Friday, June 20, 2003
In rain-besotten Ireland there stands a public house by the name of O’Hara’s. It is painted the color of the peat fire that warms the interior and scarcely a night passes that the chief proprietor, Mr. Coinneach O’Hara, doesn't pose in the doorway proud as a Beefeater outside Buckingham Palace.
Ivy frames the pub like a halo and mosses and lichens fill the space between the road and O’Hara’s. The air is filled with something between a mist and a sprinkle. For every variety of green in Ireland there is a variety of rain.
Mr. O’Hara begins each day with the pleasant agate of the Irish Times and a cup of hot tea. It doesn’t much matter what the news is, the ritual of creating meaning from the wriggly symbols is enough. He has the craggy face of one who has lived well, yet one still capable of surprise. “The face at twenty is a gift,” he always said, “the face at forty is what you’ve earned”.
Near the peat fire retirees hold court on the events of 1921, cursing the perfidious English and lamenting the death of Michael Collins. Finely carved canes lean against the bar like horses in a corral.
A group of forty-somethings sit around the single pub table, enlivened by a half-dozen pints drunk in honor of a work friend who recently quit. They talk work, sex, movies, and occasionally drip acidic comments about co-workers not present, making the rest glad they came. Invitations to parties here imply “Come or be talked about”.
The retirees and the workers never mix, although both are often present. The retirees always sit at the bar and the younger folk at the table. The young people can't imagine sitting at the bar and having to stare at their own visages, growing more silly-looking by the pint. The old ones can’t imagine having to sit around a table, shedding their cherished illusion of solitariness for the forced bonhomie of a small table.
But everyone loved Mr. O’Hara.
“Mr. Oh - who you like in the 5th at Galway?” asked one of the regulars.
“‘Break a Leg’ – trainer says he’s ready!”
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Desperately Seeking Retirement