Vote Irish for the presidency in 2012: O’Bama it is!

March 17, 2012

I’d forgotten about the birthers’ greatest nightmare — Obama’s got Irish blood in him!

Democratic Underground features a series of photos of President Obama with an Irish cousin at one of my favorite old haunts in Washington, the Dubliner.

President Obama at the Dubliner, March 17, 2012 - Democratic Underground image

President Barack Obama drinks a Guinness with his ancestral cousin from Moneygall Ireland Henry Healy, center, and the owner of the pub in Moneygall Ireland, Ollie Hayes, right, at The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Washington

Many great memories of the Dubliner.

In 1974, when I interned at the Senate, it was just a small bar on the first floor of the Commodore Hotel.  Rocky Johnson of Sen. Mike Gravel‘s office, one of my roommates, introduced me to Guiness.  The Dubliner was the most reliable source in D.C. at the time.  The bartender was a guy named Paddy.  It was never crowded — and they had good fish and chips with a fine, imported malt vinegar. I wasn’t exactly a regular, but I made several visits.

Ironically, for my summer job that year with the Louis August Jonas Foundation, we had a trip to D.C. planned with about 16 “boys from abroad” and the designated hotel was the Commodore — it was cheap and met our needs, being close to the Capitol.  I was asked to chaperone, and happily went.   So Freddy Jonas, the great benefactor of the foundation and Camp Rising Sun, and I could sneak down to the Dubliner for a nightcap.  Michael Greene, the foundation’s executive director, warned me that Freddy would always ask if you wanted a second drink, but Freddy would not take one himself — and so, of course, neither should staffers.

One night while Freddy and I were capping off the evening we ran into a friend from interning, Avis Ortner, a rodeo barrel rider who had starred in a Kodak commercial series, and who worked in a Washington law firm.  She and Freddy struck it off very nicely.  I was surprised at how much Freddy knew about horses, and the questions he had about rodeo riding.  At some point in the evening he asked me if I were going to have a second drink, and of course I declined.  “Well, you only live once.  Avis and I are having a second one, and you should join us.”  People who knew Freddy well still don’t believe me when I tell them the story.  But it’s true.  It’s the magic of the Dubliner.  [Is Avis still cleaning up at bridge in D.C.?]

I was back in D.C. in 1975, again with the Jonas Foundation bunch, and again at the Commodore.  The Dubliner had a successful year, and had taken over the small cafe/dining room next door to bar.

In 1976 I visited again, and after a very successful year the Dubliner kicked out the gift shop of the hotel and opened a second bar there.  It was crowded on weekends.

In 1979 I moved to D.C.  Within a couple of years the Dubliner bought out the Commodore.  You couldn’t get a seat at the bar most nights.  St. Patrick’s Day 1980 the line wrapped around the block, and though the place never had a great stage, the live act was the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, if I recall correctly.

Reconstruction and massive redecorating made the hotel into a great stop.  Eventually the bar company sold the hotel, but kept the location.  After Kathryn and I got married, we’d walk over to the Dubliner for lunch at least a couple of times a month, and the fish and chips at the Dubliner got better.  I may have done in half the cod from the Grand Banks all by myself.

We’ve been in Texas now since 1987.  I miss the Dubliner.  Obama’s lucky he could get in, on St. Patrick’s Day.  I hope he appreciates his luck.

(Kenny’s in Baltimore tonight — more irony.  Girl Talk on Federal Hill (I think it’s an outdoor concert performance).  Better than waiting in line at the Dubliner.  Go when the crowds aren’t there, and you can savor the place.)


Playing with the ‘possum in the backyard

March 17, 2012

No, not “playing possum.”  Playing WITH the ‘possum.

The mostly-dachsund harasses any animal that may wish to take up residence under our shed — or, in some cases, under the heat pump.  The animals usually stick around for a while, though, because there is so much good stuff to dig up there.  For our part, we don’t mind when they dig up and dispose of the grubs, most of the time.

But these creatures — a possum, a raccoon a couple of years ago, armadilloes from time to time, or even rats (before Smokey the cat took them out, one by one) — eventually wander off, mostly unseen by us because they’re nocturnal.

Yesterday morning both dogs went nuts, and when I looked out, I realized they had something treed.  Between the mostly-dachsund and the border setter, they average out to a couple of beagles, and they can tree something if they want to.  Can’t get it, but they can tree it.

Possum on the fence IMGP2893 (2) photo by Ed Darrell creative commons copyright

It's an election year, so why shouldn't one of Pogo's cousins be on the fence?

It’s probably the same one I saw a few weeks ago when taking coffee grounds to the compost pile (maybe the caffeine is keeping this guy up days, eh?).  Kenny caught him crossing the alley late one night, in the headlights, of course.

I brought the dogs in, and turned them out an hour later, thinking the guy had plenty of time to get to his daytime hiding place.

They treed him again. (Actually, that’s the second treeing, pictured above.)

Later they got him on the fence in a different part of the yard.

Possum in dallas, peeking through the photinia

Possum caught in the early morning, peeking through the Chinese photinia (not red tip). Flash photography confuses the little guys, I think.

By this time I worried that the critter might be suffering from an illness — like rabies, which tends to make nocturnal animals come out in daylight, and be mean.

But there are no other symptoms.  I was relieved this morning to find new digs from the critter.  If he, or she, is digging for food, it’s probably not rabid.

In his jaunts around the world last year Kenny mentioned how ugly possums are, to one of his friends from Britain, who immediately took issue.  Cute?

Turns out Kenny’s friend was referring to the Australian possum, which is quite cute.

Australian ring-tailed possum, photo by kookr

Australian ring-tailed possum, photo by kookr. Australia has 27 different species of possum, all of them cuter and more cuddly than their American cousins.

Ours is not an Australian import.

I hope the bob whites come back, too.  Maybe it was just the drought that discouraged them last year.

It’s been a good year for wildlife, at least those with wings.  One day last week we had a tree full of cedar waxwings, passing through.  Blue jays and white-winged doves flew around them, and into the same tree.  There were a bunch of robins out — making eight weeks of sightings of the things, which leads me to understand some sizable population is staying in the Dallas area now, instead of just migrating through as they would, formerly.  On the live oak, the yellow-belly sapsucker probed for new grubs.  And on the trunk of the red oak the waxwings gathered in, another woodpecker, wholly oblivious to the cacophony, looked for emerging insects itself.   On local roads I’ve seen a bobcat — first for Texas, for me — and a few coyotes (while cousin-in-law Amanda has video of what looks to be wolves, in California!).  We haven’t gone out to look at the snowy owl in Rockwall, but there’s a chance of adding a rarity to the life-list.

With luck, we’ll get the toads, soon.  We should do well — Kathryn’s worked hard to make the yard a refuge for wildlife.  We’re mostly organic, so there should be no poisons to accumulate in any insect-eating critters.  We feed birds, several different species, and we have water for animals in front and back yard.  The National Wildlife Federation will certify your yard as a backyard wildlife habitat.  Working to get there is most of the fun; watching the wildlife is the gravy.

Backyard wildlife study is great fun.

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