The day when we all get to be Irish, and some leprechauns show up too.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St Patrick’s day is a day when everyone can pretend that they’re Irish, and no one, except maybe real Irish people, will correct you.  Like me, for instance: I’m part Irish.  Barely, true, but barely still counts.  It’s St. Patrick’s day and I have the right to, when asked if I’m Irish, harken back to that distant and far removed ancestor and respond, “why yes of course… um… me lass… I be Irish!  Now who wants a pint of Guinness?”  And then we’d all cheer and sing whisky in the jar or something, and the party goes on.

But ever since last St. Patrick’s day, I’ve been a bit afraid of claiming to be Irish.  Afraid that I’ll be caught.  It’s the Leprechauns, you see.  They  monitor these things, making sure that no one other than true Irish people claim to be Irish on St. Patrick’s day.  Before I learned this, I had always wondered what use Leprechauns were, other than terrifying Jennifer Anniston, though not quite enough it seems, (to death being the implication here).

Warwick Davis is the man.

Clearly, it didn’t.

Leprechauns are wee folk with fairy magic, at least at the most basic description.  If one were to apply to fill a vacant leprechaun position, the conversation would proceed as follows:

“Are yeh wee?” The interviewer would ask.  He could have just looked to see.  One wonders why he need ask, but that’s the way these sorts of things go sometimes.  It’s all about the protocol.

“Oh, aye.” Responds the applicant, which is generally considered to be the most correct answer.

“And have yeh the fairy magics?”

“Oh aye.  That I do.”

“Loverly.  Yer hired.”

What leprechauns actually do has very little to do with being wee or being able to wield the fairy magics.  Leprechauns are tasked with keeping Ireland green,  like a glittering emerald, and magic, like a magical emerald.  There’s a special division for rainbow production and installation as well, but we won’t get into that right now.

You think Ireland looks like that on it's own?  No, what you see here my friend is centuries of hard leprechaun work.

You think Ireland looks like that on it’s own? No, what you see here my friend is centuries of hard leprechaun work.

The leprechauns have one other task, however, that dwarfs (forgive the pun) all their other duties: to ferret out the fakes, liars, and would be Irishmen on St. Patrick’s day, and humiliate them in front of their friends.

It was an encounter with one performing it’s primary task that, as I hinted before, was nearly my undoing last year.  I was at McCabes Irish pub, down on 5th avenue in Naples, Florida, enjoying a $6 glass of Yeungling with some a of newest and bestest friends I’d ever met (their names escape me now, but I’m relatively sure they all had one) when the question was raised as to whether or not I was Irish.

mccabe's

Now, I have a rather good Irish accent (or at least that’s what I’m told) which, like all Irish accents, is increased both in quality and volume with every alcoholic beverage imbibed.  The current tally was 5, so my confidence in my Irish speaking ability was great indeed.

I had been regailing my new comrades with tales of the homeland: of helping St. Patrick chase away all the bloody snakes, of finding so many pots of gold at the end of rainbows, for rainbows are plentiful on the emerald Isle, that I just started throwing them away,  of screeching contests with banshees and Father Ted TV marathons.  They were entranced, and I was having a blast, that is until I felt a gentle but firm tap on my buttocks.

I spun around, fists up and out in traditional Irish fighting form, ready to give the buttocks tapper the old one two, or, if she were a lady, the old wink and smile, but there was no one there.  I turned back to my friends, who must have assumed that spinning around to fight ghosts was just some Irish idiosyncrasy that they were hitherto unaware of (on nights of heavy drinking it often is), and thought nothing of it, other than to give me a rousing cheer.

I went for a bow, and was touched on the buttocks yet again.  I spun around in the same way.

“Alright, yeh livrey bastard, time for me to give yeh what for!”  I shrieked, but yet again, there was no one there.  I looked left.  I looked right.  I looked up.  I looked down.

There stood a leprechaun.  He was wearing a little green suit with a shamrock in his pocket and a green bowler hat, and looked very cross.  He smiled a wolfish grin.

“Hello sir, me names Bleary and I’m—“

“Christ, lads, it’s a real leprechaun!”  I shouted, pointing at it in awe.  I started jumping from foot to foot and giggling.  Everyone at the pub gathered ‘round to gaze at the spectacle.  The Leprechaun shifted his feet, uncomfortable.

