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UCD, Blackrock campus. Had most of my classes in the building on the left.

UCD, Blackrock campus. Had most of my classes in the building on the left.

Today I turned in my last assignment for the four courses I took at UCD this past term, along with my official notification of withdrawal from the university. Now I’m done.

The fact that I’m leaving very soon really started to sink in today. Very mixed feelings right now, and I had a lot of “oh that’s the last time I’ll walk into that shop, or down that road” thoughts.

I stopped in to see my local barber one final time, to get a buzz on the head and a good trim on the beard. He’s a super-nice guy, and we always chat about theatre and Irish mythology and music. He was supposed to go to Chicago last month, and I had even written up a list of great restaurants and jazz clubs for him to check out, but something about an Aer Lingus strike canceled his plans. Maybe next year, he said.

I probably could have saved money by purchasing a set of clippers and doing it myself, but I still like to visit the barber, and I’m glad I found such a great one here in Blackrock. Gonna miss that guy.


Hobbit bus!

I wandered around the village, and then took a long walk over to Stillorgan to search for a cheap and smallish suitcase, but no such luck. Gonna spend the next twelve days doing some traveling. Too long to just pack everything in my backpack, like my last trip, and so I’ll have to drag the monster suitcase all over Europe with me.

First I’m headed to Prague to see a former student and his family from my teaching days, then Munich for a night, then Strasbourg, France, then up to Paris for a couple of nights, then the Eurostar to London to meet up with everyone from my MA group for a final weekend theatre binge. Trains, trains, and more trains, and I can’t wait.

It’s back to Dublin on Sunday evening, and then I’m home for good on the 19th, via Chicago. And then Christmas, which I’m looking forward to spending with my family. First time in my life that I’ll be “coming home” for Christmas. It’s a nice feeling.

But all of this traveling isn’t giving me much time to say farewell to Dublin or the people I know here, and that’s frustrating, to say the least. Time isn’t on my side right now, and I couldn’t afford to wait any longer to fly home. Prices jump pretty bad the closer you get to Christmas. For a while I considered sticking with the original plan, which was to do Christmas here with some friends, but it just feels right to be home. You go home¬†for Christmas.

So it’s all coming fast, and my head swims and my heart aches with the constant push-pull that I’m feeling right now. I feel like I did everything I could, theatre-wise, while I was here, but I certainly didn’t get to “live” enough. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s better to leave now, while the fire is still bright, instead of lingering on for another six months, where (gasp!) I might have actually gotten sick of living here. Maybe bittersweet is good, because it means that my time here was worth it, and that I still look forward to returning again someday. And it certainly will be a lot cheaper.

One of my students asked me the other day if this meant the last of the 4-T Tales. I don’t think so; obviously I have a few more travel stories to tell over the next couple of weeks, but hopefully I’ll continue this thing one way or another when I come back. Less travel and theatre, and more teaching and tech. We’ll see.

UCD, Blackrock Campus.

UCD, Blackrock Campus.

As always, to be continued…

Culture Night

October 18, 2012 — 5 Comments

I have a few stories to tell from the first three months of living here, so I thought I’d spend some time catching everyone up on what I’ve been doing over here OTHER than going to class and studying theatre (almost) non-stop.

Last month Dublin held their annual Culture Night. Once a year on a Friday night in September the great cultural institutions of Dublin keep their doors open late into the evening and allow the public to wander in and out, all for free. This ranges from the museums and libraries to other, more restricted places like private clubs that wouldn’t normally allow the average man on the street to pass through their doors.

I had been given an assignment by one of my professors to go view a particular painting at Dublin’s National Gallery, so with my friend Elisa in tow, we spent a pleasant September evening wandering in and out of some of Dublin’s more “cultured” establishments.

This is a painting by Caravaggio called The Taking of Christ. It was painted sometime around 1602, and thought lost for hundreds of years before it was found in a Dublin Jesuit’s hall. Professor McGuinness said I should study the use of light, to help with coming up with ideas for set design and lighting for my conceptual Merchant of Venice assignment. But what I really found interesting was a painting by a guy named Lyonel Feininger. This gave me all sorts of ideas about how I wanted to deisgn my (imaginary) set.

