I had the good fortune of spending some time in Ireland last month, which right now is about the weirdest place in the world. Not weird as in eccentric, but weird as in everything is entirely confused and absolutely confusing.
In Murrisk, a tiny village (pop. 235) in County Mayo, I was advised to be careful in the larger Westport (pop. 5,000) because I “might get stabbed.”
In Westport, a kind old couple said not to hang out in Castlebar (pop. 17,000) after dark because there was a good chance someone on drugs would stab me.
In Castlebar, the common wisdom went that I should avoid Galway (pop. 70,000) due to a preponderance of folks getting stabbed in that fair city these days.
Once in Galway, bartenders, wait staff, hotel owners and total strangers alike all said to stay out of Dublin at all costs. “It ain’t safe there,” one said. “Someone’ll stab ya, take yer quid ‘efore ya even know they done it.”
Dublin, I am sad to report, did not live up to any of its mythology. Certainly a fun city, but not at all what you’d expect. Ireland’s having a tough go of it these days, nowhere moreso than its capital city, and to walk its streets is to walk through the ruins of a boom unlike any other. Gorgeous Gregorian taverns covered in graffiti; Victorian rowhouses hiding behind mountains of garbage; an ever-increasing tension between haves and have-nots, the former growing in stature while the latter grows in number.
I asked the owner of a coffee shop near St. Stephen’s Gate about the state of his city, and he just shrugged it off. “If we weren’t mad about the bad news,” he said, “we’d be mad the good news weren’t good enough. ‘sjust Irish, that’s all.”
“At least we’re not Mayo,” he added. “Go out to the country these days, who knows what could happen. You’d probably get stabbed.”
Heads-up to anyone in Chicago: I’ll be hitting the stage again with 2nd Story Wednesday, September 30 at Red Kiva, 1108 W. Randolph. Tickets will be on sale here at some point.