The Irish man

I’ve developed a mental image of my father cruising merrily through his McCarthy era adolescence, a cloud of testosterone, beer and cigarettes in his wake, laughing and lean. He was American Graffiti, Rat Pack and West Coast cool all rolled into one. How accurate this image is I’ll never know, but its verifiable backdrop is Carmel, California, the central coast artists’ colony where Alfred Hitchcock filmed movies, Bing Crosby owned a house and John Steinbeck was, by popular acclaim if not original intent, the local folklorist. The fact that my father had been born and raised in Carmel was a major point of pride for him and one of his three most cherished defining characteristics. The other two were his Roman Catholicism and the fact that he was a second-generation Irishman. No matter that I never knew him to go to confession or receive communion. No matter that his understanding of Irish culture ran no deeper than the Irish-American songbook and a fierce loyalty to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, a school he’d seen only in photographs.

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