Real quick – as it is very windy and I can’t keep the paper down – a small notice unnoticed before appeared in the Herald after being rejected from every number I called. I came down to the Custom House Quay – Jury’s Inn – and got a job working in a little hotel shop! 35 hours a week! M/W/F 2-9 and Sat. and Sun. mornings! She SAID that if I show up tomorrow morning at 10 then the job is mine. I’m not holding my breath, because to show up tomorrow to be denied would fracture my little heart and put me in a right horrible mood. £4.95 an hour. I must remember to bring my PPS# in as well.
Please let this work out. I’m getting so bored and lazy and tired and angry and apathetic. She said it’s easy and I could read or whatever. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a shit job to while away these horrible Dublin hours?
Anyway, I need to return to Frank Ryan’s Pub yesterday. So the two foul mouthed gents next to me, the odd couple, the one bloodshot untucked shirttails and the other thin smooth haired checked-jacket-wearing precise partner. Each were a half of their conversation, cutting and drifting through each other and addressing questions to each other as they went along. Then there was John, the oldest man in Dublin, mumbling half-words through a dribbling mouth marked by the odd crooked tooth. He sat in a corner under a picture of himself in that same corner. His strands of hair faded into the alabaster dust of his parchment flesh. However his eyes shone like onyx, as bright and black as the pint on Guinness in his hand. He didn’t look half as shop-worn as some of the other men I have seen drinking on the street at midday in Dublin, but his picture seemed to vouch for his status. He was an immobile monument in the dark polished wood of the bar.
The bar was dark wood with upholstered green benches along the wall fronted by round tables with ashtrays and coasters. Drawn up to the bar were high, green upholstered backed stools. On the walls were license plates from Canada, Dubai, and even Virginia, which was of a recent enough pattern to send a little chill of homesickness mitigated by pride through my body.
There was a mirror behind the bar that ran the length of it, in front of which were upside down bottled of Power’s and Smirnoff and Cork gin and Bailey’s all plugged into their 350mL dispensers, all with their upside down labels save for one. Also in front of the mirror was a gigantic antique classical wooden clock, giving a nod to the architecture of the ancients as well as their perversity – on top of the clock two hand-carved wooden elephants were madly copulating. Perhaps the gaudiest and greatest timepiece I have yet to behold. I was filled with envy by that which was at once so antique and classic and yet so perverse and kitsch.
The walls were covered with pictures, but for the life of me none of them are at all clear in my memory. They are all bits of frames with muddles of brown smudges inside. In fact, I don’t think I would have noticed them at all apart from Frank taking one down off the wall. I have a clearer memory of the square of brown paper pasted over the back of that picture and the wire stretched across it that I do of any of the art. It all just sort of melted into the dark paneling, amber light and coating of nicotine and tar on all the surfaces. It was like a pastel that had been brushed by a careless hand, pulling all the dusts of colors together and blurring their outlines. It was a décor that was no examined but that instead stayed in that half blur of the edge of your vision. It was the guy at the bar who never says anything – you know he was there, and even though you were almost elbow-touching for an hour there is no image. Just a feeling of presence.
Ireland touts that half its population is under the age of 25 and in its search to be Europe and America it is adopting the obnoxious and somehow missing the worthy. The men in that pub were what I had hoped Ireland would be. Frank was enormous and heavy, but he had a very soft voice and a flush of his cheeks that highlighted his bright eyes. There were Frick and Frack next to me and the slowly-sipping oldest man in Ireland in the corner. Once they got into my name and its origins they couldn’t stop talking, ordering up the Golden Pages to provide me with Dunfords in Dublin and giving me directions to Goleen, near Skibereen in Cork where they fancied I came from. When I left they shook my hand and asked when I’d return, making sure they’d heard my name correctly through the alcohol earmuffs and telling me that dinner was at 1:00 and Irish music was Tuesday nights.
Warm, open, bizarre, loud, drinking men – full of stories and opinions and directions and knowledge. I instantly liked them more than anyone I’d met yet. An Ireland full of stories and tradition and profanity and Guinness whiling away their lives in a dark wooden pub with the racing on the TV and their bets noted on their folded Evening Herald. Characters all.
I must go back. And Guinness is a sensible £2.50 a pint, not that lunatic £3.10 you can find in the center of the city.
The well-groomed of the couple, who shall now be known as Chaos and Order, told me that “Ford” always indicates a Viking heritage. The people who came over with broadaxes flailing. “The sins of the father are not the sin of the son,” I said. Further, “Dun” means a fortress or a fort, while “Ford” means an opening or a crossing. So I am a paradox, you see. An opening that is a fortress.
“You’re not by any chance a schizoid?”
“That remains to be seen, sir.”
John, the oldest man in Dublin, never heard the name “Dunford.” But that’s fine – John was a Dubliner.
