US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Seven

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Hope for a reunion with Emma was probably still draining from my heart, yet it was with an otherwise pure desire for enjoyment that I set off this final night in Dublin for the most convenient ice rink I could find – more than five kilometres away south-east of my hostel, at the Royal Dublin Society Grounds in Ballsbridge.  It was a long walk, but an enjoyable one during which I stopped at a couple of pubs and picked up McDonald’s for dinner confident that I would walk and skate off the fat and salt.  One pub in particular near the American Embassy was full of young, attractive and rich looking people.  It looked as a little cottage with white picket-fenced front yard cum beer garden to be the most authentic Irish bar I’d come across my whole time there.  But I didn’t feel at all at home among the spoiled but not unfriendly company, so left quickly.  The RDS skating rink was quite a large square of ice, but was a pretty shit experience.  Too many kids, which they seemed to just keep packing onto the ice in clumsy hordes, so I got over it and left before the session I’d paid for even finished.  There was a captivating brunette with a blue snowflake painted on one cheek at the ticket office.  When I complimented her on it, she replied that she’d lost a “diamond” from its centre.  Wish I’d been able to find it for her.  Then there was nothing for it but a long, cold lonely walk back through Dublin to bed – and presumably more nocturnal torture by another fat man of advanced age and snoring skill.

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The Famines. Pretty wretched stuff

Checkout like at most hostels was 10am the next day.  And with my flight for some reason not until 10pm that night, I wandered with full pack toward the coast – a natural instinct for me, or anyone I guess, as a surfer; though I wasn’t stupid enough to expect any swells to be breaking in Dublin’s bay courtesy of the Irish Sea.  Even though it was one of only two daytime journeys I walked in that country, there really wasn’t a lot to see.  There was the Liffey, its bridges, The Famines – who I’ll come to shortly – and one harp shaped bridge which made me thirst for Guinness even at that early hour.  I enjoyed a sandwich and iced tea near a library from which I scammed WiFi, in a solidly middle-class suburban area across the estuary from the docks called Irishtown.  The last – and first time while travelling – time I’d had a haircut was at a grungy Italian barbers on New York’s Upper West Side.  So when I spotted Jennys (sic) Hair Salon near Ringsend Park, I figured: what the hell.  It seemed as if my hair grew less fast while travelling through a Northern Hemispherical winter, on account of the shorter, overcast days.  But I was still keen on keeping it short and easier to wash, if not flamboyantly styled.  Jenny was 51 years old and reminded me of my mum.  All blonde hairdressers are cut from similar moulds, I guess.  We had a good old chat.  She told me about a challenging business period a few years ago, in which it had snowed for several weeks or months straight.  She said the problem was that all physical commerce basically shut down until the snow finally melted, because the city didn’t have any snow plows.  Ah, the Irish.

Suburban Dublin

Suburban Dublin

Freshly shorn, I caught a cab back to the river then walked along it to O’Connell Street, from whose northern end I’d soon catch the airport bus.  Taxis were weird in Dublin.  They’re just normal cars, with cab lights fixed on top of them.  So I guess you never know what or who you’re going to get. But my guy was good.  He dropped me off at the north-east end of the Liffey, I tipped him a few euros and then walked back west past The Famines.  I actually don’t have the heart right now to explain them, so here’s a link: www.ddda.ie/index.jsp?p=112&n=640.  It was while on my way back to O’Connell, or perhaps earlier on my way to the beach, that I came across a dishevelled young man from out of town who said he’d become stuck penniless in Dublin after a big night out.  He was clearly lying.  I could see it in his eyes.  But I needed to get rid of all my euro change anyway, due to the fact that I wouldn’t shortly be returning to a country that uses European Union currency, so I dumped all I had on him.  He didn’t bother to point out that, at around four euros, it probably wasn’t enough to get him out of town, and instead turned and walked off.  Good luck to him.  I spent my last moments with Dublin by sitting below a statue at O’Connell’s feet, smoking and sipping a chocolate thickshake – while people-watching the city’s late-lunch masses flow back and forth across the Liffey.  Then the bus dropped me at Dublin International Airport a full seven hours before my flight to Edinburgh.

