Thursday, August 30, 2012

hartensteinabroad ep. #59 "Paris by Motorcycle"



As I sail away from Ireland back toward Britain, I wanted to get in the latest episode of hartensteinabroad, which is me on a motorbike cruising through Paris.  I admit, it's pretty silly.  Enjoy the music, it's by a French band called Archimede and the song is "Je Prends" which translates to, "I Take."

Now... Scotland awaits!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Ballymurphy Massacre Murals of Northern Ireland

The Ballymurphy Massacre occurred Monday August 9th to 11th 1971 in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Eleven unarmed Irish civilians were shot and killed by the Parachute Regiment of the British Army.
During this time, Northern Ireland had been waging a war of independence against Britain for almost two years.  Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, was being ripped to pieces.
The morning of the 9th, British Forces launched operation "Demetrius."  The plan of course was to round up the usual suspects and imprison them with trial or charge, just because they were "stirring up" trouble.
Of course, things went horribly wrong, as the forces opened fire on the crowd.
These were the same special forces units who were responsible for the Bloody Sunday murders occurring in Derry on January 30, 1972
It has not been confirmed that the murdered were members of the IRA.
Nor have the members of the British Parachute Regiment been brought to trial.
As you travel through Northern Belfast into Ballymurphy, you are surrounded by these street murals.  Hundreds of them.  On the sides of buildings.  Plastered across parking lots.  Adorning the exterior walls of homes, churches, businesses, and rooftops.  The murals seap into brickwork of the small city.
More ominous are the local townspeople who walk around you as you stand at a tomb or memorial or just taking a picture of one of the murals.
The people of Ballymurphy are a living example of unsettled tensions between Northern Ireland and Britain that can never be swept away.
As a traveler through this village, I didn't expect to be so emotionally moved by these murals, but I was.
As I walked the village there were old men talking who stopped to watch me pass.  Young children ran by toward playgrounds followed by hollow eye'd looking fathers.  I just can't imagine what happened here so recently and not having any justice.  Ballymurphy was an ominous and haunting place to visit, seemingly normal and quiet and residential, but with spilled blood dried deep into the roots.

The Mayor of Belfast

Beside the gates of Parliment the street kids huff gas and suck down energy drinks laying on the sidewalk laughing in hysterics.  Bright red exploding hair.  Black studded leather coats.  Ripped up jeans and screaming violent laughter. A boy with shaved head and black army boots kicks at a park bench while a pale girl with runny eye liner squats behind a tree with her pants down.  When black army boots kicked her in the back she tumbled forward cursing into the puddle, laying there shaking like a body fallen from the sky.  A passing woman clutches her purse.  I lock the car doors and move past them too.
Belfast reminded me of cities lovers go to reunite, to rekindle the flame of something lost.  We do that, lovers, don't we?  Believe that certain cities hold some magic sway in the night air that if we venture out into them love will be reborn.  I like when couples have cities they call their own.  Memories made there that last a lifetime or, until they are conjured again to save the relationship from dying.
I don't know if I believe that.  I think when love is gone it's gone, but then again I've always been the one to hold on to magic long past the expiration date.
Funny thing about Belfast is... just past the gates there is the Titanic museum.  Now, who builds a museum devoted to the people who built the Titanic?  Not sailed on it, mind you, or died on it, but who built the sturdy craft?  It reminded me, those who build love are not the ones who jump ship when times are tough... of course, they're also not the same dimwits who conceive of things like icebergs in the Atlantic, are they?
Walking around Belfast thinking about why people choose romantic cities... I was struck by this figure.  An absurd man on a clown's bike.  Colorful rainbow poncho.  Fake black Groucho Marx stache.  Sombrero and sunglasses.  Riding around the city honking this golden horn in circles with a sign hanging from his chest that read:  The Mayor of Belfast.
Maybe the Mayor had it right.  Maybe the world of romance is best survived by the lunatics and the anarchists, the builders who watch it sail away.  As for the rest of us, we might as well be drowned at the bottom of the sea.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nazi Kid Role Play in Jakarta, Al Jazeera Hate Mongering, China’s Report on Human Rights in the U.S., and Other Stuff Discussed at Dublin's Temple Bar District

(Welcome to Dublin's famous Temple Bar District.  The following photos were taken over a three day period from noon to midnight to early dawn...ish.)

In a completely unrelated to Dublin Topic:  Today on News Asia there was this video about "Mall Wars" in Jakarta which is a popular fad combining Role-Play and internet “first person shooter” games where “real life” kids put on battles costumes and fight each other with toy guns.  
(The English "Bar" was a walkway bench near a river where a traveler could stop and rest before heading over water.)

Essentially, because shopping malls in Indonesia take up such a huge part of the landscape, parents are pushing kids to spend more time playing inside chasing each other with fake assault weapons.  
(In Dublin, the Temple family created a number of these resting places that would serve food and drink to weary travelers.)

