I'm half Irish! Honest to God. I just have to make that clear but sometimes that series of "IDIOT" books was written for me.
In 1981, I had the honour of leading a committee of Winnipegers in our efforts to secure a World Congress of Jaycees for our city. It was a big deal; about 5,000 delegates would attend from around the globe and that meant a huge economic boost for the hotels, restaurants, airlines and drinking establishments. I spent 48 days that year traveling all over the place speaking, shaking hands, doing interviews, making presentations and generally trying to persuade people who had never been there of the delights of Winnipeg in the late fall.
One Saturday night I found myself in Wexford, Ireland on the last evening of a large European Conference of fellow members and invited to the home of a prominent local businessman for drinks and snacks before some formal dance. We were a small but merry band of Canucks who gathered in his living room around 5:00 in the afternoon and I was extolling my Irishness as I noted that his daughter's name was the same as my grandmother's, Mary Kelly.
Our host was a very successful distributor of liquor and fine spirits in South East Ireland and shortly after our arrival, he started with me in asking what our drink preferences would be. Now, you have all had the feeling that you would like to crawl into a hole and disappear. We sometimes wish that we could suck the words back into our mouths as if they had never happened.
"Now Bob, me Canadian friend, what could I be bringing you to drink?" he inquired in his most Irish welcome-ness.
Not a stick of intelligence in my head, I turned, smiled and allowed as how I would most certainly enjoy a Scotch on the rocks.
The stunned silence and slack-jawed shock of my compatriots was balanced very nicely by the graciousness of the man of the house as he replied that he would see what he could do. Truth be told, I didn't even give a moment's thought to ordering an Irish whiskey; I had never had one in my life. I didn't know anyone in my circle of friends in low places who had ever ordered an Irish in any bar in Winnipeg. But, there was absolutely no forethought, no plan, no anything about my reply - it was thoughtless habit, pure and simple.
I have since remedied my lack of education on numerous occasions and found that there is truth in the story that at the bottom of every bottle of Irish Whiskey, is a poet. I have not returned to the Emerald Isle since then and can only hope that Aer Lingus has not put me on their "no-fly" list.
To all of my real, and unreal, Irish friends, may the spirits of Ireland always keep you safe, happy and full of life.