“The Summer Of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame: pt.3 Some Say the Devil is Dead”

“The Summer Of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame: pt.3 Some Say the Devil is Dead”

Ryan made most of his tips allowing prostitutes to carry out business in hotel rooms. Working as a night porter in a hotel on Eyre Square meant establishing a moral vacuum, which is not to say total nihilism, but certainly a ye-without-sins-may-cast-the-first-stoneism. He also garnered some tips working as a bartender; however bartending duties ended at 2 AM, last call. Ryan’s nightly shifts were from 11 PM – 7 AM, and with no one checking in or out at these hours, he had to be creative if he wanted to make the extra money needed to pay for the planned eurotrip. Ryan’s other sources of extra income included: letting bachelors bring prostitutes back to the room; keeping the bar open late; selling booze past last call for inflated prices; and bringing drinks to rooms. There were other potential business opportunities that arose at different times, though. Adam, the Pole who trained him in, had explained the hotel’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy; night porters were free to indulge in whatever ill-begotten funds they so pleased as long as the hotel did not have to experience the consequences come 7 AM. Thus, between 11 PM and 7 AM god was dead and all was permitted.

Accordingly, Ryan had to hone his judgment of character. He learned early the dangers posed by knackers, tossers, and most importantly travelers. Firstly, the difference knackers and tossers was never entirely clear to Ryan. The concept of knackers was clear enough, for they are a transcendental sub-class across all capitalist societies but are signified differently according to culture, each with its own respective etymology. In England, they are referred to as “chavs” and as “neds” in Scotland. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, knackers are referred to as “skeets.” The most widely accepted explanation of the term comes from a reinterpretation of the word “skeet,” which is used predominately in African American circles to refer to wasted cum, or the sex-act of ejaculating on a partner’s face. A “skeet” or “knacker” is meant to represent a range of behavior that includes stealing, doing and/or selling low cost/quality drugs, speaking with predominant slang or lower-income intonation, and dressing in typically lower-income attire. That is not to say, however, that “skeets” or “knackers” are necessarily lower-income; bourgeoisie will often emulate “skeety” behavior in the ongoing search of authenticity. Nonetheless, the vast majority of “skeets” and “knackers” come from proletariat origins. Seeking clarification, Ryan asked some guests from Limerick the difference between “knacker” and “tosser.” They replied, “If you’re a tosser, you’re a knacker. But if you’re a knacker, it doesn’t mean you’re a tosser.” Ryan concluded it was difference of degree, not type. “Tosser” is more than likely an intensification of what “knacker” signifies.

Conversely, “traveler” is indeed a socioeconomic classification. Travelers are a nomadic group who have formed their own subculture on the margins of Irish society and law. Irish gypsies, for a lack of a better term, although they are also known as “tinkers.” In their own language, they refer to themselves as “Minceir” and “Pavees.” They subsist on a black market that comprises drug, prostitution, theft, and underground, bare knuckle boxing. However, they do ingage in some legitimate transactions such as animal breeding, mostly dogs and horses, and recycling various scrap metals. They live in caravans on shared land and properties that are often acquired via squatter rights. Guy Ritchie’s film Snatch famously represented a similar type of group with Brad Pitt’s gang of loveable rascals, the Pikeys. However, one would be wise not to conflate Pitt’s charismatic performance with the real thing, as Ryan discovered. One night, a group of travelers attempted to enter the hotel after hours. Ryan checked the guest list and did not see their names. To the naked eye, many travelers resemble any run of the mill knackers. Accordingly, Ryan could see these guys would be more trouble than they were worth, so he did not let them in. The travelers took offense and things escalated quickly. Fortunately, Ryan had previously befriended Tom, the bouncer from the casino across the street. With a riot baton illegally bought in Prague, Tom approached the travelers, who wisely scattered.

(Knackers. I don’t own this image.)