“I’m—“

“What’re yeh here for, little fellah?” I asked, like a mom to a child of 6.  He bristled at this and looked me dead in the eye.  God, those eyes!  They looked like gold doubloons!

“I’m here to see if yer really irish.”  He said matter of factly.

“Me?  Irish?  ‘Course I’m Irirsh!  What’s me shirt say?”

“Kiss me, I’m irish, but—“

“’Course it does!” I interrupted.  He scowled.

“But shirts can say any number of things.  Look at that lads!”  The leprechaun pointed to a fat, white man who was wearing a shirt that read “I’m the President”.

“My god…”  I whispered to the leprechaun, “Is that Barack Obama over there, d’yah think?”

“I—what?  No!  ‘Course not!  Are ye daft?” his question went unanswered though, because I had gone over to the fat man and was taking a photo with him.  The leprechaun stared in gawping silence as I snapped the photo and came back over.

“The lads back in Dublin are never gonna believe I met the President of the US of A!”

“Stop it!”  He shouted, stamping his little foot, which jingled.  “You’re not from Dublin and you’re sure as hell not Irish!  You’re just a drunk idiot from Florida!”

“Bah, Florida?  Have you seen his shirt?  It says—“ one of my new friends began before the leprechaun pointed his finger at him and ZAP, turned him into a cask of guinness.

“Sweet St. Patrick!” I gasped, staring at the cask.  “Free beer!”  The Leprechaun face palmed as we swarmed the cask and I passed out drinks.  I felt a bit bad for drinking that guy, but judging from what I’d learned about him in the past two hours, it’s what he would have wanted.

Poor... um... you.

Pour guy…

“Three cheers for our emerald homeland, lads and lassies!  Hip Hip!”

“NO!”  Roared the leprechaun, and the shout filled up the whole pub, shaking the windows and worrying he owner.  Some glasses fell off the shelves.  “Yer not Irish!  None of yah!  Yer just a bunch of drunken fools playin’ at bein’ Irish!  You don’t know the first thing, the first damn thing about what it is to be from Ireland.”   He paused and pointed at a man wearing a Bruins shirt. “Except for you.  You’re actually Irirsh.”  The bruins guy gave a fist pump and cheer, finished his glass, and ordered another.  “Now,” he said, returning to the task at hand, “will yeh stop, or do I have to turn you all into guiness?

The party was dead silent.  Even the band had stopped playing.  The leprechaun glared at us.  No one said a word, except for me.  I think it was the Guinness, but I was feeling particularly brave, like Willow, or Frodo Baggins, or Peter Dinklage, even.

“Why does it matter?” I asked.

“What?”

“Why does it matter if we aren’t Irish?”

“Because you all just want to be Irish on St Patrick’s day, and then it’s back to normal tomorrow!  It’s disrespectful.”

“Not really.  You should feel honored.  I don’t know any other country that has a day when the whole world wants to be them.  It’s a compliment.”

“Yeah!”  Someone else said.  “Ireland’s cool!”

“Here here!”

“Hoorah!”  The bar shouted.  Everyone at the bar started throwing their two cents in, and I could see we were getting through to the Leprechaun.  He was visibly softening.

“So will you have a pint of…” I looked at the cask.

“Jerry!” someone shouted.

“Will yeh have a pint of Jerry with us, and forget yer sorrows till the morrow?  Me lad?”

The leprechaun looked at each of us, scowling, until his eyes finally came to rest me.  And then he smiled.

“Yeh had me at jerry.”  He said with a wink.  To this day I’m not quite sure what he meant by that, but whatever, I was 7 beers deep and thinking wasn’t high on my list of priorities at the time.  We all cheered and the music started back up (whisky in the jar again ,I think).  The Leprechaun grabbed a pint of Jerry, and smashed it against mine.  My mug broke, and cut my hand quite badly, but it was St. Patrick’s Day, and a bloody and ruined hand was a small price to pay for getting to be Irish, even if it was just for a night.

*****

Author’s note: Thanks for reading.  Hope you liked it and I hope you have a great St. Patrick’s day, wherever you are.  I wanted to take time at the end of this post to thank Melissa K. Martin for giving me the “very inspiring blogger award”.  I’ll get around to doing the required things at some point, but it was a lovely gesture.  Happy St. Patrick’s day!

