In an authentic Irish pub in Las Vegas where over much crowd noise the three of us are discussing Yeats, Joyce and Lady Gregory. We’re in an Irish pub after all, plus the fact we’re literature profs attending a Vegas academic conference. Kathy, who holds both Irish and American citizenship, has led us here insisting on a real Irish experience while in Vegas. And it is. On the backbar’s shelf a multi-array of amber liquid bottles of gleaming Irish whiskies is echoed in tall, arched mirrors. Half-to-filled bottles of Jameson, Kilbeggan, Greenore, Midleton, Writer’s Tears, and a range of peated single-malt selections stand like stolid druid sorcerers. I’m eying Writer’s Tears, as a literary self-indulgence, after too many publishing rejections of late. 

 Kathy’s half through her second Guinness Extra Stout pint while lauding Yeats as not only a fine poet and dramatist, but as co-founder of Dublin’s Abby Theatre. We are talking loudly over the band across the room where a young woman performer with green-dyed hair is clogging rat-a-tat-tat percussively on the small raised stage like she’s Michael Flatley’s granddaughter or somesuch. We can’t even hear the crunch of our basket of beer-battered and Bloody Mary marinated Drunken Onion Rings; although they’re delicious nonetheless. Kathy’s also putting away another house speciality, a Sloppy Pat corned beef sandwich, between reciting mouthfuls of Yeat’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”  

Polly’s slowly sipping her Baileys Irish Cream on-the-rocks as I’m making my way through my second shot of Writer’s Tears while Kathy’s starting her 2nd dark Guinness along with her Sloppy Pat. The three of us are leaning against the dark-stained, wet-shiny mahogany bar where Joyce’s Leopold Bloom probably once leaned or Dylan Thomas for sure, reciting “And death shall have no dominion”–which it nevertheless did anyway after a serious drinking bout celebrating his 39th birthday with friends. We’re sipping our drinks looking around the place, admiring all this Irish-cum-Vegas culture. The polished bar and backbar are straight out of Dublin we’ve been told, as is every single brick of the pub’s exterior. Each of us has a foot resting comfortably on the floor’s fancy raised faux-brass rail when a drunk staggers from the dance floor crowd toward the bar, spewing a small lake of pretzel-laden vomit just behind us and flooding underneath the brass rail where the three of us are standing holding forth our literary fete.

Rudely interrupted we are rightfully disgusted and not at all feeling sorry for this creep who’s just drunkenly puked sourly and loudly in our direction. We are slipping uncomfortably in disgorged spew. But quickly enough a clean-up woman magically appears–summoned by on-duty green cocked-hat leprechauns it seems–to mop away the floor’s insult with a few practiced strokes of her Irish spin mop, then dumped back into her green trolley bucket later to be emptied into the imported peat bog located behind the pub, anticipating just such patron surfeits. 

The authentic Irish bartender meanwhile, mindful of long established Irish pub vomit custom, sets up on the bar in front of us an on-the-house Irish Cream, another Guinness, and a Writer’s Tears for Polly, Kathy, and me. Kathy, who speaks Gaelic, tells us we’re well on our way to being absolutely “stocious” given this new round of courtesy drinks. Wouldn’t that more authentically be “langered,” I say, adding what little drunk-Irish I know. Sure, Kathy says, and “Slainte na bhfear agus go maire no mna go deo!” she adds raising her glass of Guinness to clink with ours. “Health to the men and may the women live forever,” she translates. To mine and Polly’s bemused laughter. Down the hatch, Polly offers, and then let’s get t’hell outa here.

Later at our hotel we wash our one-each vomit-soiled shoes in our rooms’ bathroom sink. Thus capping an altogether genuine Vegas-Irish experience. 

About the author:

Ed Higgins’ poems and short fiction have appeared in various print and online journals including recently: Peacock Journal, Uut Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review, and Tigershark Magazine, among others. Ed teaches literature at George Fox University, south of Portland, OR. He is also Asst. Fiction Editor for Ireland-based Brilliant Flash Fiction.

Eva’s Comments:

The Irish way of life always strikes me as idyllic and traditional. Ed Higgins’ Flash piece written in a Stream of Consciousness style introduces the reader to a type of writing so reminiscent of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. The term Stream of Consciousness was first coined in 1890 by an American philosopher and psychologist, William James. 

As a narrative device, Stream of Consciousness allows the reader to share the writer’s thought processes in the written word: an internal dialogue is happening within the writer’s head and we are privy to it. Admittedly, a work written in this manner can be difficult to read because some writers can go on and on with little or no punctuation. As a reader, you have to imagine that the author of the book or story is having a (one way) conversation with you. You’re “listening” but with no way of getting a word in edgeways. 

The most cited and famous Irish writer using this narrative method is James Joyce. My early reading of Joyce’s Ulysses filled me with much confusion and frustration. I was determined to finish the book which is devised with chapters known as “episodes” and so I soldiered on.  (I discovered that if I relax my mind and allow the flow of words to pour out of the text, reading Ulysses became easier.)  I was glad to come to the final episode/chapter of the book only to find Joyce’s character, Molly Bloom, speaking continuously, with no end, at Bloom, her husband. She is ruminating and as ruminating goes, she does not pause for Bloom, her husband, to interject or even converse. Here’s an example, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is often quoted and used as a fine example of how writing in the Stream of Consciousness looks and reads like. Notice how in this cited excerpt one sentence flows into another with no punctuation allowing for pauses. 

In Higgins’ piece, we can hear the narrator recount an episode in an Irish inspired pub in Las Vegas. The story reads more like a rumination of an event and/or a journal entry of sorts, if one likes. It brings the reader into the very core of the narrator’s experience in a more controlled manner unlike that of Joyce’s Molly. This Flash piece is written astutely and within the economy of a tight word count, we have a beginning, middle (where something happens) and an end (a resolution of that something, in this case, ending with the three characters “capping an altogether genuine Vegas-Irish experience” bringing readers back to the beginning where the first sentence— “In an authentic Irish pub in Las Vegas […]”—acts as a precursor to the ending. {emphasis mine} And the subtle humour is so authentically Irish too.

Ed Higgins sent in his story with a photo of the pub that inspired ‘In an authentic Irish pub in Las Vegas’. The image shows a scene in an authentic looking Irish pub. For the purpose of this journal, I have selected an artwork which I think lends a more authentic feel to the Irish pub that Higgins paints in his story. 

About the artist:

Martin Driscoll is an American painter based in Wimberley, Texas. He is famous for documenting all things Irish in his paintings. His oil paintings can be found online. This oil painting captures a way of life for many Irishmen past and present. The pints of Guinness on the bar top epitomises a way of life that still goes on in contemporary Ireland as depicted by Driscoll. 

image credit: Martin Driscoll

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