Temple Bar pharmacy

If you remember the hoopla back in Keene over Cool Jewels’ colorful Main Street facade, you’ll understand why I snapped a picture of this pharmacy in Dublin’s Temple Bar. So far, I’ve snapped very few photos in the city proper; instead, I’ve been rubbernecking like mad, trying to get at least a cursory sense of Where I Am before I try to capture anything about that Where-ness. After the blur of arriving, I’m still waiting to find my metaphoric feet, waiting until not everything I see seems foreign and unusual.

On Thursday’s first jaunt into downtown Dublin with that girl, I couldn’t begin to frame what I was seeing into discreet, digestable pieces: here a purple pharmacy, there an iron rubbish barrel. When I walk the streets of Keene, I can lightly ignore everything that looks usual and reach for my camera only when something jumps out as different: a certain slant of light, a shadow I’ve never seen before, a corner that never before caught my eye.

Look right

Here in Dublin, everything is catching my eye, and ear: even the ambient soundtrack of birdsong is different, with me trying to hold my Inner Birder in check while magpies and rooks and European robins flit and strut their Backyard Birdness around me. I knew to expect the oddness of everyone driving on the left; I knew that crossing streets would be particularly dangerous since my muscle memory automatically looks left-right-left when I look both ways, a habit that gets you run over on this side of the Atlantic. But even after having visited Ireland on a whirlwind over 15 years ago, I’m amazed and perplexed by the level of disorientation. How long does it take before you find your feet in a place, before common birds seem common, purple facades seem normal even in a “historic” district, and the flow of both life and traffic seems ordinary again?

I don’t know how long it takes to find your feet in a foreign place, but I know this stay won’t be nearly enough: if anything, I feel like a mountaineer using a single weekend as a kind of base camp, a place to acclimate to unaccustomed altitude before embarking on any serious treks. After more than a decade living in New England, I still feel like a flatlander there, so perhaps a certain level of Outsiderness is a good thing, the eyes of a foreigner catching the ordinaries that fly beneath natives’ threshold of perception.

As much as there is of the odd and unusual here in Dublin, some things I do understand, and some photo opportunities are simply too good to resist. Just as any decent journalist will go to extremes to protect her sources, I’m not telling exactly how I got a snapshot of Dublin’s funniest urinals. Let’s just say that local color is found in the most surprising of places.

Urinals with attitude