No one's paying attention to President Bush at the Dubliner on Washington Avenue, even though his pleading blue eyes are staring down at us from three different flat-screens. He's talking to Congress, to America, to the world, but with the sound turned down and the Irish music turned up, all we know are his facial expressions: a furrowed brow giving way to a tight smile, a crow's-feet squint and flared nostrils. Those blue eyes can only take him so far in this life, and he seems to have hit his dead end. The president's words scroll across the bottom of the screen: "Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity."
The bar is full, the beer is black, and the President's being ignored. They've been fooled once. They won't be fooled again. The Guinness here is comforting, so soft that it runs down the gullet like milk from a teat, and they prefer it to the sound of malarkey pouring from the pie-hole of a liar.
The president begins with his domestic agenda, behaving like a little boy who wants to eat his dessert before he touches his spinach. Blah blah blah health insurance global warming, the desperate pleas of an unpopular president. On the stereo an Irishman is singing a standard: "Going to a place where the grass is green, to a glowing place that we have never seen."
We're sitting at a booth examining the Dubliner's' menu of Guinness cocktails. Among others, there's the Black & Tan (Smithwicks and Guinness), the Poor Man's Black Velvet (Guinness and Champagne), the Black and a Dash (Guinness and black currant), the Snakebite (Harp and Hardcore cider); the Irish Car Bomb (Guinness and Baileys). We order a Black and a Dash because it sounds intriguing, and we like the idea of pairing the earthy chocolate with the tang of berry. But the drink is better on paper than it is in practice. What arrives is more like Guinness spiked with blood.
So we switch to a Snakebite as the Irish music and the State of the Union collide. It's a perfect pairing, ale and cider, and it lightens our mood until the president starts talking about his troop surge. "Give it a chance to work," reads the caption as the Pogues arrive on the sound system ("A Pair of Brown Eyes"). It's a solid case of divine intervention.
In the song, a man, drunk in a bar, has a flashback of war as he watches a brown-eyed singer:
In blood and death 'neath a screaming sky
I lay down on the ground
And the arms and legs of other men
Were scattered all around
Some cursed, some prayed, some prayed then cursed
Then prayed and bled some more
And the only thing that I could see
Was a pair of brown eyes that was looking at me
But when we got back, labeled parts one two three
There was no pair of brown eyes waiting for me
Lost in his head, drunk to hell, the man is fated to walk through life with the memory of those eyes staring at him. The president's words continue: "...whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans...kill democracy in the Middle East...and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale."
Maybe it's time for an Irish Car Bomb? We order one: a half-pint of Guinness and a shot of Baileys Irish Cream. The goal is to dump the Baileys into the Guinness and slam the mixture before the acid in the stout curdles the cream. It's a drink that'll fuck you up. Our server delivers it, and it sits before us as Pogues singer Shane MacGowan repeats the refrain: "And a-rovin', a-rovin', a-rovin' I'll go, for a pair of brown eyes, for a pair of brown eyes."
A car bomb? Not tonight. We order a big glass of water, and guzzle it down.