Encounters With the Clueless

We got to yesterday's St. Patrick's Day parade a little late so maybe we missed all the super exciting floats. But as far as parades go, I give it a D+.

I mean, hello City of Los Angeles, having a green-painted trash truck drive down the street is not exciting. Not in the least. Have some dancing leprechauns next to it or something. Even my kids were like, "Why is there a trash truck in the parade, mommy?"

I guess I was expecting a Chicago-style St. P's Day celebration and this was not it. If you want to see some photos of what we saw, LAist's photographers were right by where we were sitting and captured both the parade and the subsequent festivities in Pershing Square.

That's not to say we didn't still have a great time. My boys danced a little to the sounds of the folk rock group, Young Dubliners. They also got to pet a gigantic Irish wolfhound, take photos with various fire trucks and harass the police officers in kilts by asking, "Why do you have on a skirt?"

We were also captivated by the dancing horses that came out and did their version of the Irish Jig. I took a little video of it for you:



My sons also tried to jump in the specially dyed green water over in Pershing Square. By that point I was thinking about those old "Calgon, take me away" commercials so I told them they could go in the water if they wanted to but that, "Weirdos come along and go to the bathroom in it too so swim in that if you want." They didn't want to jump in after I said that and instead took to trying to float leaves on it.

While I was sitting there watching them, a guy sitting a couple feet away with his kids asked why I was all tricked out in the shamrocks and green. Not to mention that HE was all tricked out himself, but whatever. I told him that it's fun and besides, I'm half Irish so I have to represent.

His response? Laughter. "Ha-ha! That's a good one! You're one of those Irish for a day types, aren't ya?"

"No. I'm really half Irish."

He sobered up quickly. "Are you for real? Because you sure don't look like you're part Irish."

I've heard this my whole life so my ever so sweet and innocent reply was ready. "Well, what does someone who's part Irish look like?"

"Uh, um, uh." He was stammering like he thought I was going to go all Jeremiah Wright on him. And then he spit out, "I woulda thought you're just a plain ole black person."

Newsflash! All of us plain ole black people (and a lot of you plain ole white people) are mixed with something. Some of us just have it a little closer in our family tree than others. I was pretty through with the conversation by that point but then this moron dropped the ultimate bomb by asking, "What is St. Patrick's Day about anyway?"

Are you for real? You're down at a St. Patrick's Day celebration with your family and you don't even know what you're celebrating. He wasn't the only one though. I got into conversations with no less than FOUR individuals who were all, "I have no idea what St. Patrick's Day is about!"

I'll give them all the benefit of the doubt and assume they got dropped on their heads as children. I should have told them that St. Patrick's Day is the day you have to give $20 to the first person who tells you what the day is really about.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Argh. You are likely more Irish than many of the tens of millions of Americans who claim to be Irish... BTW did you see the msnbc article about Ireland's first black mayor? I have two colleagues who live in his town, one is Polish and the other is Slovak. The guy you were talking to probably think it is all still Angela's Ashes country over here, that is if he even knows where Ireland is.
Anonymous said…
It doesn't surprise me people don't know what St Patrick's Day is all about. Plenty of people here don't know either, it's just an excuse to go wild for a day. A shame the parade was so lacklustre. I bet Gay Pride is a lot more imaginative and entertaining! And yeah, what does looking Irish mean? Should you have shamrocks instead of hair and be married to a leprechaun? People assume all the time that Jenny isn't Irish because she 'looks English' but actually she's descended from a longstanding Irish family.
Mamita Umita said…
My last name gives me away as being half Irish - you can't run away from Murphy, but I feel your grief with this issue. I have dark features compaired to the normal Irish girl, and most people ask why my last name is Murphy - if its my married name. Too bad you didn't have a picture of me to flash at this guy as well, that would have really freaked him out!
Liz Dwyer said…
Sharifa,
I totally saw that article about the black mayor of Portlaoise. Such a cool story. And LOL at the Angela's Ashes reference. That's TOTALLY what it is. Americans think it's all a bunch of really pale freckled red-heads strolling around in wool sweaters.

