| The world is a
better place today. Sure 'tis, for, I am pleased
to report, Guinness beer has come to Armenia. I
am a simple man. This is a simple story.
At the corner of Nalbandian and Sayat Nova streets,
the news was delivered by my new favorite bartenders,
Aram and Sarkis in their new bar which I had approached
with skepticism since the first day the sign lit
up announcing "Irish Bar".
"We got Guinness today from Dublin,"
were the first words out of Aram's mouth when
I entered Thursday night. He waved his beefy paw
to the meticulously stocked backbar, and there
like jewels in a case, were rows of Ireland's
finest export: cans and cans of the "sev
garejur", the black beer of the Emerald Island.
(Refer to sentence two, to understand why this
makes me happy.)
A guy named Aram and one named Sarkis and a manager
named Nune in an "Irish" bar called
"Emile's" (I'll get to that later) on
the corner of a street named for an Armenian poet
and bard, were smiling like they'd just won the
green card lottery. This alone made my first Yerevan
Guinness no less sweet than if himself patron
saint St. Patrick had served it as holy water.
These many years into my discovery of Armenia,
I still get a chuckle over attempts here to duplicate
world phenomena. It hasn't been so long ago that
a restaurant calling itself "Acapulco"
offered a "burrito" that was a Russian
blinchik under a "salsa" of ketchup
woven with mayonnaise. And gone, thankfully, are
the days when "sausage pizza" was glorified
lavash topped with sliced wieners.
I kind of miss the charm of near-miss reproduction
now that Armenia is becoming more sophisticated.
But the opening of its first "Irish"
bar has managed to fill the "kitsch"
gap in my twisted cultural appetite.
Culture clash begins at the appropriately green
and gold-glassed door when you are welcomed to
"Emile's" Irish bar.
I've been in more "Pat's" Irish bars
than I care to (or can) remember. Plenty of "O'Reily's"
and "Murphy's" and "O'Shaughnessy's"
and, yes, in Dublin, "Hughes' Pub".
Leave it to the Armenians to introduce me to one
Emile's Irish Bar. Which brings me to this question:
To say nothing of the Irish, when's the last time
you met an Armenian named Emile?
You meet the bar's namesake in his photograph
on the main inside wall. He looks to be about
2 years old, is dressed like a cowboy (speaking
of culture clashes) and is holding a (German)
beer stein larger than his cute head.
He is the grandson of the bar's owner and, bygoodness,
if the Irish can put their own names on their
bars, why can't an "Irish" bar in Armenia
do the same, even if the name is neither Irish
nor Armenian? (Have I ever told you that I once
saw a pair of "Al Pacino" jeans here?)
At roughly $5.35 a can, not even the displaced
and homesick here are likely to be clearing the
bar's shelves of its Guinness, so the featured
libation in the "Irish" bar is vodka.
It is bottled exclusively for Armenia's first
"Irish" bar and bears its own label
(Sidebar: I'm staring down the barrel of age
50, and the only namesake a rowdy life has gotten
me is that my name is slang for toilet. But a
two year old Armenian gets his name on an "Irish"
bar that has a house vodka under his own label.
Life'll kill ya.)
There's also a house "Irish" wine,
bottled and kegged a glance away from the six-inch
letters proclaiming "Guinness Sold Here".
You guessed it. The wine is called "Emile's".
So I'm sitting inside Emile's Irish Bar trying
to figure what I can tell you about this bar and
what it says about this place. This: It is perfect.
Go to Tbilisi and find Irish bars that look like
they've been dumped out of a do-it-yourself Irish
Pub kit. Find the same thing in Baku, where you
can drink at "Flannigan's". Recently
in Almaty, Kazakhstan I visited "Murphy's"
Irish bar and in Istanbul drank on my birthday
in the "James Joyce".
Pretenders, those are. The Irish, like the Armenians,
are so stubbornly individualistic (collectively
so, if that's possible) that they have suffered
as a result.
So from those of us who have been waiting for
a "real" Irish bar in Armenia, why shouldn't
it have a name that defies tradition? Thank you,
you little leprechaunian, Emile. I can't afford
your Guinness. But I like your attitude.