Green days


n my maiden trip to Ireland, I carried a piece of paper with contact information for a writer named Ben Kiely, a man I had never heard of at the time. This reference was provided by one of my professors; he and his wife knew the writer, and it seemed natural to send me to him in Dublin so I would not feel so much a stranger in a new place.

I was told I would likely find Kiely in one of two bars, the Red Bank or the White Horse Lounge.

Indeed, my professor said, the writer got his mail at the Red Bank.

That information was on the mark. I showed up during the afternoon of the August Bank Holiday, and there were no patrons in the Red Bank except Kiely and a couple of his friends.

And so began a whirlwind two days of eating, drinking and conversation with an ever-changing group of Kiely pals. There was some quick sightseeing in the mix, but mostly we moved around among the Red Bank, White Horse and the Brazen Head Tavern. (It has been more than three decades, but all three establishments are still in business, by the way.)

Kiely and his friends were an eclectic mix in terms of age and demeanor, but they shared an intense interest in words. They were poets, journalists and, in one case, a producer-director at a Dublin theater. Kiely, now 81, is a novelist and short-story writer.

From conversation, I gathered he had been a good friend of the late playwright and novelist Brendan Behan, and I was impressed.

Mostly, I simply listened to the conversation and felt inadequate every time a speaker spontaneously recited a full-length poem when it fit into the discussion.

Arguably, I was too young to really appreciate what was going on around me. However, if we had to wait until we were "old enough" (whatever age that is) to truly "appreciate" (whatever that means) the things we see and hear, we might be hard-pressed to collect a lifetime of experiences.

I have since seen Kiely's name in the American press, and searching the Web (using his full name, Benedict Kiely) gets surfers an incredible list of his credits.

All the incidents I describe occurred within my first 36 hours on my first trip overseas, and many years of travel since, which encompass plenty of other unique experiences, have not obliterated these early memories.

I tell the tale here in hopes readers will share some of their most memorable travel experiences. Most especially, may I hear about some of those experiences that you were "too young" to appreciate?

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