Monday, September 03, 2007

where the river shannon flows

saturday was 00soul's birthday, so off we went to la super rica (pictured above) for the wonderful tacos he loves. it was worth the blisteringly hot, nearly three-hour drive to santa barbara (usually about 90 minutes away). the beast performed magnificently, pushed to the very limits (or doubtless past) of its engineering capabilities. at one point somewhere around thousand oaks i was afraid we'd have to abort the mission -- traffic was crawling, temp was around 100, and the heat gauge was millimeters from hitting the danger zone. i had visions of a blown radiator and us stranded in the withering furnace of hell-adjacent. but then i got the bright idea to travel in the nice, long, wide-open merging lanes at my right whenever possible, and quickly the engine cooled to a more acceptable risk level.

it was cooler by the sea near ventura, and we had no further overheating fears. (but still lots of traffic.) santa barbara, too, was much more human-friendly -- in the upper 70s or low 80s.

the tacos were fabulous as always, and then we made our annual stop at the james joyce, where 00soul picked 28 songs for the jukebox, drank much whisky and guinness, and was goodnaturedly accosted by a drunk guy named tim, who nearly guessed his age but missed by two years. a gaggle of regulars and curious passersby mingled amiably, as college football played silently on the single flat-screen TV.

full of tacos, and mellowing from my first tanq&tonic, i stared out the open front window at the people and the traffic, including the occasional, gorgeous vintage car rumbling by. like a lot of people, i don't usually mark just how stressed-out i've felt in a situation until it's over. but the combination of delicious tacos, cooler climes, and a sparkling GT on a lazy saturday afternoon finally soothed me enough to ponder the journey's ordeal ... and decide it was worth it.

while 00soul was at the jukebox, i'd watched a wizened little old man walk outside to smoke, cane on his arm. 00soul was still picking songs a while later, when bartender patrick paused mick jagger in mid-syllable, clanged the bell, and announced that this selfsame elderly gentleman was going to "sing 'the river shannon.'" (meaning "where the river shannon flows.")

everyone stopped talking and turned toward where the thin-but-sure sound came from along the bar. he sang the whole thing, evoking images of a far green land touched by magic, a love worth waiting for, a promise wistfully hoped to be kept -- and a time long past where all of this still lived. it was kind of magical, too, how the whole place got quiet, even the noise from outside receding before this powerful memory captured in an old man's reedy voice. then he stopped singing, everyone clapped and cheered, and "gimme shelter" rattled onward.

worth it, indeed. happy birthday, baby.

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