So I watched these little ten year olds run around in gas masks and camouflage uniforms while the rules about collecting the dart bullets were explained… and then I saw it:  The kids were dressed in Nazi Swastika Uniforms!
(The pubs that now exist in this multi-square block area are some of the most colorful in the world, places of music and poetry, of families getting together to share and speak.  It's an amazing atmosphere)

Yep, you guessed it.  Parents across Jakarta are encouraging their kids to put on Nazi uniforms in full battle fatigues and shoot each other for kicks!
(Despite its name, it really had little to do with drinking or drunkenness, but more a collective attitude about what was valued in the culture.)

Said one parent, “It’s really great that children have a place to run and exercise.”  Said another, “It’s a good release of their stress and fun.”  Seriously, in Nazi Uniforms… are you kidding me?
(There are so many people that flood these streets, alleyways, and corners.  What an electric part of the city.)

They interviewed the local shop owners who watch these children racing around in front of their stores screaming and shooting each other and one owner said he encouraged it because it brought more customers inside.  Oh yes… as long as people are spending money, who cares right?  Unbelievable.
(People from around the world.  There were Japanese Garage Bands, old German men dancing, young people laughing arm in arm.  A very cool place.)

Another totally unrelated topic is the Al Jazeera network.  Now ordinarily, I have to hand it to this Middle Eastern News agency that kicks the crap out of CNN.  
(Speaking of music, I mean... seriously, what more could you ask for.  Here at the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn this acoustic show up on the 3rd floor walk-up was jam packed with patrons.)

CNN is horrible!  Unwatchable really…. Five minutes of soft news reporting and then five minutes of corporate commercials… CNN can’t report honestly because the multi-conglomerate businesses pockets that run that network are too deep.  So most of the time, Al Jazzera gets it right because like the BBC they actually seem autonomous.
(And pubs O'Reilly's were rocking until early morning.)

Wrong.  Lately I've been noticing what Al Jazeera is really beholded too, a consumer base audience that hates America.  Example:  Al Jazeera runs this series of interviews with ex-American military soldiers who explain in graphic detail, often spending an entire hour of news time, breaking down surveillance video tapes frame by frame where mistakes were made in Iraq and Afghanistan and civilians were injured or killed and bad American judgment calls were made.
What?  Again, are you kidding me?
Who are these guys?
When did it become customary for soldiers to spill their guts on international television?
The records of these servicemen are never accounted for, were they honorably discharged?  Were charges brought against them?  The viewer never knows.  We just see the mistakes made without any kind of balanced reporting from the other side.  This panders to an already hate filled anti-American, audience.  Don’t these servicemen realize that commenting on classified video footage hinges on treason?  I’m not saying these guys are Bradley Manning, but can’t they see that they are being coerced and used for Al Jazeera’s purposes, to look like evil, ruthless, godless killers who prey upon the weak and therefore must ultimately be fought against and defeated?
(This little band on the street even attracted the attention of this homeless man who was dancing a jig along with the flute.)

Finally, you don’t think I would write this particular Blog post and not rip China did you?  Well… China has released its Report on Human Rights in the U.S. and it’s startling… yes.  But what I love about it is that they won’t release figures to their own people.  Instead taking pot shots at how America is... once again... the great Satan.  How hypocritical?  
(I have to admit, it was really hard to return to the hotel at night.)

So here I am tonight in Dublin at the Temple Bar District and walking around and thinking all these thoughts... amid such happiness and mirth.
(Dublin is a magical city. I wish more cities were like this.)

It's a burden being an American abroad.  On the one hand I feel a responsibility to say things to people like... "Hey, your kid shouldn't be wearing a Nazi uniform, okay?"  but other times, when America blows it, and we blow it all the time, I have nothing but empty apologies.  I guess that's why nights like tonight are special, when I can just blend in and feel a part of something outside of myself.  Something musical and magical and wild and free, and makes everyone forget where they're from.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dublin's Poet's Corner, Walking in the Footsteps of Leopold Bloom

"A man's errors are his porthole to discovery."  -Joyce

In 1922, at the age of forty, James Joyce published his masterpiece, Ulysses, which details a single memorable day in the life of Leopold Bloom, a Jew, a modern Odysseus, and of course, an Irishman.
"I love everything that's old, old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine."  -Goldsmith

Ulysses took me twenty years to read.  I'll admit it.  I started it in high school...failed... started again in college...failed... then throughout my twenties tried it again and again and only finished in my mid-thirties due to sitting down with a book on tape (more like a collection of about thirty tapes) and just gutted my way through it.
"You must be fit to give before you can be fit to receive."  -Stephens

But one of the cool things about traveling to Dublin is Bloomsday, which occurs on June 16th and celebrates the year of 1904, where wandering Joyceans follow Leopold Bloom's day footstep by footstep through the city.
"Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot.  In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you."  -Wilde

