Undeniably Irish

I am undeniably Irish. With a last name like McCleary I wouldn’t be fooling anyone if I claimed otherwise. Not that I would ever want to denounce my Irish heritage, but I belong to many other nationalities as well. I know I’m also part German and part Welsh, and I’m always proud to give a shout out to my Cherokee brothers. I suppose I am what you would call a mutt if I were a dog. I definitely have some work to do if I ever want to seriously be considered as a legit Irishman. If truth be told, I didn’t even realize the significant difference between Ireland’s treasured shamrock and a four-leaf clover, until very recently, for Pete’s sake.

However, I do tend to be a smidgeon more Irish than usual every year around March 17th. Traditionally, I prepare a corned beef and cabbage meal for my family sometime during the week. The feast is not complete without my (what has become known as) “world-famous” Guinness cake. The cake is delicious, if I do say so myself, but plain Guinness beer not so much. I’ve tried to like Guinness beer (I really have) because I feel it’s my duty as an Irishman to think well of the customary drink of my ancestors…but I don’t. I’m more of an India Pale Ale guy when it comes to satisfying my taste buds.

That’s not to say I’m not fond of some other types of beers. I fancy some red ales, some brown ales, and even a few of the darker brews. However, I do think Guinness must be an acquired taste; therefore, drinking the stout only on an annual basis does not fit the bill. I have been told the pints of Guinness served in Ireland’s pubs aren’t comparable to what we have in the United States. Supposedly, it is so much better over there. That actually makes perfect sense to me. Maybe someday I can visit my homeland and find out for myself.

Sometimes I honor St. Patrick’s Day by visiting an Irish pub or at least going somewhere that’s serving green beer. Once I went to a bar around 8:00am, after getting off work, for a festive Irish breakfast (green pints included). Once. Drinking beer in the morning was a weird experience. I guess St. Patrick’s Day is as good of an excuse as any to partake of alcohol shortly after sunrise, but it is not a practice I cared to continue. I know there are those who say, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” but hopefully they’re referring to the evening hour when considering an alcoholic drink.

In recent years it’s more-likely you’d find my lovely wife and I celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at our local Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery than any other place. That’s probably because the Rock Bottom gang really knows how to take good care of us. I’m not too difficult to spot either since I’m the one wearing a “Who’s Your Paddy?” t-shirt and a green colored derby hat. I’m also one of the very few patrons holding a green beer in my hand. Unfortunately, the restaurant does not offer any artificially colored ales on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m forced to make my own. I bring my own food coloring, and just two drops of the stuff transforms my mug of IPA into a green spectacle.

I assume the brew master is concerned that if he adds green dye to his carefully crafted concoctions then it may somehow hamper the integrity of his creations. I completely understand, but I still think an exception could be made one day out of the year. The problem with me taking matters into my own hands is that the people around us usually then start asking the servers how they can get ahold of some green beer. It gets pretty confusing when customers are told by the staff that the colorful drink in my hand is not available. I do offer up my green food coloring, to those interested, if and when I become aware of such a situation. Kudos to Rock Bottom for not kicking me out of their fine establishment.

Years ago my aunt invited her family over for a St. Patrick’s Day party, but there was a catch. She requested each of us show up to the celebration with a story or a poem about green. Just like E.F. Hutton – when my aunt talks, people listen! Besides, the assignment seemed harmless, and it surely peaked our interest, because most of us entered her house that day prepared to share our masterpieces with one another. The following is the poem I crafted for admittance into my aunt’s wonderful St. Patrick’s Day party in 1990-something. Please bear in mind this piece was written before I emerged into the Pulitzer Prize type of writer you’ve come to depend on, and I certainly have never professed to be a poet. I hope you enjoy “Green Is” nonetheless.

Green Is

Green is a color, one of many in a rainbow
Green is the grass, in which we must mow
Green is a fee, golfers hate to pay
Green is a frog, hopping around in May
Green is a turtle, Ninja, snapping, or a pet
Green is money, lost at the casino if you bet
Green is spearmint, a very tasty flavor
Green is key-lime pie, in which I like to savor
Green is my father’s birthstone, his favorite color, too
Green is part of a beach ball, along with red, yellow, and blue
Green is also a pool ball, the solid 6 to be exact
Green is the team color of the A’s, Eagles and Jets, in fact
Green is a Leprechaun, his clothes and sometimes his hair
Green is a Martian, visiting us from way out there
Green is the Grinch, who tried to steal Christmas
Green is vegetables, namely celery and lettuce (I know that one’s a stretch)
Green is a wheelbarrow, and a garden hose
Green is the substance, coming from your nose
Green is a Christmas tree, Pine and Blue Spruce
Green is a grasshopper, spitting disgusting juice
Green is a pickle, both dill and sweet
Green is a thumb, you just can’t beat
Green is jealousy and envy, we try so hard to deny
Green is the AstroTurf, found on the football field at UNI
Green(e) is Lorne, known as Mr. Cartwright on Bonanza
Green is the “Keep On Truckin'” tattoo, on the arm of Tony Danza
Green is lime Jell-O, oh my what a treat
Green is gross broccoli, your parents make you eat
Green is springtime, in the form of leaves and grass
Green is a crocodile, and an alligator’s ass
Green is the theme, of this poem that I wrote
Green poems in the future, should be banned, that’s my vote!

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2 responses to “Undeniably Irish

  • Jean Cleere

    That sounded like a fun party! Excellent poem!! Fun reading!!

  • Les Kohler

    James, I am also an American Mutt, with most (if not all) of my ancestors having come to the Americas from Europe. Each St. Patty’s day I do try to wear some green, however, in honor of the part of my ancestry that is Irish.

    Not terribly long ago I had someone ask me my nationality. I responded that I am an American. (What I actually meant, of course, is that I was born and raised in the USA.) Family heritage is fascinating to me, but I do not dwell on the parts of me that are Irish any more than I do the parts that are German, French, Scottish, or British.

    Thanks for taking the time to write your blog.

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