One column each week is free. So here ‘tis.
I wrote 2 others this week. If you want to read them you gotta give me some beer money though. Really….that’s all it is. $5
Friday. March 17, 2023.
It's Saint Patrick's Day. A day to revel in our Irishness. Even if we're not Irish. Because secretly everybody WANTS to be Irish. At least sometimes. It just seems to cover everything. "Oh, you're Irish?" Yes. "That explains it then...." Explains what?
I am an obvious Irish. Flannery. It doesn't get more Irish than that. From the gaelic O'Flannabhra. It means "red hair", which I do not have but whatever. My brother and my sister had some, so good on them. My Dad never had a trace of it. Neither did my Mom, although she did have a brother who looked like an extra from The Quiet Man....hair that went from red to orange when the sun hit it right. Riverdance hair. So maybe that's where it came from.
We've been around for centuries, us Flannerys. We were Dukes and Earls and Barons and Bishops. Rascals and Rogues, with maybe a saint or 2 thrown in. We did it all. We're less flamboyant now though, thankfully. A bit boring actually. Writing columns in our basements.....begging for $5 subscriptions and the like. Bashing out Van Morrison songs in local bars. But still. Not a bad lot.
There's all the old stereotypes. We drink too much and we have terrible tempers and are quick to fight. We become cops and firefighters and catholic priests and brazenly crooked politicians. We never stop going on about Ireland, even if we've never been there. And then we marry Italians and make beautiful babies. There's some truth mixed in with all of this, And some shite as well. That's another thing. We like to use the word "shite". It's a better word.
On this day it's said that everybody is Irish. Break out the green stuff. Shirts and goofy hats and oversized glasses and green Chuck Taylors. Raise your glass. Slainte and all that. Only the ones who can pronounce the name "Siobhan" can say "Slainte" correctly. The rest? It gets ugly. Gaelic is not for the faint of tongue.
In NEPA the actual SPD gets a bit garbled, as Scranton parade day steals most of the thunder. Actual St. Patrick's Day seems a bit anti-climatic. But this time it falls on a Friday, so the cops should remain busy and the potential for brawling in the Hill Section should rise exponentially.
On our day it's expected that you get roaringly drunk and sing along and that’s pretty much it. All in all, that's not a bad way to spend an evening. On their day Italians run through the streets with 1000 pound saints on their backs. That seems a bit over-dramatic. Only after all that....and eating....do they get roaringly drunk and sing along. The Irish simply cut to the chase.
My father and my older brother triggered my deep dive into Irish history. Knowing where and who you came from helps explain who you are. The Irish have been eternally fucked with. They've been invaded by the Vikings and the Normans and the Scots and nearly starved into extinction by the British. The nation remains split in two, the last gasp of English colonization. And we constantly have to answer for Bono. No wonder we drink and fight.
The Irish famine diaspora is what brought my family here. My brother poured over records and as far as he can tell we crossed over from Canada illegally. None of that Ellis Island romantic shite for us. The Flannerys made their way to the anthracite region, which promised absolutely nothing other than you would not starve as long as your back and lungs held out. Every generation that went down into the mines swore they'd be the last. My father's father spent some time in the mines as a kid....but eventually he found an assortment of jobs that he could never quite hold. Factory worker, Bus driver. Dark moods would overtake him. Mostly he'd be out late singing Irish rebel songs in local taverns.....and sometimes he'd get up in the morning and sometimes he wouldn't get up in the morning. My grandmother held the family together with the force of her iron will. You crossed her at your peril. My father wore pants that were stitched together from the pieces of other pants. But he and his siblings chased knowledge like it had stolen something from them. They were determined to make their way using their heads and not their backs. And they did. They spread from Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York City.....and eventually one found his way back home....where he confronted all his childhood ghosts by writing about them.
I think the Irish dream more than other people because they come from so much loss. And we dream in color too because the Emerald Isle doesn't make much sense in black and white. A "terrible beauty" is what Yeats called it.....both the place itself and what it means to those of us tethered to it by the fog of famine and martyrs and music and the craic fueled by countless perfect pours of Guinness. To be Irish is to remember things that have never happened to you.
Which is magical really.
In a bit...
U2 are playing live when, in between songs, Bono starts solemnly clapping before pronouncing "every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa starves to death".
A wag in the crowd shouts "stop f***ing clapping then!".