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Gimme Shelter: Stop me if you’ve heard this

And you have, for sure. But I’m not proud.

It seems a man took a seat at a New York bar and asked the bartender for Jamesons, neat. The man on the stool next to him said, “You like the Irish, same as me,” pointing to his drink.

“I do,” the newcomer said, and noting the man’s accent, added, “Whereabouts did you call home over there?”

“I’m a Dublin man.”

“Ah, God, me too,” he said, and clinked his fellow Dub’s glass. “Small world.”

“It is that,” his new friend answered. “Where in the city were you from?”


“Oh, for the love of God. Me too. What street?”

“Lansdowne Road.”

“No! That’s my street! What number?”

The barman turned away, went to the end of the bar and said to another patron, “It’s going to be a long night. The Murphy twins are drunk again.”

But on to more important topics … A guy walks into a place and asks, “Do you have corned beef and cabbage?”

The proprietor says, “Are you Irish?”

The man is outraged. “Hey,” he says, “what is this? If I asked if you had lasagna, would you ask me if I was Italian? If I came in here and asked if you had kielbasa would you assume I was Polish?”

“No,” the proprietor says. “You don’t understand. This is a hardware store.”

The last time we went to Ireland, it was a hellish time trying to leave home, with a chaotic JFK and interminable delays before we took flight. But Dublin in the morning was the Wizard of Oz-effect, all changed to Technicolor after a long, black night.

I always forget a certain sense of conversation and humor you find over there. One of the first people I spoke to, a young man, asked how the flight had gone. “Kennedy was insane last night,” I said.

He took his time, his smile slowly growing: “My name is Kennedy. Brian Kennedy. But how did you know what I was up to last night?”

If you go — and Ireland like the rest of the world will be open again (we live in hope) — be sure to go to the West. Don’t go to “castles” to “feast” at “banquets” served by “maidens” in long medieval costumes serenaded by joyless harp music. The maidens, you can be sure, chain-smoke on the way home to Limerick after work and turn their car radios to the sounds of Shame or Just Mustard.

Go to County Clare, keeping the Atlantic off your left shoulder, following the towns north. Quilty, Miltown Malbay, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna, Kilfenora, Corofin, Doolin . . . their lovely names a soft, musical gateway to a landscape that will never leave you, no matter how much time and distance separates you from it.

Or as Seamus Heaney put it:

“You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.”

This just in: Professor Niall O’Flaherty, head of neurology at Trinity College, Dublin, has discovered how Irish amnesiacs differ from all other nationalities. “Our research has proven unequivocally,” Professor O’Flaherty reported, “that Irish amnesiacs forget everything except the grudge.”

Which leads me to recall my encounter with an Irish snail. One night I heard a slight scratching at the back door. I opened it, looked around and discovered the snail clinging to the door about an inch above the ground. I picked it off and threw it into the garden. Twenty years later I heard the same scratching. There was a snail stuck to the door.

Looking up, the snail said, in an exasperated brogue, “Now what in the name of God was that all about?”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.