Sometimes it’s funny why people make the choices they do. We knew one of the first things we wanted to do on this trip was to visit Avery Island. There are a lot of little reasons. First, was that when AdventureMan was young, he was sent to a far away country, Vietnam, to fight for his country. Most of his time was spent out in the jungle, and they carried most of their food on their backs. They ate something called C-rations, little meals, like with cans of food, and the Avery/McIlhenny Tobasco company made little tiny bottles of tabasco sauce to include with each meal package. It’s a small thing, but those little bottles of tabasco sauce made a difference to those soldiers.
Later, as we flew in and out of the Middle East, Delta had a special short feature on Avery Island. Long story short, we’ve always wanted to visit there, and now we had the opportunity.
(You have to see this mosquito statue to appreciate it; it must be about 5 feet long and 4 feet high, and there are several of them. )
It was a beautiful morning, and the drive was beautiful, too, cool and lovely. Avery island is surrounded by a kind of river/moat, so it really is an island that once used to be a sugar cane plantation. As soon as we opened our car doors, the mosquitos came at me; I am a mosquito magnet.
The tour of the factory had already started, so I scooted over to the country store, which is a really run place. Who would think there could be so many products devoted to Tabasco Sauce?
Oops! Time to get back over to the factory for our tour, which is like 5 minutes, then a 10 minute movie. Just before the movie starts, the guide (who also works in the gift shop while the movie is running) gives each person tiny sample bottles of several Tabasco products – cool!
After the movie, we get to tour alongside the factory and go into the museum. Very cool. Thousands and thousands of tobasco bottles being filled, and each day they post which country(ies) they are sending this batch to. Today is Ireland.
Tabasco is made with a secret formula of specially grown tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt. Lucky for them, they have their own salt mine on the property. Just about everything they need to make tabasco sauce, right at their fingertips. This was a fun tour to take, and one of our dreams was fulfilled.
What is it with my problem with Man Booker Award winners? The last one I remember is White Tiger, which we read in our Kuwait book group, and I hated. Actually, it was the main character I hated . . . and possibly that is what is happening with me and The Gathering, now that I think about it.
We meet Veronica, Irish, from a large Irish family, as she learns of the death of her brother Liam. Through claiming the body, preparing for the funeral, the funeral and the aftermath, we are there with Veronica as she whines and complains, as she disparages her family members while ignoring her own husband and family, and she drinks too much. She gets up at noon, and stays up all night, avoiding her husband. Her language is frightful, and her sexual episodes are crude and explicit . . . offensive, but maybe it is the utter distraught nature of a woman in the throes of the deepest grief?
Slowly, slowly, the story unfolds. For me, I was never sure what was truth and what was imagination, in terms of the story. Were the children abused, molested, neglected? Or are these the creative imaginings of a troubled woman? There seems to be a thread of insanity in the family – can we trust that she is a reliable narrator?
As little as I liked the main character – hmmmm, that seems to be a problem I am having a lot right now, or at least I’ve had a run of main characters I don’t like very well – I finished this book. I’m glad I read it so that I can talk about it if it comes up in a discussion, but it did not inspire or elevate me in any way, and I didn’t even feel a lot of compassion for the narrator.
Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting
and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, ‘Lord take pity
on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the
rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey!’
Miraculously, a parking place appeared.
Paddy looked up again and said, ‘Never mind, I found one.’
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, ‘Do
you want to go to heaven?’
The man said, ‘I do, Father.’
The priest said, ‘Then stand over there against the wall.’
Then the priest asked the second man, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’ ‘Certainly,
Father,’ the man replied.
‘Then stand over there against the wall,’ said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O’Toole and asked, ‘Do you want to go to
O’Toole said, ‘No, I don’t Father.’
The priest said, ‘I don’t believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die
you don’t want to go to heaven?’
O’Toole said, ‘Oh, when I die , yes. I thought you were getting a group together
to go right now.’
Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the
obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend, Finney.
‘Did you see the paper?’ asked Gallagher. ‘They say I died!!’
Yes, I saw it!’ replied Finney. ‘Where are ye callin’ from?’
