It's "Corn Beef and Cabbage — Let's Have Another Pint Day" all around the world. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, too! Today green articles of clothing make their annual appearance, and by the time Seven Days hits the street this morning there'll be a line outside Finnigan's Pub. Anybody and everybody can be Irish this fine day, just order up a glass of something.
And how fortunate it is for Burlap that Ri Rá, the new Irish pub on Church Street, is finally open for business. Ri Rá, the establishment whose very existence was opposed by no less a power than the editorial board of the Burlington Free Press, began pouring pints of Guinness stout Monday evening at 9 p.m. Ah, yes, Guinness, the black stuff with the creamy head that was invented for one reason and one reason only: to keep the Irish from taking over the world. Today they'll be packing 'em in all over town and the pints will be flowing. Ah, bejasus, aren't you proud to be Irish?
Yours truly answers to the Irish call, too. An immigrant's son and the namesake of a 18-year-old IRA freedom fighter who's head was separated from his body one cold, damp Dublin morning many years ago. Been Irish as long as I can remember, and as long as I can remember this annual quest by so many for the perfect hangover has left me cold. No teetotaler am I, it's just that, every year I ask, why does this mongrel race of Celts and Druids, Vikings and Normans, have to flaunt its greatest weakness with such determination every March 17?
Ireland isn't so far away anymore. The jumbo jets took care of that. And now there's the internet. Just click on rish-times.com and you can read Ireland's news of the day as easily as if you were parked on a cozy bench in St. Stephen's Green. And the news will smack you right in the kisser with the incontrovertible fact that Ireland's changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Take the big news out of Ireland this very week.
On Monday the front page was plastered with the death of Fr. Sean Fortune. Two weeks after pleading not guilty to 29 counts of sexually assaulting altar boys, he took his own life. In a suicide note, the pedophile priest apologized to his family and blamed the media for his misfortune. Once upon a time the churches in Ireland were packed. Not anymore.
Then there's Tuesday's news of the murder of Rosemary Nelson, an attorney in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. The Red Hand Defenders, a loyalist paramilitary group, proudly claimed responsibility for planting the car bomb that ended her life. Rosemary, wife and mother of three, was a courageous soul. She represented Catholics and Protestants, but her friends say it was her representation of Catholics in well-publicized cases that made her a target. And you thought there was peace in Ireland? Without justice, there'll never be peace.
And on the silver screen we highly recommend the St. Patrick's Day fare at the Nickelodeon. The General tracks the life of the late Martin Cahill, the infamous Dublin gangster. A jaunting car ride around the Lakes of Killarney it isn't, folks, but a stinging Irish reality check.
From buggery to murder to gangsters. It's enough to drive you to drink.
Bartender! I changed my mind. Pour me a hangover, would you?
Election 2000 — Blame Ruthless Ruth Dwyer for the outbreak of early entries in Election 2000. For chrissakes, even Steve Howard, the ethically challenged Rutland wonder, has leapt back on the political radar screen with the declaration he'll run for Ed Flanagan's auditor post as Fast Eddie sets his sights on Washington, D.C.
Guys like Eil Stevie make writing political columns fun. We always knew he'd be back, just never realized it'd be so soon. And let's make it clear from the get-go, we wish him the very best in his coming campaign. Just imagining Steve Howard as Vermont's state auditor brings a smile to one's face — a smile that quickly turns into raucous laughter. But, hey, a little humor is' good for the soul.
But the hottest topic of political conversation in Vermont is the coming U.S. Senate race. Will he or won't he? Will Congressman Bernie Sanders take on Senator Jim Jeffords? Every creature in Vermont appears to have a point of view on this one. And the freshest perspective came from a conservative caller to a local talk radio program the other day. Clearly the gentleman has little use for Ol' Bernardo or Jeezum Jim. And he saw a silver lining looming ahead. Having our left-wing socialist congressman run against our left-leaning Republican in sheep's clothing would mean one of them would have to lose. It doesn't matter which one, just as long as one of them goes down. Right-wingers would finally have something to cheer about on a Vermont Election Day.
On the Bernie Beat — The U.S. Customs Service is stepping up enforcement of the new law that bans importation of products produced by child labor — a law that Ol' Bernardo wrote and got Congress to adopt. And word is Nike's Philip Knight may soon announce a whole new approach to treating his Third World workforce — an issue Sanders took the point on two years ago.
Bernie continues to put the boots to the big pharmaceutical companies that charge rip-off prices for prescription drugs, bleeding senior citizens of every last penny. Across the Canadian border, the same drugs are much cheaper. But even with NAFTA and free trade, your local pharmacist can't order a shipment from Montréal. Interesting. The congressman will be conducting a congreasitmal hearing on the matter this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Statehouse in Montpeculiar.
Legislative Chow — It's not all heavy lifting for Vermont's 180 legislators. This Thursday is the annual Road Kill Dinner, an event that's been around longer than anyone can remember. Former Reps. Charlie Palmer and Harry Pickering are hosting the tasty affair. The menu features moose any way you like it: moose meat loaf, moose meatballs and moose steaks. The animal flesh is provided by the Department of Fish and Game.
Road kill is a hot issue in Tennessee this year. A bill that's expected to pass will allow Tennessee motorists to eat what they hit without getting it tagged by the game warden, as is required here. If you kill it, you can grill it. You'll get 48 hours to call it in. The bill's sparked a host of bumper stickers, like "Make Road Kill Legal Eatin'" and "Cat — The Other White Meat." (Actually cats and dogs are not included on the Tennessee menu.)
Imagine if Vermont followed suit? Going out for dinner would take on a whole new meaning.