Enchanted by Ireland 5

On Day 6 in Ireland we ventured into County Kerry, heading toward the coastal village of Dingle. However, as with many things in life, the journey is just as important as the destination! We stopped for gas at a normal-seeming gas station but it turned out to have an amazing bakery inside! So we continued our drive loaded down with donuts, muffins, and breakfast cakes!

En route to Dingle, we traversed Conor Pass, a high mountain pass from which you can see forever East and West. There was a gorgeous waterfall and amazing vistas in both directions. We parked the car and tried to hike up to the highest part for the best view. This was more difficult than anticipated because the sheep that graze these mountains leave poop all over the place and trying to avoid it made us hop around like Qbert! Still, despite that obstacle - and the blustery wind - it was well worth it for the panoramas.

We finally arrived at Dingle, a charming little harbor village. It was bounded on all sides by rolling green hills so it felt very much like the Shire! After walking a big loop around the village, we stopped for a pint at Murphy's Pub. This was the only time all trip I didn't have Guinness. Instead, I drank . . . Murphy's! Before departing, we also took the tour at Dingle Distillery for some "new school" Irish spirits.

En route to the place we would be spending the night, we had to stop for a herd of cattle crossing the road. Cattle in County Kerry? I guess they were the source of all that awesome, grass-fed Kerrygold butter we eat! They seemed very happy - and not at all in a hurry to move out of our way!

Around sunset we finally arrived at Carrauntoohil Eco Farm near Killarney. This was a really cool farm with goats, chickens, cats, and alpaca, offering several yurts and one "cabin" for overnight guests. Katie and I opted for the cabin but it turned out to be just about as rugged as the yurts - basically a small storage container with a bed and some electric outlets! It was fine for our purposes, though so no complaints.

Carrauntoohil was not merely a farm, though; it was an ecofarm, which meant that it recycled rainwater (of which we had a true deluge that night!), used dynamic, organic farming practices, and . . . used compost instead of toilets with plumbing. That's right, I was far away from my fancy, heated toilet seat with built-in bidet; instead I was just sitting on a hole in the ground with a polite reminder to sprinkle sawdust down the hole after I was done! Actually it wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been for the enormous spiders that occupied the outhouse . . .

For dinner that night we trekked into town to Kate Kearney's Cottage. It was a total tourist trap but was good all the same. After dinner there began live music and dancing but the real treat was hearing Danny Boy played on bagpipes. For a tourist trap, you could do much worse.

We settled in for the night back at the Eco Farm and woke up the following morning to mountains completely shrouded in fog. Whether looking out over vistas spanning miles and miles or ensconced in fog so thick you can barely see the Sun, this country is just so beautiful!


Honoring Paul Farmer

Today we celebrated the life of a great man. Paul Farmer was a patriot, a public servant, a coach, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. A graduate of the US Naval Academy, where he was a multi-sport athlete, he spent his military career as an aviator in the US Marine Corps. During a training exercise in the 1970s, he was forced to eject from his aircraft. Despite his parachute failing to open, he managed to land on his feet, breaking his back but saving his life.

During his hospital recovery, he began courting one of the nurses, Kathy, who soon became Mrs. Farmer. They were married 46 years before Paul died, and during the last 26 of those years, they played a very significant role in my life. I learned a great deal from him about sports, food, wine, and life.

Paul was laid to rest this morning with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a very moving ceremony with scores of troops, a full Marine Corps band, and, of course, a 21-gun salute. The reception at the Navy Officers Club on base was a real joy. A plurality of Paul's Academy company-mates joined us, as did many of his colleagues, and the stories shared were truly worthy of the exceptional life we were celebrating.

Following is a transcript of the remarks I made at the reception:

I'm Bryan Guido Hassin, and I'm Paul Farmer's other son. Those of you with astute powers of observation may note that my last name is not Farmer and that I don't resemble Paul or Kathy or Nick or Jocelyn. Well spotted! No, I wasn't born into the Farmer family. I met Nick in 7th grade, joined his baseball team - coached by Paul, of course - and we began spending a lot of time together. Throughout middle and high school, Nick’s and my friendship grew into a true brotherhood, I played out the rest of my baseball career on teams coached by Paul, and I spent so much time at the Farmers’ house that they began calling me “Son II” while I called them “Mom and Dad II.”

So I’ve spent the vast majority of my life calling Paul Farmer “Dad II” but, when I first met him, I called him "Coach." To paraphrase a movie from around that time that Nick and I both loved, Coach is the name for God in the lips and hearts of young boys. Indeed, as most of us didn’t have a shot at playing professional baseball, our coach’s primary responsibility wasn’t to develop us into top prospects; it was to help us develop into young men.

Coach Farmer took to that responsibility like a fish to water - not by sitting us down and saying, "Here's how to be a man," but rather by example - and what an example he was: a world-traveled, meat-eating, wine connoisseur, fighter pilot, athlete - what a man!

But you never would have known most of that as he didn't wear much on his sleeve. Mr. Farmer conducted himself with a quiet, determined humility, which is what he taught us on the field: keep your head down, work hard, do your best, and you will achieve your goals.

This applied doubly so in the classroom as it did to the baseball field for Mr. Farmer was one of the smartest, most learned men I've ever known. I have fond memories of sitting around his table playing Trivial Pursuit. It wouldn’t have been much fun for him because he knew all the answers. Instead, he relegated himself to asking the questions and giving us clues that were so clever, they could only really be appreciated once the answer was known.

And yes, I include in my list of examples of Mr. Farmer’s intellectual prowess another of my favorite memories: the time he was summarily ejected from one of our baseball games he was coaching for arguing with the umpire. As soon as we returned home, we looked up the rules and, of course, Coach Farmer was right - he was always right. 

While that memory stands out to me because it may be the only time I ever witnessed Mr. Farmer, the consummate officer and gentleman, really get riled up, he wasn't arguing with the umpire because he wanted to win; he was doing so because had strong convictions about what is right. You don't do something to gain some reward or to avoid some penalty; you do it because it is right.

That strong sense of conviction and duty made Dad II one of the most gallant men I have ever known - a true modern day knight. When my Mom I was seriously ill in the hospital, Paul and Kathy visited her regularly and helped her get better. When my wife and I suffered a devastating pregnancy loss, Dad II was among the first to send us the sweetest, most heartfelt note of condolences.

On the surface he could be stoic and reserved, but underneath was a tender heart and a man who was incredibly thoughtful. They say with icebergs you only see the 10% that's above water but the 90% below is what’s really powerful. I find that describes Dad II very well - all the more so because his aviator call sign was Penguin!

You were one of a kind, Paul Farmer, the best of the best. The Force was strong with you in life and it is even stronger with you in death. You leave behind a legacy of a country that thanks you, friends and colleagues who respect you, and a family that loves you. You live on in all of us who remember you and through your lessons which we are now passing on to the next generation.

I'd like to send him off with a slightly adapted poem, the subject of which was near and dear to Paul's heart since practically the day he was born.

Oh somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright.
A band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
Somewhere men are laughing, somewhere children roam.
But there is no joy in Mudville, for Paul Farmer has gone home.

Semper Fi, Penguin.
Semper Fi, Coach Farmer.
Semper Fi, Dad II