“The Summer of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame Pt.1: The Rocky Road to Dublin”

“The Summer of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame Pt.1: The Rocky Road to Dublin”

“I can’t believe you have a Lord of the Rings bookmark,” said John, surveying Will’s paraphernalia. “That has to be the gayest shit I’ve ever seen.”

Ryan, John, and Will sat beside each other waiting for the plane to finally take them across the Atlantic. They’d flown from St. John’s, stopped over in Halifax for two hours then Toronto for three. Now they were boarded and about to set out for the eight-hour flight to London. From Heathrow, they would get their final connecting flight into Ireland. After a few days in Dublin, they would take a bus to their final location: Galway. Interestingly, the distance between St. John’s and Galway is about the same distance as St. John’s to Winnipeg. By stopping over in Toronto in order to get a flight into London, their total distance traveled was increased by at least %50, not to mention the time lost with stopovers compared to a direct flight. But such are the trials and tribulations trying to escape The Rock.

It was early May, yet as they drove to the airport from Mount Pearl there were still some signs of winter clinging well into the spring; archipelagos of rotten, grey snowpiles along the sidewalks and grass. But Fortune was smiling upon them, as their day of departure was miraculously free of RDF (Rain Drizzle Fog), the three-headed hound that guards all of Newfoundland’s entries and exists. The week previous had stranded countless unlucky travelers, now standing with sleepy eyes in the YYT’s terminal like Dante’s restless souls awaiting Charon to ferry them across Styx. The subsequent week following their day of departure, while the boys were getting good and pissed on Temple Bar, RDF claimed more souls.

(An Air Canada plane sitting on the tarmac in YYT, stranded by RDF. I don’t own this image.)

Ryan now sat in the seat nearest the aisle with John in the middle and Will by the window. As John and Will bickered over the accoutrements of reading, Ryan looked across the aisle and eyed the other passengers. The man closest to him, a single traveler of about sixty years, positioned his chair upright, removed his belt, and proceeded to tie it around his head and headrest. The man closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. Ryan was tempted to draw his friends’ attention to this outward display of eccentricity, but decided to keep it to himself. Maybe he’d tell them later.

“What do you use for a bookmark?” John asked Ryan. John doggyeared the few books he read. Will and Ryan were wise never to loan him any of their books.

“I’m just using my ticket,” answered Ryan.

“Is that the Odyssey?” asked Will. “I figured you’d be reading all Irish stuff.”

“I’m going to read this before I start Ulysses,” explained Ryan. The significance of the challenge Ryan had set for himself – reading the entire Joyce canon during their summer in Ireland, starting with Ulysses – was lost on Will and John. Will was an engineering student and stayed within the walls on fantasy whenever he read for pleasure. Presently, he was reading the latest George R.R. Martin cinder block. John was a business student whose reading list possessed neither rhyme nor reason. Presently, he was reading something by Chuck Palahiuck because it was either a) already made into a movie or b) was going to be made into a movie. One of the advantages of reading literature is that you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to Hollywood. Indeed, it is a great feeling to knowingly proclaim the superiority of the source material.

The wheels of the plane began to roll and they were soon taking flight. International flights meant free booze, so John took full advantage. An hour and two beers later, Ryan was tired of trying to resist admitting Homer was kind of boring. He put his stuff away, closed his eyes, and tried to sleep. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He heard the mumblings of other passengers, the machinery of the plane, everything. John and Will had both fallen asleep already. Ryan put in his headphones and plugged into the plane’s media player. He picked Happy Feet, hoping he’d doze off watching some asinine kids movie. No such luck. He wondered if he was too nervous to sleep. The last few days leading up to their departure, Will’s anxiety had reached critical mass. He researched apartments and job opportunities meticulously. Galway is the Las Vegas of Ireland, according to Will, so there are tons of jobs available in the service industry. But, it is also a popular summer destination for students from all over the world, so it would be tough competition. John reasoned it would be best to lie on their CVs, and Will shockingly agreed. They’d yet to arrive, but Ireland was already bringing out the worst in them.

Ryan had taken the whole thing in stride. He wasn’t leaving anyone behind (even more shockingly, Will was leaving his girlfriend behind for the summer) and he was confident they’d find a place and jobs soon enough. For a whole month before leaving, John was like a little boy waiting for his parents to take him to Toys R’ Us; “I’m going to drink so much Guinness and fuck so many gingers,” he was fond of saying. Ryan twisted and turned in his seat. He concluded it was too awkward to sleep in this position and accepted he probably wouldn’t sleep very much. He closed his eyes, falling in and out of dreams, trying not to think of how miserable he was going to feel once they landed in Heathrow.

(the Liffey in downtown Dublin. I don’t own this image.)

Lester B. Pearson was the biggest airport any of the guys had ever been in, but it was dwarfed by the cluster fuck that is Heathrow. It is one of the biggest, most well known airports in the world, but Heathrow is decidedly out-of-date; nasty, aged carpet and peeling paint as far as the eye can see. Ryan’s head spun as they picked up their luggage to go through customs. They then got a bus to take them to their terminal. They had the foresight to exchange a few pounds in Canada so they could buy something while waiting in Heathrow. What they didn’t foresee, though, was how expensive stuff was. Everything was listed as the same price as they would be in Canada, except in pounds, which meant everything cost approximately double. Ryan bought a can of Coke and a bag of chips, both of which were smaller than North American portions. They collected their stuff and sat in the lounge, waiting for yet another connecting flight.

