From Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart –
THE JOYS OF PLAYING BASKETBALL by Boris Abramov
Sometimes life is difficult and one wishes to relieve oneself of the pressures and the worries of life. Some people see a shrink, others jump in a cold lake or travel around the world. But I find nothing more joyful than playing basketball. (p. 136)
I realize that Gary Shteyngart is not Irish, but this little bit of an essay written by the protagonist’s father in his book that I’m reading now, basically sums up life. You know that I love a good snug here in Dublin, but one cannot live life fully with a snuggish outlook. You need to get out there and find “nothing more joyful than” and fill in the blank.
My friend Victoria and I spent five brilliantly sunny and warm days this week filling in the blank as best we could. On her first day here, we meandered through the cobblestoned streets of Dublin and ran into my old friend D who was sitting in Murphy’s, at one with his ice cream. (And yes, I’m mentioning Murphy’s again. I was just in Italy for three weeks; I had gelato every day, sometimes twice a day, and I still maintain that Murphy’s is just as good if not better.) Anyway, we disturbed his oneness with Dingle sea salt and honeycomb caramel with hellos and hugs. He tells us that he’s leaving tomorrow for Valencia, Spain, to take Spanish lessons. I google pictures of Valencia, Spain, and now I want to do that too.
The next day Victoria and I take the DART to Howth, the gorgeous fishing village that juts out of the peninsula of Howth Head to meet the Irish Sea. Howth is a magical mixture of rejuvenation and relaxation.
We walk along the pier to find a family of seals playing in the water just next to us. They have each other and the cold water, so something tells me that they won’t ever need a shrink.
We wander into West Pier Art Studio to find Alan McLeod and his prints. Victoria buys two beautiful triptych prints of fish for her little boy. Besides doing his art work, Alan has befriended the local lobster boatmen so that they can share their knowledge, heritage, and traditions. He has collected their oral histories in a documentary called Perils and Pearls. He shows us a small part of one fisherman’s story – he’s so Irish in every way – and all I can think is, ‘Now I want to do that too!’ I remember that I used to have my eighth graders collect oral histories from their elderly relatives and we loved listening to the stories as much as they loved collecting them. I’m going to record my father’s life story as soon as I get home.
We stop for lunch at the Bloody Stream which seems to have it all, including an open turf-burning fireplace. Its name comes from the stream over which it is built where a bloody battle took place during the second Norman invasion in 1177. And then for dessert, we go to my favorite place in Howth, the Dog House Blue’s Tea Rooms.
I get strawberries and cream and Victoria has an affogato. The whole place is just so quirky and pretty that you could go there every day for a week and still find a new spot to spend your time. To give you just a hint, it has an outdoor living room, a fireplace, and its very own bed.
I stop by one of the shops in the little outdoor market to say hello to a lovely American woman named Valerie who I met the last time that I was in Howth. She tells me that she came here from Boston twenty-five years ago and forgot to go home.
She says, “Howth is a little slice of heaven.” Hmmm…give up life in the big city to live in a gorgeous village on the Irish sea – to walk the pier and the cliffs – to eat fresh fish from a different shop every day – to keep tabs on the local seal family – to take art lessons from Alan when he has some spare time – to read a book by the fire in the Bloody Stream – to get a different kind of tea and a different dessert in a different corner of the Dog House Blue’s Tea Room – to watch the boatmen and listen to their stories – if Netflix is available, I might want to do that too.