Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Craic on the Head

"[T]he words of their tumultuary discussions were difficultly understood and not often nice" - James Joyce, Ulysses

Megan and I took our honeymoon in Ireland and, on one of our last nights there we were both hungry to talk to some real Irish folks of the kind, let's be honest, that we'd read about in books and seen in movies. They were to be outgoing story-tellers, frank, funny, a little bit drunk. They were to be rotund and ruddy, colorful in a slightly bawdy way. They were to be perfect caricatures of themselves.

We went into a place called Dick Mack's which is noted for its craic. I'd thought this term for good old fashioned conversation stretched back centuries, but it seems to be a recent invention popularized as a way to make tourists think they are experiencing an authentic Irishness. Joke was on us, I guess, but the pub seemed to be full of locals and the craic was flowing.

(Imagine the space above with 80 people in it, many of them crooning "Singin' in the Rain" for some reason).

Barflies Megan and I are not, so we got pinned by the door, both wearing the scornful, over-sober look of the lonely. We huddled over our drinks and mumbled. We glanced this way and that for a chatting partner. I, upset with my own shyness, got cross with Megan for hers.

Somehow we'd both expected Maureens and Liams to befriend us immediately, bring out the best in us, and share the best of themselves. But there was no fireplace, no hearty soup, and no Maureen or Liam.

I was stymied! Here, at the emporium of chat, the palace of prattle, the birthplace of Blarney.

But some middle-aged sauce-bags clambered up on top of the table next to us and we both thought things might be heating up. Maybe if they spilled some beer on us they'd be forced to apologize, and we'd start exchanging stories and phone numbers--we'd have friends in Ireland!

I maneuvered my way into the path of their Guinness splash; turned out they were from Massachusetts.

But, oh, best of luck, I heard the fellow say this, step 1, impressed him by knowing the mascot of his local high school, found out he was there with his wife on their anniversary, and told him I was there with mine on our honeymoon.

Step 5: he, overstimulated, shouted my good news to his brand-new Irish friends, and Megan and I were as good as local. Follow those simple steps and you're in!

Quickly, we found ourselves embroiled in a bachelor party for a drunk Muppet named Patrick. Clearly the script was now being performed.

A leering Alan Rickman look-a-like teetered behind one of the tables, within breath-shot of a bevy of birds. They didn't care for him in the least, the birds didn't. All of this seemed fitting, though, if slightly unsavory.

Each member of the wedding party toasted Megan and me; we were bought beers, had them spilled on us; we laughed at jibes about my manhood, my ball-and-chain, my life being over, my stupid decision to hitch up, my inferior looks, my really stupid decision to bring my pretty wife to Ireland where the men are the horniest in the world, my future cuckolding as performed by Patrick the drunk Muppet, (I stopped laughing), his friend Brian, and their friend Steve; they laughed at my stupid decision again, and, finally, had one last jibe about the series of STDs I'd presumably carried home after my own stag party.

I got my shoulder between Megan and the Irish as if I could defend her from their quickly snowballing rudeness. She held her own, of course, shaming the lads with her charming mix of pluck and poise. They were traditional Irish pudding in her hands and a tense fun was maintained.

Then someone wetly whispered to me that a woman across the table was a "mangirl." I took no notice until Alan Rickman started hitting on her. Why Alan Rickman was interested in a Mangirl, I couldn't know.

Eventually, our Stag Party mingled with Mangirl's Hen Party (we learned this term when Brian covered my ears--four times--and asked, "Maygan, Maygan, whatdidyadoo atchyer hen partee?")

I had my eye on all these roosters.

Then Alan Rickman British-swore at Mangirl, Mangirl poured her Murphy's on Alan Rickman, he returned the favor with Guinness, she smashed her glass right on his face, and the shards--of face and glass--landed on Megan's shoe.

General conversation continued uninterrupted.

I grabbed Megan's hand and said, "Let's go." On the way out, as the police approached, we told a couple in their 70s what had happened. The husband, with thick accent, said, "What else is new?" and they both stepped in for a pint.

That night, the line between exactly-to-plan and disastrous was thin indeed for Team David and Megan.

We looked at each other in the doorway and, with newlywed invincibility, followed the 70-somethings straight back in.

Maybe the elderly lady's name was Maureen, I thought, and maybe she'd be our Irish Memory.

Turned out, she was from Massachusetts.

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