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Very unfortunately, the bar outside departures closed before I could get a drink.  So I wiled away most of my purgatorial time reading, f’ing around on Facebook and catching up with you, dear journal and friend those fantastic few months.  One odd occurrence worthy of note during my time wandering and wasting time in the airport was a holographic stewardess projected onto a free-standing, human-shaped piece of plastic.  She wasn’t much for conversation, though.  Finally, three hours before the flight, I was able to check my bag.  Then I continued on through security to the from memory very cosy departure lounge where I managed to consume three gin and tonics.  It had an outdoor – and naturally cold and wet – smoking area in which you could also drink.  Best on-premises airport smoking area I had and have since come across.  Then because it was raining a bus took us to the plane, where I realised Ryanair had screwed me because I’d paid an extra 10 pounds for a particular seat (I have no idea why) but it turned out when I found someone sitting in it that you’re really supposed to just sit anywhere.  It was a very quick flight, during which I managed another gin and tonic.  I may have mentioned this already, in which case forgive me, but gin and tonics had for some reason become almost exclusively my airport and I guess airplane drink.  Possible federal crime marked my arrival in Scotland.  When I departed the plane there were options to go through “Euro” or “non-Euro” arrivals.  I wasn’t sure if they meant “you’re a Euro country citizen or not” or “you’ve flown from a Euro country or not (and could be from anywhere in the world)”, if you understand.  So I walked through the Euro gate, at the end of which there was a notable absence of security.  I can only still assume this meant I’d in fact dodged customs, which probably would have been waiting for me through the non-Euro gate.  Pity I didn’t have any contraband on me. And I now realise I might have missed out on a Scottish stamp on my passport. Damn.

Goodbye fair Dublin

Goodbye fair, Dublin. Till we hopefully meet again

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US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Six

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Other questions are still difficult but at least possible to answer.  And other answers come easily, such as to why and how has my blog chapter about three days in Dublin stretched to six posts?  Clearly it’s because I’ve been waxing philosophical, reflective and romantic to a greater extent than in some of my other US and UK posts.  And I answered another more difficult question I must have sub-consciously posed to myself a long time ago: how do I write?  I’ve dealt with why (I have to) and for whom (myself and anyone else who cares) I write.  When and where and what are not really important questions.  But how – beyond arguable musts such as having read widely and engaged in both formal and informal technical and creative writing education – is an altogether more complex question that can also seem unimportant, but on closer inspection is anything but.  In a word, the answer is: motivation.  In a few words: the expectation that writing will achieve something.  And to go even deeper, especially in relation to personal writing: the firm belief that I will gain the opportunity to give and be given conditional love.  These might look a little like whys, but they definitely are hows.  It’s difficult to explain further right now.  Suffice to say the horse is before the carriage, if you like.  I’ve felt particularly certain lately that I will give and be given unconditional love, and even if I’m not convinced it will be given to and received from a particular woman I’ve had my eye on lately then I’m still committed to the idea that it will to and from another – even if there are a few frustratingly short-lived romantic transactions in the meantime.  Such is life, and some people (maybe including me) never necessarily settle down with one person until death.  And some people (maybe including me) never or rarely gain another person’s conditional love, not that it isn’t still worth their time hoping and trying for it – assuming they even want to.  Obviously I do.  These things are not otherwise linked to the writing, as in I don’t expect the reading of some of the probably millions of words I’ve written during my life to help enamour a woman to me.  (Although I do express myself much better in writing than in person, especially when confronted by a woman I care for (I think women should be suspicious of any man who claims affection for her but appears to not be awkward in the least (it’s disingenuous at best, and disrespectful at worst)).)  It’s all about giving one the peace and calm that comes from realising that one is not trapped alone within a cold, impenetrable walled fortress of a heart.  The world is open to one, as is one to the world; which is the only state in which it is possible to genuinely and with (perhaps arguable) quality either love or create.

Dublin International Hostel

Dublin International Hostel.  Can’t believe I didn’t bother taking a photo of it (while I was there)

