Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Innisfree, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.
Then it was cold and rainy again. Plus, it was Good Friday, which for us meant that all the museums were closed, and nobody was even serving alcohol. We were able to get a hot seawater and seaweed bath, however, which is a good way to celebrate a birthday. We also drove around Lough Gill and had a longing look across the water at this little islet, the Lake Isle of Innisfree, the same one from Yeats' famous poem. It seemed peaceful, bee-loud, full of clay and wattles, and wet. The next day we drove back to Dublin (in occasional drizzling rain) and flew home.

Slieve League, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.
The next day was actually beautiful: we explored Derry a bit in the morning, then we drove to Donegal, snapping sheep along the way. We went for a short hike at Slieve League to see some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. From the path we could see across the bay to Sligo and Benbulben, the mountain at the foot of which we would eventually lodge.

County Antrim, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

The next day was not quite so stormy. We packed a lot in: an early morning visit to the Giant's Causeway, a tour of Dunluce Castle, and a stop at this marvelous little temple on the edge of a cliff facing north towards Scotland (which we could see at certain points). By the end of the day we were in Derry, and the sun had come out, but it was bitter cold and windy still. We strolled along the walls of the old city wearing tuques we'd just bought for a pound each.

Northern Ireland in the rain/sleet/snow, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

We drove north in the rain, remembering to drive on the left, and spent a night in Belfast. Took a stroll around Queens University in the rain. Saw the political murals in West Belfast in the rain. Driving up the coast into County Antrim, it was raining. Raining hard. And blowing, and occasionally hailing. The cliffs were being pulled down by the wind and rain, leaving the narrow seaside roads littered with rocks and turf. At one point as we were negotiating the debris a wave crashed against the low stone guardrail and sent a deluge of seawater over our car. It was like being in a cold salty car-wash. At a convenience store we asked the clerk if she knew whether it would clear up tomorrow, and she said it was supposed to snow. Soon after that, we headed over the inland mountains and in no time we were driving through a snowstorm.

The Parapluies of Newgrange, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

I had wanted to check out Newgrange, a passage tomb built by the ancient Irish well before the Egyptians built the pyramids. It is a grassy mound, essentially, on a hill-top, and not as large or geometrical as the pyramids, but quite large. It was built with a tunnel (passage) going part-way inside, with spiral carvings now covered in places by graffiti from the last few centuries. Quite amazing, yet it was hard to feel anything but frozen on a day as cold and rainy as this one was. Here's Karen walking very rapidly around the circumference of the mound, after which we appreciated the over-priced hot chocolate in the gift shop. One quasi-mystical attraction of this mound, however, is that the passage is constructed in such a way that every year on the winter solstice the light of the sun, as it comes over the distant hills at sunrise, shines directly through the passage to the back of the innermost chamber. For many centuries the entrance had been partially blocked and it wouldn't have been possible to see this, and yet local villagers mentioned rumors about it. It wasn't until the 1960s, when the tunnel had been excavated and repaired, that the chief archeologist went to the site by himself on a chilly but clear December morning and stood in the chamber and was the first person in over a millennium to witness the tunnel light up in the way it had been designed to do.

North Americans studying North America in Ireland

Having several important things to say about the critical reception of beatsploitation films from 1959 and 1960, I found myself in Dublin in late March, giving a talk at the 2010 Biennial Conference of the European Association of American Studies. I appeared on a panel called "Remediating the Beats" to make the point that while "beatnik" movies, by and large, ridiculed and vilified the beat lifestyle in sensationalistic and paranoia-inducing ways, it is still interesting to read them as a strand of criticism of beat culture. As I hope my paper demonstrated. With that off my chest, I found Karen (who was also presenting a paper at the conference), rented a car, and headed off into the rolling, soggy Irish countryside for a brief vacation to celebrate her 30th b-day.

Beach sunset in Tel Aviv

DSC00396, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

Beat heaven, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

This is inside the Church of the Beatitudes, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, on the mount where Jesus supposedly gave a sermon about who is blessed and how. The blue circle in the middle of the dome is ringed with fishes.

I dosen't love you English., originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

Golan Heights, originally uploaded by Corey Frost.

Karen's uncle Avi kindly took us for a drive around the Sea of Galilee—including up the hillsides on the east side, a little piece of occupied territory called the Golan Heights. On the other side of the valley in this picture is Jordan, and a bit farther up the valley is Syria. We saw old Syrian machine-gun and mortar bunkers looking down on the Galilee, as well as abandoned Arab villages. Now the plateau is covered with Israeli onion farms.