In honor of the greatest holiday ever, I thought I would list all things that come to mind about St. Patrick's home, the best of Ireland.
The Blarney Stone, as touristy as it gets. But, I did adore lying on my back and bending backwards to kiss that stone, smoothed to flatness from all the lips before mine. I hope it brought me a bit of the Irish luck and a lifetime's supply of bluster and blarney.
Of course, we will get the obvious out of the way: U2. I could just stop the list right here, but in honor of all that is Gaelic, for today, I'll continue.
Let's also get out of the way: Leprechauns, pots of gold, beer, and all the other St. Paddy's day nonsense.
Then, there is one little mother whose ancestors sailed over on the boat. A lady the size of a pint, who bore seven children, (five of them in the spread of five years). Named by her mother after her two grandmothers, Helen and Elizabeth, but nicknamed Nancy because her mother really didn't like either of those two names, re-nicknamed, Tink, either because when she was small, she walked like a Tinkertoy or she resembles the spunky little fairy, Tinkerbelle, depending on who you ask and how many they've tipped back. It's complicated, but its Irish logic at its best.
One larger than life grandfather, James, one of Chicago's Finest, who patrolled the Windy City back in the days when Al Capone ruled the world and the police were in Al's back pocket. A man who never met a stranger, who walked through life with an unlit cigar in the corner of his mouth, who liked to roll down the windows as he drove, shouting, "Hubba! Hubba!" to any pretty girl walking by, who would take his grandchildren down to the corner hot dog stand to get the "only hot dog that matters, a Chicago hot dog," usually about ten minutes after we finished dinner, who met my 16-year old date at the door, with his badge and gun and a speech about what Chicago cops could do to young men who messed with their granddaughters.
The town of Kinsale, a quaint, lovely town on the Irish coast. It was the first time I realized how smug I was in my, "America is the center of the universe" mindset. I was there November 2001, still raw from 9/11. I was in a pub, having a drink and a conversation with the bartender, a pretty Irish lass. I asked her about her country's reaction to that horrific day. She said she didn't want to diminish the tragedy, but she said, "for us, innocent lives lost in the pursuit of Godless vengeance, is a way of life. It is our history." And I sat back, shamed and stupefied that the world has been mired in tragedy over religion, lands, power and wealth since the dawn of time and yet, when it happened to us, it was different- more lamentable in our American eyes. I was humbled.
Brown Bread. Oh, if I were a songwriter, I would write an ode to brown bread. I looked forward to my brown bread, a staple, every day in Ireland. It's dense and nutty, moist and when it has just come out of the oven, it is Irish perfection, indeed. I have tried and tried to recreate it over here, but its got to have something to do with the water or maybe you have to speak in an Irish accent while you're making it. I don't know, but I miss brown bread.
The pubs. They're on every street and corner, enchanting and lyrical each in their own way. Families come for steaming bowls of Irish stew or Shepard's pie with mashed potato crust. At night, the pubs are alive with the sounds of traditional Irish music better than anything you can find on Itunes. Friends gather for a pint after work and then stay as the night wears on. The fireplace roars constantly. There is no better place to feel Irish than in a pub in Ireland.
The sheep in the road. Yes, it does happen and quite often. I'm sure for the residents, it is nothing but annoying, but for me it was movie-perfect, captivating every time we were surrounded by those bleating, fat bundles of wool.
Dublin- An ancient city, filled with the din of urban life, the sidewalks and pubs alive, wired with the soundtrack of Irish accents.
The rain. It is a fact of life in Ireland and life goes on, these hardy Irish people, thumbing their nose at the cold downpours. I remember one rain coming at us from all sides. Even though we were properly attired with heavy-duty raincoats, we were soon soaked to the bone. We escaped into a pub. When the thunder began to crackle and the power went out, no one stopped. In fact, as the Irish do so well, the storm and the blackness were simply a reason to celebrate with beer on the house for all of us there, gathered in the dark together. It wasn't too long before the power was restored and the rain began to dissipate, but everyone lingered, enjoying the camaraderie and the beer. The two little old ladies sitting next to us stayed well into the evening, tittering into the phone several hours after power had been restored, telling their husbands they were trapped in a pub in a mighty storm, the town in practical lockdown from the power outage. They said with giggles in their wistful sighs, they wished they could be home to make dinner but they thought they might be trapped for a good, long time.
The Irish Dart, a sort of subway/train that brought us into the fair city of Dublin. I loved the newspapers, scattered about the train, left from previous riders. They were probably the equivalent to our National Enquirer except the front pages were full of lusty, naked women, soft-core porn, right there on the seats of the train, with no one even batting an eye, the everyday of things. I gathered a few of them up and kept them as a souvenir, a reminder of how we Americans have never ventured away from those Puritanical roots of ours.
The courteous drivers who pull over on the side of the country roads whenever another car overtakes them. I have a hubby who prides himself on driving everywhere we go in the world. He mastered the right-hand driving early and was on his game when it came to his American, obnoxious way of driving. They didn't mind. In fact, they would tip their hat to us as we zoomed past them.
The Irish and their brogue. After a few and a few more, pints, my new Irish friends' accents would become thick and muddled. They would understand each other perfectly, but I was lost. I remember telling a group of fine Irish gentlemen in a pub one night, "I know we're speaking the same language, but I have no idea what you're saying."
I could go on for hours here, but I've got Irish celebrating to do tonight and I must go find my flashing button, that proclaims, "Kiss Me, because I'm the Lord's Almighty Real Thing."
Of course, we Irish are the only ones who have a holiday where everyone gets to be Irish. And that is because, my friend, everyone wishes to be Irish, but only the luckiest are chosen.
Today's Must Have Download: Not what you think! The Dubliners, singing an Irish classic, "Whiskey In The Jar." If you download it live, you can fill your glass with Guinness, sing along and feel like its St. Patrick's Day, everyday. My Irish Blessing to you.