Here I sit, on my third attempt to begin this colossal project, and I’m realizing I didn’t really think it through all the way. So I’ve decided to make an Amendment to my initial Project Outline.
THE BIG AMENDMENT: Each post will tell one story of my travels, hopefully they will be in order, though no promises to accuracy or the fancy of my whims. This is a very necessary revision, I realized, because if I were to tell the whole arc of my travels I would have to tell much of the whole arc of my life. You may or may not know, but traveling, especially of the kind I did, is as much an emotional journey as it is a geographical one, and the whole shazam would take as much as a book, and as long to write. And who knows. Maybe someday I will write a book about this. So. We focus on the geographical, in little flashes, like snapshots.
When I stepped off the bus that had taken me from Shannon Airport to the city of Galway, the first thing I noticed was how cold it was for July. The sky was overcast, the air was damp, and there I stood outside the bus station in my shorts and sandals, with a backpack full of t-shirts, tank tops, and only one pair of long jeans and one long sleeve shirt. No jacket or sweater. I was too deliriously excited and starry-eyed to care. An easily fixable problem, I told myself. It’ll probably warm up. So I changed in the restroom, strapped my life onto my back, and just started walking. Somehow, I stumbled upon an internet cafe within yards of the station. I will tell you this, that would not have happened anywhere but Ireland. There are many moments when I thank whatever gods of travelers or wanderers were looking out for me that I began my journey in Ireland. So many travelers and backpackers come through that country that everywhere is prepared for us, with hostels, net cafes, and hotels around every corner. And I mean every. So I strode on into this fine internet establishment, bouncing on the balls of my feet, eyes bright and open to any and every possibility. I sat at a computer, and emailed my family to let them know I had arrived, whole and healthy and hungry. I stood to pay, when I finished, and cheerily said Good morning to the man behind the counter.
“Good morning, yourself,” he said. I paid, and asked him where I could find the best Irish breakfast in town. I felt something like my dad, who is nothing short of pro at mingling with waiters or servers or counter people.
The man looked at me brightly and smiled. “Are you American?” he asked me. I confessed that I was. “Traveling alone? You seem awful young.” I got that a lot. He then told me there was an excellent restaurant not too far away that served a full traditional Irish breakfast for not too much. He even drew me a map, and indicated on the map where else I should go in the city, sites to see and such like that, when he realized I didn’t know anything about Galway and had just kind of landed here. “Here it is, just around the corner from Lynch’s Castle. It’s a bank now, but you can see there’s a little placque on the side saying what it is.” When I asked him what Lynch’s Castle was, rather than taken aback, he hunkered down on the table and started to weave me a tale, right there in the internet cafe.
Centuries ago, there was a judge named Lynch, who had a son that everyone liked. He was a very charming fellow, see, and he had a love story. “They’re always love stories, aren’t they?” the man said with a laugh. He was in love with a girl in town, and at the pub, had a few too many pints, and got in a fight with another fellow over her. And he ended up killing him. Now, the penalty for murder was a hanging, but this was the Judge’s only son, and he loved him. So he put his son in the jail, to figure out what to do the next day. That’s what Lynch’s Castle is, see, is the jail. Everyone knew that the penalty would be hanging but thought for sure the Judge wouldn’t do it. The boy was so well-liked, though, that no one wanted him to be punished. They mobbed the jail to break him out. But the Judge had thought they would do that and so had moved his son to his house in the middle of the night. And he hung him there, in the dead of night, in the window of his own house. The people were sad at the boy’s death, but rather than lashing out at the Judge, they commended him for his dedication to justice.
We joked about the dark Irish stories, I thanked him, took my hand-drawn map, and found me my first European meal. And let me tell you, it was delicious, blood pudding and all.