An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in
Connecticut . The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then
sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.
He says, ‘Sir, have you been drinking?’
‘Just water,’ says the priest.
The trooper says, ‘Then why do I smell wine?’
The priest looks at the bottle and says, ‘Good Lord! He’s done it again!’
Patton staggered home very late after another evening with his drinking buddy,
Paddy. He took off his shoes to avoid waking his wife, Kathleen.
He tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs
bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step. As he caught himself by grabbing the
banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump. A whiskey
bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful.
Managing not to yell, Patton sprung up, pulled down his pants, and looked in the
hall mirror to see that his butt cheeks were cut and bleeding. He managed to
quietly find a full box of Band-Aids and began putting a Band-Aid as best he
could on each place he saw blood.
He then hid the now almost empty Band-Aid box and shuffled and stumbled his way
In the morning, Patton woke up with searing pain in both his head and butt and
Kathleen staring at him from across the room.
She said, ‘You were drunk again last night weren’t you?’
Patton said, ‘Why you say such a mean thing?’
‘Well,’ Kathleen said, ‘it could be the open front door, it could be the broken
glass at the bottom of the stairs, it could be the drops of blood trailing
through the house, it could be your bloodshot eyes, but mostly ……. it’s all
those Band-Aids stuck on the hall mirror.
Thanks to an e-mail friend with the BEST jokes!
Gotta Love the Irish
Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, “Lord take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey!”
Miraculously, a parking place appeared.
Paddy looked up again and said, “Never mind, I found one.”
+ + + +
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, “Do you want to go to heaven?”
The man said, “I do, Father.”
The priest said, “Then stand over there against the wall.”
Then the priest asked the second man, “Do you want to go to heaven?”
“Certainly, Father,” the man replied.
“Then stand over there against the wall,” said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O’Toole and asked, “Do you want to go to heaven?”
O’Toole said, “No, I don’t Father.”
The priest said, “I don’t believe this.. You mean to tell me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?”
O’Toole said, “Oh, when I die , yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now.”
+ + + +
Paddy was in New York .
He was patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, “Okay, pedestrians. ” Then he’d allow the traffic to pass.
He’d done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk.
After the cop had shouted, “Pedestrians! ” for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, “Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?”
+ + + +
Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend, Finney.
“Did you see the paper?” asked Gallagher. “They say I died!!”
“Yes, I saw it!” replied Finney. “Where are ye callin’ from?”
+ + +
An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut . The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.
He says, “Sir, have you been drinking?”
“Just water,” says the priest.
The trooper says, “Then why do I smell wine?”
The priest looks at the bottle and says, “Good Lord! He’s done it again!”
+ + + +
Walking into the bar, Mike said to Charlie the bartender, “Pour me a stiff one – just had another fight with the little woman.”
“Oh yeah?” said Charlie , “And how did this one end?”
“When it was over,” Mike replied, “She came to me on her hands and knees.”
“Really,” said Charles, “Now that’s a switch! What did she say?”
She said, “Come out from under the bed, you little chicken.”
+ + + +
Patton staggered home very late after another evening with his drinking buddy, Paddy. He took off his shoes to avoid waking his wife, Kathleen.
He tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step. As he caught himself by grabbing the banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump. A whiskey bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful.
Managing not to yell, Patton sprung up, pulled down his pants, and looked in the hall mirror to see that his butt cheeks were cut and bleeding. He managed to quietly find a full box of Band-Aids and began putting a Band-Aid as best he could on each place he saw blood.
He then hid the now almost empty Band-Aid box and shuffled and stumbled his way to bed.
In the morning, Patton woke up with searing pain in both his head and butt and Kathleen staring at him from across the room.
She said, “You were drunk again last night weren’t you?”
Patton said, “Why you say such a mean thing?”
“Well,” Kathleen said, “it could be the open front door, it could be the broken glass at the bottom of the stairs, it could be the drops of blood trailing through the house, it could be your bloodshot eyes, but mostly …… it’s all those Band-Aids stuck on the hall mirror.
