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THE MOUSE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR

Some Guinness was spilt on the barroom floor,

when the pub was shut for the night.

Out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse

& stood in the pale moonlight.

He lapped up the frothy brew from the floor,

then back on haunches he sat.

All night long you could hear him roar:

Bring on the goddamn cat!

“…I’d rather be sittin’ in a deck chair high up over Kansas City on a genuine, old-fashioned authentic, steam-powered aereoplane.”   – John Hartford

IRISH SHIPS LAND IN WALES

(Editor’s note: Last night I had a happy dream, as sweet as it could be. I dreamed that then brave Irish men had set old Ireland free).

(1644) A combined force of Irish, Highland Scots and Old English Cavaliers remains anchored just off the coast of Wales at Cardigan Bay this morning. As the sun rose thousands of well-armed Irish troops began their cross-country trek toward London.

As expected, Welsh regiments joined the Irish in their attempts to snuff out the abuses of the Roundhead element under Oliver Cromwell. Background: These forces, along with Royalists loyal to English King Charles I, had been embroiled in a bloody civil war since 1642. The year before Gaels in Ireland had arisen in an attempt to drive out the plantation settlers who were given large tracts of land in Ireland in return for loyalty to Elizabeth I. These lands were taken from the native population many of whom now lived an impoverished life in their own country.

Saying that they’d rather have the Irish than Cromwell or the King, for that matter, the Welsh were relieved to know that the Irish would not stay.

“We do not want England,” said Finn MacCool, a Celtic warrior. “We just want England out of Ireland. They’ve cut down our virgin oak forests and confiscated our farms while forcing the earls of Ulster from their lands. We don’t much like them.”

Despite these emotions the Irish promised not to harm the English peasantry, who they say are only pawns, victims as well in the evil masterplan to subjugate the world.

“We’d just like to teach them to read and about all the cultures of these islands,” said Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. “It is through this kind of understanding that we can avoid future conflicts and live side by side in peace. Ignorance and fear are the enemy of all men. How do you think the Puritans rose to power in the first place?”

Many English cheered as Druids priests condemned the practice of witch burning and the harsh philosophies of these Puritans.

“These barbarians must be stopped,” said Brian Boru, victor of Clontarf. “There will be no peace with these religious zealots under arms.”

The Irish high command in Kinsale has offered amnesty to any Puritan soldier who surrenders. Those who do not will face the sword or a life of slavery in the Caribbean. Although both the French and Spanish governments had pledged assistance in the punitive action against Cromwell the Irish declined the offer.

“We ourselves can handle the situation,” said O’Neill.

– Finbar O’Haille 

“A trip to heaven is wasted on some, when a simple postcard would satisfy.”

– St. Roscoe of Paddlewheel

The Travelers and the Selkie

He stood among a crowd at Drumahair;

His heart hung all upon a silken dress,

And he had known at last some tenderness,

Before earth took him to her stony care…

From The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland

by W. B. Yeats

Since before Cuchulain and the raids of Finn McCool the grey sands of Drumcliff Bay had been pounded to fine-grain powder by wizard’s winds off the Dartry Mountains and the indignant surf of the North Atlantic. Relentless beggars in rags, these two and more, had banged against cottage doors all winter in hopes of a vile handout from peat-fired peasants resigned to another morning’s hunger. They’re here again today. He’s here again tonight. She’s gone now.

Away on that far beach, near Sligo town, a myriad of polished pebbles spews flattery onto haughty, high-born driftwood, all dressed up in the lace of sultry seaweed for the sailor’s ball. Enchanted seals, specks of black from the beach, wait for a moment of sunshine. The dance goes on all day, all night, then circles back around for more while freebooting revelers gasp, coming up for a breath of air.

The heavy waves cry out for company, all a constant haze and gaze of the endless luster, the white-eyed sky…only ever blue with a child’s imagination. Laughter wasted on the hardened hide of the planet, a painful monotony to some, a jousting drama to the rest. Is this the end we have long feared or only the very beginning of act one?

Looking to the horizon there is no separation from the sea. It all comes together like salty crepe paper hung mindlessly in apprehension of the grandest of social occasions…but some were not invited. They are the tinkers, the gypsies that travel in brightly painted wagons, faery spells and dark, curious behaviors follow them from place to place. Music to soothe, poteen to swallow, feet dancing ancient troubles away.

That eerie, earthborn mist seldom blessed by a bashful Irish sun, a reluctant cameo call, as satin spring flows green into summer.  Slick, violent ledges drop to the beach. Rocky spired spirits jutting out into the brine. Puddled pock marks carved into rock, home to eternal sea creatures eaten only in desperation by people deprived of lamb, sausage or pork with their prautees.

