Monthly Archives: March 2013
In 1986, my wife, child and I took a trip to Ireland. We spent a week in Dublin, enjoying the city. We walked the old streets and cross the River Liffey and enjoyed the sights and smells of the place. Gabriel, then not quite 2, charmed many an Irish man and woman. It was a wonderful trip.
Then we rented a car and decided to see the West. The serenity of the countryside was broken only by the moments of sheer terror as I barely avoided head-on collisions with big trucks. Remembering to drive on the right side of the road was often a problem when the road was no bigger than our driveway back home. But we struggled on, down through Cork, up to Kilkenny and into the Dingle Peninsula. We reached the Atlantic and looked out across the great ocean. It was lovely.
Somewhere along the way, in some rural area of green and brown tones, we stopped at a country pub for a sandwich, soup and a rest. It was late afternoon and the sun was sinking towards the horizon. The pub was a small place and poor. There were maybe four people inside, the owner and three work men. They were right out of a casting office for Irish Farmer. Study work clothes, wool caps, heavy, mud-stained boots (at least I hoped it was mud) and hands thick and gnarled with years of pulling a living out of Irish soil. They stared with curiosity at three Americans in their midst, nodded a greeting and turned back to their pints and their talk.
We ate quickly before the boy could grow too restless and left with thanks. No body said a word. At the rental car, I noticed that the keys I was sure were in my pocket were actually dangling from the ignition. And the doors were locked. Crap.
After pulling on the doors like that would work, I returned to the pub and the curious stares of the folks inside. I asked if they had a coat hanger I could use to unlock my car door. The pub owner stood silently. “I locked myself out,” I said. He nodded, turned and walked into the back. The farmers watched me as though I was recently released from an asylum for the criminally stupid.
The pub owner returned with a wire coat hanger and handed it over silently. I left. Back at the rental Ford, I was able to pop the lock, get the keys. As Ginny got Gabriel back into the car, I bent the hanger back into shape and returned it. My re-entry stopped the conversation as I handed the hanger back to its owner.
He smiled. ‘Ah, keep it, lad,” he said. “Ye may have need o’ it up the road.’
And then they laughed. Great roaring laughs that told me I would be the subject of many a pub conversation for years to come.
‘And, then this American idjit locked his keys in the car while his wee child was fretting and…”
I’ve pretty much hated vacations since.
The Alamo battle has been the pawn of patriots and racists and poets and rascals. It has stood for the nobility of sacrifice and the result of shameful opportunism. Yet it remains the Alamo, a monument to the redemption of hope. Love it or hate it, the Alamo shows that we humans can engage in things that are bigger than the sums of our parts.
Viva el Alamo.