Where Guinness Flows like Water

Killarney, Ireland. Home of Daniel, a man you’ll never meet. Although I suppose you could, if you ever found yourself in the bar of the International Hotel, in County Kerry, where Daniel spends his nights. I highly recommend staying there. They have fabulous views, and spacious bathtubs, perfect for an afternoon nap after you’ve indulged in a few too many Guinness.
We had spent the late hours of the morning wandering through the damp, lush fields surrounding the Muckross House, a proud manor sitting in the boggy, marshed outskirts of Killarney National Park. The woolen socks of our feet clung wetly to the lining of our boots, and so we stretched out our feet before the fire, and slung our heavy coats on the backing of the chairs.
The tender of the bar, Musky John, brought over a round of whiskeys. Each time he raised his arms to tell a story, our eyes watered with the masculine power of his scent. The locals didn’t seem to mind.
We did our best not to.
And Daniel came in. With a fierce howl of winds that blew sharply against the flickering flames of candlelight, he threw open the doors. Spotted us before the fire, and pulled back the empty chair beside us.
He asked us where we were from, his words dripping with the heavy lilt of a melodic brogue.
California? I’ll be damned. I lived in Sacramento fer a while. Back when I was gay.
I choked on my whiskey.
Yes, I ken, you wouldn’t ave thunk it. That I was gay for a bit. But I never took it in the arse, he said, leaning heavily against the table, sloshing about like the beer in his glass.
I choked again, the whiskey burning it’s way back up my throat.
And Musky John approached, grabbing Daniel by the elbow. Behave, he whispered, between furiously clenched teeth. Daniel brushed him away and turned back to me.
Yer kind of fat. I mean, yer not fat, but ye ave kankles.
And I looked down at my feet, wrapped within the heavy frame of solid boots. Kankles?
It’s hard to tell, cause yer all bundled up, but I’d bet yer fat.
And by this point more of my whiskey had ended up on the table than in my stomach.
But I had kissed the Blarney Stone the day before, so I was feeling extraordinarily witty, and ready to banter.
As Daniel and I played games with language, carving out intricate patterns of clever wit, he upended his beer upon the table, and his chair upon the floor. I rose halfway from my own, leaned over the table, and watched him struggle to untangle his sluggish limbs. He came up staggering, righted his chair, and looked me dead in the eye. Grabbed a candle from the table, which swirled about within the melted wax confines of the glass, and blew. But he blew too firmly, and the wax exploded out from the little dish, shooting up in fabulous displays of arcing patterns, which promptly clung to the lining of his beard.
He sputtered once and shook his head, the wax solidifying on his upper lip, drying into the wiry hairs of his face. And the rest of my whiskey shot out in a fine spray upon the varnished surface of the table, and I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in my entire life. And Musty John came out from behind the bar, swinging his rag over his shoulder, grabbing Daniel by the neck of his coat and dragging him out the door, into the cold dampness of the night. And that was the last I ever saw of Daniel, though he stays with me, even to this day.
When people ask me about my trip to Ireland, and about the castles and the lush vibrancy of the valley floors, I tell them about Daniel. I tell them about the Guinness that flows like water, about the gray streets of Dublin, filled with slush and snow. About the warmth of the pubs, where locals flee to escape the bitter winds. I tell them about what it’s like to sit in a bar, amidst strangers that become family, warming the soles of your feet upon a roaring fire.
These places don’t exist in America; there is nothing like it in the world. If you must travel, which you must, than travel wisely. There is much more to be learned from nursing your whiskey in a small town pub than is to be learned in the decadent museum halls of history passed.
If you think you are not among family here, than think again. Because Ireland is not about what you do, or where you’re from. It’s about who you are after a few doses of the good stuff, when you’re three sheets to the wind, and more alive than you’ve ever been before.

11 thoughts on “Where Guinness Flows like Water

  1. I love it! You do tell a good story. Mary Anne McDonough, my 50+ year love, has been trying to convince me to go to Ireland with her. Should I read this to her and say, let’s go. Or should I just say let’s go, and forget about the pubs, which probably don’t have too many old folks telling their stories over whiskey and beer. Still, i suppose we could nurse hot tea for a good while and wait for the likes of Daniel to blow in . . .

    Liked by 2 people

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