2.24.2010

Third Cousins = Best Friends (Dublin Part 1)

Dublin was savage craic! I took Erin and Kate with me to meet the fam. The plan was to go to our afternoon classes on Thursday and then get the 5 o’clock bus to Dublin (the €1 bus is fantastic). However, Jess’s younger brother Adam and his friend Jack were in town and we skipped class to have tea with them. These Irish kids are a bad influence!

Anyway, the bus ride took forever. At one point the driver got off for a Centra (convenience store) run that I do not believe was on the schedule. And when we got to Dublin, we got off at the wrong stop. Trying to find the Burgh (like “burrrrr, it’s cold”) Quay was difficult since we didn’t know what a quay was (besides a pub in Galway). Michael picked us up from the bus and drove us home with a narrated tour, much like you would get from my dad upon arrival in St. Louis.

For any O’Briens who have not met the Keanes, I’d hurry up and get to Ireland before they start charging hotel rates. Clean towels free of charge, home-cooked meals, and private rooms with electric blankets. And free wi-fi? Staying at a hostel will be painful after this.

For any non-O’Briens (and some who may not know the family tree), Michael Keane is a second cousin to the O’Brien kids. That makes his kids, Aoife (“eefah”), Michael-John, and Simon, our third cousins. Aoife is in London, but Michael-John and Simon live in Dublin. They were both at the house when we got there, as well as Alan, who is also our third cousin (he’s from Donegal, but going to college in Dublin). Jenny (Michael’s wife) had a huge meal waiting for us. I don’t know how many bottles of wine we went through, but it was more than I’ve ever seen at one dinner, and we sat talking for hours. At one point Jenny expressed worry that we were early risers as she was on her school midterm break; I assured her there was no reason to worry.

Friday we woke up around noon to the smell of Jenny cooking an amazing breakfast. We had American bacon (not the fat “rashers” that the Irish eat and I can’t stand), American pancakes (not the crepes that the Irish make), fruit, tomatoes, eggs, toast (the brown bread is popular here), orange juice, and of course, tea. We stuffed ourselves, and then Simon dropped us at the Dundrum Shopping Centre which is huge. We had our Starbucks fix and walked back from the mall, like usual, thinking we were lost. We asked one couple for directions (this particular couple was chosen for their adorable dog), but it turns out we were on the right track. Then it started to rain. And once we found the subdivision, we got lost inside of it. We asked a guy washing his car for directions (this particular guy was chosen for his smashing looks), and we were home within five minutes. (But, really, sir, it was raining less than ten minutes ago, is it really necessary to wash a car on this island?)

(In case you ever get lost in Dublin, the Keanes live on Privet Drive. We also ran into Professor McGonagall.)

Kate and Erin had tickets to the Meteor Music Awards that night, Simon had a gig he was going to, and I had grand plans for a nap. But Michael-John offered to show me around until the others were free, and I couldn’t pass that up. We walked around a bit, seeing Trinity (which is beautiful) and Temple Bar (which is packed with tourists) and the Liffey (whose foreign quay system was explained).

Michael-John was a lot like his dad (and mine) in the tour department. We walked by O’Connell Street and he explained how the GPO (general post office) was a tourist destination because of the bullet holes still in the columns (during the 1916 rising, Irish republicans took over the post office in an attempt to cut off Britain’s communication). During the rising, some insurgents also thought St. Stephen’s Green would be a nice, centrally-located spot to take up a position. The only problem was that the British decided the tall hotel nearby would be a good place to hang out and fire down upon the wonderful Irish strategists. Can you tell why the uprising was unsuccessful?

One thing I thought was a novel idea was the public bike system. There are bikes that are at these stations all over town and you can rent one and drop it off at another station when you’re done with it. Michael-John said that when the idea first came up, people said it would never work because the crazy Irishmen would just steal the bikes and throw them in the river (his words, not my imagination). But apparently it’s working, and I’d like to try it sometime!

