My first three CDs were Pachelbel’s Canon (which contained the Albinoni Adagio, still my favorite classical piece), the Phantom of the Opera, which I was really into at the time, and "The Long Black Veil," by the Chieftains.
Of the three, the only one I still listen to on a regular basis is "The Long Black Veil," which features the Irish traditional group rocking the house down with Sting, the Rolling Stones, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Marianne Faithfull. It does not get any better than that.
I love Irish music. The Chieftains were only the first of many Irish groups to grace my CD player and later, my iPod.
And yesterday, as we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, I found myself longing for the green hills of Tara, the tippity-tap-whump of traditional dancing and the thump of the bodhran.
And I found myself nursing my secret shame as I drank a cup of good hot tea and listened to the Chieftains:
I am not Irish.
I have not a jot, not a drop, not a single molecule of Irish blood in my veins. I am as un-Irish as it is possible to be. I can’t dance an Irish jig, I can’t speak Gaelic, I’ve never set foot on the Emerald Isle and I wouldn’t know a good Irish beer if I were being drowned in it. I am so far from being Irish that not only have I never eaten traditional Irish-American corned beef and cabbage, I’ve never even seen corned beef and cabbage.
I consider not being Irish a sort of minor personal tragedy. I secretly dream of marrying an Irish person so I have some legitimate claim on the culture, but only since I grew up. Before that I dreamed some nice Irish family would adopt me. Then I could have a sort of double-family arrangement, in which I could spend half my time in Ireland taking tea and the other half in America nibbling lefse and gulping down German cookies.
Each year, I see the parades of happy Irish people wearing green on TV, and each year I turn green myself–out of envy.