The warmest, sunniest weather that Ireland has to offer this year decided to pay us a visit, so we did the only sensible thing to do, have class outside. It’s nice to sit around a table on a patio instead of at desks in the stuffy classrooms that could be used to bake bread on a day like this. Allowing the quaintness of the courtyard to wash over me as we talk of Joyce’s Dubliners. The dark streets of Araby seem far away while sitting under the umbrella, and the wet snow of The Dead seems impossible while squinting from the sun’s brightness. The wind picks up a little to cool us down and ruffle our papers, but as it swirls around the little courtyard, the papers become more agitated and take flight in a singular direction. My own.
As everyone sits beside themselves with laughter, I peel away the papers the wind presses against my face and arms and hand them back to their rightful owners with one thought. I love class outside.
So easy to make, and so comforting, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as I learn to cook for myself, I do not forget that you were my first ever lesson in creating my own food. Whenever I make a PB&J I remember a very specific incident from my childhood. I was making a sandwich, and I had just sunk the knife into a brand new jar of peanut butter, and gone on to spread the crunchy goodness on one of the slices of bread. After wiping virtually all of the peanut butter onto the bread, I went to use the same knife to scrape some jelly out of the jar and onto the other slice of bread that still remained naked. I was stopped by my grandfather, a man that I knew had great knowledge of food and how it should be eaten, and told that I shouldn’t use the same knife for peanut butter as I did for jelly. Use a different knife or a spoon or something so that there isn’t peanut butter in the jelly jar or vice versa.
Now, I stand in my tiny kitchen in my apartment in Dublin many, many years later. As I make myself a sandwich, I remember that story. I look at the pile dishes in the sink, and I use the same knife. Mmmm…peanut butter and jelly.
Juno & the Paycock at the Abbey Theatre. What could be better than seeing a Sean O’Casey play done by Ireland’s National Theatre…for free? The writing was great, and I enjoyed allowing the story of a playwright that I had never read or seen unfold before me. The acting was solid, between some fantastic physical humor and devastating reactions, the stage was rarely void of the energy necessary to perpetuate the production. The set, a single room, some doors, and a staircase outside the apartment’s threshold, had me thinking back to the work and frustration that I put into a similar set (albeit much smaller and less intricate) almost exactly six years ago. But the lights…if anything allowed me to enter the illusion of this world created before me, it was the lighting.
Never before had I seen natural light recreated in such a way. All the light that made the stage viewable seemed to be only what the windows of the manufactured apartment offered. When Joxer took a comical tumble out of the window to avoid Juno, I could have sworn that the day that rested beyond the panes of glass were left over from my run the day before. As I exited the lobby of the Abbey Theatre, I had a brief moment in which I had trouble locating the doors to the street outside. The well lit days of Juno & the Paycock were replaced by the pleasant cool of a Dublin night.
The run was mapped out on a couple of criteria: distance and landmarks. This made running along the Grand Canal an obvious choice, but I don’t know that I could have picked a better run in South Dublin if my criteria had been solely about pleasantness. With the blessing of a sun willing to show itself for most of the day, and a temperature that allowed the air around me to cool my heated skin during any pause in my carefully planned route, I took to the sidewalks of Rathmines, squeezing myself into and out of rapidly closing spaces between the people that populated the sidewalks. Running beside the canal, not looking at it directly so as to allow myself to live in the illusion that it is a clean and pleasant waterway, I passed swans that floated along the canal giving themselves a little time in the sun while their equally elegant comrades curled their heads into their wings for a early afternoon nap.
As I run my way back along the canal, on the opposite side this time, my watch tells me that the pace I have taken is, apparently, leisurely. When my eyes leave the face of my watch and return to my carefully laid out route, I notice familiar scenery passing me by, which I should not since my route is a loop that does not allow for my footsteps to fall twice in the same place. I missed my turn.
Last show of the Dublin Fringe Festival. High expectations from a show that promotes a look at the new way that the Irish are relating to their faith, whether it is a Catholic faith, Protestant faith, or some other flavor of faith that might be dealt with. My expectations were only heightened by the picture used to promote the production in the Fringe program. One man standing in the middle of crowded Grafton Street, crowds passing him in a blur, wearing a sandwich board that screams out a supposedly Irish prayer…Hey God, where’s my ffffing pony?!
The realization of this play is quite different from anything I would have guessed would come from all of the information I had received previous to my visit to the Smock Alley Theatre. Full of betrayal and passion, all three characters were constantly on edge, and, if not at each others’ throats, nipping at each others’ heels. But ultimately, the emotions that seemed to rule the play were broken up by an attempt to play with time that left the drama broken up and poorly glued back together. At the close of the show, while I applauded the good performance by the actors, I found myself wishing that I could see it again to try to understand a second time. As I walked around the ramp that wrapped itself around the playing space of the theatre I found myself wishing that I could read it, or it was a short story instead of a drama for the stage. Poignant, yet jumped around too much to allow the onlooker to meditate on the questions the play might pose.
