The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland. Many other pubs claim this fact, but any real local will tell you The Head is the oldest. Brian, my redheaded friend, told me to meet him at such a pub. All three of us kids were nervous because of the high volume of pubs claiming the very same claim the Head holds. Our nervousness, also stretched from the infinite possibilities in the way of thwarting Brian’s quest to meet us, grew to anxiety. We had been traveling for more than 12 hours. Originally missing our train From Barcelona to Madrid, we could only afford first class tickets to a train leaving two hours later. Afford is the correct word choice, because if we left a moment later we would then miss our flight from Madrid to Dublin. Arriving in Madrid we ran to our Metro train, ran to the connection, and ran all the way down the terminal causing my back to flood like a hurricane rocked dam. I carried thirty pounds on my back, which is nothing compared to say a military hike or hardcore backpacking, but can ruin a traveler in extreme conditions. Making it to the plane the moment prior to departure was beautiful and we were all very thankful, but physically exhausted.
Kent, Amy and I found the pub after many attempted bus catching. The golden sign at the front was as magical as finding the Wizard of Oz. I didn’t seem overly sparkly, but the subtle shimmer drew my attention into a drunken stare. We walked through the archway to an outside patio. Not a single women could be seen, only tables of older men each extra with a Guinness. They shouted and laughed back and forth, but kept to their seats, bringing a slight order to the chaos… yet no sight of the lad. We walked inside first hearing voices crooning along to the band in front, and second we witnessed a full bar on a Tuesday. Irish men and women waving their beers, it was a scene from a movie. The moment we all stepped in, full of sacs, we realized that our unusual dress for a pub was drawing attention. What are these kids with semi bright clothes with huge backpacks doing at a bar? I’m quoting their eyes. Even the duo playing the steel flute and fiddle front and center of the bar turned their heads to us. We searched every head quickly not to attract more attention than we were receiving, but the only heads was brazen nothing red.
We checked in fifteen hundred more places. The pub lead us into secret rooms, hallways, bathrooms, offices, luxury couches and wooden block tables. I wondered how often the rooms were actually used. Of course we were still empty a redhead. I asked the bartender for two Guinness, and if she had seen an American redhead. She started her response like a gunshot went off accidentally in her hand and ended it her speech just as quickly, “You wouldn’t believe how many Americans I’ve seen today. It’s amazing the tree hugging hippies! This spot is too much a tourist trap.” Funny, I couldn’t see any Americans but my two friends and I saw one more in the mirror in the bathroom.
I starred at her pouring technique. Two glasses flipped in air while she looked directly at a fellow employee. She slammed two joining tabs and without even paying attention to the majesty beneath her, black magic filled the pint. Stopped her pour an inch below the pint line, my heart broke. What, this is a real pint of Guinness? But I was wrong, because she was only letting the head evaporate for the time being. I would soon learn that all Guinness is poured like that. A proper pint entails a pour to the top, waiting for exactly thirty one seconds and then topping the glass off. Us Americans should take a tip from the Irish and kill the head.
I grabbed the glasses before Amy grabbed my arm. With a slack-jaw grin she pointed me in the direction of the man with red hair. All smiles, hugs ensued… gigantic hugs. A man sitting alone behind us stood up and with a loud mouth he cheerfully said “I never get a welcoming like that.” His wide arms suggested it was time for his hug. This wholly creped Amy out, so she turned around. I couldn’t leave a local hanging so I drew him in for a one handed hug. He made it a little more than I intended it to be. I politely said hi, and by as quickly as possible so I could turn around to speak with the friend that made it from San Francisco.
It was epic; he bought two more Guinness for Amy and himself. We raised our glasses like we were about to sing an old jig and drank down sweet nectar.