Nick,
If folks in Ireland don't even know what it's about then how can I be hard on the dunces here in LA? I've never been to one, but you know folks go all out for Gay Pride events here. Maybe the St. P's Day committee can meet with them next year to get some ideas.

The funny thing is having seen photos of my dad's relatives who were the first to come here, I look a whole lot like many of the women. I guess I should've rolled up there with a copy of that photo taped to my back!

Mamita,
Next year you can take a vacay breaky-break, come to LA and we can freak out all the people together. For me, folks assume that it's the last name of some slave master that might have owned my black relatives. They never think it's a married name, which is interesting. Are you going to change your name when you get married (wink-wink) or are you going to stay a Murphy?
Unknown said…
You handled him so well. I'm sure his head is going to explode at some point when he fully absorbs what you are.
Mamita Umita said…
Well, to answer your question IF I get married my last name would be Garcia. Then people would really think I'm Latina and not half Irish and Persian. Now that would Really freak people out!
Liz Dwyer said…
IANSJ,
As long as I'm not around to witness the explosion, it's alright with me!

Mamita,
Hah-hah! You had to throw that "if" in there, didn't you?
Why would you be at a festival for a holiday you know nothing about?!

I don't get it.
Liz Dwyer said…
NYC/CR,
Seriously. What if it was for devil worship or something? I should have told the guy that just to see his face.
Jen said…
You should have told him it was a festival to drink that green water that you told the boys not to play in... sheesh...

Loved your response, though.
What a news flash! Not all Irish people have red hair and freckles. Most Americans are part this and that, whether or not they know or acknowledge it.

My favorite St. Patrick's Day parade was in NYC when I was about 20. I had an appointment on the other side of 5th Ave. but there were millions of marching bands and floats and I couldn't get across.

I saw a handsome black policeman keeping the peace and told him,"I'm not Irish. Can you get me out of this?"

"That makes two of us, baby," he said, and he grabbed my hand, put his other at my waist and half-waltzed, half-carried me through the relentless marchers and set me down on the opposite curb. Then he bowed, kissed my hand, grinned and disappeared into the maelstrom.

I still think I should have followed him back.
BlackLiterature said…
I'm just a plain old Black person also. Rats! Does that mean I can't claim the rest of the O'Quills??

The history of this country has a lot of us plain old Black folks mixed with some plain old Irish folks. From my recollection, the Irish and the 'Negro' were pretty low in status in the early/mid 1800s. There were a bunch of young O'Quill boys working on the plantation my ancestors... Hmmm.
Jameil said…
take their money!! plain ole black person. he deserved a plain ole footo in his... family blog. green-painted trash truck?? sigh. you did school me a bit on st. patty's tho. thanks!
the joy said…
Ya know, until yesterday's post, I didn't know what St Patrick's day was about either. Then again, I never went to any parades, and ALL of my teachers until I came to Atlanta were Jewish, so... And you gotta admit, its become one of the many American "drinking holidays."

But "plain ol black?" stop the madness! Where do you find these people?
Liz Dwyer said…
Sometimes Blogger drives me crazy! I responded to all your comments and they went into a black hole! AAGH!

Anyway...

Jen,
If I'd said that, he would've totally thought I was psycho. The water was so nasty I was half expecting the Swamp Thing to rise up out of the green murkiness. It was truly gross.

Heart,
Yeah, I think most Irish have brown hair, not red. You always have the best adventures. That's a "The Road Not Taken" moment right there where you'll always wonder what if!

Blackliterature,
Yes, there were plenty of half black, half Irish babies being born back in the day. Certainly not a recent development. Did you see African-American Lives 2 and how Henry Louis Gates traced his peeps back to that Irish king? That was pretty deep and it's a common fact in so many of our families. We just don't alwys know it.

Jameil,
I wish I could've made him pay me for listening to his random ridiculousness. I went to Macy's after the parade so I definitely could've used some more moolah for my retail therapy.

I probably do know more about St. P's than most. Even those that aren't Irish, if they grow up in the Chicago area, I think you sort of absorb some of it. Plus in the Chicago area you get to do all the fun (and even more drinking heavy holidays) like the upcoming Dyngus Day (next Monday). I highly doubt folks out here even do Dyngus Day because there's not a huge Polish community. Do they have that in PA?

