Ethnology – Limerick City
Its nine thirty on a Saturday night as I make my way up the steps in to Baker Place. As I enter there are a group of musicians lurking at the top of the bar, towards the town side. There is a large bay window where the drum kit etc is set up, which looks out onto Limerick City, and the newly developed Taits clock. I say hallo to the musicians and make my way past towards the bar. There are two other groups of people in the bar, both hiding in separate cubby holes, one situated half way down, the other out of view at the back. That’s something I have never really understood, why you would hide in a corner while you are out to watch a live band. For me it hampers the sound, and just as bad is being at the very front, where in my opinion the sound simply passes you by because you are too close to the monitors. So I make my way half way up the bar and call a pint. Beautiful.
By the time my pint comes the bar is after filling up dramatically. A birthday party has arrived, all in fancy dress, so suddenly I am sharing a night with Elvis, Miss Monroe, two milk cartoons and co….. It’s going to be a good night. Everything around me has changed dramatically in the time it has taken me to get a pint. I look around again and begin to study the people. There are three bands lined up to play, and as far as I am concerned, it looks like there are three different crowds, each dressed similar to the style and clothes that the band they are their to see are wearing. Strange I think. I ask a guy next to me, “Who are you looking forward to seeing man,” “Walter Mitty and the Realists” he replies without hesitation. “Good band, I like them myself …ever heard of Ilya K”………. “No interest”………….. Strange I thought, why would you come out to see a band and ignore the other two that are playing, it actually happens a lot. Someones friend is in a band, and no matter how good the other bands are, they don’t like them. Not only that but they don’t even listen to them, give them a chance. I sipped on my pint, pondered a bit, and began to look around again.
There were boys there, looking all cool in their leathers and trendy gear, and there girlfriends, pouting, looking fabulous, but having the personalities of a pack of dry roasted peanuts. If you don’t understand what I mean, try having a conversation with a dry roasted peanut!!! There were one or two hippies, trying to talk and look like hippies, but failing because of too much effort. You can’t try to be a hippie. At this stage I am beginning to get physically annoyed, everyone one and thing seems mock to me, so I decide to head downstairs to the smoking area, to relax in the aroma of Amsterdams finest, before heading back in to the gig.
As I make my way down the stairs a drunk is coming up, falling from side to side, hitting both the walls, yet spilling none of his drink. Another amazing feat that. “ Hows it” he mummurs, “ grand, you ok” He looks at me with one eye and stares intently with it…. “ Cosmic, why” … “sorry, I was only asking” “ ye are all up yer own arses in here”, and with that he struggled past me, up the steps into the distance “ fucking drunks” I laughed and made my way out to have a puff.
As I looked around the smoking area I realised that everything did seem fake, people seemed uncomfortable in their skin, so they put on someone elses. They talked about not what they felt passionate about themselves, but what would impress the people they were surrounded with. I laughed again, feeling odd that I never noticed it before. My mind tracked back to the drunk. I laughed again.
The drunk was there to get drunk. Maybe to escape, or maybe to exist, but his whole purpose of being there was to get drunk. He was not pretending to like anything he didn’t like, he wasn’t wearing anything to fit into a particular crowd, he wasn’t using certain language to impress or ridicule. Again his sole purpose was to get drunk. I scanned the smoking area again and laughed, again thinking of the drunk. At this point people had realised I was on my own, laughing out loud, and they began to look at me strange. This made me laugh uncontrollably. The drunk is the only true person here i thought, well not exactly, but it seems to be the truth. I realised that I want to be around people who are themselves, who like what they like, do what they like to do, dress in the clothes they feel comfortable in. I stood up and had another look around, still laughing, people still looking.
I hope when I go upstairs, everyone is pissed, their inhibitions dispersed, and the music beautiful. “ Ye are all full of shit”, i said… and with that I left to go and enjoy the music.
THE SWAYING FLOWER “PotPlant”
She released a fragrance of lightness, not in a manner of weight for she struggled to carry her own strength; a disguise in the frailty of acceptance.
