Bar managers know what Oscar Wilde’s alter ego, Algernon Moncrieff, meant when he said, “If one plays good music, people don't listen and if one plays bad music people don't talk.” Bad music is good for bar business. Just try to find an empty barstool on March 17.
Once a year, Flogging Molly’s discography section on Wikipedia gets a thorough update. Once a year, tattoo artists are asked to put down their tribal-markings templates and freshen the grimace on thousands of leprechauns. What is it about the spectacle of a mob of lunkheads in green plastic hats smearing puke of various provenances across their chins with the cuffs of their own plaid shirts at ten in the morning that recalls the struggles, oppression, diaspora, and cultural accomplishments of the people of the book? One would rather willingly sit through a screening of that ungodly Rattle & Hum infomercial than to ever again get caught in that downward spiral.
My sainted mother in Mary’s arms in Heaven may trespass the bigly border walls of the astral plane to slap me in the face for saying this, but St. Paddy’s Day is a drag. It would never go over in Ireland, the way we carry on here. In Limerick they’d stab you. In Cork they’d drown you in a canal; you could be floating in plain sight for weeks afterward, your pinching little fingers entirely blanched and pruned, the shamrock-charms of your necklace reflecting the faint emerald glint of the wan Hibernian sun, and no one would complain. Perhaps you might find something like it in Dublin, but Dublin is a special place, cosmopolitan. They’ve got a statue of Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. Just the same, Joyce left Dublin for Paris, so did Beckett, and Paris sent over Houellebecq by way of payback. By comparison, U2 left Dublin to avoid paying taxes!
I’m no stereotypical Irish-American cop, not one for cracking heads, drinking warm beer, and upholding the status quo, but the night we stalked Shane MacGowan in New York we kept a pro-level tail on him. We found him in an Irish bar in Queens, eating pizza and nursing a single beer for a much longer time than you’d expect. When his car service arrived to take him away, we took the next car and followed him across the East River to Manhattan, where we both disembarked at the ballroom where he was to play. A very short time later, he stumbled out onstage to massive applause. He had sunglasses on and a tumbler of something in one hand. Who’s to say what it was that caused him to stumble on an unseen obstacle and fall almost immediately. But just as quickly, he rose, found a microphone, and muttered “Sabotage!” To even greater applause.
St. Paddy’s day in America is to Irish culture what Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is to Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, absolute garbage. St. Paddy’s Day celebrations are such travesties that they make the continued existence of U2 seem almost tolerable by comparison. As a child I was yearly forced to dance reels and jigs in pubs across town. To this day I can still sing “Black Velvet Band,” "Teenage Kicks," "Jailbreak," “Merry Ploughboy,” “Four Green Fields,” “Johnson’s Motor Car,” and “Finnegan’s Wake” (the song, not the literary tour-de-force). Perhaps this is why I teetotal.
Might a stray dog in a cage at the pound — looking up through a dirty window, confusing the blinking lights of airplanes for stars — be moved to publish poetry in McSweeney’s or The New Yorker? Yes, but for two cardinal things; first, the lack of a word-processor; second, the fact that dogs can’t type. In that same inchoate way, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not a literal dog in a literal cage, I might be considered a fan of the band U2.
Here’s a test for you movie-watchers out there: how can you know in advance if a biography of a musician or artist is going to be crap? Bono makes a cameo. Without going into politics, what’s an easy way to know that a politician is a monster? Here’s a tip: somewhere in the matrix, there’s a photo of him or her, shaking hands with Bono.
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