I looked up from my seat at the bar and saw it was May 5th.
Cinco de Mayo in Ireland.
Ah. Like St Patrick's day in Oaxaca.
Except May 5th is the day Bobby Sands died. His IRA hunger strike come to an end. The career of Michael Fassbender one day to be launched. The man who's proved almost single handedly the edict of Ice Berg Slim, "Ain't no woman can't be turned."
Ah well…casting, casting….
St Patrick has a mountain.
It's where he had a hunger strike for 44 days and then called on all the venomous creatures of Ireland to arise and said to them "Out demons!"
The English stayed.
His mountain looks like a perfect cone. It's not of course but from afar it makes you want to drive at it to see, "Is that for real?" It's a pilgrimage magnet.
At the end of July 30,000 people climb it in a week. In their bare feet.
St Patrick's mountain is not made of mud.
On the contrary, the faithful have over the years placed stone after stone along the route of the pilgrimage thus making the "pathway" a kind of scree strewn Hell. The last two hundred yards alone make you wonder what kind of penance needed to pay for this.
And on the summit is a chapel built by the same folks who thought they should toss sharp stones all over the trail and this chapel is locked.
Instructions are posted as to how many Hail Marys and Our Fathers one should say near the Pope's picture (jammed in a pile of rocks) and how many times one should have circled the entire mountain before attempting the summit in order that the plenary indulgence could be awarded.
Now I don't know how many of you go on regular religious pilgrimages or how many of you have sat on a Holy Mountain but I was looking for some ….fireworks.
A little lithic levitation, a voice in the fog, a fellow pilgrim to have a long chat with who I'd later see in some ten year old obit page.
Russians wearing plastic bags to stay dry.
German kids kicking rocks and slowing down their father as they debated whether or not Pep Guardiola was gay.
Intense looking men on their own.
Why is every interesting corner of the world ruined by awkward young men in close fitting clothes who can't stop staring?
It was freezing. It rained. I was soaked. The wind was blowing about 40 miles an hour.
I'd made it my mission to pick up any garbage I saw and you can say what you will about christian fanatics but on the whole they don't litter much.
I stumbled to the top. More rocks at my feet, grey everywhere else. Said Chapel padlocked. And for some reason I was scared.
It makes no sense. I'm 2200 feet from a car park and a Guinness on a path you could drive ( well you could roll) a truck down - there's 4 more hours of daylight left and I had water in a bottle in my hand.
But I was afraid.
Maybe not scared but….at a loss….at sea……bereft……
I suddenly thought, well you're here, why not pray for your brother. So I knelt in the bloody cold wind and said a weak little prayer, a straight request it was, that my brother could be somewhere as beautiful as this country, this place, wind swept and bone chilling as it sometimes may be.
I wanted him to be somewhere he could be thrilled. "Happy" feels a little weak for what we should gain or face in the afterlife so I chose Thrilled.
And then I got up and walked, tripped, and slid back down.
At the shoulder of the top section the clouds blew off and the green and brown peat valley below lit up. It looked uneven somehow- not true- tilted against the slope of the rocky hill.
I looked to my left and there was a guy.
I'd been on my own for the last 45 minutes of the climb. Not a soul on the cliff and here I had company.
He walked right up to me and asked where I was from. To my Pittsburgh he replied, "I'm from Boston. My family was from around here and I've never been. Is the chapel open, man?"
I told him it wasn't and that he had the place to himself. "It's just you and the mt, brother. And the fog. And the ghosts."
And he looked at me.
"I lost my brother this year. I never do this shit. Thought I'd go up and say something."
I just looked back at him and we smiled, I suppose like people do when they're both somewhere absurd or dangerous or alone and he headed up.
About 400 yards later I looked back and he was standing in the rocks, a black shape against the clay colored stone. He looked calm. The fog swept in and he was gone.
When I got near the bottom and threw out all the trash I'd accumulated, the sun hit me and there were suddenly two rainbows over the hill below St Patricks. I started laughing and talking like the guy in the Lucky Charms commercial and I thought if I was Irish and heard a guy doing that I'd beat his ass. And then I thought about Ali and Frazier fighting for the third time and how Ali said One of us was going to die in there and how much respect the two men had for each other in the end. Even if they didn't show it.
I looked back and the summit was clear, its cone revealed, the peak of the locked up chapel clearly visible and I thought, "At least he got to pray in the sun."