As the famous rhyme goes, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Indeed he did, ‘though the rhyme doesn’t mention the little fact that Columbus was waaaaaaaaaaay off course. Intending to discover a shorter trade route to India, for its prized spices and silks, he pitched his scheme to the Queen of Spain. Immediately, pesos danced before Her Majesty’s eyes. Columbus’ eyes, too, for the Queen promptly bankrolled the intrepid explorer’s expedition. She even outfitted him with three fine sailing vessels, which he christened in honor of his two ex-girlfriends and a long-suffering saint who put the bug in Queen Isabella’s ear: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
While Columbus made off with the loot and the ships, he was duped by the dude who sold him his compass; his fleet wound up navigating the wrong part of the globe. Thus did Columbus stumble upon a new continent. And that’s when all the trouble started. A sly fox, he knew how to turn lemons into lemonade. He figured he could placate the Queen by hauling Chicago back to her. But, all was not so hunky dory.
In later years, everyone and his brother sought to lay claim to being the first to step foot upon the once beautiful, once unsullied North America. The Irish claim that one of their own was the first to land here, striking out in a tiny boat that only Divine Intervention could have seen safely upon the fierce Atlantic. Then again, perhaps the Irishman had been fortified by a wee nip, or more than a wee.
Meanwhile, Nordic people claim evidence of Vikings having landing in the region long before Columbus. Since Columbus is now vilified in politically correct circles for setting the stage to bilk the Native Americans of their land, I’m surprised that anyone wants to claim having landed here first!
For argument’s sake, let’s say it was those bloodthirsty Vikings. If Leif Erikson were credited with discovering America, would our land today be known as Erikstadt, Eriksylvania, or Eriksland? Would the natives have been called Rodemenneskers? Can you imagine John Wayne’s impassioned, “Rodemennesker!” instead of “Comanche!”?
And would General Gorge Custer’s last words at the Battle of Little Bighorn have been, “Where are all these Rodemenneskers coming from?” In the time it took him to utter, “Rodemenneskers,” he and his men would have died all the faster. Maybe this is why we celebrate Columbus in America, and not Leif Erikson.
But, the arguments as to who got here first continue, as do those surrounding Columbus’ true nationality. I was present in a local tavern when a barroom brawl erupted as to whether the explorer was Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian. As the argument escalated, more customers got involved, gesticulating wildly, hurling slurs, and making threats. Patty the bartender could not believe his eyes or ears as he watched good friends and neighbors descend into hostility. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy a good fight; he feared for the safety of his establishment. All those bottles behind the bar did not come cheap!
Taking the bull by the horns and pounding his fist vehemently on the bar, Patty got the crowd’s attention, thundering in his Irish brogue, “Dis has gone too far, ya jaloons! We need a referee for the lot o’ ya eejits; somebody’s gotta make da final decision as to dis bleedin’ argument, and dat somebody is me!“
And with that, he gave us all a round of drinks on the house. After the cheering had died down, Patty said, “I’ll settle the question of Columbus’ nationality, I will. He was a PortuGreaser. And while we’re on da topic, everyone knows it was dat Irishman in dat wee little boat dat discovered America. God bless America and God bless dat wee little nip that saw ‘im across da ragin’ sea!”
Now, I would like to toast Christopher Columbus, no matter what he was or where he is. Join me, please, in raising your glasses to that geographically clueless SOB, Christoforo Columbus.
In light of the current climate of our nation — a total lack of humor with respect to ethnicity — I apologize to any who may have been offended by this article. It wasn’t my intent to offend, but rather, to make you laugh. Besides. We all know that Columbus was Italian!