Glad I’m not Irish

By Sergio Impleton

God must have been bored when He invented the Irish. He’d already played around with a few empires, watched some pyramids go up and sent sheep farmers scurrying around in the desert, ranting around about clay feet and graven images, when He noticed these little people on an island, doing absolutely nothing. Oh, they tinkered around with metal a bit and had invented some great, lethal looking gadgets for cutting wood and taking care of livestock, but nothing substantial. They just weren’t getting it. They were spending all their time talking to rocks and bushes instead of getting out there on the job lobbing pots of boiling oil at their neighbors.

The first order of the day was making these tree huggers figure out they weren’t talking to the Main Man, only the by-products He’d left behind. I’m not exactly sure how the women took this. They had been under the impression there were plenty of female sprites and spirits running around, all of which had attained some sort of goddess-head. Apparently, however, the men thought it was a great idea. Not only was there only one god, that god was male.

A glorious day for God must last about five hundred years. The Irish had their field day, running around and converting everyone to Christianity, and building monasteries while the rest of Europe undulated in applause. It seemed a splendid time to construct great Cathedrals in their own interpretations of the Man’s desires, explode into the arts and generally remain too busy to take up personal quarrels. You would have thought this benefactor who had sent his only son on a peace-keeping mission, would have been satisfied with the evidence of effective management performed by his message bearers; despite the fact that the Irish continued to be secret nature worshipers; but not so. They still hadn’t learned to lob pots of boiling oil from their castles. There was only one recourse. Send in the Vikings.

It’s not hard to imagine what the daily grapevine must have consisted of when the first Vikings arrived on Irish shores and began marauding and looting. If there had been a newspaper, the first headlines would have read, “Alien invasion! Are they from Mars?” It didn’t help that not only were the Vikings of a color they had never seen before, but they were a good two feet taller than the average Celt. It helped even less that they often wore body paint and animal skins. Imagine an early reporter interviewing his first eye witnesses. “Exactly what did your attacker look like, son?”

“Well, at first I thought he was a giant wolf. He was with a bunch of other giant wolves and bears, stealing all the gold sacramental ornaments and hauling off the women.”
“Gigantic bears and wolves got together to raid your village…”

“Ai, mate. And cougars. While me and the lads were gathering up some axes to swing at them, they began turning into these red men.”

“Red men? Little Martian red men, I take it.”

“Blimey, it was something like that except these guys were big.”

“Are you sure you haven’t been drinking too much mead? What do you mean by giant red men?”

“That they were red! That’s what I mean. They had red hair, blazing red spots on their skin, and I think they had red eyes.”

“You mean red as in the color of brick?”

“No. I mean red as in the color of fire. We battled it out with the firemen. It was a right good sport.”

Thus, the beginnings of the fighting Irish. It got so whatever the issue was, they were willing to make a fight about it. They were probably the first to say, “not in my home town,” because whatever you thought could be done, they were very adamant in saying you couldn’t. They can’t be blamed greatly for this. After getting a taste of fighting off alien invaders, they began to develop some attitudes about conquerors in general. It didn’t matter how reasonably they were approached. If the idea didn’t come from an Irishman, it didn’t count.

I don’t begrudge the Irish their day in the sun. What puzzles me is how willingly people join a celebration without the first inkling of an idea as to what it’s about. Valentine’s Day is the perfect example. For those with attention deficit problems, there’s actually a Saint in front of Valentine’s. Which means this commemoration of the king of hearts is actually a Catholic tradition, centering around not one, but possibly two or three Saint Valentines. It always takes a few pagans to make things more fun, so somehow the occasion got colored enough by cupid lore to make it a day when you’d better give something nice to your wife or sweetheart, or you’re in deep water for the rest of the year. No problem. The merchant class had been trying to think of a good way to keep the public spending money ever since they lost their business in selling clay idols. This one god philosophy had to pay off somehow, and why not by laying a little guilt trip on the husbands to buy their wives an extra something one time a year?

