A few years ago, I went on vacation to southern Spain with some friends of mine. My employer at the time had a very generous—to the point of being ridiculous—vacation policy, so I had accrued a crap ton of vacation time. Since I knew that spending a week in Spain trying to keep two remarkably un-street-smart friends from being murder-trafficked would be exhausting, I decided to take an extra week in Ireland, so I could recover by going on a week long solo bender.
I’ve traveled a lot in developing countries, so I have a very high tolerance for shitty lodgings. I only ask for three things: a deadbolt, an ensuite bathroom, and a 100% lack of cobras in the bedroom. Also that it not be a hostel, because I was not and am not 18 years old or European. So I was happy to seek out the cheapest hotel possible in Dublin, especially since I correctly divined that I would not be spending a single waking moment in the hotel where I was either sober or not hungover. It was not my first time in Dublin, so I had something of an understanding where things were and what could reasonably be considered central enough that I could plausibly stumble back in a drunken stupor. I settled on a hotel off of O’Connell Street on a street called Gardiner Street.
The first sign that this maybe wasn’t the best part of Dublin came while I was in Malaga Airport on line to check-in to my flight. I was chatting with a middle aged couple from Dublin and the wife asked me where I was staying. I told her the name of the hotel, but she didn’t recognize it, and asked where it was. I told her that it was on Gardiner Street. She and her husband stared at each other for a few moments, and then the husband pulled out a pad an paper, wrote down their name, address, and phone number, and gave it to me saying “if anything, you can call us any time.” I put this down to me being very charming and Irish people being very hospitable.
I landed in Dublin around 3 PM, took a shuttle bus to O’Connell Street, and made my way to the hotel on foot. As I got closer, I started to notice that the neighborhood was sort of run down looking. I dismissed this by noting to myself that there were a lot of late model luxury cars parked on the street, so clearly this wasn’t a bad area. Even though I knew damn well from years of living in New York and Philadelphia that nothing good ever happens in a run down neighborhood where people drive late model luxury cars.
When I entered the hotel to check in, there were some Scandinavian students in the process of checking out. This was the first sign that this hotel was going to be worse than I expected. Scandinavian students do not stay in nice hotels. Scandinavian students do not stay in bad hotels. Maybe it’s because they come from a part of the world where accommodations are considered pleasant if you don’t die from exposure overnight, but Scandinavian students only stay in very, very shitty hotels.
The first thing I discovered upon checking into my room was that I did not have an ensuite bathroom. The second thing that I discovered was that the shared bathroom did not have power. I briefly considered complaining to the management, but I decided that I probably didn’t want to be able to see the bathroom, and since it was a shared bathroom, not having any light would probably discourage people from taking too much time in there (unless they were lying in wait so they could murder me in the dark.
I left the hotel around 5 PM and decided to find a bar. I really wanted to go to a place that played jazz, but Dublin is not exactly known as a hotspot for jazz. JJ Smyth’s was the obvious choice, but I wasn’t really interested in their lineup, so I yelped “jazz bar” and decided on a bar tagged with jazz that was about a 45 minute walk away. When I arrived, I immediately saw that they did not have jazz. They also did not have live music. But they did have a pool table and were suitably dive-y.
I ordered a beer. The bartender was rather remarkably unsocial by bartender standards. I later noticed that there was a recurring problem of drunken patrons accidentally stepping on his dog while it was sleeping by the bar, so I can’t blame him for not being particularly cheerful.
After a while I made my way back to the pool table and watched people play. Noting how seriously were taking it, I resolved not to put my name down until I was too drunk to write legibly (in my only game, much later in the night, I touched the pool cue twice—including my breaking shot—and was thoroughly wiped out. The other player actually seemed genuinely pissed that I was so shitty). Then I went out the backdoor to have a cigarette. There I met a very nice stoner couple and their stoner friends. Five or six of us sat on the ground in the alley behind the bar and drank a few rounds of beer. Then they passed around a joint. Someone pointed out that the alley we were sitting in was called Coke, “which is funny, because everyone smokes pot here.” MIND=BLOWN.
The stoner couple I was drinking and smoking with were this Irish guy and his Australian girlfriend. They asked me where I was staying and when I told them where, the Aussie girl went “If you’re not comfortable going back there, you’re welcome to crash on our couch tonight.” (warning sign #2). I said it was okay, so they proceeded to give me some advice. “If someone tries to rob you, tell them to fuck off.” “Got it, tell them to go fuck themselves.” “No, don’t do that, you’ll get stabbed. Just sort of be like, fuck off.” “Tell them to fuck off, got it.” “No, don’t be aggressive, just sort of be like, ‘oh, just fuck off with that.’”
One of the other stoners went to leave and slipped three buds in my pocket and told me to enjoy the rest of my trip. I did. Although I was utterly terrified that the drug sniffing dogs at the airport were going to smell it in my jacket.
A year later I was packing my carry-on and realized that the entire bag was filled with bits of pot that evidently fell out of my jacket pocket when I packed it. I scooped them up and made a spliff.
I took a cab home. The cab driver was Nigerian, so we bonded over Nigerian politics and how he felt about their then new president. When we got to the hotel, he told me he would wait for me to get inside before leaving (warning sign #3).
My newfound stoner friends told me that a band called “Tradiohead”—that was a Radiohead cover band that played with trad instuments—was playing at a bar the next night and we should meet up there. So, I went to see them the next night. Shockingly, stoners are really bad at making plans, so I didn’t see them, but I did meet three girls who insisted that I sit with them. They proudly proclaimed that they were all teachers of Gaelic and fluent speakers of it, and that I should consider myself lucky. One girl, Annie, told me I looked like Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye.
I do, but I took this to be a polite way of telling me I look Jewish, which I do and technically am.
The girls were very into Tradiohead. At some point, some other girl pulled me aside and said “Can you please tell them to sit the fuck down? We can’t see.” I am not in the business of corralling drunk Irish women, so I demurred.
Annie asked me where I was staying. I told her and she said “I know that area. I used to work at a centre for at-risk youth there. I was walking home one time when this kid came up to me with a knife and asked for my purse. I recognized him from my work and told him. He was embarrassed and ran off.”
I took a cab back that night too.
I got back to my “hotel.” Around 4 AM, I heard a loud bang. I sprang up in bed thinking that some pikeys were breaking through my windows and that I’d had to Kung Fu them to death.
The windows were fine. I looked over to the door and saw a pretty blonde woman in a red dress with white polkadots standing in front of the doorway. She sort of looked like she was from the 1940s. She didn’t look at me. She just sort of looked to her right, with sort of a concerned look on her face, then turned left and walked through the wall.
Now, was I maybe still drunk at 4 AM? Maybe. I was definitely hungover. But I promise I didn’t dream that. I was too weirded out to go back to sleep and I texted quite a few women immediately after saying “Sooooo... I just saw a ghost.”
Now, I don’t believe in ghosts and if you ask me if I do, I’ll respond, “no, I don’t believe in ghosts, that’s stupid, except for that one time in Dublin when I definitely did see a ghost.”