Hold Me, I’m Irish

How come there’s no Irish enclave in LA? Oh, well, at least we have our own soap.

Oy, the Irish. We glow like porch lights and think we can talk our way out of every traffic ticket, every tricky situation.

Speaking of which: Ever try to explain Daylight Savings Time to a Siberian husky? They look at you blankly, tilt their heads a little in that cute way that says, “I’m an idiot but don’t you love me anyway cuz I’ve got freckles?”

Such an Irish trait.

White Fang doesn’t get Daylight Savings Time at all, or why we can’t take walks in the pouring rain. She’s an idiot, all right, the ultimate aspiring actress who comes to LA and thinks the world will fall at her feet, which LA then goes and does, of course.

Technically, White Fang is a Siberian idiot, though I see glimpses of an Irish soul. It might be just from being around us. In that case, I feel somewhat guilty, which is a famed Irish trait as well.

Anyway, happy St. Paddy’s Day, y’all, a day when Smartacus and I will put green food coloring in our scrambled eggs and later get out the pressure cooker (aka InstaPot) to make corned beef.

I don’t trust pressure cookers much; I see them as potential little kitchen bombs, the surest path to an unplanned remodel. As I recall, one was used in the Boston Marathon attack just a few years ago.

Or maybe I’m mis-remembering (another Irish trait). But the pressure cooker is THE best way to cook corned beef. In 90 minutes, it turns corned beef into one of the tastiest, tenderest feasts you’ll ever have.

Our family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day a little more every year. It serves as hard evidence that we’re willing to recognize the positive aspects of every ethnic group and to look past some of the negatives.

I find that enlightened, very American, and kinda naïve. But I’ll go along with it, being the optimistic and slightly puzzled little leprechaun that I am.

I’m so impressionable. The other day, someone was circulating a “What It Means To Be Irish” list, one of those items that makes the rounds on cellphones these days.

What It Means To Be Irish:

1. You will never play pro basketball.

2.  At least one of your cousins is a cop.

3. You think you sing very well.

In fact, I do sing very well, and “Danny Boy” is one of my go-to standards. I sing it misty eyed while looking off into the distance, the same way as Mike Douglas, the modestly talented ’70s talk show host whom, according to family lore, my mother once dated.

My mom did look a little like Audrey Hepburn, an angry sparrow of a woman who probably auditioned every man in Chicago before finally settling on my dad. She did set the bar pretty high, though.

Long story short, I could’ve been Mike Douglas’ modestly talented son, which probably would’ve been more burden than advantage. That’s another thing the Irish excel at – taking a plus and turning it into a minus.

What It Means To Be Irish:

4. You have no idea what makes a long story short (see above).

5. You will be punched for no good reason – a lot.

6. You are strangely poetic after a drink or three.

There’s this show “Shameless” that I never liked but watched anyway, about a dysfunctional and amoral Irish family on the south side of Chicago.

Totally insulting take on these poor micks, and were it any other ethnic group the ACLU would’ve charged in, sued the network and the production company, sued the unions, sued craft services, sued everything that wiggled.

Yet, with the Irish, folks just shrug and say, “Well, it’s a little true.” But still…

The Irish get mad over all the wrong things, and hold a simple grudge for centuries.

According to Freud, the Irish are the only ethnic group “impervious to psychoanalysis.” Yep, according to the world’s most-renowned shrink, we repel emotional help.

Yeah, I see that a little. There is something in the Irish temperament, a little compartment of the soul, that says: “I got this. Seriously, I’ll be OK. Bartender!!!”

In my experience, the urban Irish are far more devoted to their pasts than the suburban Irish. Once you get to the suburbs, the tendency is to blend in and conform.

Me, I hate conformity. Not as much as I hate communism, or hip-hop, or that crazy rock-hard plastic packaging that you can’t open without a blow torch. But I hate conformity a whole lot. I find it short-circuits the id and suppresses the odd, and plasters over the quirks and differences that make us interesting to drink with.

Funny then that I ended up in LA, a city that is like a suit with a thousand pockets. That makes it an awesome suit indeed.

In LA, there are pockets of little shops, pockets of cafes, pockets of fine old bungalows, pockets of immigrant neighborhoods.

There is Little Ethiopia and Little Bangladesh. LA is a sweeping salute to all the flags of the world, as are many cities, though LA more so than most.

Know what there isn’t? Little Ireland.

New Orleans has the Irish Channel, and Boston has Southie, Chicago has the heavily Irish South Side (as well as the Irish blue bloods of Wilmette and Lake Forest).

Where’s the Irish section of Los Angeles?

Well, I’ll tell you: It resides in a little apartment complex near the beach, in two chatty Irish daughters who glow like a couple of porch lights.

They probably don’t realize it, but all they do is talk cooking and tell stories. I can visit them, plop down in a chair, and just listen to them monologue for 20 minutes (to the Irish, monologue is a verb).

