Wednesday, March 18, 2009
St Patrick's Day
For St Patrick’s Day, Amynah and I drive from Galway on the west coast of Ireland, to Roscommon, in the center/north of the country. Before leaving, my friend Eilis gave me a sprig of clover to attach to my shirt, assuring me that it was the tradition for the day. I saw no one else in the entire country so bedecked all day, so I can only assume it was actually some kind of tourist identification device.
After a very successful ancestor hunt in Roscommon (more on that later) Amynah and I made our way south. Now, I quickly became accustomed to driving on the other side of the road. What I have yet to get used to is Ireland’s frankly insane roads: major highways are barely wide enough for two cyclists to occupy side-by-side, there are no shoulders, and directional marking are rarely placed in such a way that they could actually be seen or understood by someone in need of them.
So, by the time we decided to stop on our way to Kerry, my nerves were pretty jangled. We pulled into a village called Rathkey, just past Limerick, where I am drafting these very words.
After dropping our bags, we wandered into the village to find a pub that might still be serving food. As we stopped on a street corner, discussing our options, a green-bedecked, cheerily intoxicated fellow spotted us – specifically Amynah.
Irish Guy: (to Amynah) Happy St Patrick’s!
Amynah: Thanks! Same to you.
Me: Hey, could you tell us a good pub where we can get something to eat?
Irish guy: Go over to the chip shop, get some food, go to the Black Lion Pub.
Me: They let you bring food in?
IG: Sure! Just go over to the chip shop, get some food, go to the Black Lion Pub.
Me: All right then.
IG: Where are you from?
IG: Canada, eh? All right then; go over to the chip shop, get some food, go to the Black Lion Pub.
He then wandered off, in the general direction of the Black Lion Pub. However, as Amynah was not in the mood for whatever was being served in the chip shop, we elected to skip it, and go straight to the pub ourselves.
The pub had a sign saying it was hosting a private function, but the smokers outside ushered us inside. We walked in, past a couple of men who looked like they were about to come to blows, and pulled up at the bar. I ordered a Guinness, and Amynah a lemonade. There was no food on offer, nor was the guy who invited us anywhere in sight.
The bar was a scene of debauchery: green clad, shouting Irish everywhere, wearing such traditional garb as lephrechaun beards and green cowboy hats. There was a tension in the air – it felt like fights were going to break out in every corner.
Then, suddenly, somebody put on the music. All at once, everyone stood up and started dancing, and the Black Lion became the happiest bar in Ireland. An older lady spotted me tapping my toes on the sideline, and dragged me on to the floor. Shortly thereafter, a man with an Irish flag painted on his face and a surely redundant “Kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirt did the same to Amynah, insisting that one of their friends capture the moment on their camera.
Released back to the bar, I finished my Guinness, and tried to settle up. In the meantime, Amynah was dragged out again, and the bartender poured me another Guinness on the house.
I was desperate to stay, but knew that any more of this on an empty stomach, and I’d never be able to make it to Kerry today, so we bid goodbye to our friends and returned to the hotel. But even in my Guinness-fog, I noticed that not a single soul in that bar was wearing a shamrock sprig.