Monday, March 16, 2009

Waking up to Ireland

Today I did something I don't normally do...I watched the "Today Show". Why? Because most days I'm too busy getting ready for work to bother. Today the pollen won the Head Clogged Wars and I stayed home. Okay, so maybe it's part mental health day too.

But it came with a perk. Ireland.

When I was a kid, the "Today Show" was where Hugh Downs would explain, in a most paternal manner, the news of the day. He'd read it to you, rarely clarifying unless it was something technical from say NASA that the average Joe wasn't familiar with. Barbara Walters sat at his side, earnestly tackling news stories while trying to look most professional in a male dominated occupation. Now that show is more celebrities, diets and fashion show. The news gets a five minute allowance at the top and bottom of the hour. So why did I stop flipping channels to watch it?

I was trying to figure out why Weatherman Al Roker was trying to River Dance.

Apparently this week the show is set in Ireland. This morning they came to us from Wicklow County, where a beautiful lass had a bountiful table of "Irish" foods for them to sample. I remember two things: Irish Soda Bread [somehow desecrated with an "updated" mix of Italian ingredients!] and the fact that everything was grown on local if you didn't like something, you could tell folks which farm to stay away from.

But what caught my attention and made me linger was a reporter's piece entitled "The Road Less Traveled".

How could I not watch that?

Turns out one of the reporters had a second cousin in Ireland. As the reporter explained it, their grandfathers were brothers: the reporter's grandfather had immigrated and the brother had not. The men were about the same age, in their early sixties, but their attitudes were so different! The Irish cousin was laid back and content to mosey along, whereas his American cousin was like a kid hyped on sugar, head constantly rotating to take it all in. How, I wanted to yell, can you enjoy the scenery if your head is spinning like a windmill?

The piece was about staying away from tourist spots to take back roads, ones less traveled. I believe they said they were in County Sligo, but I'm not sure. To tell the truth, my eyes were too busy drinking in the scenery, complete with an ornery fat sheep which would not yield the right of way. Ironically I found the tiny road beautiful as it wound through the country side. The reporter was having a fit about going down the middle of such a tiny lane and nagged his cousin about it.

"So you just keep on, driving as if you're the only one on the road?" the reporter grimaced as they crested a hill, followed by a blind turn.

"It's all in God's hands," his cousin replied jovially as the reporter continued to grimace around each bend.

I liked that cousin.

I do remember that they stopped at a store in Mayo and talked to people. Well, if you want to call it talking. Ever insistent upon those short stories, the reporter was heard in an overdub asking questions, while the locals' answers were reduced to five word sound bites. Well, except for one older gentleman. At first I thought they'd cornered him and requested that as a wise looking old man, if he's spout some "Irish wisdom" for the Americans back home. Yes, that "wisdom" came in two quotable sound bites and an Irish blessing. The last one was offered with heartfelt sentiment and a twinkle in the eye. The reporter later said the old man had cornered THEM and didn't want to stop talking.

Good. I thought with a smile. A real human being who refused to speak in sound bites.

When they returned live with the reporter, he was sandwiched between a non-dancing Al and the female host. Of all the beauty of the country and the people, the reporter was still shaking his head over anyone driving so confidently down those lovely lanes. He just didn't get it. His fear of the possibility of another car around the bend made all the scenery slip from view. I'd be willing to bet he saw next to nothing on the road less traveled...unless they were parked.

To tell you the truth, I would've been perfectly happy to have ridden with the Irish Cousin because he was confident. And happy. Truly happy. After all, if you're going down the road less traveled, you should do it with a smile and a sense of adventure.


Poetikat said...

Ah, Hope. Come back to my blog where you'll find the undesecrated recipes for Soda bread and Irish brown bread today.
Okay, so Al Roker was Riverdancing? He could not have done so 20 years ago.


Terence McDanger said...

Oh dear it sounds like it was a bit faith and begorrah and ould shtick like that but at least you got to see the countryside, that's genuine Irish!

hope said...

Poetikat...I think I liked Al better when he was fat. ;) Still couldn't dance.

Terence, actually it was a refreshing change of pace [when the reporter shut up!] to see people going about their day. Wasn't touristy at all...just pleasant folks in a beautiful country. You have your own very special shade of green, that's for sure. :)

Susan said...

I suppose the driver-cousin was behaving his best for the cameras, because you didn't mention him drinking a Smithwick's with one hand while chatting away on the mobile phone with the other. If someone he knows comes from the other direction, they'll both stop and hold a conversation in the middle of the road, and never mind who drives up behind them.

Yup, that's our driving all right. We probably kill thousands of tourists a year, with help from those sheep.

When you saw County Sligo--that's near me. Smells mostly like poo.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!
(Happy Saint Patrick's Day!)

shug said...

Waking up IN Ireland: did that once. Went to sleep on the Isle of Man woke up in Ireland.

hope said...

I'd wonder about your travel agent, Shug. :)