“How, exactly, do you consider yourself a teetotaler?”
This from the head of the Irish production company over dinner. Two days earlier I had excused myself for nursing my Guinness and failing to pound down the booze with the big kids using this lame, but generally accurate descriptive term. Now I was drunk, and there was no denying it. I’d been outpacing much of the table, greedily guzzling quality wine that had been ordered in bulk. Someone kept filling my glass, and I hate to be rude by letting a fine vintage I know nothing about go to waste.
By day three we had settled into a routine of a room full of producers, broadcasters and writers bickering with each other about a bunch of fictional characters and their imaginary tomfoolery. It’s silly that grown men and women do this sort of thing at all, let alone do this sort of thing for a living with huge wads of cash on the line. If we had all been rolling a bunch of ten and twenty-sided dice, it would have been eerily like my last role playing session in college – the one that made me quit because I much preferred getting on with the story as opposed to arguing over who made what saving throw versus sudden death. Well, turns out writing in the big leagues isn’t all that different. Now they just pay me for being a geek.
The only thing that kept day two of work from being a virtual carbon copy of day one was our lunchtime excursion for some authentic U.K. cuisine – namely fish & chips. The smoked cod came highly recommended, and I must say it was something of a relief to eat a meal that didn’t require me to keep track of the correct fork for the correct course. It’s fun to play snob every once in a while, but when it comes to stuffing my face, I enjoy myself more when the only point of etiquette to keep is mind is to not vomit directly onto someone else’s plate. You can call me low-class if you must.
The day ended early enough for me to get in some good urban hiking before the next social engagement. I’d failed to walk all the way along the River Liffey my first day out, and this time I was determined to get a look at the sea. Mapping my rather lengthy route out to a marked green space north of the docks, I began an excursion that took me through some of the rather less scenic sections of town. The highlight of this trip was my epic journey along Wall Road. Aptly named, Wall Road consists of two imposing walls on either side of the road and a lot of trucks rumbling up and down it, kicking all sorts of dust and grit into the air that helps mask the rotten fish smell. After cutting through this industrial wasteland and marching another mile up a road that was one massive construction site for another one of Dublin’s ill-conceived infrastructure plans (this one a tunnel too small to fit the trucks it’s suppose to service), I finally arrived at my goal. The shoreline.
The blandest, most uninteresting stretch of shoreline I’d ever laid my eyes on. I took a picture so I could remember it forever.
At this point I was navigating with a much better map than the one I’d downloaded and printed out. Dublin Castle had offered me a very functional free tourist map. I had now, however, walked right off the edge of it.
My original intention had been to take the train back downtown. I spent far too long trying to find the station, and longer still trying to find the cleverly hidden entrance to the station grounds. They tried to fool me by disguising it as a hedge, but I clued into their deceit after some twenty solid minutes of hunting. The train, however, proved to be off limits to the casual commuter, with an elaborate pricing system and an exact change rule. Thoroughly intimidated, I decided it would be much easier to walk my ass back to the hotel through the rather less-nice north end of town. I can offer no pictures of this leg of the journey since I assumed that the sight of a camera might label me a readily muggable tourist even more than my infrequent but necessary map consultations.
Arriving at my hotel in once piece, I had exactly enough time to change and rendezvous for the next grand feast. More great food and a perfectly drinkable wine aside, the most interesting wrinkle on the evening for me was the arrival of another member of the Irish film industry. Not directly associated with our own production, he nevertheless proved to be an interesting conversationalist with a genuine appreciation for Irish history, medieval to ancient. I suppose it helped that he lived on a particularly historic stretch of land popular with the pagans who descended on the property once a year during some equinox-type event to eat huge quantities of magic mushrooms. Mind you, every stretch of property in Ireland is historic in some way. In fact, he explained, metal detectors are highly restricted in the country and you need a special government permit to operate one. Why? Because you WILL find stuff. In North America you’ll likely come up with a lot of bottle caps and, if you’re very lucky, pocket change. In Ireland you could well stumble across a national heirloom. So the government wants to know there are reputable archaeologists snooping around out there, not some beachcomber in a floppy sunhat and a Hawaiian t-shirt who’ll take a priceless artifact to the pawn shop for beer money. They already have their hands full trying to keep farmers from ploughing over priceless dig sites in the name of good grazing or a higher potato crop yield.
As I downed yet another glass of wine which, peculiarly, increased the decibel level of my conversation with each mouthful, our Irish historian also had some words of wisdom for us. If it’s not an actual Irish proverb, it seems to sum up a common sentiment.
“Don’t trust a friend who won’t get drunk with you.”
As I walked home, making a conscious effort to keep from staggering around on my uncoordinated feet, I felt I’d successfully earned that trust.
An ode to the potato famine, this charming statue looks as though it might have been designed by George Romero. The hungry peasants, wasting away from the legendary 19th century blight, look like they would gladly take a bite out of you in an effort to put some meat back on their ribs. I particularly like the starving dog in the back. He makes for a nice final touch of horror to the landmark I vote “Most likely to traumatize children for life.”
The warning against vandalizing public property is likely directed at the Vikings in the longboat parked across the river. A thousand years later and those Scandinavian bastards still don’t know when to stop pillaging.