STANDING AT THE BAR in Jupiter, a pub that sells draught Guinness. I'm glad that someplace around here finally serves it right. British Room Temperature and a cap of foam that you can tease into stiff peaks and write your initials in and it stays through the whole drink. I was dressed in tweeds and a tweed cap. I have a handlebar mustache. A young man came up to the bar and ordered a "Black and Tan." The bartender, with some care, drew a bitter and floated a half-pint of Guinness on top. Neat looking. The young man nodded at me and raised his glass.
"Black and Tan. Good."
When I was in England, I ordered a Black and Tan at a fancy London pub, and got a mix of bitter and stout. I ordered the same drink in an outlying pub and got a frosty stare. A man turned to me and said,
"Yer a Yank."
"We call it a half-and-half."
"Not a Black and Tan?"
"Not if you like having your teeth. Not around here. This is an Irish neighborhood. During the Troubles, the English regiment called the Black and Tans murdered many women and children. It's something the Prods order to be rude, to remind us of our condition. Here we call it a half-and-half. You might do well to follow."
Somehow I became Irish by hearing the kid order it in that innocent dreadful way, and I said, in a creditable brogue, "It's better to order it as a half-and-half." And told him why. He was glad to have been corrected by one with the map of Ireland upon his face, and he thanked me. I was born in Grants Pass, Oregon. I am not Irish. He turned and went and I felt ashamed and stupid for pretending to be something that I was not. There was no reason to lie, it served no useful end, I just did it. But once you start down the path of a lie, you get trapped in it, like a fly on flypaper. Your life becomes a support system for a lie, and it takes all your energy. There was no reason to do it, yet I did. I hope I never see him again.
April 21, 1994
"Black and Tan," is the traditional name for a pack of hounds in County Limerick, and was applied to the irregulars enlisted by the British government in 1920 to supplement the Royal Irish Constabulary. The notorious force was so called for their original uniform of army khaki with the black belts and dark-green caps of the R.I.C. (Brewer's).
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