You might think the content of the above paragraph is nothing but over-thought gibberish; which is fine, because you’re still reading.  So let’s continue with my tale of Dublin, shall we?  I must’ve woken late, as this section of the journal only takes a few sentences in which to hit evening.  It makes sense that I might have slept in, due to the old fat black guy and his alarm – but not slamming window – deafness I mentioned previously.  Plus I would have been hungover, which always makes for slow going.  By way of refreshment, this particular hostel’s dining area happened to be a little old attached former Catholic Church.  The entire building must have been a school prior to some point in the 20th century.  Very interesting indeed, to be eating cornflakes and drinking tea and struggling to recover from a binge drinking session at one of the two rows of picnic tables, under the gaze of an ornate, arched and square-bottomed window within which in colourful stain might once have dwelt Jesus or one of his apostles or saints.  Considering the distinct lack of festive cheer among any of the breakfasters, it could easily have instead been a soup kitchen.  Well, maybe it was (as well).  I recall a very attractive young woman working in the kitchen, who if attracted to me hid it expertly.  And naturally there were also the young French ladies keeping strictly to themselves and each other.  From the outside, and factoring in the dining hall, it was one of the coolest hostels I’d stayed in – other than New Orleans’ Joe and Flo’s Candlelight Hostel, where I spent far too much time on account of what I feared at the time was terminal illness (on the Google Maps listing it actually reads “bed bugs” under the hostel’s name, so I guess I know where to lay the blame for falling ill).  You might think the worst one would have been Las Vegas’ Tod Hostel (which incidentally now reads “CLOSED” under its Maps listing).  Not so.  That distinction would have to go to Hostelling International Vancouver, on Granville.  The staff didn’t differ from the vaguely disinterested yet friendly fellow traveller types working at all hostels, but the people staying there had their heads as far up their arses as anyone else I met in that city.  It’s tempting to regret staying there for the weekend, but I’d have never found out how bad it was if I didn’t.  What’s the saying?  Never assume?  Never were truer words spoken, in relation to travelling, though I must admit on the other hand it’s also important to take leaps of faith in such circumstances.  That’s the thing with adages: they often contradict each other.  Just like the Bible apparently does.  And at the unlikely mention of the Christian holy book, not to mention having written two very large paragraphs, I’ll leave my final night in and probably also departure day from Dublin for a lucky seventh post.  How very, very Irish.

The church - St Mary's I believe - I'd always walk past to and from inner-Dublin

The church – St Mary’s I believe – I’d always walk past to and from inner-Dublin

Poem Dedicated to the Abbott Government

A child wakes upon the world,

And soon thinks upon its fate.

Will it endure a tortured life,

Or else enjoy one simply great.

For years it has little control,

Blindly relishing what it ate.

Then wakes adult as if anew,

In a world whose hour is late.

 

Powers that be have indulged,

In misdeeds that sure do grate.

So it flexes its muscles,

Its strength it does rate.

It stamps righteous hooves,

Exhales anger at the gate.

And charges into the field,

Its mood foul and irate.

 

To discover a world,

Long sold by the state.

This photo was taken in downtown Las Vegas, which provides a contrast relevant to the poem

This photo was taken in downtown Las Vegas, which provides a contrast relevant to the poem.  Can’t say I’m sure exactly about what they were protesting, but I believe it had something to do with pay standards for the city’s hospitality workers – of which I probably rightly assume in that city there are many

 

US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Five

I visited the Trinity College (University) while in Dublin, but didn't bother writing a word about it.  So might as well put four photos of it in this post, seeing as though I have no others that relate to the words it contains

I visited the Trinity College (University) while in Dublin, but didn’t bother writing a word about it. So might as well put four photos of it in this post, seeing as though I have no others that relate to the words it contains

It took an extremely random cigarette with a backpacking young German man to make me, almost two years later, finally realise what Emma and I had shared in New York was merely an almost clichéd romantic interlude; and that my ulterior motivated pursuit of her across the Atlantic to her hometown of Brighton was never meant to have amounted to anything more than it did.  As much as I believe both of us genuinely hoped it would.  Still, to this day I would have treasured one kiss on top of the one she gave to my cheek shortly before disappearing from my life forever.  (She did live with her parents at the time, though, so that certainly didn’t help.)  Heartfelt, sigh.  I hope she’s happy, wherever she ever is and whatever she’s ever doing.  Now, the matter of the German bloke was serendipitous under the circumstances, so deserves an explanation.  I was sitting smoking the first couple of puffs of rolling tobacco out of an antique pipe, of all things, earlier this afternoon when he caught my attention by saying “Hi” while approaching the front of the house, I returned the sentiment, and then he asked if he could sit with me awhile.  A more unlikely event I could only imagine.  It certainly is a small world.  He was a backpacker working his way for a solar company around the suburbs while in the final couple of weeks of a journey through Australia he’d commenced some nine months earlier.  We discussed many things, mostly relating to travel.  But it was when I mentioned during my travels that I’d met a girl in New York and chased her to the UK, even though I was always half-planning on heading over there anyway, when the abovementioned realisation laid its seed in my brain.  He understood, as most men would, didn’t judge, and we continued on to talk idly about inter and intra-geographical love affairs and likely resultant feelings of rejection and heartbreak.  He certainly made me feel like jumping on a plane again and laying the foundations for another story similar to the one above I’ve been relaying to you.  One day, soon – unless I get my act together and fall in committed love and buy a house.

