More Books and Less Beer

Sligo Central Library is housed in a converted Methodist church on Stephen’s street and has a section of “adult DVDs” next to its one study table at the back.

Upon inspection, the DVD labels are more along the lines of Learn to Paint and Tai Chi for Beginners than the racier titles I had imagined.

I took a seat at the old wooden table across from a middle-aged Japanese woman poring over an English language textbook and reminded myself that it’s not my job anymore to ask if she needed any help differentiating use of the past simple and the present perfect.   

I soon found that Sligo Central Library has regulars, just like a pub, albeit with more books and less beer, and they proved to be much more interesting than my work.

Sligo Central Library
Sligo Central Library

Soon, the student and I were joined at the table by three gentlemen:

The first was a young American teacher of some sort who set about working on a novel at his computer. We’ll call him “Dave.” The second was an older man who was making use of the smooth oak surface of the table to roll his day’s supply of cigarettes, and finally, the third, a talkative elderly fellow with thick lenses in his plastic rimmed glasses, a black and brown striped fedora, and a fantastic Gandalfesque beard, who promptly engaged the teacher in the most interesting philosophical conversation I’ve heard in some time.

I tried for about half a second to avoid eavesdropping, but the table was pretty small and after so many years living in non English-speaking countries, I’m still not practiced in tuning out the sweet sounds of my own language spoken all around me, so I gave up and tested my typing speed by transcribing the discussion (I use the term “discussion” loosely – it was in fact mostly a monologue) instead.

Gandalf: How’re you doing today, working hard?

Dave: Working a little, how about yourself?

Gandalf: Well, you know…The point of teaching is you just teach, and the point of praying is you just pray. I’ve no interest in the political side of things. You’ve seen Star Trek right? That’s what I want. That’s pure Communism. There’s no business in Star Trek. You have to have different objectives. Ultimately, America is a national security state. American policies over the last ten years have completely failed. The last thing they want to do is change. They need to cut defense budgets, and that’s the last thing the Pentagon and the CIA want to do. It’s a long struggle. But hey, I’m a Catholic, we think in centuries. I talked to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and they’re like, Jesus is coming back next Tuesday. I’m not expecting him for the next 250 million years. What are you working on anyway?”

Dave: “The death of God.”

Gandalf: “God’s not dead.”

Dave: “Yeah, well, that’s not really what Nietzsche thought either. You still on your detective novel?”

Gandalf: “Yeah, I want to do that and some history. You get to the point where people don’t want to read Shakespeare, they just want to play video games. I’m like that, I’m dependent on TV, and detective novels are better than TV, and history is better than detective novels.”

His points were all over the place, but underneath that, he is a wise man, disgusted by the world today, who still has hope for the future and is trying to improve himself in the meantime.

As a bonus, I learned that Trekonomics is a thing.

The other guy finished rolling his cigarettes and stood to go. Dave pretended to do something important on his laptop.

Gandalf turned to the Japanese woman then and asked her how her day was going.

She didn’t even look up from her book

“I’m sorry, I need to concentrate today.”

Me too.

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