I lived in Ireland. Yes I did. I moved there to take a break from the fast pace life of NYC, the fashion world, the advertising world and the pressure of keeping life on track. My family and I moved in 2007 for a year and stayed for three. That is another story.
While living in the wilds of Co. Cork, I began to miss the opportunities afforded to a photographer living in a fast pace life. Yep, I said that..smiling.. In an attempt to scratch the muscle, the creative one, I reached out to a few creatives in the Irish fashion industry so as to create some connection and possibly a project or two.
Very quickly I connected with a few and one in particular was most interesting to me-a fashion designer named Helen James. Loved the work I saw of hers so I sent a feeler out to her thru Facebook and heard back from her rather quickly. After a few texts and then a phone call we had decided to explore some ideas for a fashion editorial shoot and made plans to create it.
Helen had a vision for some of her recent pieces she had created, head pieces, beautiful creations with ribbon and feathers and sumptuous fabrics. She wanted to recreate imagery that reflected the look of renaissance portraits of women, ie: ………..Raphael, DaVinci, Boticelli.
I’d wanted to play golf for a few reasons, but the one that initially drove the passion was that I’d wanted to get to know my new father-in-law better.
It was 1993. I bought a set of second-hand MacGregor irons, Nicklaus in a bag for $100. These heirlooms were butter-knife thin with stiff shafts, and I started beating the turf with them.
I took two or three lessons in a second-story loft on 5th Avenue in NYC from a guy whose name I can’t remember. It wasn’t pretty. I’m not sure I ever really got the clubface on the ball.
Undeterred, I kept at it and practiced and practiced. I became obsessed with golf.
Eventually I found a range in Maplewood, New Jersey, near the new home we had purchased in the summer of 1997. The range was called “the Crescent,” suggesting the curved arrangement of the hitting bays.
In truth, it reminded me of the range in the movie Tin Cup, which had recently come out. Only instead of Roy McAvoy as an instructor, there was Pat Masterson; and instead of a Texas accent, there was what I assumed to be an Irish accent that hypnotized me every time I‘d hear it.
I decided to take lessons at this range and requested Pat teach me.
I booked him periodically for a lesson, once twice a month and started down the road to truly learn about the golf swing and the game, and about Pat.
Pat was a tall man, and always walked with a gangly, relaxed stride. When he spoke, you knew you were being addressed in the most honest way, as he looked deep into your eyes. Never did I hear him raise his voice or lose his temper. Now, he may have, but I never saw it. Always dressed to the T. and his hair was always perfect, silver grey and combed back with what could have been Brylcreem. He was a handsome lad of 65 at the time.
My tendency was to hang back a bit on my full swing. I’m sure It frustrated him a bit as he continually said “look where your weight is”, as my ball headed for right field.
I’d heard rumor that Pat had been a priest in the Catholic Church in Florida and that he left the cloth along with a nun and were married and moved to New Jersey. I’d also heard that that they eventually got divorced, as the former habit-wearer was having an affair with a common friend—an emcee for a major late-night talk show in the city that never sleeps.
“It’s true”, he said when I asked him about it during a visit to his house. A photo of him in an oval frame, wearing the collar, confirmed it.
Golf had become more about enjoying myself with Pat than impressing my father-in-law. After making a respectable golfer out of me, Pat and I met up for an occasional game. Playing with him was like getting gratis lessons. He always had a way of being instructional and encouraging at the same time.
“Your next shot is your best shot,” he’d say. Thank you, Pat.
Whether dispensing the occasional tip or quip, he made every round a memorable one.
Perhaps our most unforgettable round came on a sunny Tuesday morning in 2001. We were playing golf in New Jersey with two other friends at East Orange Country Club—a misnomer since it was and still is a muni that’s a bit rough around the edges but a pretty good course.
Around the 13th hole, we noticed fighter jets flying over the course in the direction of New York City. One of our foursome called a friend to learn that a commercial flight had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. It seemed surreal. We finished our round and went to the grill, where we spent most of the afternoon glued to the television as events unfolded on one of the most tragic days in US history.
