It took me a bit longer to warm up to Dublin than the love-at-first sight I experienced in Cork. It’s the only ship’s tour that we booked on this cruise, and I was reminded why we don’t do that as much anymore. It wasn’t Dublin that bothered me so much — it was the whole “ship’s tour” aspect that bugged me.
The tour guide was knowledgeable enough, but it quickly seemed that she was a shill for Guinness. I swear, all we heard was Guinness-this, and Guinness-that; why, she even claimed for Guinness the responsibility of turning the Irish into a bunch o’ drunks.
Come now, lassie, we Irish ha’ bin good drinkers long before Arthur Guinness came along, thank you very much. To be honest, when I drank, I never even cared much for Guinness Stout. I did like me a dark beer, but Guinness was to me kind of like Starbucks has become for drinking coffee. One can do better than that — more hype than content, as far as I’m concerned.
We’d taken the Dublin highlights and river boat tour. The problem with the highlights tour was, it was just that — they tried cramming so much into a bus ride about town, there was barely time to take any of it in.
The boat tour part of it was much better, though you were in an enclosed boat with lots of windows, but no air flow, so it was stuffy as all get-out. But, much better for getting to see and feel the sense of Dublin, from the perspective of the river.
We went back to the ship, had lunch, then I went off on my own to roam about town. I always do this, and this time, I did so with the intention of discovering what it is about Dublin that is supposed to be so special. However, I was fine with just having a walk-about, even if there was nothing more to discover.
A facebook post from my family historian extraordinaire oldest brother Jim reminded me that Great Great Grandfather Mark Bridgeman had been a furniture refinisher in Dublin. That helped.
I imagined him living and working here, easy to imagine the furniture refinishing aspect of it since Dad got his own little business of furniture repair and refinishing going after retiring from his job as an insurance adjuster manager with the Travelers.
In fact, one summer, right after I met Kathy, I was working in a machine shop making robotic machines for the space lab, right down the street from Mom and Dad’s place, living with them temporarily, when a heavy, twenty foot long pipe fell on my hand and damn near severed my right ring finger off.
I was on workers comp for about six weeks waiting for that finger to heal, with lots of time on my hands, and wound up helping Dad, as best I could with one hand, the work really being just a good excuse to hang out with him, something I’d never really cared to do much before then, but that summer began a turning point in our relationship.
He’d handed on to me some of the hard-earned skills he’d picked up along the way, refinishing furniture, and helped me to refinish a fine little rocker that we still have, that he thought Kathy might like to sit in and rock if she ever got pregnant, which she did, and did. We still have that rocker, and it still reminds me of that summer with Dad.
That helped me to feel connected to another ancestor, which helped me to feel more of a connection with Dublin. As I roamed the streets and parks of the old town, more of it got into my blood, as it slowly grew on me. I started to get it.
As I often do, whilst roaming a strange new town on my own, I lost my bearings and found myself unsure of which way was back to the bus to get me back to the ship.
On our tour that morning the tour guide had told us to simply look for the statue of Oscar Wilde, and there the shuttle would be picking ship’s passengers up every 15 minutes to go back. When I’d gone back on the ship with Kathy earlier, over lunch she’d asked me, “Whose statue will you be looking for to get back to the ship?”
“Uh, Jonathan Swift’s?”
She knows me. So, I knew to be looking for Oscar. The tour guide had said, “if you get lost, just ask anyone for the Oscar Wilde statue, they’ll know how to get there.”
So there I was, having purchased my obligatory two t-shirts, five boxes of the wrong kind of chocolates for Kathy’s staffs (as well as some for me), a belt, a nice piece of Irish jewelry for my lady, and having had my fill of Dublin for one day, and I had no idea which way was back. So, I stopped for a cup of coffee, and they had no idea where Oscar Wilde’s statue was. Of course they didn’t. That tour guide — well, don’t get me started on her.
I asked a lady on the street, and she said, “Oh, you want Meridien Square. It’s straight down that street, and then turn left.” She didn’t say where to turn left, and I walked a few blocks too far. Another nice lady said, “Just go up there, and turn right.” I guess which right was right, and got it right.
So, Meridien Square is this huge park that takes up several city blocks in each direction, and I apparently came to it from the exact opposite end as Oscar’s statue. I walked all over that park looking for Oscar, and of course, no one knew where it might be. But, I persisted, and eventually found him, and sure enough, just across the street was my shuttle back.
Something about getting lost in Dublin had made me feel even more at home there. As I rode the shuttle back, past the Liffey River, alongside of which were depicted statues of folks dragging their starved Irish arses from famine-stricken Dublin to a “coffin ship” to take them to England or America, I thought to myself, “I am a Dubliner”. ’Tis in my blood, and my heritage, and I again enjoyed making a connection with that part of me that has been away from home for just a little over 63 years. I understood why they all left and never looked back, as they began a new life in America — and I felt most grateful that this distant son of a son of a son, was able to come back, and remember.