I saw a mention of this book in an Amazon.com referral as a book I might like, and was almost set to order it when something said “go check the stack of books Little Diamond left for you” and sure enough, I already had the book.
I use books as an incentive to get me through life’s inevitable tasks I don’t like – like “if I finish this project on time, I get to read this book as a reward.” It works for me.
When I first started reading Marsha Mehran’s book about three Persian sisters starting up a cafe in a small Irish town after fleeing Iran, I found it sour. The author has a critical point of view, and generally speaking, I don’t like hanging around with people who criticize others and judge them harshly. At the beginning of the book, Mehran introduces a lot of people, many of whom we are not meant to like.
Even the sisters are not all that sympathetic – at the beginning. But also, near the beginning, she discusses Persian cooking, the idea of balance in a meal, hot and cold, spicy and bland, so you kind of get the idea that if there is sour, then there will also be sweet. In addition, at the end of each chapter there is a wonderful recipe, a wonderful, fairly easy-to-follow recipe, and she included one, Fesanjan, that is my all-time favorite Iranian dish and now, I know how to make it, Wooo HOOOO!
Three sisters, orphaned by fate, held together by love and duty, start a cafe, which, against all odds, becomes a raging success. Raging success does not heal all the old wounds, however, nor the hearts that bear them, and we learn through the book what the sisters have borne and overcome.
It turns out to be a sweet book, one well worth reading. And oh! the recipes! In each chapter, there are also hints that make them even better, so you can’t just copy out the recipes and use them, you really have to read the book.
It’s a pity that two of the most wonderful countries in the world – Syria and Iran – are off limits. We’ve been back to Syria, and it was everything we remembered (see the Walking Old Damascus blog entries) but oh, how we would love to explore Iran. Sigh. The world turns, and we can only hope to be able to get there in our lifetime. Stranger things have happened.
Thanks be to God, the brutal, ceaseless battles in Ireland have ended and peace prevails. So many innocent were lost – and for what? The recent bombing is thought to be a hiccup left over from those desperate, sad days. We can only hope that is true, and that peace can also break out in places like Gaza, like Dharfur, where entire peoples are oppressed and dealt with brutally by those in power.
For blogger Mathai; one of the songs the Irish sing in the pubs on St. Patrick’s day – and others. Whenever the beer is flowing, you’ll hear Kevin Barry. They know all the words.
This is the version I used to hear; the one above has slightly different words.
In Mountjoy jail one Monday morning
High upon the gallows tree,
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty.
But a lad of eighteen summers,
Still there’s no one can deny,
As he walked to death that morning,
He proudly held his head on high.
2. Just before he faced the hangman,
In his dreary prison cell,
The Black and Tans tortured Barry,
Just because he wouldn’t tell.
The names of his brave comrades,
And other things they wished to know.
“Turn informer and we’ll free you”
Kevin Barry answered, “no”.
3. “Shoot me like a soldier.
Do not hang me like a dog,
For I fought to free old Ireland
On that still September morn.
“All around the little bakery
Where we fought them hand to hand,
Shoot me like a brave soldier,
For I fought for Ireland.”
4. “Kevin Barry, do not leave us,
On the scaffold you must die!”
Cried his broken-hearted mother
As she bade her son good-bye.
Kevin turned to her in silence
Saying, “Mother, do not weep,
For it’s all for dear old Ireland
And it’s all for freedom’s sake.”
5. Calmly standing to attention
While he bade his last farewell
To his broken hearted mother
Whose grief no one can tell.
For the cause he proudly cherished
This sad parting had to be
Then to death walked softly smiling
That old Ireland might be free.
6. Another martyr for old Ireland;
Another murder for the crown,
Whose brutal laws to crush the Irish,
Could not keep their spirit down.
Lads like Barry are no cowards.
From the foe they will not fly.
Lads like Barry will free Ireland,
For her sake they’ll live and die.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming – tomorrow – March 17th. St. Patrick’s Day is not, as it would sound, a particularly religious holiday. While it is a huge celebration, in the United States it is more about being Irish than it is about St. Patrick. Most of the Irish, when they came to America, had about as much status as the Bangladeshis in Kuwait – they were at the bottom of the social heap. It was a long long struggle to achieve respectability; even longer to be free of the prejudices against them.
