‘You got a decent enough do in the Brazen Head for a bob’

Temple Bar neighbourhood, Dublin

Temple Bar neighbourhood, Dublin

Running from our flat to the oldest bar in Ireland in the rain because you have to do that at least once in life, and it’s so close I make it there without losing my breath and find the same seat at the end of the bar as I did last night next to the same guy wearing the same green sweater but with friends this time, leaning into them, talking in serious tones about a woman whose backstory comes off in scarves with plenty of Fucks as punctuation marks, another round.

It’s a cautionary tale I decide, mine. How I write about it or categorise it, it’s a cautionary tale. We go to a museum that’s called a library, the two are sort of mixed, and the guy was a self-made man, an American, who made it as a miner in the American west and came back to his roots in Ireland to mine the rest of the world for its art and relics, collected all he could and donated it, and here you can see what he saved for the rest of us for free, jade snuff bottles with dragon-headed carp mouths, books embroidered in coloured silk and metallic thread, scrolls read right to left with demons painted on the parchment and so on — all there is to mine from the world of what we make and who we are and it’s limitless, the time you can spend trying to take it all in.

When I was just out of school, half the age I am now and working in a bar in Allentown, PA, there was a flashy Irish-American who came in late one night everyone knew and it was our first time meeting, and I told him I was a writer which was like picking a fight, because he mentioned Brendan Behan and I didn’t know him yet, and he nearly broke a pint glass and put it in my face, How can you call yourself a writer and you don’t know Brendan Behan — and if I could use my hands as fists sometimes it might be easier to earn a living and I’d find more satisfaction in it.

Worse is the long periods in between, walking around and talking about it angry inside, stewing, neither here nor there, how you define yourself wrapped inside what you write, its value resigned to anyone who opens it.

None of us showered, just emerged onto the sidewalk in Dublin near noon on the corner of Bridge Street and Wormwood Lane, and headed up the hill toward the failing light grateful for what little light we had still, groggy-eyed from Internet school and quibbling, six weeks on the road with about a dozen beds, bathrooms and kitchens. I bought the kids a couple ceramic mugs with cats and owls on them in Prague thinking it would make for continuity, they could use the same mugs in each place, but left them buried in the car in a crate in the parking garage.

Tomorrow I’ll go to the Joyce exhibit as a statement to pick that over the Guinness tour, and that alone will make me a writer for a day — perhaps a fighter too, they rhyme.

Categories: travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. I loved the Chester Beatty Library! Much better exhibit and richer history than the Book of Kells exhibit – and it’s free! Bonus!


    • I know, totally! What an amazing man, to have collected all of that from around the world and to leave it for anyone to come admire, for free. It’s a great story of the diversity in art, and some of the similarities in religion too, in that room devoted to Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. They have a rendering of the Book of Kells at a nearby restaurant called The Bank, and I think we’ll have a look at that instead — it’s free! So glad to be back in touch with you Tim and to be reminded of our times seeing you in West Seattle, it’s very cool.


  2. Guinness AT the Joyce exhibit, now we’re talking.


    • I think he had a hard enough time seeing when he wasn’t drinking, so it’s funny to imagine him groping about on a drink. I think I’ve had enough Guinness, a pint here or there was good and festive, but (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I need more hops. They have a hop-forward beer they’re promoting here but it’s not enough either. I actually found myself eyeballing the American imports at a nearby bottle shop, but it seems ridiculous to pay close to 5 euros for a Sierra Nevada.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Other things on the list to do at least once, I think: Hold the umbrella in the rain outside the restaurant in Little Italy, arms around each other, when you both know the magic is gone and the breakup is coming.


  4. I’m betting if you go back to that same oldest bar a year from now, that same dude with the same green sweater on the same stool. I think that’s called the ‘circle of life.’

    You should’ve asked that douche bad to quote some Behan. Most of those posers just know the names. Although, that could’ve gotten your face cut-up as well.


  5. Okay, I need to go to Ireland. Will I need to buy a green sweater?


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