As cliché as it might sound, the visit to the Guinness Storehouse made me feel like I was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There were no waterfalls of Guinness (there was a waterfall) or Oompa Loompas running around singing to poor misguided adults who broke the rules (although I am not completely convinced leprechauns don’t run around the fifty-five acre brewery tending the brew). But there was a sandbox full of barley seeds, a station to learn to pour a pint, and a protected, refrigerated vault that contains the special yeast used to brew the black stuff. Part museum and part amusement park, the Guinness Storehouse was a sight to behold and an experience to be had. With fifty-five acres and a 9,000 year lease, Arthur Guinness knew what he was doing with barley, a few hops, and the pure water that flows from the Wicklow Mountains.
Seven stories up, in the Gravity Bar that tops the Storehouse we claimed our free pint and enjoyed the three hundred and sixty degree view of Dublin. Drinking Arthur Guinness’s alchemaic creation, enjoying the company of the people that surround me, it’s just another night in Dublin.
A short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman scared me the first time I read it…but scared isn’t the right word. Haunted is a better word because it was not as if reading that story made me jump or kept me from doing anything, but it left me with an image. A woman with long, dark black, disheveled hair hanging about her face as she creeped and skulked around her room on all-fours (not hands and knees, but all-fours) following the pattern on that yellow wallpaper into an infinite abyss of madness. Well, last night I saw that story brought to life on stage.
The production did not get to me as much as the short story, perhaps it was because I knew what was coming, but I do think that it was played out in the best possible way. The single actress in the production made her gradual descent into madness with a subtle ease that made it all the more real. One wouldn’t guess that her obsession with the wallpaper was anything more than that, an obsession, until she began to become defensive of it. Of course her transformation was obvious to me when she finally used those words that have stuck with me from my first reading of the story. Creeping. Skulking. Yellow lights threw her shadow onto the black material that encompassed the performance area, adding another character to the stage. The woman behind the wallpaper.
In that final scene, with all the sheets stripped from the bed, and eerie music playing, she began to creep, gollum-like, around the stage. After her husband (a character not shown on stage) comes in and finds her, he faints. And she continues to creep, just like in the story. And as I expect the lights to fade to black on this woman creeping round and round, only previously adjusting her motion when she comes to the immovable bed, she stops. She climbs over the invisible body of her husband and continues to creep until the room goes dark.
Three weeks. Three weeks since I arrived in Dublin. Three weeks since I piled into a taxi with another student who I didn’t know, and all our luggage. Three weeks since I settled into my apartment, and met most of the other students in the program. Now the walk down Rathmines Road is familiar and ordinary. I don’t look twice at the round green vessels that have a slot and say “letters,” I look to my right then my left when I cross the street, and I hardly every look up to the giant brick clock tower over Rathmines College, or the monstrous green dome that dominates the skyline. Although I still love to pass by the bakery, still promising myself that I will go in soon, and the random red and greens of the doors to peoples homes still makes me smile, life in Dublin is beginning to normalize, which means it is time to regroup, recent, and look up again.
You can learn all you want about history, politics, economics, but it all seems pretty useless if you can’t come to some sort of understanding of the people. “A Night in November,” a play about searching for identity, and the World Cup (how much more about the people can you get?) does just that. Reading it was one thing, and it was very good, but watching a documentary of a revival of the one-man production was a whole other thing. Seeing the man tear himself between his bigoted father-in-law and his inner turmoil was incredible. A fight for identity, and a look at what blind conflict can do to people. Even more interesting was the actor playing Kenneth. A Catholic comedian playing a Protestant dole clerk, but not only was he playing a dole clerk, he played the infinite masses of racist chanters at the Republic of Ireland vs. N. Ireland World Cup Qualifier in 1994. What a job, and so spectacularly done.
And the end, a look at what conflict does. Amidst so much joy and street crowding madness, tragic and sobering news reaches the ears of the protagonist, and life goes on.
“Come on you boys in blue, come on you boys in blue, come on, come on you boys in blue!”
They did it. After a 16 year absence the Dubs (Dublin’s Gaelic Football team) brought Sam (the Sam MaGuire all-Ireland Cup) back to the streets of Dublin, and tonight we celebrate! I don’t know that I have ever seen such pure joy as the joy of the Dubliners that packed the streets around Merrion Square for a chance to see the team and the cup. There is an expression in the States that says “I’m so happy I could sing.” That wouldn’t make much sense to say here because when people are that happy they just go ahead and sing. When we’re happy (especially about sports) we chant and cheer, but compared to the collective singing of hundreds (if not a thousand) of Irish people our celebration seems crude. I heard three or four songs sang collectively by the crowd that night, and one more that one of the players wrote to poke fun at all his teammates. What a great celebration.
Up the Dubs!