Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

Because it's you-know-who's day and all that, and because Hoboken takes it upon itself to celebrate the day beginning two weeks in advance, I am driven to record some stuff about Ireland and the Irish. In Hoboken, they may even need to be reminded that this is actually St. Patrick’s Day.

The many aspects of Irishness give us a magic lantern to illuminate our lives with a glimmer of poetry and the distant chime of music. There is that haunting wistfulness in our somewhat Irish hearts that prompts an elegant turn of phrase. It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who, upon learning of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, said, “You’re not Irish if you don’t know your heart’s meant to be broken…”

I could praise Ireland’s homely, soul-filling food like corned beef simmered for hours with cabbage and potatoes or caraway-scented soda bread, or its heart-wrenching characters like those portrayed in the classic film The Quiet Man (rent it if you haven't seen it yet).
Ah, there are many beautiful movies that transport us to the Emerald Isle -- Once is still on my must-see list. I could say something about walking about in chilly Dublin on a rainy April day in 1971 -- please don't remind me you weren't born yet -- and finding a beautiful restaurant-pub called where the Irish coffee warmed us to our toes and changed our bleak impression of the gritty, grey little city. (I could also tell you of our immense disappointment at both the offerings we saw at the Abbey Theater that year -- a student production of Synge's "Deidre of the Sorrows," which we forgave because it was indeed a student production, and the unforgivably poor mounting of The Playboy of the Western World the next day.)

Even world renowned institutions stumble from time to time.

Since the turn of the last century, the English-speaking stage has been sparked by the talents of Irish writers. From John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey (and those with Celtic roots, like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw) through today's Brian Friel, Hugh Leonard, and Conor McPherson, we have the Irish to thank for many evenings of unforgettable theatre. At my own theatre in South Alabama, Jubilee Fish, many remember our haunting productions of Da, and the poetic Sea Marks by Gardner McKay, presented in the 1990’s.

This was before I appeared in Fairhope’s Theater 98 production of Dancing at Lughnasa, playing the role of Kate, the elder sister. This one was directed by a man whose name is quite similar to Sean Thornton, the John Wayne character in The Quiet Man.

When left to their own devices, the Irish have lots to give us besides potatoes and shamrocks. Just writing this, I am hearing the lilting Gaelic music that has become so popular in the last ten years, and I think of all the Irish singers of Irish songs over time.Hollywood celebrated generations of Irish tenors, including Dennis Morgan, who, it turns out was actually of Swedish descent, with the real name of Stanley Morner. But there is his lilting voice and open face that spoke of Ireland to us nonetheless.

You may suspect I have a modicum of Irish blood myself. Have a cup of Irish coffee today and think of me. Friday night my friend Cristina, who is from Colombia, is having a St. Patrick's Day party with corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. Sounds good to me!


sean thornton said...

Corned beef anb cabbage wasour fare nearthe shamrocks inwhite clover in the back yard. Yes , we have that for the bees, Dutch white
clover..not very Irish. I wore my old green t-shirt for luck and downed some green tea. I had intent of making it to McSherry's
for a quaff of green beer in
company of my best squeeze,but we
never made it there. Maybe intent is green enough. Our pot o'gold
held in a few close friends and neighbors glowed all day in sharing
and wishes for well being. The
thing I would have if it were to be wouldis a big ole green Irish
hug from ye. The DANCING AT LUGHNASA revisits me. And , yes ,
I think Kate actually wanted to go
to the heathen hills with Rose.
The rowdy breath taking dance in the show meant so.
Ah, happy St Patty's day, ML.
My other parts: Campbell, Springer, and Wilcoxson>>Gr/Ir.
what a concoction. I need the luck.

Peg Baker said...

Your St. Patty's Day musings are heartwarming - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! You mentioned the movie "Once", a wonderful choice; I hope you see it soon. I was disappointed that none of our cable channels had any Irish movies. I would love to have seen "The Matchmaker", or "Waking Ned Divine" (or both). However, the corned beef and cabbage was delicious.

Mary Lois said...

Kinda nice pretending that clover is shamrocks, and that you are Sean, the mighty Thornton portrayed by John Wayne in The Quiet Man, all the while eating corned beef and cabbage in the sunlight. The Irish are good at playing and pretending...maybe that's where they get their flair for music and the theatre. And we Americans love to pretend we're Irish.

Littlebug, I did see Once. Liked it, but it was a bit sad for me. I enjoyed In America more. I know you're not Irish if you don't know your heart's meant to be broken, but the tender sweetness of so much Irish sentiment breaks my heart anyway, even without an unhappy ending. I always call myself a sentimental cynic, which might well be a definition of what it's like to be Irish.

This post, except for the last paragraph, was written three years ago.

sean thornton said...

Last night on oe of the 6 PBS TV channels we receive on rabbit ear
antenna ran a sequences of close
looks at the Irish establishemnt. These covered the people origin from antiquity to today through the millineums of opression until Irish Independence. North, south, east west and central Ireland, as well as islands, were visited. The Main cities as well as some small towns were toured. Highlights were the old pubs, public houses for
social gathering, it said. AN interesting note to me is that early on, women were not allowed
in the pubs, but were served through small windows
adjoining the 'hall'...gee...what were they thinking!
The country has such a wide variety of topography that not singular
description can do it jusitce.
I enjoyed the show . It can be had from , probably.......
For sure my flair, if so I have, can't match the Sean of the movie nor the Duke who played him. Nevertheless in Ireland Sean Thornton is who I'd be.

Hoboken Kid said...

My wife's uncle George Crimmins was the first grand marshal of the St. Pat's parades (he started it). Knowing him if he could see how it had turned into a wild drunk day ...he would be very upset...he was a tough, no-nonsense cop...but a fair his day as top cop all drunks got locked up. MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!