The party went all night long
By Brian Doyle
My friend Mick got married finally, at the age of 50, and inasmuch as he was a superb musician, and most of his friends were superb if penniless musicians, there was a glorious lot of music at the reception, and everyone brought food and wine and beer, so the old Liberty Hall was roaring all night long, and blue with smoke, and night didn’t end until the night ended, which was apt and suitable, for this was an Irish event, and nearly everyone there was either born in or traced their people to County Mayo God Help Us, so there were conversations in Gaelic as well as American and Canadian. At about two in the morning, a man on stage sang a song in Japanese, and the older man next to me, smoking his cigar, said, I wonder what county he’s from then, his accent’s impenetrable, and we sipped our beers.
It is a tradition at an Irish wedding to hoist the bride up on a chair and parade her around the room, and this was done with panache, for the bride was a looker and everyone liked her very much, delighted that Mick had finally asked her to marry him, and that she had said yes. They’d only been living together the 10 years, as the older man next to me said, so it’s a bit of a rush by Irish standards, but young love will not be gainsaid, isn’t that so, and we sipped our beers.
The woman who managed the Liberty Hall was in a tither because officially there was no smoking in or around the hall, and there most certainly was smoking in and around the hall—indeed there were swirls and eddies of smoke, depending on air flow when the doors swung open and closed—and there was absolutely no loitering on Ivy Street with open containers of alcoholic beverages, but loitering was incontrovertibly going on, and she pleaded with the loiterers, who smiled at her and complimented her dashing shoes, and moved not an inch. She spoke directly to one quiet man with hair as black as a curate’s soul and suggested that if he moved in everyone would follow, and he smiled and moved not an inch, and she went back inside, and later Mick told me that this fellow had once been shot by imperial stormtroopers in Derry.
There was a small sign in the foyer of the hall that spoke of the history of the old wooden structure, noting that among the tenants over the years were The Industrial Workers of the World and The Universal Zulu Nation. And that right there, said the older man next to me, is why America is a great country, it seems to me, and we sipped our beers.
The mother of the groom was long past 80 years old, but she danced up a storm and it was near four in the morning when she finally retired to the chairs along the edge of the room where the other older people were dozing. The band kept going, though, and when dawn finally came, eight or nine musicians were still on stage, among them the groom, playing the flute, and his brother, who was holding a guitar but not playing it that I could see. I remember that the brother’s face was as close to the word beatific as you could ever get at, if you were using the word to describe a face that had seen a lot of years and snow and pain and laughter. I would say his face was the map of Cork except his people are of course from Mayo God Help Us, said the older man next to me, and we sipped our coffee, and a few minutes later, after the band finished a brace of songs by Christy Moore, the wedding came to an end, and the happy couple drove home to their children. I shook hands with the older man, who said God bless the happy young people, then, and we all went home to sleep.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of the novel Mink River. He writes the weekly Epiphanies column at theamericanscholar.org.
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