Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ireland

Silk of the Kine, old Erin, woman of the sea - her green cheek in the ocean breeze. Only a short flight across the water and the butt of England to get to Dublin from Eindhoven. My colleague, Ed, and I rented a car there after dining on muffins at the airport. We drove, first dramatically and assuredly in the wrong direction, following the signs to Wexford only to find out that is due South and our mission was to head straight west to Galway, city of tribes. Stopped finally outside of all the construction - Dublin is metastasizing across the eastern shore - at a gas station where a gent in a fine brough told us in ten-times the necessary number of words precisely how to get back on track. Driving now into the hills, sun setting and darkness creeping in, the road - never straight and never veering far from a little town and the front doors of its bars with Guinness signs - finally takes us into Galway, down along the dark intimation of water and the docks with scrapyards and fishing boats all around, their nets curled into them like the paws of a cat under his sleeping body.


We had a conference where I presented a paper on the concepts of embedding and networking to the great consternation of the audience. Well respected philosophers in the field scolded me - "Well, this troubles me greatly..." "This is the same sort of thing that tripped up Tonnies, don't you know, Geminschaft, Gesellschaft...bother" Ah the natterings of philosophers, great brained men exhausted, tossed against thet shores of their own intellects, marooned - help! The most well-known hardly leaves the confines of his own hobbyhorse, and when he does so, only to point out how it is far superior to whatever it is that others are doing. But we did have great wine that evening at a restaurant on the waters a cab ride away (driving on the left, it still has me confused). We spoke of the pre-Socratics and I said, what really, must I know about Kant beyond the synthetic apriori and the concept of a self-legislating will curiously bound yet freed by the categorical imperative. "Yes...a good start indeed." Chew the fine halibut - ocean once teeming with them. Now...? Well, to the apocalypse, then! Tip the dark food of Guinness. Geez, I mean, maybe technology will save us after all. Warm thought to go along with the drink.







Cab ride back an international affair - a young Irishman - "You know what they say - if the Dutch ran Ireland they would feed the world, if the Irish ran the Netherlands they would drown." Good chuckle. Ed asks the cab driver the name of the first hunger striker to die. He can't remember the name. Comes running after us latter all in a huff - "Bobby Sands!" he yells cheerfully. Aweful thing that - smeared their own cells with their own feces...but they salvaged their dignity. What is dignity? That's a philosophic question - saved it for the next dinner. Now on to more serious drinking and the Irish jigs. They really do play that hyper fiddling music and bounce up and down as if tied to an invisible pole. Walked home late through the Spanish arch along the Corrib river wriggling in a hurry to the bay underneath all the swans - white stars on the black waters.

After the conference, I did some travelling in the area on my own. Day one I went to Inishmore, an Aran island in Galway Bay. Took a bus to another town from which to catch a ferry and met a woman from Rome who - honestly - writes the trivia questions for a popular Italian television quiz show. Said it is hard to find just the right questions. Socrates said love is the art of asking and answering questions. Boarded a boat - one of my favorite things to board- and scooted out to the island. Walk off and within five minutes I am on a mountain bike peddling in the faint ocean air along the open waters with Ireland hazy in the distance. Found my way out to cliffs on the West coast and sat for hours listening to seagulls and the crash of waves some 300 feet below in the azure and turquouise furious waters. Thought about home - just over that horizon. The island was lined with rocks, dug up to expose the poor soil for the crops and the sheep and arranged in walls that criss-crossed its entire area. Walked along the coast - could throw myself in - nervous to get too close to the edge. Sun was strong that day and I left sunburned. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.









Day two I took a bus tour through Connemara led by an Irish bus driver with a lilting voice that never stopped drizzling us with facts and tidbits about the area occassionally bursting forth into a storm of poetry. He was an artist and I did not know that leading lazy tourists was an art to master. Small lakes wound round hills turning to mountains covered with blanket bog in a kaleidoscope of greens cropped neatly by bleating sheepies (black faces and white bodies). We saw Kylemore Abbey and the whole area was sparsely populated - reminded me of the Alaskan tundra. Saw the penny walls built during the potato famine and the only Irish fjord.






Day three hung out in Galway while a massive storm darkened the sky, its winds ripping umbrellas. Ducked into a little coffee shop and spoke with a native Galwegian who loves to climb mountians all over the world. The waitress was from Vancouver. Walked the cobbly streets and looked in the storefronts. Saw a place where a tribal leader hanged his own thieving son - justice is treating likes alike...but is family like anyone else? Where are my philosopher friends? Would my Dad, the venerable Judge, do the same? Decided against one last Guinness. That night I ate at the Supermacs (Ireland's version of a fastfood joint). Hardly feel like dining slowly when you are alone. The next day I briefly stopped in Dublin and saw a statue of James Joyce - "Dublin. I have so much to learn." Old lugi of the industrial revolution.

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