Today would be sort of a resting day. By mid-day I would be getting to the Aran Islands Isishmor in the County Galway. I hoped to get in a nap after two long nights atthe Pub. I was shivering on my way over, wearing skimpy cycling pants and my Izumi late fall jacket. The wind was strong (nothing new at this point) and with no sun the it felt like little daggers on my skin.
As we were passing the ferry Inishman, the smallest and first of the three islands, thesky broke and the sun lit up one of the small houses like a spotlight. It reminded me of the British Romantic Painters who were known for the mystical and sublime light quality of their paintings. I have never seen such a contrast of light mixed with such a variety of saturated green and blue colors from the sea and grass. For the first time, I think I felt inspiration similar to what the painters experience.
The Irish are very quick-witted and love to banter. So far, I have not found an local who is straight-laced and can't get a chuckle from just about any thought. My small ferry was named the "Happy Hocker - Dublin." On my way on to land, I looked at the captain and asked him, "Are the Hockers in Galway not as happy as the ones in Dublin?" He smiled back and his second mate said, "No, the recession hit them too hard!"
Pat: Curiosity and passion is ageless ...
I was looking for a pub and an Irish Coffee to get over my shakes. The best of two worlds: coffee and whiskey. And it would make the coffee actually tasty. The Irish cannot brew any decent coffee. "The Bar" was the one of the two open places upon my arrival. As I walked in, two older men were sitting at the bar. Pat was at the end resting his back against the wall with a pint of Guiness. The other man's back faced and partially hid my view of Pat.
I heard a well-spoken voice calling out with firm conviction: "Do you play chess?" I looked at Pat. I guessed he was in his late 60s and I noticed his withered skin that looked very soft soft compared to the farmer's outdoor leathering texture. His bright blue eyes were looking at me waiting for a reaction. I am always amazed at how much the eyes tell about a person. They are often ageless. A young person may have lost the spark already, while other people will have it until they are on their death bed.
He was the latter type. I put my panniers down, took off my coats and replied while sitting down on a table across the bar from him: "Later tonight if you are here and I am not that good anymore." Later in the conversation, he told me that he challenged all strangers walking into the bar with this question. He also said he has had the pleasure of meeting lots of world champions and other good chess players in Inishmor. "They all come here," he said. "I never have to go anywhere."
Two women walked in shortly after me. They were best friends and now enjoy traveling together since their kids are grown. One was from Montana and the other from Scotland.
Pat asked them: "What do you do?" "We own a farm and raise their cattle and heritage turkey," they replied. Pat waived his hand as if he wanted to brush them away and said in a nonchalant way: "I am already boooored" while he was drawing out the "o" in bored to emphasize his disinterest.
She was taken back by his reaction for a moment and wasn't sure how to respond. I jumped into the conversation, thanking her for her work since it is so tough in the United States to get humanely raised meat. We continued complaining about the feeding lots in Nebraska and the lack of knowledge about meat. Pat was listening.
I turned and looked at him almost apologetically: "In Ireland you can assume that you have humanely and farm-raised meats. In the United States this is rare and very expensive." If he was surprised, he did not show any changes in his demeanor. The other guy who has been quiet so far, nodded in agreement: "It is like our ham at the butchers. They used to raise all their animals in the backyard and now it is all pre-packaged."
The bartender walked up to the man who just spoke and asked him if he would like another Guinness. He nodded and Pat looked at the bartender: "And you are not asking me?"
The young woman, who had her long, dark hair tied in a ponytail, looked at him and waved her hand: "Oh, I know you are having another one, Pat!" She poured another round of Guinness for the "boys."
"So, what did you do before you retired?" I said shifting the inquisition-style conversation. "Me? I was an electrical engineer, but have been retired for the last 10 years," Pat said. "Now, I work with Windows 8 and am loving it!" "Well, since you were an electrical engineer it must have been fascinating for you to have seen how the motherboards in the computers have changed and how tiny the circuits are now," I said to Pat. "It is a rapidly changing field."
I sparked his curiosity with that comment. Pat looked at me straight on - across the room where I was having a full Irish breakfast.
Pat and I became engulfed in a long technical conversation about motherboards, circuit systems and operating platforms. I loved watching him over the course of the next hour as he lit up and passionately shared how he got involved with Windows XP, Vista and the new Windows 8. In those moments, he was like a young boy who just found another toy that captured his imagination. Life has not beaten him. The spirit of who he has always been is still strong.
I stored my belongings at the hostel before I took off for a short ride on the island and hiked up the Black Fort (Dun Duchathair). It is a stunning island with beaches, the over-priced tourist attraction of the Celtic ruins (Dun Aengus), tourist shops and cafes. Jamie chain was purring up the hills past other cyclists topping out at 20 mph at times. I remained in deep thoughts about passion and life for the rest of the day.
Note: No whiskey tasting tonight. I called it an early night.