Dream Cathedrals & Memories of the Past


Irish American News,

April, 2018



It’s all good, this time around.

I was at the cinema this evening, at a film by the name of Game Night.   It was an upbeat, very funny antidote to that over-hyped, over-rated and self-indulgent drivel called The Shape of Water – a film so awful that it was almost bound to win four Oscars.

Afterwards I called into Oranmore’s Olde Brewery bar, a rare thing for me at a late hour.  You know: me with the creaking bones, the moans, groans and general all-around sourness at the way the world is.

I searched for my oversized ear trumpet whilst asking the bartender to ‘speak up, son, I’m a bit deaf’ as he called me ‘Mr. Brady’ just in order to make me feel even more decrepit than I actually am.  And I thought to myself:  Well, here we are.  Somewhere along the line you turned into an  older dude with a ‘mister’ in front of your moniker.

Sitting at the bar with a pint on the way, opening the newspapers (yes, some of us still read actual ink-print) and adjusting the new reading glasses, I looked behind me as a group came in from another establishment.  They were all young and pretty (both sexes) and had just finished a long bar/restaurant shift.

And as I watched them and listened to their laughter I thought how much like them I was forty years ago.  They imagined that they were family.  And of course, for this space of time, that is exactly what they are.  In this glittering moment they no doubt feel that their friendships will last forever; that this feeling of companionship will last forever.

Some were obviously in love; some were probably just in lust for the night; and some were simply friends.  The ones in love think that this will last forever, too; but they’re in their teens and twenties, they know bugger-all really.  One couple were happy out that they had gotten engaged and no doubt think that marriage will – yes — last forever as well.

You feel like saying to the guy:  “Wait until the divorce and the house gets split 50-50, with her getting the inside and you getting the outside”. (My thanks to Dr. John Becker for that one!)  But you don’t because – you know what? – it was fine to see.  Dare I say it?  It was kind of heartwarming. It was nice to appreciate this feeling coming from them that what they have now will ALWAYS be there:  that they will never lose touch; that they will always have this feeling of being a family.

Beneath all of my own cynicism, I just thought that this was great.  Sure, they will grow and they will go their separate ways; and one of these years — many from now, I hope — I suppose that they will just be like most of us, simply exchanging that odd card every Christmas and then eventually not at all.

But for now, this was their moment; and it’s one that they won’t be getting back.  So I really enjoyed watching them.  And envying them.  And in a strange way, hurting for them because they don’t know what is ahead.  Don’t know that eventually Life – that constant imponderable – will either succeed or will attempt to succeed in kicking the hopes and dreams out of most of them.  Give them ten and twenty and thirty years and they won’t be these same optimistic people anymore.  So you can excuse them a bit of arrogance, a bit of swaggering, a bit of a feeling that they are indestructible.

For now they are just that – just as we were – and that is a great, great thing.  It hit me with such force that this is the way it should be.

You know, I normally have the second movement from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony playing in my head, or maybe something gloomy from laugh-a-minute Mahler; but as I left the Old Brewery tonight it was Rick Wakeman’s joyously exuberant ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ that was blasting around the old bonce.  And I have it playing in the background now and am listening to those beautiful words as I write this:

‘Crystals of opaque quartz/Studded limpid tears/Forming magic chandeliers/Lighting blistered galleries’.

An image of a Dream Cathedral, if ever there was one.

Oh yes, I am happy for them in this bright shining moment of their lives; and do envy them.

And from one Dream Cathedral to another…

The end of February finally saw the opening – after more than a decade and many false starts – of Galway’s very own and badly needed Arts House cinema, the Pálás.  It’s good to know that it is now in a safe pair of hands with Element Pictures being the brains behind it, just as they are with Dublin’s excellent Lighthouse Cinema.

The company directors Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe are two guys who really put the E in ‘eclectic’ and are responsible for RTE series ‘Red Rock’ as well as such diverse and unusual films as The Guard, Room, and the two extraordinary Colin Farrell pieces The Lobster and the deeply disturbing The Killing of a Sacred Deer, amongst others.  It was nice to finally meet them, as well as general manager Kate Walsh.  We took a look at some of the coming attractions and it is with a sigh of relief after all this time that I can say it is exactly what buffs like myself have been wishing for Galway.  With three screens, a bar and restaurant, it promises to be not only a place to experience film as it should be done, but a great evening out in the bargain.  Put the Pálás on your list, if you’re passing through here.

Highlight for me, though, was listening to film programmer Charlene Lydon.  I couldn’t resist seeking her out afterwards in order to tell her how much I enjoyed the contagious enthusiasm of her talk.  It’s always such a pleasure to meet someone else who loves cinema as much  as I do; and, as she also co-ordinates the programme for The Lighthouse, I mentioned that when I  lived in Dublin many years ago myself and my friend Robert Quinn would haunt the original building.  To my great delight, Charlene knew Robert as he was her film teacher back in the day.  And she could have asked for no finer one.  Robert afterwards emailed me to say that this young woman was one of his ‘most luminous’ pupils.  Lovely, that; and convinces me more than ever that with Pálás we are, as I said, with a safe pair of hands.

The place still looked like a building site when I initially visited and it was hard to believe that it would be up and running for the opening day planned; however, I’ve been back since and all doubts are washed away.

And with that, I’m off to Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a special showing of the 1921 silent epic The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by the legendary Irish film director Rex Ingram, complete with orchestra and new score.

Yes, all good news this month.  No doubt next issue will see grumpy normal service resumed….