There, upon my wall, ne’er a finer red pub appeared: “P . E G A N” it said, writ large in the fine white letters upon a strip of Eire-green. Fine molded columns were carved to the left and right, and two old-fashioned bicycles, one festooned with a wicker basket, stand in front of the two windows. In the doorway, a door cut in two with the bottom half closed, two gents stand in a pose of public house friendliness. Below the picture a familiar monthly grid was displayed (February 2001 - I’m a bit behind). I wonder: what would these two think to find their cheery non-sober mugs upon the wall of a house in the middle of Ohio in the middle of the States?
So I asked ‘em. Called ‘em up. Tracked down all the “P. Egan” pubs I could find through an Irish ad directory and then called it and asked about the two chipper fellers. One was a part-time sheep farmer involved in the “Troubles”; in between pasturing sheep he smuggled guns to IRA extremists (which is saying a lot ya know, to some the phrase is redundant).
“What’s yore favorite ale?” I asked, to change the subject.
“Ach, like I the (indescipherable), except on Friday’s when it’s (indescipherable).”.
I called the other one, a younger man, in his mid-30s, whose hair was still dark and had about him the manner of the manor. He explained that he liked to go to the States now & again. I asked whereabouts.
“I’ve been to New York, L.A. But my favorite city is Columbus, in Ohio”.
”How did you know I was from Columbus?”
”Come on. Columbus can’t be your favorite city.”
“Why not? The sky is azure between clouds that sit like pillows. There is a wonderous bronze statue of Christopher Columbus downtown. His jaw is set like a martial man, standing athwart history and yelling ‘Go!’. The Scioto river rushes like a colossus over the landscape, the great southern boundary that separates a Centre mall from “little Germany”. The city sits like a jewel in the middle of Cornfield, USA, a megapolis of ‘scrapers rising from the ground at right-angles.”
“But plenty of cities rise out of cornfields at right-angles.”
“I don’t compare to Columbus to Kansas City or Sacramento. I compare her to the cities near the Yangtzee in 17th century China I’ve never been to China or lived in the 1600s, but I’ve seen pictures in Nat’l Geographic. If you compare fair Columbus to 17th century China, she looks positively other-worldly.”
“How is it that you chose China to compare her to?”
“China, schmina. You’re missing the point completely. You measure everything, set up elaborate hierarchical models…you want to know if Ted Williams was a better hitter than Lou Gehrig and why. You'd be critical of Jennifer Lopez's toenails.”
”Ha, you say that now. You’d frown at the wrinkles on her little toes. See, it’s not about toenails. It’s that to the extent you see, you do not see. You look at Columbus, and Lopez, with your eyes, and jaundiced eyes at that. Sophistication is the paintin’ that learning puts on tin structures. Still tin underneath, like the lean-to I lived in outside Boone, North Carolina. Split an oak to put shingles on it; still tin underneath. Get it?”
“I think so.”
“The radical thing is divine innocence. God’s not parceling his love out based on the latest numbers manufactured by angels in the Division of Statistics. Yes, the hairs on your head are counted but that’s a different Bureau and is completely independent of the Quantity of Love Committee.”
“Since you brought up the subject of God, did not Jesus love John the most?”
“Yes, but that was with his human nature. Two natures, remember?”
“So what does all this have to do with the price of tea (near the Yangtzee) in China?”
* - can you guess where the blarney begins?