Comhar (pron., co'r), n., co-operation; alliance, reciprocity, mutuality; companionship, a cooperative society; cómhar na gcómharsan (pron. co'r na go' r-arsan), system of reciprocal labor among neighbors, companions, friends, etc.; cómhar na saoithe (pron.co'r na seeh'e), the companionship and society of artists and scholars.
—DANIEL CASSIDY, AUTHOR OF HOW THE IRISH INVENTED SLANG
The day after the world didn't end — and a couple of weeks before the January 8 release of their new album Signed and Sealed in Blood — I met up with Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey, Matt Kelly, and James Lynch at Mul's Diner in Southie. After weeks of photo-documenting the demolition of the Old Colony Housing Project, my formative world where I learned everything I know and love about community and connectedness, I've recently found myself gravitating to what's left of the Southie I knew. Mul's is one of those few places still standing. Although Mul's, these days, is normally filled to capacity with strangers on a Saturday, this was the Saturday before Christmas, and the new breed of South Bostonian was most likely visiting "home": some place other than here.
Our waitress is a rare and refreshing throwback to pre-gentrification Southie, too. Pouring our coffee, she bossily orders me to take off my coat so that I don't freeze when I go back outside, catch a cold, and die. After resisting a bit (I know the routine), I eventually comply in order to head off more threats. I know that her treatment of me is the kind that's reserved for natives, and not for outsiders. And I'm grateful for it.
We start out talking about the writing process for their new and best album yet. But in this particular context — a Saturday morning at Mul's — I naturally end up talking to the Dropkicks about community, about the increasing loss of a sense of connectedness in our current world, and about the band's ongoing commitment to the values they were reared on in Boston, whether in their families or in earlier years of grassroots punk rock and hardcore support and solidarity.
The Irish Gaeilge word for it is "comhar." And it's something the Irish learn to take with them wherever they go.