Umpferstedt III by Lyonel Feininger

After the National Gallery we wandered into the Alliance Francaise, or Dublin’s French Club, more or less. They had stacks of Post-It notes everywhere and invited people to design mosaics on their walls. Lots of kids there having fun.

Post-It mosaics at the Alliance Francaise

Then it was on to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Basically a fancy club where Dublin doctors go to be fancy and…I dunno…talk about heart transplants?

String Quartet! Fancy!

Fancy Books in Fancy Bookshelves

Hmmm, I think after that we wandered into the National Library, which was easily one of my favorite spots.

The Reading Room in Dublin’s National Library

Sweet-looking marble banister from the National Library

Studying The Merchant of Venice with Haroosh

That’s Haroosh in the above photo, by the way. He came with me to Dublin. More about him another time.

After the library we met up with another friend named Ken and decided to wait in the long line for the Freemason’s Club.

Why such a long line for one particular place? Well, the Freemason’s Club is one of those ultra-exclusive places you never get to see on ordinary days. There’s a long history associated with the Freemasons, and many people have all sorts of crazy theories about how they secretly control all the governments of the world. ¬†Of course there’s a Simpsons episode about it.

Who keeps the metric system down? WE DO! WE DO!

The actual Freemasons Hall in Dublin is a crazy mish-mash of different rooms all with their own theme. One is a “Knights Templar” theme; another has an Egyptian theme. It’s kind of like going to that part of Epcot Center where all the different countries sit around a lagoon. You just wander from one strange, slightly kitschy place to the next. The main hall feels like a¬†parliamentary¬†hall where nothing important ever gets voted on.

The Mighty Throne of …. Something.

They can’t be that secretive if they’re on Facebook.

Dejected after No Secrets Were Discovered.

Overall, the Freemasons’ Hall was a big letdown. Just some fancy rooms where a bunch of dudes hang out and probably avoid going home to their families. Anyone can join for an annual membership fee of only 125 Euros… as long as you’re a man. No women allowed. Ugh. No thanks, Freemasons. I need more ladies in my life, not less!

By the way: their website is HILARIOUS in its awful, awful design. Check it out.


September 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

A bus.

Let’s head into town today, yeah? We’ve spent the last two days cooped up in the apartment and we need to get some air and be amongst people.

I live inside that.

I live about five miles out of Dublin city centre, and if I want to get anywhere, I usually take the bus. Luckily I live near a major highway, so buses run about every ten minutes and I can get into town within a half hour.

Typical suburban street.

When the weather’s nice the walk can be quite pleasant. I live in a fairly “posh” suburb, from what they tell me, so it’s safe and tree-lined and quiet.

If I want to take a shortcut to the bus stop I DO have to walk through this, though:

Creepy viaduct.

It’s not as bad as it looks. You’re through it in like, ten seconds.

Anyway, on Saturday I went into town to see another play (surprise!) There is a famous Dublin writer named James Joyce*, and recently his novels came out of copyright, so that means anyone can adapt them for plays or films and no one has to pay any royalties. Dublin is about to be hit by a huge wave of Joyce-based works, and the Corn Exchange’s adaptation of Dubliners is one of the first.

I met up with some friends at the Gaity Theatre, but I had to sit by myself because we had all bought our tickets separately. I was up “in the Gods”, as they say, which is a nice way of saying I was up in the cheap seats. (I’m going to a LOT of shows and have to budget accordingly.)

Top of the Gaity, Ma!

The show was very good, although being so far up meant that I wasn’t as engaged with the stories as I would have liked. (Dubliners is a series of short stories.) It didn’t help that I hadn’t read the book beforehand; I bought a copy last month, but I just couldn’t find the time to get to it, what with all the homework and all. So instead I tried to focus on the staging, the technical side of things, and Corn Exchange’s use of Commedia dell’Arte.

