Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wilbo Drives Out to Conklin @PureMichigan to Say Goodbye to His Favorite Irish Pub.

I happened upon a man known for playing Irish music at the sessions at Fenian's Irish Pub. He was donning his coat near the closet at the art museum. I knew he had driven all the way from Grand Rapids to attend the art opening, and he only had a moment. I have always liked the man, admired his musicianship and I've always called him by his last name. It's a sign of respect in my book. The lords in Romeo and Juliet are identified by last names, Montague and Capulet. People have taken to calling me by my last name and that's fine as there's no grandfather or father between me and the grave.

Let's say I called him Rybicki, an interesting name for a man steeped in Irish music and master of the bodhran, the pennywhistle, the irish harp and the fiddle. He proceeded to fill me in on the end of an era out at the pub in Conklin, Michigan. It's a thirty mile drive for me and around that for people from Grand Rapids who drive out on Wednesday nights for the session. It really is better suited for people who want to drive a Harley Davidson though the fields of corn and orchards of apples. And now that the longtime owners are selling, the bar has a chance to take down all the Irish souvenirs and hang up road signs and Harley mirrors. We shall see. Rybicki said, "The new owners take charge after St. Patrick's Day". He had a long way to drive with children, so I merely said, "That says a lot". And he invited me out because the session might be broken without my support. What's sadder than an Irish session broken for want of musicians and listeners?

So I drove out for the evening, as I wanted to see the place on an ordinary, cold Wednesday night before the regime change. Besides, I always liked the delightful misery of hanging at the bar, with a dark night blackening out the windows, listening to the sad Irish songs and shivering after trips to the unheated biffies in back. The Guinness Clock counts down the remaining days to St Patrick's Day, currently 33 days, four hours remaining to this day.

I came out here on Wednesday nights before Hennessy's Irish Pub renovated and occupied the old G&L Chili Dog place. Hennessy's is now the destination of the St Patrick Day's parade in Muskegon. The arrival of the Irish Pub made a St. Patrick's Day parade possible, which begins near the union hall. Hennessy's even has its own countdown clock for keeping track of days to St. Patrick's. At least there's a place for me to go for a bit of Irish love should this village bar put out the shingle for motorcyclists.

So I got seven good years out of this place of hospitality. On my first night, I was recognized as a newbie, and I was led around and introduced to all the regulars and presented to the owners. One man took my hands in his hands, looked me in the eye and exclaimed, "Welcome home, Wilbo, welcome home". Short of sleeping here, after seven years I have lived in so many different ways out at Fenian's Pub.



GeneAnn Schaefer said...

Dear Wil, It would be great to see you this Saturday at the O'Schaefers for the Annual Dead-of-Winter Party. Many of the good ol' group from Fennian's will be there and it would be delightful to see you there too! Hugs, GeneAnn

Will Juntunen said...

Will Juntunen said...

Darling Gene Ann, should we be seeing each other this way in the secrecy of a blog? People will talk.

Thanks for the kind invitation. I have started consulting in the UP town of Houghton - Hancock and will miss your Dead-Of-Winter party. It will be more of an Undead-Of-Winter up here as snow accumulates even when the temperature goes below zero. All wrapped up, walking like a zombie to keep slipping on ice!

Look what happened to the closest Irish Pub to me.