When I got to Cork from Dublin, it was after 8pm and all of the tourist info places were closed. The map I had was useless for trying to find anything and I didn’t know any hostels anyway. So I sat down on the street and hopped on somebody’s WiFi and spent about 10 minutes looking things up. For the sake of ease, I just went to the first hostel I found. They had beds and so I checked in.
The place was foul, the sheets were stained, the free WiFi tried to attack my laptop (possibly to force me to use their pay computers?) and I had to climb a hill to get there. They didn’t use keys, only electronic locks on the room doors. People pretty much came in and out and nobody checked if they were a guest. Since the dorms slept about 20, the room doors were always open. So in other words, if you’re looking for a free place to stay in Cork, you can probably find it there – but I’ve withheld the name to protect the guilty.
The next night I went to a much better place which I highly recommend. It’s called the Bru Bar & Hostel. Even though the rooms are above a pub, it’s quiet, clean, and safe. The people are cool and the bar is a good place to hang out, as is the common room/kitchen.
Since I didn’t really do anything my first night in Ireland, I figured I should at least go out and have a couple of pints my second night. So I meandered around and hit a couple of little bars. It’s easy to find the popular places in Ireland becuase there are always tons of people in the street smoking outside. But when I saw a couple of guys head into a poorly marked pub with nobody outside smoking, I decided to check it out anyway.
I walked in and there was a guy who must have been about 90 playing the piano and everybody was talking and having a great time. It was a tiny place and it was really just like a perfect Irish pub. So I figured I’d get myself a drink. I ordered a beer and turned around to watch the performance. From the corner of my eye I saw the guy next to me giving me the stare down. So I turned and looked down at him (he was only about 5 feet tall) and said hi.
He started talking with me and it was going amicably, then he started asking me how I knew everyone in the room if I was just visiting Ireland. He seemed to think that I knew everyone there, apparently in some secret conspiratorial way. My denying it confirmed his suspicions.
At one point he said in his charming brogue “Tha next time I see yah, I’ll kill yah.” I told him I hoped it wouldn’t come to that and asked what my offense was. Apparently he’d seen me looking at his woman. Turns out he had a thing for the bartender. I said that I really didn’t know any other way to buy a drink that didn’t involve at least glancing in her direction and suggested that maybe he’d have to buy the rest of my drinks to solve the problem. He relented and agreed that maybe I could look at her after all. We talked more and ended up the night laughing and chatting. He was a strange fellow, that’s for sure.
Blarney Castle and the Stone
The stone is said to bestow the gift of elloquence on the lips which kiss it. Mine were among those which did.
The crowded clouds like fists of grey and silver tumbled overhead, promising to press down against the castle grounds. Intrepid peddlers stood at the ready to receive the custom of those displaced from the open to the overhang of shop stalls by the silvery earth-bound needles and pins. But for the moment the sky cleaved and displayed its color like a strutting peacock.
Ten Euros paid to walk around the grounds and climb the ramparts along the twisting turning narrow spiral staircase. Gentlemen should allow the ladies to pass in front for a better view; ladies should pay mind to their skirt length. When climbing, you’re eyes to arse with the visitor ahead.
Fred Zeppelin and the Random Band
On my last night in Cork I was walking around just after dinner and saw a bar that had a lot of people standing outside and all of the windows were plastered with band posters. Sounds good to me. I went on in and ordered a pint. The bartender asked if I was going upstairs and I asked what was up there. Turns out it was a concert so I went on up.
The cover was 3 Euro but when I started counting my small coins trying to make up the last Euro they let me know that what I had was good enough. The tiny room held in a hailstorm of fuzz guitar, slap bass, and thunderous drums. The young crowd all moved their heads in unison with the tunes, their haircuts and clothing reminiscent of something from an early Sex Pistols show.
While the first band started packing up their kit, I spoke with a young guy wearing a Mastodon t-shirt. They’re a small band that nobody’s ever heard of from Atlanta so it was wild to see a kid from Cork Ireland wearing it. Apparently they’re big over here in certain crowds. He gave me the information on a few of the others in the room. This guy was his friend from when he was 12; that girl is dating the lead singer of the next band; that guy there plays guitar and has a half a bottle of booze in his jacket. It was like a raucous party of friends that I’d stumbled into.
The second band played and the place got even louder and more full. I went to get a second drink and just asked for the cheapest draught they had. The bartender informed me that the cheapest was Beamish but that it took a long time to pull. The fastest cheapest draught was Fosters, so I had a pint of that instead. That explained why everybody upstairs was drinking a lighter colored beer rather than the typical porter.
I talked to a few more people in the audience, including one guy who was to be the drummer in the headlining band. He said it was not his instrument of choice and that he didn’t know how to play the drums. I also found out that they’d only practiced a couple of times in the last month or so. This was going to be an interesting show.
At some point I started talking to this huge hulk of a guy, probably 6’8″ and 300lbs. He was a hugger. And a kisser. And a slapper. And he spared no one, even the foriegn newcomer.
The second band finished their set and the third band, the headliners, took to the stage – a place so small 4/6 of their band had to stand on the floor for most of the show. They all took off their shirts except for the singer who strode up in a woman’s dress and proceeded to wrap the magnetic tape from an old VHS around his face. The guitarist, my first friend there, donned a Transformers mask with sunglasses taped to them. And they had a backup singer playing a toy guitar which they’d amped up. Oh yeah, this was going to be an interesting show.
After tuning up, the singer introduced themselves by saying “I don’t know why we’re the last show, we really suck!” And with that they launched into their songs. You could tell that the individuals were good at their instruments – the drummer was no Dave Grohl, but not terrible – but that they hadn’t practices together. The four out front danced around and smashed into the crowd, which by now had crowded the stage to the point where it was difficult to hae enough room for the band to play. At one point they invited the crowd to get naked. Some guys took off their shirts, but that was all the response they could muster. It really was an interesting show!
I went downstairs to get one more round of Fosters and when I came back they were destroying the toy guitar. People were taking turns stomping on it and the big moose was lifting people up and dropping them to get extra propulsion. So I hopped on the ride. In the end we smashed the thing into pieces. The guy who was playing it said that now it’s going to ruin the sound for the next show. Someone else allowed that he’d ruined its sound for this show, so it was fair.
All in all, Cork is a wonderful place. The people were
ery warm and hospitable and I felt at home almost everywhere. It was like a big village where everybody still has that neighborliness that makes for great cities.
I got to Dublin a few days ago and I noticed was that it was pretty much exactly as I’d imagined. The people are Irish in look and lilt. And it’s damned expensive here. The numbers look the same as I’d pay for things in the US in dollars, but 60% more comes out of my bank account when I buy them. The exchange rate to the Euro is 1.57 to 1.
On a whim I decided I’d meander on down to Cork and visit there for a few days before coming back to Dublin to work. I jumped on a bus and headed down there. Boy did I have a time! I’ll write more details later, but here’s a quick recap:
- A local threatened to kill me the next time he saw me because I looked at his girl. But she was the bartender and I was ordering a beer. So I suggested that he might have to buy my drinks the rest of the night. He said he’s permit me to look her way for that purpose alone.
- I kissed the Blarney Stone and caught “the gift of gab.” After hearing that the local teenagers have a habit of breaking in at night and defiling it, I wondered if I didn’t catch something else as well.
- Saw a raging music show that rivaled some of the best I’ve ever been to anywhere. A man in drag, a plastic guitar, Optimus Prime with sunglasses and a drummer who’d never drummed.
Cork is a really great place and I wish I had the time to spend a few months there. But somebody’s got to pay the bills.