Saturday, July 14, 2012

Irish Guns in the Mental Warehouse

Isn't it interesting?

Each one of us have a mental warehouse that contains crates filled with life experiences.

And as we get older, sometimes unexpected situations will serve as a compass that will lead us back into time.

Many of these moments we've forgotten, but all it takes is one triggered occurrence, and before you know it...the flood gates are opened, and you just stand there slack-jawed wondering how the "H" you could have completely forgotten something that at one time seemed so relevant.

Earlier today, I was at the gym talking with one of the personal trainers.

The kid has to be mid 20's, and he's Irish.

Now when I say he's Irish, I'm not talking about some "Lace-Mick" that came to America when he was 3.

This guy just got of the boat a couple of years ago.

Anyways, we were discussing marketing and branding, and he mentioned that being Irish in a city that identifies itself with the emerald isle was really quite an advantage.....

"Everybody here talks as if the majority of St Paul's population has deep roots in Ireland, but to tell you the truth....I sure haven't run into very many."

His words struck me instantly, like a slap...and before I knew it, Klecko faded back into his mental warehouse, and looked into a box that he didn't even remember.

Before the Mexicans became the majority of Saint Paul's commercial baking community, there were the Hmong, and before the Hmong came the African Americans.

But before all those ethnic groups took control, maybe 20-25 years ago...Saint Paul bakeries were filled with Micks.

I remember working at a shop where I worked with Irish co workers.

Back then we used to smoke cigarettes in the production area, and on Fridays...we'd drink beer throughout our entire shift.

Jimmy D on the other hand drank everyday, and beer wasn't enough to cure his ills, Jimmy was a whiskey drinker.

Dude was well over 6 feet tall and 250 pounds.

Throughout the first 6 or 8 hours of his shift, he was funny, gentle, kind.......

But when he'd hit the 9th-10th or 11th hours.....the spirits would kick in and Jimmy D would become insane.

Ownership was afraid to fire him, and supervisors were afraid to discipline him, not just because the guy exhibited Level 10 FOF (Freak Out Factor), but the Ol' Boy had some connections to ghosts that scared the crap out of most of us.

About once a month a visitor would stop by the bakery.

He never came at the same time twice, and he never approached any of the staff as he made his way into the building.

But the guy was tall, confident, and just by looking at him, you could tell this guy would kick Indiana Jones a** without even flinching.

Although the thuggish guest never pulled out credentials, it went w/o saying that he was I.R.A. and each month he would stop by to gather contributions to what we bakers called "The Gun Fund."

Back in those days, things were so different, people who took your money weren't required to show you receipts to prove how your money was being used...they didn't have to.

Back then, Saint Paul was filled with Micks that would do anything they could to eliminate the Protestants back home.

Even though I am 1/2 Irish, I didn't have any ties that reached back to the island that houses God's favorite lads, but I have to tell you....the Micks are passionate on the topic of hate and revenge.

I remember discussing how I saw some speaker talking about setting up a school in Dublin where 1/2 the students would be Irish boys, and the other 1/2 would be English.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something like...

"This is a good thing, now these 2 camps can start out fresh, and grow up w/o having hatred planted into their minds."

Jimmy D looked at me when I said this, and in a polite but firm way he responded......

"I know you mean well Danny, but you'll need to never talk like that again, it is ignorant in present company."

Then some of the guys shared stories about how mothers were pushed down staircases and kicked in the ribs by cops, or sisters be raped in front of their fathers, and when they relived these stories, some pretty tough men had tears in their eyes.

For the first time in my life, I really realized life's solutions weren't as simple as we were made to believe at a U2 concert.

I struggled with some of the things I witnessed, but I was a kid in an industry where I was at the bottom of the totem pole.

I had no voice, and more than that. I wasn't sure how to feel.

I have never liked hate, but I do love the Irish.

Eventually the Irish have faded into the banks of the Mississippi,but yet I still find myself wondering. What would Klecko do if any race, or religion attacked his wife or kids.....I would probably not be strong enough to shed hatred, I too would be prone to exacting revenge.

Isn't it odd, how groups, customs and traditions end up vanishing from our daily routines without saying good bye?

Working with the Micks was such an honor, but yet it's kinda like they left and I didn't even notice.

I'm not really proud of that.

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