|The Irish Irish / Part 1|
by Gregory Wilde  /  fiction  /  14 Sep 2007
On the third day of my weeklong stay in Dublin, I woke up remembering that a free breakfast was about to be served. I put on yesterday's jacket and shirt, along with some surprisingly clean pants, and my new Guinness hat I purchased at the factory the day before. I exited my room and ran up the stairs and down the hallway to the kitchen, where a traditional Irish breakfast was being served in a large banquet room.
I stood in line and ordered everything: eggs, baked beans, ham, bacon, potatoes, bread, Irish breakfast tea, and some horrible liquid that smelled of fermented blood. I ate quickly, spare the blood, in time for a second helping.
Breakfast in a hostel is the only consistent meal you can get when traveling, due to not knowing which restaurants to frequent because of confusion, laziness, and wasted money on alcohol. Since this was the situation here, I had to stuff myself with anything I could get and walk off the bloated sensation until the late evening, when they served dinner at the barstools.
I returned to my room and saw my roommate, Paulo, still asleep. Paulo's friend, Giorgio, was standing in the bathroom combing his hair in the mirror. Both were from Milan and the life of any party. They had enough excitement to wake a comatose patient with their humorous tune about the Mediterranean Sea and all the beauties lying along the beaches.
Paulo was the elder of the two Italians, and was feeling the effects of last night more than Giorgio or I. Giorgio was the obvious youth, and displayed his immaturity when he had a single Guinness down his throat.
Both of my Italian friends had a short tolerance for heavy beers, but when we zigzagged along Grafton Street and the Temple Bar that night, neither I, nor Paulo, nor Giorgio second-guessed our decision for another Guinness. "Guinness runs in our blood," we screamed. "It's in our veins!"
"My friend," Giorgio said.
He exited the bathroom and entered the living quarter.
"You look good. And it's a great morning," I said.
"Yes, fantastic," Giorgio said, "I try to wake Paulo but he... he will not wake."
"We had a long night."
"Yes. I feel okay, though. Are you coming with us this day?"
"I'd like to, but I can't. I'm meeting the Irish girl's brother today."
"The Irish girl?"
"I mentioned her, yes?"
"We're going to watch the football game. I promised her I would."
"Football. Yes, Manchester United battles this day."
"You play football?" I said.
"Of course! I'm Italian. Football, football is in the blood. I live for football."
At this moment of enthusiasm, and the word football in the air, Paulo got up from his bed and looked at us. His long black hair was a mat of dried hairspray and gels, and his stance told the story of much alcohol and sickness.
"Good morning," Paulo said.
He stumbled over to Giorgio and me, and gave us each a hug. He then moseyed over to the windowsill, grabbed the ukulele he bought from a street musician the night before, and began strumming a Beatles tune in the key of A-minor.
"I love my new uku-le-le." Paulo said.
"Where did you get this?" Giorgio asked.
"A man on the street. He was playing at the Temple Bar. I asked him how much, and he sold it to me for..."
Paulo didn't seem to remember, and soon forgot what he wanted to say.
"I had one in Hawaii," I said.
Paulo began strumming a song that sounded like a Hawaiian tune.
"Did you know that the ukulele is actually a Portuguese instrument that the Hawaiians copied?" I said, lighting a cigarette.
"No, I did not know this," Paulo said.
"Yes, a man in Portugal told me as he played on this church that over looked the sea."
"That's very nice then, it's Hawaiian Portuguese!" Paulo said.
"Or Portuguese Hawaiian."
"Yes, of course. Are you joining us today? We'll make money at a port town, you'll sing and I'll play, and we'll all drink when the day is through, yes."
"I'd love to, but I promised the Irish girl I would meet her brother for the football game this afternoon."
"Brother?" Paulo asked, reaching to take a drag from my cigarette.
"Yes. It should be fine. I'll enjoy meeting him."
"She hasn't even come to see you," Paulo said.
"She hasn't, no?" Giorgio asked, with his hand on my shoulder.
"She did, the day before you came. That was it."
"Don't visit this brother," Paulo said, "I have a tough feeling, yes."
"I want to meet him. I'll see you both tonight. I promise, my brothers."
"Okay, okay my brother," Paulo said, as he got up and shook my hand, "You tell us what happened when you come back. If he's the Irish Irish!"
Paulo lit a cigarette and laughed, and then strummed some more.
