The child bride and I arrived in Ireland at about 9 a.m. local time Wednesday. Dublin's airport has a certain feel to it that makes it seem as if it is a throwback to the Soviet era. In the way that Irish pubs are built in Ireland and then shipped around the world to be assembled elsewhere, Dublin's airport appears to have been shipped from the Ukraine.
They say that queuing (aka standing in line for things) is one of the great British pastimes, so perhaps out of spite the Irish offer nothing even remotely resembling a queue to get through customs. It's just a multitude of people, most of them desperate to be released so they can buy leprechaun figurines.
Before I go any further, I want to clear up something from a conversation that would take place a few days later. When the child bride said aloud in a pub in Dublin that she thought Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, she got exactly the sort of response one would expect; she was soundly corrected as I nervously made note of the fact that the room we were in had only one exit. She never got a chance to explain that, yes, she knows Ireland is not British, but that she thought "United Kingdom" was a charmingly antiquated phrase that is synonymous with "British Isles."
And apparently, she is not the only one to be unclear on what larger groups Ireland fit into. As we stood in the mob waiting to get through customs, a group of pre-teen Irish boys stood in front of us and argued over whether they could go through the area marked for members of the European Union.
"Ireland isn't in Europe, you ponce," one of them said.
We took a bus into Dublin, and it was there that I first encountered what would be a common theme for the trip: if someone loudly bumbles into the room (or bus) in Dublin, they are almost certain to have an American or English accent. The full 30-minute trip into city center consisted of my listening to some low-level manager from Woking calling the three or four people that she was in charge of and asking them unnecessary questions.
Another common theme was my getting lost. Within seconds of getting off the bus, I had no idea where we were. I was forced to stop every 20 feet and look at my map while Rachel communicated telepathically to the whole of Ireland that I was an idiot. If you look at a map, we walked slightly less than 900 yards down what is effectively one street. But since the street changes names four times -- Suffolk, Nassau, Leinster, Clare -- and I had not slept in about 24 hours, my navigational skills were soundly defeated.
We ate lunch at Gallagher's Boxty House in Temple Bar, which marked the single success for my tourist guidebook. Shortly before I left for Dublin, my dad gave me Fodor's "Dublin's 25 Best." With the exception of its suggestion to eat at Gallagher's, a better title would have been "How to Be Disappointed in Dublin."
The food was delicious (as it should be for $70 -- Dublin is an expensive fucking city), and with food finally in our bellies, the child bride and I found it hard to stay awake as we sat at our table. We went back to our hotel and, despite everything that they tell you about adjusting to the time difference, took a three-hour nap. It took me an additional hour to fully wake up and I felt as if I had been hit by some sort of massive Nerf semi-truck -- I didn't hurt but I was completely disoriented. And my bowels hated me.
We walked to a chemists and got to live a sort of comedy sketch in my being forced to tell the chemist exactly what was wrong with me. Very little medication -- at this chemists, anyway -- is available over the counter, so rather than simply finding Immodium on the shelf at Walgreens and purchasing it camouflaged among conditioner, gummy bears and a copy of Time, I instead had to stand a counter and tell an attractive woman that I had the runs.
ME: "I need some, uh, stomach medicine."
ATTRACTIVE IRISH FEMALE CHEMIST: "Certainly, what sort of stomach medicine?"
ME: "Uhm, well, I just flew in from the U.S., so I'm just a little off."
HER: "Right. Something for motion sickness?"
ME: "No. Not. Like. I have to, you know, go frequently?"
ME: "I, oh, hell, I have a bit of diarrhea."
HER: "I'm sorry, you were mumbling."
HER: "Oh, diarrhea. No problem. We've got this and this."
ME: "Uhm, that one I guess."
HER: "You're pointing, but I can't see to which. Do you have cramps with your diarrhea?"
HER: "You're mumbling again."
ME: "No. I'll... I'll take that box you've got in your right hand. Please let me leave."
I was back to something resembling normal by the time the child bride and I went out for the evening to a social event connected to the conference she was attending.
Public health nutrition is not really a male-dominated profession it seems, and I found myself as one of only four men in the room -- all of us husbands. I didn't talk to them because I was too busy sitting in stunned silence at the fact that the Guinness in Dublin does not taste different than the Guinness in St. Paul. All our grown lives we have been told that Ireland, Dublin specifically, is a Valhalla of Guinness, but it simply isn't true. I had traveled 3,728 miles to drink a pint of Guinness exactly the same as the one I could get at The Liffey. It was like learning that Santa Claus isn't real. It was like getting Kiera Knightley naked and discovering that she has an enormous tattoo celebrating the Bay City Rollers on her lower back. Sure, I still celebrate Christmas, I would still participate in a bit of "how's your father" with Kiera, and I still drank four pints of Guinness, but a certain innocence was lost. I hoped against hope that just the pub in question, The Gingerman, was to blame.
The evening finished with the child bride and me at a table with a young woman from Indiana, a woman from Adelaide, Australia, a San Diego-raised Mexican who lives in Sweden, a woman who lives in Malawi, and a Denver-raised Lebanese Muslim who was blasted on white wine.