It was about time to start my cultural tour of the Emerald Isle’s most iconic city not featuring a stone you kiss, and the Irish archaeology museum seemed as a good place to start as any. Unfortunately, I missed it the first time through because the museum entrance was right next to a school which was presently being protested, in Gaelic, by dozens of children and parents. Everyone was waving signs I couldn’t read and everyone was deeply upset.
I watched from the corner at this shouting legion of children and what I believe are called, in that part of the world, “mums”, cognizant only of the fact that they had been 21 years waiting for something. Most of them didn’t look 21 to me. My phone GPS insisted I was right on top of the archaeology museum, but that really only helped me stare blankly at said phone.
A man next to me was taking pictures with a gorgeous camera. I asked if he could tell me what the signs said, and he said “No, I am… I am French. I do not speak.” I told him me either, but then he asked the woman who’s head I accidentally photographed the back of and she told us they’ve been waiting on a new school that they paid for 21 years ago. The word “prefab” was used. I still didn’t have much understanding of what was going on, but I was relieved to find this wasn’t an abortion thing, since those are the only protests you ever see kids at back in the States. Which is… really grim, when you just put it out there. In any event, I looked into it after the fact and though this wasn’t the school, it certainly provides some context.
Another pass down the street and I evaded the children and slipped into the alley that led to the archaeology museum. I expressed surprise to the man at the desk that admission was free, and he said something that sounded vaguely barbed about how their government uses money. Yeah, preaching to the choir there, bud.
For those not acquainted with the concept, Ireland’s bogs preserve bodies really well, and in its sordid ancient history the locals were fond of mutilating human sacrifices and chucking them into the bog to appease… well, whatever needed appeasement, really. Fast forward a couple thousand years (2300, give or take) and baby, you got yourself a mummy goin’.
Most of the museum was devoted to old pots and piles of badly banged up golden bracelets. Considering that the bog bodies are the main attraction, they were really well hidden, but I imagine that was a reflection of the initial rediscovery of the bodies by what I can only imagine were fisherman or hikers.
This was the Cashel Man, presumed to be from the Bronze Age (around 2000 BCE). He was around 25 when it happened. His arm was broken, as was his back, in two places. This should give an indication of how seriously the early Irish took their appeasements.
In the past I’ve made reference to poking around, exploring places said to be spiritual, like the Sedona vortexes. Vortices. Vortexi. This is all smug nihilist posturing, of course, just like the rest of my personality.
I could feel the bad juju coming off the Clonycavan man, though.
He was an Iron Age king from around 2300 BCE. They think he was murdered; you can still see the gashes from the axe wounds through his face. Others were along the back of his head, and brain matter had been found in them, but it was the blow that split the bridge of his nose that killed him.
Once upon a time, I knew a punk rock girl who took acid and insisted on reading my aura. We sat down on a friend’s apartment floor and she touched my palms and closed her eyes and when she opened them again they were big and shiny, pupils dilated far beyond the point you’d think that amount of LSD would permit.
“It’s just mouths… screaming.”
At the time I said something like, “Yeah, try livin’ with it.” But now I think I have some frame of reference. Maybe it was the uncanny aspect of his split face, being able to read the expression on it, or maybe it was vengeful Irish ghosts, but something about that exhibit shook me. I had to talk myself into taking a picture, as my old witch friends back in the day assured me that’s the quickest way to drag malevolent spirits around with you.
I also found a tasteful medieval Irish cowboy hat.
I beat feet out of the museum and thought it was about time to try the oft-vaunted Irish beer. I found a likely pub, settled in, and ordered a local craft porter, as I am of the unpopular opinion that Guinness is undrinkable garbage water.
Don’t mistake me for a beer snob. I will happily drink Lionshead and PBR, I keep my fridge stocked with Yuengling to go with dinner. I even like Murphy’s stout, and that barely makes the cutoff for being beer.
The Russian bartender started pouring it, then frowned.
“Doesn’t look like a porter,” he said, and he was right, it was several shades too light. In Ireland, I learned there’s a particular way of pouring I never saw stateside where they fill it near the top, let the foam fizzle down, then fill it the rest of the way. I tried to take it after what looked like he was done pouring and he was flabbergasted.
“It is not done,” he said. “Why would I give you half beer?”
I shrugged. “First beer I’ve ordered in Ireland. When in Rome, you know?”
He gave me a look that suggested we were not in Rome, which I couldn’t dispute.
The porter tasted like Guinness. Over the next day and a half, I would drink two more local, craft stouts. Both would also taste like Guinness.
On my rambling, misdirected walkabout back to the hostel to finally sleep, I saw this sign in front of a comic shop and I was given pause:
Can you imagine seeing the absolute absurdity of seeing Captain Any-Other-Country while in America? Just walking down main street, seeing a sign for Admiral Canada? Lieutenant Scotland? Who else could get away with something like that but good ol’ USA #1?
I slept for roughly a day then spent a night out in Dublin. By the time I had gotten a beer in me, all the restaurants had closed except for a shawarma shop, so that’s what I had. It was… a cultural experience, certainly.
I reviewed my options that night and learned that if I didn’t book a plane out of Dublin the following day, ticket prices would increase 4x until the following Monday. All that remained on my Dublin itinerary was The Leprechaun Museum, and I doubted I could squeeze a full week out of that. I booked a ticket on the shadiest available airline to Barcelona.
Yesterday’s post might have seemed to end a little suddenly. That’s because I was sitting in the airport, waiting to board my flight, when a nearby plane burst into honest-to-God flames. Fortunately, they had a firetruck… suspiciously close at hand.
I’ll tell you about Barcelona later!