Wild grasses had stretched from the earth bed, cold thorns buried the bare flesh skeleton remains; a window to the clasp lingering forever eternal.
And so it was this that created the spark revealing the true situation – it now seems so vivid I could smell her, head that slightly tilts to the left, arc like; the smile, behind the battled hardened faces of war fought throughout the journey, vacant everywhere but for the last beating veins that is carrying the oxygen from heart to remains.
The situation will stay the same, for those who have seen it will chose to ignore it. My only hope, my final strength is in the belief that she was not frail, nor weak. Despite it all the heart was still ticking, and in the bear pit of life when all had seemed lost, it was she who survived. The strength to survive. Christ i can almost smell her.
ABOUT THE BOY “Vanka”
It is when the tranquility shatters the night, that the sparks of creativity begin to fire in the restless mind of Alexander Jenkins Roberts.Like a child who can only see the wonders of the world through a door held slightly ajar, he craves to entice it further open, revealing at once the shocking scale all the world has to offer. Being just twelve years and four months old, the itching of impatience cannot be held back for life to slowly reveal itself proper, he shall know immediately.
Still frightingly young, he had seen the world through experiences that, in order to survive, he had to adapt to their surroundings, developing a wiser, older head. The mystical childhood world of wonders had been replaced by simple still blank and white images. It all had become matter of fact.
The consequence when one has to grow up faster then the mind can develop resulted in his withdrawl from the world, closing himself down and shutting himself off. Why should he feel the weight of this burden ?
Isolation grew from the habitual ritual of inner torment. The flashes of anger overrode any other natural sensation that occurs naturally in the mind of one so young, yet little Jenkins was far too clever to allow these feelings to persist. He was searching for the treasure that lay beyond the shadows, for the answer always occurs when one reads between the lines. In the borderline darkside he focused on the development of his identity and started to believe that things could be transformed. “Could this burden not become a gift”, he asked.
Like an oars stroke that crystallises the sea, his life shape and content illuminated in front of him. The decisions that brought him here were ones in which he did not participate, the failure in his alienation, his powerlessness in influencing the world, his meaningless in his search for a guide to believe in, and the isolation and estrangement from himself.
With this thought the well of creativity from which he drank began to run dry. He placed the half chewed pencil down on his life stained table, firing out the shrapnel remains whilst carefully reading over what was written. Following this the eyes closed, text replaced by sight and sounds.
The slight murmur of the flickering lamp, the gentle whistle as the fierce wind is funneled through the piercing gaps on the old wooden window, the creek of the roof, the distant singular bark of a dog not too far away, and then what seemed like the lightest movement of a far away stream.
For near on two years now Jenkins followed the same old ritual that had now become almost doctrine in his mind, yet this was the first time that he could recall ever hearing a stream. His thoughts wondered to his late father, and he began to recall them going to a stream not too far from the farm in which he was being kept imprisoned. The eyes burst open and now there was only one thought lost in isolation in the little boys mind. He had to escape to that stream.
People may come and go, but the memories, well they remain.
A Pinch Of Salt ” The Letter “
I must admit to it being a peculiar feeling, when one receives the answers to the questions they have strived for over a many number of years. The strange weariness seems to deepen when the eyes fixate on the envelope that nervously rests in the clutches of my trembling claws.
Reflection begins, and as I scramble through the firing synapses of my inner sanctuary, I begin to conclude that we as a collective crave uncertainty. Collective being the term I use to dampen my alienating singular emotions.
And so I sit here alone, squatting behind the remains of what once used to be the old graveyard, where money brought you closer to God. It was here where the mighty had fallen, laid to rest on the hill that forever will overlook the village. Gone perhaps, but forgotten?
I rest just beyond the ruins of what was the fortified old walls, my ass to the grass and my belly to the sun, knees pulled up under my chin, my gaze fixated on the rumblings of the mighty Atlantic. Today she seems fierce and angry.
I hold the envelop addressed to me in type, pinched between my left thumb and baby finger, playing and flicking at it with the three redundant fingers that remain. In truth I am simply putting things off.
