Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

One last day, walking Dublin with James Joyce by our side

Walking down Eustace Street in the Temple Bar district, toward the River Liffey as evening begins to set on Dublin.

Leopold Bloom poses a tantalizing puzzle in James Joyce’s epic novel “Ulysses”: “cross Dublin without passing a pub.”

Thanks, I suppose, to computers, GPS, and Google maps, that puzzle has been solved many times over. Why you would want to do it, is a puzzle to me. When in Ireland. …

Here’s a tougher puzzle: Walk across Dublin and not see a reference to James Joyce – be it a photograph, a statue, a quote on a wall, a bookstore window, a mural, a pub name, a simple conversation, or a T-shirt in a tourist shop.

It feels like Joyce is Dublin and Dublin is Joyce, and though he has been dead these many decades, the full ripe glory of his passion for this city is everywhere.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Sunday morning and Ennis slowly stirs awake

Dublin is alive and kicking by the time we arrive

Dublin toward dusk while crossing the River Liffey, heading for the Temple Bar district on a quiet Sunday.

Our man Mick picks us up at Corofin Country Lodge on Sunday morning and drops us off in the center of Ennis, as promised. Thirty euros all.

Mick looks like Jason “The Transporter” Statham. All efficiency and business. The man in black. The car in black.  

Unlike Statham, Mick likes to speak. He’s quite a conversationalist. I think. Mick speaks in a thick accent that may have been a mix of Gaelic and English. His words came in phrases, in short rapid bursts like an assault rifle.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Rants and raves, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 5: Carran to Corofin: “Turn right at the castle ruins.”

Near the end of The Green Road, a garden of earthly delights on the way to Corofin. (Photo by Rose Alcantara)

It is the last day of The Burren Way and we are walking from Carran to Corofin through a rocky wonderland in a gentle misty rain.

You know it is going to be an interesting day when our B&B host Julianne’s directions include the phrase, “Turn right at the castle ruins.” 

She also urges us to detour from the route to visit the triple ringfort of Cathair Chomáin, built on the edge of a cliff around the year 800 A.D. It was excavated in 1934 and 2003 but still holds much mystery about its origins. 

Over coffee and toast – Julianne offers us a full Irish breakfast (part of the B&B fare) but I am thinking of the consequences of a full stomach and the six-plus hours of walking ahead – we learn some of the history of her cottage which has been in and out of her family since the 1800s. It is decorated in the comfy Irish style – family photos cover every wall and horizontal surface. Books cover what is left.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 4, ‘Not’ Walking the Burren: Ballyvaughan to Carran

Adirondack chairs set out behind Cassidy’s Pub in Carran offered a nice respite as the sun broke through. I can imagine sitting here with a cold pint on a warm summer evening, contemplating the Burren beyond.

We’ve been dodging in and out of the rain since we began walking the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare four days ago. This morning, awakening to the steady patter of rain on the windows of the Wild Atlantic Lodge in Ballyvaughan, it feels like we’ve run out of dodges.

Did we really want to walk to Carran — or Carron? It is spelled both ways, often side by side, and nobody seems to really care. I asked. “Either way,” is the most common response.

One of the Burren walking guides calls this leg “extremely rewarding and scenic …”

Well, that is encouraging. Except it is dumping buckets outside.

But wait, there is more.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 3: Fanore to Ballyvaughan, mythic meets the mystical

A carpet of wildflowers graced the trail from Fanore to Ballyvaughan, at least part of the way.

This morning is one of those “it might rain” weather forecasts, and a few sprinkles are falling already as Amy drives the kids to school and us a mile farther up the road to the trailhead for the hike to Ballyvaughan.

We’re all talking rapidly as if trying to squeeze a lifelong friendship into a five-minute ride. We really like Amy and her family.

She tells us of the difficulties of the universal lockdown in Ireland during Covid, how neighbors turned in neighbors if they violated the 5 or 10-kilometer perimeter set up for each home, how stir-crazy everyone became, and how hard it was to make a living on a short leash. 

