Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If we had blogs in 1998: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and Erika whines way too much

In this episode of my 1997-1998 study abroad journal, I go to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day. I got two days off school for it because I wanted to do “research” for my project. Which was true, to an extent. I was there to learn something cultural about a holiday in the country that was the focal point of my research. Unfortunately, I traveled with two people who weren’t compatible travel partners. If you’ve traveled a lot, you understand there are certain people with whom you can travel and some with whom you just can’t. I’m a wanderer; I don’t do schedules and itineraries. Some people can’t travel without having every minute of the day planned. I enjoyed this time in Dublin, even if at times it doesn’t seem so.

As always, spelling, grammatical, factual, and emotional errors have been preserved from the original journal. Today’s comments are in red.

*drawing of a clover* 17 March 1998 St. Paddy’s Day

What an interesting weekend. It started in Bruxelles; I should have known it would be disappointing, esp. since Andrea didn’t come. But Friday night wasn’t that bad, nor was Saturday. We touched down and went directly to the crappy hostel with the girl scout bathrooms and the fifty million people in the rooms. And it took forever to walk there. So on Saturday we went on down to Grafton Street to window shop and walked around. I don’t much remember the day, but it was a good thing we went into the tourist office, because we picked up the event guide for the holiday. There was actually loads of great stuff to do. However, it wasn’t quite organized. The Irish are actually new at it. I mean, America’s big cities have been celebrating it for a number of years. They didn’t even have St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts, though they had a logo. Saturday evening posed the greatest of all evenings. After a dinner at Beshof’s, we saw a wonderful fireworks display, brought to you by Aer Lingus. It told the story of St. Patrick. I only wish I’d known more of the story. Saturday afternoon proved to be expensive, as I bought the second part of Christy Moore’s Collection, & 2 U2 bootlegs, one of which I hope Andrea will buy. After the fireworks, we went to Fitzsimmon’s at Temple Bar to listen to some Irish music played by kids our age. It was great. By misfortune we happened to run into Roach and some other MUDECers, who followed us to Fitzsimmon’s. The place was jam packed, full of Guinness drinkers, as was I. I was full of Guinness drinkers?!? We finally got a place amonst the people who could actually see the musicians. It was grand.

Sunday came around; with it came Howth. The cliffwalk was well-worth the extra miles we walked following it. I’ve photos. I was pleasantly suprised by the place. I hadn’t figured Howth would be so grand. I’d been south before, but this put Bray to shame. Too bad we had to get off the path and walk past all the rich houses. We kept walking & walking till finally Emilee asked a lady where the hell we were. The lady drove us all to the Sutton DART station because we were so far. It was cool, because the Luxembourgeois, being the caring, friendly people they are, would have never offered a lift. That was one of the highlights of the trip. I love the Irish!

We ate a packed lunch on the train heading to Bray. Bray’s beach was great for looking for rocks – beautiful despite the absense of sand. I wanted to climb the hill, but fatigue had taken us hostage on Howth Head, and another hike up a hill was not in our futures. So we stopped at a place for coffee (& apple juice). Then we went back to the hostel for a rest. I can’t remember when the anger started, but I believe it was around this time. See, I was pretty upset about a lot of things. And it didn’t help that I was so tired & PMS was affecting me. But that’s when Erika started dictating what we would be doing. She refused to borrow money, so we had to go cheap everywhere. Well, that leaves out most of the great things about Dublin, i.e. great music and craic. So instead of going to a great place, we ended up eating in this shitty North Side café. (It really sucked staying on the North Side, because they thought the North Side was Dublin. Let me just say that of all the things I love about Dublin, the North Side is NOT one of them. I feel like such a snob saying this, but working class neighborhoods are not my idea of wonderful.)  

I feel I should inject a comment here, because this was a stupid thing to say. First of all, I never got far enough away from the city centre to be in any "working class neighborhoods." In 1998, however, there were still neighborhoods throughout Dublin who had yet to see the mighty paintbrush of the Celtic Tiger, so we were in a part of town that wasn't so pretty. Traditionally, the working classes lived on the north side of the river, while the wealthier, more fortunate people lived on the south side. I knew this at the time, most likely because I knew that U2 had grown up on the north side, and so, without any other knowledge about where I was, I came to the conclusion that wherever I was, it wasn't worthy of a visit. My comment wasn't just snobby, it was ignorant.  

