I thought my first week in Dublin would be filled with reflection and contemplation. But there was no time for that! I was in emergency mode about finding both temporary and permanent housing.
After the disaster with my initially booked Airbnb, I found myself scrambling to find housing one night at a time. I arrived on a Sunday, and there was to be a U2 concert in Dublin the next weekend; all the hotels were booked! For my second night in Dublin, I managed to find an Airbnb near Temple Bar, available for one night only. I took a taxi from Stauntons on the Green to the room on Lord Edward Street because of my two giant suitcases. When I got to the room, it was so small that the suitcases had to be laid on the bed because there was not enough floor space. It’s a good thing it was a double bed and there was space for me to sleep next to them.
I met up with a high school classmate, Brew, who has been living in Dublin for more than twenty-five years. He was a comfort and a help as we traipsed from one apartment viewing to the next, constantly checking my email to see if we’d found an Airbnb for the next night. He offered almost constant commentary on the sights we whizzed past and he tried to help me get my bearings. Despite the fact that we walked about five miles a day during that first week, there was no way I could get my bearings, no matter how hard I tried. I was jet-lagged and stressed about finding housing, and I felt as though I were being prepped for a game of blind man’s bluff, with a scarf over my eyes and someone turning me in circles.
Dublin is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis, and finding an apartment to rent is likened to winning the Irish sweepstakes. Descriptions of people lining up for blocks to view a single apartment quelled any optimism I had about finding an apartment any time soon. The process of “approving” renters seems backward and barbaric to me. In my experience and understanding of apartment hunting in New York and Connecticut, an apartment would never be shown to more than one party at a time. And the personality, looks or occupation of the potential tenants would not factor in to the decision to “approve” the tenant. It’s just a matter of whether you decided you wanted to rent it before someone did, and if you could prove that you’d be able to pay the rent. Jesus, apartment hunting in Dublin is like hoping to receive the rose from The Bachelor. At one viewing I went to, there were four other potential tenants there, and six more due to visit in a half an hour. I found myself whispering to the real estate agent, “Listen, I can move in tomorrow,” and I felt a bit dirty. He said that I “seemed a good prospect,” and I went home and wrote an award-worthy essay about what a good tenant I would make. The real estate agent told me he’d received it and that he would “push for me.” The next morning I learned that the apartment had been “allocated” to a “more suitable tenant.”
By the end of my first week in Dublin, two miracles had happened.
The first is that “I scored a gaff,” which is slang for “I found an apartment,” which is a nicer way of saying “a landlord approved me for the allocation of an apartment.” It’s right in the center of town, between the neighborhoods of Christ Church and Temple Bar. On a quiet lane away from buses and bars, it’s less than a fifteen minute walk to Trinity. I’d be able to move in by August 1.
The second miracle is that - despite the U2 concert that upcoming weekend - I found an Airbnb right in Temple Bar where I could stay until the end of July.
I arrived in Dublin on July 16 and on July 22 I woke up with my personal housing crisis solved. Now I could finally get to know the city.
But I was so tired. I felt like I was walking underwater as I made my way through a tour of Dublin Castle.
I tried to feel what I was supposed to feel, fifty years old and moving to a new life in a new city.
I experimented with small freedoms first.
I ate potato chips in bed.
I bought myself a ticket to see the musical “Once.” I am by no stretch a lover of musicals. But I walked past the Olympia Theater almost every day and finally succumbed and purchased a ticket. By myself, sitting in the historic theater, listening to the joy of the opening musical numbers, I was thrilled, excited and proud of myself.
“I did it,” I thought, “I’m in Dublin, listening to Irish music, watching a play about Dublin.”
When the opening music segued into gorgeous four part singing, tears streamed freely down my face.
Feeling a tiny bit conspicuous but not in the least self-conscious, I thought, “No one knows my story but me. I’ll cry whenever I want to.”
And those vocal harmonies will do it every time.