Monday, September 16, 2013

Chapter 2

I've made it to Ireland now, and after an uneventful flight and bus ride, met Harry and my parents in Dublin. Dublin is a concise but frantic city with an international flare and treacherous road crossings. In addition to cars being on the wrong side, which, however easy to comprehend from behind a desk is entirely unnerving when it comes time to plunge into the road, but the drivers and pedestrians there seem to give no credence at all to signal lights. The city seems to have a great depth and texture to it, but in only two days I never felt like we so much as scratched its superficial surface. I suppose I'll have to revisit.

We've made it now to Adare, the earliest known location of Drew, my mother's maiden name, and by way of Cashel. My dad was in Ireland in 1978 on vacation, tooling around in a rental car and seeing the country. He spend most of the time cruising small towns for music, conversation, and photos of the local scene. He promised more than a few portraits to be delivered to the subjects of these photographs. So secondary to the stated goal of tracing the Drew roots, this trip is, in part, to fulfill an old promise.

It turns out that small towns in Ireland are still very small. We stopped for dinner in Cashel, where a photo that had hung in my childhood home my entire life was taken. It pictures five old men, sitting on a bench, in wollen coats and billed hats. A picture of Irish romanticism.

Kevin only had to display the image to two people before the proprietor of the restaurant declared that she knew each man in the photo. They were all deceased, but we missed the youngest man's wake by only a week. The woman went to school with his daughters and promised to deliver it that night.

We found no trace or recollection of the Drews in Cashel.

We checked into a hotel and took to city to find a pub, and now, at the epicenter of our heritage, some roots. We found a number of lame duck tourist trap bars lining the main street, and with the wind out of our sails luffed back towards the hotel. We were only halfway back when a dark haired man of about thirty sized us up, and without interrupting his cell phone conversation directed us with only a pointed finger to enter Bill Chawke's.

Inside, a moment later, he explained to us that he saw two young lads with their folks heading away from the only pub in town with anything going on, and that when the parents headed to bed this would be the only place to be. Furthermore, he and his mates had just won their hurling match.

The entryway is guarded by bronze busts of seven republican martyrs of the Easter Uprising. Our new friend, Fitzy, was a bit of a buff on local history, so we asked him about the name.

Fitzy: Drew? Nae, no Drews. We've got a couple of Kellys. The two lads behind the bar are both Kellys. Never heard of a Drew, though. Where you headed next?
Us: Dingle.
Fitzy: Dingle? Don't call it Dingle. It's An Daingean, but when you're there look up An Canteen and find Blondie. Tell him Fitzy from Vienna sent you. He'll love it.

 We chatted for a while more before he dismissed  himself, "with a few things I need to do," and then disappeared towards the dance floor.

We spent the rest of the night chewing the fat with some of the older codgers in town, who also don't remember any Drews. Disparate accents may have contributed to our lack of headway. An early conversation with a man who by the end of the night would be going by Viscount Wilson went something like this:

Wilson: And which family are you looking for?
Us: The Drew family.
Wilson: A Jew family? No, I don't remember anyone like that. How long you in for, where you headed next?
Kevin: Gandanga.
Harry: Aldongka.
Ben: Tatanka.
Wilson: What the fuck are you saying now?
Harry: Dingle.
Wilson: Oh, fuck, yeah, Dingle. I don't know if there's any Jews in Dingle either.

A while later the folks turned in and the revelry put to and end by what was either a fight, or someone falling off of a bar stool (which one it was is still up for debate), Harry and I found ourselves chatting with Wilson/Sir Wilson/Lord Wilson/Viscount Wilson. He was quite a fellow, and the rhetorical fencing resumed right away. At one point he took off his glasses, and Harry held up three fingers. "How many?" he asked. Wilson sat, perplexed, for a moment and said, "because of the whiskey?" The conversation drifted to his family.

Ben: You have any kids?
Wilson: Yeah, I've got three of them. Well, I killed them.
Harry: You shot them?
Wilson: No. I put their feet in cement and threw them off a bridge. They were eaten by a dolphin. Or a donkey. I can't be sure which.

From there the conversation deteriorated into a comparison of the relative swimming abilities of donkeys that he had known.

Before long we finished our Guinness, but the older man still had a full pint, and didn't seem to want to drink alone. He went through each of the young bartenders and tried to get them to pour us a beer after hours. It went something like this:

Wilson: Hey Tomas, what do you say we get these lads another beer?
Bartender 1: No, you know we're closing up for the night.
Wilson: Say Sean, I'm just sitting here for a bit, how'sabout getting these Americans one more pint?
Bartender 2: If you're asking for pints of water I'll be happy to pour 'em.
Wilson: Seamus, I asked Jonathan if it'd be all right if you got these guys a couple drinks. He said yes.
Bartener 3: If the question that you asked and received the answer, "yes" was, "can I go home?" then yes I agree with him. The answer is yes. The door is over there.

After his final defeat he looked at us both with a glimmer, "you'll never get if you don't ask," he said, and took another sip.

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