Monday, March 2, 2009

The third month

March is under way; I find it interesting how important the month is to me. Monday is/was (depending on when you're reading this) Texas Independence Day, a day that seems to mean more to me as I get older. It is that thing of needing and wanting roots, I suppose. If we find ourselves 5,000 miles away from family and friends, in a country where we're not 100-percent sure that anyone likes us or ever will, we hold tight to those things we know. Or think we know.

Barbecue and the heavy moist smell of Gulf Coast air and the consistent texture of my grandmother's food. I don't have any complaints with my grandmother's cooking but it all strangely has the same consistency – it all feels similar in the mouth. I think of her cooking when Star Trek characters reference meals from a replicator.

In my elementary school, Texas Independence Day was celebrated by teaching the children how to perform various cowboy tasks like lassoing things and tanning cowhide. I was living in Houston at the time, a metro area of some 9 million residents. How these skills were ever supposed to come in handy in such a sprawling fit of urbanity, I do not know. We also had to square dance. In explaining square dancing to Gemma, a girl n my course, I found myself shocked and amazed to discover that I still remember certain moves.

Monday, the child bride (who was conceived in Texas) and I celebrated by frying chicken and dipping it in Stubb's barbecue sauce while listening to Willie Nelson. It's difficult to do much more than that because no one over here – the child bride included – gives a damn about the Lone Star State. In addition to barbecue and Willie, I took part in my annual theorising on what my life would have been like had I never left.

But I did leave Texas. Nigh 20 years ago. Meanwhile, in the place where I am, we celebrated St. David's Day on Sunday. St. David is the patron saint of Wales. He didn't do anything really fancy like chase the snakes out of the country, but we love him just the same. He ate a lot of vegetables and, if I remember correctly, managed to split a rock with his mind.

The child bride and I went down to Cardiff Bay to watch the St. David's Day parade make its way toward the Senedd, home of Wales' comedy government. This was only the sixth year of the parade but it is fast growing to something that meets the American standard. There were bands and blokes on horses and dance troupes and random weird people who didn't seem to fit the theme and so on – all marching in front of no one. They're still working on that last bit. In general, anyone with interest in the thing is a part of it and there's no one left to serve as spectator.

It was a shining and brilliant day to be marching, regardless of who was or was not watching.
In general, one would not choose first of March for a major outdoor event in Wales but the Lord Our God seemed willing to cooperate. Now that I think of it, though, the same was true of last year's parade. And, more or less, of the parade the year before (which I marched in, strangely as a member of the Plaid Cymru contingent). Luck of the Welsh, I suppose.

At the Senedd, everyone gathered to listen to a load of tedious speeches from low-level politicians no one has ever heard of. Few people are less important than Welsh politicians. St. David's Day, however, allows them the chance to pretend they are legitimate. It is sort of the American Idol Experience for politicos. Sadly, due to their utter lack of public-speaking practice, they tend to drop the ball, delivering monotone babble that would be out-flanked by a 12-year-old's book report and failing to adequately master the concept of a microphone.

That makes me think of a good band name: Wedding Speeches For The Listless.

The child bride and I chose instead to go eat lunch, a task to which Rachel was so dedicated that in rushing to keep up with her I didn't get a chance to stop and chat with Mared, whom I passed in the crowd. At lunch Rachel and I talked about Wales and our connection to it. Despite being the most populous city in Wales, Cardiff feels a little too small at times. We often talk about moving somewhere else. London perhaps. I don't know how realistic that is. Probably no more or less realistic than my desire to move to Ireland.

It is easier for an American to live in Ireland than anywhere else in Europe (well, Western Europe, at least). In Ireland, the Yanqui need only show up and promise not to bother anyone, and he can stay for as long as he likes. As such, I have developed a hare-brained backup plan should visa issues become insurmountable in Britain: I will move to Ireland, carry on writing my little Welsh books – occasionally popping over to Wales when the weather is nice – and eventually become an Irish citizen. Brilliant.

If I were to actually do such a thing, I think it would rank as the greatest achievement of my life. I would insist on going to all my high school reunions solely for the purpose of bragging about it.

"So, what are you doing these days, Chris?"

"I'm Irish, motherfucker. See my passport? Go ahead, try and top that."

I will never really understand my deep-rooted love of all things Irish. Like everyone in America, my family has Irish connections, but it was never really emphasised by my parents. Somehow, though, I knew that the Irish were Important; I knew that St. Patrick's Day was Important. Rivers and beer and hair were dyed green, in school we were physically punished by our peers for failing to show respect to Éire – we would pinch the kids who weren't wearing green.

The first time in my life (and, indeed, one of the few times) I actually found myself wanting to be an adult was on St. Patrick's Day. My family and I were on the Galveston-Bolivar ferry and I spotted a load of guys drinking green beer. College dudes in a backwater spot of Texas getting sloppy on cheap lager and food colouring – that was my picture of adulthood and coolness. I was an odd child.

Further proof of that oddness is the fact that we were on the ferry celebrating my birthday, which comes three days after St. Patrick's Day. Throughout my childhood, a number of my birthdays were held on modes of public transportation. At least twice I insisted upon spending my birthday going back and forth on the ferry. One year was spent going round and round and round on the tram at Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

St. David's Day, Texas Independence Day, St. Patrick's Day, and my birthday. I am defined by the month of March.


Anonymous said...

I think that was one of the strangest social experiences of my life; visiting the U.S. as an adult and coming to terms with the weird social cachet associated with being Irish. Coming, as I do, from a country crippled by internal self loathing, watching Americans vigorously celebrating St. Patrick's day was an odd disconnect.

Anyway, come on over, there are a lot of opportunities for itinerant Welsh scribes right now. I hear it's a growing market and we have to make that €2 billion rent payment by the end of the month too, so the more the merrier.

Annie said...

"St. David's Day, Texas Independence Day, St. Patrick's Day, and my birthday. I am defined by the month of March."

Me too, me too! And Sexual Independence Day too don't forget.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Easy to move to Ireland? Oooh, tell me more. Rob can get in touch with his Chirish roots and I can pretend I know anything at all about my alleged Irish ancestry.

Funny--I think every American child must be forced to learn square dancing at some point. Strangely, every time I find myself in a Welsh folk dancing situation (i.e., annually at Cwrs Cymraeg) I always have square dancing flashbacks. I remember dancing with this kid who would wipe his hands and go "yuck" every time he had to dance with me (or any other girl), and I'd do the same thing so he wouldn't know I secretly thought he was cute. Yeah...God am I glad I'm an adult.

Cheers to March birthdays. (Mine's a week after St. Pat's.)