I think I’ve ran through as much of Ireland as you possibly can (and enough of England that you could possibly want). Yesterday was my last day with the car, my friend, Kelley had arranged to meet with some people in Clonmel that were friends of his grandfather. So, we got up and staggered out of the hotel; I drove and Kelley slept. After some time in Dublin, it was nice to get back out and see the pieces of Ireland that I’ve grown to love. It was clear sailing and I soaked up as much of the beautiful drive as I could.
When we arrived in Clonmel, we met up with the lady that Kelley knew, Vera. She introduced us to Ted, the fellow that’d be showing us around for the day. Let me tell you, this guy was fantastic and he knew his Irish history. The whole day, he walked around showing us every inch of the town and he must have said ‘hello’ to at least every other person on the street, using their first name. He brought us in to meet the mayor (a position he’s held three non-consecutive times) and around to meet locals that knew Kelley’s grandfather.
The first thing, looking back, that strikes me is the town pride and the closeness of the community. When I told Ted that I’d nearly seen all of Ireland, he asked, “So you’ve been to Clonmel?”
“No.” I replied.
“Oh, then you haven’t seen Ireland.”
It was funny but that’s the type of thing someone back home would say about their hometown. Here it’s a bit unusual. You see, there was one thing really bothered me in County Laois. One night, Dave Keane and I were out in Portlaois checking out some music and I met a lady and told her where I was from. She made some comment like, ‘Oh, you poor thing. They brought you to Laois of all places?’ The tone was only half-joking. Now it may not bring around tourists, mainly due to it being away from a coast, but I can tell you that Laois is gorgeous. I think sometimes people forget to stop and look at how beautiful their home is. I heard kids growing up that would say how much the DC area sucked. I’ve come to see how fantastic it is. I think that to some extent, you need to be proud of your roots. It’s part of you.
But yeah, it was nice to hear that town pride from Ted.
The second thing that struck me, was how much of an impact Kelley’s grandfather, Bud Kelley has had on the citizens of Clonmel. I saw pictures of him hosting the town band at his home in Illinois, I heard stories from people we met about his generosity and I heard people speaking fondly about the ceremony where they spread his ashes at St. Patrick’s well. It kind of leaves you in awe to hear people who live miles and miles away expressing how much the man meant to the town. I wish I’d had the chance to meet Bud. But I also wish that I can be that type of person someday. To have an impact on people like that takes genuine character.
Clonmel is another beautiful Irish town. Like most of the places I’ve been to, it’s packed with history.
When Kelley and I got back, we were ready for a quiet night. We had some dinner and saw a movie. We got to bed pretty early and today, I enjoy my last day in Ireland.
I have something to confess: I swore I’d never do it. I told countless people that I would never go there and made pacts with myself that I’d do everything in my power to avoid it. But, my dear friends—Big Cat is going to Paris, France. I’ll pause and let you find your breath.
Now, maybe it’s the trip or maybe it’s that I have a friend who lives outside the city, but I felt that I’d never get the opportunity to see the country this way. I guess what that means is that after my travel abroad, I’m slightly less bigoted—by a razor thin margin. Do know that I’ll be wearing American flag shirts at all times (not like I have a choice, that’s pretty much my whole wardrobe). At least in France, I know the people won’t like Americans. It won’t be as shocking and depressing as my first moments in England. But yeah, I’m giving it a shot. And don’t worry. I’ll be home on July 3rd. Even with a delay, this American boy will not miss sweet Lady Liberty’s birthday. For some reason, I feel like I’ve just confessed a sin.
Get a camera; I’ll be remaking ‘Taken’ in real life,
P.S. Alternate titles for this post were, “Crackers In Paris” and “An American Big Cat In Paris”.