How James Joyce crafted a masterpiece around a single day in Dublin, I don’t know. This place seems hardly big enough to host a Ulyssean epic.
Out at first light, wandering shining streets polished by a night of rain, the whole day ahead of me, the city under my feet, I’m in love at first light with this city that rarely sleeps; though I’m not sure if quiet mornings are more or less authentic than late night raving revelry.
Where am I? Where am I going? Does it matter? I crisscross the city, checking off a few attractions: Trinity College, the Book of Kells, the James Joyce Museum, Dublin Castle, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. In the National Library of Ireland, I sit in the main reading room, for the sake of sitting and type for the sake of typing, under the great aquamarine dome where Joyce once sat and wrote of literary theory, bald librarians and green dome lamps. I flip the switch on mine and delight in its scholarly shine.
What else shall I see in this city? How can I have a day worth writing an epic about? Where should I go? Whom shall I meet? Does it matter? Might as well just go where I want to go. Leaving the library, I put away the map and follow the streets that look likely.
As I wander, I try to keep track of my route: north, south, east, west. I can navigate in mountains, woods and desert, but mazes of city street always confuse my cardinality. I superimpose the city grid onto a green, grassy field and imagine myself wandering the blocks, back and forth, around and around, visualizing how the city uses space. On my mind’s open ground, my circular city street pacing looks insane.
My feet, pounding the pavement, beg for the bare ground. Give us Earth, they say! Give us rocks and roots and mountains! This business of sidewalks, of taking the same even, swinging step over and over, with barely a curb to break my stride, is wearying. My body is trained for the uneven trail; the evil ache of plantar fasciitis creeps into my arches. I’m not a city person and neither are my feet. Concrete is my kryptonite.
More stubborn than footsore, I walk and walk, watching and listening and smelling everything swirling around me: people, traffic, perfume, cigarettes, my country senses on overload. I plug my ears with headphones and pipe in my favorite music: young Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. Deaf to the swirl and pleasantly disconnected, I float on and on, around and around Dublin, walking all day long. In search of what? I don’t know.
Someday, I will find a place worthy of my own one-day Ulyssean epic. Yes I said yes I will Yes. But not today.