Free Falling into Ireland
by Bridget McGinty
There is a line in one of my favorite movies, The Field, where the main character, Bull McCabe, an Irish farmer (played by the incomparable Richard Harris) warns his son who shows interest in a tinker’s daughter, “Never trust a tinker boy. They lost their footing on the land and they’ll never get it back.”
As I prepare to move to Ireland, the most difficult decision I’ve had to make is to sell the house I’ve owned for the last twenty-five years. I find solace in the fact that the greatest adventures of my life have all started out with one seemingly terrible or scary idea!
Luckily, I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors that have helped me turn fear into fuel, my greatest being Steve Popovich, founder of Cleveland International Records. Steve taught me how to live and although he passed away far too soon in 2011, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and thank him!
Steve lectured me after catching me hard at work, painting the restaurant while I was closed for a two-week vacation. He told me to put down my paint brush and get my butt to New York City! He knew I had some money stashed and insisted I go and get it and get out of town!
He said, “Money is no good when you’re old! You end up having the means to travel, but your body aches on flights and you prefer sleeping in your own bed to any luxury hotel accommodations. You can afford to eat at the finest restaurants, but you’ve got all these dietary restrictions.
“No, don’t wait. Spend your money as soon as you make it! If you’re smart, and you’re willing to work hard, you can always make more money, but you cannot get back time. Treat yourself and travel in style! Stay in the best hotels and ask for their best room and don’t take cabs, take limos! You won’t regret it kid!”
You Won’t Regret It
I bought my house in Tremont in 1995, back when you could buy crack, a jacket stolen from your own car hours earlier, or foie gras and a bottle of Opus One all on the same block. Becoming a landlord at twenty-four years old made me strong and responsible and taught me many hard lessons.
I have caught and released more than a few squirrels in the attic and ground hogs and raccoons in the yard. I have tracked awful horrific smells to dead birds in dryer vents and dead mice in heater vents.
I have waded through feces and toilet paper in my basement while waiting for Roto-Rooter to come gouge me with emergency service fees then leave me to clean my basement full of sludge, pondering the items tenants consider flushable!
I have had to evict my share of nightmare tenants and have been threatened and slandered. I’ve been cheated and completely screwed over by contractors and have learned that appliances only break on weekends and holidays when service rates triple! Being a landlord prepared me perfectly for owning a restaurant!
After paying off my mortgage on my fortieth birthday, I began living the fabulous lifestyle that Steve Popovich insisted on, which included leasing (or as my accountant called it, frivolously throwing away money) four Porsches and two luxury apartments, and renting limos for niece and nephew overnights and for special nights out with friends, employees or siblings.
I have not missed a play, talk, or concert that I have wanted to attend. I have locked eyes with Sidney Poitier in the Champagne Lounge of The London Coliseum at The Moscow Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake. I have seen Leonard Cohen from the second row of Cleveland’s Palace Theater and have gotten to drink Guinness back stage with the Webb sisters and his partner Sharon Robinson. I have attended food conferences in Oxford, England, Ballymaloe, Ireland and New York City.
I’ve been inspired attending talks given by Maya Angelou, Carol Burnette and Chazz Palminteri and performances by John Lithgow, John Cleese and the Cleveland Orchestra! I have frequented all of the best restaurants, museums and theater that Cleveland has to offer. I have gotten to travel to Ireland, London, Paris and Rome and taken the great American cross-country road trip three times.
My house, that has afforded me all of these opportunities and more, has gone up for sale and with no plans to buy again, I will be hit with Capital Gains taxes that seem unfathomable! The Tremont house has more than quadrupled in value, which is unprecedented! Rather than dwell on the obscene amount of taxes I will owe, I have decided to start celebrating what will be gained!
Things That Matter
I’m cashing in my chips while I’m young enough to turn those chips into unforgettable experiences for me, and a magical and adventurous childhood for my son Ari. What I want now, money can’t buy. It’s time, which I no longer want eaten up by running a business or owning rental property, keeping up with lawn care, maintenance, leasing and staffing.
I want to be fully present for whatever my son wants to say or play! I want to linger in cafes and write while he is in school, or paint en plein air.
And yes, I want to be surrounded by Irish music while talking and laughing with witty Irish folks. I want to dance and sing in the never- ending rain and be warmed by a good turf fire, a cup of tea or a glass of Middleton Whiskey!
Whatever the cost to my retirement or the taxes I incur, dammit, I say it’s worth it! I can think of a lot worse, then ending up a tinker in Ireland!
In the final chapters of Hemmingway’s beloved classic, “A Movable Feast,” he writes about the days when he and Hadley were very poor, and very happy with nostalgia. He reminisces about skiing and how they would spend hours climbing, for the thrill of a two-minute descent!“
I feel like he was giving us the key to living a good life. So many of us just keep on climbing, giving ourselves heart attacks before reaching the summit? What if you just turned around half-way up and went “wheeeeee” all the way down, laughing and having a ball?
This is how I view my move to Ireland! Sure, I’ll have to start all over again, but not with nothing to show for it! My son and I will have glorious memories and a divine understanding of why we climb!