Every September 11th, at some point during the day, I think of that moment, and I will always remember I was there with Pat, the look on his face when we walked into the grill after the round and the TV was broadcasting the coverage.
What I also remember about Pat is that he rarely cleaned his clubface. Maybe, hardly ever. And he never regripped his clubs as long as I’d known him. His irons may have been as old as him. I’d never heard of the brand of club he played—not that it stopped him from making birdies and the occasional eagle with his Wilson ball.
Wilson is a big brand in Ireland, possibly because Padraig Harrington has played the equipment since 1998. Pat would always remark, “If I needed distance, I’d change out my ball for a Top Flite”
When we’d play, Pat would drive and pick me up at a predetermined location. In his boat-like burgundy Lincoln Town Car. The vehicle puzzled me, since he loved to talk about how much he’d loved fast cars—specifically Ford Mustangs—when he came to America. I love the image of a parish priest driving a Mustang with his ex-nun wife riding shotgun.
And even now, when I play, I still hear his voice—the voice I’d first heard at the driving range, with its lilting timbre, like that of an Irish tenor.
The last time I saw Pat was in Florida a few years ago. I was there visiting friends, and Pat had moved there for the weather. We played a round of golf, caught up on life, shared new stories and laughed. I had just returned from living in Ireland for three years and it was heartwarming to share my brief life experience with a real Irishman.
We lost touch after that, and I learned that Pat had moved to England to care for his aging mother who had left County Longford and now lived in Birmingham.
I recently traveled back to New Jersey, and decided to play a round of golf at East Orange. After a busy few days, I reached out to Jon, one of the guys who was with us on Sept 11th and invited him to play.
After an early breakfast and lots of catching up, we headed to the first tee. So many memories came rushing back, especially the ones about the drives I had either sliced onto the adjoining road or pulled dead left into the heavy forest lining the fairways.
After avoiding trouble on holes 1 and 2, I encountered an old nemesis—the par-3 third. At 185 yards from the back tees, the hole looks simple, but for some reason I’d always yanked my tee shot left of the green, sometimes into the heavy rough or even the edge of the forest.
I teed up my Titleist and made, what I thought was a smooth rhythmic swing with a hybrid club. From the whack, I knew I’d made solid contact, but then I watched my well-struck ball scream left, deep into the green abyss of leaves and branches.
As my playing partner and I had a wager going, I wasn’t about to re-tee. I had to find my ball.
Judging from the well-worn path, I wasn’t the first to launch one into this particular spot in the woods. My Titleist must be there, has to be there, where is it? After a few minutes of searching and finding some scuffed and dirty Precepts and Top-Flites, I stepped on what felt like a round rock beneath some leaves.
I brushed away the leaves. It turned out to be an embedded golf ball—a Wilson, #2. I’d never seen anyone but Pat play that brand, and my mind immediately darted to our days together on the course—the laughs, the philosophic conversations, the putts and more laughs.
Unable to find my Titleist, I decided to play with “Pat’s Wilson” for the remainder of the round. Jon and I reminisced so vividly about Pat that it almost felt as though he’d joined us. I holed out on the 18th green for a par and broke 85.
Pulling the ball from the hole, I had an idea. Should I send it to Pat? Display it on my mantle? Keep it for the next time Jon and I played?
No, no and no. I cleaned the ball with my towel and looked toward the woods behind the green.
What the hell? I thought, as I heaved the ball into the trees. I hope that whenever someone finds it, memories will come flooding back of a long lost friend.
This morning I received an email from the WordPress blog: Roaringwater Journal.
The new post from Finola was a revisit of her from a previous post highlighting a place close to my heart. Dooneen, Kilcrohane, Co. Cork, Ireland.
Reading thru her post, my time and life there has been brought to the front again. I want to share some images from that place. Thank you Finola!
Mary Grant,Dooneen, 2007
Mary and Donal Grant built this home at the end of Donal’s life. When they moved to Ireland initially, they lived in a cottage that is still there. Their original home is now lived in by the Muschenheim family, Art and Gunie.
The view from the original cottage.
The most recent home, Now named “Dooneen Pier” after the pier at the bottom of the lane that is on Dunmanus Bay. This was our home for some part of 4 years.