She used to sit here on the beach and stare for hours into the surf, your mother, but now, son she’s away. The father sadly put his arm around the shoulder of his only child, attempting to say just the right thing, feel the right feel. How could a boy of five even begin to understand what had transpired here. But where has my mother gone? Is she in heaven? Yes, in heaven and away*.

Three weeks ago Maureen had disappeared. She was perched above the beach in her familiar posture staring at something out in the water. She often came to this spot in search of peace in the shadows of her skeletal existence. They were always hungry despite her efforts to collect the treasures of the sea, in stark boiling pots, survival on the half-shell. One day she just went mad and, wandering down the canting beach in the direction of Carney, was never seen again, a mirage to the fretful tide.

It is common among the tinkers to run off and not face what is real, said the townsfolk. The travelers were not to be trusted. They were thieves and liars…and they had no land of their own. They trusted in leprechauns and selkies. Were they Roma blood gypsies or orphans of Cromwell’s wars? No one knew and after four centuries what did it matter?

I remember your own grandmother talking of Irish orphans sent to the New World, to Barbados and Montserrat and Virginia to work as slaves for the planters. Today blue eyes, African skin and a lilt in the speech…once the indentured slaves to a heartless empire run by men with vest-splitting bellies and rum-soaked cigars, cathedrals to godless greed jutting far up into the sky.

Maybe she’s with them in the Caribbean asked the child, his eyes drawn to the sea.

“What do you see out there, my beautiful lad?”

“A lovely seal, father.”

Why do they hate us, da? Are we bad people as they say?”

No, son, no worse than any. They hate us because we are free, we are different…because they see us in league with the faeries. They fear our music, our connection to what is beyond their tiny imaginations. They are chained to the land, to their misconceptions and we are wanderers.

You were too young to remember, but two years ago gypsy caravan stopped at a fine hotel in Ballysadare inquiring as to the lease of a hall for a large wedding uniting two families from Lough Gill. The proprietor would have none of it and ran us off with the aid of several local bullies. They told us never to come back. Where should we go? This is our land, the land of our ancestors. Shall we cross the Irish Sea to Britain? Shall we embrace the devil? Cursed to travel the roads repairing pots and pans, sharpening knives, acting as midwives, spinning reels on the fiddle. But where is our peaceful lullaby?

What happened then, da? the boy asked, his eyes hostages of the ocean.

“We went back into the forest and held the wedding under the blackthorn trees. It was quite the celebration. It was then that I danced with your mother for the first time. We were safe from harm in the woods. The gommach would never follow us there. We were under the protection of the pookas and the townspeople were afraid. That night the slooa shee (host faeries) burned the hotel to the ground. Despite the fact that there was not a tinker within sight of Ballysadare we were unjustly blamed. Now even a fool knows there’s a time for dancing and a time for hotel burning.”

There is no peace, no right in the life of a Traveler…just months spent going in circles in search of another meal, a place to sleep for the night…and no escape from the sadness at seeing another poor child come into the cold, wet world of their grand and glorious Gaeltacht!

“Ever since I was a boy we have been methodically cut off from the rest of Irish society. Farmers with pig shit on their boots, pub owners smelling of stale beer, ladies in second-hand finery look down their noses at the Travelers. The righteous ones run and the unforgiven seek to taste our fruits and drink our poteen, then they go back to their fields, their sod huts, their priests, their churches…”

The boy was spellbound, mesmerized by the seal that had now come closer. But why can’t the faeries save us?

They are only powerful below the ground and cannot affect change in those who do not recognize them. They prefer to play with us, to sing with us…to dance the jigs of the deeneeshee. They see our fate as temporary and harshly amusing. The magic is only for those who will reach out and grab it, then hold it like there is no tomorrow, no yesterday.

Then the father hung his head.

“I could not give your mother peace and now she is away.”

The boy looked so much like his lost wife and had the same penchant for salty meditation. He looked to the sea as his father spoke.

“Look, da, the seal!”

The boy continued to search to waves resting his eyes on a solitary seal that had landed on a massive rock cropping on the north side of the bay. It looked back at the father and son, lingered for a moment then dove into the surf. The boy continued to stare. Soon the seal emerged again and came even closer, through thickets of kelp and mounds of ancient stone. Then there came a whisper:

It is your wife and mother. I hold peace and now you must join me in my paradise. Do not hesitate. You have only an instant to decide. Come to me. I cannot linger and I cannot bring myself to come back to your sad world. The sea is the matriarch where the deeds of evil men are washed away. No tinkers, no kings. Take on the pelt. As I could walk upon the shore as human you must come into the sea. Come into the water.

