Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Folks You Might Meet At The Ha' Penny Bridge Inn

I landed in Dublin the Wednesday before Easter in the middle of a blizzard. It was shortlived but considering that in my previous visit to the Irish capital, in February two years ago, I had never needed more than a spring jacket, well, lets just say that I was not impressed with the situation. Indeed I was even less so when I found out that back in Canada it was hot and sunny. The one positive is that while I was in Johnstownbridge for the wedding I could smell burning peat in the crisp air which brough me back to the fall of 2002 when we had toured about the south of Ireland and each evening on our way from pub to pub that sweetness was all about us in the night. Other than that, well I was unprepared and a little rankled.

My flight landed just after five in the morning Irish time but my man Patrick Broe was there at the gate to gather me and so we were off to their flat where we caught up over a coffee. He offered me a couch for a short nap but it was but midnight on my body clock and that evening we were to leave Dublin so I figured that I had best get into town and get all I could out of it. I borrowed an overcoat and was out the door with a promise to be back by midafternoon.

The last time I was in Dublin Paddy lived in Castleknock, a northwestern suburb bordering Phoenix Park, and so every time I headed into the city on my own I would take a twenty minute bus ride down the Navan Road into the centre of town. Since then they have moved a little further out to Blanchardstown but again I jumped on the same bus and made my way into the heart of Dublin, through Castleknock and then past the familiar sights of Cabra and Stoneybatter until I was at the Liffey and so stumbled out into the cold bright streets alongside those coming into work for the day. Up and down narrow laneways I wandered, moving, moving, trying to stay warm and awake as around me the city prepared for another day. Shop owners and wait staff and publicans getting ready. I crossed the Liffey and across from the GPO's grand columns I ate a hearty breakfast, just out the window a statue of James Joyce leaning at passerby.

Fortified by reasonable coffee and three different types of pork and a good sized helping of beans and eggs I set forth once again.

It was a quiet day but a fine one. I did as I promised myself and spent some time on the northern side of the river exploring and I walked towards the mouth of the Liffey to see a part of Dublin I had not before. At eleven a.m. I walked into Neary's and opened the joint with a pint of Guinness, just ahead of a lovely old lady who ordered a coffee and a tumbler with a 'bit of the usual' in it on ice.

Neary's might be my favourite Dublin pub although it has plenty of competition. Our first time in Dublin we dropped by The Brazen Head for a couple and we were not disappointed, unlike the time I was in York and excitedly made my way to the oldest pub in that ancient town only to find myself in the middle of a generic chain pub within the original shell of what once was.

The Brazen Head is a fine place and for the most part so are all of the older pubs in Dublin. The last time I was in town I made a point of visiting as many as possible and while you might find a TV or two here or there for the most part they're just wonderful places to have a pint. The Old Stand and The Long Hall. McDaid's where I spent a Friday night getting pissed with the lads and Davy Byrne's, fancier than most. The Brazen Head again and Neary's and the beautiful Stag's Head, hidden down an alleyway. John Mulligan's, off the beaten track, but a really terrific old place. The Palace Bar which truthfully I could have taken a pass on and Dawson's Lounge, a tiny hole in the wall where I had a pint along with around fifteen kilted smelly Scots, in Dublin for the Six Nations.

This time after Neary's a little later on I hit the Brazen Head and then after a little more walking I nipped into the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn to have one for the road.

The Ha'penny Inn is not a famous pub but its probably my favourite Dublin spot. It overlooks the Liffey and the famous bridge that it is named after and it is bright and cheery and the man behind the bar is a friendly fellow, quick with a greeting and slow to pour a pint, just as it should be. I have been there every time I have visited Dublin and I have always enjoyed it but never as much as the first time when Jenn and I dropped in while we traipsed about the city on a Saturday afternoon.

We lucked out on that trip and actually I have been lucky every trip I have made to Ireland when it comes to the weather, the cold and snow notwithstanding on this visit. I've spent twenty days in Ireland all told and maybe three or four of those have seen any rain.

So on this afternoon it was sunny and so we had been wandering about, having a fine day, when we ducked into the pub for a lifter, as my Dad's family would say. The place was roaring pretty good but we still managed to find a little table by the door and as I enjoyed my Guinness and she her red wine, I took notice of the two fellows sitting beside us.

