Ireland 2003: Sitting in the lobby of a Dublin hostile, flipping through Frommer’s Ireland: From 50 Dollars a Day, my friend, Melissa, and I searched for a recommendation for a fun, cheap authentically Irish evening, when a couple of handsome lads approached us.
They joined us at the table and engaged us with their charming Irish brogues, informing us that they were in the city for a college field hockey tournament. We were in our mid-twenties faced with attractive, well-built college men with accents… We tossed the book aside.
After a few minutes of gab, one of them said, “Come on to the pub with us for some good craic.” (pronounced crack) “Uh, excuse me?”
“Craic. Beer, music, chat. Good fun.”
Ah… craic – the Irish drug of choice. The word stems from the English/Scottish word crack, meaning “news” or “gossip.” Sometime in the mid 20th Century the Irish Gaelicized it by inserting the i and dropping the k. It encompasses entertainment and conversation. In the simplest of phrases; good times.
The Irish certainly have a handle on that. While in Ireland, I met the friendliest, most jovial, welcoming people on the planet. I laughed, I danced to traditional Irish music, and drank more beer than I thought humanly possible. I also had more beer spilled on me than I thought humanly possible.
Don’t misunderstand, it was not a slurred, sloppy fest of folks seeking to “get totally loaded.” It is Ireland, so yes, the drink is important, but not nearly as important as the company and conversation. It was evening after evening in the pubs meeting new people, exchanging work, family and vacation stories. It was inquiring about and sharing our cultures. It was a lovely lingering into the wee hours, laughing heartily, clapping along to banjos, flutes, accordions and, of course, fiddles. What would Irish trad (traditional Irish music) be without a fiddle? There were even Irish limericks recited around a kitchen table in a small coastal town called Lahinch. It was a grand trip.
There were no political debates, and no confrontational, divisive arguments. I’m not suggesting that we abandon debate. We have an obligation to expose lies, present truth, and fight for the moral clarity that is shamefully lacking in our culture. But, there are times to take off the gloves, sidle up to the bar and probe the publican for a pint.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of those times. I’ve spent the last two with a friend at a neighborhood pub called Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake, California. In the heart of Los Angeles, Toluca Lake is a little nook with a small-town feel, nestled away from the chaos. And on this day, the whole town flows in, and then overflows out.
Josh and I spent hours exchanging stories about our adventures to all parts of the world, Ireland of course, being the first discussed. We talked movies, friendships, and romantic relationships. We revealed our hopes of dreams we long for, and dreams we no longer hope for.
On St. Patrick’s Day, a chair in a place called Timmy Nolan’s is hard to come by, so if you’ve got a couple extra someone will quickly join you. And before long, you’ll be exchanging more stories of adventures, movies, and dreams with new friends.
Another round of Guinness will arrive, and as you raise the glass to your companions you offer the Irish toast of Sláinte (pronounced Slahn-cha), meaning good health.
So take a break from the internet (except to read this piece) and wipe your brain clean – like Hillary did with her server – of Email-gate. Make a deal with yourself not to enrich Twitter with statements about a nuclear deal. Because, after all, it won’t stop Iran from enriching uranium. Stop combatting common core math – in fact, try it after a couple of beers, it might make sense then.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, I say, we do not need heated discussion over all that ails the world – the ailments will be there tomorrow. Today, I say, the world needs a beer.
But do not make it green!
Gather at a local pub or invite some friends over for soda bread, cabbage, and corned beef. The Irish say corned beef tastes like shite, but I eat it anyway. This is America after all, the land of the free. Except when it comes to the color of beer. Green beer is blasphemy, punishable by death, I believe.
It is worth noting that few people know what St. Patrick’s Day is actually celebrating. Look elsewhere for the article explaining the origin. I am encouraging an embrace of the heart and soul of the social fabric of Ireland.
I, at times, am somewhat joy challenged, so I plan to use this day to drink up and soak in the beauty that is unadulterated pure human connection. As Irishman C.S. Lewis (most think he’s British, but he does indeed hail from the Emerald Isle) wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Ain’t that the truth. And it is an oh so wonderful gift to know you’re not alone. To know you belong.
So I will be relaxing, re-telling and re-hearing stories of journeys of friendship, love and loss. I will be raising my glass to the sheer bliss of remembering “That time we…” We all have are own special versions of “That time we…” Remember them, share them, make this time one of them.
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