Who the Hell Are You, Anyway?
Do we really know ourselves? That’s a good question. Most of us, either consciously or subconsciously spend our lives in trying to find the answer. It is an important first step in our lifelong efforts to find happiness. I have, in my attempts, chosen to identify myself with a character I call Skibootch. I used to hear the term anytime I told a tall tale to my grandfather. He was born of Irish immigrant parents in Oswego, NY in 1870.
It always seems like it never rains, but what it pours, except in Oswego, where it both snows and rains a lot. Life is full of rain. Rain is water, and in just right quantities, is good. It provides a vehicle for the flow of life into and out of every organism. That flow of life comes in many containers. Each with a distinct flavor of its own.
The more colorful, nourishing, and distinct the flavors the more beneficial is the flow of the water. Irish and Jewish flavors are very intense, colorful, and most of all human – warts and all. I include Jewish characters, because I see a lot of similarities in their basic natures to those of the Irish. Here’s a colorful description of the main characters found in this series of Skibootch stories.
Ike: My favorite ego driven, good natured, well meaning, know it all expert on everything under the sun. His lack of understanding is only exceeded by his sense of certainty. Do we know anybody like this? Could we have similar qualities? Doesn’t everyone?
Bertha: Ike’s wife. Her neuroses and beliefs are as numerous as points on a compass, and her sense of direction follows each one relentlessly. She may be neurotic, but she is also aware of reality, and her actions are motivated by a keen sense of fixing appropriate responsibilities. In this latter quality I am reminded of one of my many former bosses who advised me: “Never give anyone credit for brains.”
Sam: Ike’s cohort. As trusting and effective as a blind guide dog. Always prompt at feeding time, but never able to muster the juice needed to mark his own trees. Fortunately for him, Ike keeps him under his protection. Sam is correspondingly happy for that.
Becky: Sam’s wife. Instrumentally equipped with a perpetual motion jackhammer tongue. Limitless inventory of fantasy aberrations. She plays them on the same instrumentation that resembles the aimless blather of talking parrots. Conversing with her always feels better when it’s over.
Mick Murphy: Hapless, hopeless, beer brained bloke. His density is only exceeded by his avoidance, especially when it comes to work. Perceptivity ends at the tip of his nose. Reality only occurs in the past tense. Dreams and beer are the main elements of his daily sustenance. For Mick, work is at its very best, a necessary evil.
Brigit Murphy: Mick’s wife. A quick witted sharp tongued Irish girl with no time for blather or pretense. A blessing to Mick for having a life partner who can see straight, and hold her own. In fact, even dish out more than she takes in. Deeply convinced of her beliefs, and in them correspondingly secure. So much so that she is more than her languishing husband can handle. In the long run, a fortuitous break for his overall welfare.
Father O’Doul: A beer drinking priest, but of the non-alcoholic variety. A temperate example of Irish wisdom and engaging story telling. Living in the midst of his herd of Irish Galways and seeing that they get as much good hay as he can deliver. And not necessarily responsible for the typical by-product of its ingestion. Side note: Be careful you don’t step in any of it.
Shamus McGuinty: Saloonkeeper, town barber, mayor, political force, social host, and aristocrat wannabe, in the true Irish tradition. Spreader of liquid cheer, sartorial elegance and overseer of inner circle operations of most every caliber. Freedom from unwanted restrictions is his code of conduct, and any person’s way is acceptable as long as it’s McGuinty’s way.
Skibootch O’Faolain: A history of slow learning attributes can be seen from a ground zero description of his abilities. He is open to adventure of all descriptions. He does find joy in places no matter how absurd or difficult they might be. His attitude of optimism mimics the up three, down two, movements of the old monkey on a stick toy. Has an innate ability to transform the alternating currents of life into a stream of positive power. Slow, but well intended and on occasion, effective.
Finally, I chose to locate chose to locate my stories in Snowsville*, where Robert and Anitra McAvoy Whelan Emigrated from County Claire, Ireland around the time of the great Irish Potato Famine. They were my Irish Great-Grandparents. My Irish stories are based on real and imagined recollections of my visits to the Whelan families in the prohibition days of the 1930’s. Life was difficult then, but, wide open and good. Fun was still alive in the midst of depression.
My Jewish characters mainly grew in my imagination, from two main sources. Jewish friends in my wife Jean’s Jewelry business, and my devoted reading and assimilation of the humor of great Jewish minds. Thoughtful minds of those who can see through hypocrisy and find ways to expose it and get away with it.
Finally, Brigit Murphy’s character is, in my mind, a humorous amalgam of some of the fond recollections I have of my most supportive and devoted wife of 62 years. She had wit, faith, spunk, independence, and most importantly, infectious laughter.
I still hear it…