red ferry blue ferry

Photo and sculpture by Ruth Leavitt Fallon.

Michael Fallon

is a Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the English Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he taught a huge variety of writing courses, Creative Writing, and Literature for thirty-five years.

His poems have appeared recently in Northeast Narrative, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Connecticut River Review, The Loch Raven Review, Illuminations, Southword, and other magazines.

He is the author of 4 collections of poetry, A History of the Color Black, Since You Have No Body (winner of the Plan B Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 2011), The Great Before and After, and Empire of Leaves.

Essays have appeared recently in The New England Review, on lit hub-The Best of the Literary Internet, The Concho River Review, Broad Street Literary Review, The Razor, The Northern Virginia Review, and Blood and Thunder.

His innermost ear is turned always to what the Irish call “the music of what happens.”

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Memoir

Red Ferry, Blue Ferry:
An Irish Lesson in How You Can’t Get There from Here

written by Michael Fallon

Ireland’s Aran Islands are hauntingly beautiful—a place where the people still speak ancient Gaelic, and time seems to have stopped. Michael Fallon’s recollection of his visit to the Aran Islands is both an adventure and a comedy (of errors) , as well as a humorous “you-can’t-get-there-from-here” story.

He arrived at the Aran Islands by taking a ferry from Galway City. Though everyone spoke English, and though he asked repeatedly, he could not learn how to return to the mainland in time to catch his flight home.

“There’s no ferry that goes to Galway.” He was told by every Irish person he asked. But how is it that he could take a ferry from Galway to the Aran Islands, but could not take a ferry back to Galway? How did the ferry he took from Galway get there in the first place?

Given this impossible situation, how would he get home?

 

© 2018 Michael Fallon | Recording © 2021 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

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I had been trying to get a ferry from Inishmore back to Galway. Everyone I asked said it couldn’t be done. I had come to Inishmore on a ferry from Galway — why couldn’t I take a ferry back to it?
“The ferry doesn’t go there,” I was told.

To an American traveling in 1986, Ireland was an eccentric place. First of all, the Irish assumed you were a decent, well-meaning person until you proved otherwise, and they had—and still have—a great love for stories and the talk.

If you had the American fixation on getting precise and useful information quickly and easily, in Ireland, you were basically out of luck. Important details were often left out of conversation.

This was a source of considerable worry.

 

The band was so blasted they played with eyes closed in a transcendental state of drunken intensity, the fiddlers and strummers like Buddhas in whiskey nirvana. The place rocked back and forth to the clapping of hands and the stamping of feet as if the waves were playing keep away and the bar was a tug boat tossed in a storm.

I took to demonstrating my quandary by drawing triangles in the air and showing that the ferry had to somehow get back to Galway rom Inishmore to be in Galway in the first place, but it was no use. I got not only the same answers and a bit of the talk as well.

red ferry blue ferry

Photo and sculpture by Ruth Leavitt Fallon.

Michael Fallon is a Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the English Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he taught a huge variety of writing courses, Creative Writing, and Literature for thirty-five years.

His poems have appeared recently in Northeast Narrative, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Connecticut River Review, The Loch Raven Review, Illuminations, Southword, and other magazines.

He is the author of 4 collections of poetry, A History of the Color Black, Since You Have No Body (winner of the Plan B Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 2011), The Great Before and After, and Empire of Leaves.

Essays have appeared recently in The New England Review, on lit hub-The Best of the Literary Internet, The Concho River Review, Broad Street Literary Review, The Razor, The Northern Virginia Review, and Blood and Thunder.

His innermost ear is turned always to what the Irish call “the music of what happens.”

Q&A with Michael

Tell us about your story...

It’s both an adventure and a comedy. The Aran Islands are hauntingly beautiful and the landscape is rich with stone Celtic ring forts and other spectacular ruins. It is a place where the people still speak ancient Gaelic and time seems to have stopped. As an Irish-American, I both did and did not fit into this beautiful place. Then suddenly my adventure became a comedy of errors. Though everyone spoke English, somehow, though I asked and asked, I could never seem to find out what I needed to get back to Galway city in time to catch my flight home.

What was the inspiration for this story?

The magical beauty of the place and the sense of kindness and kinship I found there. Also the strange sense of being in a world it seemed I could almost remember, but could not entirely understand.

There was the illusion that we all inhabited the same world and spoke the same English, but we didn’t. I was from another time and place.

What most surprised you about Ireland?

The kindness and charm of the people. How strange is was that we could speak the same English words and still not understand each other. There are subtle cultural differences that are very important but also very hard to pin down.

What are you looking forward to, post-pandemic?

Getting together with my extended family and having a gigantic cookout with lots of wine and lovely food.

Tea or coffee? Whiskey or wine?

Coffee, whiskey, and wine—and once in a while, tea. But usually one at a time, never all once.

 

What's your favorite word?

A Swedish Woman once told me that she thought the most beautiful word in English is “Tomorrow.” Having thought about it a long time, I think she might be right. It is a word that is always hopeful, and I love the sound of it.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

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