Sunday, June 26, 2011

First morning in Dublin.

I arrived in Dublin at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. I'd just flown overnight from San Francisco to Boston, and then Boston to Dublin. The Boston-Dublin flight was on the Irish airline, Aer Lingus, where the flight attendants wear green and the beer is not Guinness but Coors and Budweiser and Heineken. A sorry disappointment.

The cab ride from the Dublin Airport to the city itself is a relatively short one--about 20 minutes, max--but it was a 20 minutes well spent on my part, as I discovered the general talkativeness and gregariousness of what seemed like every Irish cabbie I had all week. This guy, in particular, was a trial by fire, because his accent was as thick as mud. It was the thickest, in fact, that I heard all week, though I of course didn't know that at the time. All I knew was that I had to strain forward to try to comprehend and keep up. (I also didn't realize, until I was sitting in his cab, that they drive on the left, with the steering wheels on the right, just like in England. Didn't they have a revolution to separate themselves from the Brits?)

This was also the first time I was to hear the same amusing spiel I'd hear in every cab all week. Both Obama and the Queen had recently visited Dublin, and while both were very well received, Obama won the popularity contest by a landslide for one very particular reason: While the Queen had posed for photos in front of a pint of Guinness, she never even took a sip (apparently a standard custom for royalty), while Obama, man's man that he is, downed the whole damn pint.

I probably heard this story a good six or seven times, and, honestly, it never got old. Not because I liked hearing our president getting praised (though after 8 nightmare years of Bush, it was quite a novelty to hear the praise from an EU country), but because of the pride that these gentlemen had in their national drink, and the significance it held to them in having world leaders approach the drink.

My first Guinness in Dublin was to come less than an hour later, though I didn't know it yet. We arrived just before 8 a.m. at the Clarence Hotel, which is located right along the River Liffey at Wellington Quay, pretty much right in the heart of the Temple Bar district, magnet for all drunken, rowdy foreigners, as I would later discover. The Clarence is owned by Mssrs. Bono and The Edge, but you'd never really know it had that kind of rock star cred from the outside, as it has a remarkably unassuming (but nice) exterior, and a rather quaint boutique feel inside. At the reception desk, I was told what I was dreading: That my room wouldn't be ready for hours, given that it was so early. Despite having the adrenaline that comes with being in a foreign city for the first time, the larger truth was that I was tired as shit. Approaching the age of 50, these 15 hour trips just aren't as easy to shake off as they used to be. I needed sleep. It wasn't the hotel's fault, of course, and I was shown into the adjoining "Tea Room," where I crashed into a large armchair, ordered coffee, and waited for the arrival of my co-worker Keith, who I knew was just about 15 minutes behind me.

Once he arrived, looking equally bedraggled, and with about 3-4 hours to kill, we knew the only real solution was to just get out walking. It helped that it was already sunny and beautiful out. We wobbled out of the hotel with no plan. I had a street map, but we didn't use it, instead just going wherever things looked interesting. After a short while, we ended up at about the best place I could imagine: Hodges Figgis, a great Irish bookstore. I beelined to the section dedicated to Irish writers, and found what I was hoping to find--a bunch of books by Irish noir writer Ken Bruen, who I'd been hearing about but had been unable to find in the US (well, Amazon carries him, but I was trying to buy at local bookstores). Not only did Hodges Figgis have some of his novels, but, in a stroke of luck, he had appeared there recently, so the books were autographed. I picked up two--The Guards and The Killing of the Tinkers, though honestly I could have spent a ton more in that store (and did a few days later).

By 10:00 a.m. Keith and I were even more tired and now famished. We needed to eat. We went out searching for food, but were really too tired to make a coherent decision. Some nice person had tweeted to me a recommendation for a place to eat, but I couldn't find it on the map or in our wandering. Ultimately, we just decided to head into the first pub that looked good, figuring we could get some filling Irish food, and, of course, that first drink. But, it was to our sad fate (well, not really) that the pub we landed in served no food at all. That did not deter us from leaving. I don't think I've ever had a drink before noon, but, ya know, we were in Dublin now. And, besides, if we considered that we were still on Pacific Time, it was 2:00 a.m., a totally legitimate time to be drinking. So a pint each it was for us. And then another one after that.

