July 16-21, 1999:
Through Kathleen's step-father Tim, she's come to know Father Kelly and visits him whenever she's in Dublin. Father Kelly (who we know as Michael, though his ordained name is Robert and he goes by Bob) welcomed us to park the van within the protective shelter of the Carmelite's Gort Muire center. He gave us free run of the center and we found ourselves walking through the unnaturally quiet halls built large for conferences. The squeaking of our shoes echoed down shadowy corridors. The bathrooms and doorways were huge and our solitary presence made us feel small in a safe sort of way.
Father Hugh welcomed us into his room for hours of visiting and downloading. (If you look closely you'll see the back of Henry's head.) Hugh was always listening to classic opera and gave us the skinny on which works of art we should seek out at the Vatican when we're there. He also shared stories of his childhood on Malta during WWII. He remembers the American soldiers as the ones who brought him candy.
Their home was full of simple remembrances of simple times. How many of you actually remember using these phones? It slows you down to the speed of a turning wheel. Very meditative dialing phone numbers with lots of 9s and 0s.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Father McCabe. At 73 he leads a dual life. By winter he's the Father and Doctor of the Carmelite mission to Northern Kenya's nomads. By summer (three months each year) he's mild mannered lecturer on tropical medicine at one of the universities in Dublin. He's the only Carmelite Medical Doctor and a remarkable man to boot. He played at Wimbledon in his youth and today can beat many a younger man at tennis.
We spent several days traveling to and from Dublin City Center. The place is crammed with tourists busting the seams of all the shops and street walks.
It took us a half hour one day to snake our way through two blocks here in Grafton street. We'd have taken this picture when it was packed but we were afraid of being trampled.
Also complicating our navigation of Dublin was the mysterious absence of bus schedules. We waited on Sunday at a bus stop for an hour only to have three of our busses pass us by. We had to walk a half hour to the River Liffey to catch one where it originates. When we passed the stop where we'd been waiting, the bus passed the poor bloke who tried to flag it down.
The streets and infrastructure just can't handle the number of people who are there. Prosperity has come on too quickly, perhaps.
On one of our errands we met the Gunn family-- Carmel and her father John, of John Gunn camera store. Here you have the old and new models of business in Ireland. His is the prototypically small entrepreneur's store, just like the quiet mom & pop hardware stores that have almost disappeared back in the states. She's a twenty-something who, together with her boyfriend, run an aggressive computer consulting business. With more business than they can handle, they're setting a fast pace for tomorrow.
Homer Simpson Rules.
We went to the National Library (think 'Irish Library of Congress') where by law every book ever published since the Republic must be kept and available to the public.
You can see they're spending time and money painting the place -- it looked quite nice. Yet where it counts, their infrastructure comes up lacking again. Their electronic card catalog goes back to 1990. Beyond that one has to visit a small room full of leather bound volumes full of strips of typed indexing information pasted on with rubber cement. If it's not there, try the 'supplement' card catalog.
In the end, after two hours and with their help, we couldn't find 10 of 12 books we wanted (published by the government itself, no less).
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace exploded onto movie screens everywhere in Dublin while we were there. Showings at every hour.
We used the rotary phone (dial, pud, pud, pud, pud, pud) to make reservations and learned they do assigned seating. Pretty cool not having to worry about getting seat's together in a crowded theater.
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