Monday, June 04, 2007

Rainy Night In Dublin

Fine, so it's not night as I write this, but that's just not how the song goes. Ignore the further discrepancies that I am not in Georgia, neither am I hovering by my suitcase, trying to find a warm place to spend the night — thankfully so. But I do feel like it's raining all over this world. Or at least in Ireland.

Raining, though, seems to be one of the things this city does particularly well, so why slight it? We've been here since Thursday, and were blessed with a beautiful, sunny, warm day off on Friday, which made for an excellent afternoon of exploration and an equally excellent evening of Guinness-drinking on the cricket green of Trinity College. * If I was more diligent at chronicling these travels, you might draw the parallel to our improbable four beautiful days in a row in London. But how would you know? No such luck this time around; the rain moved in on Friday night and has lingered ever since.

It's a different rain than we'd usually get in the States, at least in the places I've lived. Closer to a drizzle, but not quite as fine nor depressing, it's almost pleasant. One can walk about through it without the necessity of an umbrella. You'll get a little wet, but never soaked. I would suppose that were there anyplace in the States which could compare it would be the Pacific Northwest, but I wouldn't know for certain, as my time there was brief and largely limited to, ahh, sheltered activity.

We're staying in a rather posh hotel — surprise — in a neighborhood southwest of city centre called Ballsbridge, which name is almost impossible to utter without a trace of a Beavis snicker. We're not surrounded by anything particularly interesting, just a few expensive pubs, a handful of restaurants, a post office; mostly residential and poshly so. The walk to St. Stephen's Green takes about 25 to 30 minutes, no casual feat but far from impractical. From there, the whole of city centre is pretty accessible.

Traveling about as we are, I'm noticing a certain homogeneity of cities everywhere, most notoriously in their glitzy shopping streets and most prominent nightlife spots. Grafton Street here is essentially a retooling of 5th Avenue, Bloor Street, Michigan Avenue, Oxford Street, Deansgate, insert your candidate here. Sure, each has its identifying characteristics — Grafton Street is open only to pedestrians, unlike the noisy canyon of 5th Ave., and the northern beacon of a Hancock tower is nowhere to be found — but when it comes to content and presentation, variation is elusive. Clothing boutiques bearing names of all major brands, a Starbucks for every corner, mobile phone stores, a few bars populated mostly by suits and tourists; the most obvious sense of variation is found with the price tags or the names of the wireless providers. They often appear spotless, too, litter collected continuously, streets hosed down at the end of the day. Best foot forward for the guests.

Nightlife spots are rarely spotless, as evinced by, say, Leeds on a bank holiday weekend. It's what happens when you fill bars with 18-25ers and then let them out on the streets at 2am. Most people directed me towards Temple Bar here in Dublin for a night out, and I found myself there on Friday night until the wee hours. But what I quickly realized is that it's like all the nightlife spots in New York that I choose to avoid, Dublin or no. No matter where you go, the experience of being packed into a bar with a bunch of drunk people is pretty much the same.

Althouh, in recognition of notable variation, Irish bar crowds are very enthusiastic about singing along to music, in a way American bar crowds never quite reach. It's really cool. If any of the video turned out, I'll post it here.

What I find slightly annoying is that in addition to the normal touristy attractions — which are a different story entirely — these are the places to which us visitors are often directed. Unless one has the benefit of local friends old or new, finding the funky bits requires a little luck or a lot of digging. When I was in London, one of my friends directed me towards the neighborhood of Brick Lane, an area which has always had a large Indian population, but has lately been invaded by the young crowd. That was probably one of my favorite days of exploration thus far, as the saga of the search is as epic as the satisfaction of finding it, an adventure deserving of its own posting. It's replete with great independent shops, funky bars and restaurants, and (most importantly?) coffee shops that offer free wireless! I had a bite in a pedestrian alleyway filled with food carts, bars, open-front restaurants, and picnic tables, people sitting everywhere, just enjoying the hang. Not nearly as spotless and mainstream-hip as a Soho, for example, it felt like a place where real people actually lived. And for a minute, I didn't feel so much like a tourist. It reminded me a little of Brooklyn.

So is that what I'm trying to sniff out in each city, its local equivalent of my own neighborhood? Said as such, it doesn't exactly seem like the search for diversity and local uniqueness suggested above. I suppose it's a consequence of traveling for the long-term: sometimes you feel like being a tourist seeing the sights and doing a bit of exploration, and other times, you just want to feel like you're home.

Apologies for the hasty conclusion, but I've gotta be on stage in about 15 minutes, and should probably do so in proper attire. Perhaps I shall expand later... first some pics:

Grafton Street in full force.

Pleasantly-buzzed mob at Trinity College. Nothing like a few pints on the last day of classes...

The aftermath of our gig at The Point.

* It will be difficult to drink a Guinness in the States again, as the superiority of a Dublin Guinness is painfully evident.


Anonymous Anonymous said...



Every moment is a journey...destination not withstanding :-).

Sad note, that; about the Guinness. It was my failsafe. Now I'll always wonder....


7:01 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Bah! Why would one drink Guinness anyway? (Partaking of local flavor excepted.) It's the Budweiser of stouts.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Just one thing:

1) Bill Bryson, in Notes From a Small Island gathers a really funny list of Ballsbridge-style names. READ IT!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Idalia said...

I don't think your search for your own neighborhood in other cities is a bad thing: you *like* your neighborhood; that's why you live there. Did you hear the This American Life piece about George Burns on the road? It has that weird This American Life obnoxiousness to it, but also that weird This American Life way of being completely interesting.

11:54 PM  

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