The Belly of the Whale


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Doolin Adventure:

Flan O'Brien wrote that not all roads are the same. Some roads are coming from places and will not be easy to travel, other roads are going places.

There was a music festival in a town called Doolin situated near the Cliffs of Moher once upon a weekend. I'd not much to do so I hopped a bus Doolin-bound to see what was there.I found sardines. There were musicians from all over the country all packed into the bars. After a brief walkabout I ducked into the Rainbow's End hostel and booked a bed. Took off my bag and headed back out into the night. I was the only person I knew in the entire town, in a country where I only knew a handful of people and nobody's phone number altogether. So with a drink I was off.

This one pub was MacDermott's. There were no less than fifteen singers and musicians gathered around a table that had been altered into a still-life of crushed beer cans, empty glasses and instruments-set-aside. The rest of the floorspace was taken up by feet and stickiness. There was no room for dancing but everyone was anyway, and if you didn't know the words, you were still singing along. One fella went behind the bar and grabbed some spoons and joined in with the musicians much to their own glee. I started talking to one older guy who had gray sideburns stretching down into his shirt collar. I told him my mother's maiden name was Scales and he got excited saying that there was a lot of Scales in the Doolin area. He told me to look into it.

Pictured below is my brother, (mom I found him,) we hung out for a time, he introduced me to some girls and before I knew it we had parted ways, even though he was just as excited as I to have finally been reunited with one another.Soon after I met the Brothers. They took a bit of a liking to me and said I was a fine old Ginger Yank. They promised me free beer if I would only help them find their car in which the beer resided. I complied and soon we were running down the street glancing at all the parked cars. I'd no idea what I was looking for in a car but I kept out a keen eye nonetheless. Not long after the start of our hunt we were collapsed in a ditch by the road and I was packing some tobacco into my pipe. For awhile we partook in that time honored Irish tradition of smoking and/or drinking in a ditch. We were back up again soon, energy restored. The pipe still alight, we were running and taking turns carrying one another on our backs and passing the pipe back and forth between the running three of us. The brother under me stumbled and fell and we ended up rolling on the pavement and laughing like madmen. We found the car, I found my beer and we parted ways with fond farewells.

Then, suddenly, there was no sign of my hostel. There were hostel's lining the street outnumbering the houses but none of them were my hostel. I wandered up and down the streets desperately looking for the Rainbow's End in the pitch dark of the night. The pubs were closing down and in the cold each ruined little shack on the side of the road just beyond the rock walls was looking cozier than the last. Looking dully at my phone I gleaned the time to be somewhere around 3:30 a.m. and I was still plodding around on numb feet for my bed. I was in the middle of passing this particular ruin when something about it caught my eye. I turned my head and didnt see anything really worth looking at. But it looked so warm. The roof was fully intact in case it rained I would be relatively dry. Looking in the door I saw that there was even a ratty couch to collapse on. I would shove it in the corner in the dark where hopefully I wouldnt be bothered in the night. Doolin seemed a safe place. It was rural Ireland and I was sure I was the only one still awake, yet as I lifted a leg over the wall I heard voices not far off. To avoid an interrogation I kept to the roadside of the wall and waited for them to pass when I heard them say something about the Rainbow's End hostel. Too make a long enough already story a bit shorter, I ended up covertly following them to the Rainbow's End hostel and was able to sleep in a bed.

This is hanging at the Cliffs of Moher Welcome center and even though it was sort of an automatic thing that my work would go up because we all did it as a class, its still quite a thing to have a piece up in the place I came to as a child and totally fell in love with. Call that cheesy and I wont be inclined to disagree, but all the same, its quite a thing...So, in the morning I was up and moving at 9a.m. (surprise) and hiking up to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a long hike but when I got there, it was bright and beautiful on the side of the mountain and I was quickly deciding that I never wanted to leave. Stopped at the sweater shop, got a jumper, got some food and at 1 o'clock I had made it back into town and was waiting for the bus when the man with the sideburns from MacDermott's came and sat down beside me and asked if I had found my roots yet. He started talking about how the Irish built America. He told me about his 10 children including 3 or 4 he hadn't known about until recently and recited an absolutely fantastic poem his son wrote about the famine and I wish to God I'd had some means of recording it or memorizing it, accent and all. The bus came and we bade farewell. As I stepped on board and the sun left my face and looking at the clouds, and the streets and the mountains, I was nothing but heartbroken to leave a place that felt so much like home.

(art and stuff to come, hang in there.)


  1. Mike! I'm reading Flan O'Brien right now. He is Super-Irish. Happy trails (like a cowboy (in Ireland (Irish Cowboy))).