One would think two days is hardly enough time to get to know a place, but Dublin is small and her people know how to show her off. I arrived on the 4th of July, my first abroad, to celebrate a different sort of independence. The small prop plane that flew me from Plymouth across the channel was scary enough, but the wind on the approach to Dublin was whipping us around like a toy. We didn’t so much descend into the airport as drop out of the sky. Even the locals who take the same flight quite often were squeezing their armrests and looking around nervously. All the adrenaline from the scare went to waste, though, because after dropping out of the sky, I had to stand in line at customs for about 2 hours, and then wait almost an hour for a bus into the city center before I had truly arrived. By that time the terror of our approach was mostly forgotten. Kelleigh and I had booked a hostel near Trinity College, just south of the Liffey River in the Temple Bar district. After a bit of wandering and well-meaning but contradictory direction from a few students, I found the hostel and dropped my bag off. Kelleigh left a note for me to meet her around the corner at the Purdy Bar, and I rushed over, nearly skipping across the narrow brick street unable to conceal my excitement. Temple Bar is one of the more commercialized neighborhoods, filled with more foreign tourists than locals, but the pub-to-person ratio reminded me I was in Ireland. I spotted Kel sitting outside, chatting with a middle-aged Dubliner with long greying hair and intelligent looking glasses. I hugged Kel, sat down, and he offered to buy us a round of Guinness. He and Kel had agreed not to share each other’s names as a way of staying in the moment. A few pints later and Kel accidentally said my name, and then I accidentally said hers, and so the gig was up. Our new friend lead us around the city, seeming to know every other person we passed. It wasn’t long before one of them outted him as Steven. He pushed his bike along the cobbled street as he told us about the trouble he’d been having with his freezer. He contemplated stopping for some ice and running home to fill it, but decided to show us a good time despite his thawing mixed veggies. A few blocks from the pub he wanted to show us, he told us to wait outside as he ran into a bookstore. He came out with two titles by Flann O’Brien, a writer he’d been telling us about earlier. I’ve not read them yet, so can’t offer much, but Steven assured us he is extremely imaginative and loves his characters enough to truly give them a life of their own.
We arrived at the pub (whose name escapes me now), and it was oddly laid out, with an outer carpeted room with tables and an inner room with booths and the bar counter. Steven explained that Irish men are quite serious about their drinking, and though they didn’t prevent ladies from entering the bar, the custom up until the late 70s was for them to stay in the carpeted area and leave the bar itself to the men. Nowadays, though it often works out the same way, ladies are free to roam as they please. After a few more drinks, we walked several blocks to another pub called the Independent and had a seat outside by a leaning street lamp. Seated several feet away was a table of about 7, with an older street savvy Dubliner belting out traditional Irish folk songs. Steven offered up his own tune when he had finished, and he received a rousing round of applause from all of us. Eventually, Steven had to head home to tend to his freezer and his girlfriend, in what order I am not certain. We figured it would be the last we’d see of I’m, but a night later I ran into him on the way to the toilet at another pub Kel and I randomly stopped at. Turns out he is a DJ and was putting on a show there that night.
Our first night in Dublin was more welcoming than I could ever have imagined. The spontaneous show of good faith by Steven will leave a lasting impression on me. After our last Guinness, and being dragged by a poor young fellow (who apparently had nowhere to sleep that night) to a party we were unable to get into, Kel and I wandered back to the hostel and fell asleep the instant our lids closed.