Tom the bouncer was an interesting character worth discussing further. Adam the Pole explained to Ryan that Tom was always willing to bail you out if things got out of hand. As a trade off, if Tom wanted to hang out and have a cigarette, you were obliged to join him. As well, at the end of his shift, which was around 6 AM, Tom liked to come over to the bar for a pint. He always paid and tipped well, but it was good form to offer it to him for free so that he may politely refuse. This is not to suggest Tom the bouncer was some kind of saint. After long, slow nights, Tom felt overwhelmed by the night’s solitude and would come to the bar ready to wag his tongue. Ryan sat and listened patiently as Tom divulged his many sins, some of which were more than likely fabricated just so he may exercise his under-used conversational muscles. Tom told Ryan about the various tax frauds he had perpetrated, such as sinking a fishing boat he owned and setting a car on fire (apparently, if you light a few bags of Lays potato chips ablaze in your glove compartment, the cause of the flame cannot be traced by forensics). He also told Ryan about the Spanish girls he regularly seduced. Ryan knew this to be a lie, for these girls were friends with Cathy and often told him about the texts Tom sent them. For his part, Ryan was a consummate listener and never questioned the gaps in Tom’s narratives.

But Tom was just a constant in a carousel of interesting characters. Weekends were all-out debauchery and Ryan simply did his best to maintain some semblance of order, whereas the weekdays were slow and gave him time to get to know whatever guests were hanging around the bar. One night, a lawyer from Dublin arrived at around midnight, and headed straight for the bar. He was friendly and chatted with Ryan, interested in why he decided to come to Ireland and what he studied. To Ryan’s delight, the lawyer did a Bachelor’s in Literature before enrolling in law school. They also shared a mutual admiration of The Beatles, John Lennon especially. They spoke of Joyce and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band. Deep in conversation, Ryan failed to notice that the already-buzzed lawyer had managed to put away four pints in less than an hour. He listened attentively as Ryan delineated his comparison of “A Day in the Life” and Ulysses. Aside from the obvious reference to the concept of a day in the life of a regular bloke, Ryan observed how the contrast between John Lennon’s malcontent, narcophilosopher and Paul McCartney’s quietly desperate businessman near perfectly mirror the dynamic of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, respectively. “That’s interesting,” answered the lawyer, as he proceeded to pick up his briefcase, open it, vomit inside, and then shut it. He gathered his things and left a 50 Euro tip as Ryan stared in disbelief.

Throughout the week, Ryan held on for dear life, trying his best to maximize this monetary opportunity. Between 3 and 4 AM things tended to die down. This was the witching hour. It was the hour drunks made the decision between calling it a night or an all-nighter. 4 AM is probably the loneliest hour of the day. Even the earliest of birds rarely rise before 5 AM. It was at 4 AM that Ryan would go out and share a cigarette with Tom. He felt ensconced within the solitude. Sometimes, if he was not too busy, Ryan would pull himself a pint of Guinness and then creep into the hotel’s walk-in cooler and grab a piece of chocolate cake. He had carefully mapped out a route around the bar and kitchen that was not surveyed by security cameras.  He would sit in the lounge with his snack and read Joyce. He had recently finished Ulysses just in time for Bloomsday. He spent June 16th at Nora Barnacle’s house, reading experts from Ulysses with fellow Joyce enthusiasts. Although the book had perplexed Ryan, Circe especially, the relationship was love-hate, and by the end, after Molly Bloom’s final “Yes” Ryan felt a strain of melancholy, something he had not felt since he finished Lord of the Rings as a teenager (before the release of the films). Ulysses now dominated Ryan’s imagination, and when he eventually returned to university, he became one of those people who spoke constantly of James Joyce, much to the chagrin of his fellow students.

Now, though, it was Race Week, and Galway was in full fornicative flight. Race Week is a seven-day cluster fuck when Ireland descends upon Galway to eat, drink and be an asshole. There is also some horse racing. The whole thing reminded Ryan of those Feasts of Fools that Bahktin wrote about. The bar was always full to capacity with guests passing out in stools and chairs. Most did not even bother going to their rooms to hook up. Doing his rounds around the hotel, Ryan heard the faint sounds moaning. He was impressed that he managed to hear it from the staircase. However, as he ascended the steps, he determined that they were not coming from any room, and found a man thrusting into a women bent over the rails. “Hey!” Ryan yelled. “Sorry, mate,” answered the man who disengaged his erect penis and put his pants on. The woman demurely pulled up her thong and followed the man to his room.