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The Avengers: Giving The Dark Knight Rises Something To Live Up To


Can the internet suffer another Avengers review?

Does the hulk smash…things?

Answer: Yes.

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this movie is.  Oh wait, I’m sorry.  That came out wrong.  What I meant to say was I can even begin describe how awesome this movie is.

Close your eyes my friend, and imagine you are on a tropical beach.  Now open your eyes so you can read.  You are relaxing in the hot summer sun when a midget dressed up in a tuxedo approaches you.

“Hi there, fellah!” you chirp, “Whats your name?”

“I’m Peter Dinklage” he responds with a nod and a wink.

Pictured: More awesome than we’ll ever be.

“Wait a minute…” you say, taking off your $10,000 sunglasses to get a better look at him.  “Aren’t you the actor…

“Who plays Tyrion Lannister in the hit HBO drama Game of Thrones?” He asks cheerfully.  “Yes, yes I am.  But do you want to know what’s really funny?  I’m exactly as witty, funny and cunning as him in real life!  Here, drink this.”  He offers you a bottle.

“I always hoped you were!”  You respond happily, taking the bottle from him and having a drink.  It takes like crisp grape juice.  Sweet but with a slight sour hint.  It’s bubbly too.  “My god this is good!  What is it?”

“It’s wine, only it tastes like what you always imagined wine should taste like as a kid.  And it only gets you drunk when you want it too.”

“Neato!  Thanks!”

“No problem.  Oh, and I also happened to bring along Scarlett Johansson and she’s positively dying to meet you, or if you are female or gay, perhaps Bradly Cooper or Daniel Craig or something”

Peter has his run of the litter, as it were.

“I’ll take Scarlet thanks.  But why are you here?”

“Don’t you know, insert your own name here I’m your best friend.  Here’s ten billion dollars.  And a Jet pack.”

“Is that it?” you ask, amazed.  Peter pauses for a minute, and then shakes his head and laughs.

“How silly of me, I almost forgot!  Here’s a FRICKEN LIGHTSABER THAT ACTUALLY WORKS.  FOR REAL.”  Then some polar bears come out and start doing acrobatics and dancing and stuff, and a bunch of parrots bring you some beer, except the beer tastes like Dr. Pepper, which is perfect, because you, Scarlet and Peter all love Dr. Pepper.  There was a bonfire later, but you can’t remember much of it.  Oh, and you don’t have a hangover in the morning.  And Scarlet wants to hang out the next day.

That’s how awesome the avengers is.  Go watch it.  Now.

Sunday in the Renaissance with Brian


I like Renaissance festivals.  There’s something magical about being able to step back in time to a long forgotten age.  I should know, I do it often.

“What, you go to medieval fairs a a lot?” you might ask

No, I’ve only ever been to three or four.  I actually travel back in time, or at least used to.  I’m a time traveler.

“What?”

Yes.

“Time travel?”

Indeed.

“Like doctor who?”

No, no!  More like Hiro from Heroes, I just sort of wish myself there and suddenly, with a glint in my eye and a twinkle in my toes, I am whisked away to a new age.  It’s all terribly complicated, so I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand:

In step 1 we see that I am in a normal house with a dog outside. If we then go to step two, we can tell that something has changed. I am now in a castle, with a plague rat outside. This is time travel

But I found that with time travel comes a host of other chores that one must inevitably complete before being able to go home.  They include but are not limited to: storming castles, slaying monsters, rescuing princesses, assassinating Caesar, impaling heads on spikes, putting spikes through heads, completing dark druidic rites and cooking feasts.  The list goes on and on, but the one thing that all of the items have in common is that they are a chore.  We time travelers grow tired of them after a while, and so we often find ourselves attending modern re-creations of the past such as civil war reenactments and Renaissance festivals.  It helps us when we are jonesing for the oh so familiar thrill of traveling back in time and we aret required to save any kingdoms.

And so it happened that my friend Brian and I decided to visit the Georgia Renaissance Festival a couple days ago.  I was very excited.  One of my favorite things about renaissance festivals is the people who inhabit them.  They are consistently interesting and irresistibly bizarre.  Look at this guy, for instance

scary guy

A medieval batman, perhaps?

