02 March, 2007


When Patrick and I lived in Mexico, we had a running joke over the daily decision of what to eat for supper. “I know!” one of us would say. “What about some sort of spicy meat, wrapped in some sort of flat bread—say, I don’t know, a corn tortilla— and maybe some cheese melted over it?

“Hmmm,” the other would say, as if pondering a bold culinary excursion where no tourista had gone before. “And what if there were some beans on the side?”

We have launched a reprisal of this routine in Ireland. “So, what’s happening tonight?” one of us will ask.

“I’m not sure, but I believe there will be people gathering in a pub. And that there might be alcohol served in large pint glasses.”

“And might there be some instruments, and perhaps some singing, involved?”

“Why, yes, Yes, I believe there might.”

In fact, I am composing this from a pub, and have just consumed a pint.

We spent our first really wretched day traipsing around Wexford County in the driving rain, throwing money at various transportation workers. It was a day off from performing, and instead of doing the sane thing and hanging around in bed all day, drinking hot tea and watching Spongebob in Gaelic on the Irish language channel ( which, next to the mummified cat and rat in Christ Church Cathedral is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in Ireland), I insisted we grab a bus and try to find a famine museum that turned out not to be open. After missing several buses and taxis, we then took a cab for ten euros to an outdoor interpretive exhibit of Stone Age culture, where we had a coffee and decided from the glassed-in café that the early Celts could have it, and took another ten euro cab back to a bus shelter to wait for the next bus back to Waterford.

We must have spent 70 euros, and on absolutely nothing. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after I changed my mind the other night about going to Cork and caught a late afternoon bus, only to start violently vomiting in the public toilet as soon as I arrived at the theatre, and spent a miserable evening on the lobby sofa, listening to the applause within. All because I was afraid to miss out on anything.

Of course there was a pub session immediately following.

Oh well, they can’t all be An Rinn and Kilkenny, which were fantastic venues, although very different from one another, the first being in the village pub and the latter being in the tower room of Kilkenny Castle. Both were superb. We had most of yesterday afternoon to wander around Kilkenny, which is a gorgeous medieval city. I found the Irish counterpart to Wal-mart, Dunne’s, and bought lingerie and cookies. Had a great meal of roast pork in (wait for it) the pub. Picked up some lovely linen handkerchiefs too.

There were some fantastic highpoints in the Kilkenny show, which was a night off for me. Lisa Moore read from her novel Alligator. Nick Avis had the audience in the palm of his hand. Ron Hynes did his magic. A local poet, Mark Roper, almost took my breath away. I was determined to meet him before we left the building for (guess) the pub, and practically bowled him over where he stood, the poor man. Anyway, he was very sweet and gracious and he and I and his lovely wife Jane all had a drink together. Do look up his work. I thought it was outstanding.

It was a great day and night, and I’d be hard pressed to single out favorite moments, but some that come to mind are cappuccino and encouragement from Lisa, a wee, white haired man in the local pub standing up to sing us a song, standing in a phone booth in Kilkenny talking to Georgia back in Little Rock, because I had to tell her I was eating a Cadbury bar.

In An Rinn, we were blown away by a group of young local musicians, and an Irish poet by the the name of Áine Uí Fhoghlú, who writes in Irish and with whom I got to chatting later and hope to stay in touch.

Two funny moments from the An Rinn pub stand out and beg to be memorialized. To set up the first, I need to tell you that when we got to the pub, we thought at first there had been a mix up with the time—there was hardly a soul in the place. Then it was explained to us that, as it was a Wednesday night in the season of Lent, most of the villagers were still in Mass, and would be along shortly. Well, after church let out, they all filed in, among them an older woman who took her seat at the bar with an air of seniority and welcomed us all like a dowager queen. She was beaming and nodding and singing along from her throne right up until Joel Hynes took the stage and dropped some particularly colourful language.

The poor woman's eyes nearly popped out of her head. Her jaw dropped and she slid off the stool. She stood up and staggered around in circles, as if she had somehow slipped into a deviant parallel universe and could not now find the portal out. I imagine she took to her bed for three days. I wonder if she has recovered yet. Joel and the ladies.

The second cirque-de-hare act had the local master of ceremonies grabbing the microphone out from in front of Michael Crummey mid-reading to admonish the audience to stop talking, as it was distracting for the performers. Michael, considerably distracted, looked on with very nearly the same expression as the dear old lady above. It was hysterical. I don't know how he recovered his composure, but he went back to the beginning and saw it through. A pro, through and through.

It is all too much too keep abreast of, and in the middle of it, my digital camera has come down with its own version of Montezuma’s revenge, refusing to accept local batteries. I hope to sort this out before we move on tomorrow. I would hate to run into any more mummified animals and be caught without my camera.


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