Having arrived in very early evening, our usual state — starvation — could not be denied. Cups and tea had been set out for our arrival, along with several cookies which we wolfed down, save for a couple. There was no other food in the house, nor had we expected any. But we hadn’t stopped for provisions either, intent as we had been on simply finding the place. Now we were here, loathe to leave in dubious search of dinner. Maybe Dorothy would invite us for a meal…
Dorothy arrived and we felt as if we had known her forever. Unassuming, sweet, with an easy sense of humor, she charmed us immediately. We searched her face for familiar features and found them — there was no doubt she was Gino’s mom’s first cousin. The rest of us watched and listened while she and Gino pored over old photos and shared stories and family tidbits. But thinking we may be tired after an arduous day of travel, she departed with a promise of an early morning return. But the truth was, we weren’t very tired — we were famished.
The tiny town hadn’t looked very promising and no one wanted to venture out again anyway. So we dug deep into our bags for leftover trailmix and crumbly remnants of airplane crackers. Does anyone have a mint? Anything? Finally, Gino and I decided we would try to see if anything was open in the town. This was Ireland — there HAD to be at least a pub, right? Mom and Dad wanted to stay in, so we promised to return with food if we found any.
Driving slowly down the narrow now-dark road, we soon entered the town of Aghamore. All appeared closed tight but for one building that looked like an old grange hall or Moose Lodge. A few cars were scattered in the parking lot. We pulled in. Feeling a little like party-crashers, we pushed open the wooden door, not knowing what we would find. We entered a hall decorated in tacky early-60’s and from there into a bar, in fact. A few men were sitting at the bar drinking and watching TV. Not a woman in sight. They turned and looked at us curiously as we sat at an empty wooden table across the room.
At first Gino felt conspicuous and uncomfortable and wasn’t sure if we should even stay. But although we were obviously out-of-towners — or worse, foreigners — I was rather enjoying myself — it was like having stepped into an old Western movie, but with paunchy middle-aged Irish guys at the wooden bar instead of cowboys.
“Let’s order Guinness!” I said with bravado. “We’re OK here!” Gino relaxed and agreed. We sallied up to the bar and ordered two pints of Guinness, just like the pros. Furtively, I searched the bar for evidence of bar nuts or crisps, but none were in sight. Again, a pub that served no food. Looked like dinner tonight was another “beer shake.”
We sipped our brew, talking quietly to each other, glancing at the other patrons and watching them glance at us. Still not sure if we had entered into some all-male hallowed ground, we brought our emptied glasses back up to the counter, smiling.
“Not from here?” queried the bartender, curiosity finally getting the better of him. “No, we’re visiting.” “Where are you from?” he ventured.
That was all the invitation we needed to explain we were from California, but that Gino’s grandmother had been from here and that his mom had gone to school here for a time. That opened the floodgates of conversation from the others — one man at the end of the bar said he was a neighbor of Gino’s cousin, Dorothy. By this time, a friendly vibe had replaced the initial awkwardness and by the time we left it was with waves and smiles.
Back at the cottage, we had to break the news to the parents that we hadn’t even found a bag of pretzels.