The Irish celebrated the election of John F. Kennedy the same way the African Americans celebrated the election of Barak Obama – it was the ultimate sign of being part of a united America, full citizenship – “one of us” could be President.
Here are previous posts I have written telling more about St. Patrick, and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations:
We visited Ireland several years ago, a visit AdventureMan recounts with relish. I made all the arrangements, bed and breakfasts, travel plans, etc. and AdventureMan was uncommonly unenthusiastic. Once we got there, I understood why. Being THE MAN, when we are in the car together, most of the time, he drives. Arriving in Ireland, you have to drive on the “other” side of the road (I did not say the “wrong” side!) Many roads in Ireland are narrow. Cool calm AdventureMan had met his match. He HATED driving in Ireland.
The part of the trip I loved the most was going to Cashel, one of the St. Patrick sights in Ireland:
It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The weather was glorious, warm and sunny without being too hot.
Cashel has a very ancient history, albeit only documented since the 4th Century. The Rock of Cashel, with its well preserved ecclesiastical remains, is one of Ireland’s most spectacular landmarks, rising above the surrounding plain and dominating the land route southward.The large Cathedral, ancient round tower and the very early Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel , perched on a dramatic outcrop of rock, were silent witnesses to many of the stirring events of Irish History; St.Patrick converted the local King Aenghus, here in the 5th century; Brian Boru was crowned King of Ireland on this spot in the early 11th Century. The Vicar’s Choral has been restored and the site, one of the most visited in Ireland, now provides an interpretative centre, (multi lingual) an interesting museum, guided tours and superb views over the extensive and beautiful plains of Tipperary.
We were visiting in Mid-July. It rained a lot, but the day we drove to Cashel was gorgeous. Even on the rainy days, there were periods of blue sky and sunshine, and the air was crystal clear and sweet. I guess the rain is the reason Ireland is so green, so piercingly beautifully green. I would go again in a heartbeat, but I think this time we would hire a driver!
Growing up in the USA, everyone knows, as a kid, that on St. Patrick’s Day you wear green. It doesn’t mean you are Catholic, or Christian, it means you don’t want to get a pinch, because that is what happens to kids who don’t wear green. (You know how mean kids can be!)
Later on, maybe in high school, a few people will wear orange and explain that they are Irish protestants. Most of us, as kids, don’t really know a whole lot about St. Patrick other than that he went to Ireland to convert the heathens to believe in the church, and that he cast the snakes out of Ireland.
When you get older, St. Patrick’s Day is often a rollicking night in local taverns with Irish names, where they serve stew, and soda bread, and potatoes, and lots of green beer and live music singing old Irish songs.
There are references below to the short version of St. Patrick’s life, and a longer version. The longer version is the Catholic version and, while less documented, is longer and more interesting.
This is from Wikipedia, and is a short summary of the life of St. Patrick:
Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius, Irish: Naomh Pádraig) was a Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. When he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he actually worked and no link can be made with Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish monastery system evolved after the time of Patrick and the Irish church did not develop the diocesan model that Patrick and the other early missionaries had tried to establish.
(From Who Was St. Patrick?)
The available body of evidence does not allow the dates of Patrick’s life to be fixed with certainty, but it appears that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. Two letters from him survive, along with later hagiographies from the seventh century onwards. Many of these works cannot be taken as authentic traditions. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster (see below) would imply that he lived from 378 to 493, and ministered in modern day northern Ireland from 433 onwards.
An Irish joke:
Paddy’s wife bought a new line of expensive cosmetics guaranteed to make her look years younger.
After a lengthy sitting before the mirror applying the “miracle” products she asked, “Darling, honestly what age would you say I am?”
Looking over her carefully, Paddy replied, “Judging from your skin, twenty; your hair, eighteen; and your figure, twenty-five.”
“Oh, you flatterer!” she gushed.
“Hey, wait a minute!” Paddy interrupted. “I haven’t added them up yet.”