It was 3 AM now, and it the revelers were trying to decide whether they would push on into dawn. There was, however, a strategy for ending a night. A tactfully timed playlist can max out a group’s will for merrymaking. Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” and John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” were Galway favorites, along with the apropos “Fields of Athenry,” but nothing could achieve the kind of catharsis that Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” can deliver. The Irish have always claimed the Gallaghers as their own despite their British passports, which was probably for the best as the Irish, like Canadians, are not adept at celebrating their own until it has been validated by a larger, external authority (“the old sow that eats her farrow” as Joyce wrote. Such is the behavior of an insecure nation). Nonetheless, one does not simply play “Don’t Look Back in Anger”; it must timed appropriately. If used prematurely, it will give the hedonists a second wind, guaranteeing an all-nighter. Ryan decided he would wait until 3:30 AM.

Those plosive, shamelessly “Imagine”-esque piano chords were unmistakable. The bar responded in Pavlovian style. The lyrics are somewhat cryptic and ambiguous (who is Sally? who is Noel speaking to? Liam? an ex?), and yet they sang along with lumps in their throats. Despite his cynical usage, Ryan still could not help but let the song get inside him. Noel’s coda never failed to give him goosebumps (“But don’t look back in anger/Don’t look back in anger/I heard you/’Least not today). It was a great tune.

The guests were finishing up their drinks and shuffling off. Ryan had played his hand perfectly. He felt good about how he managed a night that had begun terribly. Earlier, when the bar staff were working, a Dubliner mistook their Donnegal bartender’s for a Protestant from the North. The troubles were about to manifest themselves in the bar, and Ryan tried to intervene. The Dubliner did not care for Ryan’s foreign accent either. He then threatened to come back with a shotgun and mow down the entire staff. The bouncers came and kicked the Dubliner out. He was a wealthy businessman so possessed the means (cash) to smooth things over without the need to call the Garda. Of course, the bouncers were only bluffing to extort some extra quid; staff were under strict orders not to call the Garda unless it was a matter of life and death. Tom was, after all, only across the street.

Before he could let his ego swell too much, Ryan noticed a drunken man slouched over the bar with a nearly full pint glass. When the bar cleared out with only the two of them remaining, Ryan committed the unforgivable sin of snatching the man’s pint and pouring it down the sink. “It was probably stale anyway,” Ryan told himself. He then roused the drunk and told him to go to his room. “Fuck off, Yank,” said the man. “I’m not American,” reminded Ryan, hoping it would inspire some sense of comradery. “I’m Canadian.” “What odds?” remarked the man. “I still don’t trust ye.” Ryan was too exhausted to take offense. He walked around the bar and approached the man. The man stood up and held his two fingers above his forehead like horns. “I’m the Irish bull,” yelled the drunk. Seizing upon an opportunity, Ryan pantomimed a red cape like a Spanish matador. The drunk stomped his leg and pursued Ryan. They continued this game until Ryan goaded him into charging into the elevator. Inside, the man laughed to himself until he slowly drifted in and out of waking consciousness. The elevator stopped at his floor and Ryan had to drag him out with one arm wrapped around his shoulder. He brought the man to the room of his key’s number. Ryan deposited the man onto the floor. “Goodnight,” he said. “Go back to your own country,” murmured the man.

It was now 4:30 AM and Ryan still had a lot of work to do before the morning staff could take over. He collected all the breakfast requests from the doorknobs and headed down to the bar to clean up. At 5 AM the doorbell rang. It was Tom. Ryan continued his chores in a frantic pace as Tom yelled loudly enough to hear. Once the dairy was delivered, the floors and bathrooms cleaned, and the breakfast buffet laid out, Ryan waited for Jimmy the cook to show up so he could get some rashers, fried tomatoes, and eggs. By eating most of his meals at the hotel, Ryan was able to budget his groceries so that on average he only needed to pay for one meal each day. He had also discovered that tea and cigarettes (which were cheap in Europe) were great appetite suppressors.

At 7 AM, his shift was over. He walked home, and took a slightly longer route so he could walk by Galway Bay. After a brief tropical beginning, the summer had turned into one of the rainiest seasons in recorded history. Being from Newfoundland, the guys were not terribly discouraged by this. Moreover, the rain actually fell straight down as opposed to directly into your face no matter your orientation, as Newfoundland weather is wont to do despite the laws of physics. What amazed Ryan, though, was how fast a fine day could shift to drizzle and rain, and then back again. But today it was a clear morning and the water was a pale sheet of glass reflecting blue sky. Ryan’s ankles and back ached. He sat on a park bench and had a smoke as he overlooked the bay.

