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"A man about a dog," Dublin Sunday afternoon

Republic of Ireland, 2007 —

Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin
I was in Dublin one day in April — I'd gotten on the "next bus to anywhere" from

I was behind an elderly lady on queue at a small supermarket in the Temple Bar district when I noticed that one of the packets of sauce-mix that she was buying had been damaged.

The powder spilled across the scale; and, since the cashier did not observe this, I pointed it out. "Oh," she said — "thank you." She told the customer that it would be okay for her to go pick out another one of the same, after checkout.

The poor old lady was obviously a little bit confused — and, in fairness, the suggestion was inconsiderate. I asked the cashier did they not have somebody who could go get a replacement for the damaged packet. So she went off herself to do so.

I spoke during her excursion with the aul one — she was old Dublin, from a time when you would not have seen such hurried, unhelpful demeanor. There's nothing wrong with a little customer service, we agreed.

When the total bill came up, the lady was just a bit short of enough money, so I gave the cashier a fiver, from which she then gave me the change.

We said our pleasant goodbyes, the old lady and I — both of us feeling better than before.

There's a beautiful indoor marketplace, next door to Dunne's Stores — the shop that I had been in. I walked through this area — George's Street Arcade — just looking.

Out the other end of the covered marketplace, I encountered a scene which I needed to photograph. An old man and a young woman were sitting on a bench, looking very Irish.

How not to meet an Irish woman

Working in a department store, I asked a customer if she'd like to have a drink with me....

I asked them if I could photograph them, to which they agreed.

The young woman said to me "That was really nice what you did."


"In the shop. I was behind you in queue. What you did for that lady was nice. It warmed my heart."

"Oh," I said — and babbled something that I don't remember. She asked me if I wanted to join them on the bench, to which I naturally said yes.

The aul lad was a good sport about it. He'd once been younger — he knew why I wanted to talk with her. He presented himself as a bit of a rough character, and I suspect that it was not all bluff and bluster. He said that he only enjoyed crime fiction, when he read books.

The woman, a medical student working on her master's thesis — had brought up the subject of books, telling me specifically about one she'd just read that she'd found fascinating — "The Holotropic Mind."

We talked about various topics, as people do. I think the old fella began to feel excluded, which I regretted later — he excused himself to "go see a man about a dog." The girl asked him about the dog — and I had to explain to her that this is a typical expression, a euphemism. (It means, basically, "I'm going to go somewhere else now.") We laughed that an American would have to explain the local (European-English) expression to a native.

After ten or fifteen minutes — she took her first digital photograph during this time — she said she needed to go keep an appointment. I walked with her back through the marketplace to George Street, and we stood together to say our goodbyes.

I asked her if she'd like to see me again. She said she didn't want to. She said that she didn't think we had anything in common. She mentioned, specifically, that she was interested in spirituality and that I was not. She'd gotten this impression from our discussion of that book — and from my inarticulate effort to explain my objections to a book that I'd felt sounded similar.

"The Holographic Universe," recommended to me by a friend, had left me unsatisfied. The subject matter — which by the way I find entrancing and inspirational beyond articulation — is of the nature of consciousness in the incipient modern understanding of the nature of the Universe and reality as we know it (and create it.) The book I'd read, however, was too riddled with assumptions and weak logic to be enjoyable.

I'd tried to articulate something about the book that I'd read — which, I've since learned, is of a pair with the book she mentioned. I came off bumbling for words, and that's just my own admission of the fact.

Not interested in spirituality? Well, a woman must say something when she is not interested in a man. But that wasn't fair.

And that busted me down, for a while. The busride back to Kilkenny was unpleasant, and I arrived home with a negative attitude that I could not (or would not) shake.

"Women prefer bastards," I told a friend of mine, who was visiting my house that evening. "Do you think so?" asked one of my housemates. "Yes, I do."

And I don't know. Maybe I believe that. Maybe it's something that I don't have to explain — maybe it's a feature of human beings that is apparent and intuitive to anybody who's been around long enough and is honest enough to understand and accept it.

I don't know. Maybe it's not.

But it was disturbing, to meet a woman who loved what I did — showing kindness that "warmed her heart" — and who had no interest in seeing me again.

I don't know.