It’s almost Saint Patrick’s Day , so I thought I’d write an Irish-themed post . It revolves around an old memory of mine from childhood dredged up again from the distant past . In the endless swirl of all the stuff I forget , short term and long term , the bits of this memory have stayed with me .
I should mention , perhaps , to better establish my credentials as a true Irishman , albeit foreign born , that the Consul General of Ireland called me last week .
I had called the Los Angeles consulate to request an application for an Irish passport . No one answered the phone over there at the consulate , so I left a detailed verbal message requesting a passport application . I figured that I might be taking Metro downtown in a couple of days , walking over to the consulate , and picking up the application .
I answered the phone , which is something I do less and less these days . I thought it would most likely be a contractor trying to drum up some work , or a solar energy company telling me I’d been chosen for some exclusive program , or , just maybe , the phony IRS agent threatening me again with legal action . Once this year I answered a call and was informed that I’d won two million dollars and a new Mercedes . Well , as it came out in the conversation ten or fifteen minutes later , I would have had to send in $200 immediately in order to claim my prize . I asked if he could just , maybe , send the Mercedes around ASAP but he ignored my question .
Ah ! I was so close to Easy Street ! So close .
One of the clues that gave away his scam , though , was that he said repeatedly that he was based in Missouri , but he pronounced the state’s name as “Misery”. I suppose that’s how it’s pronounced in Nigeria . Although much more appropriate a description , given the situation , I told him at the end that he was a lousy scammer . No , I don’t mean a lousy dirty no-good parasitic scammer ( which , of course , he was ) , but that , as a scammer , he was no damn good at it .
That’s when he started swearing . I had injured his fragile scammers’ pride , I guess . He had been thinking all along , obviously , that he had had me squirming on the hook all along despite my exaggerated reactions to the spurious news about my fantasy winnings .
He was a lousy swearer , too , by the way .
Anyhow , I picked up the phone a few days ago , against my better judgment , and said hello .” This is the Consul General of Ireland ,” a baritone voice said .
His Irish accent was authoritative exactly as a general’s voice should be . I was impressed that the Consul General of Ireland himself had called me.
I thanked him for the call and explained that I had contacted the Consulate in San Francisco on their website , and that they had sent me an application . It had arrived in the mail just that morning .
” Then you’re wasting one of our times , ” he said .
I thought , well , he’s Irish , and this might be the beginning of a conversation . Surely he was joking , making a light -hearted comment ; but he wasn’t . I knew that he wasn’t on or around the moment that he hung up the phone and left me there in my living room with my phone to my ear deciding that he had got out on the wrong side of the bed that morning . He apparently hadn’t taken his Ebullient pill that morning either. Or neither .
But this trivia has very little to do with the intended aim of this post , so let’s let the Consul General and all the scammers in the world wallow in the mire of their cheerlessness and we’ll move on . And please don’t distract me from the increasingly fleeting and skittishly fragile focus of this
hocus pocus post .
This particular post has more to do with Conway Twitty than with the Consul General of Ireland so , as I say , let’s get on with it :
One Christmas , when I was a kid , my Irish grandmother gave me a 45 recording of the Irish song ” Danny Boy ” . It was a big deal for her , and she wanted it played , like right now . I was about seven or eight years old , I guess . My mother had a HiFi that played 45s . It was all very dramatic , I recall , as someone got the record player and we all waited to hear what would play . My grandmother waited , I realize now , expecting lovely Irish tenor voices to sing Danny Boy .
Everybody and their brother has done a cover of Danny Boy . Elvis sang a version . So did Johnny Cash . Joan Baez sang a nice version . Bing Crosby sang the song , of course . I ‘m not sure about Dylan , though , or his brother , for that matter .
My grandmother had , unfortunately for her peace of mind , bought me a version of Danny Boy sung by Conway Twitty . Conway Twitty was an Elvis -era rock and roller from Mississippi . Conway Twitty had 55 number 1 hits during his career . I’m not sure that Danny Boy was one of those hits . Most likely not .
So we had the 45 player set up , the record placed , the needle carefully set down , and there in the living room some of us were ready for a sweet Irish lullaby . Danny Boy was written by an Englishman in Bath , by the way , in Somerset in 1910 . The writer used a traditional old Irish tune and wrote his own words . There is some question about what the whole song means . It’s sentimental , at any rate . The Irish love it .
The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad , for all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad . –C.K.Chesterton
Well , Conway Twitty wasn’t exactly what my grandmother had in mind to sing Danny boy . ” That’s not it ! That’s not it ! ” she kept repeating . She was mad , in the anger sort of way . As I look back on it , I guess I don’t blame here , really . Conway Twitty may not be every grandmother’s cup of tea .
I didn’t care much for the Twitty rendition of Danny Boy , either , but they say every cloud has a silver lining . The reverse of the record had a song that I quickly decided that I loved : The Battle of New Orleans , sung by Johnny Horton . It had been written by a schoolteacher who called himself Jimmy Driftwood . He had written it , and other songs , with the idea of inspiring his students to become interested in history .
I spent much of my life teaching history , so I suppose that I should pass along a little thank you to Jimmy Driftwood and Johnny Horton and , of course , to my grandmother . The present wasn’t all a terrible disaster , I suppose .