Taking his father’s hand the boy stood up and walked toward the water. Come da, the tide is rising and my mother awaits us. We are now the children of Fata-Morgana***.  Accustomed to the ways of the selkie** and true believers in the faeries, both father and son held on to each other and then waded into the water until they blended with the gray horizon.

* According to Celtic legend sudden or unexplained death was seen as only a temporary departure, often brought on by madness. In some cases the soul would take on another form until it had decided it was prepared to enter the afterlife.
**Selkies are seals that can shed their pelts and walk ashore as humans. They are known seduce desired lovers into the sea.
***godess of the sea

– Kevin Haley

A great man in his pride, confronting murderous men

Casts derision upon supersession of breath;

He knows death to the bone—Man has created death.

– Yeats

“The Mad, Mad Malarkey of Brian O’Linn”

Brian O’Linn was a gentleman born,

His hair it was long and his beard unshorn,

His teeth were out and his eyes far in—

“I’m a wonderful beauty,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn was hard up for a coat,

He borrowed the skin of a neighboring goat,

He buckled the horns right under his chin—

“They’ll answer for pistols,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn had no breeches to wear,

He got him a sheepskin to make him a pair,

With the fleshy side out and the woolly side in—

“They are pleasant and cool,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn had no hat to his head,

He stuck on a pot that was under the shed,

He murdered a cod for the sake of his fin—

“‘Twill pass for a feather,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn had no shirt to his back,

He went to a neighbor and borrowed a sack,

He puckered the meal-bag under his chin—

“They’ll take it for ruffles,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn had no shoes at all.

He brought an old pair at a cobbler’s stall,

The uppers were broke and the soles were thin—

“They’ll do me for dancing,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn had no watch for to wear,

He brought a fine turnip and scooped it out fair,

He slipped a live cricket right under the skin—

“They’ll think it is tickling,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn was in want of a broach,

He stuck a brass pin in a big cockroach,.

The breast of his shirt he fixed it straight in—

“They’ll think it’s a diamond,” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn went a-courting one night,

He set both the mother and daughter to fight—

“Stop, stop,” he exclaimed, “If you have but the tin,”

I’ll marry you both,” says Brian O’Linn.

 

Brian O’Linn went to bring his wife home,

He had but one horse that was all skin and bone—

“I’ll put her behind me, as nate as a pink,

And her mother before me” says Brian O’Linn!

 

Brian O’Linn and his wife and wife’s mother,

They all crossed over the bridge together,

The bridge broke down and they all tumbled in—

“We’ll go home by water,” says Brian O’Linn!

IRISH MATH CHALLENGE

1. There are 214 year-round residents and 4 pubs in Leap, West Cork, Ireland. How many pubs is that per person? If that population were spread out evenly on Saturday night how many would be in each pub?

2. How is it possible to walk all over the city of Dublin and not pass so much as one pub?

(Answers: .018 pubs per person, 53.5 persons in each pub. Go into all of them).

McGinty Lands Victorian

(Gothic) Wardene McGinty, the woman who successfully sued the Big Chief Grocery chain over the size of a holiday turkey, has purchased a $850,000 Victorian home on White Rock Avenue according unconfirmed sources here. Readers will recall the horrendous fire that destroyed McGinty’s line shack near the Crested Butte Bad Karma Dump on November 27. No?

The police report says:On November 26 a Crested Butte woman purchased what turns out to have been a ten-pound turkey, mistakenly marked as a 25-pound turkey. The next day she followed cooking instructions per pound, leaving the bird to cook for the prescribed six plus hours while she went to the popular Juanito’s El Curvo bar for refreshment. According to fire department officials the bird finished cooking in three hours, exploded and started the fire which destroyed her shabby little home.

Subsequent testimony reaffirmed the developments and McGinty, at the urging of a battery of TV lawyers, sued the grocery store for misinforming her as to the weight of the bird and blaming the mindless discrepancy for the destruction of her abode.

After an emotional plea, wherein an abandonment by her husband was repeatedly cited, McGinty was awarded $3.2 million in an out of a quart settlement. The rest is history.

For public information: McGinty’s former husband, the now deceased Padriac McGinty, a native of Kinvara, Republic of Ireland, managed to accumulate a fortune in the janitorial supply business but drank it up between the years of 2015 and 2018 leaving the family penniless. As we have previously suggested: readers may remember (though the inebriated Padriac would not have recalled) accounts of this disgraceful behavior printed in The San Juan Horseshoe at the time.
As it turns out McGinty’s outlandish, yet impressive boozing is one of the contributing reasons for the paper’s continued policy not to hire Irish journalists unless they have papers and their own flasks.

– Owen Roe O’Neill

“Would that the Roman people had a single neck.”(to cut off their head) – Emperor Caligula (Gaius Caesar)