Thanks to the fortunate circumstance that allowed me to enjoy traveling alone in Dublin.
From the train across Britain, slipping in and out of musical sleep, to the ferry –Amtrak of the Irish sea, and almost certainly glorious ten years ago- to the snowy walk from the port into town, it was a journey.
Even the consolation of complimentary ginger nut biscuits after a cold trek along the blue-lit River Lyffie are a memory to keep.
I never understood how Joyce could write 265,000 words about wandering around the city for a day- but Dublin lends itself to wandering. It’s just the right size for fearlessly meandering, and despite plenty of tourist attractions, it shows you some respect.
Walking up and down the streets today I felt literary. Maybe it was the overhanging ghosts of Joyce, Yeats or Beckett or Wilde, but I kept auto-narrating in my mind. I’ve never read Joyce, but I have read excerpts of his work, and in particular his stream-of-consciousness writing style. Usually, my thought processes are completely different from the way of thinking he describes, but today my mind opted for what I can only imagine is a folly of an imitation – even resorting to the third person.
To give you an idea, here are some excerpts from my walks today.
He had walked up to the Spire a little after two, in search of a certain pub- although he would forget the name. Murray’s or Murphy’s. On a largely empty stomach he ordered a ham sandwich and a glass of water.
Open faced, on a bed of striped mayonnaise and terraces of pork and rocket, on the table by the column and a conspicuous white lamp.
Mayonnaise and garlic. The Old World.
As the sun started it’s precipitous descent –wholly foreign to his western mind- he set off down the thoroughfare -O’Connell’s- toward the river. There were many foreigners like him, but more natives than London. That set him off on the whole subject of natives and foreigners, and the shrinking planet, and he had his theme for Sunday, but he didn’t realize it.
He passed by the tart with a cart, and walked down towards Stephen’s Green. Here was the most industrial tourist mire.
That set him off on tourism. The word tourist originally described those fashionable Britons and Caledonians who followed the tour -walk- around the Old World -garlic- in the 19th century, when things weren’t so clean but there was still plenty to see and do. The dandies who carved their names into human history, ultimately forgotten for their frivol.
Now the tourist was the man walking in front of him, too slowly for his patience, but too quickly to take anything in, documenting Grafton’s Street, Dublin, February 24, 2013 -3:30 in the afternoon- for himself alone.
Still he liked to think good things about people and he did. The nice older lady walking around the Green with her accented friend in the beret, admiring the daffodils for their yellow beauty, and what was left of the blue sky.
Even the very black haired teenagers –laptop, sharpie black- by the old Powerscourt house, winding each other up. They had good hearts, he thought.
He circled back towards Trinity, and the plaques and statues. Then he was on Nassau, and there was the man with the coke cup, top half torn off, and the jingle of a strengthening currency.
Speculating, he asked himself why the top half was torn off. He could be a smartass, and say that it was an act of protest, a desecration of the multinational brand that didn’t give a shit about him, and would reclaim the cup if it could. It was probably to show off the coins, or the lack of coins. Whether that meant apathy or heartache remained unclear.
The milling conversations that surrounded him drew him in and pushed him out like the surface tension of a still creek under the quiet legs of a water strider. And he had to tread among them to remind himself of all the worlds he walked between- every routine he was fading into and all the familiar sights he was a part of that day.
It was dark now, and he had wasted a few hours sitting in his hotel room thinking. Now he set off for a pub he had passed that advertised its local music, which started at 9. It was about half an hour past when he walked in the door, and it was warm.
The same concerned thoughts on authenticity had started to creep in when he saw the nice cardstock the sign advertising the music was printed on- obviously computer generated. It was one of his most publicly obnoxious obsessions –this concern for “authenticity.”
So he got a pint of multinational pilsner, watched a bit of football, then made his way upstairs to sit in front of the televised local musicians. Throughout the bar there were screens showing a webcam feed of the two –a bandoneón and a trebly guitar- just in case something. Bandoneón made him think of Montevideo.
Vamo- arriba la Celeste!
Montevideo isn’t unlike Dublin- two smaller cities, across a body of water from a larger counter part. Romanticized and melancholic. At times they had both seemed equally empty to him. At other times full of the same community, that other cities longed for.
Barrios. Paisito más bonito! And then he was longing for Latinoamerica again, but that was later.
In the pub, he was thinking about authenticity again, smelling the old wood of the table and the wafts of his multinational pilsner. This scene did not match what he had imagined. No hoary, wise old men, gathered around a candled table, turning out reel after reel and smiling and laughing. The bandoneón looked far too bored, and too indifferent. The novelty of free drinks had worn off and he was there for force of habit.
But he still knew all the songs –and not just Molly Malone. He also knew The Black Velvet Band. The audience, clapping politely after every song, was made up mostly of tourists –Old World. The words were written by someone long ago, and the tune even longer: when an angry, proud Circissian could still roam the Caucuses, shashka in hand, and many things were still very significant.
The honest man playing the guitar and singing was as honest as the bandoneón next to him, and the honest tourists taking in the trebly guitar.
In the end it was enough, and he walked down the stairs and out of the pub, down College Green toward Grafton’s and Kildare Street. Having abandoned authenticity for the night, he stopped for a multinational chicken sandwich on the way, and the man with the coke cup was gone, and Sunday ended.