Pubs and pubbing in Ireland : a spiritual travelogue :
drinking and writing in Galway, Ireland
"Out in this world, in this incredible world, in this maddening, miraculous, mythical world, certain very absurd things kept happening to me, almost all of which I neither expected, intended, nor desired.
...I was in Ireland, and I was rootless and homeless, though I had never felt more rooted nor home, a paradox which could only exist in Ireland, because it is a land that has been uniquely made for blokes like me, for souls rapt in the wonder of existence and dancing madly without aim but for the love, the agony, and the brilliance of it all. I was dancing a mad dance inwardly as I outwardly toured the pubs of Galway. I was like a sailor who had never before set foot on land, like a man born out at sea, who had never known the feel of good old terra firma, nor of the type of solidity which belongs to no physical realm but is found only in the heart’s vagabond provinces, and is a fluid perfection which the spirit knows as home. And if ever I felt like I had finally come to shore, and was home, it was in Galway, Ireland, for there is no place on earth which houses the lost and wandering soul in such multifarious pubs, like Galway. The town is thick with bohemians, hobos, troubadours, minstrels, mendicants, gypsies, hippies, publicans, drunks, and freaks.
I was staying in an anarchical, disgusting, congested, wonderful, and blessed hostel on the outskirts of town, wherein the most amazing cast of individuals were either living for months on end while working in town, or staying only for a brief period during their travels.
I was in Ireland, and Ireland was in me. And never have I been to a country where I was so quickly guided by the spirit, welcomed by the citizens, stimulated by song, and pickled in the pubs as I was in Ireland.
In fact, I ended up in that spirited hostel through a series of guided circumstances, as originally I arrived in Galway after spending two days travelling from the armpit of the world, London, and was weary and in desperate need of a pint of the black blood. So, upon arrival, I checked into the first boarding house I could find, which was right near the bus station, but I instantly realized that it was painfully clean, absurdly regimented, and as dead as the doorknobs within it, and I knew that I would not stay there long, though where I would end up I had no clue.
So I headed out onto the main, cobbled street, put back a few pints in a pub, and then went to a park by the river where I encountered an amazing assortment of young folks playing music, doing circus stunts, bantering about, and otherwise having a fine old time of it. I thought to myself- that is where the spirit is, in those people, and I stayed there for a while, imbibing their essence, and then left to get a bite to eat.
At the restaurant I was joined by a long-haired Italian fellow who was working at one of the local shops, and living in Galway for the summer, and who had some good advice on where to stay. He suggested to me another hostel, which had exceptionally cheap weekly rates, no rules, and no worries. And, I was to find out, after I had gone and checked it out, that it was the home of all those young folks whom I had been admiring, which was reason enough for me to drag my bags out of the soulless sepulchre I had placed them in earlier, and move into that house of spirit the next day, and that was where I met the bloke declaring that God was gay.
And though I am a man who enjoys his privacy and time alone, both of these were absolutely impossible in the tightly packed mayhem I soon found myself ensconced within, inside that broken-down, smoke-ridden, noisy, and congested rooming-house where the spirit ran as thick as molten gold: the Archview Hostel, or, archetype view, as I saw it. I was to stay there for two weeks, despite, and because of the human chaos within, and was to meet all sorts of fantastic characters exhibiting the maddest, liveliest, and most talented lives I have ever seen in any such wayfarer’s community.
Every night in the crowded stairwell there would be guitar playing, song, and revelry. It was like living in a co-ed dorm in which no one had to go to class the next morning, no one had to study, and the only project was to live, and love, and spread the fever of euphoria around and through all who came to that effervescent stew.
There were a number of rooms in the hostel which had become known for housing groups of individuals from specific countries. There was a Spanish room, an Eastern European room, and a French room, which was the one I was lucky enough to get a bed in, for the French live life like no others on earth.
I had returned to my roots, had folded my wings, and found myself in a nest the likes of which I could never have imagined.