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Alright, I’m back.  Sorry.  My brother came home from work and decided he wanted to have a few beers and cigarettes out the front while shooting the proverbial shit.  Where was I?  Oh yes, Emma.  There’s nothing further written in my journal pertaining to the end of my previous post about meeting an Aussie bloke, while drinking Guinness and enjoying a choir performance, who reminded me of her through his own pursuit of a love interest to Dublin.  So I’ll close that chapter, right here.  But it was at this point in my journal that I noted how Emma had taken the extreme step by that day’s standards of un-friending me from Facebook.  I wasn’t overt about it or anything, but since she’d rejected me more than a week ago back in Brighton it was probably discernable, at least to her, in my status updates that I was dealing with rejection.  Plus, I must admit, before leaving London for Dublin I’d Facebook messaged her (I didn’t have a working texting/calling phone plan almost the entire trip, since being cut off by Vodafone in San Fran) letting her know my movements, and that if she changed her mind I would return to Brighton as quickly as possible.  Still, considering those admissions, I thought it harsh that she’d un-friended me.  Guess she was just trying to drive home the point.  I responded incredulously to this turn of events to her in one more Facebook message, which she didn’t reply to, and wished her a sincere Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Then I dealt with the newfound pain by publicly bagging out Coldplay on Facebook, in regard to their awful, derivative Paradise song which featured at the time on previews to the otherwise outstanding movie Life of Pi. (The book is as usual much better.)  It really is a terrible song, Paradise, and even if I hadn’t been dealing with yet more minor heartbreak I reckon I’d have gotten on Facebook and made something of an arse of myself by denouncing it to them, anyway.  Needless to say, they didn’t respond and almost certainly couldn’t have cared less for my opinion.

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Finally, I can get back to my, and I hope also yours, vicariously, enjoyment of Dublin.  There’s nothing to report about my 10 or more kilometre walk back from The Sugar Club to my hostel virtually on the other side of the city, on account of my almost certainly having gone through about 10 pints that night.  So, I was “pretty sure on Thursday I dragged my arse getting doing something”.  Translation: I was hungover and certainly sleep-deprived so didn’t feel capable of leaping out of bed into the smear of cold gray city outside the hostel’s warm walls.  The reason I’m certain I was sleep deprived, is because of one of the fat old snoring guys I mentioned I seemed to be exclusively sharing my dorm room with while staying in Dublin.  (It’s time for a small and belated note on dorm rooms, while I’m at this, as it’s just occurred to me that not everyone reading this will necessarily have had the masochistic pleasure of staying in one.  Imagine your bedroom is the size of a garage, and instead of one bed there are anywhere between six or 12 individual bunk beds in it.  Then imagine you’re sharing the room with anything between one or 11 other people, all with wildly varying schedules, and you often might actually wake up to find a new person in your room even though you went to bed at 3am the previous night.  And also imagine every one of the people sharing your room has a veritable rainbow of different types of electronic and biological noises they make while asleep – the latter of which might be created or at least exacerbated by any number of drug habits (and the former of which refers basically to phone alarms that could go off at any time).  I’m digressing, and it’s possible I already told this story, but a friend once told me about his time at a hostel in America, in which one night a person in his room had a bad acid trip and started strangling one of his dorm-mates.  That pretty much sums up hostel dorm rooms.  Potentially, total madness.)  So during this particular red-eyed Wednesday night, some fat black guy’s alarm started alarming every 15 minutes or so from about 1am.  But it would never wake him up.  I needed to do something short of actually touching him to alert him to the problem.  And did so by opening a window (which from memory faced a wall and did little else but let in almost freezing air), then slamming it down “accidentally”.  It startled him awake, and while he looked at me with what I swear was pure fear I told him his alarm had been repeatedly sounding.  He said sorry, and thanks, and blessedly left.  Which then left me to finally descend deliriously into a Guinness and brunette choir siren-fuelled slumber.  Sleep was though, of course, delayed by a question I can’t to this day answer: who, not to mention why, sets an alarm for 1am while staying in a hostel?