Occasionally a shiver greets me from within, running its way down from inside the eye to the back of the heel. Its cold but not enough to cause this trembling.
My mind wonders the horizon searching for anything that has the potential to distract, but it is not long before I arrive back at the inevitable. My fingers tap impatiently on the envelope, the shiver returns with an increasing ferocity , increased heart rate and sweating hands. I start to breath like an animal thats about to give birth. Every time I revert my thinking back to what I am holding in my hands, all sensations reoccur.
I have sweated so much that now the envelop has turned a pale yellow, aging in my hands. I try to take deep breaths in order to free myself from the panic.
Again thoughts return to what I grasp. It is now simply black and white, a true or false, just a yes or no. No more uncertainty. The definitive is here now. I pause to ask where the fear is coming from. What do I fear ? The fear of failure, or the fear of success? I now realize that what frightens me is the fear of stopping. The conclusion. What is left for me after this?
Whatever the outcome, be it acceptance or otherwise, the nerves develop in the sub conscious, fully aware that whatever outcome is reached, as soon as the glue is ripped apart then the journey simply ends.
Now I look at the mass of ocean in front of me, begging for help or perhaps a hint in the direction of guidance, but she ignores my pleas to simply continue to swell and roar. I glare again …. ” Important – for the Attention of Major John Milton “.
I search the horizon yet it is unclear where the sea ends and the skies begin, the winds blast across my now frozen face, and my fingers loosen, releasing the envelop, and with it the answers, into the ethereal bosom of the Atlantic waves.
I guess something are better left not knowing.
The Animal Instinct
I constantly hear the repeated chaos that results from fights of broken promises, be it tales of hunting, fishing, racing, Kerry, Cork, or Derry. And nothing happens. Nothing ever did happen and nothing ever will happen.
The daily reoccurrence that triggers the familiar thoughts of , perhaps neglect, for thats how strongly I feel about the circumstance, or perhaps disdain, because it is obvious how oblivious I have become, cement these feelings of hegemony increasingly deeper.
I pace back and forth in a room that stretches four paces long and two paces wide, the remains of what proceeded me in this dark and dampened place sticking to the back of my throat. I shall remain here for another twelve hours or more, restless, agitated and hungry. From first impressions this is a long way from what I expected.
Like clockwork the voices return, the source of which begins to trickle about six feet to the left of my Ironclad door. I listen inattentively, but I cannot help but accumulate the gossip that becomes ever so increasingly negative, and judging by the pitch and timbre of the new voices, it continues indefinitely on its far seeking journey.
Yet it is these voices and the words they carry that bring me the greatest comfort, for they are the words of blind men, lost in a sea of opposing resistance. Even I know that the best option is in solidarity, a coming together of minds to think of a solution. Why regurgitate the feelings of the past and the emotions it brings with it. Thats how I see it and I am not even one of those.
Then I sneeze, I sneeze again, and again, the third one causing my head to jilt frantically to the left, crashing against the Ironclad door. I shake uncontrollably trying to release whatever more surprises my nasal has in store before I subconsciously make a noise that has never before been omitted from my body. As I finish off the ordeal with a outstretched yawn the first thing that strikes me is the silence. Everything was over witin 6 seconds.
I don’t trust silence. For me it offers up nothing but untruthfulness. When the voices that had filled the air with rage suddenly fall silent, I know that the muted night shall be broken by violence. I hear the grass fold under feet that seem nervously cautious of making a sound, creeping tentatively ever closer. My bodies natural reaction is to crouch and prepare for attack as the noise of the rust infected lock edges open.
There are four faces I can see, and perhaps two hidden from view, yet instinct declares that I pounce forward as soon as the door is ajar. In the craziness that proceeds, the only thing I can recall is biting someones hand before I leap onto the picnic table, to the little shed, the boundary wall, and freedom. Again within six seconds. I not only think of the words of the blind men, but now their behavior. I howl uncontrollably. As i wonder with nowhere to go, I know ill be ok.
Mans best friend me.
