“It never rains in Ireland, that’s a myth,” Larry said as he walked the sun beam to our table and set down our teapot.
Larry’s 1950’s-style, white, terrycloth half-apron protected his blue and white pinstriped dress shirt, hot pink sweater vest and dark grey, dress pants. His white hair tussled up for the third day.
He made repeated visits -- in through one doorway and out another -- to deliver maple syrup, hot water and cutlery to four other people in the living room-turned-dining room. Mrs Fawlty? Mannn-uel?
We had found Larry through a free reservation service at Failte Ireland's tourist information centre that we just happened to drive by after arriving into town.
On a Friday night.
By the 7pm closing time, we had two nights booked for a twin room, on-site parking and walking distance to Galway city centre and Salthill Beach. All within our low budget of 25 euros each (about $32 CDN--convert). After we stalked the residential area, a woman in a Jaguar guided our rented Kia straight to our destination:
Dun Roamin Bed and Breakfast.
“It was our seventh house, and we were done roaming,” Larry said as he greeted us at the front door.
Our room, #3 of four, was at the top of the hip-width stairs. Down the hall, an open linen closest, white towels and sheets stacked like documents on a lawyer’s desk. Our windows opened to a dead-end street out front. Sun. Birds. Flowers. We had squished past the armoir with a 12" TV on top and flung our bags on the beds and keys on the linen-covered nightstand that separated them. Our 70’s green bathroom had an intermittent shower, not from lack of water, but from my elbows smacking the lever off every time I turned around in the phone booth-sized space.
My travelling buddy, Kate, and I ate in silence as our minds processed the three-day backload of Galway memories.
Walking cobbled stones of Druid Street.
Flipping coins to buskers with border collies named Keltie and Casey -- “after the randiest Bishop in Ireland!” Casey being disgraced Bishop Eamon Casey, who resigned in 1992 after fathering a son with an American divorcee.
Giggling and connecting with locals at the Tíg Coílí pub as a fiddler, bodhran drummer and acoustic guitarist jammed in the corner. “My country has a place called TOE HEAD?” asked Val, short for Valentine. "That's an unusual name for an Irish man, where's it come from?" I asked. "I don't know, my mom died 42 years ago and I never asked her," he said.
Drinking Guiness at The Dail Bar. Darting into the Skeff pub to avoid a spontaneous downpour. Chips at McDonagh’s. Rolling our eyes at the green/white/orange fridge magnets and shot glasses in Quay Street shops. People-watching in Eyre Square. And following seagulls to beached fishing boats along the River Corrib.
We finished the last of our breakfast -- scrambled eggs, half a tomato, two pieces of white toast cut on the diagonal and a slice of cantaloupe served on white china with cutlery from three different sets -- and pushed back from the table.
As I shuffled towards the hallway, I looked again at the photos that were displayed on each wall and every shelf. Larry. Teenaged children in graduation caps and gowns. Christmas gatherings. Babies held in parents' arms.
And a 3" x 4" snapshot of Elvis Presley.
I looked closer at Elvis. Then at Larry in his pink sweater vest.
“Hey, Larry? Is this, you?”
“Oh yes yes, in the south,” Larry said.
“Oh yes yes, I do wedding and parties,” he said, “thunk you, thuuunk-youverymuuch.
It wasn’t bed head.
It was rock n roll rebellion.
We gathered up our jackets and when I moved my bag, Larry’s concert sign peeked out from behind a small table. "Elvis Lives!"
While Larry wrote up a receipt, I looked closer at the watercolours that I admired on the first day. All three were signed with a two-letter signature in the bottom right-hand corners.
“Hey, Larry? Who’s Jo?”
“My late wife, it’s short for Josephine,” he said and glanced at the lone 1950’s black and white photograph at the end of the hallway. “Buht her real name wuhz Pruhscilluh.”
“Larry, I bet you are the best Elvis impersonator in Ireland, eh?” I said.
“Thunk you, thuunk-youverymuuch. You a smaht luhdy,” Larry said as he walked us outside. “Lut’s get uh photo, wu’ll prutund it’s Gruhcelund,” he said as he stood in his front doorway.
As I looked at Larry through my camera, I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay and hear stories about Elvis and Josephine.
Go. Sometimes paths are meant to cross briefly. There will be more.
Yes. Larry's story was a tidbit, a little something for the road – an fear gorta -- as an Irish-speaking shopkeeper taught me when I darted in to buy a chocolate bar.
I stuffed my camera into my pocket and jumped into the driver’s side – the right side! the right side! -- of our Kia Ceed. Kate and I waved goodbye and I watched in the rearview mirror as Larry held his right hand high in the air.
And his hips swiveled left, his knees right.
Just a wee bit.
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Photo by Michelle Sevigny