Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Weirdest Irish Fair there ever was...

Last weekend I went to Allentown to visit my dear friend Beth. And at this point I'd like to congratulate her - every single time I go up there she finds something for us to do that's out of the ordinary, amusing, wacky, and totally blogworthy. And with that, I give you the latest post on Beth and my Saturday evening in Allentown.

This weekend Beth found out that there was an Irish fair happening at a building in the Allentown fairgrounds. But it's not just any Irish festival. This one is called Finnegan's Wake. For those of you who don't know the story - it's a book buy James Joyce, but the story is actually inspired by this song:

Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin' Street
A gentleman, Irish, mighty odd;
He had a brogue both rich and sweet
And to rise in the world he carried a hod.
Now Tim had a sort of the tipplin' way
With a love of the whiskey he was born
And to help him on with his work each day
He'd a "drop of the cray-thur" every morn.
Whack fol the darn O, dance to your partner
Whirl the floor, your trotters shake;
Wasn't it the truth I told you
Lots of fun at Finnegan's wake!

2. One mornin' Tim was feelin' full
His head was heavy which made him shake;
He fell from the ladder and broke his skull
And they carried him home his corpse to wake.
They rolled him up in a nice clean sheet
And laid him out upon the bed,
A gallon of whiskey at his feet
And a barrel of porter at his head.

3. His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch,
First they brought in tay and cake
Then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch.
Biddy O'Brien began to bawl
"Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see?
"O Tim, mavourneen, why did you die?"
"Arragh, hold your gob" said Paddy McGhee!

4. Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job
"O Biddy," says she, "You're wrong, I'm sure"
Biddy she gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawlin' on the floor.
And then the war did soon engage
'Twas woman to woman and man to man,
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And a row and a ruction soon began.

5. Then Mickey Maloney ducked his head
When a noggin of whiskey flew at him,
It missed, and falling on the bed
The liquor scattered over Tim!
The corpse revives! See how he raises!
Timothy rising from the bed,
Says,"Whirl your whiskey around like blazes
Thanum an Dhul! Do you thunk I'm dead?"

(Chuck, I know you're loving this right now).

Anyway, so there's supposedly some renactment of the song, and Beth says it sounds interesting. So we go. Pay admission, buy food and drink tickets. There's mostly just tables and chairs in this auditorium. the band is playing in one of those stage trailers. There's a few tables with food, a place to buy beer, and tables selling Irish t-shirts and sweaters and Claddaugh rings and Irish silver. Beth and I go for food. I had a very Irish meal of a hot dog, Lays potato chips and a soda, while Beth opted for fish and chips. Isn't that English?

The band is playing an Irish song and we sway our heads back and forth. But the next song ends up being being "Margaritaville". Okay....and then the next ends up being "Dayo" by Harry Belafonte. Isn't this an Irish fair? After that the band plays something Irish again, and all is right with the world.

Soon it's time for Finnegan's Wake. A bagpipe band appears, and they are wailing a sad sounding song as a band of mourners wheel a wooden coffin into the room. Now in the coffin lays a white haired man who is wearing black sunglasses, has a beer wedged between his arm and his chest, and holds a bunch of white flowers in his hands. The mourners are a tall man in black with a serious experssion and then a bunch of Irish "women" with black veils over their faces wailing loudly. These women are actually a bunch of men dressed in drag, dramatically playing the neighborhood women. The man playing Finnegan's widow is especially mannish and dramatic as he plays up his grief.

The band sings Finnegan's wake and in between each verse stops to talk to Mrs. Finnegan - who never breaks character. At the cheerful sounding chorus, they all dance around arm in arm, and it's pretty funny. The man who led the processional never moves - just stands there stone-faced during the dancing, and that's funny too. At the end, someone spills whisky on Finnegan, and he sits up, and everyone cheers. Beth and I are laughing and looking at each other like, "Yup, another weird Saturday night for us". Once the performance is over, Finnegan lays down again and closes his eyes. They wheel him off to the side, and then there's a contest of sorts. Everyone lines up by the coffin, and each person has a chance to whisper a joke in Finnegan's ear. Whoever makes him laugh, blink or flinch wins, and gets free beer tickets or something. Pretty funny.

Thanks Beth for another completely funny and blogworthy evening. Looking forward to the next one!


Anonymous Drapo said...

So what did you whisper in his ear to get a reaction and free drink tickets--something funny or sexually explicit? I hope the answer is "Both"...

12:34 PM  

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