A Toast to Mr. O'Brien
Irish Chris has been coming in for about a month now; a Brooklyn native, 60-ish, boisterous, happy traveler, in Cincinnati for some kind of long-term business assignment. Comes in around 6, drinks about three Bud Lights, orders dinner, a glass of red, and, after his cognac, gets chatty. In the best way. He's a character, blessed with the gift of gab.
He has a Runyanesque accent that easily draws you in; listening to him talk is like watching the most delightful play. When I first met him, spellbound and amused by his rapid-fire chatter and laughter, I was finally able to get a word in, and asked him where on earth he was from.
"I'm Mr. O'Brien from North Carolina!" he said, pausing for effect, before throwing his head back with the kind of hearty laughter that made everyone at the bar look at him and start laughing right along with him, even though they had no idea what they were laughing about. Although he was only around for a few weeks, he was the kind of regular the real regulars asked about. "Where's Irish Chris?" they'd wonder, and then he'd almost magically walk through the door.
On his last night in town, he got a little loaded, and although we were long closed, Chef and I sat with him at the bar while he waited for a cab (a long ordeal in a town like Cincinnati). He ordered our finest Brut and shared it with us while chatting into the night about the Giants, the cornfields of Ohio, the slow death of baseball as we once knew it, who killed the Kennedys, and the luck of the Irish. When his taxi finally arrived, it made all three of us a little sad to say goodbye.
I'm not sure where he's going, but his next bartender is sure to enjoy his company as much as I did.
Here's to Mr. O'Brien, and those like Mr. O'Brien. Damn few left.
Those are the Irish ways, calling me home again
Old men all sat round the fireside
Singing the Seanós
Pints in their fists and their pipes aglow
The lilt of the tune and its Gaelic words
- The Pogues, "Irish Ways"