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Old Ireland lives in two fine gents

Main Street in Snyder is mad for progress. The street sports a giant, modern fire station, a ritzy restaurant where the post office used to sit and slick, suburban shopping plazas. You don't find too many places like Adam's Rib.

The sweet old restaurant occupies a rare Art Deco building on the Snyder strip, not far from that new fire station. It's so dark that when you walk in on a bright day, you can't see a thing.

Get used to the darkness and you'll find yourself in -- well, I might be under the influence of that St. Patrick's Day blarney, but it seems to me a lot like old Ireland.

At a table near the bar, on red plush seats, Mike McGuire and Mike Flynn are holding court. They're leaders of the Amherst Gaelic League, and they've got a stack of tickets for their annual St. Patrick's Day party Friday in Depew's Hearthstone Manor.

McGuire and Flynn don't have to work hard to push their party. They've drawn a crowd for 30 years. The $25 tickets, which have benefited charities from the Cantalician Center to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, always go fast. Attendance has topped 1,000.

"It's the best deal in town," says Flynn, natty in a suit and boutonniere. He reels off the pluses: music by a band called Stone Row, a lavish buffet with, he brags, no wings or pizza and performance by Rince Na Tiarna, world champion Irish step dancers.

Oh, and there's that open bar.

"It's a real open bar, too," McGuire confides, drawing the words out conspiratorially. He adds more enticement: "The party goes from 5:15 to 7:15 p.m., but the bar stays open till 8."

Tall and powerfully built, McGuire is legend in Amherst. For 36 years, he coached boys basketball at Christ the King School. In 1991, he ran as a dark horse for Amherst Town Board and won. Though he says this is his last term, he has been on the board ever since.

He and Flynn, an insurance executive, show the charm of their fathers and their fathers' fathers as they greet the lunchtime crowd at Adam's Rib. Folks stop by their table constantly.

"Mr. McGuire," a young man says respectfully as he passes.

"How're you doing?" McGuire asks graciously.

"Mike, good to see you."

"Hey, see you at church," McGuire says. "Attaboy," he adds, as the visitor disappears.

Studying the faded menus, choosing among Reubens and fish fries, Flynn and McGuire spin stories. Of how two brothers they know charter a bus to come to the St. Patrick's Day party so they can freely enjoy that real open bar. Of the Gaelic League's good deeds over the years. Of how Flynn's wife gave the group its name.

And she wasn't even Irish.

"All our wives were of German descent," explains McGuire. "We called them the Teutonic Tootsies."

References to ethnicities are free and without malice. On this sunny noontime, everyone is talking about "Gene McCarthy's last day." McCarthy's, the famous Old First Ward tavern, is changing hands; after today, it's whispered, the new owner is taking over. He's Russian and Italian. "Things won't be the same," predicts a passer-by.

It's funny such a dark place offers such a lucid perspective on our area.
There's something wonderful about these fatherly, graceful gentlemen hard-working, charity-minded and, as if that weren't enough, always ready with a joke. This is what Ireland gave to Buffalo: these men here for the long haul, doing the best they can, the best they know how. This is how things go in this town, their confident conversation seems to say. This is how things get done.

This is what we'll drink to on St. Patrick's Day.

Remember, it's a real open bar.


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