Misadventure on Shop Street – Galway, Ireland

Misadventure on Shop Street
Galway Ireland

I stepped out of the Cellar Bar, crossed the street, and began walking back the hostel. It was early, only around 11:00 p.m. The scene at the Cellar Bar that evening had left much to be desired, and since a night out in Ireland is not cheap, I’d decided to cut my loses and call it a night.

Galway Musicians
Galway Musicians
So I started down Shop Street on that still, moonlit night. Shop Street is the cultural center of Galway, a bohemian city on the west coast of Ireland. It’s a short pedestrian street in the heart of the city center filled with old brick buildings, bright storefronts, numerous pubs, and a slew of street performers. The street is constantly filled with a horde of people ambling about, shopping, partying, and watching, its diverse array of street performers and musicians do beautiful acoustic renditions of everything from the Beatles, to Neil Young, to Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, the Smiths, the Pixies or Nirvana. This evening was no exception. Although the street wasn’t as crowded as it normally is, there were still a few people walking about at this late hour, and as I walked past a jewelry store, I noticed on my left hand side a young man wearing a heavy brown jacket, a guitar in hand, doing a quiet stirring version of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”

I stopped for a moment and listened to his sad, melodic rendition. When he finished, I asked if he knew “Hey Hey My My.” He said he did, and I stood there, alone in the middle of the street listening. I threw a Euro into his long, black guitar case, and continued on.

As I walked further I noticed two young men standing along the side of the street smoking. I walked over and asked if either of them could spare a cigarette. They agreed and noticing my accent asked where I was from.

“Colorado,” was the reply.

“Colorado! South Park’s from Colorado!” he said. I nodded in agreement.

“Would you like a beer?” he asked lifting his shirt up to reveal about ten cans of Amsterdam lager fastened under his belt like a row of bullets. He grabbed one, handed it to me, and the three of us stood there for a while talking and drinking in the moonlight. After a few minutes, the mentioned they were going a party and wondered if I would like to come. It sounded like fun. So, I followed them off into the night.

My new friends led me into a large spacious, two-story apartment about a block off Shop Street. The place was gigantic. On the first floor, there was a small hallway with a bathroom, a few bedrooms and a flight of stairs leading upward to the second floor containing the kitchen, living room.

We walked up into the living room, which was filled with about ten or fifteen people huddled around the television drinking beer and watching Pulp Fiction. They were about halfway through the film. Bruce Willis had just won the fight he was supposed to lose and was now in a taxi speeding away from gangsters. I took a seat in the corner of the room next to my new friends and thought of all the times when I was nineteen or twenty and had sat around with my friends drinking and watching this movie. Pulp Fiction must be the movie of choice for teenagers at house parties throughout the world.

It was about this time that I realized how drunk my new friends really were. Actually, they weren’t drunk. They were far beyond simply being drunk. They were out of control, and this fact became abundantly clear to me when one of them suddenly jumped up and head butted someone on the other side of the room. Two of his friends jumped up to defend him, and at this, my other companion jumped to his feet; and the five of them went at it in the middle of the living room.

Everyone started screaming. One woman, probably the owner of the house, started yelling, in a thick western Irish accent, that everyone needed to be quiet. Her mother was sleeping upstairs. She didn’t want them to wake her. The two boys would have to either settle down or get out, she said.

I had remained seated this whole time in utter and complete awe at what had just taken place so randomly before my eyes. It was so insane. They were just sitting there and the next thing you know they were out to kill everyone. How had wound up in this situation? I tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible to avoid being drawn into this. I had to get out of here.

The fight began to die down, and everyone began talking in slightly calmer voices. A man sitting a few feet to my right noticed me and asked who I was. I told him that I’d just met these two guys, pointing to the two hooligans in middle of the room, and they had invited me to the party. He began laughing. “They just picked this yank up off the street and brought him here,” he said raising his voice so everyone in the room could here, but everyone was too busy trying to keep another fight from breaking out. They all ignored him.

The man I had been talking to got up and headed downstairs. I assumed he was leaving, and figuring I’d probably worn out my welcome, this seemed like as good a time as any to take off. I followed him down the staircase and through a door. Unfortunately, this was not the way outside. This was the door to the bathroom.
“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled, irate at this point. I started to explain, but he cut me off yelling.

I closed the door and ran back to the living room. The guys I’d come in with were no longer there, and the original group of people was standing around talking about the events that had just transpired. I nodded hello and took the other staircase down to the door.

Outside the apartment I ran into the two hooligans standing outside smoking. They saw me coming and shook my hand.

“You’re not staying around either, eh,” one said.

“No, I figured I should probably leave.”

“We’re going to a better party now. Do you want to come?”

I declined, and walked the rest of the way back to the hostel.