Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I am reminded that this is St. Patrick's Day. If memory serves, custom dictates I drink heavily and bark at the moon, or some such.

Questions occur:

(a) In terms of the drinking and the barking, how is this different from any other day?

(b) Am I the only one who's noticed that America's two big pissups - Cinquo de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day - were contributed by Roman Catholic countries?

(c) What the hell is it about being Irish, anyway?

Take a look at this, and the description of Inishbofin. I had a softer upbringing, but I lived, and occasionally worked, side-by-side with people who didn't get electricity until the late 1970s. Most of the agriculture was by hand, and it was dirty, dangerous work.

Then there was the constant rain, the religion, the self-medication of depression with alcohol, the whole alphabet soup of paramilitaries killing each other, random civilians, police, and British soldiers.

So, like the people mentioned, I don't have terribly loving memories of Ireland either. Actually, when I left Ireland, this song was the idea I brought with me. Written by an Irishman too, as I recall.

Mind you, the older I grow, and the smaller those memories become, the fonder I am of the place. The misery of the past, well, I'm starting to put that down as a genetic inclination to putting on the poor mouth. Instead, I think more of the poetry, songs, literature, and pubs. Oh, and the satire!

In the same vein, I'm starting to look back fondly on all those violent monks and priests who had charge of my education. Even Brother Justin, that bastard. Sure, I was knocked unconscious once, and had my nose broken another time, but you know, I can never be alone: my head is too stuffed with distractions. I can still rattle off Cicero's "Pro Lege Manilia" as if I myself were sending Pompey on his way to Asia Minor, and when I try to remember what I was supposed to pick up at Publix, why "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" will oft come unbidden to my mind.

And I still laugh at Lycidas, floating in his watery beer. (Remember, he who would pun would also pick a pocket.)

What the hell is it about being Irish? It's the world's need for a race which can take great heaping gobs of misery, and somehow turn it all to gregariousness, to the well-turned phrase, to wit, to charm, to laughter.

I'm sorry. Where was I again? Oh, right, St. Patrick's day. Well, I'm away to the pub, to drink heavily, and bark at the moon.

Because, like my people, I am characterized by the qualities that make a man interesting rather than prosperous.

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