Double Bummer


When I die Dublin will be written in my heart — James Joyce.


William Butler Yeats. Oscar Wilde.  James Joyce. GBS (he’s so cool I only have to use his initials). Samuel Beckett. Jonathan Swift. Irish writers are the second reason why I love this place.

I didn’t grow up in a rainy city whose dampness would nudge me into long hours of cozying by a book. But I was born into a family profoundly enamored with the written word. My grandfather spent a lifetime mastering Chinese calligraphy, characters, even though he was Vietnamese, and it is now a feat consuming my father’s time.  I’d like to say that my own efforts at learning Mandarin have been as fruitful but thus far I can’t read a lick of it. My mother once taught English before she retired from the school district. My sister is a published author.

And me? Let’s just say writing has always been both a refuge and weapon of choice for me.  I could be just as happily lost in the  middle of the ocean as in the passages from Joyce’s Ulysses.  Reading, sometimes, is as much an adventure as my life on the road. Words provide comfort where my own emotions fail. They were also ammunition in my other life as a lawyer, stealth landmines in contracts crafted with words better left alone.  I’d use words to punish. To love, to praise. But most of all, I cherish words from anyone willing to take the time to write me. Your soul is not found through the windows that are your eyes. It is in the truth of your writing.

With a back story like that, how can you be surprised that I’m taking you to the James Joyce Centre today:


It is not to be mistaken with the James Joyce Tower, another museum in a tower where he actually lived, albeit briefly.  At the Centre,


there are interesting permanent and traveling exhibits detailing Joyce’s life and works. It is a wonderful resource for Bloomsday enthusiasts.  The Maginni Room, which has been converted to Cafe Ulysses,

was named after a flamboyant man who lived in the house that is now the Centre.  The significance to any of this is the fact that he was immortalized as a character in Joyce’s Ulysses.


After my tour here, I make my way–or should I say pilgrimage–to the Writers Museum inside an 18th century townhouse:


Up the stairs…


there are inviting rooms with creaky wooden floors, deliciously full bookcases, and toasty fireplaces that beckon you to stay awhile…


On the top floor there is a large room where public readings and conferences are held. There are busts and paintings of all the great Irish writers in this space:


The audio guide for this museum is quite well done, and if you have the time to peruse all of the items on display you’d discover some interesting facts about a few of my favorite writers.  Such as the fact that William Butler Yeats proposed four times, all unsuccessfully over some decades, to Maud Gonne, who inspired his poem A Man Young and Old. Bummer. What’s really weird though is that he later proposed to Maud’s daughter. She also declined. Double bummer.

As if that weren’t depressing enough, tomorrow we’re going to jail.


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