Monday, October 05, 2009

Some Enchanted Place - Chapter Six, Part The Third

If you just stumbled in, I'm apparently writing a book or something. Start here: Some Enchanted Place
Then here: Some Enchanted Place, Part Three
Then here: Part Three, Episode Two
Then here: Part Three, Episode Three

Then here: Episode Four
Episode Five
Chapter Seis

Chapter Six Second Part


History is just tribes. We're all in great big tribes now, and belong to all sorts of smaller ones simultaneously -- you're in a bowling league and the National Guard and a book club at the same time; stuff like that. The importance of the original race tribes are waning fast now, and the fellow-traveler voluntary associations are nearing their place on the meridian. You've got more in common with a Mongol on your dart team than a professional golfer you saw on television that looks like your brother.

But don't let it fool you. All sorts of vestigial tails accompany you into the bassinet. Later maybe you pick up more obscure signals through osmosis, or more directly. Dad might make an offhand comment at the dinner table, or maybe goes the point-blank route and just beats it into your head with a belt. Maybe the preacher slips it in your head when you're not looking. Maybe your country hands you a rifle and tells you it's A-OK to let it rip over there, but not over there, and you do the math. Perhaps someone looks at you funny in the schoolyard, and you really don't know what or why it was funny, but you're shirtless and throwing hands in no time.

People that live close enough to the railroad tracks to have their dishes rattle always come up with a variation on the same bit of bosh: I'm the descendant of kings! The black kids in high school would talk about the proud Ashanti warriors they had falling out of their family trees, and of course we dumb Micks claimed Kings as thick as poison ivy all over our miserable half-remembered patch of the Ould Sod. In your heart of hearts you never believed a word of it, even as you were saying it, and knew a king in Ireland was probably the king of this rock here to that pile of dung over there anyway, and even that was only because no one was around to claim otherwise. Your semi-notable surname just means your great-great-great-great grandmother got knocked up by a slightly better class of lord that happened to be passing through. We're all nobodies or we wouldn't be talking -- or fighting -- over nothing much. The somebodies are always elsewhere.

The sum total of my inculcation into the Irish tribe hung behind those damp towels in the bathroom. Dad could tell you, chapter and verse, the difference between the Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael, and many of his drinking buddies would go home angry from some party because someone said De Valera couldn't hold a candle to Collins -- or vice versa, depending on how many drinks they had. Me? It seemed very far away and trivial. The Polish and Italian girls in my High School class tested the limits of their blouse buttons, and I plumbed the depths of diversity peeking at them.

But still. Angel went a little overboard, but Pecksniff certainly did exude something creepy; radiated it. His little disclosure pushed me past wanting to wet myself and around the bend in a way it was hard to explain for someone that really didn't give a fart about being Oirish. But this was beyond the beyonds, as my grandmother used to say if you dared swear at the dinner table, which you didn't.

I don't know the Royal Black Knights of the Camp of Israel from the Apprentice Boys of Derry, or any of the dozens of clubs my father would mention with his eyebrow lowered and set on stun. I don't know one from another, or any particular one from a hole in the ground. But that vestigial tail of my race, the faint imprint of my ancestors left in my bones, told me that all my squabbling tribes forget everything between them in an instant, then coalesce into one big angry Green tribe, whenever the Orange tribe shows up.

Pecksniff was standing there in this gloomy hole in the ground, beaming with pride to announce that he had turned his back on his brethren, and gone to carry water for the Orange team.


julie said...

This tickles me, I must admit. On my dad's side, I'm all green, and we used to joke (or brag, depending on the mood) that back in the old country our name was a band of robbers and thieves.

The man I married has a county named for his side, and his dad used to wear orange on St. Paddy's Day, mainly just to be ornery, but still...

Of course, we're both from the West coast, far removed in time and space from those distinctions, with names that don't mean much more (historically) than marks on a foreign map in a largely foreign tongue. Our real tribe is the one that headed west in covered wagons through hostile territory.

I've lived on the east coast, though. The tribes are much more alive there than you might think, being in the midst and so close you don't quite notice. Kinda like going to a different part of the country and finding out you have an accent (when it's clearly everyone else who talks funny).

xlbrl said...

Maybe it's just the Scots, but I don't recall a single one of the old folks loving or hating it. They never talked about the old country at all, and we had no noble relatives; only a few that were clearly not to be spoken about.
Now you've got me thinking that's a pretty good deal.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, the best thing that can be done with the past is to selectively forget it.

-Mikey NTH

Thud said...

No kings here...just refugees from a hole in the ground in Sligo.

angelnfreefall said...

is enchanted. Write on.