You may have read my previous post about damp and frustrating pilgrimage to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. Upon leaving the Storehouse I realized that the hour was drawing near when I was supposed to meet my hosts, Kevin and Una. They had been out and about tending to errands and we were due to meet and have supper together before heading back to their home in Wicklow.
My plan was to try and head back to the Temple Bar area so that at least I would be back in familiar territory so I could tell them where to meet me. As previously noted, I am not gifted with a good sense of direction. As a result my attempt to cut back across the city instead got me utterly lost. After ten or fifteen minutes of walking the rain I decided I had enough and started looking for a bar to duck into in the hopes I would have a pint and get my bearings.
Now apart from Guinness itself there is not much in the Liberties neighborhood of Dublin that would attract a tourist. Eventually I found a likely enough looking pub and went it. Given the fact that conversation among the patrons pretty much stopped upon seeing me, I quickly realized that this was not the kind of place that was accustomed to tourists. I briefly considered whether or not I might be better off heading right back out again and looking for a friendlier environment.
Ultimately I mustered my resolve and sat at the bar. After drying off my glasses and ordering a pint of Guinness (I was curious to see if it tasted ant different than the one I just had at the Gravity Bar) I started looking about to see who I might strike up a conversation with. Unlike many other pubs I visited in Ireland, there were not any immediate takers. But I still had time before I had to meet Kevin so I ordered another pint, this time of Murphy’s.
This was apparently enough of a sin to merit the intervention of the man sitting next to me. “You shouldn’t do that.” he said, turning his head away the TV to speak to me. “You’ll get sick.” I was curious so I asked why? He replied matter- of-factly, “Once you pick a beer, you should stick to it.” This was all the opening I required. From there on I asked about which beer he favored and why and so forth. I expected some measure of reciprocity in terms of asking me about the States or about myself but it quickly became apparent that what he really wanted to talk about was the breaking news of the day.
It turns out that earlier in the day Whitey Bulger had been arrested. For those of you unfamiliar, Whitey was the basis for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed. This was apparently very big news, not only for my new friend, but for the whole bar. So we chatted on about the movie and he very eagerly shared all he knew about the Whitey’s life and history. I bought him a round and he, in good Irish fashion, returned the favor.
Before long my phone rang. It was Kevin, wondering where to meet me. In that moment it occurred to me that I still had no blessed idea where I was. I told Kevin the name of the bar but not surprisingly it didn’t ring any bells for him. I turned and was about to ask my friend for help when he just took the phone from me and gave Kevin directions. Without a word he handed the phone back. After agreeing to meet outside in 15 minutes, we shared one last pint and then I packed up to go.
My friend turned his attention back to the news. At the door I took one last look around. Life in the bar was back to normal. The regulars we sharing the conversations and ordering their usuals. And as I walked back out into the rain, you’d never know that this wholly unremarkable place had just provided a safe haven for a wet and tired American with a lousy sense of direction.