“You’re heading out on my favorite hike,” says Amy. “We all discovered the Burren and hiking during the lockdown. It was the only thing we could do. And now I love it.”

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 2, The Burren Way: Doolin to Fanore, flirting with the edges of The Burren

Where the road begins its descent toward Fanore. A rare house on this part of the pathway.

There are several ways to walk from Doolin to Fanore on the Wild Atlantic Way. I think we picked the longest, toughest, wettest, and most rewarding.

Or maybe it picked us.

Our walk takes us up near the top of Slieve Elva – the highest point in the Burren – with misty views, from the Cliffs of Moher to the ghostly Aran Islands to Galway Bay and the vaguest wisp of Connemara beyond.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 1: Walking from Hags Head to Doolin along the Cliffs of Moher

That’s Doolin in the distance, the end of the first day hiking the Burren Way.

We’re In the Rock Shop Tea Room, well south of the Cliffs of Moher, an ironic place to begin a five-day hike around the rock-strewn Burren Way. Buying stones to add weight to our backpacks has no appeal but tea and scones do. And, I won’t kid you, it is awfully cold outside.

No need to rush into this thing.

Besides, my stomach needs to settle after riding the 350 Eireann bus along sinuous, snaky, undulating, rolling lanes for two and a half hours – essentially doing in reverse what we will attempt over the next five days.

At our table, we face the Atlantic and Hag’s Head Point as we sip coffee, tea, and scones. Sooner or later, we’ll have to step out the door and step onto the trail.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Living it up in Galway by walking around

Rose Alcantara finds fresh energy while walking through Galway’s Latin Quarter.

Before you set out to walk The Burren Way in Western Ireland, you are entitled to a bit of self-indulgence. Some good food and drink, some music, some flat terrain to walk, some shopping, perhaps.

Self-indulgence doesn’t get any better than bookending the Burren with Galway and Dublin.

That’s the plan: Live it up in Galway and Dublin, walk it down on The Burren Way.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Walking Ireland

On the road to Fanore from Doolin on the Wild Atlantic Way, County Clare.

A walking vacation in Ireland was supposed to be a birthday present from Rose Alcantara to me a couple of years ago. We both thought that the idea of a 70-year-old man walking around the Emerald Isle was perfectly sound and a touch romantic.

Albert Sharpe (left) as Darby O’Gill and Jimmy O’Dea at the Leprechaun King — this is the image I was working with as I envisioned walking around Ireland.

You know: a shaggy old gent dressed in tweeds, canvas spats, a carved walking stick, one of those adorable wool caps the sheepherders wear, a small daypack with wine, cheese, and brown bread. Maybe a pipe.

I envisioned gentle green-carpeted trails beside burbling brooks from which I could snag a trout on a fly rod for dinner back at the lodge. There would be castle ruins, steaming beef stew, leprechauns, sheep a plenty, and fey red-headed colleens waving from windows as I walked through quaint and ancient hamlets.

You know what happened. Because it happened to you as much as it happened to us. And it wasn’t banshees, laddie.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Welcome to my very first ever New Yorker subscription existential crisis

I have a subscription to The New Yorker, the print edition. It is the one magazine that I like holding in my hands while reading.

Circling unfamiliar, fanciful, and inventive words is part of my reading habit. Circling whole paragraphs. Underlining brilliant turns of phrase. Highlighting exciting writing. This magazine feeds that habit well. The writing is occasionally above my fighting weight, and I appreciate that.

Every time I read The New Yorker, I come away feeling a little smarter, a little more informed, and definitely motivated to keep writing.

Living in Mexico, the New Yorker can arrive two or three weeks later than it should. More often than not, it is the only thing in my mailbox. Late delivery didn’t matter when the content was less topical. Good writing is good writing and it is timeless. I always valued the New Yorker more for its literary content than for its news.

