Dr Buckley is a vague, incommunicative man who lives down the Lane in Dublin. An American ex-patriot of over thirty years, he remains singularly American in attitude, dress, and expression. He is verifiably a man of medicine (semi-retired), but also, he says, a philosopher, spiritualist, interpreter of dreams, handyman, tour guide, confidant of various members of the Gael, Church leader, reformist, poet, and psychiatrist (all unverifiable). I met him shortly after coming to Ireland two years ago when he offered his services as an advisor concerning “matters of the Irish mind.” This meeting took place in Toner’s. He is a man of opinions (verifiable). When not avoiding patients, he travels throughout Europe and back to his country of origin (“a dark, dark place where only madmen are allowed to govern”).
••• In Buswells’ lobby, there was a young woman trying to explain to an older man what a “vegan” is. The man assumed it was a cult of some kind. I took him to be from Mallow because of his seriousness and failure to smile; it was as though he feared his face might crack. Men from Mallow are of a certain kind; they don’t take to irony very well and this would suggest a lack of intelligence. But I digress. The discussion about vegans soon deteriorated into talk of animal and vegetable rights, with the man insisting that vegetables also had a life and that the woman and her cult were responsible for whatever pain the veggies might experience whilst being chomped in her oversized mouth. The exchange became heated, leading eventually to the woman saying that being a vegan had become her career, that she toured Ireland giving talks and she had even received several grants to fund her now annually published An Irish Vegan Cookbook. The man, who apparently hadn’t been able to access any coffers, was shocked and inquired about the basis upon which a vegan cookbook could possibly be worthy of grant money. “It’s about Irish vegetables, written by an Irish woman who lectures to Irish people, demonstrating the art of cooking, containing Irish recipes [Dear God!], and is printed right here in Ireland.” The man walked away muttering something unintelligible but clearly foul.
••• I have long thought that, as concerns people and institutions of power, a brick in the head is much more persuasive than reason.
••• The Oslo taxi driver asked me where I was from. When I told him Ireland, he asked if Ireland was a part of Great Britain. I thought I must be talking to an American.
••• American tourists are unbearable: my stomach gets queasy when I hear their voices. Instant memories captured on their cell phones: “Lucille, did you see that, did you see it?” “Yes, honey, I saw it.” “But did you see it? Wow! Did you see it, Lucille?” “Yes, I saw it.” “Did you video it, Lucille?” “Yes, I videoed it, honey.” “Let’s play it, Lucille, let’s play it.” “Okay, honey.” “Look at that, Lucille, wow, can you believe it?” “Yes, I can believe it, honey.” “Wow, look at that! But you didn’t hold it right, I knew you weren’t holding it right, Lucille.” “I never hold it right, honey.” George, or Frank, or Allen, or whatever his name is, never saw it the first time because he was watching Lucille not hold the cell phone right. But now he is reliving her not holding it right. The Americans never see anything. But they have recorded for posterity their not having seen it.
••• The sole advantage of old age is that you no longer have to measure up to anyone’s expectations. You don’t care what people think of you, and you don’t care what you think of them. You don’t even care what you think of yourself.
••• Paul’s in London has become a problem. It once had the best baguettes in the city. During any stay in London, I’d get to a Paul’s three times a day for the baguette with ham & cheese. About six months ago, the sandwich got shorter and the baguette no longer had the taste it once had. Things in this world always get worse.
••• The one and only value I’ve been able to find in romantic relationships, as they are called, is that you have someone to grab a table in a fast-food restaurant before you find yourself standing with a tray in your hand and no place to sit. This value is not to be underestimated.
••• Just down the Lane here is the finest pub in Ireland: Toner’s. Most of my disquisitions take place there. The other night the subject was “Man, God, and The Waste of It All.” The attendees paid little attention until I told the sordid story of a French woman I once knew. That one kept the boys awake.
••• One must admire the beleaguered arts councils in these difficult economic times and how they deal with less money but still manage to be innovative and far-thinking, as they say they are being. In better days, the word excellence was used, perhaps even over-used, to describe what would be supported. In bad times, when government reduces support for the arts, excellence gets replaced by community: “art that will speak to the largest possible audience, to the common man, for the sake of learning and entertainment.” My own personal belief is that art should cause one stomach pains, generate a reminder of how totally alone we are in this universe, totally alone and dispensable, totally alone and spat upon by the politicians who have caused economic collapse. Instead, art becomes what makes us feel good and reassures us that the people with power have our best interests in their hearts and minds, that we should be grateful with nothing, and that if anyone is to be blamed, it’s us. And so they give us entertainment, something that will lull us into silence.
••• In a café on Gloucester Road, London, a thirty-something American man is talking to a young British woman, who seems as though she’ll cut her wrists if she has to listen to him much longer: “It’s so cool, it’s so cool . . . I have three shout-outs on my blog . . . Three shout-outs . . . They even have those women toilets in the room . . . Women toilets . . . So fucking cool, so fucking cool . . . My wife said, “Wow! Wow!” You know what I mean? Fantaaaastic . . . So fucking cool . . . So fucking British, so British . . . Like, really cool . . . I said to her that it was like, so fucking cool . . . I really love the British, really love them . . . They are so cool . . . The way they talk, it’s SO British . . .” This man, at least 35 years of age, was talking like a sophomore in college: “chiseled” American speech, one bland phrase on top of another, and laughing all the way through his embarrassing enthusiasm . . . Ah, America! Learn to speak! The South provides the only color that remains in American speech, but the South is another story . . . I would mention the name of this café, but I fear Americans would then frequent it more often than they do now.
••• Has anyone seen Dolan? He arrived here in Dublin at about the same time as I did, all those many years ago. Another American seeking refuge. I’ve not seen him in a week or more. Dolan is a madman. He came to Ireland to become a key maker. Such ambition. Have you ever heard of someone seeking a profession as a key maker? Dolan did. And now he’s a bitter man because life has been unkind to him. Too old to get a woman and even getting too old to make a key. God bless him.∞