So let me start somewhere near the beginning…  I was sitting on a bench in O’Hare Airport waiting for the Aer Lingus counter to open.  As they only have one flight per day, they are not open until a couple of hours before the flight leaves.  I took this opportunity to get to know a few people.  A tall, lanky man sauntered over to me and, in a strong Kentucky accent, gave the flight crew an imaginary dressing down.  His disgust was mostly aimed at the fact that he wanted a greasy meal and a shot of whiskey.  After he was satisfied with the way he handled the flight crew (from a safe distance) he introduced himself.  He was Tony and he was a self made man who ran a business that could not survive without him at the helm.  They missed him dearly when he was gone but Tony likes to travel. So every six weeks Tony takes a four or five day weekend and goes somewhere new.  This weekend he chose Dublin.
While me and Tony were talking we met a sweet old couple from Scotland who have lived in America for some time now. They were heading back to their home land for an unfortunate event in the family.  I found the relatively cheery attitude they maintained in this time of trouble to be an inspiring show of strength.  They urged me to visit their native Scotland. They insisted that it would be more beautiful than anything I had seen.  Of course, this elicited a response from a little old lady from Northern Ireland who was sitting to my other side.  What the couple had said about Edinburgh she insisted was true of Belfast.  I thought about how strange it was that all these people were so intertwined.  I thought about how all of us ended up in the same place at the same time but for very different reasons.  I thought that coincidences like this are worth taking note of.
The time at O’Hare past quickly and soon I was on the plane, sitting next to the only two empty seats on the flight.  We were served beverages and a meal.  I fell asleep some point after that and when I woke up we were twenty minutes outside Dublin.  As we descended over the port I watched the sun cast every shade that it could muster across the open water.  The lofty clouds soaked up the purples, yellows and reds, then shot them back all over the sky in a magnificent burst of wonder.
As I stepped off the plane and headed towards customs I felt a comfort in knowing that I had done this before.  The Customs officials were right where I had left them nearly a year ago.  Everything looked the same.  I walked out of the airport and headed for the bus, which also seemed to have sat there waiting for me for the last year.  I appreciated this because it is probably the only time I will see something familiar for a while.
After the ride into town I went to the hostel to drop off my bags.  They told me I could check in at two.  That left me just enough time to take a four hour walk around Dublin.  I didn’t want to see anything impressive yet. I was still a little jet lagged and wanted to get some rest before I started the adventuring.  Of course, I find it nearly (or maybe totally) impossible not to find things that really get me going.
The walk really began ten or fifteen minutes after I took my first step.  I found myself standing still on the sidewalk. Everyone was passing me by but I was frozen in place.  There was a smell in the air.  I couldn’t escape it.  I didn’t want to. I just wanted to breath it in.  I stood in front of a little flower shop a few blocks from the river and just breathed.  It wasn’t until I thought to myself, “I am stopped.  I have stopped to smell the flowers,” that this trip really began.
My trance-like state was broken when a man came over to talk to me.  He was wearing beat clothes and telling beat stories.  He was having a rough go of it and wanted some money for breakfast.  I couldn’t help him with that. Instead, I gave the granola bars I had in my pocket and wished him good luck.
Then another smell wafted my way.  This one was not so pleasant as the hydrangeas and chrysanthemums from before.  It was fish and it smelled very strong.  I was not interested in it so I continued zigzagging the streets of Dublin.  As I turned the corner the odor came back stronger than before.  I looked down the street and saw a farmer’s market.  It was full of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices and fish.  Whole fish.  Boxes of them and buckets of them.  Fish.  Fish.  Fish.  I picked up an apple and turned away from the fishy farmer’s market.
I wasn’t more than a couple blocks away when I spotted a pet store and thought about another animal:  My buddy.  My boy.  My Porkchop.  I couldn’t see him but I thought that maybe seeing some other animals would help ease the pains of separation.  I went into Shauna’s Pet Shop and heard some noise in the basement.  All of a sudden there were four pairs of eyes watching me from the bottom of the stairs.  Three were human and one was not.  I walked down the stairs and introduced myself.  First, I said hello to the fine Irish folks.  Then, I hesitantly put out my hand and greeted the eight foot boa constrictor that seemed to occupy the entire basement.  My slithering acquaintance had come into the shop because her skin had not shed properly and needed some assistance.  So after they pulled the rest of the snake’s old hide off it looked like a snake wearing a brand new suit (a snakeskin suit).  Also, it might be my imagination but I think it looked hungry.  Anyway, we talked and then packed up the snake in a burlap sack and a suitcase.  I thanked Shauna and friends for the chance to see an Irish snake and took my leave.

                                                                                                                                                By this time it was getting close to check in time so I went over to the River Liffey and followed it towards my hostel. That’s when I looked up and saw that the Dublin Convention Center had crashed through a neighboring building.  Ok, that’s not exactly what happened but I sure thought it did.  I cannot help but think the architects involved in creating this unique design did it, in part, to make tourists think exactly what I thought.  To them I say, “Kudos. Well done.” Upon closer inspection the leaning glass building is much more than a temporary novelty.  The glass cylinder in the center is bolstered by two heavyweight structures, one on each side. In the afternoon sunlight the glass twinkles and at times it appears that there is a halo of sunshine forming between the Convention Center and the River Liffey.  Of course, I may have just stared at the sun for too long but it was too magnificent to turn away.

This trip has begun as well as I could have hoped.   Already I have met some good people (and a snake), seen some good things and had a good time.  Well friends, adventures are fun but I think I will relax for the rest of the day and make my plans for the coming week’s escapades.

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