‘I have family over there. - ’‘Where?’‘ - Everywhere, I think.’
We were on separate sides of the globe at the time of planning, myself in Yosemite, California, Will at home in Liverpool. We sent a few maps back and forth, drew the route and decided to leave within the fortnight.
Our feet left the ferry and found themselves in Dublin; from one machine, it seemed, into the next. We heard the rumble before we saw it. It’s a city of cultural history, rich heritage and inspiring feats of architecture, if you’re willing to look up, but who is? We were met with a horde of eyes glued perpetually downwards, as is the scene that greets those arriving at most Western cities. Daytime drinkers broke the rabble of suits and traffic with occasional inaudible optimism but, it seemed, we had come at the wrong time or, perhaps, to the wrong place altogether.
We checked in, though, and decided to play the game. For a couple of hours we chased the ‘see’ and ‘do’ spots of the city which, although briefly entertaining, weren’t what we were looking for. We were short on money but had plenty of time, although it seemed most wanted more of the first and couldn’t offer much to fill the latter. We had come to Ireland to see what we could find, but this city had a way of forcing itself on its subjects, of trying to dictate the traveller’s experience rather than letting itself be enjoyed. Walking the streets became an exercise, a battle to keep up with the pace. When nighttime came, we thought, it might be easier to breathe.
In factories across the world there comes a time when the machine turns off. Workers look at their watches and leave and the engines cease, at least until morning. Cities have overcome the problem of a tired workforce, though; when we see the dark we don’t slow down, we speed up. Perhaps the commuting worker, the city’s daytime engine, has laid to rest, but the night brings out a new model. It’s the new and updated model, the one that works the overtime. It smokes and guzzles fuel even faster than the first and it’s just as efficient in keeping the machine running.
We kept up on the frontline and what we found shed further light on the workings of the machine. Like flies to lights, the engines buzzed back into the streets. It seemed that most of the cogs that worked during the day returned and kept the city moving at night, which was a remarkably efficient system. All it took was an hour or two for the engines to give the rewards they’d earned that day back to the machine in exchange for more fuel and more smoke. It all ran like clockwork and we had become part of it.
Maybe it took a minor step from our own city to this one to realise what a game the whole thing really is. This machine works. It doesn’t have to do much - the cogs align themselves and keep the whole thing moving without instruction. We bedded down with scrambled heads not knowing entirely what had happened or what had been accomplished.
Is the modern city a hub of exhilarating technological advancement, of progress and of 21st century intuition, or has this machine been designed to create robots without first having to invent them? Either way, we decided that our place lay elsewhere. Dublin chewed us up and spat us back out, so we stepped off the conveyor belt into exile and booked a coach to take us West the next morning. Something told us that we wouldn’t be missed.
Part 2: To the Sea, coming soon at GoneWest.com.