søndag, april 02, 2006


On Saturday, I went into Minneapolis for the late morning and early afternoon because it was sunny. I’d just had a haircut and was feeling light as a feather (though softer in the middle, natch). So began a day of vagabonding.

At the Local, I ate Irish breakfast and regretted that I’d misread the fixtures. The Man U match had already ended, but they’d put the pressure on Chelsea, so that was good. Munster rugby came on, so I stayed to watch and write. (Munster is more successful but just as luckless as the Cubs.) While I don't follow much sport carefully, I do find myself more interested in these things in the spring, perhaps as motivation to shed some winter weight.

Loaded with sausage and coffee, I began wandering about the Nicollet area of Minneapolis between 12th and 9th. Lots of folks were out enjoying these first cool days of spring, but it’s lovely to be outdoors, so we’ll accept the chill and wander with a smile. Café workers were power-cleaning the outdoor tables in preparation of the lounging season. I could feel everyone’s anticipation for the outdoor half of the year. There was just a good energy on the walk. People sat straighter, they talked easily, they waited patiently at stop lights.

Perhaps for the sake of international parity, I stopped at Brit’s for an early afternoon pint of Newcastle and a bit of Newcastle’s football match against Hotspur. (Sidenote: A couple beers of an afternoon are really far more satisfying and relaxing than the same amount in the evening. Further proof we do things backwards?) A grizzled man with UK accent next to me at the bar complained that the chips weren’t crisp enough, though I could hear them shattering in his mouth and gave him a bemused look about it. “I told ‘em to burn ‘em,” the bartender insisted. “Aye,” the man said. “They’ll learn.”

Home again, typed up some writing on what continues to be a bottomless novel, a well without walls. Took two phone calls long distance (great laughs, thanks for those, friends) and felt compelled to seek out a cat named Ian who often hangs at the Dub and who tells great stories...so long as you catch him early enough in the day.

So in I walk through the Dub’s backdoor. I’d snared the last spot in the parking lot—already an odd occasion: Why so full?—and now wandered into a mess. The place was full of kids, parents, oftdowells, and a number of wrinklies. They’d pushed all the tables from the center to create two long tables at the back and two bake sale tables in a split L at the front. In the open middleground, there atop the old well-scarred floorboards, they paired up while a man called out odd directions. On the small, slightly raised stage sat musicians armed with two flutes (one keyless), a banjo, a fiddle, and an accordion that seemed to have been fabricated from an old hardcover dictionary and heavy typewriter keys. It had such a lovely, crazed organ sound. Really interesting.

To the side of the stage sat three bodhran players. They began to play.

Abruptly the place filled with commotion. The players wailed on their instruments. The unskilled dancers thundered away. Rosy-cheeked girls in black tights and long black skirts kicked and hopped through the dance lines. Men whooped. Everyone was grinning. They grabbed one another, they spun one another. They clapped and stomped and bumped into those of us who'd pressed ourselves against the bar trying to avoid the melee.

I asked the bartender, “Who is this group?” He shrugged. I said, “Do they just come in and take over the joint?” and he said, with something of an I-can't-wait-for-the-shift-change smirk, “They sure as fuck did today.” Indeed.

On it went, tune by tune. Different dances were called for. Their joy was evident. I was reminded of what Kassandra had said on the kilt night about how she needed to be patient with her daughter. “She’s just a teenager,” Kassandra said. “And she has breasts. That’s really the best thing about that age.”

But here for the Irish dance they came in all manner of forms and awkwardness, boys and girls. I was really surprised at how many of them were there and participating and really embracing it. I don't mean to be sentimental about it. That's not how it felt. True, it was just a brief point in the day and week, and it harried the inner peace of the bartender, but for a moment they all seemed quite comfortable with themselves and one another. They'd received a stay upon judgment and moved without doubt.
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