Thursday, August 26, 2010

Raised On Songs And Stories

That brings us to… Sunday the 15th, my last day alone in Dublin. I started out by continuing my bus tour (the one I bought a ticket for to get back from the wrong train station) from Stop 1. I had a live guide that time instead of an audio recording like on the one the day before, and he was really entertaining, even if he did launch into renditions of first “Danny Boy” and then “Cockles and Mussels” that dashed an irrational idea I’d had that perhaps all Irish people could sing. (He was good-natured about it, though—said something about how that’s what Molly Malone sounded like when she was drunk.)

I got off at the main tourism office, which wasn’t open yet, so I walked around a bit in a neighborhood I hadn’t really explored yet until it was, then picked up a stack of leaflets about County Cork and made a reservation for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl for that evening.

Then I got on the next bus and continued, and wound up getting off at Kilmainham Gaol on a whim. The idea had been just to get off to get some better pictures and hop right back on the very next bus, but when I saw the sign that said tours were only 2 euro for students I figured I might as well stick around. So that was interesting. Extraordinarily depressing (we’re not just talking 19th century robbers and murderers and rapists here, but children imprisoned for petty crimes, and people jailed for stealing food during the Famine, and of course the very brief stay of a handful of individuals in 1916…), but interesting.

Back on the tour bus until I’d come all the way around to where I got on and seen that leg of the trip twice. I got off at the Hugh Lane Gallery, which I had gotten mixed up with the National Gallery, and wandered around a bit, but most of the galleries aside from the current special exhibit were closed due to lack of available staff on that particular day, and I was not at all interested in the special exhibit, so I was in and out pretty quickly.

I ended up wandering around the Grafton Street area much earlier than I needed to be there for the pub crawl with the intention of finding someplace to eat dinner, but I got distracted by a street magician/comedian who was promising to do one of Houdini’s famous tricks (extracting himself from a straitjacket and chains), but stretched out the preparation as long as he could by cracking jokes and mocking the audience and, right before he actually did the trick, making a really a touching speech about how street performers do what they do because they love it and because it brings together crowds that are from all over the world but come together to share that little bit of entertainment, and if we really couldn’t afford to give him anything he’d understand but would we at least come shake his hand and say thanks instead of just wandering away? I’d have given him money anyway (that’s an impressive trick for crying out loud), but I’ll admit I gave a little more than I’d planned after that. It was very heartfelt and, even if he does make a small fortune off of suckering tourists, I think it was very true. I wish I could remember exactly what he said because I don’t think I did it justice, but as someone who has performed for a huge variety of audiences, even if it’s never been for money, I can very much relate to the desire to feel like you’ve actually made an impact of some sort. That what you did was worth something to the people watching.

And as he said, five or ten euro is just about the cheapest hour of entertainment you’re going to get in Dublin, and you’d think nothing of spending that to buy him a couple of drinks if you ran into him in the pub later on.

Anyway, it was a good time, and almost made me late for the pub crawl, but I made it. And that was definitely a good time, if a little expensive by the end of the night. There were two guides, both professional actors if I remember correctly, who opened the evening by acting out a snippet of Waiting for Godot before commencing a very entertaining talk about the lives and works of Dublin’s most famous writers, and why the four pubs we worked our way through were significant (actually, only three of them were, the other was, as they put it, “a drink stop with no culture”). They threw in recitations of a letter by Oscar Wilde, and an excerpt from Ulysses (blergh), and something from Shaw, I believe (I wasn’t familiar with it). And the older sang “The Parting Glass” at one point because it was used in a play (again I wasn’t familiar with it, it was either Becket or Shaw). They were really great, and it was really interesting, and the pubs were really cool. I would totally do it again, even if it was exactly the same.

They also sprinkled in ridiculously obscure trivia questions throughout the evening, and before we entered the last pub they asked them all again and had us shout out answers. It came down to me and an older English lady both with three points (out of about ten questions, mind you). They had to make up a tie-breaker, which was “Name a work by Behan.” I had no clue, so she won it. But first prize was a t-shirt and second a tiny bottle of Bushmill’s, and someone whispered to me that I’d gotten the better end of the deal anyway. I don’t remember anymore what three questions I answered correctly other than naming the four 20th century Nobel Prize winners from Ireland (Heaney, Becket, Shaw, Yeats*). That was the only one I was dead sure of, and I do remember that one of the other two I got right was a completely blind guess. So although I was pretty pleased with myself, I’ll admit there was a lot of luck involved. (Also, I would have won without the tie-breaker if I had managed to remember an answer I had seen on the wall of one of the earlier pubs an hour before, but we won’t talk about that…)

Anyway, I hung around the last pub for quite a while having a really nice conversation with a couple of English professors from California, then got horrendously lost on my way back to the hostel and wound up taking a cab. (Judging by the fare, and the fact that all four pubs had been quite close to one another, I wasn’t actually very far away, but I had already walked for a few minutes before realizing I had absolutely no idea where I was, and I was not interested in trying to figure it out by myself in the middle of the night after having been drinking, so I just hailed the first taxi I saw.) That aside, I could not have asked for a better night out, especially since I was on my own, and especially since I had initially thought I was the only person there on my own; it was only on the way to the second pub that I and the other solo traveler in the bunch, a recent grad from the Vancouver area, connected with each other.

Of course, after my night out, I wasn’t really in the mood to get up early Monday morning and move my stuff across town to check into the hotel for my IFSA-Butler orientation. I wound up taking a cab for that, too, even though one of the English professors from the pub crawl had given me his tour bus pass (because he was leaving and it was still good for another day) and there was a stop literally across the street from my hotel. Miraculously (I thought), I was able to check in even though I got there at 10:30 in the morning. And so began the next stage of my adventure…

*Initially, before remembering one of the poets, I had thought to say Joyce. It pleases me greatly to recall that he did not in fact earn a Nobel Prize for his torture of the English language.

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