Throughout the day, we’ve been hearing from friends who are heading out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Since everyone seems to be in an Irish mood, this seems a good time to offer some lessons — idiosyncratic though they might be — that Atlanta and other Southern cities could learn from Ireland’s capital, Dublin.
1) Cities benefit from encouraging street musicians. They help to create a lively street life. In Dublin, you’ll hear plenty of them as you stroll along Grafton Street, the main shopping area. And, if you can’t go to Dublin, you can get a sense of the scene by viewing the 2007 film, “Once,” in which Glen Hansard of the Irish rock band The Frames plays a Grafton Street busker.
2) Good cities have good bookstores, preferably independent ones. Dublin has more than its share, and my wife and I never fail to weigh down our suitcases with purchases when we visit. Among the best Dublin stores are The Winding Stair on Liffey Street, Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street (which dates back to 1768) and Eason’s on O’Connell Street.
3) Dublin not only loves its bookstores, it nourishes the writers who create books and poems. You’ll see pictures of the famous ones wherever you go. One of the biggest and quirkiest local celebrations is Bloomsday each June 16, commemorating the day in 1904 when all the events in James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” took place. Joyce’s life is also celebrated at the James Joyce Tower and Museum, and you can learn about other Irish writers at the appropriately named Dublin Writers Museum. Ireland doesn’t just pay lip service to writers. It has created tax laws that favor not only writers but all creators of art. And the writing culture is still very vital. Right now, I’m reading “The Silver Swan,” the second literary mystery by Benjamin Black, a pseudonym for one of the most acclaimed contemporary writers, John Banville.
4) Good cities support live theatre. The most famous in Dublin, of course, is the Abbey Theatre, founded by the poet William Butler Yeats. Also famous are The Gate and the Gaiety. And you can find many smaller productions. Among the best I’ve seen: a one-man show on Oscar Wilde that was a lunchtime production at Bewley’s tea shop and “Gone With the Wind in 20 Minutes,” another lunchtime show, this one a production by students at Trinity College.
5) Good cities have restaurants that serve good salmon. Maybe that’s just my taste, but Irish salmon alone is worth a trip to the Emerald Isle. And we’re not talking salmon croquettes. The best is not in Dublin — it’s at Durty Nelly’s (founded in 1620) in Bunratty — but you can find almost as good at several Dublin haunts. Vegetarians should avert their eyes, but lamb dishes in Dublin tend to be great as well, and a pub lunch of bacon, cabbage and potatoes is hard to beat.
6) Real cities have competing newspapers. OK, this quality-of-life issue has all but gone by the wayside in the United States. But it’s great to go to a newsstand in Dublin and be able to pick up both the local Irish Times and Irish Independent along with a wide sampling of papers from London.
7) Good cities need beautiful parks. Among the two nicest in Europe are Dublin’s Phoenix Park, which is twice the size of New York’s Central Park and five times larger than London’s Hyde Park, and the beautifully landscaped St. Stephen’s Green.
8) Good cities make it easy for fans to see good soccer. While the Irish national team has enjoyed a few great moments, soccer in Ireland generally lags well behind the brand you’ll find in England or even Scotland. It ranks far ahead of the American South, however, which can’t even claim a single team in America’s lowly Major League Soccer. Ireland has its own national league, and high quality games from England and other nations are easily accessible on television or at many pubs. You can also easily find Gaelic sports and rugby.
9) Good cities don’t need people driving big cars. Dubliners get by fine with small cars and public transportation.
10) Guinness is good for you. The pub culture in Dublin is brilliant. The people are friendly. Striking up a conversation is easy. And after you’ve enjoyed a modest pint or two, you might want to go to the Guinness Web site and sign a petition to make St. Patrick’s Day an official holiday. The site is at http://www.proposition317.com/Gateway.aspx. I just signed.