When Irish eyes are smiling... in New York

I DON’T know when I had cabbage like it. The right amount of firmness, so tasty it must have been grown on volcanic soil fertilised by contented, opinionated cattle and cooked in water from one of those ads where the water surges free off a mountain that had trapped it since antiquity.

When Irish eyes are smiling... in New York

Dished out with shepherds pie and meat by a friendly woman named Bridie and two perfectly boiled spuds. Shur where would you get it?

You’d get it in New York. (I know. New YORK if you don’t mind). I was back over there this past week for some gigs and called into the New York Irish Centre in Queens. A lot of comedians are out of the country around St Patrick’s Day. It’s similar to the government ministers who sell Ireland as a Great Place To Do Business whereas we tell the world that everyone in the country is tapped.

They were having a St Patrick’s Day lunch for the old folk when I called into the centre and a crowd of about 50 or so sexa-, septua- and octogenarians were tucking into the aforementioned hearty food.

It’s interesting watching people who left Ireland 50 years ago. Spending time away changes people to varying degrees. Perhaps I was imagining it but, for example, those men who had picked up more of an accent also seemed to look a bit more American, a bit more Jack Nicklaus-like whereas others looked as if they had never left and the voice was the same. Some said dollars, others said bucks. Some were from a ‘counny’ in Ireland, others from a county.

But all seemed happy to join in in a chorus of ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ that was being sung by the Director of the Centre and generally in good humour about the Old Sod.

I chatted to a few of them as they gave me snippets of their lives. Within about four seconds, it turned out one of them had lived on the same road I now live on. In the argot of Irish coincidenceology we both agreed that this was ‘a good one’.

Even more of a good one followed as one of the women at the lunch said I look familiar. “Well maybe you are familiar with my hard hitting exposés in an Irish newspaper of record “De Paper’?” I replied false modestly. “No, you are the IMAGE of Morgan from General Hospital” she says. I looked like Morgan Corinthos, a character from the Channel 7 soap. “You wouldn’t like his morals,” she added. Apparently he recently tried to undermine his father by working for a rival crime family, the Falconieri and also is having an affair with his mother-in-law. It’s uncanny.

You can get jaded about “Patty’s Day”. By the time you read this you may have already seen someone walk past your window carrying a slab of SomethingSteiger with small children in tow and you wondered what the country was coming to. The country is coming to a parade, it turns out.

But St Patrick’s Day means a lot to these people in places all over the world like the New York Irish Centre. It’s a chance to top up on Irish identity. Speaking of which I’m going to do the same. Time for more cabbage.

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