Land appeared out of nowhere. Passengers had been told the descent had begun, but aside from the changing cabin pressure, it seemed as if they were stuck in the sky, for there was no visible land, only myriads of gray clouds floating far beneath them, clouds that had made the world disappear. Those clouds grew closer, inch by inch, ever so slowly, until they swallowed the plane, bounced it around, an eternity of gray turbulence. And then there was green, endless miles of green, emerald green like nothing he had ever seen, more green than any verdant ball field had ever fed to his eyes.
Aside from the wretched deserts of embattled
“Hey pal, need a cab?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Casey responded to the friendly face that had spoken those words.
“A yank, eh? This your first time in
“Yeah, first time anywhere, really.”
“Welcome to the world,” he said with an accent Casey thought was made for the movies. “Where in the States are you from?”
“Oh, the place with the potatoes?”
“Ack, yeah, I’ve heard of those. So what brings you to
“I just needed to get away for a bit.”
“A girl, is it?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“You don’t seem to be the type of yank to come here to find his long lost relatives.”
“No, I didn’t even think about that.”
“You look like you have some Irish in you.”
“One hundred percent. Name’s Casey O’Hagan.”
“O’Hagan, eh? Nice to meet you Casey. My name’s Neil, Neil O’Hagan.”
“Ha, ha, what are the chances?”
“You come to
“Sure, why not?”
Neil proved to be a decent tour guide, pointing out landmarks and monuments and reciting bits of history that made Casey want to learn more about the people of this little island who literally built
The Liffey came into view and Neil turned to drive along the quays. Casey had decided to stay in the
“So here’s my address,” he said after Casey’s bags had been unloaded. “If you stop by at about seven, that’d be grand. Do you want me to send a buddy by to pick you up?”
“That’d be great, since I don’t have a clue where anything is.” Casey checked his watch – it was four. That was eleven Eastern Standard Time and gave him three hours to get ready to visit Neil. He wondered when the jet lag would kick in. A porter showed up to carry his luggage, a fact that bothered him a bit. He wanted to carry his own bags and did not feel comfortable with a stranger touching his stuff. Neil and Casey exchanged see you laters and Casey disappeared into the realm of the upper crust, at least compared to the Motel 6’s he had been accustomed to.
The concierge was friendly in a fake sort of way – Casey felt judged by him, too, though it was for the opposite reason as Neil. He was a nobody, a yank with money to blow and the time to blow it in. This yank looked lost, out of place, unaccustomed to nice things. Oh well, it was only a week.
Casey showered as soon as he closed the door behind the porter. What was it about traveling by air that made the skin gross? It was like it was dry and oily at the same time, slimy, pores opened like craters, emitting that strange airplane smell of recycled air, latrines, and the fumes of jet fuel. It was a huge shower, a huge bathroom, twice the size of any Motel 6 room, too big, really. The towels were not the small, coarse white towels of motels, but soft towels that were big enough to wrap one’s whole body in. The shampoo was brand name, the soap, too, and Casey marveled at the other amenities – lotions, hair gels, razors, even a tooth brush and tooth paste. No doubt these things would end up in his suitcase by the time he departed. Besides, for the price of the room, he should have access to unlimited quantities of whatever shampoo he desired. The minibar, too. Why should he have to pay extra for it? He discovered it was stocked with Guinness – the magical draft bottles with the rocket widget inside that made it taste as near to draft beer as any bottle or can in the history of brewing. In a bathrobe – the hotel provided bathrobes – he sat down on the bed and opened a bottle. Ahh…Guinness in
The perfect pour takes about four minutes, and a freshly poured pint of Guinness is a work of art. As a pint settles, one can watch the goodness cascading down the glass like a waterfall in Heaven, sending gas evenly through the stout to create the sweetest, smoothest beer on thee face of the planet. The Irish national drink. Even the Liffey looked like Guinness – perhaps that was what the rain was, what created the green. He laughed out loud at the thought. The bartender looked up.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing. I’m just happy to be here, to escape the States for awhile.”
Though a crowd was trickling in for happy hour, it was not full or busy enough for the bartender not to engage in conversation.
“So what brings you here?”
“To the Clarence.”
“I’m staying here.”
“I gather that. But why choose this place?”
“You don’t seem like the type to stay here.”
“What do you mean?” Casey was beginning to feel a kind of anger at what he perceived as an insinuation that he was not good enough for the hotel.