So anyway, we’re eating at this working class café, the food’s shitty and more expensive than anyone thought. I mean, I paid £5 for the driest chicken I’ve ever had, and the next night I paid £5 for some awesome broccoli, cheese, & mushroom streudel. So we finally swallow the food, and then we headed over to Grafton Street to watch a carnival parade. We got there early but people piled in front of us, because the thing was poorly organized. & instead of enjoying the moment, Erika complained the whole time and was more worried about getting a picture than just enjoying it. I wish more people would have been dancing. Then I started thinking about how Erika wouldn’t shut up throughout the fireworks, sounding like a dumbass when she was trying to guess what was going on, not knowing anything about St. Patrick. It was quite annoying and somewhat embarrassing. Another thing that was somewhat embarrassing were the Shamrock shakes at McBathroom. When the end of the parade came up, we followed behind it. But then Erika ran up ahead just to get pictures. She didn’t even try to have fun. We went to bed then.

Monday morning – day of hell. There I was, in my favorite city’s big day, and having to spend it with the moaner. I don’t think a word passed without a complaint from her mouth. My foot hurts. I can’t afford it. (Then why the hell did you push Andrea for her ticket!?!) She put me in a foul mood – her confidence was no match for my mouth. I have no idea what that sentence means. Emilee was pissed, then I started taking it out on her. Put she kept saying, shouldn’t we ask and was all worried because I wouldn’t use a map. Just because she didn’t no where the hell she was going…That all pissed me off. If you know me well, you know I have an uncanny sense of direction. By this time I’d been to Dublin several times, so I knew the layout of the city pretty well. Another thing was, she kept asking "shouldn’t we ask...?" instead of just asking, which was annoying to the point that I started getting snotty with her. We saw Christchurch & St. Patrick’s, which were incredibly disappointing. (Oh, another thing on Sunday that pissed me off. Erika found 50 pence in a Coke machine, & spent it on Pepsi. So someone's choice of soda pissed me off? And she kept rudely asking for my candy. If I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t have bought it.) Those churches need to be given back to the Catholic church where they belong. Catholics in Dublin use a temporary cathedral because the English reformation took Christchurch from them. Same thing happened to St. Patrick’s. Erika didn’t go in because they cost money. This was me during the previous semester. I should have understood her concerns. I think it was the way she went about whining aloud and dictating what the rest of us could do. I just whined in my private journal, but I never prevented people from doing things - I just told them I'd meet them later if they wanted to do something I couldn't afford. Then came the eating fiasco. Another working class café. But that came after the Loving Spoonful shithole, this might mean The Lovinspoon, which is well-loved and the attempt at Mother Redcap’s. What is the obsession with goddam markets? All fruit looks the same.

*I had yet to learn to appreciate markets. I had yet to understand that markets represent the life-force of the world. I couldn’t see the beauty of a pepper or an apple. My comment above surprises me. I remember going to European markets and loving them. I loved the fact that the markets were located in some central spot in cities and how everything was fresh and how locals came to purchase food for their daily sustenance. Going to a market when you travel is the most local experience you can encounter. How many photographs have I taken of mounds of bananas or fish on ice or rows of tomatoes?

Mother Redcaps was a treasure and I didn't even know it. It had a tavern dating back to 1760 attached to it where many Irish musicians had played. The market moved out of the old place in the middle of the last decade. Many in Dublin got rich in the nineties and instead of restoring and conserving so many culturally significant places, they started demolishing them to build soulless highrises, the fate of so many cultural and historical places across the world. I found this petition to stop the demolition of Mother Redcaps. Not many signatures, I'm afraid. When we knock down historic landmarks, a little piece of our identity dies with them. What a shame.*

