Niagara Gazette

March 1, 2014

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: A look at letting go for Lent

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Meditators — The story goes this way. A little old fella’ came from the Emerald Isle to our isle one autumn. Each night at precisely 7 p.m. he would sidle up to the tiny bar of Mike Carr’s Village Inn, order two large beers and silently sip them down.

While respecting bartender-client privilege (Ben Franklin’s amendment to the Bill of Rights), Mike finally succumbed to curiosity and inquired about this ritual. Why two, never more, never less.

“ ‘tis for me pal Paddy back in Ballybunion,” the visitor said. “When we parted we vowed we would host a toast to each other at this hour so long as we both drew breath of life.”

And so it went, through the winter, into the New Year.

Then one Wednesday in March the visitor came in and held up one finger. Mike set the solitary draft before him and with the wisdom which is part of the mixologist’s job description, deduced that Paddy had given up the ghost in Ballybunion.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Mike said.

“Loss?” the old fellow responded after a hearty quaff.

“Well,” said Mike, “you always had a drink with Paddy. I figured he’d met his Maker.”

“No, no,” said the Irishman. “Paddy is fine, but as for me, well, I’ve given it up for Lent!”

This is our favorite joke about beliefs, buddies, beverages and mischief, with its faint whiff of hypocrisy. It’s portable, too; first time we heard it, it was set in Maine.

And it came to mind as Lent approaches, heralded by the Mardi Gras menu at our Creole Dick & Jenny’s, where our visitor might order two Hurricanes and answer to the name of Pierre.

And we ponder what WE will curtail for Lent …

CUSSING: Doug would swear he doesn’t swear all that much, until he tries to forswear it altogether. Cleansing potty mouth improves vocabulary and promotes stress-avoidance. Still, it’s a blessing Lent doesn’t fall during football season.

TOPS GAS POINT BONUSES: The friendly market’s sales ploys, like buy six of this or that and get 200 extra gas points, lure Doug like catnip. We try to load up on non-perishables, but how many packs of party plates can we use, even if summer some day does arrive. So we’ll resist … after Senior Tuesday.

PHONE SPECS: Polly promises to give up saying “I’d better hang up and fix breakfast,” then changing the subject and talking another half-hour. Well, maybe. Call back to make sure.

ROUNDABOUT SARCASM: Any snide remark about the wheel of misfortune at Staley Road and Grand Island Boulevard gets a guaranteed laugh, but the truth is, it works fairly well and we’ll try to avoid it ‘til Easter.

PROCRASTINATION: Wow, did we miss deadline again?

Any more? We give up. Come visit. It’s kneeling-room only over here.

Polly and Doug E-mail