I had an interesting conversation today with a gentleman I’d just met. It was pretty darn curious, too.
One of the first things he intuited was expressed as, “You’re a Bernie supporter, huh?”. We’d just met, and nothing that had been said might be perceived as an indicator of political leanings. That was a curious moment. More of an instant, really, because it lasted only as long as it took me to consider that I, too, would expect someone of an appearance similar to my own to be mildly seditious, but not to the extent that continued liberty might depend upon blending into a crowd.
Later, as we were preparing to part, he asked, “Your family been here a long time?”. I asked, and he clarified that he meant on this continent. Yep, since 1630, and trying like hell to keep civilization at least a generation away ever since, which is what brought me to these parts. “Yep”, he said, “there are a lot of those around here. It’s getting to be one of the last of these kinds of places left. A good choice. You talk like someone whose family has been here a long time.”
I don’t know what that means, that I talk like someone whose family has been in America a long time. I don’t suppose I’d have any reason to know, it being my normal. The man had said earlier that he was the son of Irish immigrants, and growing up in New York City he’d gone renegade and hung out with the sons of Italian immigrants. All kinds of compelling fictions could be woven from that cloth, eh? One of them might even be pretty close to true. The dude had an interesting vibe and he held it tightly.
The nearest I can figure is that immigrants from Europe, or the children of those immigrants if they’re raised in an ethnic community, probably do see differences between theirs and the habits and patterns of thought of more thoroughly melted Americans. I’d expect it to be more striking when it comes from people who otherwise look ethnically similar to themselves, too.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I had noticed his recent immigrant patterns, too. The natives on my home planet don’t attach meaningless ethnic or ancestral nationality labels very often, but this guy put those labels on everyone of whom he spoke. This Italian guy, that German guy, another Irish guy… I skip over those parts because I don’t know what information they’re intended to convey and have learned the hard way that it’s unwise to ask for clarification. And, well, you know how those Irish are.
At least I hope you do, because I’m clueless. I know a smattering of Irish history, and have known lots of folks of Irish ancestry, but they weren’t remarkably more similar to one another than they were to non-Irish folks. Oh, and I once had a terrible crush on a stunningly gorgeous girl of Irish ancestry, but she wouldn’t go out with me because I’d dated her best friend. That was the excuse she gave me, anyway, but she was so darn nice that she’d have told me that even if she’d found me repulsive. Are the Irish known for being gorgeous and sweet?
Except the guy I was talking to was neither gorgeous nor sweet. He had a look that one doesn’t often see this far west except in old gangster movies, and I thought he’d have looked more natural in black and white like on that old Philco I had as a kid. If he’d been chewing a cigar stub I’d have got to wondering who spiked my weed and with what. And why I was having a flashback in the middle of the day. Imagine that: Un-Pleasantville Weed. It was somewhat surreal, being a Rocky Mountain hippie standing there talking to a retired New York street punk gangster thug out of an old black and white movie in a place otherwise and more often filled with cowboys and mountain truckers buying diesel fuel and chewing tobacco.
I swear to you, there were no uniquely talented chemists involved in the formulation of that experience. The universe knows that I love weird shit and just brings it to me from time to time because it likes me.