Can We All Take a Break and Be Irish for a Moment?

Come on, give politics a rest and be happy for one day. On Monday, it's a handful of Advils and politics as usual.

Can We All Take a Break and Be Irish for a Moment?

I write this on what is a high, holy day for me, St. Patrick's Day. What began as a somber day of prayer and reflection in the emerald Isle has become a bacchanal of Caligulan proportions in which people of every ethnic extraction decide to put on a green derby and some sort of light-up shamrock necklace and pretend they are Barry Fitzgerald for a day.

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And I'm alright with that since part of being Irish, aside from the fighting and bombing and stuff, is welcoming any and all to the table. I once interviewed the famous travel writer Steve Birnbaum, who, you will note, is not Irish, when he published his book on the land of the green. He remarked on this as well, since one nickname for Ireland is the land of a thousand welcomes.

"I was in a pub in Cork," he recounted, "when an old man sidled up at the bar and asked what part of Ireland my people were from?"
"Poland," I answered.
"Ah," he said. 'It's our easternmost county. You're among friends."

Now, there are about 5-million people in Ireland, and roughly 25-million in the US who claim some Irish ancestry. So, that means, as one Irish comic observed, "We have shagged our way into most of your family trees."

That's why so many folks are surprised when they get their 23 & Me test back. "I thought I was 100% Filipino?"

And I am one of those mongrels, though it's about 75% for me. And my forebears came during the potato famine of the 1840's, which was described by comic Paul Tompkins to an incredibly unresponsive audience...

And the reason I am happy about this day is that for one 24-hour period, I don't have to think about Biden and Trump. There's plenty to talk about, make no mistake, but as I sat down to figure out what the latest outrage from Trump would be, or what Joe tripped over today, I thought, no. Let's give it a rest for one day.

Oh, I don't bar hop like I used to in the old days, well, actually it was bar plant since we had a favorite back then and I always stayed far too long and paid the price later in, oh, the shower, the back yard, the porcelain fixture, you name it.

Growing up in Houston, there was no shortage of ethnic bars, Irish, English, German, you name it. But one of them stands out for a handful of University of Houston drama students, also known as the pie-eyed players. A well-known Irish family by the name of Horan owned a restaurant and bar called Birraporetti's in the Bayou City, and Mike Horan, the manager, started a tradition that suited broke college actors to a T. Well, not really a T, more like a G for Guinness.

On St. Patrick's Day, he served free beer from 6am to 9am. And, we were lined up at 6 for the doors to open, and then proceeded to go to the bar in shifts to grab as many flexible plastic cups as we could fit between all the fingers of both hands. One of my colleagues, Chris Mathews, was our designated table captain with the power to announce a "beer run" at which time we were obligated to get more reinforcements. By the closing bell at 9, our table was usually full of cups of beer that would keep us until early afternoon. Which, in hindsight, was not a great idea (see comments about showers, back yards and toilets).

Another old friend, Chuck Gardner, now owns the restaurant, and the location we frequented is now gone, but I hope he kept the tradition alive for other impoverished actors, and, frankly is there any other kind?

Needed to prevent calluses.

Now, I was born on November 10th, 19-something or other. As the date approached in the late 1980's, I had on my noon TV show, a travel agent who talked about terrific airfares to London. Unbeknownst to me, my lovely better half Karen, called them after the show, and later that evening asked me where I would love to be when I turned 40.

I told her "Hoisting a Guinness in Ireland." And, she had secretly arranged it.

And I have proof.

She also arranged for a lovely week in Ireland, and then some time in London as well.

Longueville House, where we stayed. Can you tell it was the 80's?
On the streets of Dingle. Be sure to take some of their delicious berries home.

If you ever go, and admittedly, this was over 30 years ago, I hope you find some of the fascinating people we did. Like the lady who graciously offered to guide us out of Cork on a rainy night in a right-hand-drive, stick-shift Nissan as she saw the panic on my face. Or the man who owned a pub in Killarney who had walls covered in US NFL team pennants, with one exception. And he made me promise to send him an Oiler pennant when I got back home. Then his collection would be complete.

In fact, I found the Irish love American football. We stayed in one B&B and came down in the morning to find the landlady avidly watching the Cowboys game on TV as she fixed breakfast. We both kissed the Blarney Stone, which has no doubt extended my broadcasting career and made our arguments more clever.

A little dark, but Karen at Blarney Castle.

In short, it was simply perfect, and for my good English friend Helen, I promise to write about the British part of the trip which was absolutely terrific.

And that is why, for me, this is a great time to forget politics for at least a day. We can do this all over again on Cinco de Mayo when we all tank up on Negra Modelo, forget about the border and learn about kicking some French ass at the Battle of Puebla.

And I can think of some other folks who might like this brief respite. Oh, Fani Willis may be hitting the Jamesons right now, along with the Donald himself and Melania as she waits out the revised prenup in Mar a Lago. Pretty much everybody on the Biden team is hoping for the luck of the Irish, or at least, no major F-ups before November.

Yes, we are dealing with a lot in the last few days. And isn't it interesting that we look at major developments in terms of days?

Today's New Yorker Daily Cartoon: See what he's said now... - New Yorker  Cartoonist Jason Chatfield

I mean, where do we start, love of Hitler, cutting Social Security and Medicare when he said he wouldn't, the love lives of Georgia prosecutors, Putin with a surprise win in the Russian election? There's enough to keep this little column going until the second coming, and if we get much more of this, that can't come soon enough. But, with your indulgence, may I pick up on that next week?

For now though, hoist that Guinness and follow my lead. We can all start yelling again tomorrow. OK, the store was out of Guinness, so hoist that Shiner Bock.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.