I remember my grandfather explaining Lace Curtain versus Shanty to me. I was probably five years old, maybe six, and was his first grandson, and he was taking pains to teach me in the ways of life. Nothing seemed more important than Lace Curtain versus Shanty. The Lace Curtain, he said, they think they’re special. They kiss a lot of arse to be special. They think it makes them better than the rest of us. He took a swig of fortified wine. But listen to me boy–and I listened intently, remembering this all these years later–lace curtains don’t make them any different from us. They’re just shanty Irish putting on airs. Don’t ever be lace curtain, boy, promise me that. I promised. You’re shanty through and through like your grandfather. He took another swig. And your grandfather’s father. And his father. Another swig. It was a smallish bottle, green, and I remember the screw on cap. Yup, he said, you’re shanty through and through, aren’t you boy. I said I was. I had no idea what it meant. Still, a promise is a promise, especially to the departed, and I kept my promise, and shanty I remain.

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