At the apartment, Ryan bumped into Cathy who was leaving. They smiled and nodded at each other. Cathy did not appreciate Ryan’s casualness with Chelsea. Ryan felt this was unwarranted as he had been clear with Chelsea regarding his expectations and intentions. Cathy did not voice her opinion that Ryan was using Chelsea as a rebound after Danielle. Ryan did his best not to admit to himself that he was just happy he no longer felt the temptation to hope Danielle would call/text him. Inside, John and Will were eating breakfast, getting ready to leave for their respective jobs. They sat together and briefly discussed ongoing plans for their eurotrip. It was now August and their time in Ireland would soon be at an end. They wanted to do a three-week sojourn around Europe starting in Germany and ending in England. They had to budget carefully as Will and John had limited funds. Conversely, by virtue of his tips and meal plan, Ryan was not only able to make up for the time he lost during his period of unemployment, he also had the disposable income to take trips around Ireland to Donnegal, the Aran Islands, Cork, and the Cliffs of Moher. Will tried his best to hide his resentment.

Ryan was reaching his exhaustion point. The past few months had exploded like a bundle of roman candles. This was technically their vacation from university, but now they needed a vacation from their vacation. Summer in Galway was too intense for anyone to bear for too long, and the guys needed a few carefree weeks of traveling to decompress from being exposed to the throbbing id of Ireland. Ryan was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life, to quote F. Scott. The present task at hand was letting their bosses know that they had in fact lied when claiming they had intended to stay for the full-year of their visas. After all the abuse he had suffered at the hotel, Ryan felt no remorse for leaving them in the lurch. He was particularly sick of the constant requests for saying “aboot.” He tried to explain that this was, as far he knew, an invention on behalf of South Park’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker, as he had never met a Canadian who spoke like Terrence and Phillip. He and a bartender nearly came to blows when the bartender would not let up. “I don’t ask you for your lucky charms,” countered Ryan, abandoning his Canadian niceness. The matter was never brought up again.

They planned a party a few days before they left for Germany. The party was Friday and they left from Galway airport on Monday. They wanted at least two days to clean up and get everything in order. Extending an olive branch, the bartender at the hotel stole a bottle of Jameson for Ryan on his last shift. On the night of the party they had plenty of 6-for-7s and Scrumpys to go with that bottle of Jameson. The Ontarienne’s brought Bulmers and their Spanish friends brought bottles of Buckfast, an awful wine that got you “fucked fast” (in addition to having 15% alcohol content, Buckfast also contained the equivalent amount of caffeine as eight cans of cola. Politicians in Scotland have sought to ban the sales of Buckfast because of its correlation to anti-social behavior. It was a favorite amongst knackers).

Although he had not been talking to her regularly, Ryan assumed Chelsea would be eager for one last hook-up before he left. However, he was shocked to discover upon the Ontariennes’ arrival that Chelsea had in fact taken up with one of the Spaniards. Ryan tried to hide his wounded pride from Cathy’s gaze. As the party developed, Ryan’s stomach boiled with jealousy and embarrassment. Trying not to look at Chelsea and her bambino, Ryan caught sight of John holding Cathy. He could see that John was indeed emotional. He saw in his friend’s face the look of someone who had come to the end of a journey and was doing his best to make the final moments last. Seeing them together, Ryan tried not to admit to himself that he had made a huge mistake. Desperate now, Ryan called Danielle. She did not answer. He texted her: “I’m leaving in a few days. Meet up?” After waiting for an answer for an hour, Ryan concluded he was alone for the night. He opened a bottle of Buckfast and started passing around shots. They assembled a funnel in which Ryan had Will pour a mixture of Scrumpys, Bavaria, and Buckfast. This was his last fully formed memory of the night.