I could tell it was going to be a good trip, but even as we entered I began to notice some striking dissimilarities between this festival and the actual renaissance.  First off, though there was a frightening, obviously insane woman sitting in mud and playing a wooden flute at the gates, I failed to find any dead peasants in the gutters or in the street.  It is inattention to detail such as this that detracts from the overall festival experience.  The nerve!  I decided then and there that once I got back to Birmingham I would send a strongly worded letter to the host of the event with my suggestions to increase historical accuracy.  Take the water, for instance.  It was clear and drinkable, and I didn’t even taste a hint of syphilis.  Preposterous, I know, but it only gets worse, I’m afraid.

historical inaccuracies abound at the medieval fair

Where are the hanging bodies of thieves? Where are the indentured peasants tilling the fields? WHERE IS THE AUTHENTICITY?

A blast from a horn caught Brian’s attntion, and we followed the sound to a stick thin 40 something year old man who was dressed in all black and had a purple feather sticking out of his hat.  Rediculous!  I assumed that he didn’t know that purple dyes were very expensive during that time, and the color was reserved almost exclusively for royalty.  I held my tongue, however, not wanting to ruin what ever it was he was about to do.  He told us to wait because, as he put it “I am going to do stuff.”  It turns out that he was a hypnotist, but not just any hypnotist, mind you, he was in fact the worst hypnotist on the planet.  My patience had run thin.

“A hypnotist?” I asked him, scoffing, “Absurd!  Hypnotism wasn’t even invented until the 19th century, a good 300 years after the time period for this fair!  How do you explain that?”  He looked at me for a long time.

“Shut up kid.” He said dismissively, and then began his act, which involved telling a woman that he was going to hypnotize her, asking her to close her eyes, and then pushing her on the ground and saying He then passed around a hat that we were supposed to put money in. I was about to challenge him to a duel upon the jousting lists when my friend Brian dragged me away.  He must have known what I had been thinking.

I glanced back at the terrible hypnotist one last time, and saw to my terror that this man was watching me with great interest.

Who does he think he is? Blade? A monk? A Serial Killer? All three?

“Your costume is horribly inauthentic!  People didn’t have leather coats like that back then!” I shouted at him.  He merely eyed me and took another sip from his mug.  I count myself lucky that I never saw him again, though I am quite certain that on some lonely, dismal night, many years from now, I will be in my room, writing, when i hear a tinkle of broken glass from the living room.  I will walk into the room to discover this man standing in the exact same position and in the exact same costume, and the last words I will ever here will be “Who’s inauthentic now?”

We made it to the jousting lists just in time.  Some horribly obese women who were wearing disturbingly tight corsets were trying to sell the crowd $5 pennants to support a knight.  Apparently, each side of the arena was assigned to a knight who would be jousting and you were meant to cheer for only your knight and boo the other one.  Our side was the fated to support the evil Amadeo, a rakish scoundrel from Italia, whose horsemanship was as sharp as his goatee, and who would win at any cost.

You can tell he's evil because he's wearing red and black. Oh, and because he's FOREIGN

I was reather pleased with our choice in seating.  This Amadeo seemed like a real go-getter, and I was certain he would bring us victory.  I squealed with glee as none other than King Henry VIII himself came on to the field and sat on his throne. The referee knight on the field began a long diaribe about jousting and rules and honor and other such nonsense that I’m sure I would have completely ignored if I would have been able to hear, but as it was I could hear nothing other than the inane fool standing right behind me with a cart full of beef jerky who was shouting”BUYYYY MYYYYYY JERKYYYYY!!!” about every 5 seconds.  Whenever his voice became tires he would take out a bell or whistle or horn to make as much noise as possible.  I turned and gave him the most irritated look i could muster.

“Has anyone ever bought our jerky?” I asked scornfully.  He thrust out his chest defiantly for just a moment, until his whole body sagged and his head drooped down wards.

“No.  Never.” He cried as tears dropped from his eyes.  I felt a pang of pity for him, and nearly reached out to console him, when he suddenly lifted his head, still crying, and tilted it slightly askew as he extended to me a ragged piece of beef jerky.

