Ireland's the Mexico of Europe
I'm only half white. The other half? Irish.
"You're not Irish, you only wish you were
Irish," my buddy Sean barked at me one day. Sean's a real Irishman,
born and bred in Dublin. Like so many others before him, he came to
America to seek his fame and fortune, just like a Canadian would.
"You're American, a fuckin' American," he
said. "America's been around for over 200 years now. Get used to it."
I glared at him. "Right. I only wish I
were Irish. I only wish I lived in the most sexually repressed country
in the world, where civil war is a way of life, where kids get to live
with their parents until they're 30, where the economy's so bad that
Yankee-hating fucks like you have no choice but to move to the States."
That's what I wanted to say. Instead
I asked him, "Sean, how many times do you masturbate in a day?"
He turned beet red, downed his Guinness,
muttered "Fuck off," and walked to the other end of the bar. If you
ever want to stop an Irish-Catholic boy dead in his tracks, just
mention masturbation. Works every time. Irish-Catholic guys will talk
all night long about fucking their women or getting head in the back
seat of an Oldsmobile. But masturbation? That's a straight-to-hell sin.
When I lived in Sebastopol, California
(north of San Francisco, for the geographically curious) I used to hang
out at a bar called Jasper's (no relation) where I often drank many
beers with three Irish expatriates: Sean, Mullen and Eddie. Both Sean
and Mullen considered themselves political militants, and both were
musicians hoping to strike it rich in the States. At the very least,
they wanted a steady gig.
Eddie didn't harbor any such plans or
convictions. As far as I can tell, Eddie came to America to drink
Southern whiskey and fuck California girls.
Sean supported himself by working as a
counselor for wayward boys (no doubt preaching against the sin of
self-abuse), while Mullen worked as a waiter at Jasper's. Since his
visa had expired, Eddie took any construction job he could get, as long
as the company was willing to pay him under the table. (Little known
fact: After Mexicans, the Irish are the biggest group of illegal aliens
"Jasper," Eddie asked me one day. "Do you
think I'm in danger of being deported?"
"Naw," I said, taking a swig of beer. "You
just keep on not being Mexican and I'm sure the government will leave
Sean didn't have to worry about getting
his visa renewed. He had a system. Every six months or so, he'd go up
to Canada, get his passport fixed, then re-enter the United States. He
played that game for about five years.
Mullen didn't care about getting his visa
renewed. He was going to stay in the country one year and either get a
recording contract or head back to Dublin and resume his day job as a
city clerk. Like Sean, he had a problem with Americans of Irish descent
calling themselves Irish.
"You know, every time I wait on a table
someone will hear my accent and ask if I'm Irish. So I always ask them
what nationality they are. They usually say Italian, German, French or
whatever. Today, for the first time ever, I had someone tell me, 'I'm
"And you think that's good?" I asked.
"I do," Mullen said.
"Look, cheese dick. If you want to
understand America you should understand this: We're a young country
and since many of our forefathers immigrated to America within the last
100 years, we tend to relate to our great-great-grandparents'
nationality. It's a very American thing to do. Only Native Americans
can say they're American and mean it, although they're more likely to
say they're Cherokee or Iroquois or Pomo or whatever. The kind of
asshole who says, 'I'm American,' is the same asshole who wouldn't
hesitate sending a stealth bomber to Dublin and blasting the fuck out
of it, should oil ever be discovered there."
That's what I wanted to say. Instead I
just asked him, "Mullen, do you masturbate with your left or right
St. Patrick's Day at Jasper's was the
biggest money night at the bar, even bigger than New Year's Eve. I
hated both holidays. Those were the nights I'd lose my bar stool to
some social-drinking fuck in a party hat. But I usually showed up in
the early evening to sip a green beer before going home and drinking
myself into a stupor.
On one such St. Patrick's Day -- 1989 I
think -- I started to leave the bar when Sean called after me.
"Mike, you work for the newspaper, right?"
"Do you know a columnist there by the name
of Larry Murphy?"
"Well, last year he wrote some things
about the Irish and I made a bomb threat and sent him an anonymous
letter saying his family would be killed if he ever wrote about Ireland
"No shit? Can you make another bomb
threat? I could use a day off."
"I'm serious. I've been feeling guilty
ever since. He probably has a wife and kids and I have no right scaring
him like that."
"Naw, he's gay, but I get the point. What
did he write about, anyway?"
"He wrote how Ireland's a violent country
and how we all hate each other."
"And you responded with a bomb threat?" I
"I can see the irony," Sean said. "Anyway,
can you tell him that I didn't mean it? That is, without telling him
who I am?"
"Yeah, I can do that. Besides, he's
Irish... ahhhh... he has an Irish name, so he's probably sympathetic."
"Good on ya, Jasper," he said.
That was one of my last conversations with
Sean. A couple of weeks later, he and Mullen moved back to Dublin. Sean
moved in with his parents and Mullen resumed his clerk job.
Eddie? He's now an American citizen. He
sneaked in under some special illegal-alien amnesty bill a few years
back. When asked, he still refers to himself as Irish.
* * *
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If
you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.