We ended up at a pub called O’Donoghues which is famous for being where the band the Dubliners got their start. There was foreign money taped all over the walls, including a lot of American money scribbled with notes and hometowns. I wanted to add my own, but I didn’t have any on me. We had a few drinks there—Michael-John insisted on paying—before moving on to the comedy club at the International Bar. By the time we got through the line for the club, there were no seats left. So the guy at the door put stools on stage for us to sit on. Michael-John warned me that this meant they were going to mess with us, but I was on a Bulmer’s kick and thought I could handle it.

The MC for the night was a funny guy who started by, of course, asking where everyone was from. He asked if there was anybody from outside of Ireland and there were some shouts, so I was sure there were some tourists there. He talked to a few of them—one couple from Britain and one guy from Canada—and then he asked if there was anybody else from far away. So I hollered again like the previous time, confident that there would be a fair din. But no. I was alone there. He asked me where I was from—it was worse since I was on stage. I said the United States, he asked what part, and I said, “St. Louis, Missouri.” Everyone laughed (I didn’t know why) and the MC said that was the difference between the Irish and Americans. If you asked an Irish person where they were from, they would say, “Fuck off.” If you asked an American, they would say, “St. Louis, Missouri.” He made a few other cracks, and of course, I became the ongoing joke for the night.

The comedians were good, but I didn’t understand much of the second guy, who did mostly Irish jokes. Michael-John explained some later. For example, at one point, there was a joke about culchies, and then the comedian pointed to a guy in the audience and the crowd cracked up. Well, apparently, a culchie is someone from the country, and apparently, this guy was obviously a culchie. I asked Michael-John how they could tell, and he said just by the way he looked it was obvious (I looked the guy over again and again, but he looked like every other guy in the place to me). Then there was an intermission, and I shot out of my seat to go to the bathroom. Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy for a break in my life (and that’s including all those hours-long car rides through Missouri).

The last thing I wanted to do in line at the bathroom (brutal) was have a conversation. But a guy approached me and said knowingly, “St. Louis, Missouri. I know why you said that.” I was very confused. He said, “Not many Irish people know why.” I didn’t know where this was going, but like most Irish people, this guy removed any responsibility of my actually contributing to the conversation. He went on, “Not many Irish people know.” (What are you talking about, sir?) “So they probably didn’t get why you said Missouri.” (Almost my turn. Almost my turn.) “I know there’s two St. Louises.” (What are you talking about?) “One in Missouri and one in…” (Ohhhhh!) “Illinois!” I had no interest in discussing this. “You’re exactly right!” And I sprinted into the bathroom (it’s called “the toilet” here).

The first comedian after intermission was an ex-priest who was hysterical. I wish I could remember more of the jokes. He did say that the hardest part of being a priest was writing sermons, how the Church expects you to put a new spin on the same story 365 times a year. He also said he had to begin every sermon with: “Today, we’re going to talk about sexual morality…Now that I have your attention…”

Anyway, after the show Erin and Kate met up with us, and we were joined shortly thereafter by Simon. We went to the Market Bar, which is this old shoe factory, and inside there are a ton of old shoes on the wall. (Kate, the shoe addict in our group, had a fit. Her love for shoes was recently put into great words by Erin: “The difference between me and Kate is that Kate would starve herself for shoes, and I would eat the shoes.”) There was another bustling bar with a recliner and world map on the wall. There was a club downstairs and a foosball table (“table football”), as well (Erin and I won).

After the club shut down, we made our way to Kebab Klub (Abrakebabra was too far). It’s the Dublin equivalent to Charcoal Grill or Supermac’s in Galway, the late-night eating place. When we got in line this hysterical guy turned around and said, “Who wants to share taco fries?” Even after we pointed out that we did not know him, he continued to ask each of us individually. But once it was known that we were foreign (the minute we opened our mouths), conversation could not be avoided. (I’m getting used to this; it’ll be a letdown when we get home and Americans don’t want to talk to us all the time.) When he asked where we were from and we said America, he responded: “Ah, America. Land of dreams and opportunity…At least that’s what you told us during the famine.”

We got a taxi back to the Keanes’ from the queue outside St. Stephen’s Green (at €5 each, it’s about €3 more expensive than in Galway) where we then scoured the kitchen for more food and talked at length with Simon, mostly about the family and the differing school systems. Erin ate cold fish and I had butterbread (not much has changed in the last eighteen years).

(to be continued…)

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