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When Irish eyes are smiling, they're probably thinking of John Denver

Emerald Isle high.

The Irish love Denver. The man, anyway.

I spent last week on a driving tour along the southern coast of Ireland, from Galway to Dublin. And while the narrow roads winding through rolling, lush green hills and mystical-looking forests and past countless sheep, rocky cliffs and mountain passes had me singing "Take me home, country roads, to the place, I belong!" on more than one occasion, I had no idea that my Irish brethren shared my love of the song.

Whenever I met someone who wasn’t a fellow American tourist, they’d inevitably ask me where I was from. And as everyone I met seemed to be captivated by the upcoming election, I expected my mention of Denver to register with people as the home of the recent Democratic National Convention. But oh, no. When an Irishman heard the word Colorado, his eyes would soften and get a little misty. "John Denver," he’d say and shake his head, as if he were still mourning the artist’s passing.

At the Long Hall, a beautiful Victorian pub in Dublin, I met a particularly chatty fellow named John over a pint of Guinness. He told me that the Irish people had a hard time with the loss of John Denver. His music had really spoken to them. They missed Elvis, too. And they hated George Bush, no offense.

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None taken. A pint later, he told me that Irish people were sure that George Bush was in on 9/11, since he didn’t react in the classroom when the news was whispered in his ear. I assured him that a few conspiracy theorists back in the U.S. were of the same opinion. And then he told me a conspiracy theory I hadn’t heard before. "We believe," he said, that Laura Bush is actually the one controlling Washington. That’s why we don’t see her very often, or hear much of substance from her. She’s the woman behind the curtain, pulling W’s strings.

I decided I'd better lay off the Guinness and not count on this John as an official spokesman on U.S.-Irish relations. But I believed what he said about John Denver. -- Jessica Centers

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