Last month, during a four-day mescal and astral-travel binge with my good friend and famed beatnik performance artist, ‘Dirty’ Dylan Rainbow, I got to thinking: wouldn’t it be super if someone were to write the definitive Irish road book? It could be like a Hibernian version of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.
A gripping tale of one far-gone daddio hitching all the way across this crazy country, driven by way-out cats crazy for kicks and hallucinogenics, tumbling down that golden highway toward the ocean and God knows what else. It would be the defining literary statement of our age, capturing the raw naked Irish savage in all his untamed glory. Dig it!
And wouldn’t it be even more super if that someone were me? Name a person more qualified, and I’ll give you a coverless paperback of Dharma Bums and a one-way ticket to Woodstock. The place, not the music festival. I literally spent about four solid years of my life standing on some desolate byroad, thumb aloft.
So it was with confidence that I recently sat down at my old style manual typewriter, roof fan whirring, 94% proof whiskey and loaded revolver near at hand, dreams of the open road and God’s dark holy country filling my head…
On The Boreen* (Draft #1)
June 1st: Summer is here and I’m itching to get out. This city is suffocating me. I need to feel the wind in my hair as open train carriages hurtle through the cool blessed night. It’s decided – I’m going to travel the whole damn way across the country, getting from here to there to wherever by any way I can.
I ask my boss for a six month leave-of-absence, citing “creative stagnation and existential asphyxia”. In a weird forecast of my actions, he says, “You’ve gotta be joking, pal – it’s my way or the highway.”
I choose the highway.
June 2nd: Ring Iarnród Éireann and ask for a timetable of all open-sided freight trains for the next month. The guy asks if this is one of those hideously unfunny radio station pranks. I assure him it’s not, that I am planning a most righteous groove into the black heart of…he cuts me off by saying, “We got two loads of coal, the Guinness train, a canister of frozen nitric acid and the fifteen-fifty passenger direct ex-Heuston.”
This might be trickier than I thought.
June 3rd: Decide to hitch it. Hot damn! I’m almost crazy at the thought of that black-topped highway leading to the ends of the earth, needing nothing but a packet of Luckies and a ride to the next stop.
Pack a rucksack with windcheater, several changes of underwear, toilet bag, walkman, book, road map, anti-indigestion pills, thermal sleeping-bag, two three-kilo dumbbells and lucky troll doll.
June 4th: Pick what I feel would be a good spot, light a cigarette and calculate how much peyote I can buy with the money in my pocket.
(5 hours later): Maybe it’s some kind of rupture in the astral plane, maybe it’s the fact that my hitching sign reads “Loco cat in need of passage down life’s sublime highway”, but nobody has offered me a lift. Pah! Bourgeoisie. Who needs ‘em? I’ll sleep under the stars tonight, man, just the bounteous earth and her dark belly to hold me.
Find a field, roll my jacket up under my head, and dream of the ocean.
June 5th: Wake up with an incredibly painful crick in my neck. I can’t turn my head around from its ‘looking left’ position, which has quite restricting consequences on my tumbling passage toward love and despair. Resume hitching again, but with my back facing onto the road, gazing forlornly over my shoulder. I look like one of Buck’s Fizz.
Wait for some good-hearted son of the soil to take me where I gotta go.
(4 hours later): If just one more redneck shouts ‘Hey! Nice arse!’ from his car, I won’t be responsible for what I do.
June 6th: Jesus, I’m hungry. Am reduced to sucking on love beads in attempt to fool my stomach into thinking I’m actually eating. My energy centres are all messed-up from standing on the one ley-line too long. I’ve gotta get out of here! All I need is a ride, man, just one lousy ride.
Wait – I think I hear an old tractor chugging its way towards me. God bless those simple rustic people!
(That night): Am writing this by the glare of a 42-inch Samsung Widescreen TV. A little disappointed that my host didn’t make me a simple country repast of nuts and homemade wine, although he did offer me some oven chips and Toffee Pops, and his Cherokee jeep was really comfortable. I wonder where I’ll sleep tonight? Probably alone in his barn, with just the straw to lie on and the infinite stars above to send me to my sleep.
June 7th: So that’s what he meant about being “glad of the company – it gets very lonely out here sometimes”.
Walk rather painfully to my new hitching spot and check the map to see how far down that shimmering blue highway I’ve travelled. I feel like I’ve been on this road for ever, that it just circles the earth and comes right back to here…
Hmm – six miles. That’s a little less than I had expected.
Hitch a ride to the next town with an ancient old man, a man who looks more than just in this country, but of this country. If you know what I mean. The man is living history. He must have some crazy stories to tell.
I drawl, “So…you must have some crazy stories to tell.”
He jerks his thumb at the backseat which is covered in empty milk-bottles.
“D’ye see dat? Dat’s what I like. Milk.”
“Uuh…yeah, sure, sure, old-timer. But, what I mean to say is…you must have seen so many far-gone things in your time. So many beautiful and awful and sweet roaring things.”
“I have. Milk.”
“First, milk was just got from the cow; directly, like. Den de bottled milk came along. Dat was grand for a while. Den de cardboard cartons arrived. Now, dey weren’t always so easy to open; ye see, you had to stick your tumb right in under de edges…”
Slyly ingest a tab of ‘Dirty’ Dylan’s special brew acid to ward off a coma. The old man turns into a wasp and doesn’t even seem to notice.
June 8th: Come around at noon. The sun is tearing apart the faded sky like a cruel lovely mistress…err…tearing apart something. I’ve got a bitch of a hangover and my head is stuck in a ditch. What far-flung reaches of life’s black heart did I visit last night? What dangerous woman did I make love to, what dusty broken travellers did I meet riding that cold locomotive to death and infamy?
I sort of remember entering a bar, sucking on a long tall cool one and saying to the massive, vaguely homicidal-looking man next to me, “Say, brother, let’s sleep in the forest tonight and be as one with everything around us.” But all the rest is a blank.
My head aches. I feel like I’m not wearing any trousers. And why are all those people laughing at me…?
*boreen: Irish word for small road