What Almost Happened (But Maureen Knows Me Too Well)

It all began this morning, innocently enough. i woke up early as per my routine, made the coffee of which i should drink less of at my age but years at sea has pretty much squashed that good intention, put away last night’s dishes, set the table, retrieved the newspaper to separate the ads we never look at even the specials to throw in the recycle and put the bulk of the paper by Maureen’s setting and the important stuff you know as sports and comics by my setting, set out Maureen’s frother with all the foo foo she uses to ruin perfectly good black Columbian coffee (my favorite), and sit down to check stuff, revise my to-do list before going on what used to be my run before becoming my walk run what has become mostly walk and a little shuffle, when i was distracted. Then i had a lists of important tasks to do, cleaning around the house, working on my book, taking a nap before what is becoming the tradition of my cooking hamburgers on Sunday evenings. But all was put away (except the nap: man, that’s essential) until hamburger time.

It’s Judy Lewis Gray’s fault. She tagged me in a post about cleaning old books with a little, i mean little vacuum cleaner. i thought about old books and whenever i think about old books, i think of a special time in a special place, an enchanted place, and i forget all about shuffling and stuff. i commented on Judy’s post with a bit of a tale. Thus my morning became engaged with this post.

You see, my enchanted place was an out-of-the-way, inconspicuous little bookstore. In Dublin. No, no, no, not Dublin, Ohio or this would be a post about golf. Dublin. The Dublin. Ireland.  It was unfortunately (unfortunate because i haven’t been back since)  a long time ago. 2006. Our younger daughter Sarah was a junior at Bonita Vista High, thinking about college. She had mentioned she wanted to go to college overseas, Europe someplace.

There was this neat coinciding of events: Sarah considering higher education in Europe and Maureen’s “business” trip. Maureen was an “account executive” for Parron-Hall Office Interiors for years. “Account Executive” was their title for a person who took a project from outside sales to design, to contract, to planning and ordering, to installation, to maintenance. She was good. Really good. As a result, we got to go to a whole bunch of places we would not likely have gone. Furniture manufacturers encouraged folks in the business to use their products in such projects as Maureen’s by having business conferences in some pretty decent places. They were usually about a week long with a total of two hours or so doing business, and a spouse or other companion could accompany the salesperson — once a boatswain master chief suggested he go to Hawaii with me for one of my leadership seminars by being my “BBO.” When i asked him what “BBO” was, he explained “bags and books officer.” So i was Maureen’s BBO on most of these business trips (except cruises: i wouldn’t go on cruises i declared unless they would let me drive the ships, hence no cruises). So Maureen and her BBO went to St. Thomas, Hawaii (five or six times), Monte Carlo, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Dublin.

And that takes us back to old books. When we were in Dublin low those many years ago, we went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. It was then it occurred to me Sarah might want to go to Trinity (Ireland does not have universities with multiple degrees of various kinds, it has colleges for specific fields of study. Trinity is the college of fine arts, which includes drama, Sarah’s choice for a major. It seemed obvious to me. Sarah could go to Trinity and we could move to Ireland. We couldn’t afford high end expensive housing Dublin, but we could live outside, say about forty miles in the countryside in a “Quiet Man” kind of cottage. With the great rail system, Sarah could visit us or we could visit her.

Maureen seemed dubious and it was time to eat — i have noticed Maureen seems dubious most decisions time around a meal hour…especially if i have caused the decision making. We crossed the road and began looking for a place to dine. Shunning the fine stuff, we found a side street, i’m pretty sure it was Duke Street. We had seen a sign. It read “Pub.” i said, “Great.” We went to this pub and it was like something out of “Quiet Man” only larger. The food was great and the Guinness was…well, Guinness.

As we had entered we had passed next door a very nondescript but quaint (hmm, almost an oxymoron but not in this case) bookstore. After lunch, we decided to check it out. There were some newer books on the asymmetrical, ramshackle shelves in all sorts of places in addition to the built-in shelves. We wandered, checking out what was there. It was musty but neat. Then, in one cavity in the built-in’s was this book opened, on a bookstand. It was open to the title page with the colophon on the left side facing page. The book was The Tower by William Butler Yeats. i thought, man, this thing looks old. i checked out the colophon. First edition, 1928, it revealed. And below the title was handwriting inscribed in a scrawling indecipherable hand. But i knew it was signed by Yeats. i sighed. i wanted to touch it, but felt it was too fragile, no: too sacred.

i stared for a while in a trance. Finally i slid reluctantly away to find myself next to another open book. It was another first edition, Oscar Wilde’s  The Selfish Giant, published in 1888, and yes, good ole Oscar had signed this one.

And of course, another cavity in the bookshelf had one of James Joyce’s books, first edition, signed: Dubliners, 1914. There were others around the shop. i wanted to stay, and oh how i wanted to pick one up, sit in the corner by the window and read.

But it was time to move on. Like i said, i think it was on Duke Street. i’m not sure if i could find it again. But i would go back to Dublin just to be in that pub and spend, oh, about ten years in that bookstore. i would have to spend it there. i’m sure the books were too expensive for me to purchase.

Maureen was reluctant to pursue this idea of Sarah at Trinity. i threw in the idea we could live in our little cottage for two years and with Sarah having her feet on the ground, we could spend another two years in Southern France. i was thinking Antibbe. She seemed a little more supportive of the idea.

Then we got home and Sarah did not want to go Trinity in Dublin. She wanted to go to London. On and off for about eight months, i would bring up the possibility again. Then on opening day of the Padre baseball season in 2007, Maureen and i were waiting for the trolley to go to the game. i brought up the subject again. She got that Maureen look in her eye. i knew it was a dead issue.

“You don’t want her to go to Trinity and us live outside of Dublin, do you?”


“Why? It’s such a great opportunity for all of us.”

And she said simply, “Too many pubs.”

She does know me well.

At least the Padres beat the Giants, 7-0.



i know the perfect place to do this. It’s a book store on a side street across Nassau Street from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. i think it was Duke Street. i know it was next door to a pub that felt like something out of “The Quiet Man” when you walked in (the food was good). It was a musty place with ramshackle shelves filled with books, a few new but mostly old. In separate cases, several books were displayed. There were signed, first editions of Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats. Yeh, i could definitely clean books there. Thanks.

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