If they could find as profitable a market by declaring a St. Christopher’s Day, or a St. Michael’s Day, they probably would. Already, there’s a lot of band wagon jumping for the Cinco de Mayo, even though it’s doubtful very many Americans took part in the Mexican Revolution for Independence. St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect set up. Things have gone beyond the inventiveness of wearing green so you won’t get pinched by the Irish. You can now buy plastic four leaf clovers, shirts, hats and underwear sporting clover, and even frizzy green wigs. I’m not sure what bright green afro’s have to do with being Irish, but my daughter assures me its all the rage. She also insisted on getting a “kiss me, I’m Irish” button, even though there’s not a drop of Irish in her. I strongly suspect this is because she didn’t receive any cards for Valentine’s Day. It hasn’t occurred to her that this might be due to a three month binge of candy and holiday meals, but it has occurred to her to try a little free advertising.

I visualize the next phase in merchandising is the sales of lucky leprechauns. They’ll come in all shapes and sizes, as stuffed toys or ceramic lawn ornaments. They might even start making lucky leprechaun dog chew toys. Somehow, that would seem like an appropriate demise for the Irish. It seems they are able to dispense a lot of good luck, but are never allowed to keep any for themselves. Sort of like that movie, “The Cooler”. If they find luck for themselves, they sort of walk away with it, taking the entire money making machinery with them.

You won’t find very many Irish willing to discuss the laws of chance, but you will hear them debating what’s lucky or unlucky. On one St. Paddy’s Day, I was invited to the pub to have a few beers with some Irish companions. Since I can find no greater abomination than passing up a few drinks, it wasn’t difficult to convince me to come along in the spirit of celebration. At the pub, they were testing one new fella who insisted he was Irish. “If you find a penny on the ground, tails up, would you pick it up,” a tried and true, grizzled old timer asked.

“No,” replied the young man. “But I would probably turn it over to bring the next person who finds it luck.”

“Hmm. That’s Irish,” agreed the group. “But what if you found a quarter on the ground, tails up?”

“I’d figure that was my luck,” grinned the young man. Yup. He was Irish.

They are just as assertive about their assortment of fairies, gnomes, sprites and other creatures. When it seemed my electrical appliances had acquired a jinx, with first the vacuum cleaner giving up, then the microwave fizzling out, and finally my radial saw snapping its blade, my Irish friend became convinced there was a gremlin loose in my house. He brought a little straw box over the next time he visited, and sat there with it between his hands while we talked. Suddenly, he snapped the box shut and placed it carefully on the fire place mantle. He then fished from his pocket a plastic toy that looked somewhat like a pink and grey gargoyle. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “I have your gremlin trapped and placed a guard over your box. You’ll be alright if you never remove the guard and let him loose.”

We weren’t great believers in gremlins and gargoyles, but nor were we inclined to move anything that has remained stationary for a minimum of three days. The box stayed on the mantle and we enjoyed an orderly, appliance compliant life for several months. Unfortunately, one day, the wife decided to dust off the mantle. When she moved the box, the plastic gargoyle fell to the floor. The cat promptly pounced on it and carried it off. The very next day, the car wouldn’t start. It took two weeks in the shop and eight hundred dollars to discover it needed a new catalytic converter. As much as I begged my Irish friend to return, his feelings were injured that we had been so careless. He told us we let the gremlin out of the box. We’d have to get him back in.

Although the four leaf clover as an Irish symbol probably goes back to the days of antiquity, the use of it for St. Patrick’s Day actually originated in the Americas. During the Revolutionary War, there were Irish fighting for the English and Irish fighting for independence. Whatever their position, they agreed Irish fighting Irish on foreign soil was plain ridiculous. They began sporting clover in their hats so they wouldn’t shoot each other. This tradition carried on into the modern day American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish can wear their funny hats, their shamrocks and their wide suspenders all they want. The problem is, if we all start sporting clover, how are we going to know who not to shoot? The Irish might finally come around to lobbing pots of boiling oil.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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6 Comments on “Glad I’m not Irish”

  1. Don’t piss off the Irish, Sergio. In Ireland, the men stand back and laugh while the women tear ya a new one.

  2. My wife has already torn a few new ones. I’m beginning to think it’s fashionable. Maya, just put a bottle of Guiness out on the front porch. The first Irish man to walk by will help you out.

  3. Sergio, you’d better behave yourself or i’ll tell your wife about the money you lost arm wrestling with a left handed Irishman.

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