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My Trip to Ireland

by Rob Terrell

Recently I spent a couple of weeks in Ireland. Not that I'm some big world traveller (though compared to the rest of the Van Gogh-Goghs I'm a regular fucking Phileas Fogg), but I did try to get away from the touristy places, so I ended up spending a great deal of time in the places they take tourists who don't want to go to the touristy places. Luckily, most of these places were pubs.

As much as I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, drinking is indeed a large part of Irish life, or at least the life of an American travelling in Ireland. Heavy drinking. It's basically like Mexico but they speak English better than you and drive on the wrong side of the road. That about sums it up.

But between bouts of heavy drinking and sleeping off the same drinks, I managed to learn some true facts about Ireland. Since I've got nothing better to write about this week, here's some of them.

  • Never tell anyone your family is from Ireland, unless you actually are Irish. They hate sixth-generation Americans coming over and claiming to be Irish. After great amounts of ridicule, I got hip to this tip pretty quick. It's just silly, people. Face it. You're American. Get over it.

  • Never tell anyone your family is from County Mayo, no matter how proud you are about having just learned it. Apparently it's sort of like telling people you're from Jersey. South Jersey, even.

    (My relatives being from Mayo and my immediate family being from Jersey, I'm doubly cursed.)

  • Golf is serious there, no matter how you feel about it. They treat golf with the seriousness that we in the U.S. treat, say, eye surgery. If you're not really into golf, don't bother. My family is used to playing in the American fashion -- driving carts Jeff-Gordon style, drinking beer, losing a handful of balls in the water hole. But there you carry your clubs, you don't lose your balls, and drinking on the course is forbidden. All that leaves is the golf, which is the part of golfing that I don't like, and thus I hereby declare Ireland as having the worst golfing in the world.

  • Speaking of things the worst, the city of Galway -- home to bands such as the Waterboys and the Saw Doctors -- is also home to the absolute worst street musicians in the world. Far worse than even Canberra, Australia, my previous record holder. Strumming open strings and begging for change. Six guys in a circle playing digideroos, for god's sake.

  • No matter how well educated you are, you're going to feel like an idiot. Dublin is a ancient city with a rich literary tradition. For instance, you can't stumble from one pub to another without scraping your forehead on some plaque commemorating an important location mentioned in Ulysses, a book I never got past page one of and, frankly, I have come to doubt the importance of any work that requires such intimate familiarity with a streetmap.

  • No matter how distant, your relatives will always buy you a few pints of Guinness, although you will be expected to pay for that pint in the singing of songs or recitation of some Yeats. After the embarrassing moment where I explained that I cannot recall much Yeats passed they demanded I recite any poetry at all. Now I actually do have a poem memorized -- "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Well, most of it. Okay, some of it. The first stanza, and that bit about women coming and going, and the thing about the pair of claws scuttling, and that thing with the mermaids singing. Given a moment I could put all that together. And although I think I could convincingly fake the rest, I am unsure if T.S. Eliot would be considered British, and I didn't want to risk getting into that, and thus simply disappointed them by refusing. There are very strong odds that I will never see any of them again, so it seemed like a safe bet.

  • No matter how much they try to pretend this is a first world country, get in a car and you'll learn the truth. It's like driving in Calcutta. The roads are perilously narrow. If you had one of these roads for a driveway, you'd bitch to the builder about it. The pavement is confusingly marked -- when marked at all. Thanks to a general lack of traffic enforcement, people alternately drive at insane speeds and suddenly park wherever they please, such as in the lane right in front of you. The roads in the west of the country are even narrower, winding around death-defying curves along perilous ledges. Need I also mention they follow the British habit of driving on the left side of the road? Except they more drive in the center, sort of playing chicken, until someone relents and cuts to the side and lets his mirror slam the shrubbery. For the passengers, this is a most exciting moment.

Next time: Irish music. The bane of the Riverdance. Belfast. And a travel rule of thumb: they always party hardest where the car bombings are most frequent.

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