St. Paddy’s Day. Tis All Fake News, Don’cha know.

Like the clock work of local Catholic parish churches everywhere, another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone – with alarming rise of sales of alka-seltzer and innumerable call-in-sick days everywhere. What gives??

Forget Wikipedia, forget Fox-y and not-so-Briet-bart fake news sources. I’m here to tell you the real scoop.

First off, so as not to anger any sons and daughters of holy mother church and that fine Irishman, Francis, (who to his eternal shame has admitted to liking tequila and the Tango, currently sitting on St.Peters throne in Rome), our Patrick – (please refrain from using the familiar term “Paddy”, unless you can prove direct family decent from that fellow) was in fact an historical figure although he emigrated (get it?)from the European continent to Ireland to convert the lusty Celts to Christianity. Some sources claim that he was a Frenchman but that makes no sense to me, given the Frankish propensity for celebrating their own lusty orientations without regard for race, creed or color. Language barriers never existed for these folk as they historically relied heavily on the old universal technique of body language for scientific as well as more intimate communications, well-recognized and received the world over.

Lucky enough for old Patrick, tradition has it that he likely prepared for his mission in a monastery, where he learned a form of international sign language so he could communicate with any pagan folk, lusty or not, and never wore anything but a head to toe, one piece robe of raw wool which not only made him a poor student in Harp classes but also led to confusion while using his own inadequate, celibate body language which, unfortunately, due to his constant scratching often led to very mixed messages among his viewers.

None the less, he is a factual saint. As he had been such a huge success as a salesman for God and the Church, the Church awarded him his own “saints day” which is celebrated in Irish Catholic churches the world over, especially in New York, Boston, Chicago, and, although with considerably less fanfare, in Saudi Arabia, where green beer and green rivers are simply not tolerated.

Which brings me to a very important, if not culturally sensitive topic. We all are victims of stereotyping in one form or another and the loyal spiritual offspring of Patrick have been victimized more than their share. The celebration of his achievements is universally greeted with excesses of brewed and distilled liquids. Not that that’s a bad thing in itself, mind you, – where would the world be without Messrs. Guinness and Jameson and the likes, – but it borders on sacrilege that so many well-meaning folk, in their desire to honor the great man have mixed up the idea of being imbued with the fine “Irish Spirit” with the practice of being over-imbibed with fine Irish spirits and dash about festooned with cheap green derbies, god-awful green neckties, sweaters, socks. galluses, even shoes, and God forgive them, green-shamrock-ed underwear. Catholic bishops everywhere deplore such wanton, pagan abandonment and urge the true son’s and daughters of Patrick to counter such nonsense by wearing full-length, Kelly green, raw wool robes for eight days before and after March 17th, to support the cause of abstinence and penitential scratching. While this practice was initially greeted with, dare I say a lusty response among Irish celibates everywhere, many Irish lay folk, and the much larger group of “Once a Year Happy Irish Wannabees” and assorted Publicans – Catholic, Protestant, Muslim(only 6 identified themselves) Jews and Bahai’s – all around the world, began toasting Patrick with what was soon to be translated into 214 languages, the wish, “May the road rise up to meet you and lead you unerringly to your nearest pub. One good wooly scratch deserves to another”.

As a newly re-constituted Irish citizen (thanks to granddad Denis and great-granddad Philip, and great-great —-well you get it – I hereby resolve and pledge to celebrate the true spirit of Patrick by toasting a tall glass of Kerry milk along with Galway bangers and mashed, and a slice of Sligo mutton, next March 17th, in the very heart of the auld sod, somewhere in county Cork. And should I find myself in a warm, smiling, singing and dancing sort of Irish pub, I will introduce them to my latest cocktail concoction,               The Wooly Scratch.

And that my friends is the honest truth.  Some things can never be lied about.













How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

It certainly was a time for celebrating – Friday, 11/18/16 and I received notice in today’s mail that my application for Foreign Birth Registration has been approved and I am now an Irish Citizen. (As of 11/3/16, to be exact).

Inline image 1

Big deal, you say?

Why, yes.Yes it is!

Several years ago I set out to document my personal twig on the Harding family tree. Much of the “planting” and pruning had already been done by my daughter, Laura, but the  finer details of my immediate ancestors have always been a challenge in our limb of the tree. I set out to fill in as many details as I could, not having the foggiest notion of where to begin. I did not realize until a good while later that the Irish government was still offering citizenship to children and grand-children of Irish immigrants, with proper documentation. I’ll spare you all the details of a process that took months and a year or two to assemble that information. The notice of successful culmination was indeed cause for some kind of celebration. As to what kind, I had no idea and was not much engaged in thinking about it.

The Proposition.

That evening, out of nowhere, my wife announced, “I have a proposition for you”.

My ears perked right up.

“A proposition?”

“Or a suggestion”, she continued cautiously, seeming to sense I might be expecting something other that what she intended. ” An idea, proposal, what ever you want to call it. Something to celebrate you new citizenship”

“Such as,???”… says I…

“Tomorrow’s Saturday, we have nothing special to do, how would you like to have lunch at an Irish pub?”

“O.K., but I’m not up to speed on Irish pubs around here.” (No, really, I’m not), and my wife’s expertise in on-line scouting often leaves much to be desired.

“That’s OK. I found one, sounds good, only 6 or 8 miles from here.” She told me the name but it did not register with me. Rather than stare into a gift horse’s mouth before closing the deal, I said fine. Let’s do it. Probably have TV’s all over the place and we can keep an eye on the college football games.

The fantasy.