They were a couple of rummies, those harmless hardcore drinkers that you will find in any pub that I prefer, and above the din (for there was some sort of team and their girlfriends in there, muddy and redfaced (the men, not their girls), celebrating some sort of victory) I could hear the two in conversation.

Now they were not in conversation with each other though, no they were in conversation with themselves or with someone, I am not sure who.

The one fellow was rambling on and on, telling a tale that had no end, half of it incoherent mumbling, in other words I think I have seen my future and it looks a little broken down, if not happy.

The second fellow was counting, like so:

Wan, two, tree, four, five, seven, aw Jaysus Christ!

Wan, two, tree, four, seven, aw fer fuckssakesJaysus!

Wan, two, tree, four, five, terdytree ... Christ!

Wan, two, tree, eleventyseen, wan towzan and tree ....


In honour of my old friends I have put together a top ten to do list for the Oilers for this summer. Tambellini has been making all of the right noises about rebuilding the franchise from bottom to top and it appears that he may be dragging it into the twenty first century kicking and screaming (the addition of a sports psychologist being one such move, you may not believe in it but I thought this was pretty standard stuff these days - not for the Oilers apparently, until now.) Some of my suggestions are going to be very general and very obvious but based on the last few summers I don't think we can take anything for granted.

Wan - No foolish contracts. The Oilers are slowly extricating them from a mess of bad contracts. No longterm deals for marginal players. No overpays for sexy names. They aren't out of the salary cap mess yet but they are getting there. Don't take any steps back.

Too - Start accumulating good hockey players. Well duh, right? Seriously though these guys have been shedding NHL players ever since 2006 and haven't been replacing them. Its time to reverse this. What am I looking for? Trades for guys or free agent signings who can play the game and who can help the Oilers win. If they can score goals or kill penalties or check or get the puck moving in the right direction or provide some goaltending. Whatever. There are holes all over the lineup. Start filling them. Look to Europe. Look at guys who have a good history who made have had some bad luck or been in a bad situation last season. Every August there are a group of solid players left on the outside looking in. Sign a couple of them. Bring Patrick Thoresen back for Christ sakes.

Tree - Don't play for the first overall next year as well. People think its easy to finish last. Its not. The Oilers had a lot of bad luck or they may have very well been 23rd or 21st rather than 30th. Granted they now have four NHL defencemen instead of six, as they did last fall, but trying to finish last is going to alienate players who you may want to keep around if and when these kids start arriving which leads me to

Four - Work on making Penner and Hemsky feel that this is where they want to be. It may not happen and I'm not saying bend over to give them whatever they want but fact is that both of these guys are quality NHL players and the Oilers have very few of these. Having two guys who seem to be able to make a difference who can play in your top six is one thing the Oilers have going for them. Waving goodbye to them is not very smart. As I said it may not work out but it better not be for lack of trying. If Hall and MPS end up on the LW and both can play then you have three very good LWs and you can move one of them. Best not to dump one who you know can play already.

Six - Get rid of the following: Souray, Moreau, O'Sullivan, Nilsson. Now, if fences can be mended with Souray then that's fine but I can't see that happening. So move him. The Oilers will get expensive damaged goods back, nobody is going to give them anything of value for a broken down guy making almost eleven million over the next two seasons. That's okay though. He does not want to be here so move him. Moreau also has to go. Trade him, send him to the minors, buy him out. Just get him away from this club. As for Nilsson and POS well neither is a kid anymore and there's no reason to believe that either will ever get over their, ahem, consistency issues, although I'd actually put money on Robert having a good year. Contract is up and all. Move them for guys who need a change in scenery themselves whose own deals are up. Its time.

Seven - Follow up on the nice run they've just had with signings and get MPS, Lander and whomever else (Rajala?) is out there under contract. Don't fool around. Just get it done. And by the way, mend fences with Nash. Just take care of it. The kid is not a bust and there's no reason to throw him away just because of some idea that he's not towing the line. Reopen communications and make it clear to him that you want him. This club is too shitty to throw away a guy who may be a player.