That first Guinness, Monday a.m. in Dublin.

Now, people who know me know what a total lightweight I am even in the best of conditions. Two pints is really about all I can handle even on a full stomach and a good night's sleep. So it is not much of an exaggeration to say that by the time I finished the second one shortly after 11 a.m., I was hammered. Here was the first sign: As I staggered off the bar stool and out the door, the bartender called to me, because I was about to wander off with my passport lying on the floor. I thanked him, and we made our way back to the Clarence. Keith's room was ready by this point, so he went up to settle and crash, while it was back to the Tea Room for me, where I ordered another coffee just to mess with my confused nervous system even more.

Shortly thereafter, my room was ready and I went upstairs. I'm sorry to report, however, that I don't remember much of what happened at this juncture in time. I do know that I somehow managed to land in bed, because I woke up there a few hours later, totally confused as to where I was and what day it was.

I stumbled out of bed, still fully dressed, and made my way to the bathroom.

I looked in the mirror, at my baggy eyes and jowled face and tousled hair.

I made to turn on the water faucet to wash my face off, but as I looked down, saw something that at first totally confused me, then horrified me, and then made me laugh. There, in the sink, floating in water, was my autographed copy of Ken Bruen's The Guards, now about 4 inches thicker than it was when I bought it.

I still have no idea how my book ended up in the sink. Maybe I thought it was a good idea to wash it. Maybe my drunken self thought it needed a bath. It remains a mystery.

From here, a bit bummed and chagrined, I took a long, hot shower, shaved, changed my clothes, and got ready to meet up to go to PopCap's Dublin office. I unpacked my things and got my things together to take with me, only to discover that I had somehow managed to lose my California driver's license. I remembered the bartender handing me back my passport. My shame and chagrin was now doubled.

I'd been in Dublin for all of 3 hours. In that time I'd managed to get drunk, destroy an autographed book, and lose my ID.

I was off to a brilliant start.


Ryan said...

Wow what a start. Cannot wait to read more!

David A. said...

This account is better than any Irish novel could be.....can't wait for the next chapters!

John McGuinness said...

Great read Jeff. Being Irish myself I sometimes find my flummoxed by our accents. There are so many in our country!

Glad you found Hodges & Figgis a delight.

Losing stuff in a foreign is awful. I have to terribly paranoid not to lose anything.

If you are ever back again make sure to go outside of Dublin. I even get stunned that I live in such a beautiful country.

Look forward to the next part!

Patch Rowcester said...

Fantastic account of your adventures in Ireland! Thanks for sharing this with us.

Padraic o Broithe said...

Wow you really are a lightweight Jeff. Guinness is a very low ABV beverage, but I guess you can pass for being a weary, starved traveler. I hope when you returned to the bookstore you got another copy of that book.

CallMeSarge said...

Doing it right!

Xelous said...

We would like to interrupt this blog with a news flash, Jeff Green seen laying in street wearing tall fluffy Guiness hat and no trousers.

Locals report Mr Green was seen to take a traditional Irish breakfast this morning. He managed the sausage and eggs, but fell down; quite literally; when handed the 16 pints of the black stuff.

This is your local reporter, not on the scene, but down the bar laughing at the light weight tourists signing off.

gharrington said...

Hey Jeff, always love to read your stuff. Man, I lost my passport once, and almost lost it a second time. It was in a snazzy tall leather passport wallet my girlfriend gave me that sitting on the Heathrow shuttle bus pushed up and out of my jacket pocket. It was turned in after being found on the shuttle bus seat. Geeze. Man without a country.

Anonymous said...

Oh, excellent. I was hoping you were going to write about your trip to Ireland.

I realize it was a business trip, and that you had a busy work agenda, but still, you seem to be getting better at seeing a little of the countries through which you're momentarily passing.

A collegue of mine who does travel a lot (I actually don't), said that going on a business trip to a beautiful city is like being at Disneyland and riding on The Pirates of the Caribbean - you desperately want to get off and explore, but the ride just keeps pushing you forward.

Also, the Steam summer sale will be starting tomorrow. I highly recommend Bulletstorm, a game that's put color and fun back into the FPS genre.

The Goose

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