I visited Dublin for St. Patrick’s day – ’twas before the “Troubles” visited the Irish Republic. This being the Republic, the “Troubles” refers to the national mania that every rock-strewn field was St. Stephens Green itself, precious as the Book of Kells – and similarly damaged by exposure to the light of day.
I went because I’d never been to the land of my forbears, and because I had a week of vacation, and because airfares were cheap. I didn’t think why – I ignore St. Patrick’s day because I view it as an occasion for people who can’t hold their liquor (read: non-Irish) to act like fools (read: non-Irish).
I visited my Grandpa’s home in Boyle – from a respectful distance, since it’s still occupied. I visited my Grandma’s home in Castlecove – from within the walls, since it’s a ruin. The neighbor who claimed it as ‘abandoned’ eyed me suspiciously from the road as I filmed it for my mom (rest her soul). It’s on the Ring of Kerry road – the barkeep of the Black Shop advised me “It’s worth millions”. “Of what?” I thought to myself – it’s two rooms, about 200 square feet overall, no roof (the corrugated iron blew off some time ago) and surrounded by maybe 1/10th of an acre used for grazing sheep. The sheep apparently eat rocks in Kerry.
It does have a view of the ocean, out the missing window.
But it was Dublin in which I spent St. Patrick’s day. I drank where Keats drank (probably more than he). I got in the line of fire of a few green tomatoes fired at a drunk in Temple Bar (the neighborhood). I drank in Gogarty’s and the Temple Bar (the bar), and went to O’Connell street and watched a bunch of marching bands from America parade in front of American people wearing prosthetic buttocks reading “Pogue Mahone” (a fine band, mind you). I wore an Irish flag like a cape – ‘cape’ being Gaelic for “yank behaving like an idiot”. The only Irish people I saw were a woman with her young son, who tried without success to penetrate to the front lines of the crowd. He couldn’t do it, and thereby missed the Fighting Illini Band as well as other stateside delights.
I also climbed Croagh Patrick a few days later, this being the mountain where Patrick fasted and from which he drove the snakes from Ireland, at least according to legend. Each year, thousands of barefoot pilgrims climb it by candlelight. I shared the trail with one who’d made the journey.
“Patrick never climbed this mountain” he told me as we we made the ascent slowly and breathlessly.
Aye, ’tis. But what did I say about the danger of shining light on precious artifacts?