So far, I’ve been across the pond to visit Ireland 10 times. Halfway through the first trip I knew there was a book in it. I hope you agree. This manuscript covers my first two Irish sojourns. Uncharacteristically, I scribbled a freewheeling diary during these adventures, giving me rich source material and accounting for the occasionally embarrassing admission or two. The first segment exhaustively covers the events, impressions and feelings of 17 quick but heavenly days in the early autumn of 1993, falling in love with the country and my traveling companion at the same time. Heavenly! The second segment recounts the highlights of an entire summer spent fruitfully immersing myself in the Irish culture. These 3 miraculous months of 1994 encompassed the beginnings of my real Irish education. I hope it’s fun to read. It was fun to live. Life is cool. I suggest life.
– Summer, 1993 –
– Belfast, Northern Ireland –
. That evening, I went to see the early show of the British comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was a fun movie, witty, clever, if marred at the end by layers of sloppy cliché, but the film made me feel awkwardly emotional nonetheless. It dealt with a close-knit group of terminally-single friends, (Familiar?), who lose one of their own unexpectedly, (Too familiar.), highlighting the main theme about the precious sanctity of Love, how hard it is to make it work and how easy it can slip tragically between one’s fingers. (MUCH too familiar!) The cumulative emotional effect made me physically ache for my darling, engendering reckless fantasies of an immediate proposal and marriage upon my return.
. My new Alaskan mate Willow was supposed to call between 10:00 and 10:30, for our late drink. When he hadn’t called or arrived by 11 o’clock I was fed up, so leaving my excuses with the hostel manager, I went upstairs for the night. Preparing for bed, I sat in the window-frame of my room to contemplate the Belfast cityscape, as I often did- a calming rite before settling down for the night.
. On this occasion, I looked down into the street to see a convoy of four armored vehicles rumble up the street and park directly in front of the hostel! This was worrisome. Was there a dark, unseen reason for their presence? (A BOMB SCARE perhaps- or something equally serious?) The soldiers never stopped turning their heads and scanning for trouble on the streets surrounding them, but I noticed they never looked up in my direction, which was odd, because I was sitting and observing them from the most obvious perch for a sniper. In the emotional state that still lingered from the movie, their presence filled me with revulsion. “Fuckin’ screws!”, I muttered under my breath, to no one. I wanted to lean out of the window and shout: “British colonialists out of Ireland!”, but I hadn’t drank near enough alcohol to lose all sense of good judgment, so I bit my lip and leaned into the shadows.
. My silent watch continued, until I saw one of them, a female officer in bulky flack-jacket and comically oversized helmet, crossing the street towards the hostel, carrying what appeared to be a big, grease-soaked bag of Indian deep-fry. Approaching her comrades, she chirped: “Heads up! Dinner is served!”, boarding one of the vehicles as the convoy clattered off to terrorize the Catholic neighborhoods…
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