Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dublin (2) 22.6.1998: Gay Liberation and Purgatorial Airports

Later, same day, en route from Brussels to Hamburg: enjoying a huge Belgium Weissbier (Hoegaarden) with cheese cubes, salami, and mustard. Aer Lingus caused us to miss our connection to Hamburg, and we must now wait four hours for a connecting flight.

Last days in Ireland: on the evening of my Mullinavat pilgrimage, we took John and Maura to dinner in Kilkenny, to a pub-restaurant they like. It was a bit garish—as they said, a mishmash of styles—with olde worlde wood nooks and very new (and tawdry) skylights of stained glass. We sat beneath one of these at a marble table with a red velvet sofa on one side.

I had the place’s seafood platter, and Steve a lamb dish. Service was well-intentioned but appalling, as often seems to happen in Ireland. Lots of beefy preening middle-class Irish men, and young couples with hard-looking women and seedy-looking men. A beer in the bar afterwards, as we waited for an ale tasting that had been advertised but never materialized, and then home to bed.

Next day to Dublin to meet Chuck. A vexatious day, with the usual travel delays and then trouble finding our lodging on Eglinton Rd. A quick dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant and then to the Abbey Theater for “St. Joan,” first time it’s been staged at the Abbey since 1972.

It was a good performance, if uninspired: a preview performance, since it opens only this week, to a full house. The playbill speaks of the director’s sense that, as nationalism reasserts itself around the world, with attendant right-wing movements, the play reminds us of the absurdity of the nationalist-driven war, and of the need to be vigilant. Speaks also of Shaw’s fascination with suffragettes, and how male power cliques break powerful women, then reassemble them as controllable icons.

Then to a gay bar where we met Chuck’s friend Brian, who had gotten the rooms for us. Should say that on the way up from Piltown, we listened to a radio program re: gay pride week in Ireland, which said that the nation has begun to change in fundamental ways re: this issue.

E.g., in the Cork St. Pat’s day parade last year, the gay float won best prize—this at a time when gays and lesbians trying to march in New York’s parade are arrested, with court support.

The pub was absolutely packed—smoky, sweaty, full of writhing bodies, including, behind us, two men kissing passionately and fondling each other’s privates, and two men and two women dancing, as one of the men lowered his pants. Eight years ago when we were in Dublin, Steve and I called a gay information line to ask what there was to do, and were told there was a grimy and dispiriting bar—a single one. Not being familiar with the bar scene, we didn’t go—information only.

Now everything’s wide open. The taxi driver who took us home told Steve that, in the past five years, Dublin has changed more than in the previous twenty.

But are things changing according to an American model of gay liberation? The friends accompanying Chuck’s friend Brian were snobby to us, as if full of American attitude, since we’re not young/beautiful/politically correct/fashionable.

Sunday, yesterday, a whirlwind tour of Dublin. We began with Mother Redcap’s market beside Christ Church, where we met an interesting photographer from Philadelphia, now living in Ireland, who photographs details from tombstones and then reassembles them in interesting patterns. We bought one for Charlotte.

Then on to the obligatory visit to the Book of Kells, now to be approached through exhibits sponsored by some big corporation. The place was packed by multilingual hordes. I somehow ended up in a French tour led by an English speaker speaking very low, very precise French of which I understood every word.

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European airports: the search for a pool of air conditioning in summer, the busy polyglot crowds. When we waited in line to change our ticket in Brussells, two black women behind us who believed others had pushed ahead of them began to shout and carry on, in English. The counter man listened in stony silence, saying he was there only to help. In front of us, a very smelly crazy woman, who had pushed ahead of us, stood in a dingy Batik dress out of the sixties, her hair in a shamrock green elastic band. It was long, dirty, dyed blond.

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