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