” You can never smell the shit that is stuck to the end of your nose . ” Thats the phrase that stands out when John Long thinks about his Grandfather. A man that never wasted an opportunity to teach, because every word he sang carried a weight. Although reared in a different world, it was almost impossible to tell because he carried it over so effortlessly. Understanding the “shifting of the sands” from “technological dreams” both intrigued and fascinated him. ” The only thing thats different is the pace in which it changes. ” he would remark. He held a strong belief that if the society in which we immerse, was taught to understand itself, then none of these advancements could ever lead to isolation. ” They learn all the facts and but cannot make out the figure “, was another of his Grandfathers favorites. At the time he could never have known, but John Longs grandfather was the tint in his eyes that would color his world.
Two years after the death of his Grandmother, Johns Grandfather began to pass on the blunt tools that John would use to shape his life, to observe instead of seeing, and to listen instead of hearing. ” We may never master, but we should always strive”, Grandfathers voice would ring out. What grew inside was the confidence to soak up this information, and to place trust in his own ability to rationalize, going forward to create his own world view. ” Only you can see your world my boy, everyone else is trying to show you theirs. ” Grandfather was never far away.
John had asked him a question inquiring about an old piece of furniture that sat in the corner of his study, a cylinder or circular plate that had an attachment of what looked like a battered old blow horn. ” That looks like the thing the dog is playing with on the front of the record shop,” John remarked , blissfully unaware of the HMV trademark, whose business had just moved to town with great excitement. ” Thats a phonograph “, replied his Grandfather simplistically, followed by the now customary, ” and what did that do .” Not, what IT WAS FOR, but, what DID IT DO.
Ok it played music. But no, that was not his Grandfathers style, and less then twenty minutes later John had an insight into not only music, but also into how his Grandfather way of thinking. He explained music as a spectator sport, where if you were not there to witness it live, you were not going to hear it. How a mystique then developed from people returning from concerts to their villages with tales of sounds creating out of this world experiences. An experience far removed from the actual sounds, and so different then today. It gave people the ability to listen to recorded music in the comfort of their own homes, a possibility that when first muted, brought with it its own stigmatization. It was however, more then just a toy.
“Its creation made music essential around the world, changing our culture and shaping our very existence. News could be broadcast, cultures could be educated about one another, cinema evolved. More then music, what this had the ability to do was to transmit ideas from one place to another. Yes it makes a sound, but how far does that sound ripple.” This was how John Longs Grandfather saw the phonograph .
It was typical of the man and everything John hoped to become. Take in the information, fine comb through it all, seek the truth, and search between the lines. Lead instead of following. This is how he would peruse his life, as a truth seeker. Yet never in a million years did he imagine the story of Tony Hayes would change his life. And never would he have thought that he`d yearn for ignorance.
Tonys story to follow ………………..
John had always know Tony, being the same age, from the same community, and going to the same schools would do that, so it would be impossible for him to recall actually meeting him. His first clear memory of him is going into sitting room of his house, where all his family and relatives were gathered surrounding this tiny box, and going to shake his hand whilst nervously muttering the words ” im sorry “. He was wailing uncontrollably. That was Johns earliest memory of Tony, at his little brothers funeral, seven years of age.
His mother had gone out at ten o clock at night promising to be back by two, but meaning six, leaving Tony with his brother who was three years his junior. These are the circumstances and working hours of a single mother of two, who weather she chooses it or not, stands at the side of the road seeking the passing trade. At just past two o clock that morning, Tonys brother playfully climbed into a cupboard to hide, where he was electrocuted and killed. Tony was found at five that morning by neighbors who heard him screaming. He was holding his brothers fatally burnt body.
Being a child and unaware of the world, life beautifully floats by, but when leaving primary school and receiving their letters of acceptance for secondary school, that was the moment that John Long would attribute to the demise of Tony Hayes. Every young kid in the neighborhood was excited upon receiving the letters, and a group of them had gathered, running about, laughing and skipping and singing, Tony and John being two of those.