And so for the next couple of weeks, if I wasn’t at the hostel, hanging out with those remarkable Europeans, I was out pubbing, to be sure. For Galway is not a town, it is a convention of pubs, albeit with a number of roads in between its various taps, an assortment of restaurants to feed the partiers, some hotels and a bus station to service the patrons, but these are merely collateral institutions facilitating the multitude of drinking holes in this one-of-a-kind west coast town.
I spent day after day patronizing the various establishments, listening to music sessions, and meeting the occasional local. One spirited fellow who beckoned me to sit down with him was putting back the pints as if he was inhaling oxygen, and all the while spouting gibberish about his ‘master’ in Asia, which was all very interesting, but I wasn’t in Asia- I was in a pub, in Galway, Ireland, mad with music, joy, and drink- and so had little ear for his neophytic zeal. Luckily, however, he eventually switched channels and shared with me one important Irish commandment around drinking, which was to always leave the last sip of beer in your glass for the faeries. It sounded reasonable, although I was loath to give up even a drop of the juice. However, I capitulated to the local tradition. After all, I was consuming my fair share of the black blood called Guinness anyway, so much so that I soon found that if you drink enough of it- as if one could ever drink enough of that dark-mother’s milk, but by ‘enough’ I mean no less than six to eight pints a day, a peasant’s ration- your innards become coated with that dark and delicious tincture, and your stool becomes black as pitch. The first time I peered into the ivory throne after a few days in Galway and saw the ebony logs piled like cones of soft charcoal upon each other, I could not believe it. My shit was as black as the blackest night, and remained that way until I weaned myself onto a more holistic diet of cider, whiskey, and hash, which I was quickly trained to do while staying in that most quintessential of outcast’s hostels on earth, and passing a bottle of the hard stuff around with groups of young Europeans, like only the Europeans do, and rolling big, conical reefers, like only the Europeans do, and taking in life, and food, and liberty, like only the Europeans do.
I had come to a place where I could be at peace, and in company, which is an almost impossible feat for a writer, because writing is generally the outcome of loneliness and quietude. But in Ireland I was able to somehow bridge the gap, and find a way of harnessing the wild beast but for an instant, not to quell its life, but to record it, and then onto the next stampede, and then a word, a sentence, a paragraph, some whiskey, a toot, a bit of laughter, some song. I had come to accept life in community, which I had never been able to accomplish in all my writing life, because to write, as I saw it, you needed to be absolutely alone, and absolutely still, unless you were a Maeterlinck, Nietzsche, Miller, or Artaud, all of whom were compelled from within by an overwhelming need to walk, and keep walking, at all costs, for only in walking could they find the rhythm in which they also could write. I suppose this is why Artaud went mad on Inishmore, an island off the coast of Galway, which is covered in a neverending labyrinth of perfectly square stone fences, the claustrophobic limitations of which must have oppressively harnessed that wild Pontiac and so brought him to destruction, for when a man with no wings searches the earth for a place to soar, his search is in vain, for life on earth is not about soaring above, but about lifting that which is below, because the roots must always take hold in the writhing, primeval soup, and only wings strong enough to remain tethered to those roots, and yet rise upward like a kite on a string can secure the soul in the tumbling tide. For just as the soul is anchored on earth, so must the spirit be anchored above, for each is dependent on the other. It is this dynamic- of the spirit rooted in the heavens, and the soul rooted upon the earth- which demands our strong flight into the gales above, simply to still the soul below in the smashing, manifest sea without breaking the line between the soil and the sky, for only then is the union of heaven and earth ever won. This is the tension of the Christ holding onto both the soul in the sea, and the spirit in the sky, and never releasing one for the other. For we must belong to both Heaven and Earth, to the Father and the Mother, to the Spirit and the Soul, if we are to bridge the gulf which destroys us.
We must become a flowing which flows as matter flows, like one gigantic sea which swells and thunders here and there, is calm and inviting elsewhere, and yet is always but one sea not divided but for the mind which says it is so."
Books by Jack Haas
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