Okay, kids. Its St. Patrick's Day. I feel almost as though I am obligated to post something on St. Patrick's Day, as if its 'my holiday'. My claim to that is tenuous, I could at best be described as half (maybe more like 30%) Irish and a lot of my 'Irish involvement' has waned over the last few years, replaced by things like 'marriage' and 'full time employment'.
But there was a time, boy howdy...there was a time.
In college I became aware of 'the situation' in Ireland. Some people call it 'The Troubles', a euphemism that, when Americans say it, annoys me intensely. (I don't think any tribe of Native Americans would call their progressive historical disenfranchisement 'The European Spot of Bother'....for instance.) At any rate, I started reading and learning, first with current events and finally reaching back, oh, about 800 years. I spent a year and a half just reading anything I could get my hands on. To say it interested me a great deal was an understatement; it was a 24-7 obsession. Thanks to a series of chance meetings I found myself with an opportunity not only to live in Belfast for a time, but to spin it for college credit. Advisors were argued with, and departmental meetings were held, mostly because this was a self-directed study, and partly because I was planning on living in a sketchy neighborhood of a city with a lot going on that didn't make the AAA Travel Guide, with people who spent most of their free time being harassed by the police and security forces. I argued and argued until I could prove the educational merit of my travel. I won the debate, and I went.
I spent time both in the Republic and the North, and while that by no means makes me any kind of expert on all things Irish, I noticed a few things that always come to mind when this holiday rolls around.
- Ham and Cabbage --Nobody has a clue what the deal is with ham and cabbage. It is not an 'Irish thing'. An Irish American thing, maybe, but when I asked about it in Ireland, they looked at me like I had two heads.
2. The Beer Myth-- No bar I ever went into in Derry, Belfast, Dublin, or up in the Wicklow Mountains in the shadow of the Glendalough Monastery ruin, served warm beer. I went to a bar where you had to hold the stall door in front of you in the ladies room because some angry drunk woman with impressive balance had kicked it off the hinges, but even there, the beer was cold.
3. The Disney-quisition--In Belfast, 89% of the people who got into a 'So you are an American' conversation with me asked me if I had ever been to Disney World. (I have not, largely by choice.) Then they talked about Disney for 10-15 minutes. Anything less than a thoroughgoing enthusiasm from my side on the Disney issue was met with bewilderment tinged with hostility. I learned to lie.
4. Sweet Caroline -- Granted, I probably did more karaoke in Belfast than was good for me, but I discovered early on that this song is a very, very popular choice. The best performance was in a bar that looked like some sort of post-apocalyptic bunker from the outside, and it was sung by a giant guy covered with tattoos and home-inflicted body piercings...to his grandma.
5. Just call me 'Canadianesque'-- On three separate occasions, on learning I was American, people said, "Oh, I assumed you were Canadian." I never did find out what is so Canadian about me, or whether I should have taken that as a compliment.
6. Feeling the Love-- One night in Belfast when cabin fever drove me out of the house to a pub by myself, I timidly pushed my karaoke request across a table to the emcee. He asked me a question, and when he heard my accent, he let me walk about six feet from him and announced over the PA system "Listen up, everyone, this is Kimberly. She's come all the way from America to sing with us and she's here on her own, so someone needs to invite her to sit at their table." Once I got over the stomach-clenching horror at being singled out I realized that the ENTIRE BAR was waving me over to their table. This was one example of many where complete strangers made me feel at home just as naturally as breathing. I have never travelled so far from home and felt so welcome.
I had to add this, a bit late, but it made me smile today.
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