March 17 marks the one day of the year when those of Irish blood can revel in their negative cultural stereotypes and not necessarily affirm them. Speaking as someone of Irish descent, I can say without risk of racism, that the (pink) elephant in the room is that we’re all raging alcoholics. But on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone looks like a raging alcoholic, so we simply blend in. Then we rule the night – for in the land of the blind drunk, the Irishman is king. As the proverb goes, “An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass and not fall off the face of the earth.” I admit my observations may put the ire in Ireland but then my people seldom seek self-reflection beyond what may be viewed at the bottom of a pint glass. Which amounts to a pair of nostrils and weepy eyes. Given the view, most conclude that they must be smiling. I know I am. It’s with great pride and amusement that I recall my first meeting of Irish Anonymous, when I stood up before my “McBrethren” and announced “I’m Daedalus Howell and I am an Irish-American” without even falling over.
In my research, I found a 1974 paper by social scientist Robert Blaney, entitled “Alcoholism in Ireland: Medical and Social Aspects,” that cites a source who observed “[There is] something in the people’s constitution congenial to the excitement of ardent spirits.”
That’s damn near poetic. The sentiment has apparently spilled into the law books – Ireland is the only country to issue drunk driving permits. Seriously.
Southwest Ireland’s Kerry County Council recently passed a measure that would legalize drunk driving for certain drivers in rural areas. St. Patrick’s Day will be a mashup of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and “Death Race 2000.” As I’ve opined before a la Oscar Wilde, “The only good thing about driving drunk is arriving drunk.” That is, IF you arrive. So, don’t try this at home, even if your home is in Kerry County.
While you still have the brain cells to recognize the difference between Blaney and Blarney, permit me to dispel some of the many myths about my people ...
1) The thing about wearing green: A people under chronic oppression from outsiders (Romans, Normans, English, tourists), the Irish naturally became adept at camouflage. Since the “Emerald Isle” is known for its lush green landscape, the Irish wore green to hide from invaders. After immigrating to America, however, the strategy was met with less success since the green made them more conspicuous. Note: The first St. Patrick’s Day “parade” was actually intended as “A Day Without an Irishman” protest, which backfired since they weren’t as “invisible” as they’d hoped.
2) Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish meal. Yeah, no. It’s pretty much just potatoes and Starbucks over there. On occasion, you can score some good “corned beef hash,” but smoking it will not get you high unless you’re Amsterdam.
3) Eating McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes and Lucky Charms cereal are an appropriate way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Only in America and only if you wash your mouth out with Irish Spring soap afterwards to get rid of the taste.
4) There are more “Irish” in America than there are in Ireland. Not true. The amount is the same but the Americans are so much fatter they just look like more.
5) Guinness Stout can be used as a meal substitute. Yes, in Ireland it’s marketed as a “protein shake.” Imbibe three square “meals” a day and you’ll be fit as a Chieftain’s fiddle. Drink three in an hour and you’ll want to tongue-kiss the Blarney Stone. Drink three in a minute and you’re probably Irish. I’ll see you at the next meeting.
I'm green on St. Patrick’s Day and greener the day after. Subscribe to DHowell.com to see my shade on Sunday.