As they celebrated John noticed Tonys letter was different to his, and upon closer inspection began to realize that he hadn’t been excepted. Tony looked at John and sensing something was wrong, John took the letter from his hand and began to read it out loud. It simply apologized for not excepting him. The group had been running around for over an hour and all that time Tony thought he was in. Everyone laughed as he walked away, head bowed, letter hanging from the dead hand that flopped by his side.
Sixteen years latter would be the next time that John and Tony would share the same place , John, happily married, father of two, architect and motivational speaker. Tony, lifetime criminal, chronic drug user and father of three, lying in a coffin with three holes in the back of his head. It was only when John Long began to plot the fall of Tony Hayes that he started out on his own journey of true exploration. And that can be traced back to the secondary school letter and the realization that Tony Hayes could have never known what the letter said, quietly simply because he couldn’t read.
To describe it as a room would be a false celebration of the conditions before me. More than anything else it represented more of a cell in a shanty town. Carpet-less, windowless, heartless. Damp patches in the corners were eroding the paint off the walls, layer by layer, revealing a carnival of colors that gave an insight into its former glories.
” Aa if these walls could talk “, old Wednesday smirked.
” Yeah? What da think they’d say? “, I replied, trying to fish something out.
” They know the score, so they’d say fuck all “, again old Wednesday smirk, yet this time it carried a hint of danger.
Wednesday is old school, so its all about ethics, rules, and the criminal code. Although pushing on in life he still carries weight, both in muscle and authority. He walks as thou he is falling backwards, with his legs three paces in front of his head, feet in Monday and face in Wednesday, hence the nickname. The young lads take the piss but only when he is out of sight , no one would risk it otherwise .
The reason behind Tony Smiths disappearance is that Smith, who is married to Wednesdays daughter, supposedly started fucking about with the step daughter. He nailed him by the testicles to the back door of his house before sticking an iron to his face. Nobody saw or heard shit, but Smith is supposedly in hospital getting his balls sewn back on. But rumor has it that if the walls could talk, then thats what they’d say, although he did have it coming so no real surprises.
A table sits in the middle of the room, where upon it rests an envelop, and on that, the ring, which was being used as a make shift weight. The only other things I can observe is the piece of cable hanging from the damp yellow brown ceiling, and a broken electrical socket that houses a cut plug. Without noticing these things one would have got the impression we were in the dark ages, because of the feel, smell, and taste that punctured the senses. I didn’t want to prolong the visit.
My eyes refocus on the table with its garments of paper and gold. I take in a deep breath before Wednesday ever so slightly nudges me forward, his outstretch palm on my lower back, as if to offer reassurance. I now notice the water that covers the floor and the stale odour it omits. ” Put the ring on boy, and read the note out to me “, remarks Wednesday, again with a threatening tone.
I turn away, to face nothing in particular, but now I am consumed with fear and I don’t want that fucker to sense it. My mind runs through a Galaxy of thoughts but only two make sense. I am being tested or being set up. My hands sweat so much that I can feel it running down my palms, rushing off the tips of my trembling fingers and into the puddle in which I now stand. My mind returns to the tone of Wednesdays voice. Happy, friendly, comforting and enticing.Christ I am fucked now.
Like a true Cockney, Wednesday becomes chillingly terrifying when he speaks in a friendly, non threatening manner. Nice gestures, easy going tones, then you drop your guard and whack, your face is mince. He was a true specialist.
I caution myself and move forward towards the envelop, noticing a leak on the ceiling directly above it. The water has made it transparent, and through the saturated paper I can jut about make out the words ” Sorry Kid, the show is over. ”
Immediately my brain tells me to follow the plan, Wednesday dosen’t know what the note says yet, so all of my thought process focus on my ability to delay, however I cannot hide the nerves.I don the ring and turn to face my former comrade and soon to be murderer, fully aware that I am about to give the order for my own death, when three gun shots ring out in quick succession.
Wednesday looks and me, winks, smiles and then pulls a handgun out from his inside pocket. In what had seemed like an eternity, he stared at me until his eyes lost focus, before crashing on to the ever dampening floor. Stood behind him in the wavering darkness was Smithy, smoking shotgun in his hands.