November 7, 2000 U.S. Election from Bantry Ireland

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20 years after we saw a waxing gibbous moon over Bantry bay on the Bush/Gore election night I see a waning gibbous moon over the Irish sea and the U.S. election is in that indeterminate state like Schroedinger’s cat.

We stepped into a cobblestone pub to have lunch. Turf burned in the fireplace behind me as we enjoyed another excellent meal. We continued towards the southwestern corner of Ireland. Here mountains blocked the north winds and focused the remnants of the Gulf Stream to warm the shoreline of Bantry Bay. We found a sign for a B&B atop a hill overlooking the narrow bay. We arrived at the top of the hill as night deepened the blue and purple colors of the sky. It appeared that no one was home. I rang the doorbell and a cheerful woman came out to tell us that because of the rain and floods, she had closed for the season a few days early. We inquired about other B&Bs and returned to our car. As we were about to drive away, she tapped on our car window. She told us that if we don’t mind that it will take her a few minutes to clean up, she could take us in for the night. We thanked her for the opportunity and brought our bags into her home. She spoke in that high musical voice of Southwest Ireland and punctuated her sentences with gleeful exclamations such as “Oh stop it!!” and “Go on with yourself now!” We asked directions to a place for dinner and were directed to a smokey hotel that was under construction. Along the way we passed what looked like a youth hostel. We entered, hoping that we could find an internet connection.. The place was full of families who appeared to be from all over the world. One person told us that it was a place for refugees. We bypassed the smokey hotel and entered a pub.

At first we were the only guests in his pub and the proprietor asked us about the election. I had purposely avoided election news so this was the first I’d heard that the election was too close to call. An English woman sat down to dinner shortly after our seafood arrived. She went on about what she enjoyed about Ireland. She said the people of Ireland seem to have their priorities straight. Friends and family and children are more important than careers and excess material wealth. She was to take the ferry back on the following day.

We all wondered about the waves in the aftermath of this November Gale. This reminded the owner of the time he was returning from England and storm winds and waves prevented the ferry from landing in an Irish port. The ferry and its passengers remained at sea for three days.

The English woman asked if we were environmentalist and we responded that we try but our county isn’t set up for that. Ireland is much closer to being an energy efficient nation. Water is drawn and heated on an as needed basis, skylights and doorway windows illuminate the interior of homes, water is pumped up into reservoirs at night to generate hydropower during the day, wind turbines make use of an almost constant Atlantic breeze. Highly efficient low pressure sodium lights illuminate the busiest roads without excess glare. None of these simple ideas are outside of our capability in the US, we just choose to be wasteful.

While we were discussing these topics with the English woman, the pub owner interjected with, “What do you think of your current president, Reagan?”

“Don’t you mean Clinton?” I asked. “Oh yes, I mean Clinton.” 12 years and two U.S. Presidents passed by without effect or concern to those on the shore of Bantry bay. “Clinton, yes. I think he’s done a great job.”

It is ironic that by visiting this small country to escape his problems at home, this charismatic man may have helped inspire the Irish with hope that peace is possible after all of these centuries. Yet I wonder if it had more to do with experiences such as this. A British woman, an Irish man and a politically diverse American couple discuss the world from a pub in a quiet town on a forlorn peninsula while down the road an Ethiopian and an Albanian refugee play pool against a Sicilian and a Sikh. It was quiet and warm night in this small town, the mountains blocked the north wind as the almost full moon rose over the bay.

We returned to the B&B, watched “Splash” on T.V. and went to bed. Something awakened us at about 2:30 A.M. The bright moon shone through the curtains. We found that by changing sides so that I faced west and Ginnie faced east with our feet pointing north, we were able to sleep. Feng Shui in Bantry bay? We didn’t know that at this time in the U.S. the polls were beginning to close and people were scratching their heads in wonder as a nation teetered like a penny on its edge.

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