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US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Four

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In Dublin’s fair city, Where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone, As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, Through streets broad and narrow, Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!” For the rest see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Malone

It was one of my favourite walks of the entire trip – the doomed search for jazz through much of Dublin’s inner-city by cold yellow Christmas week-eve lamplight.  And walking I certainly did do a lot of, through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver (and Squamish), Las Vegas, New Orleans (despite or in spite of illness), New York, Brighton and London over the preceding two months.  Las Vegas was probably my least favourite, for obvious reasons.  While probably Edinburgh would go on to be equal favourite with Dublin, and New Orleans – again despite and in spite of illness.  I knew instinctively, as I was not engaging in the normal upper-body exercise I would while back at home, that hoofing it was the only way I could stay fit while simultaneously exploring the world without being tied-down to motorised tours which would have deprived me of unique experiences.  Plus, any kind of exclusive pursuit of exercise, such as a gym visit, during the journey would have distracted me from any number of other, more pertinent pursuits; from eating local cuisine to indulging in cheesy tourist attractions to drinking with people I’d never met before and might never see again while enjoying music the likes of which I would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else but at so many right theres, and right thens.  If from beside a hospital bed one day when I’m an old man a doctor tells me those particular walks had damaged the joints in my legs beyond repair, I would lean back, put my hands behind my head and sigh gleefully at the memories.  You might say I’m being overly emotionally nostalgic, but you, sir or madam, were not there.  None of you were, or rather none at all times.  And that was somewhat the point, though those of you whose company I would have welcomed at any time know who you are.  I thought often of home, and the many gentle souls I’d been blessed to have known who inhabited it.  And the knowledge that my journey was presently spurring me ever closer to home only increased, no, lit a raging life-enhancing fire under my enjoyment of it.

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My first stop was the Le Bon Crubeen, on Talbot Street, off Gardiner Street Lower.  From photos of its inside I don’t recognise it, and believe I was much more likely to have actually entered the much more charming looking Celt Bar or Celtic Lodge which stood to either side.  Either way, no jazz, though my notes tell me there was meant to be traditional Irish music playing at one of those places later on that night.  From there I crossed the river to the Temple Bar’s Button Factory, on Curved and off Eustace Street.  It was closed, which was unsurprising as it seemed more of a live music venue than a bar.  And this in many ways regrettably was a Wednesday night.  I might have then stopped in at Fitzsimons for a stoic stout before trying Olesya’s Wine Bar on Exchequer Street.  No dice, but I did have my third drink there.  At JJ Smyths on Aungier Street, off Longford Street Little, there was a DJ playing so I didn’t even linger long enough for a beer.  Then further east on Dawson and near Anne Street at Cafe en Seine I found yet more absence of jazz, yet “probably” had my fourth drink – which shows things were already starting to become vague. By now you’re probably feeling close to as exhausted as I’m sure I felt, though less fortified through drink, at the disappointing nature of the quest.  I guarantee its end is worth the wait, though admittedly was more pleasurable for me first-hand. Further south and not far south-west from St Stephen’s Green The Village turned out to be a cavernous, underground and “busy as hell” sports bar with barely a hint of music which certainly wasn’t jazz managing to make itself heard above the relentless din.  Then, ultimately, at a guess about 10 km from my first dry port of call, I came across The Sugar Club south-east of St Stephen’s on Leeson Street Lower.  It looked like a brothel, not that I’m well-versed in such establishments, and also appeared to be the only possible entrance to the six-storey apartment block rising above it.  Green paint-fronted Houricans Pub sat silently next door at an hour of the night I could only guess at, while I sized up the club from the street.

