Americans are the worst - and especially at this time of year, am I right? It's 33 million US citizens with 'St Patty's Day' this, and green beer that, and 'my great-great-grandparents emigrated from Water-ford'. Where would we be without our comforting national in-jokes about the Yanks? It's as comforting and reliable as talking about the weather, or the weather-lady's outfit.
But something changed for me last summer. That hot New York morning, perhaps Mercury was in retrograde, or perhaps I was pre-menstrual, or perhaps it was the mild Margarita hangover. It was the end of my holiday, but I hadn't seen the Statue of Liberty; I had avoided the Empire State building too, and Times Square. The Statue of Liberty was a cliche in the distance, glimpsed out of Uber windows. Like the Mona Lisa, or Big Ben, she was an infinitely copy-and-pasted stand-in for everything that was banal about America.
We were on a boat trip. I looked up and there she was: Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. I blinked into surprising tears and my throat seemed to close around my breath. There was something about seeing these landmarks for the first time from the sea. Unbidden, thoughts arose of ancestors who would have seen this exact thing, the overwhelming green hugeness of her: bigger and stranger than anything in Co Kerry, or Cork. I found myself thinking about where they would have come from, and how it might have felt to be met, finally, by these differently beautiful symbols of hope and welcome. If my brain couldn't wrap itself around the enormity of that, then something in my nervous system did. If instinct is a kind of genetic memory, then my instinct was to talk about Ireland: I understood in that moment how the Irish Americans were made.
The obsession with provenance, and family, and the past, and Ireland (an obsession passed from one generation to the next) isn't the American in them: it's the Irish. It's not their fault, it's ours. So this one is for the plastic Paddies: I raise a glass of warm green beer to you. Happy (god help me) Patty's Day.
We used to enjoy this. It was subtle, often intellectual - the hero of one Martin Amis novel appearing briefly in another; Charlie Kauffman and Noah Baumbach switching from fiction to reality and back again. But now we've got Paris Hilton, pictured, channelling herself circa 'The Good Life' in her 'Cooking With Paris' video, it's suddenly too much.
Sunday Indo Living