Alive! Around the World: The Holy Land, Long Beach


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The Holy Land

Lech Kuzmicki, Retired, Public Works/Engineering, visited the Holy Land in
February with his wife and 30 other people from around the globe.

“I am standing in the front of the ancient fourth-century Church of Nativity in
Bethlehem. We visited many other historic sites around Israel and Palestine.”


Letter From Long Beach

Capt. Michael Barnes, Retired, Harbor, celebrated St. Patrick’s
Day in Long Beach.

St. Patrick’s Day at Home

Wee man at the door.

How we Americans like our holidays, be they religious or political, and especially when it’s somebody else’s holiday. At the top of that list is St. Patrick’s Day! According to American folklore, St. Patrick’s Day is the one day of the year when everybody is Irish.

As an English-American myself, it always mystified me the lengths that people in America went to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Sure England had its fair share of Harp and Guinness adverts on television, with little people (aka leprechauns) dancing under rainbows enjoying pints of brew. But there were no green rivers of beer, no oddly shaped green hats or young attractive ladies in very short dresses giving away armloads of green trinkets.

Since immigrating to America, I have had the pleasure of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with friends in Boston, Los Angeles and Long Beach. I have enjoyed the marching pipe bands, riding on the open-air double decker buses in the glorious California sunshine, drinking cold beers with friends in green hats, or sipping Jameson’s from a flask while standing knee deep on snow-covered sidewalks, cheering on the scantily clad baton-twirling dancers, the kilted pipers and Minutemen marching and firing their muskets while braving the cold weather to show their support for St. Patrick in the South Boston St. Paddy’s Day parade.

Interestingly, St. Patrick was not Irish by birth. He was born most likely at the end of Roman rule of (possibly) Wales. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of him banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false. These tales are products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling and a hint of metaphor.

It was a long time ago (in the 400s AD), but the truth most likely is that at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders from his home and taken back to Ireland, where he spent the next six years as a slave in County Mayo tending sheep, living a rather isolated life, far away from other people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to religion for solace, becoming a devout Roman Catholic. Believing that God had spoken to him, he walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo to the eastern Irish coast, where he managed to escape back to Britain.

There he experienced a second revelation. The revelation told him to return to Ireland after 15 years of religious training to convert the pagans. Over the centuries St. Patrick’s life story has been embellished and exaggerated with exciting tales of historical events, told by storytellers who have always been an important component of the Irish culture.

So, this year, as COVID fades away, once again we were able to ride the pub crawl buses and attend the downtown Irish pipe band parades celebrating St. Patrick. I enjoyed corned beef and cabbage at Gallagher’s, my favorite Irish bar where I expected to drink copious amounts of ice-cold adult beverages.

Slainté! May your heart always be full, and may your glass never be empty.

— Capt. Michael Barnes