Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good Old Fashioned Craic

Ellen and Jade stepped off the elevator and into the lobby.  It looked like they were the first tour members to arrive at the meeting point, though tour guide Jennifer was nearby, standing between the concierge and the complimentary phones at the side of the large room.  Jennifer was staring at a man on the phone, without so much as a dash of subtlety to her, and within an instant, Ellen and Jade could appreciate why.  The man was practically shouting into the phone, using every obscenity Jade had ever heard, as well as some she had not heard previously.  As he slammed the receiver back into its cradle and turned to stomp off, he found himself in front of a stern faced Jennifer, bright red hair flaming.

“Do you talk to your mother with that mouth?” She asked him blatantly.  The man sort of chuckled, and Jennifer turned sweet as pie and said, “I’ve always hoped to meet an Irish man, but if that’s how you talk to your mother, then I cannot go out with you.”  Jade swore Jennifer’s eyelashes fluttered a bit while she was saying this, and the man melted like butter.  He smiled and stuttered excuses and explanations, and even tried to flirt a bit.  Jade could see his demeanor change once again when he realized he’d already been curtly dismissed, and he retreated hastily toward the street exit, but Jade’s astute eye had already caught on.  She had a new found respect for Jennifer, and she resolved to tuck that trick away into her repertoire, just in case she ever needed it.

The rest of the tour group showed up and they were herded, like so many of the sheep they’d seen from the road during the day’s long drive, into transit to the pub.  They arrived before the yellow fa├žade of a place called ‘The Lisheen, ‘ which meant nothing to them by name but everyone hurried inside anyway as they were hungry and ready for a pint all around.

As the tour group filed upstairs where there dinner would be served, they noticed the downstairs pub was similar to last night’s fare.  Dinner options were lamb stew, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and roast chicken with potatoes, of course.  This time Ellen had the shepherd’s pie and Jade chose the chicken.  Both meals were hearty and warming, and Jade hoped her mother was on the mend from her chill earlier in the day.  The girls chatted at dinner with tour mates Brian and Linda, as well as the other group members, who were all beginning to bond into a cohesive unit of American travelers abroad.  Their time was easy, and they enjoyed one another’s company, before once again being herded like livestock, this time down to the first floor pub.  As they descended, they could hear the typical evening pub din of voices, but here it was fleshed out by instruments here and there, as if warming up to play.  As Jade rather timidly approached the bar, a random Irish man perched on a bar stool asked her, “American are ye then, lass?”

He had asked it as if it were the most natural course of action and conversation ever conceived, and even appeared a bit taken aback when she unknowingly displayed her surprise.  “Um, yes, actually,” Jade managed to reply while not exactly making eye contact with the Irishman.  Not that she could have had she earnestly attempted it, he was staring steadfastly into his pint.

“Right, well then barkeep, we’ll both have a pint on that.  Or do ye want Budweiser?” He afforded her a sidelong glance with that last question, as it was baited.  

“No, thank you, I’d prefer Guinness,” Jade asserted.

“Good answer, lass,” the barfly retorted, “because then I’m buying for ye.  No need for that horsepiss of American beer when ye can have good auld Guinness as God himself intended.”  Jade was pretty sure the older gentleman sincerely meant everything he’d just intimated, as his expression was as heartfelt as his speaking voice.

“Thank you, sir,” she said simply as she reached for her foamy pint.  Brian and Linda were just picking their heady brews up as well, and they all turned as one when the violin whined loudly.

A cheer went up, it seemed as this was a cue of sorts.  By now, cigarette smoke could be seen clinging to the already low ceiling, but the threesome wandered over toward Ellen, who had somehow procured a small corner booth, into which they all squeezed.  By now the music had begun in earnest, and Jade found herself straining to hear Brian as he all but shouted, “this must be what Jennifer meant by craic!”  The entire pub was chockablock full of mismatched souls.  One imagined it must be a variegated mix of locals, Irish natives, tourists American and European alike.

But the violin swelled and fiddled, someone chimed in on an archaic looking set of alien bagpipes, and a chubby, red faced man huffed and puffed perched on a chair while squeezing his accordion with all his might.  If you looked closely you could spot someone playing the spoons on his knee, and yet another violin off in the corner.  The music was rowdy and lively, but so was the crowd – in no time the pub goers were singing along loudly and everyone seemed to know all the words regardless of what the musicians played.  It was a prime example of good old fashioned craic, as cannot be explained until it has been experienced firsthand.  Minutes quickly absolved into hours, and before Jade could realize it, the night had been lost.  Ellen was exhausted, while Jade was exhilarated.  The tour group parted ways; some rode back to the Imperial on the transit, while many walked the distance in the cool night air under the guidance and company of Jennifer and her co-guide, Andrea.