Since I wasn't there on this day, I decided to have my own personal Bloomsday and took my paces through the city at Davy Byrnes, the famous "moral pub" mentioned in Ulysses where poets and writers since 1873 have been hanging their hats and pens.  I had a Gorgonzola sandwich and bought cakes of lemon soap and basically wasted the day from sun-up to sun down enjoying my love to this one book.  How many people can say they've spent such a day?
"To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people exist, that is all."  -Wilde

Of course, another really cool part of Dublin is the Poet's Corner which is found outside the Bachelor Inn.  Here there are murals celebrating the works of Becket and Drew and Oscar Wilde.  How many cities celebrate their artists in this way?
"If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."  -Shaw

Of course, Ulysses was banned for obscenity in 1920, which adds to the legend of the book, and it wasn't until 1934 that the book was released again, but by then so many revisions and handwritten manuscripts had been changed, that even today different publications are in question.
"Every absurdity has a champion to defend it."  -Goldsmith

Still, grand in scope and amazing in ushering in a new age in literature, James Joyce's Ulysses stands the testament of time as both groundbreaking writing and infamy.
"Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better."  -Beckett

But for me, I only wanted to come to Dublin and walk in Leopold's shoes.  That's more important to me.
"Words are all we have."  -Beckett

So ending the day in Poet's Corner, refreshing myself and sitting with a little paperback on the street in the falling sun, felt quite perfect, and funny enough, words could not describe.

Dubliners, by James Joyce (Along Grafton Street)

“He heard the strange impersonal voice which he recognized as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness. We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This group of street performers outside a drug store never moved once.  Not even when the American tourists started dropping money into their cup.
“A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart, and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

He played a Ritchie Valens song called, "We Belong Together," and I know that song, so I stopped to listen.  I've always believed, that if a street musician makes you stop, you owe him at least a buck.
“They agreed to break off their intercourse; every bond, he said, is a bond to sorrow.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This old man sat in Auld Dub Pub for over an hour meticulously reading the newspaper while a rugby was being played on the television.  People were cheering, but he didn't look up once except to pay for his bill.  Afterward, he rolled the paper up, put it in his coat pocket longways, and walked away.
“...and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This angry faced women in the pink sweater was sitting alone until another  man brought her a cup of tea and then she perked up.  I watched her a little and then kept moving down Grafton Street.
“The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This was opposite Oscar Wilde's house on the other side of Trinity College.  He knew I was taking his picture, but it didn't stop me one bit.
“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This hipster was lost in his own world... all this music around him, a ten year old kid was banging out electric guitar right next to this, and he barely could notice.
“No one would think he'd make such a beautiful corpse.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

A man waiting for his wife outside a hotel on Grafton.  I just liked his beard and his posture.  He looked like Santa Claus on holiday incognito.
“It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

I watched this man tie these books to the back of his bicycle and just smiled so deeply.  This is totally something I would have done just for a lark.  You would do it too, wouldn't you?
“...and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.”  -Joyce, Dubliners

This disheveled old man was watching this quartet of strings belt out Elton John songs deliriously.  He doesn't look it, but while everyone was passing by or taking photographs... he was seriously toe-tapping.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Irish Son was Raised in Dublin

"When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart."  -James Joyce

I've often thought, if I'd had a son, I would have raised him in Dublin.
We would have strolled along the Liffey and talked of bridges, of the Samuel Beckett and the Sean O'Casey, the Ha'Penny and the Rory O'More.  We would have stopped at the Famine Memorial and the Old Jameson Distillery, the Gate Theater and the Garden of Remembrance, and whispered to one another in song.
We'd have followed our noses in the morning toward baked bread and strong coffee and our ears at night toward such luscious sounds of music.  Folk, rock, acoustic, jazz.  It's all there for the taking.
We would have felt like our artists belonged to us, even those on such world stages, that they still spoke for us, and we'd believe in them.

We'd have laughed at the faces on Grafton Street and the shoppers at St. Stephen's Green.  We'd have skipped school and watched plays at the Gaiety Theater and if ever the James Joyce tour passed we'd just hope along to Sweny Chemist or Nichol's Undertaker and play innocent with the tourists.
We'd have been called Dubliners and been proud of it.

We'd pass through the Customs House and Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse and the Dublin Writer's Museum... and he would have been quiet each time I said that the Irish Harp that is printed on Irish Euro is actually owned by the Guinness company, which is their symbol on the beer.  So actually, black Irish Guinness is more powerful than the European Economic Crown.

We would have stood tall, side by side in public.  I would have seen to that.
Even when were trying to sneak into places that we have no business trying to sneak into... like the U2 Studios.  Oh yes, this little street has no name.
Of course, all these things would be true if I'd had an Irish son.  I would have raised him on James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, and whenever we returned to this city, we both would have felt like Dublin's own sons.