Stronger Loving World

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Well, here we all are.

Ireland, “our neighbors to north by northeast give or take” and I bid you fond salutations with pepper spray Guinness that smells like blood that smells like gunnies slack toothed broads with freckles on their freckles and dirty old men licking their lips as the last sight of the night is rashed knuckles braced violently against nasal cartilage and of course “miles of piss poor bars at hideous post-globalization post-inflationary prices and never, yet never never enough to kill yerself, just focken kill yerself oh god where’s my arms I can’t feel my arms just let me lie here why do the best whores always smell like grenade smoke?.” As I believe Stephen Dedalus says towards the more futurePunk chapters of Ulysses. Actually, I’m not reading Ulysses, but I was thinking recently about Robert Anton Wilson deciding that Ulysses, along with Gravity’s Rainbow represents something like third or eighth level consciousness expansion. “Writing a three dimensional novel after Ulysses is like using the horse and buggy after the jetplane was invented.” That guy’s crazy!


Look at me! I’ve been put up in Trinity College, a walled in community in Dublin’s Central City area. Ostensibly, Trinity is historically significant, modern, and traditional at once,(good luck with that) But even the teeming eight year old Italian tourists can see that Trinity’s immediate landscape speaks more for the luster of Dublin’s culture industry than any philosophical or literary coordinates it trumps with busts and alms, statues of tribute to long disinterested icons of Western Europe.. It’s the heart of a tourist engine, Dublin, that’s been growing exponentially since the late 90’s, fueled by silicon valley breast implants and surrounded on all sides by the Dead, who seem to embody and merchandize the mythology and financing that is Dublin. Much of what your eye lays down upon is grafted in delicate, creamy eyed clays of Victorian and Elizabethan architecture, culled into existence during a cultural and economic high mark in the 18th century. Buildings around campus are named for the authors that keep those international kids with the big pockets coming year after year. There is of course, the James Joyce Centre, an respectably sized building given that its namesake never attended school at Trinity, but rather Trinity’s rivals, the decidedly Catholic University College at Dublin. Then there’s the Jonathan Swift theatre, the Oscar Wilde dressing room, Samuel Butler Yeats cascade, Flan O’Brien latrine, Seamus Heaney broomcloset, oh it goes on.
If there’s anything confusing about Trinity’s projected cultural orientation, and there is, it’s evident in the plaza that I’m sitting in. To my left is the South Library, which houses a 16th century gospel called the Book of Kells. Trinity’s oldest and dearest text, the Book of Kells is indicated on all sides of Trinity by informational brochures and signs. It’s also a reasonable source of revenue for the school, boasting an 8 euro admission to see its turquoise ink under plate glass. A distraction: I’m so attracted to the language used to describe the ink that Irish Monks used to compose the document, and I don’t know why. The historical notations are a blur relaying the same old Protestant/Catholic angst an American might be flushed with when reading European history, but a close reading of the book’s composition is as poetic and intimate and disturbed as this gallery is going to make me feel. We read about blues that were made from crushed lapis lazuli imported from Arabia, gums and rubbers mixed into make the residue adhesive, sticky and permanent. African insects, brought in by the thousands, crushed into fine powder and mixed with turquoise, adhere, affix, agglomerate, stick, residue, endless poetic names for organic combinations and applications. It sticks to my phonemes like glycogen and smells in my language of gum and acids and reminds me of the mystical orientation of ancient writers, the genuine spiritual valence of the instrument, the poetry that is embedded in the “magic” of a physical process as well as the romanticized imaginative process we are so familiar with.
Needless to say, the Book of Kells has no real utility. It doesn’t burst into flames. It doesn’t see through time. You can’t even touch the damned thing, it’s under glass so thick it’s fireproof signal proof bullet proof and GRENADE PROOF. (I’m not kidding.) Unlike other impressive sacred documents, the Book of Kells fails to implode and transform into a beam of light upon physical contact. Unlike the Book of the Darkhold, muttering Latinate invocations to long dead dark priests does not set the surrounding area into flames or transform the caretakers into melting drooling venomous multi-porous zombies. Although interestingly, Michael Drosnin, infamous author of that new age pseudo scientific tome “The Bible Code” was said to have applied his neo-arcanic computational formula to the ancient pages of the Kells. After months of tedious examination with high powered microscopes and mathematical programs Drosnin revealed an implicit pattern running its way through the text, obviously embedded as a warning by the Druidic Sacristans who inscribed the book- that's right, the words “tourist trap” had been criss-crossed and indexed on every single page! Creeeeepy. There are higher powers at work, girls and boys, and they want you to keep your wallet clenched to the insides of your side pockets at all times and keep walking for fuck’s sake.
The sides of the schools are houses, numbered one through 40 where I am pimped up in a splendidly sized (by new york standards) 17th century room. Other buildings have housed Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, and others. But the Joycean theme that wrings across Trinity is probably emblematic of Dublin’s culture industry as a whole- although it’s a nationalism, an imaginary celebration that is paraded around. No narratives about death and paralysis, no formalistic multi perspective rooms, no longing for a total representation, a finite language to explain infinity. There is no Modernism here; just its heads, rolled out in concrete and transformed alchemically into dollar bills. Er, I mean pounds. Er, I mean Euro. Holy union-ization batman!
To the right is the Conference Center, built in the mid sixties and modeled conceptually after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The building is notable of course for its total lack of resemblance to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In this respect, it fits comfortably in the pantheon of landmarks that in no way resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; such as the Sears Tower, the Colossus of Rhodes, The Baxter Building, my toothbrush, and the Hanging Gardens themselves, so rusted and hewn and decapitated by bombs and Iraqi children’s bitemarks that it in no way resembles the lost paradise that it now only signifies with old, chastened ham-fisted fingers. This is distinct, or exceptionally indistinct postmodern architecture, in all its obnoxious splendor. Windows protrude at angles, slanted, confronting the body of the building from the outside. A patio melts in from the outside and covers the entrance, as well as houses the gate onto Nassau Street. Nothing seems to fit, nothing admits to the body’s sense of “self”. The outside gives way to the inside. There are no moments of architectural rupture from a preceding cultural moment-it is an (imagined) worldview of buildings with no context, buildings that are their own reference, with no points for the eyes to lay down upon and explore. In its desire to be invisible and indistinct, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It gives me nothing, and content with the present, I receive nothing, blushing and smiling girlishly. Oh, for me! Needless to say, the thing is hideous and stupid.
I am sitting in the middle of this architectural trinity,surrounded by buildings that seem to signify eras troubled enough by their own internal contradictions, but now fighting for the eyesight of the shapeless gestalt of international students walking in and out through the front gates of Trinity. I am, of course, sifting through the J.Crew catalogue and attempting to decide what color underwear is going to be the most suitable for the coming Fall season in New York-will the boxer-briefs triumph over the dying arc of the naïve, rough and tumble boxer-which by its name seems to embody a lost spirit of competition? Will the length and shape of crotch room expand, giving us breath, comfort and a deceiving sense of space, or contrast a neo-conservativism of the cremaster region? It’s enough to bring me to tears, and I bend over dramatically with my face in my hands underneath a statue of Leopold Bloom.

