Category Archives: Audio

Audio Posts

Just another Thursday night in Lodja…

Anne-Claire made this recording Thursday evening on the way home from work. As I’ve said before, I’m constantly amazed at how loud Lodja is, given that there’s no grid electricity and we’re about a thousand miles from a city that anyone in the Western Hemisphere would recognize. Yet, on any given day at any time of the day or night, you’re likely to hear an impromptu parade, a choir practice or an amped-up pastor forcefully unleashing his fervency into a crackly microphone-amp combo. The latter most often happens between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

At my most cynical, I blame two things: the lack of employment opportunities here in Lodja, and the preponderance of medications available. First, there’s little formal employment here in Lodja beyond agriculture and fish farming. On days when there’s not much of that sort of work to do, you’ll find a lot of men sitting around throughout the day, drinking, napping and apparently saving up energy for a rollicking night. That’s not to say all men are lazy here. However, you’ll never see a woman doing nothing unless she has just given birth, has been hit in the head with a coconut or is gravely ill.

As for the pan-availability of prescription drugs, anyone with the equivalent of a high school diploma can open up a little shop, from which they sell whatever medications they can get their hands on. They might know a little bit about what the medication is intended for, but they often can’t predict the side effects. Imagine giving someone a handful of Sudafed if they’ve got a cold and turning them loose with little advice on dosage. They’ll be spinning like a top in no time, and that seems to be what we hear at night, aided considerably by a solar panel and a car battery to amplify whatever the hell they feel like shouting about.

On a more pleasant note, impromptu singing and dancing also happens on a regular basis, and that can be quite lovely. These women just told Anne-Claire they were “the Methodists” Thursday. It was late, so the video’s not great, but I think it gives you a good idea of the unpredictability of life here.

Sounds from Paris

At immigration in Frankfurt, when we told the officer we were going to Paris, he asked, ‘You are going to the town auf lof?’

He had to repeat it a few times for us to understand that he was saying ‘town of love,’ but once we got it, it became a recurring joke throughout our visit to Paris.

A lot of writers have captured the visual beauty of Paris, so I won’t spend much time ham-handedly trying to put my own stamp on a city that defies hyperbole. We spent four days walking the city – stopped at the Louvre, climbed l’Arc de Triomphe, trekked the gardens at Versailles, and found a perfect restaurant called Vins et Terroirs in the Latin Quarter (I didn’t think the taste and appearance of French cooking could be that fantastic – I was dead wrong.)

In the presence of so much grandiosity to the point of being overwhelmed, I started looking for more subtle ways to experience the city. I made a few recordings to share what we’ve been listening to (sorry for the quality).

On the way to the Louvre, we got caught in a rainstorm, so we ducked under the bridge to the Tuileries Garden and had an impromptu concert from a street musician.

Later that day, a puppeteer hopped into our metro car and gave us a little show.

One of my favorite sites in Paris is Notre Dame, so I recorded the bells at around 7 one evening.

In a metro station, this string group was playing as we waited for the train.

Finally, as we were heading to the train station on Tuesday to leave Paris, it was the ‘Fete de la Musique,’ a nationwide celebration of music, and this band was playing.

Again, I’m sorry for the quality and let me know via email or comments if you can’t listen to them for some reason.

Craic at the Pub

I’m in the process of trying to catch up a bit with my blog posts. We’ve seen a ton here in Ireland, but most of it has involved (me) driving long distances, so I haven’t had the time taking public transportation to write. Anyway, I’ll try to put together a post or two a day for the next few days. In the meantime, I had to share our night at a pub we stumbled into today in Westport.

A little background first… Westport seems to be doing well economically. It began as a planned settlement in the 1700s to support a local estate, and it seems to strike the right balance between the charming storefronts and B&Bs to support the tourists, but still enough of a local population out and about that it doesn’t feel like a movie set. It’s also home to Matt Molloy, a flute and whistle player with the famous Irish group the Chieftains. He owns a bar here in town. When we first arrived, it was too early for dinner, so we decided to have a drink.

The second pub we came to was Matt Molloy’s. Frosted glass windows and solid doors didn’t allow us to see what was going on inside, but as soon as we opened the door, the sounds of a sort-of sing-along rolled out. Not wanting to disturb a private party, we let the door slide back closed. Thankfully, though, we decided to go in.

The long and narrow pub seemed to stretch back room after room quite a ways. On either side of the only way to get to the other stools and tables in the bar were 8–10 red-faced Irishmen harmonizing artfully a tune I’d never heard before. Most of the towns and villages we have visited, especially Doolin and Dingle, have traditional Irish music every evening at every pub to attract tourists. But here, we’d stumbled upon the actual organic precursor to all that.

We found a couple of perfect seats at corner table to watch as the men swore and laughed, pausing only to take a sip from their beers or glasses of whiskey (most had both), or to ‘get the choir back together,’ as one man said. As I walked up to the bar, they started a verse of ‘In the Early Morning Rain.’

I ordered a Guinness, and while I was waiting (Guinness takes several minutes to pour properly), an older couple at the bar asked me where I was from. When I told them California, they apologized for the recent rain. Sunday had been particularly wet all over the island, and even a lot of Irish folks we talked to had complained about it.

Ordinarily, they seem unfazed by the showers that can pop up at just about any time in Ireland. Anne-Claire and I will walk into a restaurant after a downpour and drip puddles of water all over the floor. Somehow, an Irish person will follow us in, and with a few flicks of the wrist, they’re as dry as a mallard.

“Well, you don’t come to Ireland for the weather,” the man at the bar said. “Friendly people though.” He and his wife were from Dublin and were celebrating an attempted hike up Croagh Patrick, a mountain not far from town where legend tells us that Saint Patrick rid Ireland of its snakes.

I said I agreed, looking at the old guys slapping each other on the back and telling stories. We talked a bit longer, and he told me this had been his third try and he still hadn’t made it to the top. The first two he blamed on too much to drink the nights before, and the third was out of his hands. “Now, I just might be too old.”

I wished him better luck next time, and went back to join Anne-Claire at the table. She sat surreptitiously snapping photos, and we even managed to record a bit of the old guys’ singing. We stayed for a few more rounds and stories. Then, with a final wistful tune, the leader – who also managed to greet just about everyone who came into the pub – he said he was off. On his way out, he tapped me on my shoulder and said goodbye to me as well. Here’s a short recording. Sorry for the poor quality.

‘Craic’ is conversation, entertainment, music – pretty much any of the mischief you can get yourself into at a pub.