Back from Dublin

A trip to Dublin, even when it entrails extremely long work days (after all, you work your Dublin day and then there are still five to seven hours left that your American colleagues are demanding your attention) is always a pleasure.  For one thing, the Irish seem to take enormous pride in their writers, artists, scientists, politicians.  If you walk by the houses in the Georgian area of town (I'm acquainted with those in the southwest part of town), you'll see plaques for the houses of A.E., Yeats, Jack Yeats, Oscar Wilde (birthplace and childhood home), Oscar Wilde's father (whose name slips my mind) and on and on and on.  It's wonderful.  I walked along the Canal and could take a seat by Pat Kavanaugh (a little chilly, I did not avail myself of the opportunity.) Ulysses plaques scatter the pavement along O'Connell, Westmoreland, Grafton, and Kildare streets (perhaps elsewhere, I didn't find all fourteen that are reputed to be there.) North of the Liffey on a near side street you can see a statue of Joyce with cane, in St. Stephen's Green you can find a bust of Joyce.  We mustn't forget that Dublin was home, for some part of their lives to  Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, Jonathan Swift, William Trevor, Maeve Brennan, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, Patrick Kavanaugh, Oliver St. John Gogarty, A. E., and probably countles others I am too ignorant to list.

History is alive in Dublin.  Walking through Merrion Square Park, I found a bust of Michael Collins with what seemed like several days offerings of flowers.  Just north of where I was staying, a few step north of the Liffey River, near the edifice everyone seems to call the Spire (the object that replaced the Nelson or Trafalgar monument mentioned by Joyce as Stephen tells a tediously long story about two old women) is the National Post Office--used in 1916 by the rebel forces.

And then there is Irish food, the like of which is simply not readily available outside of Ireland unless one happens to have an Irish  family--from the extraordinary comfort of foods like Cottage Pie, Shepherd's Pie, and Irish Stew, to the exotic delights of boxty and pig's ears, tea ice cream, Gur cake, and brown bread and bailey's ice cream (I had them all--save the last--during this last trip.)  And I was able to eat some mediocre food in Davey Byrnes.  The object wasn't to have good food--but to eat in Davey Byrnes--and I was even able to remotely approximate Leopold Bloom's meal--while they didn't have gorgonzola sandwiches, they did have a ham and cheese and onion.  Yes, I know Bloom may not have partaken--I'm not sure I know how observant he was of the dietary restrictions--nevertheless a cheese sandwich (of sorts).

All of that said, there is no pleasure like that of returning home and resuming routine.  Although the Irish speak English and have many customs that are similar, there were uneasy discontinuities from things as minor as the shape and function of urinals to various rituals involving tea and milk--things I cannot find it in myself to bring together.  I found myself puzzled by the array of menu choices that had been influenced by American tastes--seeing both chips and fries on a menu drove me to ask what the difference was.  And Food Halls, Food Courts and the like--in the States these are aggregations of places to eat, usually fast food kinds of things.  In Dublin they were grocery stores.  Oh, and the wonders of the grocery stores--you could go in and buy prepackaged Haggis.  To the Irish, that is probably not extraordinary, but I had never seen a real haggis, prepared or otherwise, so the wonders of the grocery store were beyond count.  But back to the point from which I digressed--there are just little things that one must adjust to--I never knew when a tip was expected and when it would be considered an insult.

A beautiful, wonderful place.  And while the people with whom I worked were warm and welcoming, I did not find the majority of the city so.  Most were more hurried than any New Yorker I've ever seen--and it wasn't seasonality--this rush and flurry was as much present in summer as in the mostly cool (not frigid) winter.  The shop keepers were not forthcoming, the service people in restaurants, while certainly kindly enough were not particularly attentive.  (I know that is custom as well--while Dubliners hurry on the streets, they seem inclined to relax and really enjoy their meals, and bustling service people always at the table are likely to throw a pall on that.)

So in all--I really love Dublin, I really enjoy visiting.  I equally enjoy coming home to the warmth of family and friends and familiarity--all the comforts of knowing exactly what is expected.


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