But the Factory Café (it was actually called that) was good. I had potatos with mushrooms & spaghetti sauce. And it was cheap. A good find for the situation, but no place I’d go back to. Next was the National Gallery. I saw the Irish artists then went and sat in Merrian Square and walked down Baggot Street. I so wanted to go to the Baggot Inn or Kitty O’Sheas, but no. We have to go to a cheaper place, but Erika didn’t even eat, which pissed me off even more. Because I spent £6 at this Cornicopia place, when I could have gone to Baggot Inn for just a little more. This was after St. Stephen’s Shopping Center, which I really didn’t want to go to because I had a wonderful Baggot Street experience and wanted to walk around the area more. But I decided to go in & ended up buying a sweater & an orange shirt, and I didn’t tell Emilee or Erika because then they would have made me show them. I still have the orange shirt. I think the sweater fell apart years ago. I was already getting tired of getting my stuff out for Erika’s use. I hate being inconvenienced constantly. Once or twice doesn’t bother me, but once or twice and hour bugs the hell out of me. So after St. Stephen’s I threw the dinner fit. Then Erika wouldn’t let us give her money and made us feel guilty the whole meal. I think I was secretly laughing. Then we went to the night parade (Bailey’s night parade), and stood on the wrong side of the street, but it was still really cool, despite the disorganization. The fireworks were excellent. It was all very exciting, but then Emilee again pissed me off by wanting to leave before it was over to go see more traditional music, and kept asking should we leave, which was even more annoying, and I was fuming. It’s ST. PATRICK’S DAY. Trad can be seen any night of the year. And what are the chances of being in Dublin for St. Pat’s? Besides, I’ve been to Ireland a number of times. I wanted to do something I wouldn’t normally do. I WANTED TO DO THE FESTIVITIES BUT GAVE IT UP BECAUSE THEY HADN’T BEEN TO DUBLIN, AND I’M PISSED. It wasn’t worth the time. Erika always thinks she’s right. Did she notice the train to Namur got in at 20:42 LIKE I SAID. How come everyone thinks I’m stupid. THEY’RE THE IDIOTS! *really thick exclamation point* I HATE PEOPLE WHO THINK THE WORLD IS ALL LIKE CUSHY SUBURBIA! *really thick exclamation point* FUCK THEM ALL! *really thick exclamation point* THEY CREW UP IN THEIR FUCKING NAÏVE CUSHY LITTLE (BIG) SUBURBIA HOUSES AND HAVE NO FUCKING CONCEPT OF HOW THE WORLD WORKS. I don’t understand this rant about suburbia. It may have had something to do with how they seemed afraid to do anything, like growing up in secluded suburbs made them afraid of cities. I don’t know. I don’t even want to be friends with Erika. She’s no fun and a one sided conversationalist. I’m sick of it. We remained something of friends until we had both moved to DC years later. I'm the one that encouraged her to tell Ryan she liked him during our senior year of college - they eventually married. But she had to stick her nose into something she had no business being involved in, and I haven't spoken to her since. I thought I saw her a few years after that when I was on a bike ride. She was whining on the side of the trail to her husband about how something hurt. I laughed because I remembered the whining all those years ago.

So that brings us to looking for a pub after the night parade. We went to Temple Bar & they were all crowded. Then I looked up Bars in Let’s Go. Big Mistake. (“That’s not going to help” – E) FUCK ‘EM. They don’t know what fun is. What horrible company. And you will definitely get skin cancer for being out in the sun for 2 hrs. THAT PISSES ME OFF. IT ALL DOES. The parade was awesome. I took a whole role of film. That’ll explain the actual parades & its American High School Marching Bands. (Oh – I forgot. The Guinness Brewery Tour was a waste of £2, except for the Guinness. The ads were cool. The tour was cool if I had been with different people. I wish I could have gone with Steph & Matt & Andrea. We got there at 8:30am and were in the front row. Cops were standing in our way because some bratty mouthy girls were back talking to them, after the group Boyzone, I think, passed. There was a kid that kept waving a flag in my face. But it was great. St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin. U2. Enough said. My flash is dead.

While this may sound a lot like it's whining about not getting my way, it's not exactly that. The thing is, I was interested in the history of Dublin City, and there were many historic places I wanted to visit to understand the city better. The point of the trip was to do just that, for it was central to my research project. These places included restaurants and pubs, and Erika didn't seem to understand this. While it was nice that they didn't want to go to McDonald's all the time like Andrea and Matt, popping into just any old place was missing out on the history of the city, its soul. Music and literature in Ireland are the pride of the people. To get to know the place, you need to go to the places Joyce went, the places he describes in his books, places like Davy Byrne's Pub. You need to know where Bob Geldolf and Christy Moore and U2 played their gigs in their youth, places like Baggot Inn. 

Of course, I didn't know as much about the city as I thought, because I didn't understand the significance of a place like Mother Redcaps and couldn't appreciate the "working class" neighborhoods. But how could I? I had never read Ulysses at that point. In fact, aside from reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a senior in high school and Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha as a sophomore in college, I'd never read a single thing by an Irish writer. That was changing, as my research project required getting to know the culture and I had purchased several books, including The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde and Dubliners. But that hardly scratched the surface of the brilliance that is Irish literature. Eventually I began to understand. Today, my bookshelf is lined with books by Irish writers. I've pored through Ulysses three times. Heck, my online name for my first blog was Daedalus, not for the Greek architect, but for Stephen Dedalus, the alter ego of Joyce himself. By the time I began my internship at Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Center in the Wicklow Mountains, I'd become well-versed in Irish history. You had to be to understand the conflict that had consumed the Irish people for centuries.

History is not about the past. It makes us who we are and has shaped our world. It is a guide to the future. Often that guide tells us what not to do, but hey, that's just as useful as telling us what to do. The Irish stopped using their history as an excuse to fight and instead used it as an excuse not to fight. I think that's a damn fine idea.


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