It being the height of St. Patrick’s Day season, best fest buddy Tom and I did what we usually do this time of year. We volunteered to help out at Rosie O’Hare’s Public House in East Dundee. It’s the least we can do toward our hopes to make it into heaven.
Sure, it was only March 9, eight days before the actual Irish holiday. But East Dundee – and St. Charles and other places – had parades over the weekend, getting a head start on the revelry and on the making o’ the green.
In prior years, Tom and I had been working the doors, checking IDs and issuing wristbands to those 21 and over.
This time we both decided to take the state-required Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training so we could work the taps. That would be fun, we thought, serving patrons plastic cups of $5 Guinness, $3 Coors Light, $5 Blue Moon and $4 green Miller Lite. To their credit, Rosie’s remains fairly priced for the festivities.
Last year, the taps in questions were under a tent, next to the pub and mostly out of the elements. The outdoor setup served as a relief valve, of sorts, when the indoor bars were too busy, making it easier for people to get a drink – and more convenient for grabbing a beverage when they came outside to see the 11 a.m. parade pass by along Water Street.
But this past Saturday, the beer trailer was uncovered and aligned so that patrons would pass by it on the way into the pub. Not a bad idea, but for winter in Illinois lingering like migraine.
Still, once acclimated to the conditions, it wasn’t too bad of a shift. The crowd mostly stayed toasty indoors, ambling up to the bars or getting beers from a tub by the door, or heading to the back of the pub the order food.
As we worked 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., the people who did buy beer from us outdoors were pleasant enough. Not a rowdy drunk was among them. Civil War reenactors, yes.
Rosie’s also does a fine job preparing the corned beef required for the occasion. We had it in a breakfast burrito then on rye bread for lunch. Deliciousness twice.
Our shift ended as the cold rain began. Once back at Tom’s, the downpour didn’t stop us from thawing out in his hot tub.
Tom went on to a nap before having to do an overnighter for his actual job. But I headed out for another Irish pub experience, with Chicago pal Vince to see a production of Roddy Doyle’s “Two Pints” staged in The Pub at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier.
Doyle’s play has its roots in Facebook posts he has been doing, where he has two late-middle-aged guys crack wise about the news of the day and life in general. That grew into Dublin’s Abbey Theatre producing the work, directed by Caitriona McLaughlin, which toured pubs across Ireland and now is doing the same in the US. It’s in Chicago through March 31.
While getting drinks is limited to before the show and at two intermissions, the audience sits at bar tables in the small space and listens as the two friends swap stories and funny riffs over Guinness.
Philip Judge plays the less blustery of the two, Liam Carney the more initially animated.
Being Irish, their conversations are salted with f-bombs and the c-word. We learn both men have a thing for Nigella Lawson, the English cooking show host and food writer.
I looked her up online, and she’s 59! We’re all getting old, and that’s an undercurrent of the bar banter.
We learn that Carney’s character’s dad is dying, while Judge’s bar guy vaguely alludes to health issues of his own.
So they carry on about car parks, soccer, Germans, class differences, tonsils, the beauty of Benazir Bhutto, wearing pajamas in public, their families, their grandchildren, scientific studies and other things in a fast-spinning world in which they are closer to dusk than dawn.
Their final discussion, after a funeral, winds up with the bar buddies wondering what heaven might be like. While neither is quite sure what to believe about an afterlife, they posit what and who might be in their versions.
The men don’t come out and say they love each other, but they both wind up admitting that each’s heaven would hold the other. And their families. And Nigella.
We’re only here for a blip. Life can get pretty damn scary and aging gracefully is way easier said than done. So enjoy them moments, and each other.
Which brings me back to working at the bar for St. Patrick’s celebrations. While witty, philosophical conversations are hard to have during Irish Mardi Gras, hanging out with Tom, watching the goings-on and helping friends – it doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, there was 2012 when St. Patrick’s weekend in Chicago hit 81 degrees. That Saturday morning, we went downtown with Tom’s daughter and one of her friends in tow, met up with the Irish American Heritage Center folks and marched in the parade in our kilts. Back home we walked to the local pubs, including Rosie’s.
Tom had to work that night, too, but I headed out on my own to meet other friends elsewhere. Everyone was in a good mood, despite places running out of beer.
Heaven? Something to think about before next weekend when it’s the actual holiday. Out in the Dundee area that means fireworks over the river the night before.
For Tom and I March 17 probably will include watching “The Quiet Man” again. He’s partial to redheads. Maureen O’Hara might be his Nigella.