Nine - Fill some obvious holes. This club needs a stay at home defenceman or two who can clear the front of the net and kill penalties. It needs guys who can win draws and who can check and who are hard on the puck. This kind of goes hand in hand with number one, really, but either through trades or free agency the Oilers need to find a couple of guys who do the little things that help a hockey team win some games.

Ten - This is probably the most important one of all. Put the kids in a position to succeed next fall. This organization has just fucked this up royally over the past number of years. From not having a farm club to bringing up kids before they are ready to having them play out of position or in situations where they just get destroyed, the player development side of this club has been a disgrace. So ... figure out where guys best fit, whether that be in Europe or junior or the AHL or the NHL. Wherever they are keep the lines of communication open with them and be clear as to what expectations are and what the organization is thinking. In situations that you control (minors/Oilers) make sure that the guys who need sheltered minutes are sheltered, that guys are playing in defined roles, that they are in situations where they succeed. If Eberle is ready for the NHL then give him a centre and a LW who can complement his game and either give him the butteriest of minutes or a couple of linemates who can shelter him and protect him. Don't play him with JF Jacques on LW and Zach Stortini as his centre and roll lines so that he gets eaten alive.

Put him in a position to succeed!

There you go. Its not even ten in total. Easy peasy.


PDO said...

MPS looks like a player.

Not just a player, but an honest to goodness player.

Following your line of thought, and pretty much accepting that MPS, Hall and Eberle are all likely to force their way onto the team...

Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky
Penner - Gagner - MPS
X - X - Eberle
X - Pouliot - Stone

Stortni, Jones

X's are a combination of either Brule, Cogliano, Pisani, Comrie, or guys you deal for (Dubinsky. Please.).

Could be decent if those X's are guys that can actually play hockey at both ends of the rink.

Whitney - Gilbert
X - Smid
X - X

Lordy. Lots of work to do there.

So the questions become:

Who do we get from FA? Who do we get for Souray? O'Sullivan/Nilsson/Moreau, what's happening there?

If the Oilers could somehow turn Brule, Cogliano and Souray into two forwards to fill out that third line, and can find a top 4 D in return for Souray even if he has some salary warts, AND can find 2 cheap veteran D who can actually just play hockey (say, not Strudwick, but Ulanov or Staios the first time around)...

Well, if they figure out the mess in net, we might actually be worth watching!

Coach pb9617 said...

Four and Ten go together. The amount of fans that want to trade Hemsky and Penner and run Hall/Seguin, MPS, and Eberle up top is....scary.

Black Dog said...

This is going to sound like an awful thing to say but a lot of fans aren't too smart. Not just Oiler fans of course.

Not a clue.

PDO - oh jeez, where to start

I don't think they get much for Souray although a veteran D or a couple of forwards would be fine. Its going to be money coming back.

And the other guys, the same. Not going to get quality, just question marks. Soemtimes though its just a change of scenery needed. POS and Nilsson might do well elsewhere and we might get guys in the same boat.

Brule and Cogliano are the two best trading chips if that's the way they decide to go - they might bring in some decent young talent for up front or the back end.

As for FA I think they're going ot be looking for Betts/Moore types. Nobody with a choice will come to the Oilers I think.

B.C.B. said...

I think it is nine that is more important: as the rest fallow from there. If we can sign (or trade) for 4 vets that can play, then we can play te young'ens with easy minutes or in positions to succeed. We need two Dman, a wing, and a centre.

I like Park/Betts, Moore/Madden, and a couple dmen (say foster and clark).

PDO said...


Vernon Fiddler please. Betts works too, but Fiddler would be nicer imo. Home town kid with some grit, some PK ability, some strong on the puck, some win some battles, some win some faceoffs... that would be nice.

spOILer said...

PDO... Betts ain't the answer and there's no reason for him to be obtained for this team.

BD... "Toe" the line. You're a wonderful writer otherwise I wouldn't bother.

And on the writerly note, I'm going to assume you've read The Dubliners, or at least parts of it, so in honour of the statue and the two patrons talking "Twas Brillig", please, please, please try to read Finnegan's Wake.

Sorry about the toe comment.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - no worries, I'm neither too old nor too proud to learn a little

Have read Dubliners and read Ulysses once every couple of years (that's how long it takes ;))

Have never taken a crack at Finnegan's Wake, it sounds a little too daunting. I guess I should though.