“So would you… would you buy one?  My beef jerky?” He asked, his hands shaking.

“No, never.” I replied dryly, turning my attention to the joust that was just about to take place.  The ref seemed to have finished and the games were about to commence.  We had all come to see some knights in full armor ride horse and hit each other with things.  Preferably lances, but any other sort of weapon would have been acceptable.  What we got instead was a insulting farce of  knights charging wooden dummies and catching rings out of the air with their lances.  Amadeo’s opponent caught more rings, and so he was pronounced the winner.

“Absurd!” I roared, standing up and waving my plastic beer cup around, sloshing it’s delicious contents on the spectators around me.  “We came for blood!  Blood damn you, blood!”

“What’s that peasant saying there?”  King Henry roared back, shoving himself out of his seat and pointing an accusatory turkey leg at me.

“He says he wants blood my lord!” said the referee knight.  Ridiculous!

“Blood?  Blood!  Ha Ha!” The king laughed.  His face suddenly darkened, and he looked right at me and in a deep, threatening voice said “Then blood you shall have.  A Joust!”

“A joust!” shouted the ref.

“A joust!” cheered the crowd

“A joust?” asked the knights, suddenly worried

“Yes!  A joust!” King henry confirmed.  He waved at some squires who brought at wooden lances to the knights, who eyed them nervously.  It was at this point hat I was beginning to wonder whether these guys were even real knights at all, or if they were just actors that the festival hired.  A horn was blown, and in a flurry of hooves and flash of steel they charged, their magnificent beasts racing down the list towards one another at breakneck speed!

a Joust

It was quite thrilling!

The day was getting better and better.  The knights were actually pretty good at jousting, and the crowd was really getting into it.  We cheered, we gasped, we booed, we cried!  After two bouts, however, the king stood up and looked at the ref angrily.

“What’s this?  Why are they still using these practice lances?  Go on!  Bring out the real ones.”

“But my lord, is that… legal?

“I will make it legal.  I’m the king, after all.”

“But, my lord, I don’t think that we should…”

“Guards, take this man to the tower!” He ordered, and several armored me approached the ref and pulled him down from his horse.  The dragged him off while he screamed “Noooo!”  The crowd stood up and cheered.  This was great fun!

“You there!” said the king, pointing at one of the squires, “You’re the new referee, but don’t disappoint me.  You know the price of failure!” A scream cut through the hot afternoon air and ended in a sickening crunch.  “Now, bring out the real lances!”

The squire climbed up in the old ref’s horse and nodded at two other squires who went fetched the lances.  The knights must have looked very worried indeed, but as it was we couldn’t see their facial expressions inside their helmets.

“Much better!” The king said, sitting back down.  “Now, commence the joust, and may the best man live!”  The crowd roared it’s approval as the knights took their positions.

“Amadeo will surly win this one!” I said to the little kid next to me, “He’s a real go getter.  Plus, he’ll do anything to win.  That other guy is toast!”

“But, won’t they die?” asked the kid, looking up at me with worried eyes.

“Well, yes, but it’ll probably only be one of them who dies!  There’s no need to worry, Amadeo will win!  You do want Amadeo to win, dont you?”

“Um… yes?”

“Good boy,” I said, ruffling his hair.  The horn blew and the knights thundered towards one another and we stamped our feet and hooted like howler monkeys.  When the two met, the sound of steel upon steel rang out across the land, and we all held our breath in anticipation.  When their horses finally parted, my side of the lists began to cheer like madmen.  Amadeo’s lance had gone straight through the other guys chest, killing him soundly!  I turned to give the kid a high five, but he had gone.  The king stood up and we grew silent.

“Well struck, Amadeo!  You are this days champion!”  He screamed.  We cheered even louder as Amadeo took a victory lap.  Our revelry was cut short, however, by the arrival of police officers who arrested the King and shut down the festival.  He had apparently gone mad from the heat of his robes.  I heard that he was thrown in jail after a long trial, and his daughter Mary took over running the festival.  She proved to be a poor ruler as well, and was deposed so that his third daughter Elizabeth could take the throne.  One of my friends went last sunday and said that she was a fair and just ruler, at least compared to her predecessors.  Such is the way of the world, I’m afraid.  The best renaissance festival I have ever been to also happened to be the most illegal.

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