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If not a brothel, then the place certainly looked like a night club.  Or even a gay club.  Not since a brief indulgence in (straight) night clubbing during my early 20s had I willingly entered such a place, so I was reticent to say the least.  But it was my last option, and I’d not yet heard music from within though the venue was clearly still open.  So I gave it the “what the hell” treatment, if partly because I was freezing and thirsty and sobering up.  The absolutely perfect (no other word/s to describe her) little hottie at the cashier said to my shock that there was a choir, um, playing?  No, performing, I guess.  That there was a choir performing within.  As in the street, I baulked.  And again as in the street, I said “what the hell” to myself, handed over 12 euros and decided to (hopefully) enjoy what was certainly the first choir I’d ever paid to witness.  And perhaps not the last, because it was simply incredible.  There were solos mixed with group singing of classics and Christmas songs.  Can’t remember any specific song titles, but the fact that I enjoyed their festive flights of fancy says a lot.  Plus there were some gorgeous young women in the choir, and the crowd – though they’d seemed to have without exception dragged their boyfriends and husbands along.  One particular brunette of the choir stood out for me, and in fact barely escaped my gaze when I wasn’t filling up on Guinness at the bar.  She ended up winning a best-dressed prize, which may or may not be a standard thing for choirs.  The tasteful, shimmering silver cocktail dress certainly deserved the award at least as much as she did for being the one wearing it.  In one of my few meaningful engagements with another human during my time in that city, I recognised an Australian accent at the bar mentioning to the staff in not exactly these terms that they must have been struggling to understand his drink orders on account of the antipodean twang accompanying them.  We bonded instantly over shared larrikinism for which while abroad our kind is not only tolerated, but encouraged.  Then he disclosed that he’d followed the love of his life to the very corner of the earth in which we were standing, and that he and the Irish she had only recently brought a son into a cold, wet yet beautiful part of the world.  At which point, naturally, and sadly, I thought immediately of Emma.

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Writing Process Poem

I should be asleep,

Instead I’m awake.

Hands on keyboard,

Head a dull ache.

Arse planted on seat,

Eyes the screen rake.

Give much tonight,

And tomorrow take.

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A bipolar existence,

So much is at stake.

Will it successful,

Me one day make?

That is not the issue,

Just a focus mistake.

Rather I’ll write,

Until I do break.

US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Three

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I do have a photo of both of them, but it’s nowhere near as good as this one. Pity

Fond memories of watching a pair of swans cruise the River Liffey strike me at the beginning of this blog post.  Due to one being pure white and the other dirty-brown of feather, I assumed they were a mating male and female.  I tend to assume the white one, being more aesthetically pleasing, was the female.  But then again I also tend to recall particularly in bird-life that males might be more visually striking, in order to attract a mate.  It seems unnecessary to bother with research into the matter.  Either way, they resembled a human couple well past their first dates – aimlessly and slowly circling on the surface of the brown water, and occasionally crossing each others’ paths with subtle acknowledgement.  Their interactions with each other and the environment instilled greater peace within, and made me grateful for the existence of love in base or boundless forms, and every incarnation of it in-between.  Earlier that Wednesday, I visited the international headquarters of the greatest stout known to man or woman – Guinness.  Stout, for the uninitiated, is “a strong very dark heavy-bodied ale made from pale malt and roasted unmalted barley and (often) caramel malt with hops” (WordWeb).  (And because I wrote in my journal that it was Wednesday, I can clarify the exact date due to Christmas being only the next week, as I mentioned in the previous post: December 19, 2012.  Exactly one week after I had originally planned to return home, when I left on October 12.)

Bellevue (Road or Alley or Lane), outside the storehouse

Bellevue (Road or Alley or Lane), outside the storehouse

From the outside, the Guinness Storehouse at St James Gate Brewery looked like an asylum.  Located in Dublin’s version of an industrial area (much more brick and steel, and less or no aluminium, than on the Gold Coast), the greater brewery claimed several blocks about a 10 minute walk south of the river.  And it was bordered by mossy, even sooty appearing semi-ancient brick which rose in some places to support small-windowed buildings and in other places to prison-esque razor-wire atop fortress-like walls.  (Keep in mind that description is largely based on memory, as I only took one photo outside the brewery and Google Street View surprisingly doesn’t work surrounding the premises.)  Inside, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark.  It featured a lot of glass and stainless steel and a self-guided tour complete with interactive technology such as touch-screens and the like.  To my disappointment, there was no all you can drink policy, but passing out at such a location – while very Irish – would have been embarrassing and frankly clichéd.  Plus there was plenty of time that night in which to soak my liver with Guinness; for the present next couple of hours, it was prudent to soak my brain with the black stuff instead.  The tour took me through the whole process of crafting the miracle that is Guinness, and it was “kind of” interesting at least because of the amount of effort and expense they’d clearly gone to.  The first highlight was of course the tasting.  You’re to inhale moderately, then sip (I gulped), swish it around in your mouth, swallow, and exhale.  Apparently, also, if you empty half the glass then swish the head (froth) around, it improves the taste.  Can’t remember if that’s true, but I did comment in my journal that “good head always involves a bit of swishing around”.  You might say that was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thought.  Somebody stop me. Ok I’ll stop.