And yeah Fiddler is the type of guy I'm thinking of. I don't mind Betts though as an end of the roster guy.

shepso said...

as you probably know from my moonlighting over at C&B, I've been in Europe for the last month(ish...give or take a drunk night or three), and although it was my first stop on the trip, Dublin has easily been the best. I stayed at a little hostel called the Times, right across the street from Trinity College, and fell in love every ten minutes or so while I was there...the Joyce Museum my have been a highlight of my life, despite its simple construction. I tend to end up returning to Portrait every few years; three reads of Ulysses is about all my mind can handle.

Black Dog said...

shepso - yeah I read Portrait as well now and then. I'm a Ulysses man though, except for the chapter in the maternity hospital. I can't take enough drugs to get through that.

I've been there three times and have never been to the Joyce Museum though, can you imagine? I did go to the Writers' Museum which is just north of Parnell Square, same neck of the woods.

Dublin really is a terrific town. I just love it.

hunter1909 said...

That's "toeing" the line, as Orwell describes in his essay.


hunter1909 said...

The Oilers? Don't any of you guys have girlfriends?

Black Dog - I'd sure like to read your impression of London. I don't know Dublin at all, other than imagine it's a little like Newcastle.

Black Dog said...

A wife and three kids, you knew that! ;)

I've never been to Newcastle so can't comment on that but yeah I'll write on London sometime for sure.

In short though, we were only there for a week, I think you could be there for a year and not see all of it. Absolutely loved it. We live in Toronto which is a fair size city, London completely dwarfs it. I think that is what stuck with me the most. Its just vast. You walk and walk and look at the map and you've gone nowhere. You jump on the tube for an hour and you've just covered a bit of it.


Brad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad said...

BDHS...hate to point this out, but I'm sure you meant:
Bring Patrick Thoresen back aw fer fuckssakesJaysus!
I'd be willing to take leftovers for Souray (it's a damn shame that one didn't work, I was really hoping it would) just so long as each and every questionable contract and or player coming back has no more than end of the season as its expiry date.

Bruce said...

Reading of the Liffey always makes me think of that amazing Radiohead tune, "How to Disappear Completely". Do you know it?

That there
That's not me
I go
Where I please
I walk through walls
I float down the Liffey
I'm not here
This isn't happening
I'm not here
I'm not here

Speaking of disappearing completely, how come your comment counter say 14 comments but in here there are only 10?

Bruce said...

That's odd, my comment disappeared completely.

Black Dog said...

Brad - I think they would be lucky to get contracts expiring next season, they will likely get eleven million back spread over two years, same as Souray.

Bruce - yeah there's something goofy with Blogger, LT is having an awful time, the number in here now matches though.

I'll check out that tune, thanks.

LittleFury said...

Say Pat, I'm moving to Toronto in the fall and I am wondering if you or any other T.O. denizens know of a good spot to watch Oilers games (outside of home, that is).

Black Dog said...

Hey LittleFury let me ask about, Ty would probably know best I think. There are a few sports bars where you can catch almost any game, I guess the question is where will you be living or do you knwo yet?

LittleFury said...

Pat: Dunno yet, I'm thinking somewhere in the west end of downtown (Dundas, but it's all up in the air right now. Thought there might be an Oilers local in T.O. given the number of expats out there.

Black Dog said...

Plenty of time yet then, I'll find out what I can.

spOILer said...

And Radiohead too in the same comment list. Wowser!

As far as Finnegan's Wake goes, Pat, it ain't so important to have read it from front to back (I've never made it), but to have attempted to read it and get what he's doing (as a writer). And it's shorter than Proust.

...Dubliners has absolutely wonderful narrative structure.

Black Dog said...

LittleFury - I don't think there's a hangout per se, I know when Winters et al get together (and the few times I have joined them) its more or less find a spot that is showing the late HNIC game and then get to it.

spOILer - I'll give it a whirl then, I really enjoy Joyce as a writer so it behooves me to do so I think.

I recently read an interesting biography on Sylvia Beach, what an interesting life she led, including being a huge part of Joyce's struggles to publish Ulysses. It also had quite a few references to his work on Finnegan's Wake.