The Joy,
Madness, indeed. And where do I find these people? Girl, I swear I have a sign above my head that says, "Talk Crazy Because I Will Listen and Blog About You!"

Yeah, I think I need to cut everybody some slack. My dad is Irish, from the Chicago area, went to Catholic school... I'd have to be a true idiot if I didn't know what St. P's is about with all that in my background. But everyone else has that so maybe it's not so weird to not know. It is definitely a big drinking holiday. I wonder if that will ever change.
red said…
Oh, I have to disagree with what Nick says. I think it would be impossible to find an Irish person living in Ireland who doesn't know what St Patrick's day about. Maybe it's different up North where he lives but in the Republic Irish people do know what it's about.

Your description of the parade in lA reminds me of the ones in Dublin when I was a kid. They were so bleak, I used to feel sorry for the Americans who made the trip over especially for it- they must have been so disappointed.

My friend Caro wrote a post on irish national identity that you might find interesting
http://lavespista.blogspot.com/2008/03/another-serious-discourse-on-national.html

Honestly, we Irish can be soooo embarrassing.
Lisa Johnson said…
I'm so glad you gave him something to think about! And don't you look cute all decked out in your green! ; )
Lisa Johnson said…
Oh and sorry to leave two comments, but I think you might really like this post.

http://sullsblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/26-6-1.html
Anonymous said…
I see Red has corrected me! Well, I'm sure she's right, she knows more about the Republic than I do. I was just looking up St Patrick and discovered he was born somewhere near Carlisle in England! It was only when he was 16 that he went to Ireland as a slave and then later still that he became a missionary there. Also I noticed that originally St Patrick was associated with blue and not green!
Jameil said…
2 of my coworkers are polish so i'll have to ask abt it. you know there's a pretty decent polish pop. here.
LOL That happens to me when I tell people my great grandfather is scottish...I mean where else do you think a name like Burke comes from...now that's not "plain old black!!"
David Sullivan said…
Thanks for stopping by my spot. In Ireland St.atrick's Day is more a Holy day than a parade going getting your drink on kind of day. But as the US goes so goes the world thus Ireland is having more US style St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

The Irish have more blood from more different races than anywhere except the US. St. Patrick was an Italian slave, so that should tell you something! Glad you enjoyed the day. Slainte'
Liz Dwyer said…
Red,
Whew! I'm glad the Irish can be redeemed as far as St. P's Day! I was going to chalk up Irish unawareness of the real meaning of the day as another sign it's the end of the world!

No American can imagine that parades in Dublin used to be like the mess out here in LA. Thanks so much for the link... what an idiot reporter!

Anali,
I loved that post! Thank you so much for sharing the link. I wish that connection between shared experiences was one that got made more often. I think there's always been a lot of fear in this country that the anger of black people would become so overwhelming that IRA-style tactics would be used here -- hence the need to shut down the Panthers so quickly. Very interesting stuff.

Nick,
I always thought he was born in Scotland -- but I think I remember that there are two other possible locations as well but I don't remember what they are. I always wonder what those druid rituals were that made St. P so determined to return to Ireland after his escape. I didn't know about the blue/green switch though. I wonder what brought that on. I think I like the green better though!

Jameil,
I know next to nothing except that y'all got a lot of rivers and used to be steel-central! LOL! But if you've got a Polish community, you bet they're doing something for Dyngus Day.

Brown English Muffin,
Folks like to hang on to the myth that the only interracial relationships happened during slavery with the rape of black women. But that's so not true. It's been a part of the fabric of this nation since it was founded and that's not gonna change.
Liz Dwyer said…
David,
That inherent diversity of the Irish people (and of America) is one of the most beautiful things there is. It's nice to see that tradition is continuing with the new crop of folks immigrating to Ireland.

