A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1: May(nooth) the Road Rise to Meet

in which your author lights a fire under his wanton, atrophying urge to travel

semi-overcast 75 °F

It’s been so long – too long – since I’ve launched myself out into the world and tried to write about it. When last I wrote in this blog I was wrapping up a trip through Ireland and Edinburgh with my brother and good friends in January 2014; I’ve only traveled domestically since then. And when I was forwarded a notice about a conference opportunity in Maynooth, Ireland – where I presently tap away ensconced at a friendly, sunny café – I thought applying and attending might give me a decent reason to get back out there and to see some old friends. And here I am!

The trip began with some rough timing issues, having missed my initial flight (due to an unfortunate combination of my leaving too late and horrific traffic patterns outside Logan Airport; it took almost 90 minutes to drive 1.5 miles), I was rerouted to Charlotte, NC the next day where I was granted juuuust enough time to leave the airport for a couple hours. My friend Kristin picked me up and provided a mini-tour featuring a terrific brewery with delicious food and a delightful 24-hour French bakery with facsimiles of famous paintings on the wall. (Well played, Charlotte.)


Flying on an overnight to Dublin, I’m dismayed to find out my flight is delayed two hours, which causes me to miss my 9:30am speaking slot at Maynooth University. I’m able to finagle an internet signal, send a message indicating my delay, and they end up shifting me slightly forward in the day, so not a big deal. The flight is unremarkable – everyone’s reading newspapers bleating about that atrocious RNC our nation just endured – I spend a good deal of it catching up on some academic writing while listening to Bach and sleep maybe two hours. Right before I get to customs, a notification comes through on my phone that Hillary Clinton has picked Tim Kaine as her VP – oddly, I was in Ireland when Barack Obama announced Joe Biden (“my guy”) on my first trip here in 2008. #ImWIthThem, obviously. OBVIOUSLY.

I rent a car – so far, so good, Sixt, who doesn’t have enough automatics and therefore upgrades me to a BMW – and after a slight adjust to the “driving on the wrong side of the car and road” thing, I arrive at Maynooth University, an impressive place. I sit through a paper on Breaking Bad and after a short break, give mine. The delivery goes well, methinks – there’s only about 15 people in the room but I have so much travel adrenaline and after giving this paper at UNC-Asheville and Harvard over the past two years I fly through things confidently. Everyone is pleasant and I hear a few interesting papers (including a talk on keynote from a woman who teaches at Tufts, right in my backyard!) but after being up for over 24 hours with hardly any sleep I’m clearly the least attentive person in the room. I say my farewells and beeline toward the nearest available bed.


Jo and Tom are theatre friends from my days working with Solas Nua in DC. They envisioned and executed one of the most special works of art I’ve been a part of in Swampoodle, a non-linear retelling of the Irish history of the same-named neighborhood in Washington, tucked behind Union Station. They co-run The Performance Corporation, one of the most audacious theatre companies in Europe, infamous for having produced plays in rowboats and parking garages. Knowing they lived in Maynooth where the conference was to be held made applying all the more attractive, and they were so kind to offer their spare room for the few days I planned on being here.

I settle in and say hello including to three exuberant, fluffy dogs named Glosster, Eva, and Puppy, who is sick. Tom and Jo head off to a wedding, though Jo’s sister Maria sticks around, from Maynooth but lives in Italy except back at home during the hot Italian summer; she’s lovely and cordial and as we chat I push through my obvious 5-hour jetlag and overall lack of sleep. I decide to plop down for 25 minutes under the express agreement with myself I won’t make the same mistake I made on my first solo trip which is to maintain American sleep hours and not adjust until the third day. Near miraculously, I only sleep twenty or so minutes past the alarm and drag myself up for a walk into town.


I pop in at Brady’s, a local corner pub in fairly docile Maynooth, grab a corner seat (always my favorite) and enjoy my first Guinness back in the auld sod. The sharp, bracing tang – it’s true, it’s better here than in the US – is familiar and darkly welcoming. The men positioned around the pub are older and planted like roots, friendly but guarded, there to gossip about not very much; a few fold their arms across their chests like statesmen at portrait seatings. I ask: “Where’s the craic tonight, gents?” “Here,” one says blankly, sans irony. Their shirts seem almost deliberately varied in color: stark red, striped blue, canary yellow, an Irish pub sponsored by Damon Runyon. A fierce competition of darts is broadcast on two TV sets. I ask a few innocuous questions for which I receive answers, but there are no great conversations to be had here tonight.


I finish my pint and wander around the Main Street a bit, ending up inside a more boisterous, crowded pub. I have a local red ale, McGargle’s (that can’t be a real name, can it?). Tom tells me that as of late, Ireland’s craft beer scene is expanding far beyond Guinness, who sometimes appear a benefactor of the entire island. I read a bit from Stage Door, the 1933 classic play I’m directing in September, and a fellow cranks up the guitar, singing a few decent songs but mostly the ones drunk administrators want to hear: Wonderwall, Proud Mary, Hotel California. He looks like so many bar entertainers in this country: closely cropped hair, piercing voice, aggressive delivery. A fella could use a tin whistle.

I walk back to Jo and Tom’s, eventually figuring out the feel of the lock (!) and crash into bed. My first day is behind me and I have two weeks of exploring ahead of me. Keep checking in, friends!

Posted by coolmcjazz 09:50 Archived in Ireland Tagged maynooth

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JMac, so you're off to a slightly mad but decent beginning - hope your upcoming adventures are more of the discovery than the travel-delay type... have a pint for me! Slainte

by Robin

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