Afterwards we all gathered in Neary’s to dissect the show and have a bit of fun. (Oh, and we also saw this guy outside the theatre. McNulty!) After a few rounds we grabbed some pizza to fill our very-empty bellies. The rest of the party said their good-nights, but my friend Donal and I stayed out for more discussion and general catching-up. Donal and his wife are new parents, and so a night out for some fun is a rare occurrence in their lives. I, of course, was happy to stay out as long as possible, although I did go past the pumpkin hour.

What’s that, you ask? Well, those buses that get me here and there stop running around 11:00 or so, and you’re stuck with taxis after that. (There is some sort of Night Bus that runs, but I don’t know the routes or where to pick it up. And it’s not as cool as this, anyways.) By the time Donal and I wrapped up our night, the streets were filled with them; apparently there is a glut of taxis in Dublin at the moment.

A taxi home costs around 20 Euro, but since I’m spending so little money on transportation, the occasional cab isn’t going to kill me. (Except when I consider that I can buy a train ticket to the other side of Ireland for the same price. Student rates rule!)

And that was Saturday. A great day overall, and one of those I’m Really Loving Living Here kind of days. Gotta enjoy those while they last…


*I thought I should remind my readers that I’m writing this primarily for my students to read, lest people think I’m talking down to my audience. Most fifth graders haven’t heard of James Joyce, but if they watched closely during Hugo, they would have spotted him hanging around the train station.

The Tall Ships

September 2, 2012 — 3 Comments

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Pretty busy with my readings, so I’ll just give you a slide show of photos from last weekend’s tall ships event in Dublin. More to come soon, I promise!


August 28, 2012 — 4 Comments

The view from my window yesterday

Here’s a little secret: ¬†I’m not a very good student.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m smart enough, and I know how to write, and I can think at a reasonably deep level when I need to. But at the same time, I tend to get distracted easily, and I enjoy learning about what I happen to be in the mood to learn about, as opposed to what’s been assigned to me. During my freshman year of college I was supposed to be studying genetics and geology and Othello, but I was more interested in absorbing as many classic films as I could get my hands on.

I’m supposed to be reading a large stack of plays right now, before school starts properly, and I am…trust me. I just don’t burn through them like I should. I’ll read one, and then think about it for a while before moving on to the next one. I should have read more of The Merchant of Venice today, but instead I took walks and did some food shopping and organized my home a bit.

Oh, and I watched a few episodes of The Simpsons. From 5:00 – 8:00 pm you can catch, like, five episodes, easily.


August 16, 2012 — 4 Comments

One of the first things I did after arriving in Ireland was head out to Galway, one of my favorite cities. I first visited Ireland exactly ten years ago, and Galway was the city that made me fall in love with this place.

I had a ticket to see Sigur Ros play as part of the Galway Arts Fest, but unfortunately, they canceled at the last minute to continue work on their () album. I still had a fine time in Galway, and it’s a city I return to again and again. It’s a big “small town”, easily navigable, full of great restaurants and pubs, and you can waste a day just walking along the bay.

So after a miserable week in my (first) apartment in Dublin, I decided I needed to get out of town and be a tourist again. (I’ll tell the whole story of that disastrous first place another time.) I wanted to ride a train for a few hours, and I wanted a nice hotel room with decent wifi, and I wanted to catch some of the theatre going on at the 2012 Galway Arts Fest, to remind myself why I was here.

I also wanted to see Lisa Hannigan live.

My students may remember me playing her in class this past spring. A LOT. She’s been my latest musical obsession for the past nine months or so, and I had missed her three times up to this point.

So after wandering around Galway and Salthill for a few days, watching street performers and fringe theatre from college kids, and eating at my favorite restaurants, I caught the lovely Irish singer Lisa Hannigan on a warm summer evening in July. And the lyrics to “Passenger” once again gave me something to think about:

Walking round Chicago,
I have smuggled you as cargo,
though you are far away unknowing.
By the time we get to Salt Lake
I have packed you in my suitcase,
ironed the creases from my own remembering.

It’s a song about the things you can’t leave behind as you move from one thing to another. And while it’s exciting and different and (most of the time) a lot of fun being here in Dublin, I haven’t left everything and everyone behind. My friends and family, my students and my performers. They are with me in spirit, and I keep them close. You were all passengers in my suitcase.