Last weekend, Kathy was to make her way back to the states via Aer Lingus, with a change of planes in Dublin. Since it was her first trip to Europe, we talked her into a two day layover on the Emerald Isle on the way back, and all three of us left on the same plane on Friday. We booked an apartment in the heart of town on the river Liffey near the Temple Bar district and planned on seeing the capital city on foot for a couple of days. An obligatory visit to McCann’s Bar on James St. was also on the agenda.
We had a snafu right out of the gate. After two and a half weeks of riding the metro without incident, with me always riding up the escalator Directly behind Kathy to protect her backpack from being robbed, I was handling her big suitcase and did not guard her back for the first time since she arrived in Barcelona. When we got to Placa Catalunya to take the bus to the airport, Kathy found that her backpack was open at the top and her wallet was stolen. Thankfully, she still had her passport, so we called to cancel the credit card. The thieves are very professional here, and it leaves one with a sour taste on the Barcelona experience, but we continued on to the airport to spend one last weekend together.
We rode into town in a double decked bus on the wrong side (left) of the road. We checked into our apartment and were underwhelmed. We had two sets of keys, on for the outside doors of the buildings and one for the door to our apartment on the third (fourth) floor. As in the rest of Europe, the ground floor is floor zero and the first floor is above that. We used the outdoor keys for three different doors, before getting to the elevator. The building had an odd shape, with a hallway that went to nowhere.
Another quirky thing about the place was the design of the bathroom, in which the toilet must have been placed in that location for a one legged person, since the side of it touched the wall. I joked that this was more evidence of why the Irish people never colonized or conquered other peoples…more evidence of their ineptitude. Since I myself am Irish, I feel more comfortable in criticizing my own people.
The first day, we crossed the river on the O’Connell st. Bridge and strolled around the grounds of Trinity college. We then visited the Dublin castle, and found that most of it was built by invading Vikings. That afternoon, we also discovered why Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle”, as fresh rains soaked us. The polar front jet stream was overhead and the air was chilly. The cold and damp chilled us to the bone even though we had warm jackets and raincoats. We found shelter in a restaurant in the Temple Bar section of town, so named for Mr. Temple who bought the land on the river bar and then built it up after the river was confined by building stone walls.
Saturday November 2 was the day I wanted to do something special. I clearly remember last year’s November 2, and I vow to do something memorable each year on this date. This year would be a pilgrimage to McCann’s Bar with my only sibling who was a McCann by birth, and my wife who is a McCann by marriage.
Last November 2 was a day I will never forget. It was a day that I made a new friend and lost an old one.
I had worked 40 straight days without a day off, so I headed out east of town to a special place I have camped before, tucked away in a remote corner of the Deschutes National Forest. It was a cold night, and I set up my tent close to the car down an abandoned logging road and set up my folding chair and opened a beer. Soon afterwards, a chipmunk approached and hopped up on a stump and stared at me seeming to beg for food. I told him to forget it and that I don’t feed the animals and that winter was coming and he should spend his time preparing for it and not begging from me.
The chipmunk tilted his head and stared back as if to say, “I live here. Don’t you think I know that?”
I replied, “ Yes, I guess you do know that, but I bet you don’t know WHY it is getting colder!” With that, I gave him a lecture on Physical Geography, explaining earth-sun relationships, layers of the atmosphere, properties of different gases of the atmosphere, the differential heating of land and water…..essentially what I would lecture to my students in a climate class. Since he listened more intently than most of my students do, I kept on explaining. We became friends. I named him “Chirpy”, as he would occasionally comment back with chirps. Every once in a while he would jump down off of the stump and run around in circles, as if I had just blown his mind with new information about the world he lived in. Each time he would jump back up on the stump as if to say, “Tell me more!”
When it finally got dark and it was pretty cold, we both said goodnight and headed to bed. It was then that my thoughts turned to Mike Van Meter, a colleague who was having a difficult battle with cancer. I spent the next hour thinking of him and praying for him and vowed to contact him when I got home the next morning.
When I woke up at dawn, frost was all over the tent, so I packed up and drove back into town, got a coffee and went home. It was then that Beth told me that Mike had passed last night, close to the time he was on my mind. Since then, I will try to do something memorable every Nov.2, while reflecting on what is important in life; the people we care about, and the environment we live in and share with other living beings. It also reminds me how ephemeral our lives are here and to cherish each moment that we have breath.
With this thought in my mind, I am strolling in a light drizzle towards McCann’s Bar. At each crosswalk I look down to a reminder to Look Right as I cross the street. We pass by the Guinness factory, a couple of distilleries and finally spot McCann’s. We take our pictures outside (maybe our 2019 Christmas card?) and step inside
The bar was almost empty, except for the bartender and one slumped over patron. I asked if any McCanns were around, as I wanted to buy a round for any McCanns. I got off easy, as the girls didn’t want to drink anything but water, and both the bartender and the patron had different surnames than ours. So, I can say I went to my namesake bar in Dublin and bought a round for all the McCanns there. I ordered a good craft red ale and counted my blessings and thought about Nov 2 and how I would remember this one as well.
We are now back in the warm weather of Barcelona. Kathy is safely home in Connecticut. We have plans to go to Pais Vasco in a couple of weeks and to Prague the weekend after that. We think of all of you and will count as among our blessings anyone who has taken the time to read this post all the way through!