I recognize that the following declaration has the potential to alienate a decent cross section of readers and perhaps more than a few of my friends. Nonetheless, I shall go boldly forth where my heart, aesthetic sense, and love of gentle culture and the gently cultur(ed) tell me and just spit it the hell out: I kind of hate St. Patty’s day.
Of all the sorry excuses for holidays, St. Patty’s is the one I find the most tragic. I mean, why beat around the bush? If you want to go out and get shamefully jaxied, then by all means, friends–go forth and swill in good health! But please, don’t do it swathed entirely in green and wearing various nicknacks and flair requesting kisses simply for your alleged Irish roots. As I waited for my chariot to bear me home today I saw a particularly unfortunate young victim of the day garbed entirely in stringbean green and an enormous, furry Leprechaun-style hat. At first I thought I was hallucinating; then I only wished I was. Imagine my horror when I realized that this monstrosity was making its way down the street toward me, accompanied by a chesty young minx in a ripped “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” tank, trucker hat, light, ripped jeans tucked into pale, dirty Uggs and–yes–oh sweet baby Jesus on a cracker, yes!–aviators! I don’t think I could’ve possibly beheld a more comprehensive collection of tasteless, tacky items on one sad looking personage. As they tittered and weaved on past I had all I could do to keep from retching into the big plastic dispenser containing free copies of The Advocate. When I boarded the bus five minutes later, I was still fighting off waves of naus. Sadly, dear friends, this is why until I met last year’s Irish coworker, Paul, I associated “Irish” with “tasteless.” Tell me, distantly-rooted Irish-Americans, is that fair?
And what IS it with people who are fascinated by their own whitey-Irish roots? They love to profess that their hearts ache for their country–one to which 70% of these piners have NEVER EVEN BEEN! How foolish and charlatanesque is THAT? And while we’re at it, come here–no–closer. I mean closer that that. Now, lean in: I’m going to whisper this one in your ear. Ready? here it is! Even with all of that Irish “heritage,” wee Johnny–you know, the kind hinged upon your collection of shotglasses and Celtics jerseys–I have news! You’re nothing more than a boring, easily burned caucasian! That rich Irish cultural mythology is a Potemkin village erected around yer Pappy’s beer-infused “condition” and mammy’s sharp tongue and mean temper. Bake your potato and drink your Guinness, boy, but don’t let me catch you denying that you’re 40% German and 30% Hungarian, too. Hmph. Irish. You’re as Irish as my American shorthair cat. In fact–she has green eyes. She’s probably even more Irish than you.
Sidenote: it’s not that I hate Ireland, or the truly Irish, at all–I simply dislike what the American St. Patty’s Day celebration is and all of the shiniez attendant upon its black calendar day. You real Irish? I think you’re bitchin’. Come on in, sit on down, and tell me what’s the craic?
</end cruel rant>———
“Dude, what are you, running from bears?” I ask when he answer the phone. There is a wheezy, breathless chuckle and I hear a distant plane gliding somewhere near Little Rock.
“Naw, naw. The bears are only in my head tonight,” he assures me over a background of footfalls and intense breaths. “Hey, c’nI call you back in five or ten?”
“Sure,” I say. “Sure, take your time.”
Anybody else I’d expect to hear from in an hour, if at all, but this is not anybody else–this is my strange phonefriend, Peter, and when Pete says he’ll call back in 5 or 10, I know he will.
Peter and I were never technically friends when we were at Trinity. We both rowed; we were both English majors; we had a passel of mutual friends. And yet, despite all of that, we were never actually close. At this point I couldn’t even tell you why we started talking in November, or who made that first call (though my money’s on him), but it’s a somewhat regular irregualr experience now, and one to which I’m slowly realizing I sincerely look forward.
There’s something languid, thoughtful, warm and slow about a conversation with Peter, a way he has of pausing after a thought that lets you know he’s really considering what he’s just heard or said. I love talking with him, though saying we speak infrequently is generous, and if there’s a voicemail that goes unreturned there’s a 99.9% chance it’s his to me. When I do call back, when I do quell my phone-phobia long enough to hit “send,” and when I do hear that peculiar Arkansas drawl I am immediately uplifted, comforted, and addled as to why I waited so damn long to dial. I’m not sure what it is about Pete–I’d love to chalk it up to his being one of my only friends/acquaintances who is truly, deeply and unabashedly spiritual, though I fear that such allegations’d be doing the simple goodness of his own being some sort of injustice–but I’m pleased that that intangible “it” exists, and I’m pleased that when tonight I called him, he picked up. We talked a little about life, about my tenuous future, and about his novel which I’d pledged to read, yet have somehow stalled at page 120 despite its high quality. Other times, however, we’ve spoken of God, of love, of heartbreak, on numerous other topics too weighty to balance with many of the people I know face to face, let alone those I know most deeply by phone. He’s a special kid–one I wish I’d taken the time (or the bite out of my own fear) to know better when I had the chance.I suppose, though, that it’s never really too late.
Sadly, I won’t get to the discussion of overheard gym conversations I was hoping to deploy, nor will I share my thoughts on dispensing unsolicited advice on the heels of a breakup. Hopefully that’s something I can do tomorrow, but for now, I’m feeling rather headachy, rather sinusy and rather like I’ve had a few too many pints. Good night, Blogosphere, good night–and may your luck be substantially better than that of the Irish.