Growing up in Chicago, St. Patrick’s Day actually did seem a festive affair. Willfully ridiculous, yes, with the Chicago River dyed green and all that, but nonetheless without the rampant commercialism and hooliganism associated with contemporary observances of the day. Nowadays, living in Manhattan, the objective is to stay off the street and out of harm’s way.
That said, the occasion conjures memories of a day drenched (though not literally) in Irish ethos, one that I recall as among the most vivid 24 hours of my life. It began with a 5 a.m. wake-up call in Newcastle, in Northern Ireland, where I arose and headed for Royal County Down.
Even the commute provided some excitement, as I was waylaid by British troops still patrolling both sides of the border with The Republic of Ireland. Seeing my U.S. passport, however, the conversation quickly focused on strategies for playing the course rather than security issues.
I had stopped by the pro shop the previous afternoon to inquire as to whether I could get out as a single for an early round, as my wife and I would be attending the wedding of two New York-based Irish friends later in the afternoon. Told that 6 a.m. would be ideal for me, the pro had instructed me simply to play the course and pay him whenever I finished.
Pulling into the parking lot, I found only one other car – the superintendent’s, it turned out – and was ecstatic to have the place utterly to myself on a gorgeous, sunny August morning. At the turn, the parking lot still had but two vehicles.
Having finished the round and ponied up with the pro, we then headed to a town in the Republic called Dundalk for the 1:00 p.m. ceremony, after which we checked into a small hotel in a smaller town, Carrickmacross, near the resort where the reception would be held. The proprietress handed me keys to both our room and the hotel’s front door, which she informed us would be locked at midnight.
Oh, I speculated, with a 4:00 p.m. starting time, perhaps the reception might be over before the designated closing time anyway. Maybe we’d be back in time to render the front-door key superfluous.
No, she responded matter-of-factly and with only the slightest eye-roll, you won’t be back before we lock up.
She was right, of course. The day ended at roughly the same time it had started, 5 a.m. – an itinerary not to be repeated (for better and worse) but never to be forgotten.
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