Against my own familiar cautions of not expecting so much that disappointment ensues, I imagined walking into a welcoming place of happy Irish folk and wanna-be’s, and me casually sitting myself at the bar, engaging the publican himself in friendly chit-chat and tossing out the reason for my being there today. I would proudly wear my souvenir Cork City rugby shirt, even though it’s a bit warm for Florida, but heck, I need to wear it more than just St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe he would be from the same Cork City or county as my grand-father. What a coincidence. Perhaps warrant an extra, free pint or a little heavier pour of the good stuff, don’t ya know. Let the good times roll; Guinness and some lively craic; [pronounced crack,(“Craic is a Gaelic word, with no exact English translation. The closest you get is “fun.” There’s the expression “ceoil agus craic,” meaning “music and fun,””]  with a round or two of “Danny Boy”, or “The Wild Colonial Boy”. I had to mentally stop short of picturing them carrying me out to the car, sober of course, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

“So,”, wife burst my bubble, “what time to you want to leave?”

Fearing a verbal land-mine and relying on years of navigating “time and best routes to take” questions, I suggested, “whatever you think is best – I don’t know exactly where this pub is so we should time it for a little before one o’clock and avoid the early rush lunch crowd and the later after-noon football gawkers.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” she said. “Sounds good”. (picture here a kind of mental high-five for me.)

The Step Into Reality

I’ve been to enough eating/drinking places to have developed a sense of what lies ahead, and it is usually accurate. Said Pub was easier to find than anticipated and proved to be less than encouraging than my phantasmal pub-encounter. Hmmm, said I to me…quite a large place, even has out-door setting, able to handle large crowds. With only 3 cars in the parking lot, I secretly hoped scores upon scores of lads and lassies were on their way to celebrate with us.

Upon opening the door, still imagining a cavern of fun and rollicking songs, a woman’s voice called out from fifty feet away – “Sit wherever you like. I’ll be right with you.” The shout did not disturb the other 3 folks in the room, one at each length of the u-shaped bar; one glued to a TV, a young woman glued to her I-phone, and a tatted up young fellow who seemed to be glued to the edge of boredom and oblivion. Not a fiddle or a tin whistle to be heard anywhere.

We explored the tantalizing possibilities; to left of the bar was a small seating area and beyond that the huge out-door, not-yet-serving patio section. Neither was enticing and I had fleeting visions of having to leap over from my meal and catch the tattooed-one from falling off his stool.

To the right was a very large room with dozens of long tables, room for a hundred or more but not a customer in sight.

We gazed around in a 360 degree option scan. Let’s sit here. OK.                                              Bar tender/now  waitress appeared. Can we get the Gator’s or Nole’s game on this TV? Hmmm, she said – nope, not on this side. On the other side of the wall you can. OK says we, its a start.

Now we are right back to where we came in, just inside the doorway with nothing between us and the TV game except the entry way, but by now I’m figuring that that will not be an obstruction. If there are no warm welcoming crowds of Irish persons here to greet us, at least we can enjoy a good football game – maybe even the Irish of Notre Dame!

The Soup Gets Stirred

We gave the bartender/waitress our orders and since it was my day to celebrate I asked for a shot of Jameson’s with a little ice. I commented later to my wife that I think I was served a fifth of Jameson’s, as in one fifth whiskey and four fifths water, in a one ounce glass.

Now its about half past one o’clock and another, like us, elderly couple arrived and stood there, gazing from side to side. Knowing the situation and being of good cheer, we both offered that there was only one person on duty, who was waitress and bartender and she must be absent on very important hospitality missions. Please sit anywhere, she’ll be right with you, we said cheerily, feeling like publicans ourselves. They looked a little stunned but walked into the room with the not-so tune-able TV and waited…appearing to be skeptical of the soundness of our advice.

We now have our food and drink and are enjoying portions of the game. Time for celebrating is waning and its getting closer to two o’clock. My huge party crowd seems to have peaked at 7, or eight if you throw in the Serving Staff. As my gaze wandered ever so casually toward the front door, I could see bunches of people milling around, waiting to come in. My little Irish heart shouted, come in, join my fun, …..please.

Sure enough four or five young women in t-shirts and shorts  came in and did the “where the heck is everybody” stare. Denise and I are by now very familiar with the format and instructed them, “Sit anywhere, there’s only a waitress/bartender and she will be right with you” thing. “Try that big room right there… TV’s lousy but there are plenty  of tables. No, we’re not the owners but go ahead anyway. Enjoy!!

Now the crowd at the door is moving inside and I can see beyond the open door more and more groups of 6 or 7, athletic looking and fittingly dressed, young women are pressing into the pub. I can no longer count the number of celebration attendees. I should have sold tickets. What a day!

By now our waitress is bounding around, grabbing menu’s trying to keep up with all the people whom we have recommended be seated in the other room as well as a growing crowd, standing right near our table discussing what is to be done next. It seems the besought waitress has warned them that Saturday’s kitchen staff only comes in at 3 pm and all she can guarantee for the next 50 minutes will be sandwiches.

Correcting The Seasoning

By this time, beside immensely enjoying myself that so many people have come to join my celebration, and nursing my celebratory Guinness since the busy one arm paper hanger posing as Pub staff may never be able to fill a second one, an unknown gentleman has struck up a conversation with me and explained that these are women from the University of Florida Rugby team and he either has something to do with the team or his daughter was in the crowd of thirty or forty who seemed to be reaching critical mass of hunger about now and making plans to go somewhere else before returning here by three pm. I never did figure out who he was. Continue reading How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”