Wednesday, September 12, 2018
SB Poets Take Ireland: Day 10
It's time to tell the tale of how this whole trip went down. Above you see PLs David, Chryss, and Paul and the rock that commemorates that Dingle, AKA Daingean Uí Chúis for those of you who handle your Irish well, is a sister city with Santa Barbara, whose Irish name is HowExpensive!? Now Santa Barbara is a tad profligate with its sisterhood--in addition to Dingle it's hugged Kotor, Montenegro, Patras, Greece, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, San Juan Metro Manila, Philippines, Toba City, Japan, Weihai, People's Republic of China, and Blue Balls, Pennsylvania in its international sorority. (OK, I lied about one of those.) And at one point our now former mayor Helene Schneider was in Dingle, doing sister city things, and at Dick Mack's Pub, doing pubby things, and a poetry reading broke out. Helene, kind to her local poets, thought, "Hey, our Santa Barbara folks should visit here!" And then she told said SB folks.
David Starkey, man who accomplishes more than most mere mortals (many poems, textbooks, teaching, family, bands, St. Bernards, preacher--he officiated our wedding), took it on himself to put the itinerary you've been reading about together, starting with a gig at Dick Mack's but figuring if we were going to fly for eight time zones, we might as well do a few more gigs too.
The kicker is, the Dick Mack's reading turned out to be the least organized of all the events. When we got there that Wednesday evening for our 6 pm performance and asked, "Where do you want us to read?" the reply was, "Where do you want to read? The musicians usually play there," with a point directly across from the bar, where everyone has to place their order...and pick up their jaw from the floor after realizing the wealth of whiskey available.
For some reason we didn't think that wise. So we wandered about a bit and found a side room we felt was abandoned enough/suitable.
Alas, there had been no advertising of any sort, not a flyer amidst the Star Wars gimcrackery in the window, not a Facebook post, not a lonely poorly paid soul in a sandwich board stumbling amidst tourists. So our audience was us, and we were all sort of sick and tired of hearing each other--I mean, we love our poems, but we could sing along on many of them at this point of the trip. So that's one reason I got to read one, given I was not part of most readings. We opted to go for FB Live-ing the heck out of it, so the world might see us even if Dingle didn't deign to. The videos are all out there on our feeds, so go look if you want. I even read "Ode to an IPA" to my glass of Dick Mack's Session IPA, and have to admit I really felt the moment. Thanks, beer.
The good news is if the PLs ever put out an album, they have their cover, here. And that is David's guitar by Sandy, looking away. We wisely had her sing, too, which seemed more suitable for the rowdiness that didn't relent beyond our bardic brilliance. And at one point an Irish teen jumped in on one tune on bodhran--works better with a Lucinda Williams cover than you might imagine.
Same place. But here are some pictures, to give you a bit of a sense of what it looked liked, outside the place (even if the pictures were taken the next day when it was raining). Time is sort of malleable on the road. Especially when it's the Wild Atlantic Way. First, here's a view from one of the windows, with the distance disappearing into Irish mist.
We bought stuff at a store--as there's nothing more fun than looking at odd foodstuffs in stores in countries not your own--for breakfast. Plus--cheaper! Then we had hoped to have lunch when we looped the peninsula's tip (oh, stop giggling) on our tour during the day, thinking we'd end up at Brick's Pub, home of West Kerry Brewery, just in time for lunch. And we did, but not for what they think is lunch--turns out 12:45 is way too early for a country kitchen to fire up.
So we got back to Dingle proper (let's hope there's not a Dingle improper) and hit the town, hunting. Finally ended up at Goat Street Social [no link as there's no website and even their FB page isn't working] on one of Dingle's main drags, a simple, direct, and pleasing spot for two very hungry travelers. It was my turn to go fish chowder--I'd been envious of so many Chryss had enjoyed--so ordered that, plus a rocket salad with feta, as peppery greens never hurt, especially tossed with cheese.
So West Kerry Brewery didn't have their kitchen open yet, but when at a pub there's still something else you can do. Pinball! Only kidding. I drank. I know you're surprised. Since I'd had the delicious porter I wanted to try one of their other brews so ordered the Cúl Dorcha, their red ale. It was good, but not the knockout the porter was. Might be because reds tend to be heartier here in the States (aka--alcohol--aoogha!), and this one was a practical piker at just 5%. Plus, I wanted food too. Fantastic interior, though. Can you spot the Americans?
one review puts it quite well, "oodles of honey'd, fruity notes. Wonderfully easy to drink, it would make for a great introduction to Irish whiskey for folks new to the spirit. No writers were harmed in the making of this whiskey." Except, as we all know, writers are harmed all the time. I mean are you reading them? I think we all know, now.
Then after another Murphy's Ice Cream excursion the rest of the PL gang went off to do some musical carousing and the ever-sicker Chryss and I headed back to our Air BnB where this solid, non-spectacular beer awaited me. That's what you get for drinking a UK beer in the Republic?
So as I said, that morning we took the loop about the far end of the Dingle Peninsula. Want to be blown away by the gorgeous, the historic? It's the ride for you. Stop one was Ventry Bay, a very horseshoe, very wide (perhaps it was low tide?) beach just west of Dingle. Sure, it was July 25, but there were still children in parkas on the sand...and folks in suits swimming. The Irish are tougher than you and me.
Then there's the storybook quality to what was life on Blasket Island, just enough off the coast to make the coast seem secure as the afghan your grandmother settled over your shoulders. The last settlers left in 1953, and when you hear of the tales, it's not so much it was hard--though it was--but that there was too much promise. Indeed, it turns out many of the people of Blasket ended up just heading further west, all the way to the U.S. There's a terrific Great Blasket Centre that captures what went on there, and given they sort of became an anthropological project, and there are many famous narratives written by its inhabitants, there's plenty to learn and know. (And, even here, literacy, story, the word. While we want to pretend in our country the folks have no sense of the literary.) All the exhibits end in a glass view of Great Blasket Island itself, a kind of church to a kind of world we've lost as much as any faith.
Or something like this, taken out of a moving car, the specks of birds just adding their own pointillist perfection to an already captivating scene.