Monday, 30 April 2007

A Welshman, five Irishmen, an American and a Scot

I'm in a greasy yellow cab in New York with Jeremy McWilliams, the Grand Prix motorcycle racer, on our way to see Sean Lennon, whose gig will shortly prove to be worse than crap.

From Sean’s demeanour, I imagine his mother might have brought him up to believe that by merely addressing a microphone, magic would somehow tumble forth. It doesn’t, of course, and it didn’t, obviously. Although when he asked me at the after-show what I thought, I told him, as you might imagine, that it was great.

Genius, it seems, is not transmitted through the genes. When Marilyn Munro was introduced to Einstein she is reputed to have said, "Just think, with my looks and your brain, what a wonderful child we might produce." To which Einstein is reputed to have answered, " My dear, it would be just as likely to have my looks and your brain."

Anyway, the cab driver, his eyes addressing mine via the rear view mirror, says, "You in the music business?" to which I answer, "Yeah, kind of," although McWilliams contradicts me by blurting, "No, we're in motorcycle racing," which makes him feel more important than me (he being the star and me being just an oiler-of-wheels) but his response is going to mean less than nothing to a cab driver from Queens.

McWilliams yelps with pain as I put a powerful 'horse bite' on the muscle on the underside of his thigh. Unbelievably, he will blame his poor performance at the Japanese Grand Prix a few days hence on that, as he sees it, unprovoked attack.

To be honest, Jeremy’s answer is the true one at that moment, but I spent a lot of time in New York during an earlier career in the music business and I know to tell a yellow cab driver only what he expects to hear.

To prove the rule, the driver ignores McWilliams and persists with, “I know you, don’t I? You got a lovely voice. I’m sure I heard it in the movies.”
I think, “Oh really, a minute ago I was in the fucking music business.”
“Oh, thanks,” I say, hoping to end it there.
“Yeah, you sound just like that actor.”
“Which actor?”
“That Irish actor.”
“But I’m Welsh. Which Irish actor?”
“Hell, I don’t know his name. The Irish actor.”
“Peter O’Toole.”
“Richard Harris.”
“Gabriel Byrne.”
“Albert Finney.” (He’s not Irish. I’m getting desperate.)
“No! No! No! You know, James Bond. 0-0-7.”
“Ah-ha, Pierce Brosnan!”
“NO! The original James Bond.”
“Er, Roger Moore?” (I’m guessing. Isn’t Moore an Irish name?)
“Sean Connery?”
“Yeah! That’s the guy.”
“But he’s Scottish!”

The driver doesn’t hear my last pronouncement. He’s just delighted to put the wrong name to his wrong perception. Wales would mean less to him even than motorcycle racing.

McWilliams, meanwhile, is pissing himself laughing. He is Irish.

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Mark Leslie Woods said...

Reminds me of how often I am identified by Brits as 'Canadian'.

I'm not sure if this is their hope, since the antipathy against my countrymen could never be higher, or because I grew up along Lake Erie, and not Nashville or Oklahoma.

You're lucky to get a cabbie in NYC who could speak more than Farsi or Arabic. It's Baghdad's revenge -- all the college professors and medical doctors from Iraq are driving cabs in Manhattan, it seems . . .

Martin Davies said...

Yet when a Brit correctly identifies a more softly accented Canadian as not being one of those universally hated Yankees, said Canadian is usually beside himself or herself with gratitude.

You are right, you know, and you should take it as a compliment. They want to feel okay about liking you.

Did I blog about the Bangladeshi NYC cab driver who, having established that I lived in London, asked me if I knew his brother? By a strange twist of circumstance, I actually did meet his brother in London and, in doing so, proved he wasn’t as stupid as I had arrogantly assumed.