As far as St. P's day, I love fun parades, but I am not so much a fan of the way we Americans sometimes seem to tend to forget the deeper meanings of things. I can only imagine that if the secular /vs/ religious debate over the day is starting to go on here, it's got to be an even larger topic of debate over there.
I'm part Scotch-Irish, which is where I get my name, Copeland from. It's always fun to tell people that and see who they react. What a world we live in. Oh, being just a "plain old black person" ain't bad either. Nice work if you can get it.
Brianna said…
wow! plain ole black person made me laugh. did he say that OUT LOUD??!!! some people...i tell ya.
Haute in LA said…
I'm too stuck on "plain old black" to speak. Wow. Just... WOW!
Lisa Blah Blah said…
Liz, all I can say is this: you absolutely MUST stop talking to the public. You have some sort of freak/idiot magnet going on!

P.S. I really don't know what "plain old black person" means. Every black person that I know is a completely different mixture from the next, including me and my husband. That's well-confirmed by the documentary "African American Lives" you mentioned.
Liz Dwyer said…
Phillipe,
You have me thinking that someone would be bound to recommend you for committal if you were to stop identifying as "plain ole black" and instead began going around saying, "I'm Scotch-Irish". I'll bet you could get put on Fox News or something for that. ;0

Brianna,
Said out loud and in-person. I just grit my teeth and smile!

Haute in LA,
I'm sure if I even suggested to him that saying such a thing might be even a bit offensive, he would then tell me I was playing the race card -- and that he has nothing to do with slavery since his family immigrated here in the early 20th century...and on and on.

I am waaay too cynical today, aren't I?

Lisa,
I do have a magnet. I'm convinced of it. One of my friend's has another theory though. She told me that I seem so nice, innocent and non-threatening, and I have great people skills, so folks instantly feel comfortable enough with me to be ridiculously honest and spill all their dirt either to me or in my vicinity.

I really loved that AA Lives documentary because it once more shows the falsity of the myth of race. We are all one race, bottom line!
Ah so now I know where you get all the blarney. Maybe we are like cousins or something.
Liz Dwyer said…
Cloudscome,
We very well could be cousins! Anything's possible! :)
Sundry said…
The name game... I grew up in an area where by U.S. Census counts, 75% of the population claims German descent. Full of Muellers, and Diffendarfers, and Metzgers. My maiden name is Weigold. Pretty solidly German.

When I came out to L.A. a lot of people assumed I was Jewish. One Jewish woman in a writing group said, "But it's such a classically Jewish name!" I guess because it ends in "gold."

I remember reading about how the German government forced Jews to purchase surnames a few hundred years ago, and you could end up with something pretty derogatory if you could afford one with a silver or a gold in it.

Anyway, the woman who made the comment absolutely sneered at my gentle protestations and I think discounted me as a self-hating Jew, and has never been very nice to me since. (We see each other occasionally through mutual friends.)

It's an interesting issue for me because I'm saying, there's nothing wrong with being Jewish, for Pete's sake, it's just not the truth about my heritage and it does matter to me. I'm not supposed to be proud of being largely German in the presence of a Jewish woman, either, I think.

My German family came here in the late 1800s, before the height of the horrors, thank you. Oh, and my grandmother was Jennie Quinn.

Which means I'm genetically predisposed to love potatoes and beer. ;)
Sundry said…
Um... I meant to say "you could end up with something pretty derogatory if you couldn't afford one with a silver or a gold in it."

And are my comments about potatoes and beer racist or can I have a laugh at myself without offending?
I read this amazing article, of course you've probably seen it, that Ireland is now the most ethically mixed country on the planet. I guess there's been a huge influx of the world's population taking Ireland from exclusively white to very very mixed.

So, not only is this dude ignorant, he's just plain stupid.
Liz Dwyer said…
Sundry,
Potatoes and beer! Throw some cabbage in there too and you're golden! (I'm laughing with you!)

That's crazy about that woman assuming you're ashamed of who you are. Who is she to say you're really Jewish? She's stereotyping YOU by saying your last name automatically makes you Jewish. That's dumb. AND, you should absolutely be able to be proud of your heritage no matter who you're around. You shouldn't have to apologize for being German.

Claudia,
I've seen that and I find it really exciting, even though I'm sure it scares some people. Imagine what the world could look like in a few hundred years if people intermarried/had babies regardless of race or ethnic background? I wish I could travel to the future and see what everyone looks like then. The idea of what anybody looks like could really be turned on it's ear!

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