On Culture and Tourism
GREEN TURTLE CAY doesn’t have a bank or even an ATM, the museum and the health clinic both fail to keep the hours they post, and when I ask if there’s a police force, I learn that it’s comprised of one man — and “he isn’t always here.” But the Green Turtle residents do have a Home Depot. At least, that’s what they call it.
Thursday, 16 July
It’s the first time I’ve heard an entire airplane applaud a safe landing, and I’m sure I didn’t sleep through any turbulence. After an early flight out of Edinburgh and over five hours in London’s wifi-less Luton Airport, what I’m convinced is hell’s mop closet, I’m safely in Riga, Latvia, ready to cover the 9th Positivus music festival for The Skinny. There’s the kind of naïveté in it, the clapping, that makes my still hands look jaded – as if the miracle of flight really is a miracle to these nor’Eastern Europeans – and in fact it reminds me of naïveté‘s etymology, from the Latin nativus, “not artificial”: it’s honest applause. And what service employees deserve our thanks and amazement more? Quickly I’m ready to adopt the attitude, this way of being, that recognizes the incredible for what it is, everyday occurrence or no.
I made my debut in the mile high (writers) club this month, with a “Dispatch” in the airline mag Hemispheres. “Dispatches” is a travel section, a collection of brief wacky vignettes from around the world. I first made contact with the editor, Chris Wright, pitching a completely different project, a longer “Three Perfect Days” piece on St. Annaberg, Poland. During our scattered but always interesting correspondence over the month of August, which took place on Polish hilltops, in autobahn fast food parking lots, in Dortmunder wintergardens, and in Krakow liquor-and-coffee shops where I could get wifi, Chris Wright and I discussed saints and relics, KFC, Ireland, and theatre companies while circling the idea of a different piece. The breakthrough came during my monthlong stay with the wonderful Spruch family in Dortmund, when I caught word of the Dortmund Opernhaus’ annual costume auction.
The result: “Dress Cents,” my first “Dispatch” for Hemispheres. If you’re flying United Airlines this holiday season, look for the December issue in your seatback. If not, you can read the article here or check out the e-magazine, where you can get an even better look at the accompanying illustration from Luci Gutiérrez.
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open
-Seamus Heaney, Postscript
I wrote two weeks ago that I’d have to delay blogging about my trip to Carrowduff, Co. Clare; that was because I was at work on a longer travel memoir, published today on CNN. In it, I talk about my own journey, about County Clare in 2014, and about the challenges to the American sons and daughters of immigrant parents who left them with a few stories, a few pictures, and little else with which to shore up their vague cultural inheritances.
Like so many American descendants of 19th and early 20th century immigrants, I have no family albums tracing my lineage back to New England ships, to British houses or German hamlets echoing back my own surname; the portraits in my parents’ dining room — a long nose here, familiar deep-set eyes there — are to an unsettling degree nameless. …
Read more on CNN.com. You can also see my photos from Ireland here.
The Ryan house sits on about forty acres of sloping farmland in Carrowduff, overlooking the rest of Kilshanny parish, below.
John Maddigan, once a neighbor of the Ryans, placed this post in recent years in the old Kilshanny church graveyard to mark the probable burial site of my great-great-uncle, Willie Ryan, and others from the Ryan clan.