Extremely rare coins make their way to Chicago; the Obamas visit Ireland; a Wild West theme park in Germany; Boston’s harbor gets a makeover; the 20th anniversary of Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza.
A village in Éire braces for a prodigal son
— DEIRDRE MASK
A WEEK BEFORE President Barack Obama’s visit to Moneygall, Ireland, pop. 298, John Donovan chats merrily in his grocery/ hardware/animal-feeds-and-needs store on the village’s only street. Donovan is also a farmer, funeral director, horse enthusiast and owner of the homestead of Obama’s grandfather’s grandfather, a shoemaker who left the village in 1850, during the famine. Once neglected, Moneygall now “shines like a new galleon,” he says. Dulux Paints photographed each house, suggested color schemes, and even donated supplies to help gussy up the place. Potholes were patched and flowerpots installed; one bungalow was emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes. Souvenir shops sprang up, selling “Erin GO’bama” T-shirts and commemorative cigarette lighters. Locals scrambled to open the American-themed “Obama Café,” Moneygall’s first restaurant. (Moneygall also lacks a bank, ATM and hotel. In the words of a teenage villager, “There was nothing here before. Nothing!”) At the appointed hour, strong winds unfurl the Irish and American flags lining the street as hail pelts the patient crowd. (No umbrellas please: security risk.) Would Obama take a rain check? No, the helicopter floats onto the Gaelic football field as planned. A jaunty president emerges, following Mrs. Obama, who sports a print jacquard dress and sensible raincoat, her shoes sinking into the old sod.
In town, the Obamas zip over to link hands with the president’s wet kinsmen. Babies surf the crowd, landing gently in Obama’s arms. Next stop: Hayes’s pub, where Obama sips Guinness from a specially brewed keg, skillfully avoiding a foamy mustache. Mrs. O practices pulling pints, and the president settles his tab. Suddenly it’s over. A waiting motorcade whisks the Obamas away to Dublin.
When they reach the capital, the sun is shining. “My name is Barack Obama,” he tells a cheering crowd there. “Of the Moneygall Obamas.”