Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Danahey on the Loose, a week past the Highland Games and Bloomsday

Garb for Highland Games day.


It’s already been a week since the Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca – and a few days longer still since Bloomsday.

You know Bloomsday. July 16, 1904, the day on which James Joyce sets “Ulysses”, which was published in 1922. You’re reading an Irish blog. You should know that! Right?

Wasn’t Paul McCartney born in 1922? We’re all getting old. Fast.

So drink in the amber glow of the early summer sunset. Gather your corn – at Walmart it’s 49 cents an ear, due to inflation.

The dreams of the nighttime vanish when the neighbor starts mowing the lawn at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, no less.

Time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me, cuz I am old and have to get up to pee.  Sometimes.

Streaming my consciousness a la Joyce, or otherwise? Rolling like a stone? Borrowing a bit?

Stealing – I mean riffing on other works –  works well for Australian novelist John Hughes. So I am trying it.

Hey. It’s all about likes these days. Maybe taking from other sources plays well in the SEO for the Kindle copies.

Me. I can’t get more than 175 followers on my Instagram. I am confused by the term follower. It sounds so cultish.

Yet, thanks to Instagram suggestions for whom I should follow, I know that some guys who look like me get 35,000 followers just by frequently posting pictures of their faces.

Silly me thought I could do mundane and banal with the best of them. I’ve even tried posting pictures of food, for cripes sake! Pasta for Prince Spaghetti Day, even. Well, actually, it was lo mein. Pretty much the same thing. No gains in Insta-popularity, though.

Maybe I should post a series of shots of me eating alone at Olive Garden. Or do like best fest friend buddy Tom suggests and marry Wendy’s.

Food, though, brings us back to the Highland Games.

They had been canceled the last two summers on account of the pandemic. Still, you could buy $10 tartan facemasks at the recent gathering. But I digress. Again.

Nay, that particular Saturday, gorgeous weather brought out a big crowd. Typically, this doesn’t matter. But given the current odd economy, there were just three food vendors at the Highland Games. There usually are at least twice that many.


Highland Games lines
Lots of patient, hungry folks at Chicago Scots Highland Games


So lines were at least 100 deep for eats. Not counting airports, I hadn’t seen queues that long since I took my brother to see “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.

I asked somebody how long it took to get a beer. Answer: 20 minutes.

I had not eaten and was looking forward to haggis. Seriously.

You do not want to be near a hungry me. I don’t have a tapeworm. I AM the tapeworm.

So we left the Highland Games to show off our outfits while dining alfresco in Algonquin at the Village Vintner.

I threw on a kilt and silly “Irish Bloke” t-shirt for the fest. Tom, though, put a lot of time into his Oscar Wilde-meets-Mike-Ditka-in-Brigadoon-in-sandals look. You have to work a room or two dressed like that. Canes make for good vogueing.

Before we left the Highland Games, we did get to see most of what we wanted to see.

I refrained from buying more Celtic garb. Yes, I passed on the Feckin Eejit t-shirt.

We watched the parade of clans. Turns out, I’m probably part Donnachaidh, a descendant of King Malcolm in the Middle, or somebody royal like that.

Our motto: Glory is the reward of valor. (Which explains why I enjoy shopping at Kohl’s, with all those discounts.)

The war cry: Fierce when roused. (Wasn’t that the BonJovi album after “Slippery When Wet” ?)

Finding out I may be a Donnachaidh made me feel connected to the Highland Games.


Highland Games clan booth
This clan might be related to the Danahey family.


That made up for the long lines and for feeling disoriented. No, not from low blood sugar. In the years since the last Chicago Scots Scottish Festival and Highland Games, an NTT data center sprang up like a thistle on the hallowed grounds where they happen.

The new building threw off the whole time-traveling “Outlander” vibe the Highland Games typically give me. I was scared. #strangerthings.

Anyway, we did miss the really large men throwing really large objects that are the heart and soul of a Highland Games. Who but the prideful Pelotons among us has worked out more than  but a handful of muscle during the COVID era? (20 pints or points if you figure out the “Ulysses” allusion in that sentence.)

After the Highland Games, remembrance of a Bloomsday thing past

Before the behemoths had a chance to hurl anything into the air, Tom and I were back on the road.

By the way, I get PTSD on the interstate, per seeing one too many people playing video games on their phones while driving. Or steering with both forearms so they can use their hands to text at 75 mph, while other morons whizz by them going 95 mph.

Sometimes I wish “Dexter” would do an episode where he takes to shoving their smartphones up the big asses of distracted drivers. That’s a mass murderer I could support.

So our route to late lunch took us past where I spent part of Bloomsday – the Kuma’s Corner near Woodfield Mall.

If you haven’t been, Kuma’s started in Avondale in 2005. It now has three other locations where they don’t carry any beers but for craft ones. They’re known for their big, tasty burgers.

They also play “heavy” music, and most of the staff is dressed in a fitting style. Yeah, it offers plenty of what some call Cookie Monster rock on its sound system.

When I sang/growled Happy Birthday to the birthday girl for whom we gathered at Kuma’s this particular Bloomsday, she told me I was being old.

No, I thought, or said. Pantera has been around since sometime in the 1980s. Some have credited that band with creating the vocal stylings in question. And the look, well I used to see similar outfits at Wax Trax, Exit, Neo and 950 a long, long time ago on a North Side that no longer exists.

It all might as well be an Amish colony, I said.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did, after all, have a nice meal. The place was pleasant enough. Friendly, even.

It beat having to hear  “Hotel California” or “In The Air Tonight” for the 100,000th time. And I don’t need anymore uptown funk in my life, thank you.

Tom Highland Games fashion
Tom looked dandy Highland Games day.

Back to Saturday. I did need food. A bruschetta chicken sandwich on a ciabatta bun did the trick. It went well with my tartan.

Flash forward one day. I treated Tom to one more meal over last weekend, a breakfast at the Moose Lodge for Father’s Day. Go back over this blog, if you must. Tom’s son lives in Detroit. Did you actually think his daughter would do something for her dad?

Thus, we started a new tradition last summer, where I take Tom out for Father’s Day.

It’s been added to the mix of summer things to do. Sure, it’s all a bit “Groundhog Day” to hit the same places, the same events every year.

We’re creatures of habit, marking time by kilts worn, pierogies eaten, fests attended, songs covered.

Besides, banality is in the eyes of the holder. Joyce took an otherwise ordinary day and turned it into a literary masterpiece.

Past the past, the sequel

“Ulysses V2022”: Have a bunch of people staring at screens, texting in Swype grammar to each other, careening down dark web rabbit holes.  Fisher dinner, fidget spinner, bubble pop stress toys, indeed.

That would be Jabberwocky, and something from an entirely different author.

Maybe “Ulysses V2022” should be a sequel adapted by vapid social media influencers, oblivious to the tumultuous times.

A 24-hour look from a modern Molly Bloom, her life spent unboxing really cool products. Hundreds of short clips of rad trad Irish dancing. Toddlers, cops, baby goats and adorable robots busting moves.

Very Homer. Simpson, not the other guy.

Better yet, a TikTok challenge for like-seekers to do what they can with the first line of “Ulysses”: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

That reminds me. It’s time to shave and shower. Then eat again.

And maybe finally put away the sporran I wore to the Highland Games.

Boats against the current, time and tide wait for no one. Neither do tapeworms.


Irish t-shirt at Highland Games
Irish shirt at Scottish Fest, and maybe I am.


Pipe band at Highland Games
Piping at Highland Games

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