TASTES OF THE TOWN: Authentic sounds (and stouts) abound at O'Donoghue's.
Tim Clayton/Corbis
I’ve never been to a wake this jovial or this surly. “It’s just the craic,” Donal explains. Come again? “Craic is conversation. It’s what an Irishman does in the pub.” I tell him that I’m Irish but that I would have no sense for where the line is between the craic and fighting words. Maybe because I’m Sicilian too.

“Look, it’s easy,” Donal replies. “If something gets real, then this is the rule: You know where the door is, now get out.”

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Speaking of getting out, the nephews suggest I get out of the city since the countryside is so nearby. The sea cliffs of Howth are reachable by train in just 25 minutes, so I make that my plan for the next day. The mountains of Wicklow, just an hour’s drive south, are also mentioned. As it happens, I’d been to Wicklow that morning, led on an astonishingly beautiful eight-mile hike by Dairine Nuttall, a guide from a company called Walkabout Wicklow. “That’s a bloody lot of effort to see some trees,” Donal says.

Since more of the craic is coming my way, I order a glass of Powers Irish Whiskey. Next thing I know, Donal, who is about 6-foot-1, jabs at me about my height, which is, ah, somewhere south of his. At that moment, either the whiskey or the spirit of Patrick Ryan, my great-great-grandfather from Tipperary, takes over, and I shout back my own unprintably filthy rejoinder.

There’s a pause. For the first time, I’m hearing the sound of no one speaking in Dublin. Then, Uncle Ray, Donal and Tomas/Seamus all break out into hysterical laughter. “Hey, Sicilian guy,” Donal says to me. “You’ve just learned the craic!” 



JOSEPH GUINTO, a freelancer in Washington, D.C., is thinking about changing his middle name to Ryan.