish Rover" including this stanza:

“On the 4th of July, eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the cold bay of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand city hall in New York
She was a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore and aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her
She had several blasts, she had 27 masts
And we called her the Irish Rover”

In the end I got a standing ovation (from those who could stand, that is) and it was then that I was filled with pride in accomplishing both what I had been sent out to do as well as to overcome the mistakes I made in previous occasions.

Throughout the rest of the luncheon I was far more relaxed and I talked to many people. With some I reminisced over old times such as high school or previous charity events. A representative of The Irish Consulate in New York remarked that I should've invited guests to sing "The Irish Rover" with me. (My reply: "Good idea, but we would've needed Shane McGowen!") With one incredibly attractive chaperone of the Irish delegation we talked about the poetry of Yates and Seamus Haney.

After the luncheon, I relaxed by visiting the nearby lobby of the Waldorf=Astoria and killing time before taking the Access-A-Ride back home. My normally dormant ego had blossomed by the time I commuted home, and it would stay that way for a few days.

Redemption truly is a wonderful feeling.

Sunday June 3rd

Like I mentioned in a post that day, Sunday was my grandmother’s 86th birthday. To all of my family it was an important occasion to celebrate another year of life of such an important, loved matriarch. I had the same feelings too but I also looked at it from the pessimistic standpoint of how much longer she has to live. Ever since my dad passed away I have been much more sensitive to issues of death. I just can’t deal with it as well as I ought to.

Sad thoughts aside, I was super glad to call her in Colombia and speak with her for a few minutes. Aside from wishing her a very happy birthday I emphasized that she needed to be more cognizant of her limitations. (For instance, she fell down a staircase in April and ended up very badly hurt). I gave her my heartfelt thanks for caring so much for my mom, brothers, and myself and reminded her of how much we care about her. It was very moving and nearly lost it over the phone but I pulled through.

That conversation really put things in their proper perspective for me and prepared me for the week ahead.

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