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My second full day in Ireland. I am once more seated in a Caffe Nero (my preferred coffee chain here, due mostly to their excellent pastries and wifi speed). I have relocated from the KeyCollections hotel in Rathgar (how cool of a name is Rathgar?) to a residence room on a local college campus. (It’s very comfortable, by the way.)
The highlight of today was another visit to Trinity College Dublin, an ancient university founded during the reign of Elizabeth I (1592). I did the tourist thing and paid to see the Book of Kells. If you’re a lover of history, religions, and books, as I am, then this is a must-do.
The Book of Kells is a 1500 year old illuminated Bible, treasured by the Irish and fought over by believers and heathens alike. After seeing the Book, the tour ends at the Old Library, a 65 metre long barrel-ceiling library with some of the most precious books in the Anglosphere:
It is flanked by the busts of famous figures from Western history, including Plato, Wellington, and my man, Isaac Newton:
The library is also home to one of the oldest depictions of the supposed harp of legendary Irish king Brian Boru, which also serves as the national symbol:
The most memorable –and horrifying– aspect of my stroll through Trinity College was their public science exhibit. Specifically, I am haunted by one particular exhibit, which sought to show how to re-engineer a human body to survive a low-impact automobile collision. They called this exhibit “Graham”, and its troll-like face will embed itself in your hindbrain and whisper sweet ugly things to your subconscious as you struggle to slip into slumber. Behold its monstrous countenance and despair:
Here are some other fun photos from today. Apparently there is an entire industry dedicated to getting old men to exhale and hold their breath:
Dublin is European home to many of the American tech giants, including LinkedIn and… Facebook:
And given the droves of Americans coming here to find their long lost Gaelic heritage, it’s not surprising that Ancestry.com has an office, too:
Speaking of genetics, what illegal laboratory experiments inspired this…?
So, I’ve been two days in Ireland and already this trip I’ve witnessed three crimes. As noted in my previous post, my subway to the airport was delayed because cops had to chase a knife-wielding interloper. And yesterday I saw several cops tackle and handcuff a resisting perp in downtown Dublin.
This afternoon, I was strolling down the street to pick up my Indian take-out when I saw a gentleman pushing a scooter. I own a scooter and I know that sometimes it breaks down and I have to push its 200 pound heft down the street. It’s awkward and embarrassing. I was going to offer to help when I noticed that the theft alarm on the scooter was going off.
We walked in the same direction for about ten minutes when a cyclist did a double-take, then reversed direction to find a bunch of cops who were investigating yet another unconscious man down the street. I saw him report the scooter alarm, then saw four cops casually saunter to the scooter-pusher to engage in a friendly bit of conversation. It was hilarious watching him frantically trying to explain why he had no ID and why he was pushing a scooter whose alarm was going off. I don’t know how the situation was resolved, as I turned the corner then. And I’d rather the ending remain a mystery.
Oh here’s the local convention centre (I think). I’m told that because it looks like a vacuum cleaner, some people call it “The Dyson”:
The big takeaway from today, though, was the revelation that Irish taxi drivers are endlessly fascinating.
Okay, back to the taxi drivers. So far I’ve had three of them. The first was an English transplant who shared with me his concerns about Brexit. The second self-identified as a Biafran who wanted to talk about international politics, from the Conference of Berlin to the Nigerian Civil War to the impending dissolution of Great Britain. He was sanguine that all empires, like that of Britain, had to fall. So I posited that the time might be short for the American empire, as well.
“No!” he said. “America will never fall! And neither will Israel!” Ahh. Fundamentalist Christian. Well that explained a few things. Still, we were able to have a wide ranging discussion of sub-Saharan demographics and postcolonial angst. And, like everyone else, he confused Guyana with Ghana.
The third taxi driver was the best. He had me in stitches for what seemed like hours. I would have happily paid real Euros to just sit in a room and listen to him. Where to begin? He started by quizzing me about Canada. And I was found wanting. What beach did the Canadians land on at Normany? I thought it was Omaha. He knew it was Juno. What does “Canada” mean? I thought it was “meeting place.” He knew it was “big village.” He had great sympathy for the plight of indigenous peoples the world over, and knew a lot about them. “And you still call them Indians? The fucking Americans called them Indians and we’re still fucking calling them that? What the fuck?”
What else? Here’s what I can remember from this very memorable conversation:
- “What’s that guy’s name in the White House? Satan? No, Trump. That’s it. Trump”
- “I don’t know many arseholes. But I don’t want to insult the ones I know by saying that Boris Johnson is an arsehole.”
- “Boris won’t be stopped by a general election. He’ll be stopped by an IRA sniper. Wait, I didn’t say that. Forget I said that.”
- “Trump is an idiot. But he sort of knows he’s an idiot, and he uses that. Boris doesn’t know he’s an idiot, and that makes him worse.”
- “The rift between Northern Ireland and Ireland isn’t religious. It’s identity. If a Catholic from the north says he’s from ‘Northern Ireland’ then he’s an English cunt. And if a Protestant says he’s an Irishman, then he’s an Irishman.”
- “You know what’s an English name? ‘Samuel’ (sneering). Who names their child ‘Samuel’? What a cunt English name.”
- “I was taught to hate. I refuse to teach hate. The next generation will no be taught hate. And that’s what will save us.”
- “I try not to hate anyone. But the fucking English deserve all the shit they’re getting. The fucking English. Fuck them.”
Man, I wish I could remember more. He was definitely a proud Irishman. He claims he only speaks Irish at home, and English only to the tourists. A deeply fascinating and entertaining man, and I feel richer for having paid him 20 euros for a drive.
Shortly thereafter, the Irish girl making my burrito thought my Canadian accent was attractive… which I found to be the most ironically hilarious thing I’d heard all day. Our non-accents are drab affairs. The Irish accent, on the other hand, is a thing of fluid gold.
Well that’s enough for today. I will leave you with this disgusting bit of food I discovered yesterday. They call it “curry chips.” It’s fries covered in “curry sauce.” What is curry sauce, you say? Not sure, but it tastes like someone just mixed curry powder with water and microwaved it for 25 seconds. Disgusting.