Wednesday, July 1, 2009


#182, Sandymount, Dublin

Sometimes, in order to amuse myself, I imagine that one hundred years from now, in the humble borough called Brooklyn, pilgrims from all over the world will flock to the places immortalized in the songs and stories told by my friends and I. Imagine Bloomsday in Dublin -- where Joyce fans and people who simply like to wear silly Edwardian garb dress up and go from site to site, gathering at the Martello tower in Sandycove where stately, plump Buck Mulligan descended the stairs, or the railway platform where Stephen Dedalus got in a fist fight.

In this alternate universe, music fans toting Balthrop, Alabama CDs will ride the F train to Carroll Street just like in the song; they will disembark at Bar Great Harry with certain as-yet-to-be-finished novels and say, in hushed whispers, "The greats gathered here and drank the Captain Morgan Liquid Gold!" Who knows? Maybe there will be little writerly plaques on the sidewalk outside the Fall Cafe or the Red Hook Pool someday. Posterity's a fickle mistress. I like to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Today's 182 has two additional footnotes: one is, of course, the fact that I am clearly cropping out the final number (bonus points to anyone willing to guess it), which I do entirely without shame. The second concerns a delusion brought about by my own daydreaming, a serious byproduct of much city wandering.

I'd spent that cold January morning in Dublin breathing in sea spray and enjoying a sunny seaside stroll. After noting this beautiful inscription on the door of a Martello tower (pictured here), I circled the rounded structure for a good ten or fifteen minutes, not understanding why it was shut and locked. You see, in all my daydreaming on that coastal road, I had convinced myself that I'd wandered eight miles or so south of where I actually was, far enough to reach the Martello tower featured in the opening scene of Ulysses - now a James Joyce museum. I was utterly puzzled as to the lack of fanfare. I did - after a friend gently questioned the sanity of my sixteen mile amble - realize that I had somehow mistaken Sandymount for Sandycove - one Joycean place for another - and muttered to myself that it was a shame, because I really wanted to write about Joyce for my 182. It turns out the coast has a whole peppering of similar Martello towers, a detail I'd never before noticed. Too into that sea spray, apparently.

But I feel a certain warmth toward the number now, not in spite of, but precisely because of my mistake. Let's only hope those Brooklyn-bound literary pilgrims of the future don't mistake Bar Great Harry for, say, Angry Wade's up the road. There are some diversions worth the error. But trust me. You don't want to miss the draft list and the good people of BGH. Posterity, take note.


Pierre said...

Balthrop, Alabama is such a mob of players and singers that I can't pick out your squeezin's when I listen to various cuts online. I'm sure you're contributing though. I drew my first accordion and posted it yesterday. Thought of you since you're the only one I know who plays one.

Once again, nice read. It's been too long since I inhaled a deep drag of sea spray.

Therese Cox said...

I'm sure if you'd been at the Joe's Pub show last night, Pierre, you'd have had a different opinion of my squeezebox playing. Live I tend to be rather... loud. We're coming to Phoenix in a few weeks. Look out!

Accordions are good looking things to draw. My friend Bernie (who's taken some great shots of the band) finds them rather photogenic as well. Nice drawing!

Pierre said...

When and where in Phoenix? Let me know.

Jackie said...

Great post. Love the idea of the spots of our time & art being immortalized. Perhaps long after our books are published our readers can visit Cafe Luluc and try to visualize our "famous" literary summits....

And-- I was at Joe's Pub last night. T rocks it out on that accordion! :-)

Therese Cox said...

Balthrop summer tour dates here. Phoenix is Friday, July 24 at the Rogue Bar. Anyone else live in the U.S.? Check out the dates, come on out, and have a PBR with me.

Jac, we'll have omelets bronzed in our honor.

Julie said...

"deep drag of sea spray" needed here right now. Will get me one v. early tomorrow morning.