No, they don’t know how to make a long story short, and that’s a blessing. Yes, they think they can sing but really can’t.

FYI, my daughter Rapunzel was in chorus for three years and merely lip-synced the words, while her mother and I sat in the audience and beamed: “Isn’t she good? So much talent in this family.”

Mostly what my daughters like to do is tell stories about each other, my two favorite topics.

The other day, the younger one was talking about how when her sister walks the golden retriever, the big lanky pup jumps into her arms every time a city bus rumbles by on 4th Street.

Apparently, the pup is Irish too. She has trained her loved ones to shelter and hold her in difficult times, which is what Irish families do, as well as families of every make and model.

Our ethnicity is our comfort zone, our safe harbor, every metaphor for a place you can flee to in difficult times.

Such as a warm shower, where you can sing “Danny Boy” as if in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Sounds pretty good,” the Irish say to themselves as they lather themselves with Irish Spring.

Point is — and I insist there is one — the Irish are the only ethnic group with their own soap.

Consider that a while. Are we cleaner? Do we take more showers? Do we linger in bathtubs while secretly sipping Jameson’s on the rocks?

Sometimes, yes.

And today when no one is looking – in the car, in the shower, in the garage – a true Irishman will break into song, singing not well but with Celtic gusto.

“Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are calling … from glen to glen and down the mountainside…”

A touchstone. A tribute. Not a bad song at all.

Pressure cooker corned beef recipe (courtesy of the “Pressure Cooker Perfection” cookbook). Note that you put aside the season packet that often comes with the corned beef and add your own spices instead. But I’m sure season packet would work too:

3-4 pound corned beef (fat trimmed to ¼ inch)

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

2 bay leaves

3 black peppercorns (whole)

½ teaspoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh)

2 pounds red potatoes (small to medium)

10 carrots peeled and cut into 3-inch logs

1 head of green cabbage cut into 8 wedges


Put everything except veggies into pressure cooker

Bring to high pressure over medium heat

Soon as it reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 90 minutes.

Carefully release steam for 15 minutes, transfer corned beef to cutting board.

High pressure carrots, cabbage and potatoes in same water. Soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce to medium low and cook for 12 minutes (cooking them separately like this keeps them from getting too mushy).

Slice corned beef against grain and serve with vegetables. Use cooking liquid to moisten as needed.

Cheers! See many of you at Thursday’s Gin & Tonic St. Paddy’s Bash.

8 thoughts on “Hold Me, I’m Irish

  1. Niall Williams: “This is Happiness”. Just in case you ever find time to read a great Irish pastoral (easier than going to the airport).

  2. I am (almost) 3/4 Irish (2 grandmothers and half of one grandfather) so I feel compelled to agree with everything you have observed (so astutely) about our shared heritage. I also sing a mean Danny Boy – which you will learn when you read my book, Leonard Cohen and his bff Anthony Kingsmill requested of me on many bibulous occasions while residing many Irish moons ago on the lovely Greek island of Hydra. (they always also requested “Kevin Barry”)
    Top of the Mornin’ to ya!

  3. My Jewish husband’s birthday is March 17 and when he lived in New York he would
    always get a free drink on St Paddies Day. He has an Irish toast that can’t be
    said here!

  4. Irish Spring

    Green beer, a Bronx cheer
    The New York Irish had my ear
    St. Patty’s Day is sound incarnate
    I used to hear the roar of ornate
    Renderings of Irish hymns
    Their antonyms and synonyms
    And brogue of the coming queen–
    Spring, her spirit’s boistrous scene
    In halls and parks and many a bar
    Communal joy the Irish are
    Their traffic with the leprechaun
    On this day most dearly done
    Thus could a wolf Siberian
    Make the leap Hibernian
    Become irish for the day
    To the wolfhounds’ howled dismay
    And so can we, one and all
    For a few hours heed their call
    To become Irish in our soul
    Sing that old Celtic Rock and Roll
    Hoist a pint, lose control
    As Erin’s muses we extoll
    And one and all, raise voice and keen
    A mean Danny Boy, Wear The Green
    Like the season bursting through
    Exulting life…and so can you.

  5. Chris, I humbly suggest substituting the water and chicken broth in your corned beef recipe with Guiness. It’s a game changer.
    I’m pretty sure the hated,(by us Laker fans), Kevin McHale, was Irish.
    Looking forward to some March Madness madness

  6. Even though we are Italian on my Mother’s side, she was born in New York on St. Patrick’s Day .Ergo, we always thought we were honorary Irish by default! So we celebrated my Mom’s 92nd birthday today and it was wonderful to be able to hug some of the family that have been inoculated! The Irish and Italians have always been important and vital to the growth of our great country, and I was proud to feel I was a part of both. P.S. As per the Grammy’s , I never watch them but heard about the porn aspect. You know, Monday was the Ides of March , a harbinger and omen ; the downfall of civilization as we know it?

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