First, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Especially to all the Patricks I know!
What a difference 26 years makes! I was in a very different place 26 years ago...and I am so grateful to not be there anymore!
And my life was filled with the blarney. Skillful flattery designed to keep my life forever on the surface, you at a safe distance and me always a few steps removed from any real kind of intimacy.
My life existed and revolved around bar room chatter, grotesque machinations of interactions that appeared caring, loving or kind. But in reality, my life was consumed with sarcastic banter that smacked of phony intellectualism, caustic tirades that made a poor showing for actual dedication to a real cause and soppy sentimentality that left everyone, most especially me, feeling lacking.
In a word, I lived the whole of my life in a barroom economy. Oh there was laughter, mostly at other’s expense, there was camaraderie, but it was stoked by alcohol’s fumes rather than by any true caring and heartfelt sentiment. My life was lived in Irish pubs where drink and song were abundant but I left each time feeling more hollow and vacant than I did the day before.
I wanted to experience connection but engaged in drinking behaviors that only left me feeling less connected. Time spent singing and talking to the people about me, left me connected to people who suffered the same affliction I had, and all of us sucked at really making a true and meaningful connection. It was all just a lot of malarkey and blarney being tossed about.
But I did love it. I loved the music, the songs, the beer, the whiskey. The leaning into the person sitting next to you and the embrace that followed. A swaying back and forth to the rhythm of a tune that was old and time tested. It left me feeling like I belonged, if only for a moment.
I would, as one might guess, always overshoot my mark. Beer would give into whiskey and once the Jameson flowed, there was no telling where the night would end. Except badly. Amazing how quickly camaraderie would give way to rampant hostility and rancor. And the fists would fly...
I was thrown out of Kevin Barry’s in Savananah, Georgia so often for starting shit that for a little while in the 90s they had my photo by the door. A tiny photograph of a woman on the edge...after awhile someone posted a sticky note below the photo...”don’t let her in, she nuts.” I was notorious. An Irish rebel at long last.
I have to admit back in the day, I was proud of the fact that I was technically banned from the establishment. I would still sneak in from the back and depending on who was working, would saunter right up to the bar and drink with abandon. Unless that one bartender was there, then I was summarily tossed out. Regardless, it never stopped me from trying.
See I valued what I could find on the inside of that crappy bar on West River Street. I could find, if only for a moment, a connection to the Irish rebel that I so wanted to be. The twisted Irish poet who drank with the melancholy of the ages. The Irish novelist whose acumen on humanity was worth reading and re-reading forever. When I walked into any Irish pub, I always felt home. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was a part of something that I needed in my life.
However, it was all really a sham. More window dressing and self blarneying to fool myself into believing that the life I was living would ever produce poetry, song, a novel or a cause worth fighting for...all that really ever happened is that I got drunk, maybe laid and often in a fight. Some nights all three...
I read recently that Kevin Barry’s is permanently closed. It is gone, no longer a place I could visit if I were so inclined. The memorial to the Irish Republican Army hero exists no more. Another rebellion put down and forgotten.
I almost joined the IRA while in Belfast when I was 19...it was an interesting night and too long a story for today. But there was a moment when, through yet another drunken stupor, I was placed in a situation that I was ill prepared for that could have been life changing.
I always feel a bit wistful on St. Patrick’s Day. While I know I never really had the feelings I wished I had on this day of drunken friendship and song...I do miss feeling like I did. I miss the feeling that I had for a few minutes, however brief, that I felt like I belonged to the crowd, the song, the cause. I could lift my glass and voice and be part of something greater than myself.
Today I will go to plenty of meetings...one in Ireland of course. And that will be my effort to give back to something that is far greater than me. My efforts to recovery producing much greater results than I ever procured in any establishment I frequented before...
I will listen to the music today and I will dance a jig in my kitchen...because I can. And because I still love the music and the culture and the spirit of the Irish. I may even throw about some blarney...so watch out. You have been warned.
Enjoy the day. Lift your glass to the cause, mine will be a Diet Coke. And celebrate the mirth, the laughter and the love that is found in every Irishman I have ever known. And may we all turn our hearts and mind, if only for today, to the love of Ireland. No blarney...