The trip to Dublin from London was a short one, but Ryan managed to grab a power nap that would sustain him for the afternoon. They guys grabbed their stuff after landing and hopped on a bus that would take them from Dublin Airport into the city center. Alarmingly, the closer they got to the city center, the narrower the streets became. Sitting atop the bus, the guys could’ve reached across and touched the hands of passengers in the other lane. Amidst the Celtic Tiger and the economic surge of Ireland, modernity was suddenly thrust upon an ill-prepared Dublin. Europeans, Polish especially, now flocked to the Emerald Isle looking for employment. An influx of infrastructure projects still could not keep up with the chocked streets clogged with cars. Ryan wondered if this was what Joyce envisioned when he said, “If Ireland is to become a new Ireland she must first become European.”

From the bus stop, the guys used the excessively phallic Spire as their compass to find their hostel. They trudged along the Liffy, looking for Merchant’s Quay. Will’s backpack was especially heavy. He’d allowed his mother to weight him down with superfluous baggage. His bag was the largest and was the most conspicuous being garishly yellow and black. John had affectionately nicknamed it “Bumblebee Rumble,” much to Will’s chagrin. Ryan’s powernap was paying dividends as he was alert and focused, deciphering the Irish street names. However, when they reached The Four Courts Hostel and got all their stuff settled into their rooms, Ryan felt a wave of exhaustion punch him.

“I’m fucking starving,” announced John. Will eagerly agreed.

“Let’s go to Leo Burdock’s!” suggested Will. Ryan sucked it up and consented.

Burdock’s was a famous fish n’ chips takeout. Inside were pictures of U2, Bruce Springsteen, Sandra Bullock and a plethora other celebrities who had dropped by through out the years. The guys sat on a bench on St. Bride’s street and unwrapped their feed of fee n’ chee. The greasy mess of food did little to improve Ryan’s nausea. But it was too early to quit, and John was itching to get on the go. First, though, they needed to finally call their parents. After the obligatory update, relieving their parents’ anxiety, they guys discussed their next move.

“Let’s go to Temple Bar and get shitfaced,” asserted John.

“I have to go back to the Hostel and Skype with Katie,” admitted Will.

“Oh, you got to be shitting me,” protested John, but Will was strong willed when it came to his relationship.

“Let’s do this,” said John to Ryan. Ryan was doubtful whether or not he was fit for what the night surely promised. John was eager to indulge months of pent up drinking. He’d been fantasizing about this moment all through exams and was about to unleash upon Dublin his suppressed energy. Ryan weighed his options. He concluded a sober but pissed off John was harder to deal with no matter how many REM cycles Ryan managed to complete. In the next four months, they could drink the Liffey’s worth of Guinness and Jameson, and John would still remember the night Ryan bailed. Ryan decided he would power through this night and facilitate John to sublimate his repressed alcoholism.

Ryan and John walked along the cobbled, medieval street pattern of Temple Bar. It was a beautiful evening, contradicting all they’d been told about Irish weather. Ryan was too tired to notice the short skirts, but John’s head was on a swivel. “Do you think they’d be offended if we ordered Irish Car Bombs?” asked John. Ryan felt it was a safe bet they would. Gogarty’s caught their eye. Inside, John and Ryan started off with two shots of Jameson with two pints of Guinness for chasers. Ryan had drank Guinness only once before when his father brought home some pint cans from the liquor store. The cans were famous for their ingenious widget, which managed to recreate the aesthetic value of a Guinness pour. Unfortunately, it did not recreate the taste. Ryan concluded it was disgusting. However, in its natural habitat, Guinness revealed itself to be one of the most delicious things that ever touched Ryan’s lips. John’s facial expression showed he’d experienced a similar epiphany. They ordered another two pints. And another. John then decided it would more efficient if they shot their Jameson while the bartender waited for their pints to settle (officially, the perfect double pour requires 119.3 seconds in total).

An indefinite time later, John and Ryan stumbled out onto the cobbled, narrow streets of Temple Bar. John wrapped his arm around Ryan’s neck and screamed into his ear, “We’re in Ireland, motherfucker!”

(Gogarty’s. I don’t own this image.)

*      *      *

For those of you keeping count, these are the same characters from another story I wrote called “There Be Dragons.” I used these guys simply because they are composites of people I know – including myself – and are useful for material that is heavily autobiographical.

I wanted to write a story for St. Paddy’s day that was based on my experiences living in Ireland. Unfortunately, this only occurred to me Friday, leaving me little time to get a complete draft ready in time. Instead, I’ll write it out over 3 installments over the next week. I’ve recently completed a draft of my thesis and sent it off to my supervisor. As I await the onslaught of edits, my fingers miss the feeling of clattering keystrokes, so I’ll be able to bang this thing out in a reasonable amount of time.

cheers,

-B

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~ by braddunne on March 18, 2012.

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