What many may not know about me is what I really really like. I can be distant and ironic. I can be downright secretive in my preferences. Plus, I like really weird things sometimes. But I have to say, with as much sincerity as I can muster, that I really love high Modernist Literature. Eliot is fine and all that, but I will always be a prose man. And I love Woolf and Joyce. In fact, I deeply love Joyce. Many will roll their eyes, and rightly so because it's pretentious as hell, but his books are a big part of the reason I do what I do. But even beyond Joyce, I love Irish literature. Goldsmith, Wilde, Yeats, Synge, AE, Swift--it's all good in my heart. And that means Dublin is a sort of distant holy shrine to me. It is a place I knew that I would visit one day. I have been to Stratford. And I have been to London. I drank where Dickens did and walked the streets where Woolf composed. Long ago I would stalk across Columbia and imagine Kerouac.
But I expected Dublin to be different. I had heard tales of the boom years, of the revolution in the land of some of my ancestors. But I always felt there would always be Irish hospitality.
But Dublin was disappointing and surprising in equal measures. It's still, for all its new money, dear dirty Dublin in many ways. It's a major city. It's generic and metropolitan in spite of the history that's always palpable. It's confusing and sprawling. It's been hit hard by the burst of the bubble. But it's also a center for banking.
But the people...the people were kind in spite of all that. There was a touristy kindness that I recognize from Orlando in my youth. But beneath that and the suspicion that bad-times bring out in the laboring people of the world, there was a deep layer of a distinct Irish-ness that people would share after 5 drinks or so.
I walked through suburbs to get to Glasnevin Cemetary, an important part of Joyce's Ulysses, and understood viscerally, for the first time, the Irish obsession with the dead that had always been intellectually comprehensible in my mind. I saw the old distilleries, now tourist attractions that have their products largely made elsewhere, but I found a certain charm as I snuck too many pints of Guinness on a tour that should have only given me one. I saw the door of Eccles Street where Leopold Bloom lived and traced the bullet holes of the Easter Rising. I did research in Trinity. But though these moments were just around the corner, they always felt hidden, separate from a new city that's grown around it. And I guess it's good in some ways that Ireland can move on from an often-times crushing weight of history. But at the same time, you can never really move on when you've commodified the people fleeing the famine or the alcoholism of the working class. That stuff reappears when the economy goes South.
In short, I liked my visit to the Republic. I hope to head out West next, somewhere away from the Metropolis. I'm sure the tourism will be there, but tourism never bothered me. I grew up in the middle of tourism. The trick is what else is there besides tourism? And Ireland seems promising and cautious, a trait that I'd like to cultivate in myself!