Some bars. M. O’Brien’s is full of men in blue blazers and a few office-dressed women who must have been emitted by a convention. Someone asks for non-alcoholic beer and is told no. Otherwise there’s a lot of laughter and back-slapping.
—Everyone from Tipperary is like that!
—Jesus fuckin A!
—Jesus fuckin Christ!
—Who the fuck are you!
They are all very courteous when I need to squeeze around a corner. I help one of them find his coat which has fallen from the rack.
The Bleeding Horse would not have been a good place to come with others, given that we’re all at the stodgy age where you want to hear the other half of a conversation; but it was a fine spot to get a pint, absorb the din and write in my notebook with the private smile of a man getting old. Nothing comes through the cranked sound system but the rhythm section; at this volume, a half-step rise in the Pro Tools-chopped bassline sounds like—I was going to say the chariot of Ares, but that’s R.’s comic book talking again. People do order a lot of Guinness, also a lot of Coors Light, which just like the Guinness comes in special branded glasses.
We are staying off Clanbrassil Street, which seems to have been an immigrant neighborhood a very long time. 150 years ago it was the Jewish quarter, which is why there’s a plaque around the corner marking Leopold Bloom’s fictional birthplace. Now it has halal meat, saris, the Vietnamese coffee shop, the late-night joint run by Nepalese folks that has expanded to Japanese and Thai—which is to say, a comfort medley of all our favorite Berkeley joints. If I lived here I would pop in for take-away every night.
If I lived here a lot of things would be different. Strange to come to a country whose modern state was formed in such an explicitly nationalist project—it’s not like other parts of Europe I’ve known, though I think the concocted American version often startles visitors to the US. One of the commonplaces I like about Finnegans Wake is that it’s trying to assert a polyglot Ireland as a counterweight, because nothing is just itself. HCE seems to be both Protestant and allied to the Vikings who founded the city; and to England as a middle term, but not always.
The pillar from which Nelson was dynamited in the sixties is now an abstract steel spire. The statue of Joyce strolls toward it. Someone had laid down a banana peel for him to slip on.