Once upon a time, a Viking who would not admit to his Irish heritage was literally carried through the dark November streets of Galway by the warm and open locals. Succumbing to the same culture that wooed his Norweigian ancestors, he firmly embraced the city. While a passing garda smacked his head in frustration, the Viking raised his can of Bulmer's cider in the street and loudly proclaimed, "We should bring all of our friends and spend a weekend in Galway!"
And so it was, two years later, that the Viking, myself, and six of our favorite people spent a weekend and all of our money chasing rainbows in the West of Ireland.Conversations with the locals:
Taxi Driver: Yeah, I was waiting in line to pick you up for over two hours. I've been a Dublin taxi driver for almost twenty years, but it's gotten hard to make a living.
Sadownik: How so?
Taxi Driver: Well, they deregulated the industry, so now anyone can be a taxi driver, and there are too many. Mostly these Nigerians...
Sadownik (trying to steer conversation): Yeah, the recession is bad in America too.
Taxi Driver: Ah yes, Obama! Great man. Hope for the best for him. But you see... it's these *black* Nigerians...
Bus driver: They almost built a straight road in Ireland recently. It was going to go from Galway to Dublin.
Kevin: What happened?
Bus driver: Well, they came across a fairy fort blocking the construction route, and ya see, no one wanted to touch it, so they stopped construction for a pretty long while trying to figure out what to do. Ultimately, they built a little loop around it. The road is straight and true almost halfway to Galway, then you slow down, go around the fairy fort, and off you go.
KPd.: There are a lot of empty new homes on the coast.
Man in bar: Yes, well, that was the trouble with this recession. Lots of folks made money in the boom and then spent it all building homes that they can't sell. Seems to me, if you were rich in the boom, you got what you deserved. Those of us who kept our heads down, stayed in our place, we'll be all right in the end.
On local deals:
Bus Driver: The Oyster Festival is great, but you need to know how to get your money's worth. It's a one price for all festival, so you need to drink enough Guinness to make it a deal. I don't know if you have ever tried to drink a lot of Guinness quickly, but it isn't easy. Here's the trick: Drink your first Guinness over the course of an hour. Then you'll be able to drink eight or nine right off without a problem.
On domestic life:
Bus driver: My wife lets me out of the house once every two years because she knows I will end up screaming naked on a fence outside somewhere. Usually that happens after the Oyster Festival actually...Short stories:
The Mystery Guinness Story:
Eric, Tara, Sam, Kevin, and I went to the Crane Bar in Galway, a mostly locals hangout where the bartender had told us earlier that afternoon there would be live music. True enough, no less than 15 local Irish musicians came for a jam session. About three pints into the evening, a man purchased a Guinness, took his first sip, and was then told by his wife that it was time to go. Thinking that the Americans would not notice the missing sip, he offered the pint to Eric.
Drunk man: You like Guinness?
Drunk man: Here, take this one. Have a great night.
A Guinness has a distinctive head of foam on the top. This Guinness, while still foamy, also had a distinctive lip print.
Eric and Sam: Free pint!
Kerry and Tara: Don't drink that! Ew!
Kevin: Boys, while I am sure that the Guinness is safe to drink, your ladies are understandably grossed out by the thought of kissing you after you drink a stranger's Guinness. We should just get rid of it.
We had many obvious solutions to getting rid of the mystery Guinness. I'm sure many are coming to your mind as well. We could just leave it on the end of the table and tell a passing bartender to clear it. We could bring it back up the bar and leave it there. We could just ignore it. The problem, though, was that we were embarrassed to be the only non-Irish in the bar sitting with what looked like a full Guinness that we would not drink.
The clear solution? We needed to dump it down a toilet! (Again, I'm sure many readers are already smacking their heads.)
Eric picked up the offending pint, and, looking entirely too casual, wandered over to the men's room. The men's room door was where the table of particularly salty old Irish men were sitting. They eyed Eric, eyed the Guinness, and raised their eyebrows.
Salty old guy: Are you taking your pint to the bathroom?
Eric: Um.... yes! Yes, I am.
Eric entered the bathroom. The older man also entered. Eric panicked a little, and ran into a stall with the mystery pint. Now, he was stuck. If he dumped the Guinness now, it would look like he drank a pint while taking a crap. If he just sat there quietly, the old man would wonder why he had gone into the stall at all. So, Eric began to rattle the toilet paper to stall for time. Finally, the old man finished and left. Eric popped out of the stall and dumped the mystery pint down the sink. Then, he exited the bathroom.
Old man: You dumped your Guinness down the sink, didn't you?
Eric realized that the game was up and tried to explain the mystery pint dilemma.
Eric: I love Guinness! I would never dump my Guinness down the sink or take my pint to the toilet!
Meanwhile, those of us still at the table watched Eric's animated conversation with the old Irish men and assumed he had made some friends. Soon, he returned sheepishly and flushed bright red to our table.
Eric: We need to order another round of Guinness and drink it so that those guys can see me. They think I hate Guinness now.
More stories to come...