Locally sourced, and apparently almost perfectly pure water

Locally sourced, and apparently almost perfectly pure water

I spotted a very cute yet barely over 18-looking woman wandering around with her dumpy and less but not completely unattractive friend while enjoying the tour.  Toward the end there was a large LCD touch-screen to which tourists could post their thoughts on Guinness using their Facebook accounts.  I can’t remember exactly what I tapped onto the screen.  Something like: “Smooth, sweet, with a hint of bitterness; like coffee, beer and tobacco in one.”   Then it was time for the best part, at which I just happened to join forces with the abovementioned young women: pouring, and then drinking, the “perfect pint”.  From their murmured conversation the girls appeared to be American, or Canadian, or English-speaking Scandinavians – who apparently develop North American accents through watching so much television from there.  The cute one certainly appeared Nordic.  Good skin.  So we poured our perfect pints.  (What you do is pull the tap handle toward you, into an angled glass, then slowly upright the glass until it’s full to just below the little golden harp logo on all Guinness glasses.  Then you let it settle for a couple of minutes.  Then finally and with the glass fully upright push the handle away from you till full.  And let it settle for another couple of minutes before enjoying.)  The less attractive one took photos of me pouring my pint.  There was a camera attached to the ceiling, but it didn’t have a flash.  Then I took photos of them pouring, but they didn’t invite me to sit with them while drinking.  I didn’t have a needed wing-man, they really couldn’t have been much older than 18, and I’m pretty sure I overheard them talking about buying stuff for their blokes in the gift shop later.  So no big loss.  I bought a green Dublin/Guinness shirt and a pin – which I’ve worn since on my leather jacket, occasionally with the shirt underneath.  The good memories override any gaucheness.

Finishing up a perfect pint

Finishing up a perfect pint

No way could I have left before drinking – you guessed it: Guinness – in the puzzlingly-named Gravity Bar which from atop the brewery afforded 360 degree views of Dublin which were so underwhelming on account of the grey flatness of the city that one was driven to drink more.  Which I guess was all part of their fiendish plan.  I didn’t mind, but still only drank one there because at that location they were again puzzlingly more expensive than anywhere else in Dublin I’d yet come across.  I surmised that a country full of reputedly but perhaps unfairly drunk, somewhat dim people needed to fleece tourists of their travel funds at every opportunity.  Not so dim, after all.  Certainly often drunk though.  The journal now states that “I think” I went back to the hostel after that.  Amazingly, two pints and the gulp from the little taster glass had caused me to feel tipsy.  Usually, while hungover, two drinks are just what the doctor (well, perhaps not the doctor) ordered.  The taster glass’s contents must have been the booze that broke the drunkard’s back, so to speak.  So I probably had or at least attempted a nap back at the hostel.  In fact I took cheesy selfie photos of myself wearing the Guinness shirt while pointing to it in overcompensating for small dick syndrome gang member-style.  I assure you I was going for irony, though I was also pretty stoked with the purchase – especially for someone who’s generally not enthusiastic about shopping for anything, perhaps least of all travel keepsakes. Then I stepped back out into Dublin’s freezing windswept streets with a cigarette between my blue lips, and a plan: I’d pinned down a bunch of venues scattered all across the city which promised, according to Google Maps, to play jazz.  Turns out not one of them actually did, possibly on account of it being a Wednesday night, but the journey is one worth re-telling anyway.  In the next post. . . .

Playing douchebag - hopefully not too well

Playing douchebag – hopefully not too well

US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Two

Lamplit Liffey

Lamplit Liffey

Dublin was frustrating.  Because for the first time I’d found myself in a city in which I genuinely believed the entire rest of the country – its gently rolling hillsides and sun-frustrated emerald green grass – was more worth seeing than its capital.  But I had no wheels, and was only staying three days before continuing on to Scotland.  Memory of the time is patchy, at best, especially due to picking up this tale after letting it lie fallow for so many months.  It’s sad, because I’m quite sure during my short stay in Ireland events occurred and feelings were stimulated that would do well committed to written words, but it seems likely they will never be.  I should stress that I’m writing this from a journal I kept during the journey, but of course not every story worth telling managed to grace its pages.  More’s the pity.  I wandered Dublin’s drab streets that first night, and visited a couple of pubs, but nothing particularly special eventuated that I can recall.  I decided that it was a more architecturally humble city, when compared with the unabashed, pretentious beauty and grand scale of London.  It seemed as if there must have been a limit on building sizes, as no obvious central business district or downtown skyscrapers such as the like in New York, London or even Australia’s Brisbane could be seen.  Then again, the city sprawl didn’t extend outward that far either, for a national capital, and it seemed quite a realistic proposal to be able to walk from one edge of the city to the other in an afternoon.  A very walkable city, which was fortunate in the absence of a metropolitan under or even overground train system.  And most of its main touristic attractions hugged or lingered close by the thin, murky yet tranquil River Liffey.

