Nearly broke in Dublin and calling out the devil -- or a reasonable substitute
Part Two of a series
Bryce Petersen Jr.
Like the punk on the bus I had told him about.
I'd walked up O'Connell Street, found the Writer's Museum, full of works, busts and letters of the writers I love -- Joyce, Shaw, O'Casey, Wilde; found several churches, including one eerie house of worship on an island of its own several blocks off the Lonely Planet map I had. I walked around the building, studying its stark, Gothic walls before wandering off and into a nearby pub, grateful to get in out of the just-started evening rain.
The World Cup was on, but Pat was lobbying for a change to Gaelic football, a sport closer to rugby than soccer -- but rougher, he tells me -- in which the Irish take great pride. The barman managed to fend off his requests, fill three pints at a time, take orders from the other end of the bar and carry on a lengthy and witty conversation (of which, because of the language barrier, I caught little) with another patron.
After my introduction to Gaelic football, I told Pat about the creepy church I'd seen nearby.
"That's the Black Church," Pat said. "Walk around it three times and you'll see the devil."
I said I'd stay away from it, but he reassured me.
"Oh, you know, that's just the story the people will tell," he said. "Sometimes visitors will stomp around it three times, look around, and shout, 'Feck, where's the fecking devil,' but it's just an old tale."
So after my sister had arrived from Russia, I wasn't alarmed when we happened on the Black Church. It was after a long, wet day, touring cathedrals, castles and libraries. We had abandoned her umbrella after wrestling with the wind all day and were now wet as dogs.
Kenna was on her way home. She'd been in Russia for the last four months. I had been in Dublin just over a week and had already worked a few shifts at the City Manor, the hostel where I had been staying. I hadn't planned on working, at least not yet, but when my ATM card refused to give me any of my $1,600, I thought I'd better stretch my funds.
See, I'd asked two bank managers on two separate occasions if my card would work overseas. They both assured me it would. Then, I wouldn't have to carry cash, I'd automatically get the best exchange rate, etc. Not so. It turns out, only checking accounts, which I did not have, are able to dispense money in foreign lands. I had to call my poor mother and have her wire all of the money to a bank in Limerick, where Kenna and I planned to be when the wire would arrive.
So I worked three 12-hour, 8 p.m.-to-8 a.m., shifts and got a free bed and 20 pounds for each one. Plus, I met everyone. And you'll hear the most interesting stories at 6 a.m.
Shannon was an Australian in Europe with her parents, who used to call her Tommy. The nickname came from their favorite movie of the same name. You know, The Who's Tommy. But apparently, they lost interest in the movie, because Shannon cannot recall seeing it until she was 20 years old. One 6 a.m., long past her bedtime, Shannon told me of strange childhood memories of strange nightmares of beans flying into open windows. They worried her greatly until she saw Tommy. That was when she recognized the nightmares as clips from the show, her nicknamesake.
Now, Kenna was telling me a story. It could have been about the time she saw the dead, bloody body in the forest in St. Petersburg. It could have been about the time she got lost, got frostbite, and was saved been about the man in another kiosk who was so stricken with her that he muttered "beautiful, beautiful" the entire time she was there.
Lost in conversation, we looked up, surprised to see a building on its own little island, running with black blood. The dark gray walls of the Black Church apparently turned black as death in a hard rain. The thick, constant stream then flowed off, morphing back to harmless, if a little dingy, rain water as it hit the gutter.
We walked around the church as Kenna snapped photos.
A few weeks later, Kenna was gone. I was back in Dublin, pockets bulging with every cent I owned, besides $100 I had left home in case I wanted to change my flight. There was nothing to do but hide it away and hope nobody robbed me.
But in Kilkenny, someone had taken my sweater, the one I'd worn nearly every day of my trip. I guessed they needed it more than me, but I was now in the market for a cheap, warm sweater.
One magical day, a Dutch friend lamented that there were no fresh fruits in Dublin. On the way back from St. Michan's crypt, home to natural mummies, preserved by the dry-crypt air for more than 600 years, I spied a grocery store. I bought the fruits and vegetables he was looking for. On the way home, I also looked in a few shops for a sweater but after looking at several expensive, thin, cotton sweatshirts, I gave up.
Then I saw a storefront that said "Millets." I knew that millet was a grain used in The Sudan to make a strange bread. A Sudanese friend of mine in Logan had mourned the lack of millet in Utah a few months before. I had gone on a quest, found whole millet at Shangri-La and used my mother's wheat grinder to make his flour. In gratitude, he brought me some of the sweet/bitter, bread/pudding that he made out of it.
So, when I saw the storefront, my curiosity was piqued. I went in, wondering why there was a millet store in Ireland. Though I found no little yellow grains inside the shop, I did find my sweater. For 7 pounds, I bought the warmest sweater in the world. It was even green. Apparently, millet is Irish (or British or something) for military issue clothing.
I brought my Dutch friend his veggies, for which he shared a dinner of lamb with me; wrote my Sudanese friend a thank you note, for helping me find my sweater, and still had some daylight.
An American girl walked into the hostel. She had two large suitcases and a giant backpack. She'd taken the wrong bus and was looking for a friend's house. We tried to find the address on the map and soon she started naming sites that it was close to.
One was the Black Church. More magic.
I helped her with her bags and walked the mile or two to her friend's house. When I asked what she planned to do for the week she was in Ireland, she said, "Hang out with friends in Dublin, maybe go to Carlow."
Magic. Carlow, being where my great-great grandfather, Robert Anderson, was buried, naturally caught my attention. I told her my story.
My sister and I had been to Carlow. We'd stayed in a B&B on the street where he'd lived in the 1840s. While there, we had bumped into the town historian, who showed us Scot's Church, where he married Dinah Murray in 1847. He drove us to the Newgarden Cemetery, where Robert Anderson and his family are buried.
I'd never heard the song so I asked her if she had a copy of it that she could give me. She offered to send me a copy if I would but send a blank tape to her Minneapolis home and allow her to record her mix tape onto it and mail it to me in Utah. I, unimpressed, declined.
And the fragile spell of the day was broken.
She found the house, introduced me to Dorian Gray and others. It was a pleasure to meet someone by the name of Dorian Gray -- Oscar Wilde's anti-hero who gave all his blemishes to a painting and remained ever th innocence while his nature deteriorated to horrid depravity ù but the magical glow had disappeared.
The Black Church came up in the conversation. Apparently, it was a no-longer-used Protestant Church, which reminded me of the horror stories in Logan Canyon's "nunnery." (Minority religions get rough treatment everywhere.). There was some debate whether its present use was an insurance office, a den of thieves or a house of Top Secret government documents. No one knew for sure. But they did know stories about demons, though they discounted them all. I soon grew tired of their skepticism and decided to walk back to the City Manor.
On my way, I walked around the Black Church for the third time.