One thing I distinctly remember from my phone interview for my job with Riot Games is the NOC Manager asking if I was OK with travel: "Oh you might have to travel, some have gone to Brazil or Sweden." I bravely mustered the courage to accept that possibility: "Yeah, uhh I think I can deal with that." So months later when I was presented with the opportunity to take a roughly two-week trip to work in our Dublin office I seized upon it and tried to make the most of it.
Here's some music to set the scene. This is a playlist featuring a bit of each band I saw during my time in Dublin, as you will see later. All the artists were Dublin-based, except Nite Jewel. I guess she's special.
Cathy Davey at Whelan's
- Tuesday, December 2nd
- Whelan's Live
I can't believe how the timing worked out with this. Cathy Davey is an artist based out of Dublin (I discovered her via Pandora), and as far as I know she hasn't played in the US. And yet when I checked out my Songkick for Dublin she was playing at Whelan's Live, a bar and music venue within walking distance of my hotel!
They were kind enough at work to let me cut out just a bit early so I could catch her set. I arrived about halfway through her first song, and the place was packed! They were great, the setlist included a lot of my favorites (two of which are on the playlist above), and Cathy even jumped in on drums for a song or two.
Fun fact: she hoped to marry Freddy Mercury.
Out and About
After the show I went and walked around a bit and took some photos of the city.
On York St., I found an interesting mural of sorts with the text "Never mind the owl, or eagle. The crow breeds intelligence with a playful flavour." Later, thanks to the internet, I found it was by a street artist that goes by the name "Faigy".
Adjacent to the Faigy piece was another street mural with the text "Blooms Flowah You." "Me" is imposed over "You" on the piece. I couldn't find the origin of this one, but it has "Love Dubin" in the corner, so I'm going to assume it's someone named "Dubin." Or it's someone with terrible spelling that defaced the other person's art. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Lunch with Dublin NOC
- Wednesday, December 3rd
Since the Dublin NOC clearly knows the way to my heart, they took me out for really good burgers at Bunsen. Below are before, during, and after pictures. As you can see, the massive portions took their toll.
Nite Jewel at Whelan's
- Wednesday, December 3rd
- Whelan's Live
Apparently getting to see Cathy Davey wasn't enough luck for me, and Nite Jewel happened to be playing the next night at the same venue! The luck doesn't stop there, though. I noticed Whelan's posted a contest on Facebook to win a free ticket to the show. So I entered by commenting on the post, and I won! It was my kind of win, the kind where no one else even entered so I win by default.
Now Nite Jewel is from LA, so I've seen here plenty of times there, and from what I remember she's pretty popular. But in Dublin, to my surprise, there were maybe twenty people attending the show that night. No matter, she still did her thing and had cool projections set up. It was sort of strange being in Dublin and watching someone from LA with a few Dubliners.
Work and Home
I got to see the Dublin office for the first time, and it was decorated for Christmas so it was extra cozy. Finally worked alongside my Dublin coworkers and met some new Dublin Rioters, who were all very welcoming and friendly. At least until it came time to play Divekick, when I got my ass handed to me.
They put me up at O'Callaghan Stephen's Green Hotel, which was pretty nice except that the heater was not working until about two days before I left (turned out it was just that the filter needed cleaning). They had a complimentary breakfast in the morning, and this is where I tried my first "Traditional Irish Breakfast" and found out I really don't like black pudding. It comes in at #1 on a top ten list of gross and disgusting foods. It also features on BBC America's "Ten Extremely Misunderstood British Foods" list. Oh I understand it just fine, BBC. It's gross and ya'll should be ashamed.
Speaking of food, the other traditional Irish food I tried was boxty (Irish potato pancacke) at The Boxty House. I got the corned beef and cabbage boxty. Now that was good. Gosh I am hungry now.
Grafton Street and Trinity College
On my way to the movies (coming up next!), I ended up passing through Grafton Street. It was quite pretty aside from the McDonald's ad in the middle of the street.
Oh and I saw a sign for the Socialist Party's "Working Class Revolt." It seemed like they did a lot of protesting over there. On the way to work one day I noticed there was a ton of traffic, turned out people were protesting having to pay for water (previously it was free/part of the progressive general tax). To my surprise, Detroit was representing! Detroid Water Brigade joined in the protest, and they had some musical performances as well. And while I saw a bit of the march, I unfortunately missed the Brigade leading a rousing rendition of the classic "You Can Shove Your Water Meters Up Your Arse" (ouch!).