Jerimiah,Jer Daly and Liz Daly. Caretakers of the Dooneen home. Jer is mentioned in the book White Goats and Black Bees many times. Jerimiah’s family farm bordered the property that Mary and Donal purchased in the 60’s.
Chloe and Maggie Carr at the lane leading up to our home.
This post was first published in October 2013. Since then I have found more material, so have decided to update it.
The non-fiction book, White Goats and Black Bees by Donald Grant is set on the Sheep’s Head. Donald and Mary Grant, a couple of journalists based in New York, impulsively decided to jump off the career treadmill and become farmers in Ireland in the 1960’s. They bought a small acreage on the Sheep’s Head, where they raised goats and ducks, cultivated an enormous vegetable garden, and by degrees and sheer hard work turned themselves into ‘peasants’.
This out-of-print book was drawn to my attention by my friend, Aideen, whose father, while in New York, had encouraged the Grants to consider West Cork. Aideen visited the Grants as a young woman and still has memories of their gorse wine.
This past summer I had the opportunity to volunteer at a summer camp hosted by Camp Promise (www.camppromise.org) in Empire Colorado. The camp is for people of all ages with neuromuscular diseases and muscular dystrophy, and is provided free of charge. (http://www.jettfoundation.org) Camp Promise is staged at Rocky Mountain Village-Easter Seals Camp on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.The campers are given an opportunity to be with friends and other boys at the same place in life and to go all out, be big and joyful and expressive.My responsibility was to document as much as I could of the experience for 5 days from morning to the end of the day, every day. Here is a small journal in image and testimony from various participants and volunteers.
Camp Promise Rocky Mountains, 2015
“Camp Promise is great! I like getting to hang out with all my friends and meet lots of new people.”
“To spend time with friends who have similar challenges.”
“To be with people who understands what the camper’s going through. And more importantly have fun.”
“I love being with my friends who share my life challenges. Give and take is part of what life is all about. We support each other and this is a chance to do that while having fun.”
“Camp means the world to me, I enjoy doing whatever I can to make camp an experience unforgettable for all the boys.” – Chad, volunteer counselor
“For an entire week Luke does not have to worry about all the things he can’t do, but gets to look forward to all the things he will do with friends in the Duchenne community.” – Chad, Luke’s dad
“It means I get to have adventures with some of my best friends for an entire week.” – Luke, 7 year old camper
No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind
action leads to another. Good example is followed.
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all
directions, and the roots spring up and make new
trees. The greatest work that kindness does to
others is that it makes them kind themselves.
~ Amelia Earhart
For a half-Norwegian guy from Long Island, Bill Barich knows a thing or two about Irish pubs.“A good pub is a place devoted to conversation, with drink as the lubricant,” Mr. Barich said oneevening last week. “In an American bar, the minute you finish your drink they say, ‘Do you wantanother?’ You’d never see that in a good pub.”
As it happened, he was drinking a pint of Bass and holding forth on the topic at the Kinsale Tavern, an Irish pub on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Mr. Barich, a writer, spent much of his adult life in California and set several of his books there,among them the horse racing classic “Laughing in the Hills.” But for the last eight years he haslived in Ireland, and the Kinsale felt like familiar turf.
“A great many pubs in Dublin would look like this,” he said, noting the numerous TVs tuned to soccer and the piped-in music. In fact, Mr. Barich has been in a great many pubs in the last two years, researching his new book,“A Pint of Plain” (Walker, $25), a rumination on Irish pub culture, if not a travelogue by way ofthe barroom. The book, his eighth, grew out of Mr. Barich’s own search to find a good local pubnear his home in Dublin, a personal goal that might seem to rank low on the difficulty scale in a country that has nearly 12,000 pubs and where Guinness was once promoted as a source of nutrition.
But finding a pub with the same low-key atmosphere and traditional décor as Pat Cohan’s, the country pub in John Ford’s film “The Quiet Man,” proved elusive. An early candidate, R. McSorley & Sons, had “a musty dignity that spoke of permanence,” as Mr. Barich writes, and antique bric-a-brac on the walls. But soon after he became a regular the pubwas sold and given a slick makeover by new owners, who told Mr. Barich that the old decorations were phony anyway — purchased for nostalgic effect.
