CELTIC BRIEFING
Saint Who? What?

Mar. 17 - Having done most of my growing up in greater Boston and having spent numerous adult years in Chicago and New York, I've gotten used to the idea of Saint Patrick's Day as a major non-denominational holiday, a secular orgy of drinking. I've never celebrated the holiday myself, however, because it's amateur night at bars and clubs and I don't like drinking around amateurs.

As I wrote last year, over on the lately neglected Moron Abroad, "Saint Patrick's Day doesn't appear to be much of a holiday in Denmark. I haven't seen any giant four-leaf clovers or Erin Go Bragh signs in pub windows. I don't anticipate seeing any canals or fjords dyed green. Not only haven't I seen a corned beef at our grocery store this week, I haven't seen one since I moved here. And I think it would take persuasion skills beyond those at my disposal to induce a Dane to drink green beer. So, strangely, enough, I've never been closer to or farther from Ireland on Saint Patrick's Day."

[If you're interested, here's the lowdown on the holiday from an old almanac: "The Feast Day of St. Patrick is celebrated on March 17. St. Patrick is considered the father of Celtic Christianity. He founded more than three hundred churches, drove the snakes out of Ireland, invented green beer, and coined the popular slogan, 'Kiss me, I'm Irish.'"]

There are plenty of Irish here in Copenhagen, just as there are pretty much everywhere else in the world (with the possible exception of Ireland), and they've got the usual stranglehold over the pub scene. They just haven't managed to achieve any traction with their holiday.

Maybe it's because a drinking holiday is to Denmark what a tortilla-eating holiday would be in Mexico: no real holiday.

* * *

I had a test on my fortieth birthday. In that day's almanac I speculated as to what I would have thought of my life today back when I was seventeen. The verdict was positive, but I didn't tell my seventeen-year-old self, "...and hey, how's about this for a birthday present: on your fortieth birthday, you'll get to take a two-hour exam in the middle of the evening!"

"A test on my fortieth birthday? Dude, no way!"

"Well, c'mon, you were pretty stoked about living in a foreign capital. How are we gonna live in a foreign capital without learning a foreign language? And how are we gonna learn a foreign language without the occassional test?"

"But, dude... wait, you mean it's not London or Paris?"

"No, no, no, we're in Denmark."

"Denmark? Aw, man, that's way up north. It's cold up there! But wait—they've got those hash bars and stuff, right?"

"That's Amsterdam."

"Isn't that the capital of Denmark?"

I knew I shouldn't have started talking to my seventeen-year-old self.

The idiot...

* * *

Trine's birthday gift to me is a "mini-cruise" from Copenhagen to Oslo and back. We leave Sunday night and get back Tuesday morning. I erroneously filled in Norway on my map of European countries I've actually set foot in, despite the fact that I only set foot in Oslo's airport for about forty-five minutes during a stopover between Copenhagen and Chicago. That shouldn't count. If you'll permit a long digression, I'm going to post the rules that a Danish correspondent (living in Chicago) sent me at the time of the aforelinked post, since I think they're pretty good ones:

1/ Physical connection: One has to stand on the actual ground of the country for it to count. Example: Flying over does not count, being in transit does count as you are touching the ground via the transit building.

2/ Time: the country you are visiting has to be a country when you visit it. Being in Prague today for the first time would give you the Czech Republic, not Czechoslovakia. However, if your uncle visited Prague in 1980 it would count as Czechoslovakia and if he were to visit today he would also get the Czech Republic.

3/ Counting: You can only count a country once as in when you've been there it counts - second time does not count.

4/ Definition: The U.N. provides our first definition, As a rule of thumb the list of member states gives us the bulk of countries to choose from. If its on the list, more than likely you can use it towards your list.

5/ The FIFA definition: Some areas and regions are thought of as separate countries even though they are not official states as Great Britain for instance. According to the FIFA definition countries that have member status of FIFA can also be counted towards the list. As with Great Britain this then allows for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be counted separately. thus allowing for areas of partial sovereign rule can also be included.