The Drop at IMC Screen Cinema 3
- December 5th
- IMC Screen Cinema 3
On the flights out to Dublin there were a number of movies available for viewing. A lot were clearly garbage. Others were harder to gauge, given I was in the air with no internet. Why didn't I cache Wikipedia offline before taking off?!?!
Anyways, I managed to watch The Two Faces of January (pretty good, Viggo Mortensen doing his usual Viggo Mortensen "Oh, I'm just your average guy, at least until, you know, someone points a gun at me, cuz then yeah I'm a trained killer..." thing), Earth to Echo (not great but passable and fun), and finally the crown jewel of the bunch, Lullaby. The synopsis sounded OK, and it had a pretty good cast (Richard Jenkins, Amy Adams, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson, and more). Oh god it was terrible. And long. And I watched the whole thing because I couldn't look away because it was like a trainwreck. And they barely even used Amy Adams, Terrence Howard, or Jennifer Hudson...
Lastly, I found The Drop. I remember hearing it was James Gandolfini's final film, plus it had Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, so I gave it a try. Well, I got halfway through it then we landed. I had been fully drawn in by then, so that was torturous! Luckily it was also playing in theaters so I walked over to IMC Screen 3 for a 6PM showing. Outside there's this cool bronze statue of an usher named Mr. Screen, created by Vincent Browne in 1988. I ended up loving the movie!
I also ended up seeing The Homesman (good, although the idea of Hillary Swank being this plain woman who can't get a man is a tad ridiculous) at the same theater and What We Do in the Shadows (a hilarious mockumentary about vampires that are roommates) at Light House Cinema. It was more of a walk than the other theater, but it was really cool architechturally and definitely worth it.
The 12 Pubs of Christmas
- Friday, December 5th
It All Started at Pablo Picante...
This is probably the part of the trip least likely to bore you as a reader. So I had heard that Pablo Picante was the shit from all the people in the Dublin office. I went to try it out on a Friday night, just after seeing The Drop. I had taken my camera with me, so I had it sitting on the table while I ate. It's an interchangable lens camera, so even though it was relatively inexpensive it looks like more than your average camera. I noticed a rowdy group eating there as well, and I also noticed they seemed to be looking at me and eyeing my camera. My first instict was maybe they were thinking of stealing it. Eventually one of the guys asks me if I would take some pictures of them. "Sure," I reply, sounding like I am definitely not from around those parts. They immediately figured out I was an American tourist and asked me to join them as a sort of documentary photographer for the "12 Pubs of Christmas," which is apparently a thing there (of course it is)! Well, I had eaten, I had my camera and a good jacket, and my hotel room was still cold as ice, so I figured why not? Also they had already visited a few pubs, so I figured I just might be able to hang (drinking-wise) if they had that head start...
Thus began my journey with a group of incredibly friendly strangers! I later found out that, coincidentally, they all worked together in IT for a medical software company in the area. I told them where I worked and at least one or two knew League so I was in just like that!
First stop, Dakota. It was OK, although very crowded. The guys talked to some pretty girls, screwed around with potted flowers and fake antlers, and I stood there a bit awkwardly trying to get some OK pictures in incredibly dim lighting.
12 Bands of Christmas at Sweeney's
Aw yeah, Sweeney's. This place was really cool, it was an upstairs bar with local bands playing. Turns out they were doing "12 Bands of Christmas" while we were there. We caught Connor Linnie, Marcas Carcas, and part of Gypsy Rebel Rabble.
My always gregarious companions made fast friends with Connor and his girlfriend, so we ended up hanging out with them for the next two sets. Everyone sort of went in a circle introducing themselves, name, where they were from, and it went something like, "Dublin," "Dublin," some other city in Ireland, until it got to me: "Los Angeles." That took the new people by suprise, and I have to say it must be one of the few times in my life I was able to effortlessly impress a group of people like that! In LA I am very much not impressive.
Below you will find a loop of one of my favorite sets of pictures, in which they do their best impression of the couple making out.
The Temple Bar
On the way to The Temple Bar a taxi was stopped on the street waiting to make a turn where we were crossing, and one of the guys decided he wasn't going to go around so he got in the back seat on the passenger side, then crawled out the driver's side. The taxi driver just said something to the effect of "this guy!" and we all had a good laugh (luckily).
