Earlier this year when I was teaching in Princeton and writing a new book, I decided to abstain from alcohol for the six weeks of Lent. It was hard, especially in a restaurant at night when I longed for a glass or two of red wine.
As I stuck it out, I began to plan the pleasure I would have after midnight mass on Saturday, April 11, when my pledge would come to an end. For six weeks I had treasured a special bottle of red wine to be drunk slowly and savored that night. But as mass went on at St. Boniface's Oratory in Brooklyn, with all the lighting of candles and singing of hymns, I began to be tempted by thoughts of Guinness.
Instead of praying and concentrating on the glories of the resurrection, I began to imagine a pub with a large window and the moment of watching the miracle of the black liquid and the tilted glass, and of standing there and watching the Guinness settle and then, almost as though this were a secular sacrament, the glass being slowly filled to the brim with the creamy clerical collar. For six weeks I had been good, and now, when the religious ceremony had ended and we were told to go in peace, I set off with my companions to Pete's Waterfront Alehouse and I proved to myself, if not to the wider world, that the notion that Guinness doesn't travel, or can only be drunk with pure satisfaction in Ireland, is a myth.