Jay Meehan: Green daze
March 18, 2014
"When Irish eyes are smiling/ Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter/ You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy/ All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling/ Sure, they steal your heart away."
-Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.
‘Tis an overcast St. Paddy’s Day morn as I type this and the home jukebox has been cranked since dawn with the likes of Flogging Molly, the Pogues, Shane McGowan, the Chieftains, the Boys of the Lough, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the Dubliners and New Dubliners, the Dropkick Murphys, Van Morrison, the Coors, the Deseret String band and various musical outfits featuring Mark Jardine, Paul Rasmussen and Cliff Butter.
Admittedly, the Irish coffee’s been tweaked a bit with the dregs of a partial jug of 12-year-old Jameson 1780, but just for flavor and medicinal purposes you understand. As of now, there are no additional plans for further consumption or revelry away from the auld sod of the Heber foothills. But you never know.
There probably won’t be any corned beef and cabbage fare this year either as I already satisfied my Irish culinary obligations last Saturday down at the Gateway in Salt Lake at the annual Utah Hibernian Society Parade and Siamsa when I opted for a wonderful gut plug of mac and cheese in lieu of the lamb stew.
With a donut hole of clear skies, the somewhat breezy bluebird day once again dazzled! From my early encounter with Rev. Pat Carley to my ensuing meander through the staging area to check out the float, band, and dancing entries and onto my final sashay down Rio Grande Avenue, I felt blessed by the luck of the Irish.
As usual, I got fixated early on by a comely and talented step dancer and kept her in my crosshairs most of the day. Lucky for me, she obviously dug trad-Irish music so I didn’t have to sacrifice culture for infatuation. That luck again!
Many of Salt Lake’s Irish groups were once again in attendance with the sounds of bodhráns, fiddles, pipes, whistles, guitars, flutes and button accordions seemingly floating in the air. A very important part of the soundtrack of my life, as they say!
The headliners, once again, were a group of young Irish musicians from County Tipperary’s famed pub and traditional music venue "Jim of the Mills." Acclaimed fiddler Jim Ryan himself never made the trip this year but his charges cut a wide musical swath through northern Utah, jamming with local musicians all week while lending a most-pure authenticity to the proceedings.
In many ways, my day featured a perfect storm of Irishness. A full two hours prior to assorted sirens kicking off the parade, I was to be found nestled in an overstuffed leather chair at the Gateway’s second-level Starbucks, lollygagging from one chapter to the next over James Joyce’s classic "Ulysses."
Great way to fine tune one’s vernacular chops, reading Joyce (or Dylan Thomas or Oscar Wilde, for that matter). I had also packed a smaller volume which included selected works of the Irish Literature Nobelists: William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Seamus Heaney, but, the day being what it was, I was never afforded the time.
Seven time zones away in Paris, the Irish national rugby side was busy taking on a most-game French fifteen for all the marbles in this year’s "RBS 6-Nations Championship," and to say my cell was kept hopping with scoring updates would be an understatement.
Due to relatively convoluted point-differential tiebreakers, it all came down on the final day of competition to a couple of results favoring Ireland. First, in a match earlier in the day from Rome, the Italian side had to stay within 50-points of England. When England won 52-11, Ireland was halfway home. To win the championship, however, they still had to defeat France in Paris, which they had accomplished only once in forty-some years.
Well, that luck again! Ireland, trying their best to win one for outgoing center Brian O’Driscoll, edged France in a thriller 22-20 to take the Cup — the men in green emerging with a most-hard-fought and memorable victory. More than a few ex-Park City Mucker rugby footballers and their fans sent congratulations over social media and email with requests for a communal hoist. No worries, mates! With you!
By the time this ever-so-green drivel sees print, you’ll more than likely be ankle deep in the "hair of the dog," taking in Irish laughter and hearing angels sing. That’s not necessarily a good sign. Larceny is afoot! Soon Irish eyes will be smiling and your heart may go a’missing. Top o’ the season to ya!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.