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I ended up at Fitzsimons Bar.  Or one of them.  There appeared to be at least two, in close proximity.  It was in the Temple Bar – which is not a bar; rather an area full of bars which are less authentically Irish than they are authentically what (young) tourists probably expect from inner-city Irish bars.  It felt – and I’m imagining here because I’ve never been – like a cold, wet, Catholic and white-skinned native version of Bali.  A lone acoustic guitarist was playing quality cover music within Fitzsimons, so I requested The Man Who Sold The World, by Nirvana.  Told him I couldn’t remember who originally came up with the tune.  He replied “David Bowie”, but qualified that he preferred the ill-fated grunge rockers’ version.  Outside, during a cigarette, an older woman borrowed my lighter and told me I looked grumpy.  This startled me, as I felt quite happy.  I suppose my resting facial expression appears displeased.  On top of her advanced age, I found her unattractive, so if her criticism was an attempt at flirtation it certainly fell flat.  I thought I might have looked to her like the younger doppelganger of an old flame or even husband of hers who had ditched her for a younger model.  Who knows.  While open to companionship, I was quite enjoying my solitude so found instant solace in returning to the streets for the about 30 minute walk through banally beautiful yellow lamp lit streets back to the hostel, north across the Liffey.  I realised that the absence of solo or small groups of men and women around my own age at that time, and at that hostel, was due to Christmas being less than a week away.

Somewhere in the Temple Bar

Somewhere in the Temple Bar

I’d later find out my father, particularly, was disappointed at my promised absence from Christmas with the family for the first time.  Even if I can’t help somewhat regretting that, I don’t regret the choice I’d made.  If I’d returned home at the time I originally planned before leaving my own shores, I would never have even seen Brighton and London, much less Dublin and Edinburgh – which would have been a shame I might never even have known, and indeed, gloriously, did not.  So besides the very rare lonesome traveller, myself included, other people staying at the hostel tended to consist exclusively of large groups of French university students and fat, older, lone transient men of vague purpose.  Many of the female French students were very cute, yet snobby.  This was something I’d become used to.  If you can’t speak French, or have not at least visited the country, it doesn’t matter where in the world you come across a French person: they are likely to be dismissive of you.  It’s a backhanded compliment to them, really: if you haven’t bothered to learn their language, or at least visit their country, they assume you’re ignorant – until of course you manage to prove to them that you have consumed some forms of French culture.  Which I deem fair enough.  I wished one of the young women a safe trip home while outside smoking that evening.  She didn’t return the sentiment.  And, naturally, some fat old guy in my dorm room kept me up most of that night with his chainsaw-like snoring – while dear Dublin dreamt of smooth Guinness and fair-skinned Irish maidens, outside.  Everything (except of course the weather) would be better in the morning.

I can vaguely remember visiting a bar beside the Liffey's southern bank at about 2am during the same night mentioned above.  It was also a live music venue, but the band appeared to have long since stopped playing, and its inhabitants were in the final stages of a drunken (not literal) orgy the likes of which I've not seen before.  It looked like an ice junkie den.  Rubbish, graffiti, excrement everywhere.  I took this photo upstairs, while feeling a little overwhelmed by the carnage (or perhaps I'd just had one Guinness too many).

I can vaguely remember visiting a bar beside the Liffey’s southern bank at about 2am during the same night mentioned above. It was also a live music venue, but the band appeared to have long since stopped playing, and its inhabitants were in the final stages of a drunken (not literal) orgy the likes of which I’ve not seen before. It looked like an ice junkie den. Rubbish, graffiti, excrement everywhere. I took this photo upstairs, while feeling a little overwhelmed by the carnage (or perhaps I’d just had one Guinness too many).

Pub Phlog Poem

Lubricated speech of many,
Wrestles through the air.
Cigarette smoke and crass jokes,
Fly thick and fast, to be fair.
Just one example of tradition,
It happens here and also there.

image

Drinks are downed and boasts brought up,
You’d be straining to rightly care.
For it’s not an end but just a means,
Within a drunken local’s stare.
If not the local on Sat’dey night,
Then just you tell me where.