The next morning, Ryan woke in his bed with a head made of concrete. He sat up on his bed and steadied himself. His lower jaw trembled as he felt his vomiting muscles twitch. He scrambled to the bathroom and dry heaved into the sink. He rubbed his tongue over the confines of his scorched earth mouth and concluded that he had long since voided any contents of his stomach. He swished a few handfuls of cold water for some mild relief. He shuffled down the stairs to survey the damage from the night before. Will was asleep on the couch. Ryan grabbed a can of Fanta from the fridge and contemplated what to do about breakfast. Supermac’s was probably their best option. Ryan hoped John would soon materialize so they could use his contacts for their traditional hangover feed bag. Will’s cellphone began to ring. Despite his efforts to ignore the ringing, Will finally woke to answer it: “Hello? You were arrested! Well, did you pay for the ice-cream?” Ryan listened, fascinated. Will hung up and filled him in on the details: John had gotten himself tossed into the drunk tank. Late in the night, long past Ryan was able to remember, John, the Ontariennes, and the Spaniards left to go to a friend’s house. There, a Frenchman hit on Cathy and John took offense. He punched out the Frenchman and then refused to leave. A ruckus started and the neighbors must have called the Garda. At some point amidst all this chaos, John had managed to rummage through the fridge and pulled out a Magnum ice cream bar. He was standing outside, holding the ice cream in the air, yelling when the Garda arrived. He tried to give them a fake name, Donnie Dunne, but they were holding his ID. Sick of his antics, the Garda threw him in the car and brought him to back to the drunk tank. John was now at the police office, and sobered up he managed to convince them not to deport him, as he was leaving in a few days anyway. He needed to get a cab back to the apartment but had no money. Will explained that they would pay his fair when he arrived. When he arrived, John was red-eyed and was in no mood to eat, talk, or clean. He walked up to his room and shut his door.

Ryan and Will decided to go to McDonagh’s, the only place in Ireland whose fish and chips could hope to compare to the Big R’s, Ches’s, or Leo’s from back home in St. John’s. Sober, Ryan was relieved to discover that Danielle never bothered to return his call or text. He was 48 hours from escaping Galway alive, but after last night he was not sure if would escape with his pride intact. He asked Will not to share any details from the party that he could not remember. They ate their fish and chips in silence, occasionally talking about things to do in Germany. They returned to the apartment and began the clean up. John eventually joined them and took over mopping duties.

And so their time in Ireland ended not with a bang but with a groan. For the two days before their departure, the guys were each resolved into his own invisible self. John tried to make amends with Cathy but she did not want to hear from him after that debacle Friday night. This was an easy out for John who would eventually turn his energy towards Weissbier and Currywurst. Will was focused on doing touristy things across continental Europe, and was also looking forward to seeing his girlfriend again, though he kept that to himself. For his, Ryan was simply done. He was not discontent about their time in Galway; he was just ready to move on. He would have compared the feeling to running a marathon, if he were prone to such athletic feats. Now, with the journey complete, he was too burnt out to appreciate how far he had come and what he had achieved. That feeling of accomplishment is always delayed after truly difficult challenges. Their flight out of Galway Airport was early in the morning. Because of Will’s aggressive pre-planning, they were able to get a decent rate on an Air Lingus plane, as opposed to the discount Ryan Air. Ryan had the seat nearest the window. As the plane took off, he looked out over the Green patches of lane, lined by rock walls. They were above Galway now and he could see the Corrib from up high. He thought briefly of the Chinese take-out that he and Danielle shared that first night together. He shut the window and closed his eyes. He slept dreamlessly until they landed in Berlin.

(The Corrib. I don’t own this image.)

*      *      *

And that’s it. I’m actually very happy with how this turned out. What I had originally envisioned as 2000-3ooo word story, quickly turned into a three-part, 10,000 beast. This also felt like the most “natural” thing I’ve written. That is to say, I just sat down and told a story. Previously, I was often self-conscious when I wrote and felt like I was posing or posturing. Above all, I think blogging has really allowed me to discover my voice as a writer.



~ by braddunne on April 1, 2012.

3 Responses to ““The Summer Of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame: pt.3 Some Say the Devil is Dead””

  1. Thoroughly enjoyable until the end, where the inaccuracy completely broke the spell. Galway airport is tiny and has a short runway. Aer Lingus and Ryanair don’t fly from that airport.

  2. […] “The Summer Of Shamrocks, Shenanigans, and Shame: pt.3 Some … […]

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