Friday, July 28, 2017

Time Travel

The whole reason to travel is to meet people. Oh, sure, there are pretty landscapes, historic sites, food to eat, but none of those things matter if you aren't meeting people from the place you've traveled to. You don't really meet people when you go in those big tour buses with fifty other people. You don't really get much of anything doing that, except a smaller bank account.

I was staying in a place called Seaview Tavern in Malin Head, Ireland, when I had the most meaningful encounter of the trip. Malin Head is a lightly populated peninsula largely and thankfully ignored by tourists, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go there. I wanted to get away from everything. If only I had stayed three nights there instead of Portrush.

the view from the tavern parking lot

a lighthouse stands in the distance

the building in the middle of the pic is the Seaview Tavern

kites. perfect day for it. the tavern is in view between the houses

the road to the tavern

The trip from Portrush to Malin Head was more than two hours - maybe closer to three - along narrow, winding roads, but I wasn't feeling all that uncomfortable driving. The day was gorgeous. I found the border crossing odd in that the only indication you had crossed the border at all was a sign telling you that speed limit signs were now in kilometers per hour instead of miles. I am sure that is intentional.

When I arrived, I checked in to one of the tavern's three rooms and went to the beach. I had intended to explore the peninsula a bit and maybe check out Farren's, the "most northerly pub in Ireland," when my stomach had other plans. I was on the beach when I started feeling bad. At first I thought it was the Guinness I had had the night before, but then the familiar pains began and I knew I was about to suffer from yet another bout of food poisoning on a trip. It had to have been that awful hamburger.

I laid in bed staring out at the sea for several hours. There are worse ways to be sick, I suppose. But the beautiful day was wasted. I tried to eat dinner in the evening but it didn't stay down. Oddly enough, though, I started feeling better after that, and in the morning, I had a weak stomach but was ok to go.

The weather wasn't, though. It was gray and ugly in the morning and then it rained because that's what it does in Ireland. I drove around the peninsula and stopped at various points to take photos, but when the rains really started coming down, I knew that the day was shot. I had been planning on hiking and walking on beaches all day. Oh well. I stopped at a pub called McGrory's to take a break from the driving and then decided just to head back to the tavern and drink Guinness all night. I'd been driving around for four or five hours anyway and had at least seen enough of the peninsula to feel like I got something out of it. County Donegal is truly beautiful, like all the emigrant songs say.

Walking on Malin Head

I don't know what the 80 is for.

Then a guy from north of Dublin came in and we chatted all night about life things, Irish and American politics, music, art, travel, Bono, and all sorts of things, the kind of conversation I seek when I go somewhere, the reason I get on the airplane, but it was more, because I felt a real connection with him, like we were kindred spirits. We'd be friends in less fleeting moments.

Something inside me seemed to wake up that night, the artful soul in me. I felt totally at ease for the first time in ages, with none of the vexing anxiety I've been carrying for an insufferable while, anxiety that's stolen the creativity and ambition from me. I felt so comfortable in our conversation that I saw no need to hold back or hide anything; I said what I wanted to say like we were old friends, even before the Guinness started to take over. We joked and teased without worry about offense or cultural sensitivities. He showed me a painting of his. I admitted I still wanted to write. He was humble and modest and vulnerable. I was curious and attentive and self-assured. I have always tried to surround myself with people from whom I can learn, and he taught me a bit about Ireland and something about people.

Several local residents were there. At one point a group of guys tried to get a soccer game on the television, but they were blacked out. I was outraged for them and tried to help them get it on, wishing to be the hero of the night. Alas, I failed. It seems MLB and NFL aren't the only corporations who actively seek to block customers from using their products.

The night had to end sometime, and it ended with the spoken acknowledgement that we'd never see each other again, and that is depressing, because I would like to see him again. Therein lies the worst of travel, the ephemeral nature of it all. That may be why I take so many photos. It's as if I'm trying to capture every moment to take with me and live forever, desperately trying to bottle time itself. That night I wanted to stretch out for days. But nobody ever fights time and wins.



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