Someday, I will learn to not eat at an Irish pub. They seem like such a good idea. They always have interesting themed decor and a general commitment to joviality. And the food sounds good. It seems like comfort food, yet it's vaguely ethnic and cultural. It's always disappointing. Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps as a whole, the Irish are disappointed about something or other.
We walked into the Irish pub at about fifteen minutes until 11. We were in a strange city and starving in the way that middle-class Americans starve. I'm sure there are lots of places in Washington, D.C. that serve food late night, but we didn't know where any of them were. So we went to Dupont Circle, because I knew there were a lot of bars open late in that neighborhood. The key word there is "bar". We wanted to eat, because all we'd had since lunch had been three breadsticks apiece. Okay, well, and some whiskey. It was time for food.
It's true - Dupont Circle was hoppin'. There were a ton of people out on the street, and every bar was packed with bodies. That wasn't what we were looking for either. It was a dilemma, because we were a pair of hungry introverts, and the only places with food were also full of strangers. We took a chance on the pub, because they said they were serving food for 15 more minutes. She ordered a plate of hummus and I asked for the chicken pot pie. We both had another drink.
The walls were covered with pictures of writers. There was a whole wall dedicated to James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, who was quite a fox, if you're into that whole tortured artist look. The wall behind us had a slew of different book covers. We only recognized a few of the names. The rest were obscure and amazingly freaking Irish. Imagine the fifteen most stereotypically Irish names you can think of, and those were the names on the covers on that wall. Clearly, there was a theme here. I knew Joyce and Yeats were from the Emerald Isle, but I wasn't so sure about some of the others. George Bernard Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Samuel Beckett? C.S. Lewis? Okay, I didn't know for certain, but I was pretty sure that a couple of those guys were just regular English.
Let me save you some googling: they are all Irish. I know, because I used the pub's free wifi and verified. You can look at my phone's internet history from that night and see Wikipedia article after Wikipedia article of Irish authors. Whoever decorated that pub did their homework.
At some point, we were approached by a couple of men. Or rather, she was approached, and her approacher had a wing man, who was for me. His wing man was a short and middle-aged Egyptian. I suppose I could feel bad about being the less-desirable friend, but I think I got the better side of the conversation. She had to deal with a man on the make, while I got to talk to Mo, who was shy and seemed embarrassed about the whole thing. Mo and I talked about Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt's only Nobel laureate in literature.
At some point, the other guy, whose name we never quite cared enough about to catch, brought up Star Trek. Maybe he was trying to play up his dorkiness, since he found out that they were trying to chat up two female computer scientists (what are the chances?). Not knowing anything about programming, he went for the sci-fi angle.
"What do you think about Star Trek?" he asked me.
"I'm in favor."
"Well, yeah." He rolled his eyes. Perhaps he did not know that I was a smart aleck.
"Alright, fine." You want to get into it, buddy? I can do that. "It's like the Odyssey."
Blank stares. That was not what he was expecting.
"Everything can be broken down into either the Iliad or the Odyssey. Star Trek is the Odyssey, because it's man against the unknown. Star Wars is the Iliad, which is man against himself."
I felt triumphant. The conversation went nowhere after that, though I had a lot more to say on the subject. I could have talked about what each story indicates about its writer's vision of the future of mankind. I could have talked about how George Lucas seems to think that man will make great technological, but not necessarily moral, progress, and how Gene Roddenberry hopes that man will someday overcome his tendency to be a jerk. Our new friends were not so interested. They educated us about Scotch instead.
The truth is, that whole conversation could have used a couple of footnotes. While everyone else might have assumed that I pulled all that Iliad/Odyssey stuff from somewhere behind me, the truth was I stole it wholesale. I'm a bright girl, but that is not the sort of thing I would come up with on my own. I lack either the intuition or the training to notice those kinds of parallels in art. But I'm dating someone who is very, very good at seeing those kinds of connections. One day, we had a conversation, or rather, The Conversation, of Star Wars vs. Star Trek. And that's what he said - that whole bit about man vs. man and man vs. the unknown. I remember thinking that it was brilliant and beautifully simple, but maybe I'm just in love. The idea got stuck on a crag in my brain and has been hanging out there ever since.
When I got home, I told Josh about the Irish pub. I told him that we had been approached, and I told him how I'd ripped off his ideas without giving proper credit. I was a little embarrassed about it, just like I had felt like I was stealing at the time. These are not my ideas, and yet I am taking credit for them. Really I just heard them and liked them and then reused them.
I don't know how I expected Josh to react, but it wasn't what I got. He was charmed and flattered. For one thing, he had forgotten all about the whole conversation, so it was like he was hearing this idea for the first time. And when he heard it, he loved it and was even more gratified to find out that he had come up with it in the first place.
It must be nice to be brilliant. You just come up with great ideas and forget them. Me, I take every great idea I've ever had and hide it in a jar under my bed so I can look at it to remind myself that I am capable of coming up with them at all.
Was I expecting him to be angry? No, not really. I was just mildly ashamed to admit that I wasn't always entirely original, because I like to think that I am. This was like cheating. But that's ridiculous. It's not as if everyone else cites their sources all the time.
I've only dated men that had areas of expertise far from my own. A lot of my knowledge about art and music came from a boyfriend, not me. So when those topics come up, I want to contribute, but I feel like prefacing everything with "Well, my boyfriend says..." rather take credit for something that I didn't bother to come up with. I feel stupid and uninformed for not knowing enough about those topics to have formed my own opinions. I feel like a 50s housewife, who has no thoughts but what her man has put into her head.
But I dunno. We're all getting ideas from somewhere. I suspect that other people do it a lot, and some (most?) of them don't think twice about giving credit. Then again, most of it is a mixture of stuff we've heard or read and then stuff that got added to it as we thought about it. That's how progress happens, isn't it? Ideas building upon ideas. And what's the point of ideas, but to spread them?
Maybe next time that guy tries to pick up a dorky girl, he'll compare Star Trek to the Odyssey. And I bet he won't give me any credit at all.