THAT’S how the whole conversation got STARTED! I told Mr. Ryan that I hoped to see Cork. Frank said that Chaos was from Cork and called to him.
“Ah, you’re a Corker, are you? What’s the name?”
Ah, yes, now I remember. He never quite got past the marauding Viking idea. I think it’s rather cool myself. And hell, Dublin is so goddamned riled up about its Viking heritage that you’d think it would be a point of pride. But, as always, I am the outsider on Ireland’s shores. The perpetual immigrant. However, an axe and a berserker bloodlust would certainly change the tone of the trip. The Vikings gave Ireland the smack – I should follow their example. I also mentioned that I’d heard the Spanish were great invaders. Chaos and Order laughed this off. Order explained that they would every now and then get an Armada together and rail off to conquer but be destroyed and discouraged by the weather whenever they tried. And eventually they stopped trying.
I really liked the Ireland of Frank Ryan’s Pub. The old Ireland. It is this 50% under 25 influence that I hate. They need to prove they are not provincial by demolishing old landmarks and erecting huge concrete and glass towers that pop up incongruously from the skyline like a black mustache on a beautiful woman. The Irish language itself is peppered with English, so that an episode of Ros na Rún is almost incomprehensible without the subtitles. Like carrion birds they have greedily stuffed themselves on the carcass of the rest of the West – forgotten fads and fashions and attitudes long discarded by the rest.
They try so hard to adopt the indifference they feel must come with being cosmopolitan and steel themselves to be hard enough to compete in a global dog-eat-dog market. They push up prices so that they keep up with the Joneses even with their price tags – unless it costs as much as everywhere else it can’t be as good or will be ridiculed as backwater. They young Irish so desperately want to fight the image of the sod-burning whiskey sweating sheep fucking paddy. They adopt a version of urbaneness hollow and ragged, like a photocopy, culled from impressions of American television and British magazines. But, as the movies come here up to a year later than anywhere else in the world, so too is it never quite right. Ireland is always behind. Women still wear nasty ‘80s pinks and stretch and pony tails on the top of their heads. Boys walk around in goth garb or with huge tent pants and Mohawks. Always a step behind. Never quite right. And it’s a small little city. I can walk across it in half an hour. Their idea of comprehensive inner-city transit is a bus. But they want so desperately to make it a bustling mad mega-opolis ready to burst the seams. They affect the harried, uncaring, self-important attitude of the cities that could hold Dublin in one of their parks next to the duck-feeding pond with room left over for a swingset. They’re too busy, too harried, too important to care, too dependent on that great symbol of upward mobility and worldliness – the cell phone.
I hate cell phones. Dublin lives on its “mobile”. Children, elderly infirm, athletic, housewives, businessmen have cellphones. I am the one person, along with my Polish roommate Rafal, to not have a cell phone. When a phone rings, all Ireland pats its pockets. I’ve seen it happen. Dublin has a tinny electronic soundtrack as everywhere someone’s mobile is serenading us with the music of Celine Dion or the hits of Boyzone or some other poorly rendered electronic muzak version of a popular and incredibly forgettable song. And they always let it ring long enough to make sure that everyone knows they have a cellphone and they are the ever-harried important city dweller on the move who has been urgently contacted. Indeed, the cellphone is the great Ferrari of the Irish identity crisis. The bulging codpiece of the Elizabethan gentleman; the Louis Vuitton purse of the 13 year old socialite carried conspicuously in her manicured hands. It is the symbol of the new Ireland and no one can wait not only to have one but to pour all available money into customizing it to reflect their worldly personalities.
Mobiles must keep the Irish economy alive. Every other as is for mobile phone top-ups and every other shop is selling the phones and every other store has the section with the customizable covers with Bacardi rum or Tweety Bird or Budweiser on them. The newspaper is awash with brightly colored squares of new ringtones for your mobile! And graphics for your mobile! The shelves are stuffed with cute text messages to send to your friends, volume 1, 2, and 3. Yes, the mobile is the great conspicuous indispensible status symbol. The great penis of modern Ireland. No longer is it a pub with a fiddler and uileann pipes – it is a soundtrack of tired top 40 American and British pop hits laced into a dance beat played over the MTV flashing by on the silver, widescreen TVs.
It has lost its traditions. It has thrown away its map (for a map is just a memory of where you’ve been) and is not fumbling blindly and lost, grabbing desperately everything it finds in the dark. I am bombarded by music being driven into my years far long passed from my airwaves and fads long proven stupid in front of my eyes.
My handwriting is fading which means time to break. Basically it is the denial of heritage and tradition that has led to this culture that bothers, vexes, insults and ignores me so. I should really get out to the country – but now that I have a job – maybe? Never get my hopes up.