Even the front-of-the-book calendar on events happening in New York City is entertaining, even when those events occurred several weeks ago. New Yorker writers are like the city — bright, challenging, acerbic, engaging, chatty, witty, savvy and, above all, never dull.

The New Yorker is trying to be more timely and that works against my cross-border mail delivery universe. It is still some of the best writing around but by the time the magazine reaches my hands, the rest of the world has moved on. Now, when I pick up a copy, I find that I’ve read most of the stories online.

I also have a large stack of old New Yorkers that I am reluctant to throw out. It feels like hoarding.

So, I thought, time to switch to an online subscription.

Imagine my surprise, then,  when I went online and found that my print subscription expired March 1, 2015.

Is that even possible?

For years, the New Yorker has been arriving faithfully, sometimes two at a time after especially long delivery droughts. And I’ve never once paid my subscription?

For once, I am moved to use two words I despise to describe this moment: existential crisis.

My prized subscription, my only subscription to a printed thing – and I’m what? A glitch in the operation? A bug in the system? A ghost in the machine?

This is a computerized universe. We are a data-driven society. Marketers can tell when your stomach is growling or when you are leaning more Democrat — and swiftly rectify the course of things with ads uniquely chosen for your predicament. To say we are living our authentic lives today means that we are jogging beside a digital stream that knows our every need, predicts our every whim — and responds accordingly.

Usually, an alert arrives well before a subscription expires. Most offer automatic renewal if you choose to take no further action. My online newspaper subscriptions work like that. Convenient, timely, and seamless.

I am not the most conscientious bookkeeper when it comes to my bank accounts. Most times I don’t even think about it. The pension and Social Security come in and the bills get paid. If there is anything left, that is gravy.

I don’t recall an expiration or renewal notice from the New Yorker‘s data grinders. That would have gotten my attention.

Recently, The New Yorker did send me a rejection letter for an essay that I wrote for the magazine’s Shouts & Murmurs section. I sent it in about six months ago and they did warn me that the backlog was horrific. (Ie: “Don’t hold your breath.”) 

It was my first New Yorker rejection and didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it might. It wasn’t even an, um, existential crisis.

(Here is a copy of the essay: That time Guy Raz interviewed Satan on the NPR podcast “How I Built This.” Look, I know it is not New Yorker material. A guy’s gotta dream though, huh?)

I actually felt at the time that the humor in my essay was more topically in tune with David Egger’s McSweeney’s magazine. I had a momentary dream of submitting to both, having both simultaneously accept the article, setting off a fierce bidding war that resulted in publicity to all the right people and a three-book publishing contract with an embarrassingly frothy advance.

Instead, I thought, let’s give the New Yorker a chance. It was, after all, my first love, in a literary sense.

So, months after submitting, and forgetting like a furtive one-night stand, I found out that I wasn’t ghosted. I was rejected.

In fact, it felt pretty good. How many people can say they got turned down by The New Yorker

Real answer: Lots. And often. 

Getting published follows the same rules as winning the lottery. You have to buy a ticket to win. And most likely, you’ll need to buy lots and lots of tickets before you get a winner. 

Many writers are rejected dozens of times before a submission is accepted for publication. The magazine is that good. Cartoonists have it even worse. They can be rejected 30 or 50 times before making it into the magazine, although I believe the cartoon department is set up to more quickly reject a submission than other sections of the magazine.

I don’t really think I’m New Yorker material as a writer but you never know.

The trouble is, I’m in the Grandma Moses phase of my literary life. (Look it up, kids.) I don’t know how much is left in the tank and how much of it is worthy of rejection by prestige publications.

By now you might be thinking, “This is all well and good, Bob, but I think you are avoiding the existential crisis that initiated this essay.”

And you are right.

And I don’t know what to do.

I feel like I should submit this to “The Ethicist” column in the Sunday New York Times.

But wait. I’d better check and see if my NYT subscription is up to date.

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