My second of 10 sojourns to Ireland was a summer-long storytelling tour of the island that was certainly one of the highlights of my life. I kept copious journals recording my remarkable experiences. When I read them in 1996, I realized there was a book in it. So I wrote one. Took about a year and a half, but it was time well spent. I am a much better writer as a result, and let’s face it: anyone can begin writing a book. It’s an achievement to FINISH writing a book. I never attempted to publish, as travel writing is like milk: it has an expiration date. The Ireland I describe in this book no longer exists. Little more than a decade later, it is almost an historical document. But it’s good. I like it. It’s fun to read. That is enough. It would be even better if people would read it. Books like having readers. It makes them happy.
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. After everyone had gone their separate ways for the day, I stopped into the downtown Burger King to sample their surprisingly tasty new vegetarian offering. The restaurant was so well-equipped with TV monitors, they were inescapable, and could be viewed from any angle in the room. Euro-MTV pulsated through the restaurant, in a colorful swirl of psychedelic techno-dance grooves, computer-generated FX and sexy dancers. Our ‘merican version seemed downright conservative by comparison. (Music is ever-present throughout Ireland. The radio is always playing. Everyone is always singing and humming. Rock videos were playing so loudly on a monitor in the bank where I exchanged my currency, that I had to shout at the teller to be heard above the soulful wail of Lenny Kravitz!) While munching my second Spicy Bean Burger, I decided to take in a movie at Belfast’s swank new mega-cinema, right next door to the upscale Burger King.
. The theatre was palatial in scope. Even the massive lobby, with it’s impressive row of glass doors did not reveal the enormity of the complex within. Multiplexes in the U.S. tend to be cramped boxes with tiny screens, carved out of what should have been a single theater, but each of these auditoriums was big enough to contain several U.S. miniplexes! The screen was opulently draped in plush velveteen curtains and cross-lit with colored lights to dramatic effect. Huge seats cradled the filmgoer like a baby, with enough leg room between rows to stretch out and take a nap, making one feel pampered as a millionaire.
. This was all great, but soon I discovered, to my infinite displeasure- that before each feature, Irish cinemas run a seemingly endless barrage of overwhelmingly obnoxious commercials- an outrage I like to think would never be tolerated stateside. I mean, I don’t have a lot of money. Movies are expensive. I pay my hard-earned cash to go to the movies to get away from the exasperating, ever-present commercial assaults of TV and the rest of the capitalist world I live in- and just to make the whole situation utterly unbearable- these commercials are played with the volume unbelievably, brain-numbingly, ear-splittingly, head-ache inducingly LOUD! It was surreal horror. I had to laugh and make a mad dash for the lobby, where I waited for the cruelty to end. I could only pray that the movie itself wasn’t played at the same homicidal roar. It was an amazement to me, that people would willingly pay £5 to sit there for over twenty minutes and endure such audio abuse. The implications were frightening. Apparently the advertisers were of the mistaken belief that the more loudly we heard their adverts, the more likely we were to buy something- making it clear they take us for absolute simpletons.
. Thankfully, as soon as the studio logo hit the screen, the volume went down to a reasonable level and I could safely reclaim my seat without endangering my hearing, and Four Weddings and a Funeral was a lot of fun… once my ears stopped ringing.
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