Friday, March 17, 2006

Ersatz Irishness

I think it was my senior year in college when a faux-Irish pub opened up on Main Street in Ann Arbor. It was called Conor O'Neill's, a big deal was made of the fact that the bar itself was imported from Ireland, and pints were expensive. But it was usually a great time, and we probably went about once or twice a month. Which in college means a bar is in the rotation, but not a fixture the way Ashley's or the Jug was.

I remember being made a little uncomfortable by all the clearly contrived bric-a-brac _ in particular, the apothecary cabinets with glass that was meant to look "aged" at first glance, but which just looked fake upon closer inspection. I didn't get too upset about it, because it was a good bar, but I also knew it was a bit of an illusion.

Today, I read that forces larger than I imagined at the time may have been at work. Exporting ersatz Irishness around the globe is a pretty damn great idea, especially for a country in the kind of shape Ireland was at the time. Essentially, Ireland exported it's best renewable natural resource _ goodwill. I mean, unless you're running a private club in the Gilded Age, who doesn't think that things are improved with some Irish people around?

I mean, the Irish have got to be annual contenders in the worldwide survey of affable, English-speaking people. (For what it's worth, I see it as an annual slugfest between them, the Aussies and the Kiwis. With the Canadians perennial dark horses, and the various European countries in which English is taught only useful in exactas and trifectas, if at all. Although look out for the Dutch this year. I'm telling you.)

Although I have no idea if Conor's (as it was called) was part of the plan outlined in the article or a separate venture, I do know that I pretty much enjoyed myself there every time. Anyway, thanks to the muscle of a major corporation (Guinness and whatever liquor giant it's associated with) with a vested interest in greatly increasing the number of Irish pubs worldwide, the plan worked out well. Now you can go into a fake-authentic Irish pub almost anywhere in the world. It's a blessing.

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