There are some people you meet who become friends. There are others who become like family. After eight gruelling days during which the Byrne Brothers scrutinized my every move and subjected me to the ancient Irish tortures of drunken singing and being beaten by potatoes (or “spuds”), I was honourably and unceremoniously granted the title “Honorary Byrne.”
When I stepped off the bus in Wexford town one fine sunny afternoon, I had no idea what kinds of wonders awaited me. Dónal arrived, long red locks flowing in the breeze, boyish smile on his face and a camera hanging from his neck. “Ah, what a pleasant fellow he is! Surely I will enjoy this man’s company for the next couple days.” Oh boy.
Really, though, I had a wonderful time. After driving the fifteen minutes or so to Kilmore Quay, we arrived at the Byrne household, where over the course of the next few days I met the entire family: John and Mary (patriarch and matriarch), “Footzy,” Dónal, Ronan, Cillian, and Lorcan. We were in a lovely house in the countryside, a five minute walk from the beach and close to the town. I immediately felt right at home and got along well with everybody. At least they pretended like they enjoyed having me around. My first or second evening there we visited The Sky and The Ground, a favourite local pub in Wexford with a fantastic atmosphere, great beer selection, and good company. It was here I first met many of the Brothers’ friends. I suppose I earned my place at the table by answering many questions about California and the U.S.; I felt like something of a celebrity, or else a zoo animal. In any case I met a few new people and made more friends.
Sometime during the week, a couple days after my arrival, I found myself in the sitting room of Paul and Enya’s flat, with a few of the Brothers. They were finishing up recording their second album. Did I mention they were in a band? I highly recommend checking out “Paul Creane and the Changing Band;” fantastic music. Anyway, I had heard about a big going-away party for Dónal. He was moving to Vancouver in a couple weeks and there were plans for some live music and drinks at The Sky. Some of the guys asked me if I was going to be there; the party was nearly a week away.
“Uh, sure! I’d love to go! Maybe I’ll stick around for a while longer.”
I’m sure I saw flames erupt from Dónal’s eyes. Or maybe it was the glint of his red hair, I’m not sure.
The days floated by and I slowly became more and more absorbed into the family. My genetic code rearranged itself and I started looking like the Brothers until their parents were convinced they had six children rather than five (I wish, for they’re a handsome lot). Long walks on the beach, late nights at the pub, and lots of fun conversation and general let’s-act-stupid-because-we’re-guys were the rule. By the time the week was up, I had indeed been deemed an Honorary Byrne. I had successfully infiltrated the family with my irresistible charm and stunningly good-lookingness.
It was a sad day when I finally had to move on. The night of the party, after leaving the pub, we walked over to Paul and Enya’s for more drinks and craic (look it up). Lorcan had driven the van, a large Ford with one passenger seat and a spacious rear compartment, with the intention of staying the night at the flat and leaving from town the next day to go to Waterford. I was to go with him and get dropped off at the bus station, where I would catch my ride to my next destination. Late into the night I pitched camp in the back of the van and slept quite well, and at 11:00 a.m. sharp. Lorcan disturbed my slumber with a loud banging and demands that I open the door. Sheesh. After an uneventful drive during which Lorcan shed many tears at my impending departure, I was left at the Waterford bus station, once again alone in the wide world. As I boarded the bus, I was sure I heard the faint, far-off sound of music and revelry coming from the direction of Kilmore Quay, as if the locals were celebrating the eternal banishment of some oppressive force or entity.