Sunday, July 24, 2005

Before I Understood

Several years ago, I lived in Philadelphia. One of my friends was a crispy Brit from up around Manchester. She was in the US on a worker's visa, acting as a nanny for a wealthy Brit couple. We met, believe it or not, at a rodeo. Wendy had learned some line dancing when she still lived in England and had taken to the country and western scene (what there was in Philly), where she eventually met some Navy guys from down south, who eventually introduced her to rodeo, where she eventually met up with an acquaintance of mine, Patricia (Trish). Some how, we all ended up hanging out together. Three wild wenches making the rounds in the Cowboy nightlife.

Someday, I will have to finish writing about "why I am single" so you can hear the rest of those stories that include such things as being pushed around Penn State in a grocery cart, drunk as a skunk or jacuzzi parties at our favorite bartender's house after the bar closed or midnight trips driving down to Virginia to take in the PBR. Well, I don't want to give away all of my mis-spent youth. Suffice it to say that we did many an interesting thing and quite a few that would have caused our parents to cringe had they known what we were getting up to.

Not long before I returned to Kansas City, we were celebrating birthdays. Mine, for those that are unaware, is on St. Patrick's Day. Trish's birthday was only a few days after. Trish and I also shared a common Irish heritage. Well, actually, Wendy's people were originally Irish as well, but had immigrated to Liverpool several generations before to take up work in the factories. However, Wendy did not consider herself "Irish" in anyway. She was English and that was that.

It was coming up on our mutual birthdays and we were deciding what we would do to celebrate them. By this time, we had grown away slightly from spending endless hours at nightclubs, not to mention a rather unpleasant birthday before (okay, an unpleasant "post" birthday anyway). Trish made arrangements for us to see Michael Flatley in the Lord of the Dance [ed..updated from "rings" that's what I was watching when I wrote this..the power of suggestion]. I suggested that we go to a local Irish Pub after that which another friend, Debbie, had recommended where they would serve Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, Irish beer or ale and would have live Irish music.

Wendy was quite adamant that, should we go to an Irish Pub, she would not go with us.

Wendy proceeded to explain that the American Irish pubs were used as fronts to filter money to the IRA that had been placing bombs around England. Trish and I were slightly taken back. We had heard of this vaguely, but never took it seriously. Besides, we said, it had been a long time ago, hadn't it? But, no, Wendy was pretty adamant that she wasn't going to go.

A long story short, we finally convinced her that the US had cracked down on these folks and she needn't be concerned with betraying any principles. She agreed to go, but insisted that she would not sing any songs, in particular "Danny Boy", and she would only drink one beer so as to insure as little of her money as possible went into the till.

It wasn't until years later that I understood how it must have stuck in her craw to come into a place she felt actively supported a terrorist organization that had killed or injured her fellow citizens.

I even wrote about the experience on my birthday this year, reminiscing, amused by her response at the time.

So, about two months ago, a friend of mine invited me to go to this "Mediteranean" restaurant. It was the "Holy Land Cafe". Honestly, when she recommended it, I thought that it was probably run by some Jewish couple considering the neighborhood. But, instead, it was run by a Palestinian family who seemed very nice and smiled as they tried to tempt us with different dishes from behind the counter. As we walked down the glass covered counter looking at some of the cold dishes, my eye was caught by a miniature picture in the lower corner of the mirror behind the counter. Not very big and slightly hidden by the cash register, it was a picture of Arafat and written above the picture in the corner of the mirror at an angle in white colored grease pencil were two words that I couldn't make out right away, but eventually realized said, "al Fatah", in small scripted letters.

Honestly, right that second, I lost my appetitie. I could feel the smile on my face kind of melting away. I didn't know, of course, whether these folks really sent money back to Palestine that might end up in a terrorist's hands and it might be judgemental, but I really couldn't bring myself to eat anything. Maybe they were just nice folks that thought Arafat and al Fatah were the saviors of Palestine and all the money they made was for them here in the US, but I really couldn't make myself do it. It didn't feel right.

So, after two bombings in London this month it reminded me that there are many ways to finance terror.

To my friend Wendy, where ever you are up in Canada these days, my apologies for being an oblivious Yank.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story.