leave your inhibitions at the door
I used to celebrate St Patrick’s Day like a madman. As a recent college graduate living in Chicago’s Yuppieville, there was no way to avoid an Irish-style pub – Kincaid’s, Durkin’s, Timothy O’Toole’s, The Hidden Shamrock, Celtic Mist, Uncle Paddy’s Celtic Explosion, etc.
Ok, that last one wasn’t a real pub but, DAMN, that would be a killer name.
So I embraced the Irish. I got into Irish music, learned about the culture, and even worked at a pub – Harrington’s. It was there that I met an awesome crew of actual Dubliners who taught me some important Irish lessons – like calling everyone a “Hairy Eye” and urinating on your car windshield instead of using an ice scraper. No joke, it works wonders on frozen locks, too.
But the Irish didn’t always embrace me back. Outside of the off-the-boat guys I knew and a few randoms, I never felt welcomed by Chicago’s Irish community. I always got these snooty looks at other Irish bars like, “what’s that little brown guy doing in here.” I attributed to all the jerkweed Notre Dame alums and fans in Chicago, but that’s an opinion for another day.
You know who took me in? The ITALIANS!
A few years after graduation, I got a job with the City of Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation. Many decades ago, the different departments of the city’s public services were run by different ethnicities – the cops were run by the Irish, the firemen by the Polish, and the Italians ran Streets & San. When I started, they immediately took me in and treated me as one of their own. Guys with names like Sammy, Nello, Franco, Dominick, Vito, Mario, and about half a dozen Tony’s. It was there that I learned about pinky rings and silk see-through socks. I learned that House of Vittori had the best Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago, but I don’t dare go there with the one Vittori I knew because of bad blood. I learned how to make melanzane (eggplant) the right way and that true Italians don’t call it “tomato sauce.” They call it “gravy.”
Drunken Irish suck
They had a lot a pride in their traditions and culture – still do – and they were happy as vongole (clams) in their communities. But as an outsider, I didn’t think they were getting a fair shake when compared to the Irish.
Think about it. The Irish have St. Patrick’s Day and in Chicago that means TWO major parades. People flock there to see the Chicago River tinted green and to be “Irish for the Day.” The Italians? They got a half-assed parade on Columbus Day.
Around the world, when you say “Chicago Italian,” people automatically think Al Capone. The Italians just can’t shake him. Sure he was probably the most notorious gangster since Attila the Hun. But the Irish also had their share in Chicago – Dean O’Banion, Spike O’Donnell, Big Jim O’Leary.
Now there’s a new gang that’s perpetuating Italian stereotypes…
jersey shore cast bikinis
And what I thought was truly unfair was the almost complete lack of good derogatory terms for the Irish. The Irish (ok, I guess me, too) had the luxury of choosing from a long list of names when referring to Italians. They could and did call Italians dagos, whops, guineas, greaseballs, guidos, and garlic eaters, to name a few.
In return, the only euphemisms I had ever heard an Italian use when referring to an Irish person were Turkeys and Mickers. Betcha didn’t know that Turkey was a name for the Irish, did you? Maybe they were being nice, but that’s sooooo lame.
That’s why I myself taught them Mickers.
So on this weekend where it’s going to be all about the Irish, I thought I’d give a special shout-out to you Italians. Especially the ones in Chicago. I’m not a Frank Sinatra fan but, hey, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.
How will you be celebrating St Patty’s day? Do you have any derogatory names for the Irish that I may have missed?
Just kidding, you don’t have to answer that one. Unless you have a really good one.