When I left the hostel and walked to South Dublin, towards Trinity College and Grafton Street, I did indeed notice that the Irish Irish were different from the new Americanized versions of the Irish. The Irish Irish have a soft, white-faced youth to them, but underneath you could see and feel the sting of being Irish, and the suffering of their fathers and their fathers' fathers. Their history is stitched into their genes and hidden deep, ready to be exposed with the right amount of alcohol and fire.
When I found the pub where the brother and I had agreed to meet, I was surprised to see a shiny metal edifice bearing the name Red's Bar, instead of the customary rusted metal outline of every pub in the Temple Bar and Grafton Street locales, sporting names like The Green Fox, Old Man Murphy's, and Pa O'Toole's Pub.
Then there were many tourists out, wearing their thin sweatshirts and short khaki pants. Most had cameras around their arms and hands, and it made me think of how I had never bothered to take a photograph of Dublin since I arrived. There was nothing much to take, other than fog, a bridge or two, and dozens of smoky pool halls. This wasn't Paris. Dublin has a dark and bleak look to it, which made me want to forget, rather than remember it.
The Irish girl's brother, Julian, arrived ten minutes late. He had a preppy look to him, wearing a red long-sleeved shirt and a pair of blue faded jeans. A cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth. He approached me and looked about twenty years.
"John?" Julian said.
"Julian." I said.
We shook hands and I waited for him to finish his smoke.
"Fan are yah?" Julian asked, in his garbled Dublish accent.
"Cool. Reckon it'll be a rough one."
Julian threw his smoke to the pavement and opened the polished metal door. He walked ahead of me and down the hall to the large, open-spaced first-floor bar section, where massive flat-panel televisions and pool tables were part of the new age Dublin bar decor.
"What's your fancy, John?" Julian asked.
"Guinness," I said.
He turned around and ordered my Guinness, with his Miller Light. He waited patiently, as the bartender let 3/4 of the Guinness settle for a few minutes before the final third went in to top off the pint. This is something American bartenders ignore, carelessly allowing their Guinness to fall badly into pints, creating chalky Guinness.
We walked to the back of the bar and sat down facing a 300-inch flat screen television.
"Don't usually have meself a Guinness till 'bout two, three least, it's so heavy fills you like a meal," Julian said while sipping his Miller Light.
"I can always get Miller. I can't get anything this good in the states. Guinness is the best beer in the world."
"That's the fuckin' truth!"
Julian raised his glass, and we tapped pints.
"Cheers, John. Good having you."
He then glanced around the bar, watching the barfly's drink, while the opening seconds of the football game commenced.
"Smoker right?" Julian asked.
He took out his hard pack of Lucky Strikes and offered me an unfiltered smoke.
"Sure," I said as I took the Lucky.
"Grand. So, mate... you fancy my sis I hear?"
Julian took a swig of his beer and chuckled. I didn't know what to make of it, but I assumed he didn't care if I fancied his sister or not.
"Is that what she said?"
I took a gulp of Guinness and held the cigarette smugly in my right hand, just under my lips. A girl in France told me I looked like some old movie star when I smoked, and I was starting to take her comment too much to heart.
"She's like, 'I met some cool bloke from America, and he fell in love with me.'"
"I wouldn't say love," I said.
"She's like, 'he bought me a watch,' some shite like that. Mate, you bought her a watch?"
"It was her birthday."
"It was? Ah, shite. Fuck it. She got me nothin'. Evens."
"It was just a watch. Not a car."
"Don't be a pisser. Listen John I can tell you're grand, so I'll blow the shite and say I know why she fancied you. You're one of her types. One of her, blokes. Why waste time with her, then? You'll never see her again. Don't waste a golden opportunity, mate. You fancy Irish girls? I can show you a better time, John. Way fuckin' better."
"What you talking about?"
"John, my sis," Julian gave me the universal hand signal for so-so, then continued, "she's all right yeah, pretty but all them blokes love her. She's a player you ask me. She doesn't care about no one. She's just fuckin' playing you like a fiddle. So after the game, don't call her. Forget 'er."
"John! You see her at all yesterday?"
"She try to find you, yah?"
I took another of Julian's cigarettes and lit up.
"Well then. You come all this way to see her, and she can't even fancy to call you back? Fuck 'er, that's just shite."
"I was coming here anyway, just not the week. I was gonna check out Oslo."
"Ah, shite. Grand place. Fuck, let me make this worth your while. I've got some family up at a gated community past Phoenix, grand as shite, we can hang there or leave. Whichever you reckon."
"Of course! Better than my sis, right. That's for damn sure. Fuck sake."
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