This past weekend, herself and I decided to get away for some rest and a bit of birthday celebration. We were in deep need of just getting away. We chose to head out to upstate New York. Since I attended cookery school there, we figured it was the perfect get away. We were both tired of cooking. Let someone else do the work we thought. After all, one should be able to get a decent meal at a culinary school.
Through the backroads of New Jersey and New York we trekked. The winding roads and scenery took us from one hamlet to another. The small towns were quaint. As we drove through the afternoon, we came upon an Irish pub. Never being ones to turn down an opportunity for a pint, we ventured inside. (As I unfold the rest of this story, please note that I will not reveal the exact name or location of the aforementioned pub. The purpose of this story is to elaborate on the heinous and disrespectful nature of the promotion that this particular pub was offering for Saint Patrick’s Day.)
The pub itself seemed charming. It had all of the qualities of a pub “down the country” back home. Sure there were American sport events on the telly. Keep in mind that they need to cater to an American demographic. We sat down at an old knotty wood table. The server came over and announced his name and asked if he could take our drink order - a cider for herself, a stout for me. We sat there, chatting about how nice it was to be anywhere but home. We talked about how nice it was just to be the two of us. We talked about how we do not necessarily miss being in an Irish restaurant environment around Saint Patrick’s Day. We talked about the pandemonium that this particular staff at this particular pub would face next month. Then she stopped talking. She glanced down at the table top advertisement. A simple and brief, “Oh. My, God.” came from her lips. She turned it around to face me.
The above image is what I was confronted with. A range of emotions stirred up inside of me. I could feel the hollow of my gut churn. Who the feic thought this was a good idea?
An Irish pub, in America, promoting terrorism and celebrating needless death. Or so, in this day and age would be considered the “snowflake” definition of the libation. Maybe the opening sentence of this paragraph is a wee bit extreme. That is however, what it comes down to. In reading some research before I wrote this piece, the creator, Charles Burke Cronin Oat, was quoted as saying, “The drink gets some bad press to this day," he told the Guardian newspaper in 2016. "It wasn't done to celebrate car bombs, it was done to celebrate Irish families here in America.” It was not done to celebrate car bombs? That is what the drink in fact “does”. You drop a shot of Jameson’s in a pint of Guinness and it “explodes”, frothing upon impact. "The next thing you know it is the Irish Car Bomb, although at first it was the Belfast Car Bomb," Oat said. Because naming it “Irish” takes the brunt and the insult off of making it specific to Belfast?
I must have sat there at the table staring at this promotion in my hand for what seemed an eternity. Words could not come out of my mouth. My wife’s eyes reflected the horror that was in my own. Neither of us knew what to say. At that moment our server came over and saw that I was looking at the table top advertisement. Not so much looking at it, as I was through it, and feeling all of the feels, and offensive messages it was conveying.
“Yeah, that is our special coming up next month. We infuse our own Jameson’s!”, he seemed to boast proudly. “Would either of you like to try one a bit early?”
“I would not want to to try one at all.”, my words came back, deadpanned and cold.
I do not think he knew what to respond, as he had seemed so proud of this “wonderful” idea someone there had come up with to promote their Plastic Paddy celebration coming up.
“We are just giving our customers what they want. Using our infused whiskeys is a great twist!”, he perked up. As if that was a good justification.
I went on to explain how it was not the idea of the flavoured whiskeys, and the choosing of you own kind of draft etc… (Although that idea is waste of all good ingredients.) But that is my own opinion and has no bearing on the lack of ethical message that this pub was sending out.
I could feel my whole body tense up as I went on about how “what” they are celebrating and “how” they were going about it were two completely mixed messages. The idea of connecting a drink called the “car bomb” with an Irish holiday is such an extreme polar opposite. The tragedy, the horrors, the fear, that that name evokes is still real in Ireland and Northern Ireland today. Just last month in Derry the IRA claimed responsibility for one that went off, as can be seen below:
Sure, most American can not identify with the feelings that those images evoke. I do not even know if many people are still able to identify with it no matter what their background. Maybe many of us have become desensitised by these things as the years have gone on. That is sad in of itself.
This piece is not meant to be a public service announcement. It is also not a means to get on my “snowflake soapbox” as some would say, and plead sensitivity. At first I really thought that they should reconsider the promotion. Then I thought that maybe they should at least rename the drink to something less offensive. But then, where do we draw the line? That is no worse than PETA asking for “a bird in the hand” or “bringing home the bacon” to be changed to less animal oriented phrases. Sure those things are as offensive to them as a Car Bomb is to me. Most people who celebrate Saint Paddy’s in that way; what I call the “plastic Paddy” ideal are not going to change. They will still drink to excess and down Car Bombs. That is their right.
In the end, I feel the real message is about educating people. It is about making sure these terroristic tragedies do not continue to happen. Whether they be in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Syria, Afghanistan, France, and yes, the United States. It is about not just remembering and preventing these tragedies. It is also about not trivialising them into hokey promotions so that the ideas of them come to mean something completely different.
I stated to the server that I am just one person passing through there. Most of their clientele are going to be celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day as a reason to just celebrate something. Being Irish or celebrating what they think the Irish are, is just a catalyst, an excuse to drink and party. For them, that is fine. I feel though, I made an impact by telling him why I thought the whole promotion was in poor taste. I could see my emotions mirrored in his eyes when I told him of the stories that friends and family had told me over the years. We made a connection. Maybe he would convey that message on to the owners and management. Maybe not.
For me Saint Paddy’s is about celebrating being Irish. It is about connecting with the things that are cultural and beautiful in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is about the music, the art, the food (without a doubt), and the feelings that those things bring me. Sure, I’ll have a wee bit of whiskey as I raise a glass to Ireland, to family, and to friends. I will raise a glass to Patrick its patron saint. The only explosion that will be going off is the pride and passion for what and who I am; not just on 17 March, but everyday as well.
“In the end it was not a place, or a past, or any sort of single, dazzling epiphany. It was all the little things. Cold butter spread thick on sweet wheaten bread or hot, subsiding potatoes; the scent of wet, black soil; a bushy spine of grass on a one-track road; wide iron gates leading to high beech corridors; the chalky smell of a cow's wet muzzle, and, most of all, in Seamus Heaney's words, the sound of rivers in the trees.” ― Trish Deseine, Home