The place had a quaint olden-looking storefront but was literally packed to to the brim, to where there was barely standing room. One or two of the guys managed to make their way in to get us drinks, but the rest of us stayed outside.
We briefly stopped at Cassidy's, where an expert-level photo-bomber with a very slight Jesus and Mary Chain haircut debonairly mugged the camera before joining in. I also remember this is where the dude to the left of the photo-bomber kept telling me how cool I was. "You're so cool! You're just so calm and so cool! You're just you." I think he said something about how usually Americans are easy to spot and stand out. Clearly I was very impressive in Dublin. Could the drinks have helped?
Speaking of which, I think they bought all my drinks that night. Or at least close to it.
The Workman's Club
The Workman's Club was really fun and just a very cool club in general. There was a rooftop bar with pretty lights strung across and interesting, vibrant colors for the walls and doors. There was also a dark little dance room playing post-punk, I think, that had a nice view of the River Liffey (which you may have heard of from the Radiohead song "How to Disappear Completely"). And the dudes talked to more ladies as you can see.
This is where the fellow in the plaid shirt and glasses took it upon himself to teach me some Gaelic and Irish slang! We went over "sláinte," which is like a toast saying "to your health!" that sounds like "slouncha" when pronounced. Then there was "the craic is ninety," where craic sounds like "crack" and roughly means "fun" or "good times" (incidentally, same meaning as crack in the US, for some). If anyone ever asks "how's the craic?" you say "it's ninety!" For a little romance, there was "go on me auld flower!"
This is also where my camera no longer was just my camera, and I'm finally in some of the pictures. You can see below where one of the guys took the camera and nearly ate it, then shushes the camera to not tell on him. Well it did, but it came out great! Then it was commandeered a second time when I went to the bathroom, this time by two ladies (that's where the really blurry ones come from).
- December 5th
- Guinness Storehouse
Jasprit, always the true homie, took me to the Guinness Storehouse, where I learned about the history of Guinness, got some really silly pictures of myself, and, most crucially, learned to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Oh, and the view from their 7th floor "gravity bar" is worth it by itself. Afterwords she took me to The Hairy Lemon, which was really good.
Butler Castle in Kilkenny
- December 5th
- Butler Castle
And finally I ended my trip by going home: reclaiming my righteous place as the King of Butler Castle. Or at least that's how I saw it going. In reality, I emailed them to ask about any special discounts or treats for members of the Butler family. I got a reply the next day stating, "You treat will be... touring the stately home of the Butler family, enjoy." Which I'm sure is highly exclusive and only avilable to people like myself. Of course, he was of the Burke clan, that must have been where things went wrong. If only I had gotten in touch with a Butler. One day...
Thus far my trip had included little to no rain. Naturally, though, when I was to travel the furthest outside of Dublin and away from my hotel room, it started pouring and getting colder. I took a train there, and the ride was very pretty with the rain. So at that point I really enjoyed it. The train got me fairly close to the castle, but I still had a bit of a walk when I arrived. I had been using my GPS more-or-less without issue so far, but wouldn't you know it stopped working when I got there. And it was still pouring and quite cold, plus I had planned with just enough time to get to the Castle for the tour at 3PM, and if I'd missed that the next was 45 minutes later. So I definitely had a moment of "I'm cold, wet, and lost in a strange land." I pressed on in the direction I thought it was, nearly turning around at one point, but then finally saw the/my castle.
I went and purchased my tour ticket, then went out front for some pictures. I really wanted a picture with some perspective, since it's so large, and that required going out onto the lawn in the cold, pouring rain. There was basically standing water on the grass field, so I went very cautiously and slowly. By the time I got my pictures and got back my shoes and pants were utterly soaked and my hands were numb. The only silver lining was that the castle had WiFi. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed during the tour. "That's fine," I said, "I will just look at old family photo albums."
With the tour complete, I headed over to one of the oldest pubs in Ireland, Kyteler's Inn. It was founded by Dame Alice Kyteler in 1263, and she was the "first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland." So, that happened! I order the local beer, Smithwick's (so authentic!), and the hottest, heartiest meal on the menu, lasagna (not so authentic).
The Final Tally
- 1 castle, 1 brewery
- 2 live bands
- 3 movies
- 12 pubs of Christmas
- 110/100 friendliness score for the local Dubliners