Hey friends,

I am about to share with you my first travel experience.  This is my adventure from Dublin, Ireland on May 11, 2011.  It was the first time I had ever traveled outside the United States and it was the first time I ever wrote about traveling.  It was great looking back at this and I hope that my regular readers can appreciate the humor in this story.  Just think about the adventures I have had.  This is where they started.

-Jack

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05/11/2011

The sun was about to set on my first night in Dublin.  I walked up Talbot Street looking for a bite to eat.

There was a storefront for a One Euro Store, which is like an American Dollar Store.  Two bald men with wires running down the inside of their suit collars stood watch in front of a casino.  One store promised the “world’s lightest luggage.”    The window that I was interested in promised pizzas, burgers, and kebabs.  I ordered a slice of the meat special pizza and took a seat at the four person dine-in counter.  I started to think about what could happen over the next couple months but there were more possibilities than I had time for.  After all, the sun was about to set on my first night in Dublin.

So as I ate I thought about what had happened since I arrived in Dublin this morning.  After passing through customs and circling the airport parking lot twice I got on a bus.  The driver asked me what I was looking for and I was not sure what to tell him.  I knew the name of my hostel but that was probably not what he was looking for.  I remembered that the street started with a “G” and was in City Center.  I decided to leave off the first part.  “City Center,” I replied.

I sat in the back of the double decker bus waiting for our departure.  Two fellow American travelers boarded and sat next to me on the long bench seats.  The man had auburn dreadlocks and was either tan or dirty.  His clothes were tattered and layered.  He unloaded the small backpack off his chest and then heaved the much larger travel pack onto the seat.  I thought about how much more difficult it would be to travel with so much gear.

The woman had long brown hair atop a tiny frame.  She had her nose pierced on one side and her skin had the same oversunned or underkept look as the man.  Her hoodie hung over the top of her eyes and sagged from her bony shoulders.  They were both from San Francisco and had spent the winter traveling through Spain.  They had spent the previous summer traveling in northern Europe.  Dublin was their last stop before going home to California.

The couple was staying at a hostel on Gardiner Street.  I was also staying at a hostel on Gardiner Street.  We both got off the bus at The Spire.  I stayed with them until we got to Gardiner.  When I found my hostel  I checked in, dropped my bags, and went out onto the sidewalk.

I followed the buzz of activity to a mostly pedestrian road made of asphalt and red brick called Talbot Street.  I walked up the street and stopped where it crossed Gloucester Place.  With my back firmly against the wall I began opening my map of Dublin.  Before I had one fold unfolded a voice stopped me…

“What are ya lookin’ for?” the age-worn Irishman asked.

Once again this question had me stumped.  So I started talking with the old man.  He asked me if I ever boxed.  He thought I might be a relative of a fighter known as Kid Douglass.  “Aaaah! It’s the dimple.  You look just like him,” he insisted as he shadow boxed with me on the corner.  Suddenly he stopped his fists.  His back straightened.  His smile flattened.

Seconds later he was singing about me, my dimple, and Kid Douglass while waving his fists in the air again.  When he stopped again I asked where I could find something good to eat.  He motioned towards the building we were leaning against with his arm.  He took a few sideways steps towards the door while beckoning unsteadily with his head.

I followed my new friend, Noel, into Mother Kelly’s.  I took a seat at the counter near the front door.  I ordered at the bar and when the waitress brought out my meal she also brought out a complimentary pint of Guinness, which comes with lunch at Mother Kelly’s.  I sat eating my vegetable lo mein and trying to get Noel’s attention.  I looked across the room and he was sitting on the arm of a chair with one of his arms wrapped around a man seated in the chair and the other one waving furiously in the air.  He bawled and gyrated before finally hopping to his feet and circling back around the bar, stopping at each table.  When he reached me Noel burst into another round of “The Kid.”  I thanked him for his company and for helping me find good lo mein.  I gave him a pint of Guinness, which he carried from table to table, toasting,  until long after it was empty.

  Artist’s rendering of Noel.

After meeting Noel I walked back to my hostel to shower and get ready for my first night in Dublin.  The sun was about to set and I had just finished eating a slice of pizza in a kebab house on Talbot Street.  As I turned the first corner I entered an alley.  I came out on a street similar to Talbot on the other side of the alley.  I turned right towards The Spire and enjoyed the final seconds before the sunset.

Then I looked down onto the sidewalk.  The first thing I noticed was the blood.  There was a man in it.  He was holding a towel over his head.  He laid on the sidewalk, trying to hold himself upright with the aid of a garda officer.  A few witnesses stood around the man.  The rest of us walked around the garda’s car as we were instructed.  As I walked away I heard one of the witnesses say “I don’t know who he is but he’s been hanging out around this neighborhood all day.  I’ve seen him five or six times.”

I kept walking but suddenly the darkness and that street seemed threatening, intense, and violent.  Every step that I took away from my hostel took me further adrift in a dark, unknown place.  I needed to gather my thoughts and decide what to do.

I went back to my hostel.  The man at the desk was holding up a paper.  The headline read, “We’re Not Gay.”  This was the statement issued by the Irish pop duo that consists of identical twins named John and Edward.  The band’s name is Jedward.  The man at the front desk was furious about the article.  He did not care one bit about whether or not the twins in Jedward were gay.  That is what he was furious about.  The front page of the paper was entirely devoted to these two pop stars and, as he explained to me in full detail, they are “dreadful.”  I agreed politely and climbed the stairs back to my room.

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