And so it went. Some pubs were unresponsive to foreigners, or “blow-ins.” Others doubled as pickup spots or resembled sports bars, with 24-7 TV coverage replacing the joys of idle banter, pickup spots or resembled sports bars, with 24-7 TV coverage replacing the joys of idle banter.
Mr. Barich’s fascination with what he calls “fairy tale Ireland” surely complicated matters; the interior of the fabled Pat Cohan’s, which for many represents the quintessential Irish pub, was built on a Hollywood soundstage. But his hunt also revealed how Irish pub culture is changing with the society around it.
In years past, a pub was a family-run business, and the publican more than likely lived upstairs—an arrangement that created an intimacy across the bar. “A good publican is a person with character, concerned about the welfare of patrons,” Mr. Barich said. That a barman could aspire to one day own a pub himself made for a system of dues paying that also resulted in better service. But with trophy pubs now commanding as much as $8 million, a shift has been made to partnerships or corporations that may own and manage several bars. At the same time, more Irish are drinking wine, and drinking at home or in restaurants, chipping away at the socialrelevance of pubs.
The changes are most pronounced in the countryside, where verdant fields gave way to suburban sprawl in a period of rampant economic growth (now considerably tamed) known as the Celtic Tiger. The farmers who once treated rural pubs as community centers are selling off their fields, or else being frightened away from the barstool by strict drunken driving laws. “The loss of those country pubs signifies a huge change,” Mr. Barich said.It’s a transformation other Irish natives have noticed. Larry Kirwan, who sings in the New York based Irish rock band Black 47, said his hometown, Wexford, 85 miles south of Dublin, has more than 50 pubs, “and there’s only one where I can find that old tradition.”
The pub, Mary’s Bar, is basically one room and was run until recently by a now-deceased publican who was known to break out a harmonica and lead impromptu sing-alongs. In pubs like Mary’s, Mr. Kirwan said, “there’s almost a Talmudic sense of rules and conventions to be observed.” Chief among them is not getting overly plastered. “Nobody wants drunks in Irish pubs because they’re boring,” he said, “and the last thing you want to be called is boring.”
Instead, traditional pubs foster warmth and fraternity.
“For the couple of hours that you’re in there,” Mr. Kirwan said, “you mesh with this communityand your personal troubles are shed.”It’s these qualities that have made the Irish pub such a popular global export. You can scarcely goanywhere without seeing a Paddy Reilly’s or a Flann O’Brien’s, the shamrocks on the walls aspredictable as the Guinness on tap.
Some pubs model themselves on the Irish Pub Concept, a program sanctioned by the beverageconglomerate Diageo-Guinness USA that offers tips for authentic replication — for instance,adding “& Sons” to a name to convey history.
After many pints drunk on many barstools over the course of many evenings, Mr. Barich did turnup a few watering holes to rival Pat Cohan’s, notably a pub in Dublin north of the Liffey River andfar from the tourists called John Kavanagh, but better known as the Gravediggers.
Stepping inside, Mr. Barich was met by a wood bar that has been there since the 1830s, and apublican, Eugene Kavanagh, who lives above the business and is so devoted to his pub’s continuedexistence that he had been prepared to put it in a trust if none of his children wanted to take over.(It was unnecessary.)
“It’s not my job,” he told the writer. “It’s my life.”Naturally, Mr. Barich sat down and ordered a pint.
I won’t be golfing the northernmost links on the mainland UK until tomorrow, but as I sit here in my hotel room in Wick, so very high up in the Highlands, it is beginning to feel like it’s all downhill from here. (For those keeping score, I have already played the northernmost golf course in all the UK–Whalsay in the Shetland Islands–along with the UK’s most southern (Mullion), and I’m headed for the most western courses, both mainland and island.)
I have left no golfing stone unturned in this search for the answer to golf, but in my daily dash to play on and on and on, I have left little time to think about what it is that I have actually found.
I’m well past the halfway point, 80 or so scorecards shipped home in zip-lock bags. In all this golf, there have been roadblocks and blessings and surprises…