“An Irishman was asked if the Irish always answered one question with another. ‘Who told you that?’ he replied.” Niall Toibin That’s it. That’s all there is to say about the Irish. You don’t need to read any further, but I’m hoping that you will anyway. Niall Toibin is an Irish actor and comedian who divides his time between New York and his home in Dublin. I like that arrangement as I divide my time between Dublin and my home outside of Philadelphia. My time back in Dublin again started this morning. How can I describe the essence of Dublin? I’ll try with a few examples. “Your man” (as the Irish would say) behind the glass partition at the end of the line in customs chats me up. He sees thousands of people every day and he happily has a conversation with me. As part of the conversation he comments that I look better than my age would imply – something like, “You can’t possible be this age!” (Mind you, he has my passport in his hand.) As far as compliments go, I guess this one could be categorized as a tired classic. But like so many things in life, including lectures, letters, lines, and love, it’s the delivery that counts – and his is sublime. Just like Mark Twain, I can live two months on a good compliment. This one might last me even a bit longer. He asks me how long I will be in Dublin and when I tell him that I have six weeks in this gorgeous country of his, he appears and sounds genuinely envious. He says, “Oh, Kathleen Patricia, what I wouldn’t do to have six weeks to be free of where I am.” He is the embodiment of everything that is good about the Irish – friendly, warm, charming – and he has dimples. I laugh and ask him not to hate me too much. “Kathleen Patricia, best of luck to you,” he says as I head out to feel the cool, dry Dublin air.
Just outside the airport, the Airline bus arrives immediately and after a twenty-minute ride into town, I’m officially in my home away from home. I need to find Wifi so that I can let my airbnb hostess know that I have arrived and she can meet me with the keys to my apartment. As I head over to the Parliament Hotel just down the block on Dame Street, a bedraggled woman right out of central casting walks toward me to ask for money. “I’m sorry,” I say. With impeccable delivery and certainty she says, “You’re a bitch.” I’m left speechless – how does she know that so immediately?
I carry on to the hotel and ask Paul at the desk if I can use their Wifi, and he answers with kindness, “No problem.” And as I’m writing my email, a woman in an amazingly hideous outfit – an outfit that looks as if she may have gone to a lot of trouble to look this bad – is screaming nonsense just outside the front door. Paul looks at me with the smallest of grins and says, “Welcome to Dublin.” A few minutes later, I’m standing in Cow’s Land to meet up with Emily, a pretty young Irish woman who is the daughter of my airbnb hostess. As Emily and I stand just outside the front door to the apartment building where I’ll be staying, a group of Irish lads is waiting for their mate to come down to fetch them – and he does – with nothing on but his underpants. (I would usually say tidy whities, but his are blue.) The lads burst into laughter when they see him, and they say to Emily and me, “Don’t worry girls, he doesn’t have much to show.” We assure them that we are not worried in the least.
Emily shows me the apartment which is gorgeous. She couldn’t be more kind. After she leaves, I head over to the ATM on Dame Street and I see a familiar face heading towards me. I realize it’s Domhnall Gleeson. I saw him and his father Brendan in The Walworth Farce at the Olympia Theatre a while back – he was fantastic in it – and I saw Brooklyn twice, so I feel as if I know him. Before I can stop myself, I say, “Hi, I love your work.” He looks surprised and says, “Oh, thank you.” As compliments go, mine may not have been a tired classic – rather just tired. But my delivery is spectacular. And it’s amazing to me what you can gather about a person from just a few words – Domhnall seems shy and humble. Actors continually intrigue me. How do they transform themselves like that when someone yells, “Action!”?
I proceed to the next adventure. I feel completely at home and happy. I’ve been in Dublin for a little over an hour.