“I mean, most yanks who come here come in big, obnoxious groups who stay here because of who owns the place, and it’s really out of their budgets, so they skimp on tips and luxuries and they usually get pissed and spill beer all over the place. You’re pretty quiet.”
“Who owns the place?” Casey asked intrigued.
“Wow, you really don’t know?”
“Really? Cool. I love their music.”
“Me too. It’s just obnoxious when crazy yanks come here like religious fanatics.”
“I can imagine.”
Casey drank his pint and another one after, grateful he had decided to travel. Things seemed exciting already. He finished up his second pint and headed out to wait for his ride, Neil’s cab driving friend. He did not wait long, and Casey was off to the suburbs of
Casey like the modesty inside the house, the lack of things to pretend a household is wealthier than it is, the lack of pretense. It was a small house but it fit a family of three. Neil Jr. was eight years old, still young enough to not feel the smallness of the house. He did not know his house was small. Neil and his wife, Eva, knew. They knew every time they ran into each other as they were preparing dinner in the kitchen. Casey felt a bit guilty for making them go through so much trouble, but Eva seemed to revel in the idea of company, even a strange yank with dubious relations to her husband.
The first half of the dinner was characterized by the standard small talk of strangers – what brings you to Ireland, what do you do (in between jobs brought envy), what do you plan on doing here, what do you think so far…It was not until they began to talk about the O’Hagan family that things became truly interesting. It turns out that Neil and Casey were not all that distant of relatives, but second cousins, much closer than either of them had imagined in the brief time they had known each other. It was a relief to Casey to know there was at least one person in this strange land he could count on for companionship.
Casey slept well that night, slept deeply, with none of the troubling dreams that frequently tortured his nocturnal existence. Jet lag had its privileges, he presumed. He woke early the next morning ready to explore the
He did that before noon. It was a sunny apartment with bright yellow walls, provided that there was sun to brighten the. Apparently, there were no pretentious magazines to dictate what colors were acceptable for walls around there. Casey welcomed the color. The apartment was sparsely furnished, but there was a bed and a couch, which were all he really needed. Three months would fill the place with accumulated junk, anyway. He called Neil on a newly purchased prepaid cell phone – mobiles they called them in Ireland – to give him the address, and Neil offered to lend him a couple of tables and chairs he and his wife had stored in their cellar.
Casey picked up a travel book about
With tour book in hand, he ambled over to St. Stephen’s Green, one of the largest parks in
Missing page - a few days later
Samuel Beckett glared down at Casey as James Joyce looked past him. Beckett had reason to glare, Casey thought. I don’t like anything he’s written. What was that stupid play about the tapes and the bananas? And why did he feel the need to write in French? Perhaps it was just too tough to be a contemporary of Joyce. The pictures of the writers gave him company, as he began to feel a bit lonely. It was the first week, he thought. That’s probably normal. He’d write a letter to Anne telling her he was in
Joyce died before the end of the second world war, too soon to see how he had destroyed literature. He never experienced the recovery, the slow, painful healing, the creation of
The bartender, a Polish guy called Julek who had come from
Casey put down his pen and put his hand on his chin, a thing he did when his brain was in contemplative mode, a frequent occurrence since he had quit the monotony of office life. It had freed his mind, brought thought back to him, made him question what he had taken for granted as a lowly salesman. He wondered if
He stared down at the glass in front of him and pondered the existence of a substance capable of screwing with the head and eliminating rationality and reason from and evening’s outing. Drinking is simply poisoning the human body with rotten grain or fruit, yet it has been around since the dawn of human history. Dionysus is the true god of the world. There sat a stout, black as night, perfect head, great curves, the conscience of a country, screaming for a buddy to sit next to. Casey wondered how Joyce managed to sit and write in all of those pubs alone while the rooms reeked of voices and laughter. He supposed Joyce’s characters were his company. Too bad Casey could not even write a letter, let alone a good story. He put the notebook back in his bag and pulled out a few postcards. Postcards were easy to write. Hi, having a good time in
The thought of the visit, though weeks away, cheered him a bit. He even wrote a brief postcard to Anne before paying his tab and quitting the bar. He strolled through Temple Bar to the quays along the Liffey and wandered down to O’Connell Bridge. The air smelled of rain and burning hops, smells that were forever ingrained in his memory, triggering thoughts of
His eyes moved down
As Casey wondered what had happened to his compassion, the man mumbled something and tossed a rock at him. A few drops began to fall from the sky,