The whores are gorgeous

As I believe was the downfall of the Garden of Eden, when Eve bartered Adam for a lay with that glistening cum soaked apple (apricot) all those many (5,000 if you’re a pre-enlightenment theologian or a Biblical literalist, but who’s counting.) and so let that old medieval legend of the apple of Sodom what turns into smoke and dust at the touch of flesh, decadent in every English scent of the word, come into play-so’s Dublin’s take on the original sin as cupid-eyed doughy faced girls with freckles fresh out the mother’s teet stand on the streets and lay their pants down under their blankets gangly eyed nervous looking back and forth as the drunk Europeans walk by Dame Street clubbed out in white shirts and leather shaking their change and she’s got wonderful red hair and stained black jeans. I read an article in the Irish Examiner about the lack of Garda (five oh) on the streets of Dublin. It’s their absence as well as their..let’s say, unprofessionalism, that turns these decidedly open and maneuverable streets into jungles at night. There are no prominent cultural markers on the girl; she’s not sloppily dressed or mishandled, she’s not “damaged goods”. Not to the eye, at least. She’s just small, with a genuinely charming mink face and fallow eye sockets, and she’s cold and she’s penniless.

Roshan Abraham, in conversation, once famously called Dublin a “Disneyland of Bars”, and the name has stuck to this day.


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