Saturday, July 29, 2017

But sometimes you just need to exist

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. - Oscar Wilde

I had originally intended to take my time driving from the sea-bound hills of Malin Head to the sprawling town of Dublin for the last leg of my trip, but I was feeling a Guinness-induced exhaustion and decided I'd just stop for lunch somewhere along the way and drop off the car a day early. I had to return through Northern Ireland, specifically County Tyrone, where the O'Hagan (my ancestors) clan is from. Honestly, if I had seen a pub or restaurant called O'Hagan's, I would have stopped. But I didn't, and I really didn't see much of anywhere to stop until I got to Omagh.  By then, I was just ready to be in Dublin.

The car and I had never been friends. It never really took to driving; give it a hill and it would cry out from exhaustion, ready to quit as soon as we hit elevation. I think I angered it the first time I bumped a curb in my inexperience with driving on the right side of a car, and it never really forgave me. The man at the rental place had chuckled when he showed me the shifter, muttering "German cars" as I watched at how easy it would be to bump the thing into neutral as I was driving, though I never did for the fear of it. I imagined what the white Opel looked like as it chugged along the winding Irish roads as if it were racing a tortoise, jealous of the cars that passed it carrying owners that didn't threaten its existence. But hey, it got me there, and I never put a scratch on it.

Wow, did I make a mistake in booking the B&B I did. The car rental place was right across from Croke Park, where U2 would be playing, and I thought I'd walk to the B&B to learn the way in case a cab were hard to come by after the show.

An hour later, I was wet and pissed off and wondering if my entire time in Dublin would be ruined by the hotel's location. Yeah, it took that long to walk there. Yeah, I was tired and cranky. I dropped off my bag and took the doubledecker bus to the city to look for dinner, thinking about the previous night and wishing to find another great conversion, as the same could not be possible. I drifted across the Liffey from the Customs House area in awe of how many new buildings have been built where warehouses and filth once lay, remembering when the building first began, back when I was a kid and could walk an entire city in a day and remember every nook and cranny in the surface of things.

But I'm not 20 anymore and haven't been for quite awhile.

When you're not 20 anymore you can't walk for days on end and you can't drink the Guinness factory night after night and you can't remember the nooks and the crannies and you can't look innocently at things like the docklands and marvel at the construction without knowing that a mere few wealthy men are getting richer while no one else truly benefits outside the margins. When you're not 20 anymore you can see the inside of things rather than the surfaces and sometimes when your only memories are the surfaces the magic you once felt is lost completely. That's how I felt that first night back in Dublin, a sense of loss and a certain disconnect that was dispiriting. All I had ever wanted to do back in those days was live in Dublin; fate had not allowed it and time had taken my longing from me.

I ended up walking around Merrion Square with its colorful doors and remembered my own door in Washington and how I told Chris it reminded me of the doors of Dublin and I sort of missed home at that moment. I walked around and rediscovered the Oscar Wilde statue (above photo) and I thought about how they treated him and how one of the greatest literary minds the world has ever known was ruined by homophobia and religious nuttery, how he rotted away in a prison cell because he was gay, dying at age 46, a mere three years after his release, broke, depressed, and alone.

He had lived, and then when he couldn't live, he couldn't exist.

He would have been appalled at the dump they called "Oscar's Bar" across from his childhood house. At that point I was pretty hungry and ready to go into the first place I saw. Given that it was named for Wilde and that it was part of the hotel next door, I thought it might be a decent place to get some food and have a pint.

I should have left when I saw it was empty save for two tables of tourists. I should have left after I ordered a pint and had a bit of a rest. But no, I had to order some food. I thought I ordered a reuben. I guess I had been so tired I couldn't read. It was a reuben burger, like an actual hamburger, and it had pastrami, not corned beef, and it was so overcooked that it might as well have been any animal - it no longer tasted like beef. I left half of it on the plate.

Oscar Wilde's house
Disheartened and tired, I decided to return to the hotel - if I got a second wind there was a local pub I could go to down the street. I didn't go. I returned to the hotel and nearly went right to sleep. It wasn't a bad place to stay if you're an older person who hits the pillow at 10pm; the proprietors were nice and helpful and there was a commitment to cleanliness. That was the last night I'd be that old person...

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