As it happens, there are a few cans of Guinness in my refrigerator right now, leftovers from the Hanukkah party. Hopefully, by summer's end, I'll find some guest to press them on. The fine Irish stout, and the men and women who serve it, have inspired many a tale, and prompt today's essay by our Wilmette Bureau Chief.
By Caren Jeskey
Neil shared on his Facebook page this story by Maureen O’Donnell about a legendary Chicago bartender John Colgan, who died recently at the age of 63.
In the piece, columnist Maureen O’Donnell pointed out that “Mr. Colgan had given up drinking, ‘as it interfered with his passion for music and the need for a clear head in order to pursue his ambition of recording a CD.’” He was known for regaling patrons with beautifully sung Irish ballads as he poured creamy-topped pints of Guinness.
We’d belly up to the bar in jean skirts and cowboy boots, and chain smoke cigarettes. Drinks miraculously appeared, one after another, sent over by drunken patrons who must have wondered where all their money went as they sobered up the next day.
When I read about John Colgan I remembered what it was like to have Jimmy in our lives. He seemed sober, but I’m not sure if he was. He was warm and kind, and we felt that we were coming home when we got to Jimmy’s bar. We always felt safe, and I believe we were. Coming and going from there was a different story, I’m sure. It’s amazing what we — well, some of us — can survive, if we are lucky, when we are foolhardy.
I have a friend who’s a big drinker with a red nose who lives in Ireland, a musician of course. Whenever he comes to town we demand that he break out his guitar and lead us through the song "Will Ye Go Lassie Go." We all sing together and he stretches it out as long as he can for us. We depart feeling connected to our friends, and hopeful.
Summer is finally upon us here in Chicago— my god it took a long time.
“And we’ll all go together to that wild mountain thyme. All around the blooming heather will you go lassie go?” As I listen to John sing Safe in the Harbor and the Corries singing about wild mountain thyme I can almost believe that the world is a beautiful, lilting, safe place.