The Irish Sea: Keelhaulin’

September 28, 2019. The Irish Sea.
Soundtrack: Flogging Molly – Salty Dog

“And will ye be wantin’ the tinned to-MAH-tohs?”

“Please,” I said. I hadn’t seen a vegetable in what seemed like years.

The kindly old Welsh lady brought me a fried pile of meat, blood, and gluten, along with two mushrooms and some apocalypse prepper tomatoes. I inhaled the greased protein, chased it with a coffee, and set out to set sail.

I had a romantic notion of how the ferry to Dublin would play out. I’d approach the docks and it would suddenly be night, during a thunderstorm. I’d say, “I’m looking for passage to Dublin’s fair city,” and a crusty old mariner with a Mr. Krabs accent and one or more amputations replaced with hooks, all corroded from saltwater, would glare at me through his remaining eye and spit at my feet and say, “No room for the likes’a you.”

I’d be forced to stowaway aboard the vessel, hiding in the cargo hold, possibly among pigs. I’d crouch behind the storage pens, me father’s lucky knife clutched in me fist, lest I be discovered and need to stab myself out a distraction.

I’d flee from the scene, the crew in hot pursuit, cutlasses hissing from their scabbards, and with one last desperate prayer to Athena, Poseidon, or both, I’d hurl myself from the deck and into the black and fathomless deep, the chaos of the waves roiling around me, unsure which direction is up but fighting with an animal desperation to feel the broken stones of Éire beneath my feet once again, to feel the deliverance of my fingertips sifting the soil of my forefathers.

Instead, a pudgy, smiling lady took my ticket and herded me onto a bus full of middle-aged Dubliners and three punk rockers with day-glo Bird of Paradise hair. I hadn’t seen liberty spikes since high school, and they brought me comfort even as they nearly gouged out my eye.

“You guys a band?” I asked one of the punks, nodding to the tom case he was trying, with limited success, to hold between his ankles.

“Yeah,” he said politely. No sneering. I was a little disappointed.

“What do you play?”


I laughed. “Well, yeah, I put that one together. What kind?”

They turned out to be a horrorpunk band from England called the Headstone Horrors. We talked shop a little. I told them about the Murphys song that inspired this leg of my trip and the Icelandic Punk museum, and they seemed amused enough. They told me they were taking the ferry because it was the cheapest way from Wales to Dublin, if not the fastest, and they had to scramble to a show that night in a rock bar called Fibber Magees.

The bus stopped, and we were herded onto what had been misidentified to me as a ferry.

The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls is a ferry. What I had boarded was a floating mall.

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It was 11 levels, somehow. I spent some of the journey on what portions of the deck weren’t cordoned off, squinting against the wind and wishing I still smoked.

At some point I made my way belowdecks and explored the multiple fine dining establishments on offer. There was a comfort food buffet situation, likewise without knowledge of vegetables, for $20 a plate.

I opted for the chain pizza kitchen instead, and ate a large pizza to the face. A man has to keep his strength up, especially at sea.

There was no stowing away. There was no swashbuckling. There was barely any internet. I wrote until we landed, then we were all herded into another bus, and I had to get my hands on some Euros again.

The punk rockers were on the same bus, as were a middle-aged couple from Denver. We talked about our various travels, and the Denverites told the punk rockers about their folk band, and wound up buying their CD before disappearing into uptown.

The punks and I took the bus to the last stop, around Temple Bar. They told me to swing by the show if I was in the area. I told them I’d keep an eye out, then ducked into the first bar I saw and had a beer.

Next stop, a two hour hike to my hostel. I needed the exercise.




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