Everybody's Irish Today

Paul Greenberg

3/17/2010 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg

With deep apologies to, and selected quotations from, Finley Peter Dunne, creator of the immortal Mister Dooley, Irish barkeep and political commentator who first noted that politics ain't beanbag.

"I'll have a double," called Aloysius J. Hennessey as he pushed through the swinging doors of Riley's Royal I.R.A. Vegetable Bar and Grill.

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Looking around to make certain he was the only customer in the place, Hennessey added: "Make that a round for everybody!"

Mr. Riley, sole proprietor and entire staff, eyed his first visitor of the morning warily. "Oh, 'tis a great thing t'be on yer side iv the bar," he said, "and be able to ordher on credhit. Me, I can ordher all I want from th' distill'ry, but they'll onny deliver fir cash. 'Tis enough to drive a man to dhrink. But not to sarve one."

"Ye don't understand, Misther Riley," said Hennessey softly, suddenly beguiling as a leprechaun. "Look at all the credhit I've amassed here through th' years. And now I'm offerin' you th' chanst to take an IOU fir th' whole sum, like a bona fide multi-tranche CFO that can't go wrong. I know. I've been readin' up on these things in Investor's Daily, or maybe 'twas th' Thoroughbred Times. I get 'em confused. But I tell you, my credhit is as sound as as Lehman Brothers, or is it Bear Stearns or AIG? Annyways, th' stars and the algorithms are with me. In hock signo vinces, as Father Kelly would say at mass. Or in the vernacular, which the church has started favorin' since Vatican II, 'tis a shure thing. What could be fairer, I ask ye."

"Puttin' me in front iv a firing squad at dawn," answered Mr. Riley. "You want to give me an IOU backed by yer unpaid tab? Where d'ye come up with such grand ideas?"

"I been studyin' the prezydent's health-care insurance reform, reconciliation, and general rhubarb. 'Tis a deficit-reducing, 31-million-more covered, cheaper-by-the-billion wonder. With all due rayspect, little as that may be in your case, Misther Riley, the throuble with you consarvatives is you just don't understhand high finance and low polytics. The more dhrinks you sarve me, the more money you make, an' the happier we'll both be. What could be simpler?"

"Bankruptcy," replied Mr. Riley. "Whattya take me fir, th' average American taxpayer? 'Tis aisy enough for you to come up with such grand opportunyties fir me, havin' no hard cash iv your own, but me, the onny way I can eke out what congressmen call an honorarium, meanin' there's little enough honor in it, is to dilute me merchandyze, an' now you'd divest me of what little stock I've left by parchasin' it with me own money. Have ye no shame?"

"No, I'm a Dimmycrat," replied Mr. Hennessey proudly. "Shame is fir Raypublicans. But I'd think even your hard cold heart would relent just one day a year to offer one iv yer oldhest friends and constant debtors a bit of bottled cheer on Saint Paddy's Day. Ye have heard tell of Saint Patrick, haven't ye? Or did word of 'im nivir get to Cork?

"If I was from County Mayo, I wouldn't be puttin' on airs," said Mr. Riley. "Of course I've heard of Saint Patrick! He's th' Frenchman who left Ireland so poor that not even a snake could live there."

"Joke about annythin' you like," said Hennessey, looking less than amused and eyeing the ornamental Shillelagh mounted on the wall. "But not about Saint Patrick. Or else...."

"Or else what? Ye'll take yer bad debts elsewhere? I've been sarvin' free dhrinks to th' likes of you fir nigh onto twanty years now, and I've nawthin' to show fir it but the bad company. The closest I've ivir come to seein' any green is on the free lunch."

"Well," said Hennessey, "thank th' Lord fir the color of it annyway, as Mrs. Muldoon said when she heard her sister-in-law had the gangrene."

"The problem with Saint Patrick's Day," said Mr. Riley, "is payple like you, Hinnissey, who feel a solemn oblygation t'be happy. But ye can't ordher somewan else t'be happy. Happiness isn't a command but a condytion. It usually arrives whin ye're caught up in sawmthin' else, like a poker game or a fistfight. 'Tis better t' stick with tragedy. It delivers what it promises. 'Tis a great cawmfort, tragedy. It takes your mind off yer troubles. 'Tis an art, tragedy is. Happiness is only a craft, like makin' sweaters or writin' fir the noospapers. Takes no real talent a-tall."

"Very well," said Hennessey. "Be sad then. Show the worrld what ye think of yer hurtage. Be as gloomy as a Protystant Sunday. Save yer sillybratin' fir th' Queen's Birthday fir all I care."

"Wait a blessed minute," said Mr. Riley, pouring out two shots of the house's best. "Don't be tellin' an Irishman whin t'be happy or sad. Not on his own premises. Not on th' day when th' whole wurrld is Irish -- or wishes it was. Yer credhit's no good here. Ye'll have to dhrink op free of charge. Erin go Bragh!"

"And E Pluribus Unum to you," toasted Hennessey in return. "Which I think means: From many to Irish!"