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“Yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes”: 6/16/04

Yes, today is my birthday. But perhaps more importantly, it is also Bloomsday—the Dublin day Leopold Bloom chronicled with longwinded precision and accuracy 100 years ago in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” It’s an incredible book that glides effortlessly into place alongside the greatest of literature’s modernist achievements and it continues to consistently torture English majors today. I heartily recommend it, as long as you enjoy alternative fruits of Irish ingenuity simultaneously. Two fingers of whiskey ought to get you through, on average, 6 sentences at a time. (Please, reserve further judgment until you get a sense of the density of this turgid, turgid prose.) I would also like to note, just for kicks, that James Joyce was married to a woman named Nora Barnacle—which would just make great fodder for wedding toasts, like “Try and pry ‘er off now, Jamie-Boy,” but that observation is only a reflection of the wedding overload I am experiencing (bridal shower #2 this weekend, folks—2 more to go)—who is thinly disguised as the lascivious Molly Bloom in “Ulysess,” the significance of the chosen date June 16th in 1904 actually being their first date (well, second since Nora stood up the diminutive Mr. Joyce on the first go round).

Speaking of stream of consciousness. Where was I? I’d like to pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the inception of “Ulysses," the brightest star in the perpetually overcast skies of Irish literature, with a few remarks about why I spend so much time in bars. I am being serious, if you please. Because the point is not that of late I find myself spending more and more time sitting at the same bar, but that in so doing, I find myself not drinking substantially more. Which leads us to the conclusion that alcohol consumption is not the essence of my modus operandi while at the bar. In fact, and this is where I draw a (very) loose connection to “Ulysses,” for some reason bars (one in particular) have come to represent the best of an egalitarian venue, truly the public house, if you will. Not divorced from this observation, the bar also seems to be the only place I can go and find myself lost in a considerably decent conversation, or thinking things that seem worthwhile and make it down to paper. I am not always meeting lost souls (although there are no shortage of them in such an emotionally iffy environment) nor total losers (although when I do they invariably ask me out on a date) but an invigorating cross-section of “types” and personalities.

If you look at “Ulysses”, the most telling epiphanies Leopold Bloom has about himself and his world occur in drinking establishments and it is no coincidence that this is so, because the novel is in fact notable for portraying the unadorned, unpolished, unabashed grit and soul of Dublin and its inhabitants: bars become an integral terminus in Bloom’s journey around town that June 16th.

Anyhoo, I think that if this town had more to offer in the way of diners, I could just as easily find myself talking of these as the great concourses of humanity and their prominence in “The Grapes of Wrath;” perhaps if there were not such a dearth of beach front promenades around here, I could be musing on “Death in Venice,” neither of which have any direct relevance at all to my birthday so the connection wouldn’t be as nice.

I am also going to pay homage to the whole achingly strange mess of life by dropping in on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final stop this afternoon. That’s my own personal business but not without connection: He adored Joyce, you know.

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