Two Significant Events in the Irish Lit World Happen This Week

1. Bloomsday is cancelled in Dublin! The death of former prime minister Charles Haughney required a state funeral on the big day.

2. Larry Lessig at Stanford files a lawsuit this week against Stephen Joyce, James Joyce’s grandson, who’s making life miserable for Joyce scholars. See the New Yorker article for a long review and analysis, or this small bit on one example of his craziness. (Hat tip: Chris Yeh)

And today I enjoy my last half day in Ireland and then board the train for Dublin airport. Fly into Brussels late tonight.

Exploring the City of James Joyce

I spent Day 4 of my trip exploring the City of Dublin. I’ve been waiting to visit the City for several months. After all, I wrote an entire paper in my Irish Writers class about Joyce’s Dubliners, where I discussed the citizens’ utmost desire to escape from the wretched city (they were never able to physically, but as I argued in the conclusion, they did achieve some psychological escape).

I arrived in the City at around 9:45 AM and at first just soaked up the street scene. It was very hustle bustle, dynamic, crowded, fashionable, but not particularly diverse racially / body type / fashion wise. I headed into the tourist office to get a map and help locate the two attractions I wanted to see: The 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour (a two hour walk and talk amidst the historical landmarks) and the Dublin Writers Museum which has exhibits on all of Ireland’s literacy giants.

After locating the bar — where else? — that the walking tour was meeting at, I used the next 1.5 hours to wander some more, buy a sandwich and smoothie, and flip through books at a bookstore. I’ve seen a few bookstores, but not as many as I expected. Moreover, I haven’t seen very many people reading — on benches, on trains, etc. In any event, when I showed up at the bar, I learned the 1916 tour had been cancelled for the day. No prior notice given to the tourist office or web site. Shit.

Minutes after walking disappointingly out of the bar a Dublin hop-on-hop-off tour bus pulled up. My legs were starting to fatigue so I said what the hell and got on, flashed my student card for a discount, and took a seat on the open top. Good move. Informative, relaxing, pretty. Who cares if it was touristy.

I hopped off a stop supposedly near a rail station to get my Eurorail pass validated. I got thoroughly lost. Why don’t big cities all have street signs? After going into a station and getting my railpass validated, my next task was putting my passport back into my money belt. I have been extremely careful about holding on to important documents. Since I couldn’t quite jiggy the passport into the money belt in a few seconds, I firmly gripped the damn thing in my hand and moved swiftly into the bathroom. I try to avoid dealing with that shit out in the open — I always go into a bathroom stall, lock the door, and readjust my money belt. Except this time, after being in the stall for at most 10 seconds, someone started banging on it repeatedly as if he was trying to break it down. I held the door firm with my elbow, finished my security business, then opened the door. No one there.

Next, I tried to find the Dublin Writers Museum. I got very lost. In the end I found it, though, which is all that matters. With a self-guided audio tour, I enjoyed hearing about folks I have read — Joyce, Friel, Yeats, etc. It wasn’t very crowded…True Irish lit fans probably were waiting till today, Bloomsday, where they (and fans all over the world) reenact the scenes of Ulysses. My visit, on the whole was pleasant, intellectual snack food which I followed up with real food in the cafe.

I hopped back on the tour bus and then tram to head over the Microsoft office, where I had a nice little tour which I will write about on my main blog. All in all, I liked Dublin. Friendly people (though not as friendly as in the country side), decent public transit, and of course tons of interesting businesses and literary joints. I would certainly consider studying abroad here or working for a couple years.

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My First Guinness Beer

The Irish love their beer, especially Guinness (it’s made there). Today, I went to the pub with Frank and shared the historic moment of my first Guinness at a true Irish pub with true Irishmen. See below for proof. Frank nicely got the World Cup in the background, further confirmation that I actually am in Ireland and wasn’t in some American bar (where NBA games would be on, I’m sure!).


Day 3: Hiking Tara Hill in Ireland

Today I stuck around Ballmoney, this lovely coast/country town in the southeast of Ireland. Woke up at 5:30 AM, did email/RSS, then read outside in the backyard of the house which looks out over endless green hills and a golf course. At first there was a chilly breeze but by 9 AM the sun came out, all clouds disappeared in the sky, and the start of a stunningly beautiful day here in Ireland began. I soon moved from my Adirondack chair to the grass yard, where I lay on my back and "read" (ie: soak in rays, close my eyes).

After a "fry up" brunch with my hosts (sausages, ham, some other Irish goodie I’ve never had before but was excellent), Frank dropped me off at the base of Tara Hill, a hill/mountain 20 minutes from the house. There are a variety of paths, varying in hiking difficulty. I took a moderate one and thanks to the map and local expertise of Frank, I made my way to the summit of the hill in about 25 minutes.

As I was walking along, a local working in his yard yelled out to me, "Hi! What a beautiful day!" The tourist books about Ireland have told me to never miss an opportunity to talk to somebody on the street. You don’t have much choice — everyone here is very outgoing and friendly. I wondered over to this guy’s fence to finish our greeting. When I told him I was going to up the hill, he talked enthusiastically, said something I couldn’t understand about Cromwell, and then pointed me on to the path. Great guy.

The panoramic views of the region and ocean were spectacular. Plus — there were NO tourists, and a few locals. I sat on a rock at the summit and stared out. There was a British family there, too, with two little kids. The Dad told his little kid, "This is a magic moment."  "Why is it a magic moment?" the kid asked. "Because this is so beautiful, there are no worries, and we’re here together."  "When else have there been magic moments?" the kid asked. "Well, that one time we had fish and chips at [inaudible]…" Indeed.

I hiked down the hill and made my way to the beach. It was a tad chilly to walk along, but stretched along for endless miles (er, kilometers) and reminded me of all those ads you see for Caribbean tourism with the empty beach and one sun chair set up….except we all know those beaches are super crowded. This beach was empty!

Then I finished the trek back to the house, thoroughly exhausted three hours later. Mary made me an excellent ham-esque sandwich in which the bread was closed on each end so it looked more like a folded crepe than sandwich. I love these little cultural / culinary / linguistic differences.
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Written in Ballmoney, Ireland while listening to "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston, "Unfaithful" by Rihanna, and "When the lights go down on the City" by Journey

Greetings from Southeast Ireland

30 hours later, I wonder if my cheap student airfare was worth the total of 3 hours of sleep on all my different planes.

In any event, the important news is that I’m alive and in Ireland, about an hour southeast of Dublin. Frank Lynch of Microsoft (and blog reader) graciously picked me up at the airport and we had a great chat driving back to his house (the cultural anecdotes I’m already picking up are fascinating and I will share later). It’s going to be an awesome few days here. His house is lovely — nestled away in green hills and pastures. Classic Ireland. Beautiful. Now, freshened by my shower, I’m cruising on Frank’s wi-fi and cherishing the opportunity not to obsess about where my passport is and if someone is about to pickpocket me.

Cheers mate!

Written From: Guest room at Frank’s house in Wexford, Ireland. Four bars on my wi-fi. Sun pouring in. Green fields and golf course out my window.