“A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetry gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine.”
I have a confession to make… I’ve never read any James Joyce. Horrors! A shocking thing for a supposed author to admit as he visits Dublin. And I doubly ashamed (doubly? in Dublin?) after having visited the Writer’s Museum, where I learned several things, two in particular: (1) that more has been written about Joyce than about Shakespeare; and (2) Dublin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site solely for the city’s literary contributions.
It was a good experience for me, as, to be honest, I’ve struggling of late with my relationship with the written world. Books used to be one of the central phenomena in my sense of myself. Then I became a minimally successful writer, and my love for books waned substantially. As I’ve expressed earlier in this space, I’m lucky if I read a single book-length work per year now,; whereas I would consume several each week in my youth.
It’s a shameful thing for an author to admit. Shameful indeed. I blame a few things, social media and digital technology prime among them. Why settle in with a novel when I can start a quick Youtube video or favourite Netflix show? My ageing eyes are another factor, as reading now tires them out rather quickly. But the harder to stomach cause is my gradual distancing from my initial impetus for reading in the first place, as an avenue for escapism. As I’ve grown older and very happy with my life, the need to retreat from that life into the virtual reality of a book has lessened considerably.
So a visit to the museum was an important experience for me. In a sense, it was a reminder of all the reasons that I had once thought that to craft the perfect piece of literature would be a worthy life’s goal. The lives of Yeats, Wilde, Swift, Joyce, Shaw and even Stoker were shown to have a common sentiment, despite their differing epochs and life situations. And that sentiment is somehow drawn forth by the Smith’s song quoted above. At least to me. The bloody song has been stuck in my head all day now.
Okay, so this is Yeats, who looks like he should be Bram Stoker:
Meanwhile, the actual Bram Stoker looks more like how Bram Stoker’s literary agent or lawyer would look:
Want to know something minorly cool? Looks like George R.R. Martin was one of the donors who provided the Stoker bust.
And who looks the most like Dracula himself? Well, Nosferatu Samuel Beckett, of course:
I also had a peek into the city art gallery (it’s free!)
A Shitty Room
When I was first in Dublin last week, I stayed at the UNI NEST student residence. I quite enjoyed it. Small, but clean and modern room, with en suite bathroom, shared kitchen, fantastic gym facilities and a good location. So I was eager to re-book the same facility for my return this week.
They gave me an even bigger room (bigger than most hotel suites). But I was surprised to find an um, significant presence remaining in the room’s toilet. The sight haunts me still, so many flushes later. And now I’ve put that image in your head and you can’t get it out.
I also made the mistake of attempting to open a bottle of beer in here. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this entire place is lacking in the simplicity of a bottle opener. So this time I opened by beer in the hallowed Canadian way: in the door hole thingy where the non-knob thingy comes out when you turn the knob thingy. You know what I’m talking about. I’m a writer, damn it!
This part, the hole. What’s it called?
Anyway, now the bloody room smells like beer. And they don’t clean the room until I leave on Saturday. So this is my life for the next two days.
The Killing Joke
Last night, John gave me the great birthday present of both a wee mango lassi and tickets to see Killing Joke at the Dublin Academy.
Here’s Jaz Coleman coming out onto stage, cloaked in both dry ice and the same jumpsuit he wore the last time I saw him, in Toronto more than twenty years ago:
The opening song was “Tomorrow’s World“, if you’re wondering. My first thought upon seeing Jaz Coleman up close was, “Man, Alice Cooper’s old!”
You know, when I was first listening to Killing Joke 35 years ago, I was scared of their fans. I’ve been roughed up by my share of moshing punks at concerts, and the prospect of drunken Irish punks doesn’t fill me with a sense of overall bodily safety. But, I have to say, the sight of a room full of middle-aged punks is hilarious. Coleman himself announced that several band members are already grandparents. Looking around the room, it struck me that I was probably the only person present who could see and touch his own toes. It’s hard to be afraid of people who seem desperate to get home in time to take their insulin shots and strap on their CPAP machines.
Beyond the poorly aged baldies with the thick middles and crackling knees were the occasional tall and broken beardos, who would not look out of place giving instructions for a quest to a group of adoring Hobbits.
Oh, and I was wearing one of my many Captain America t-shirts. I spotted another old geezer wearing an older version of the insignia and immediately went over to say hello. We had a nice exchange. Frankly, I would not have done that in North America. But here in Ireland, I knew the fellow would take my gesture in good spirits and a hearty, “Cheers, mate!”
Shout-out to Nori (if that’s how to spell her name), a drunken Irish woman sitting near to us who really really needed to talk to us about her life. I really appreciate the friendliness of this country.
More Annoying American Tourists
Without question, the only truly negative experiences I’ve had so far in Ireland have been the result of interactions with other tourists, not the Irish. In particular, American tourists have been pissing me off. This is not to say that all American tourists are shitty. But rather, among the shitty tourists I’ve encountered, 100% of them have been American.
I detailed one particularly annoying group in my last post. But I have yet to tell you about my train ride from Galway to Dublin yesterday.
The train seats are conference style, in fours, with reserved seating. And they are quite small, without a lot of space for large people. Luckily, I’m quite a small person. I kept my bag between my feet so that it did not take up space anywhere else, in order to make room for anyone else who might join me.
Some time after I boarded, I was met by two (American) women in the seats facing me. I attempted to smile at them, but they would not even look at me. Okay fine. The one in front of me was a petite middle-aged sallow-faced woman dressed like a teenage Goth. The other one was an older woman, whom I presume was the first one’s mother.
Goth immediately starts complaining how the seats are too small and that there’s not enough room for her feet because there’s a bag in front. She says this to her mother, not to me, but loudly enough so I can hear. So Mom asks me to move my bag (which is tightly between my feet, remember). I comply, and note that Goth also has a bag between her feet. So now she’s extending her feet into my space. Fine, I’m willing to compromise for the sake of peace.
Over the next little while, they start asking loud questions to everyone around me, but not to me. At no point do they actually look at me. But Goth complains to her mother that the seats are arranged for poor privacy (meaning that I’m an inconvenience). I start live tweeting the experience.
Goth spends the next two hours scowling and pouting and generally projecting discomfort and annoyance with the world. Woman, you’re like 40 years old. Get over yourself. I’m trying my best to ignore them, with my headphones on and turned to maximum. It’s not enough.
The worst part was when Goth girl complains about some dude she’s not dating anymore. “Lucky guy”, I think to myself.
Now, I’m not in the habit of photographing strangers, but in this case I just had to, as a strategy to sustain my own waning sanity. It’s important that you get a glimpse of the woman-child who made my voyage decidedly unpleasant:
Hey, maybe she was 17 and just had really bad skin and no muscle tone. But until I have evidence to the contrary, when I tell of her in future stories, she will be “the middle aged Goth lady”.
Hey want a good binge-watching recommendation? The Boys on Amazon Prime. Trust me.