The Road to McCarthy

/ posted in: Reading The Road to McCarthyThe Road to McCarthy by Pete McCarthy
Published by HarperCollins on February 1st 2005
Genres: Travel, Essays & Travelogues, Biography & Autobiography, General
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Pete McCarthy established one cardinal rule of travel in his bestselling debut, McCarthy's Bar: "Never pass a bar with your name on it." In this equally wry and insightful follow-up, his characteristic good humor, curiosity, and thirst for adventure take him on a fantastic jaunt around the world in search of his Irish roots -- from Morocco, where he tracks down the unlikely chief of the McCarthy clan, to New York, and finally to remote Mc-Carthy, Alaska. The Road to McCarthy is a quixotic and anything-but- typical Irish odyssey that confirms Pete McCarthy's status as one of our funniest and most incisive writers.


It all starts when the author hears that there is still a king of the McCarthy clan.  Not everyone agrees that this is a legitimate title but he wants to meet him.  The king is hard to find – enemies probably – and lives in Morocco.  From there, Pete McCarthy is off to follow the Irish diaspora.  He is half-Irish and half-English and grew up in England.  His English accent is sometimes a problem in discussions in the most Irish of strongholds.

After Tangiers he travels to New York and attempts to crash the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Then it is off to Monserrat, a small island in the Caribbean that was populated by a large amount of Irish people before an erupting volcano decimated the population.  He follows the travels of Irish republicans who were exiled to Tasmania.  A few escaped and one became the governor of Montana so it is off to Butte.  Finally he goes into the wilderness to McCarthy Alaska to see a town named after the family.

The tone of the book reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson.  It is chatty with a lot of history thrown in but in bite sized pieces with the absurd facts pointed out.

In New York:

“Fitness is an overrated virtue in a law enforcement officer.  In their way these guys are much more menacing. They’re putting out a subliminal message: ‘Don’t run away.  We can’t chase you, so we’ll have to shoot.'”

On the joys of traveling:

“This is what tourists do all over the world.  You see a sign for something you’ve never heard of and probably wouldn’t cross the road to see at home, and, bang, you’re there.  And then people tell you about other things you ought to go and see.  Once you’re in a small obscure are that the rest of the world knows nothing about someone will say, ‘Our big attraction is Satan’s Drain.  You really should go.’  So you do.  And you develop an interest in geological features and sea levels and all sorts of other stuff you’ve never cared about before…”

On finally reaching the end of the road in McCarthy Alaska:

“There are few more comforting experiences for the traveler than to journey great distances through unfamiliar and threatening landscapes, anticipating an austere and possibly squalid destination, only to discover that catering and interior design are not in the hands of heterosexuals.”

This is a great introduction to Irish history and the influence that the Irish people have had around the world.