6/ A grey zone exist with a few areas such as for example Greenland and Kosovo. One solution, again, is to look at sports. But as one will find not all members of IGA, for instance, are what is commonly defined as a country.

Therefore, the widely accepted guideline of "crossing a border" such as with Gibraltar for instance counts towards the area being counted towards the list, whereas the existence of a flag does not translate into a country for the purpose of this list. Examples of this are the Bask region and the Swedish region of Skaane. generally, the less political controversy exist regarding the status of the region, the more likely it is that the area should be counted as a country.

Anyway, on Monday I'll actually be able to walk around on Norwegian soil. (More likely Norwegian pavement, cobblestones, and so on, but you get the point.)

I mentioned in a post last year that spoken Norwegian was easier for me to understand than spoken Danish. The languages are almost exactly alike on paper—much more similar than Danish and Swedish—to the extent that I sometimes find myself reading the subtitles on Norweigian television for twenty minutes or longer before I even realize I'm not reading Danish. I'm eager to see if this holds true in Norway itself, or if I've just been hearing and reading Norwegian as it's pitched to outsiders. (Being able to read the New York Times and Calvin & Hobbes, and to understand, say, Tom Brokaw and Jerry Seinfeld, for example, does not necessarily translate to being able to understand what the hell is being said to you by the lady in the ticket booth at the 46th Street station in Queens.)

* * *

I got some fun email around the time of my birthday (I guess it's still "the time around" my birthday, but I'm going to assume it's all in the rear-view mirror now). I'd like to excerpt some of it and hope I won't anger the authors, who will remain anonymous:

Dear sweet, young thang! I just wandered over to your almanac for the first time in ages. Forty is cool! Somewhere in my teens I did the math and discovered that I would be 40 in the year 2000... Cosmic, dude! It was soooo far in the future, and of course 2000 is space-age!! I had visions of robotic servants bringing my throng of adoring lovers silver platters with mounds of coke and thousands of hits of blotter, barrels of microdot, and dried magic mushrooms...and what would a party be without the cases and cases of Veuve Cliquot flowing from an ostentatious fountain in the grand foyer! The joke was on me, I got sober when I was 38...

* * *

I'm 49 today so the perspective I have is more like this quote from Geena Davis in "The Long Kiss Goodnight," when she says to Samuel L. Jackson: "They're going to blow my head off, you know. This is the last time I'll ever be pretty." This is the last year that I'll ever be not 50. Somehow I have this feeling that I should be sure to have a really terrific year. Now, where you are, 40, I guess you can figure that someplace in there between 35 and 45 you'll be having the best days of your life in terms of the probability of being at the peak of your abilities. Hmmmm. Try not to forget and miss the best day of your life. Me, all I can say is that it must have happened in there, wish I had paid better attention. Or not.

* * *

Wooo, it will be interesting to see how I handle my turning. I feel okay although this Saturday we were listening to a radio show which was called something like, "Blast from the Past" or "Really Old Fucking Music that We Still Enjoy Listening To" or something like that and the year they were drawing from was 1965. After every song, the DJ would says things like, "And that came out 40 LONG years ago", or "Can you believe that song is so OLD?". I wanted to slit my throat.

And with that, I leave the dreaded birthday behind me. I've got a busy couple of days ahead of me, and then we've got our trip, so there probably won't be another post Until next Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm sure you're dying for pictures of Molli on the high seas, and in Oslo, and I'll try not to disappoint.

And since I haven't even mentioned her until now, here's a picture as reward for your patience: it's one of her trying-to-crawl moments:

Regular Almanac Crap

On March 17, 1939, after German troops crossed the Czech border, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain threw all his years of careful diplomacy out the window and accused Adolf Hitler of breaking his word. He instantly regretted having let these angry words slip, however, and subsequently resigned.

Birthdays

Mia Hamm turns 33 today. She shares her birthday with Rob Lowe (1964), Gary Sinise (1955), Kurt Russell (1951), Patrick Duffy (1949), Rudolf Nureyev (1938), Nat "King" Cole (1919), and Shemp Howard (1895).

Happy Thursday!

2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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