Buskin’ on Grafton

Bono Buskin

I purchased a ticket to Dublin for a flight last Thursday, landing in the early hours of Friday morning. With a little luck from the web, I found a B&B and got some rest near the River Liffey. Hours later, I would emerge from my nap and head out into Dublin’s bustling streets, just to take in the Irish air and possibly a pint or two. Maybe, I would have a passing conversation with a local and discuss the rich heritage of the country or sink deeper into the bar near the hearth where I could keep myself warm from winter’s damp air. Either way, I would immerse myself into Joyce’s city.

The following morn’ would be Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. I would wake wearily, yet excited to be out of America to celebrate St. Nicks Day or Christmas in a foreign town. I would be bathed in excitement, wandering St. Stephen’s Green and taking a gander at the book of Kells. I would find myself the Irish version of Fish n’ Chips in order to fill the order of hunger of the day as I was still fighting jet lag.

Eventually, I would saunter back to my room and slip under the awaiting comforter for a quick afternoon shut-eye, knowing I would be up late to catch midnight mass at a local church as suggested by my innkeeper. My slumber was helpful as I dreamt of travels before to Dublin with my parents in the 70’s long before I was a U2 fan. My father was a scholar in James Joyce and this was a second home for him. When I awoke, I could feel his spirit in the room as the last rays of afternoon’s light broke through the tiny crack between the curtains. My laziness wanted me to stay in bed, but I felt a pre-dinner jaunt would do me good.

I slipped out the front door of the abode and into the evening. There was a slight wind and I clutched the top of my jacket closed while I walked down the unevenly paved sidewalk towards the city center. I was on my way to Grafton Street, a road of many a Joycean romp from my childhood, which was burned into me with pleasant memories. This night would be no different. My pace was brisk and as I approached the fable street, Dubliners were again taking to the streets. There was an air of excitement. One could sense that the something big was about to happen as I saw may burdened by bags swooshing against one another. I paused and took it all in as the light was now above me in a streetlight.

As I stood there, I noticed a crowd gathered across the street. There was singing and cheering. I looked to my left and saw no car approaching as I put my foot down on the cobblestoned street. A fellow Dubliner joined me in the automotive gap and we crossed the street in concert, pausing for a quickly passing taxi that whaled on his horn for our attention. Once upon the other side from where I crossed, the crowd had grown yet there was no pushing or shoving. It was festivity at its greatest as guitars were strummed and the unison signing of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home.) It was a happy Irish gathering and one in which one of Dublin’s own was in the center. It was Bono carrying on with those who would join. I was happy to be added to the group.

I awoke Friday morning after the dream and had a gut feeling that Bono would yet again hit Dublin’s street to busk. I was on my way to Iowa with my wife to see my parents and my grandmother, who is ninety-seven years young. The thought of a spontaneous flight to the Emerald Isle was a passing fancy as I was packing for a different trip, but I had a gut feeling that what has now become a ritual would happen again in Dublin. I leaned into my wife’s ear on Christmas Eve, at midnight mass, and said, “I think Bono was busking on Grafton Street in Dublin tonight.”

The quotable Bono

We all do it. We regurgitate what Bono says. I’ve been known to repeat, or re-craft, those infamous statements he says which are embedded in our DVD collections of U2’s live shows, movies and videos. It’s charming and a challenge to take a brilliant statement and try to work it to your advantage. Make it sound like you are the one who is virtuoso in linguistics when all you are really doing is stealing it from the hipster Bono.

My first encounter of the quotable rocker was when I saw U2 for the very first time in Iowa City on the Joshua Tree tour in 1987. I guess Bono took a spill in Washington DC a month prior and he spent 12 shows on the tour with his arm in a sling. The night I saw the band, he was relieved of the harness he had used for his dislocated shoulder and dedicated Trip Through Your Wires “to my once broken and now mended arm.” The Irish accent on “arm” was very Brogue. We tried to get it right several nights later over pints of Guinness at the Sanctuary on South Gilbert Street. I attest. We couldn’t get it right no matter how much we drank.

Another quotable incident happened outside a hotel in Chicago late at night a few years back. A very energized Bono came out to the street dancing this insanely hilarious dance and proclaimed, “I am the monkey dancer.” My cousin and I rolled with laughter. On the way home in the cab, we kept repeating the line. We were addicted to what we witnessed as Edge shoved Bono in the back of the waiting car outside their hotel. It was a site to see. I capture the moment of me confronting the “monkey dancer” about the previous night’s antics in my memoir:

Bono arrived a couple minutes later. The rush was on. Several people ahead of me got their photos taken with him as he graciously signed memorabilia. I approached Bono with the CD insert of The Joshua Tree in my outreached hands. He took the booklet began to sign it. I interrupted him.

“Bono, please sign the insert ‘Will, I’m the monkey dancer. Bono.’”

He stopped. Look at me through his blue tinted shades.

“How do you know about the monkey dancer?” He smiled.

His eyes were like glowing crystals behind his shades.

“We witnessed your dance Tuesday night when you exclaimed it at the top of your lungs out here on the street.”

He laughed.

“No one should know about me and the monkey dancer. Your lucky to have witnessed it”

Bono, U2 memoir, I'm a fanHe gave me back the signed booklet and shook my hand. He turned and nodded to Edge. They climbed into the second limousine and drove off. It was the perfect end to their fall visit to Chicago. It elevated my spirits as I was jobless and in a haze after the events of the month before in New York City.

Above photo taken moments before our monkey dancer conversation took place.

Now it’s your turn!

Share your favorite quote. It doesn’t have to be a personal encounter. It may come from your favorite live show nestled in your DVD, or VHS, collection. It could come from a media event. Please specify where you lifted it from. Let’s have fun with this little project.