Saturday, March 19, 2016
The Shannon is Gone I Heard
In the past, I've posted excerpts from my unedited 2005 Ireland journals in order to mark St. Patrick's Day. Those previous entries can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.
I didn't sleep well, probably awakening to pee for each pint I had drunk. Awoke to a beautiful morning. The coffee at Kinley House was weak, so I decided to walk around town in search of something stronger. I walked back down the main pedestrian drag, now completely empty and silent. Even the churches looming on adjacent blocks had no life. Whereas last night I'd only noticed bars, today I saw the shops, for Aran sweaters and musical instruments and new-age trinkets and the cafes all closed this Sunday morn. Besides the narrow cobblestone lanes, I found a few ruins -- a Druid temple, the Spanish Arch -- testament to the days when this town was a major port. I found a few sections of the town's former wall, pigeons loudly cooing in the holes once used to sight rifles. I went down to the water, up the rushing river, then back through town, wandering aimlessly like a sailor back in port after many weeks at sea.
We set off at 10:30, meeting below the spooky mural in Kinley House's stairway, of a wizened hag looking down at a backpacker. Not far out of town , a dark storm dumped on us, but within 10 minutes the sky was flawless again. In a field, I saw a bathtub which had been put out to collect rainwater for cows. We were entering sod country, huge chunks torn from the land to burn in the fireplaces of Dublin, and to be used in the the local power station to power the region.
Our first stop was at Clonmacnoise, an incredible ancient site of pagan Christianity. Driving in we passed a Norman fort doing a bizarre balancing act. After watching an extremely disjunct film, I wandered the site. There were dozens of ornately carved Celtic crosses dotting the hill, amidst a few small stone cathedrals built here. A high tower stood watch over the swollen River Shannon, with her blue dark against the green beyond. There was a power here. I could have stayed here all afternoon, but for the incredibly strong wind chilling my face and pushing me about. Wonderful weather for the setting. I must return.
Our next stop was at a small pub where I had a really nice roast turkey and a pint, next to a small fire. We were sitting in the 'Bullshitter's section.' After lunch, the rest of the group toured Ireland's oldest whiskey distillery, but I chose instead to sit in the adjoining cafe and write. The road back to Dublin was busy, but we made decent time. In front of one house, a dog napped in front of a stone deer. I also noticed that Ireland has its own Farrelly Brothers, but here they are landscapers.
Our group parted ways, and I killed the evening by checking email and reading in my hostel. When I went to brush my teeth, I passed a huge Russian who had perhaps the worst body odor ever. I had to hold off on brushing, the scent filling the bathroom making me gag. So I quickly set out for The Palace at the Trinity end of Temple Bar. Upstairs I found a céilidh in full swing. Here I sat, tapping my feet, nursing my last couple of Guinnesses in Ireland. Coming back to the hostel, the Russians were smoking out front, clad only in T-shirts, hardened against the cold.
I had thought that the night was over, but I entered my room to interrupt a couple in the their 50s in the act of something. His chest was bare above a hill of a belly, and she was flowing out of her bra and panties. Startled, I ducked back out and brushed my teeth slowly to give them time. I returned, apologized and turned out the light. They were both sharing the same bunk, and both began to snore almost immediately. A Spanish couple returned and crashed out immediately. The Spanish guy would make a clicking with his tongue, and I'd move my bed slightly, in an attempt to wake them. The old guy would mutter in his sleep, "Fuck! Mumble mumble, fuck!" It was like sharing a room with Father Jack.
The next morning I awoke before everyone, trying to make as much noise as possible. An early bus took me to my ferry that ended up departing four hours late. But the boat was a nice swank distraction, with two restaurants, a pub, a convenience store, and a movie theater. I staked out a sofa, and passed the time reading, dozing, and watching the Irish Sea trade Ireland for Wales.
On the turntable: Anoushka Shankar, "Anoushka"