Determined to take on the culture of Dublin despite the rain
After landing in Dublin with the hopes of uncovering its arts and literary scene, ‘Gaelic Girl’ Grace is shocked to learn some randy, crude and colorful expressions for Dublin’s beloved Celtic music, mythology and folklore found a way into my heart from a very young age.
You see, I was brought up in a wonderfully Irish American home that embraced our heritage and, as you can imagine, (or maybe you can’t), Enya was always playing in our car and our home was filled with books from great Irish writers.
You would think that life on the Pacific Coast would be vastly different from Ireland. However, when I arrived in Dublin and stepped out into a dreary, drizzly day, I realized they may have more in common than I had originally thought!
Although I was bleary-eyed with jetlag, I was also filled with excitement, like a child on Christmas morning. So, I decided, day one - minute one, to begin exploring my new hometown of Dublin to see just how inspiring this place has been for so many talented artists, poets and musicians. (I am here for the intellectual adventure of a lifetime and nothing, not even a little rain, is going to stop me!)
Dublin has long held a fascination with me ever since I first heard Sinead O’Connor belt out her version of ‘Molly Malone’. If you haven’t heard of it dear readers, you have to check it out - incredibly beautiful.
Intrigued by this mysterious lady that inspired such a widely popular tune, I headed to Grafton Street to check out the statue built in her honor. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing trip. Not the statue itself, although that is quite the eye opener, but because a randy Dubliner resting against her bronze bosom and smoking a cigarette, informed me that the statue was nicknamed ‘The Tart with the Cart’.
Apparently, this fair maiden was a hawker by day and a prostitute by night! My childhood innocence was shattered!
This (ahem) gentleman, clearly delighted, that he had just destroyed my first morning in Dublin, and laughing heartily at my naiveté, proceeded to tell me why. I listened intently as he told me that Montgomery Street was once the biggest red-light district in Europe with an estimated 1600 prostitutes.
What?! This God fearing, Catholic cradling, land of saints and scholars had a bigger red-light district than Amsterdam? I had heard enough! I wasn’t about to let some filthy old man getting sheer delight at my shock ruin any more perfect ideals I had of Dublin.
Feeling a little bit uneasy after that revelation, I decided to visit one of my favorite Irish authors, James Joyce. Now there’s a true Dubliner if ever there was one. He was quoted after Ulysses was published as saying “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”
Strolling up to his statue on North Earl Street, in awe of this great man who is known worldwide to be one of the most influential writers of all time, I am struck by all those who merely pass by in a nonchalant manner.
'The Prick with the Stick'
Now I don’t know what it is about you Irish people, but you just love to shock us tourists. I swear this as true as the sky in Dublin is a constant grey since I’ve been here. I asked two passers-by if they could tell me anything about the statue that was erected of Joyce and without missing a beat, both responded with “Ah pet, you mean the ‘Prick with the stick’?”
How could you Dubliners be so callous with your comments about a man who gave you Finnegan’s Wake and the collection of The Dubliners?
And what about Oscar Wilde?
Parting with some euros to splash out on a nice lunch in Davy Byrne’s, a pub well known on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, I was eager to sit and chat with some other intellectuals who are on the same mission as I.
One German tourist and I exchanged a few words about the great writers of Ireland while enjoying our food, and I pointed out to him all of the ‘terrible names’ given to our heroes. He informed me that he, too, was saddened to hear that Dubliners have enjoyed using slang to poke fun at those that helped put Ireland on the literary map.
Overhearing our conversation, the barmaid interrupted our discussion to tell us “Relax, it’s only a bit of fun! Sure Dubliners are well-known for their quick wit - it’s part of our charm.”
'Stiletto in the Ghetto'
Again, out to shock us, she added “Sure even that Oscar Wilde fella is known as the ‘Queer with the Leer’ and the lovely new ‘Spire’ they put up on O’Connell Street? That’s the Stiletto in the Ghetto!” Again, she got great pleasure out of seeing our eyebrows raised to our hairline.
Bidding farewell to my fellow German literary companion, I slowly headed back to my new abode to meet my fellow roommates. Would they be as inquisitive as I and support my ‘academic agenda’ in Dublin?
Would we walk Sandymount Strand together one day, reciting the words of Joyce’s literary alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, and visit the Famine Museum in Strokestown the next? I couldn’t wait to meet them. They’d obviously be just like me. I mean, why else would they be here? --------------------- READ MORE: Read more stories from the Gaelic Girls on IrishCentral
When I arrived, the place was warm and buzzing with excitement. The receptionist, a plump middle-aged woman showed me to my room and introduced me to my fellow Gaelic Girls – Maggie and Catelyn.
Maggie was talking a mile-a-minute and excitedly going room to room to see who would join her for a session of day drinking. (OK, so she didn’t exactly ask me, but I would have politely declined anyway!) It’s 2:00 in the afternoon? What kind of a lush is she?
Catelyn seemed busy organizing her clothes in the only closet we have. (Apparently Maggie and I will live out of our suitcases?!) Realizing that the jet lag had finally caught up with me, I decided it was time for a nap. As I lay my head against the pillow, I thought about my first day in Dublin and how much I had learned in such a short time. My head was filled with more Dublin sayings and quotes than I could remember.
‘The Floozie in the Jacuzzi’
Anna Livia, a statue they had erected around the time of the Millennium to represent the river Liffey was named , and the sculptor himself even encouraged it! Thomas Davis, a poet from the Young Ireland movement, has a statue that bears the name ‘Frankenstein’ because his body is distorted. The list goes on and on.
Dublin has been linked with the phrase ‘Dirty old town’ from the old song of that title made famous by The Dubliners, but after my encounter with the lewd and smutty labels given to those historic and monumental figures, I am now inclined to say it’s more like ‘Dirty Old Dubliners’!