Personal effects from Kansas City have now been delivered, unloaded, and put into storage in Dublin where I won’t be seeing them again until I have somewhere to live.
And the local Irish freight company finally accepted that I had paid for the shipment to go from door-to-door rather than just door-to-port. Well they mostly accepted it.
So now I’ve reunited my American desktop PC with its hard drive. And the monitor survived any bumping it may have received. And with their own internal transformers all I needed to make my computer work with the Irish electricity system was a couple of flexes. If I was more inclined I could have just changed the plugs.
Some of my paintings I intercepted so they wouldn’t go into storage but to be honest I have so many, especially on canvas, that I had to put most into storage along with my paints and art materials.
Mostly, even though my stuff is largely inaccessible for the next while, it’s a relief to know that it really did leave America and that it’s not going to spend eternity in the Atlantic Ocean - or at the Dublin docks for that matter.
And of course the most important thing I did retrieve from my shipment was my bicycle.
Apart from the heat and the noise of the insects, the most striking difference about life here in Ireland compared to life in Kansas City since I moved back a few weeks ago - has been the pace.
In KC the dog and I would frequently go for after-dinner walks for 3 or 4 miles at about 7:30pm or 8pm, and we would see very little traffic. It was not uncommon to see no moving cars. The dog used to say you have to feel sorry for dogs given to chasing cars.
One of the most common initial reactions of people from Ireland when they visit KC for the first time, is to ask, where are all the people?.
I have heard this question asked so many times when driving a guest from the airport to the Southland - usually asked in either downtown or midtown, the places where one would see the most people. And playing spot-a-moving-car in Johnson County after 10pm is always a crowd-pleaser - or it would be if there was a crowd.
Dublin, by contrast, is busy. All the time. And everywhere. From the Sky when I was arriving back I watched in darkness the traffic at 4:30 in the morning all over the city. Since then I have stayed in several locations and witnessed the all-night nature of Dublin’s traffic.
I’m not trying to romanticise it, but to acknowledge that it’s there. At all times of the day and in all parts of the city - including residential areas - Dublin pulsates with movement. And being back cycling in it is a thrilling experience.
I’ve just painted an apartment. To get there by bus - during off-peak times - is a two-hour trip. By bicycle it takes me 40 minutes. It should only take me 30, but I’m unfit after 6 weeks of not cycling. And I’m looking around a lot as if I was a tourist. For the record the cycle trip also saves me 3.40 euro, almost 5 US dollars. And that’s one way.
The streets of Dublin West and the Northside are as I remember them - covered in glass, holes, and burnt debris. You have to look very closely at the surface you are riding on here compared with riding in Kansas City. Some of the holes and bumps I’m navigating in Dublin are the exact same ones I negotiated a decade ago.
Despite the distractions of paying attention to the road it’s impossible not to notice that life throbs on by. I cycled through the Phoenix Park, a park similar in size to Swope Park in KC. To deter commuters, many of its smaller roads have been closed to cars, and recently its gates have adopted a one-way system that I’ve seen ignored despite the huge signage and the complicated layout of cones for dissuasion.
Cycling across the “Acres” (the “Fifteen Acres” which is of course much, much more) I had most of the herd of Fallow Deer yards to my left. There were about 250. And from yards to my right came a ball bouncing high enough for me to head it while on the bicycle. And I would have only I was distracted by trying to slalom around deer poop.
I did enjoy cycling past Áras an Uachtaráin because just alongside it - between the Ashtown and Cabra gates was the Big Top for the current series of concerts. Arcade Fire were doing a sound check or rehearsal and sounded better than I thought they would. The tent is probably the biggest I’ve ever seen - it has not the two poles that our local circus used to have, but ten poles. Sorry I didn’t get a photo for you.
There’s a lot of cycle lanes around now. In theory. Call something a cycle lane, and it is. 15 years ago I rode far better networks of cycle lanes in Grenoble in France, and in Ljubljana in Slovenia. It’s 7 years since the Tiger died; could we really not have built something more intelligent?
Cars drive faster now here, when the traffic permits them - kind of like they’re all wind-up toys building up energy and frustration in traffic jams and then let loose at off-peak times. So in the interests of staying alive I’ll be using the cycle lanes however bad they are.
Twice I’ve had cars stop and ask me for directions, and both times I managed to answer them without directing them to some place in Missouri or Kansas. And most of the time I don’t refer to the M50 as I-435.
Something else that’s different about Dublin and bicycles is where you see them now. Despite being one of the lowest density cities in Europe (It’s actually very high compared to American cities such as KC) that everybody interested in urban development believes needs to be much higher, there are still much more apartments visible than there were a decade ago.
And many of those apartments have balconies. And balconies as you know were designed not for sunshine but for bicycles. One of these days I’ll show you a photo of loads of bicycles sleeping on Dublin balconies, but for now here’s just my bike, at home in Ireland, and resting: