Hack Writers

My fondness for searching out new (to me) online magazines and exploring their contents led me this week to http://www.hackwriters.com. This online portfolio includes travel, lifestyle and fiction pieces from new and established writers. According to the website’s About page, their material is archived by the British Library and boasts several awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association. Their homepage banner includes this designation, “The International Writer’s Magazine.”

I perused the travel page (Hacktreks) but found nothing about Ireland, to my dismay.

Hackwriters began in 1999, and there’s something satisfying about a group whose roots went down as the century turned, especially in light of all that Y2K silliness going on at the time. It suggests a willingness to plunge into the void with optimism.

The magazine is free and pays no fees to authors whose work they accept for publication. Submissions are accepted across topics and genres. Their submission page includes these caveats…no sexism, racism or other forms of discrimination in the content. They strive to discover high quality writing that is thought provoking without being offensive.

Word limits for submissions are presented as a guide rather than an absolute; between 1200 and 2200 words are preferred. The editors ask that writers considering submitting to their magazine first read previous work they’ve accepted and published. Seems a reasonable request.

Current fiction pieces can be found at http://www.hackwriters.com/Dreamscapes3.htm
The site offers an enormous selection of short fiction from which to choose. I read a few and, while I’m not even close to having read half of the stories available, I haven’t yet found a stinker in the bunch. Most of their authors have several stories in the 2013 issue. They include Oswaldo Jimenez, Martin Green, Abigail George and Michelle D’Costa. Stories are longer than what I’ve grown accustomed to reading lately in Flash Fiction magazines.

I prefer the flash format, but found reading Hackwriters’ offerings a happy diversion this week.


The Garden of Allah villas


The Garden of Allah Hotel, villas and pool
Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

From 1927 when the private residence of Alla Nasimova, silent screen siren, was converted into apartments until 1959 when the villas were sold to a bank and bulldozed into history, the Garden of Allah villas hosted Hollywood luminaries, gangsters, bohemians and barflies. Its expansive pool was the private playpen for studio heads, stars and starlets in the 1950’s, hedonists whose late night celebrations were the bane to the more staid patrons of their Sunset Blvd. neighbor, the Chateau Marmont.

The Gardens of Allah were famously the subject of Joni Mitchell’s iconic, “Big Yellow Taxi.” The Eagles’ Don Henley penned a song about the villas, “Garden of Allah,” as well. For the Laurel Canyon collective of the 1970’s, including Mitchell and her beau, Steve Stills, the hotel, villas and their 64 X 45 pool represented a lost bohemian’s paradise sprawled in the pre-war wastelands between LA and Beverly Hills. Some of the best known guests at the Marmont slummed it in the Garden of Allah’s cosy bungalows. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Erroll Flynn, Dorothy Parker, and Humphrey Bogart. When Richard Harris was tossed from the Marmont, where did he go? The Garden of Allah, of course.

The Garden of Allah was specially popular during the Prohibition; the villas’ pool parties never wanted for high spirits. John Barrymore kept a bicycle at his suite so as not to waste time traveling between parties scattered throughout the complex. Wives were kept at the Chateau, mistresses at the villas. Even Jean Harlow cross-crossed the street to keep her husband and lover apart.

By the mid-fifties as the Hollywood studio system was dismantled and more pictures were shot on location, the villas were in decline. Their guests were likely to be hustlers and transients. The bungalows were in disrepair and sorely in need of attention. The land was worth more than the hotel. In 1959 it was sold and demolished. There was a closing party at the Garden just before it was destroyed. Its contents were sold and the walls came down. They built a savings and loan on the sites with a sprawling parking lot.

Don’t it always seem we don’t know what we got ’til it’s gone?

For many years, the bank building that replaced the Garden of Allah displayed a miniature replica of Nasimova’s original home and pool in its lobby. Visitors could imagine the high times of Hollywood’s golden era on the expansive lawn overlooking Sunset Boulevard. But since 2007, even the miniature is gone. What became of the scale model of the villas so long on view? Are they misplaced, like the crate holding the ark of the covenant, per Indiana Jones? Or long discarded, lost in some mountain of unrecyclable detritus? Does some unlikely character have them squirreled away in his (or her) illicit collection?

Who knows where the model went?

Study Abroad

In May, 2013, the University of Limerick’s International Education Division’s Summer School hosted our MOSAIC group, which consisted of students from Maryville University, Columbia College, and Central Methodist College in Missouri. We joined students from colleges and universities across the United States attending UL summer school. Students chose from six different courses taught by UL faculty, including classes in Irish Literature, Sociology, Law, Film and media, History and Creative Writing. The apartments they shared, each with private rooms and en suite bathrooms, were located in Cappavilla Village on the north campus, overlooking the River Shannon, and included full kitchens with daily breakfast service and housekeeping. Students were provided with vouchers for lunch and supper that could be used at any of the on-campus cafes and restaurants.

Excursions to major Irish attractions were provided by UL, including a trip to the nearby Craggenowen and Bunratty castles, Limerick Milk Market, and more distant excursions to the Burren, the Atlantic shoreline at Kilkee, the Flying Boat museum in Foynes, the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, and to Dublin, where students visited the Guinness Storehouse, Croke Park Stadium (home to the Gaelic Athletic Association), and the Book of Kells in Trinity College. Two of our MOSAIC students attended one of the World Cup 2014 qualifying matches between Ireland and the Faro Islands while in Dublin. We were also hosted with food and drink vouchers to attend the UL annual Party on the Plaza, celebrating the university’s accomplishments during the previous year.

Our MOSAIC sponsored excursions included a trip to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, and the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Students participated in a photography contest sponsored by the University. Our MOSAIC students, Gabrielle and Mack, took first and second place respectively. Gabrielle’s first-place photo from her trip to the Dingle Peninsula can be seen on the UL International Education, Summer School web site.

MOSAIC students also received credit for our Maryville University study abroad course, “Exploring the Culture of Ireland.” Examples of their essays and photo essays included reflections on The Troubles, GAA Irish sports of hurling and soccer, the fallout from the Celtic Tiger economic bubble, Bloomsday and the books of James Joyce, and the Irish diaspora. For 2014, UL will again offer courses in Irish Literature, Sociology, Law, Film and media, History, and Creative Writing, and they will add two new courses: Irish Myths and Legends, and Nursing.

Ireland is known internationally as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes, and the faculty and staff at University of Limerick demonstrated that sentiment every day of our experience there. I strongly recommend this study abroad opportunity for undergraduate students who want to earn 6 hours of credit and experience three weeks immersed in Irish culture. For more information, visit the MU Study Abroad web site: http://www.maryville.edu/globaled/study-abroad/

La Bloom 2013

June 16 began for my friend Mary and me in Dublin’s city center. We started our celebration in St. Stephen’s Green at the bust of James Joyce. The morning was sunny and cool. On Grafton, as visitors strolled the cobblestone street before the festivities got underway, the mood was peaceful. Flower vendors were busy setting up their stalls and the cacophony of Dublin’s street musicians had not yet started. We entered the park through the Fusiliers stone gates and went first to the central fountains. We’d hoped to spot some of the characters in Edwardian dress there but, true to Ireland, it was too early.

We visited the bust, near the bandstand, and paid homage to the man of the day. The park began filling with families and tourists. The celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses wouldn’t start until after noon.

We traveled back down Grafton, past Duke Street, and made our way up O’Connell to the statue of Joyce that stands on North Earl Street. Admirers were queued to take photos with the life sized likeness, snuggling up to the figure, and we did likewise. We passed groups of tourists being guided on Bloomsday walks, retracing Bloom’s route across the Liffey, through Temple Bar, and down the shore.

By one o’clock we made our way back to Duke Street for lunch at Davy Byrnes where we shared the back room tables with several Bloomsday regulars, some in full Edwardian dress. Many patrons opted for the Gorgonzola sandwich with a glass of burgundy but we were not so brave and instead chose cold plates. Fancy hats were in abundance on both men and women, and across the street, at the Bailey, straw boaters were distributed with black bands and red lettering that read, “Bloomsday at the Bailey, 2013.” The Bailey restaurant and bar is where the idea of Bloomsday was first born on June 16, 1954 by John Ryan and Brian O’Nolan.

Later in the afternoon, we visited the International Bar’s basement room for a series of performances by the Balloonatics where we heard interpretive readings from several chapters, including The Sirens and The Cyclops, accompanied by music. The room was small and tightly packed and the appreciative audience cheered the performers’ dramatizations. At the end, a hat was passed and coins were tossed in, in support of the three performers.

Throughout the afternoon we saw parades of costumed revelers and, as the weather continued to be fair, had plenty of opportunities to admire their sartorial splendor and fine millinery. The crowd on Duke Street grew larger and more vocal as the day wore on and the side streets all around Grafton buzzed with excitement. Some who’d spent the better part of their day engaged in pub crawls were more than a bit worse for the wear. Still, Bloomsday (or La Bloom, as the purists call it) 2013 was a smashing success.






The Burren Trip

12 June, 2013 – Our group of American students and faculty traveled to the West of Ireland, into northwest County Clare and through the Burren, land of the fertile rock. Steady rain accompanied us and the views were partially obstructed by mist. Still, the contrast between the shades of gray in the Burren and the green rolling meadows we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the windows of our charter bus was striking.

In this rocky landscape lies an abundance of native flora, including 22 of Ireland’s 27 native orchid species. Alpine and arctic wildflowers grow side-by-side in compact clusters between the stone clints and grikes. We learned there are over 500 ring forts and eighty known Neolithic tombs in the Burren, along with labyrinth caves and disappearing streams and lakes. We were able to view one of the portal tombs.

Along the twisting, narrow roads that cut through the Burren were dark bogs where turf is cut and the small, white flowers that grow there are known as bog cotton. Towering hazel and gorse laden with yellow blooms line the edge of the road and dissect the karst meadows. We skirted the shores of Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean where waves crashed with spectacular force against the rocks.

The Burren is comprised of 216 square miles of limestone and granite that was deposited over millions of years as the Atlantic formed and reformed. We passed the Cliff of Moher, rising 668 feet from the shoreline along the southern rim of Galway Bay. There were many fewer sheep and cattle than in other parts of Ireland, although we spotted some hardy ewes and rams climbing the steep hillsides.

The Burren is a protected area in County Clare. We were advised to take away only our photographs and memories, and to leave only our footprints. Which is precisely what we did.


Bloom’s travel timeline

I’ll be spending Bloomsday in Dublin and in preparation I’ve collected the essential places and events in Ulysses in a timeline. I don’t expect to visit them all. While some still exist, others have changed dramatically or are completely gone.

I’ve planned a good portion of my day on Sunday around the events in St. Stephen’s Green. Those include readings and reenactments. And, of course, a bite to eat at Davy Byrne’s pub.

8:00am,Bloom is at his home on Eccles Street and at the butcher shop nearby
10:00am, at the Post Office on Eccles Street, All Hallows’ Church, the chemists and public baths
11:00am, in Glasnevin’s Cemetery for Dingham’s funeral where he’s snubbed by Menton
Noon, in the newspaper office of Freeman Journal, buying ad space
1:00pm, visits Davy Byrne’s Pub on Duke Street where he eats the famous Gorgonzola sandwich. On the way there he passes Burton’s restaurant where he’s disgusted by the piggish eating behavior of the men he sees there
2:00pm, at the National Library, where he encounters Stephen Dedalus. This is the setting for Stephen’s explanation of his Hamlet theory
3:00pm, at Merchant’s Arch, buying a book, Sweets of Sin for Molly
4:00pm, near The Ormond Hotel, where he follows Boulan, his wife’s lover, and later, outside the Ormond, he finds Birdie, a prostitute
5:00pm, an argument ensues in Barney Kiernan’s pub over Irish nationalism, and outside the pub, Cunningham’s carriage pulls away and a tin is thrown at Bloom
8:00pm, on the rocks at Sandymount Strand, he encounters Gerty McDowell and masterbates behind a rock, then naps on the strand
10:00pm, at the National Maternity Hospital, waiting for news of Mina Purefoy’s baby’s delivery, then he follows Dedalus to the Dublin red light district
12:00am, at Bella Cohen’s brothel he chats with Zoe, another prostitute, and Stephen breaks a chandelier, running away into the street. Bloom pays for the damage.
1:00am, on Beaver Street, where he and Stephen encounter W. B. Murphy, a sailor, who tells them adventure stories, and afterward they walk together back to Bloom’s house
2:00am, at home, Bloom offers to let Stephen stay the night but he declines. Bloom finds evidence that Boylan and Molly have been together. He is resigned to her infidelity.
4:00am, Bloom’s wife, Molly, reconsiders her life with Bloom


Croke Park and the GAA

I visited the Gaelic Athletic Association Stadium at Croke Park in Dublin on Friday, the site of events on Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920. A GAA football match was planned for Croke Park that Sunday with the proceeds to go to the Irish Republican Prisoners Fund. But the match never was, as the Crown forces and the Black & Tan, a British paramilitary group known for their brutality, had other plans.

The GAA was then and continues to be amateur athletics. Players represent the counties where they were born. In 1920, it was the Dublin team to play Tipperary, the champions from Munster.

On the night before, Michael Collins’ squad converged upon the Cairo Gang, a British undercover force, killing fourteen of them. It was a crushing defeat for the British at the hands of the Irish Republican forces. On the day of the match, the Crown forces and their paramilitary compatriots went to the football match for what was first described as a planned search but was in reality an opportunity for reprisal against the Irish.

The Republicans got wind of the British plans but too late to cancel the match, as some ten thousand Irish men, women and children had filled the stadium. At 3:15 the match began and within five minutes, the British forces invaded the stadium with rifles and revolvers, shooting immediately from the northwest end of the field, near the canal.

When the massacre was over, fourteen Irish were dead, including a Tipperary player, Michael Hogan, and a fourteen year old boy, William Scott, who was so badly mutilated he was believed to have been bayonetted to death. That night, three more died when Irish Republican prisoners were executed.

Official Dublin Castle versions of the event placed blame for the start of the violence on the spectators, contradicting witness accounts. It was widely considered a cover-up for British thuggery. The stadium crowd included women and children and was an easy target for the British forces. The Black & Tan were notorious for brutality against all Irish, not just the men of the IRA. No arms, aside from those used by the British forces, were found in Croke Park when it was searched later that day.

But the Bloody Sunday that occurred in 1920 wasn’t the only Bloody Sunday where Irish nationals were massacred by British. The 1972 events on 30 January, also known as The Bogside Massacre, took place in Northern Ireland, in County Derry, when 26 unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army. And again, the official British version was a whitewash of the true course of events. These unjustified and unjustifiable acts were the basis for the U2 1983 song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

In 1998, a thorough inquiry into the incident began in the UK and took twelve years to complete. In 2010, it was determined that none of the soldiers had been threatened as they claimed; they did not fire in self-defense. Many Irish were shot while waving white flags, while going to the aid of others, and while trying to get away. Five of the wounded were shot in the back. At the conclusion of the inquiry, the British PM, David Cameron, finally issued a formal apology.

Today I’m watching the GAA Hurling match on the Gaelic Grounds here in Limerick to determine the Munster Championship for 2013. Limerick is playing Tipperary and the winner will go on to the Munster Finals. One of these teams may find themselves in Croke Park for the national championship game later this year. The stands are jammed with fans in green for Limerick and Blue for Tipp. It’s gratifying to see how strongly the Irish football and hurling leagues continue to be supported. These amateur players show great will, great heart and great enthusiasm and the crowd is testament to the dedication of the Irish to their Gaelic sports.