Last night, I went to Moher Public House, 5310 W. Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646, 773.4671954. This is an Irish bar whose name refers to the Cliffs of Moher in County Claire, Ireland. I’ve been there a few times already, always with my friend Mike who is half-Irish, half-Polish. I’ve known him for more than twenty years. I like all the pictures on the wall of Irish writers such as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. If you like watching sports, there are plenty of TVs. The last time I went, we watched the White Sox and the Cubs play on side-by-side TVs! All the pub patrons seem to know at least one person because this is a neighborhood pub where everyone hangs out. Our waitress even spoke with an Irish Brogue. The sign on the woman’s room read, “Mne” and the one on the men’s room, “Fir.” I received a receipt for the beers I bought when it was my turn to buy a round. When I got home, I finally noticed that it had a message in Gaelic, “Go raibh mile maith agat / agus / Slan abhaile,” which translates to “Thank you very much / and / Safe home.” The food is supposed to be very good there, but each time I went, I had already eaten before I went there.
Patrick McDonnell was my best friend in the second, third, and fourth grades at Holy Cross School. He was the smartest kid I ever knew. He had moved to Back of the Yards in Chicago from Ireland with his father, his brothers James, Leon, and Michael, and his sisters Cora and Margaret. His mother had died in Ireland before they came to Chicago. They lived next door to the firehouse on the corner of 45th Street and Marshfield.
I loved going to his house after school because we had fun visiting the firemen. Since he was a year behind in school because of his move from Ireland, he was older and wiser than me. Whenever I needed the mysteries of the universe explained to me, Patrick was there to explain them to me so that even I understood them.
Once, we were standing in the crosswalk on the corner of 46th Street and Paulina. I was about to cross the street when he stretched his arm across my chest to prevent me from crossing. Much to my surprise, a car drove right in front of our path. I was so amazed that he knew the car was coming our way. “How did you know the car was turning?” I asked him. “I saw his turn signal,” he said. “What’s a turn signal?” I asked. And he explained the Rules of the Road to me, edifying me about another one of the mysteries of the world, as only Patrick could. He performed a visual reenactment of our incident with him as the car and his eyes as the turn signals. He said he knew the car was turning left because he saw a left turn signal. He then winked his left eye repeatedly to represent the car’s left turn signal. For some reason, I always remember Patrick’s freckled face reenacting the left turn signal.
When his family finally moved to the suburbs—I don’t remember which one—he came to my house to say good-bye. In retrospect, I should have gotten his new address and phone number. On the other hand, he didn’t ask me for mine, either.