Nicholas Quirke was coming home on 18th March. He had reached the end of the road and now it was all goodbyes. The Odyssey was finished but not over as he recognised that he was going to be raking through the 4 month journey to reassess and understand just what his experiences had left him with. Without hesitation he understood that from the cast of characters he had encountered he had forged new and meaningful friendships and had been the recipient of much kindness and acceptance from strangers and old aquainteces. He was also so grateful to friends and strangers who had kept him company on the trip through his blog and Facebook. He really could look at life from new perspectives now. At LA airport, after his drive in the the sunshine with the roof off the rented Ford Mustang, he reflected on his jouneys last gasp, particularly as he had 5 hours to kick his heels. His intention to visit the Griffith Observatory was curtailed as he could not get across Sunset Boulevard due to its closure for the LA Marathon. There was a complicated detour so instead he decided to end his visit and head homeward. After the closing day party in West Hollywood, and he had said goodbye to the wonderful company, he returned to the Hotel with Kim and JPS. He and Kim realised it was the last time for a while that they would be enjoying the deep talks and high jinks which had deleinated their time together over the recent months. It was hard to finaly say farewell, but in the early hours Kim sloped off for her flight, leaving Nicholas to mull over his transition from was to would be. Nicholas Quirke would be back home by the 19th, seeing family and friends, and begining a new chapter.
Nicholas Quirke was discombobulated on 17th March. It was 4am and he was unable to sleep. He had been woken at 2.30am by a message from his friend in China who had crashed his car and Nicholas found himself unable to return to slumber. It was the start of his last full day in LA. He was approaching journeys end. He still had things he would do, but the week had been an extraordinary imaginative ride and he had not had time to make the most of LA. Every morning he would drive Kim and John Patrick Shanley from their West Hollywood Hotel to the venue in Los Feliz. It was always a drive full of laughter and insight and set them up for the creative rigours of each day. Of course, nothing was without event for Nicholas and on one occasion he found himself with Kim and JPS, the workshop leader, marooned outside of the Skylight Theatre, as they returned after the break curfew and the officials locked the doors on them. This was a recurring theme for Nicholas who needed to park the car, or get breakfast, to the point of embarrassment. But the performance of JPS’s short plays and the discussions they engendered were stimulating beyond his expectations. The oppotunity to investigate a writer working on his process and witness some astonishing emerging talent made the diversion back to LA worth every second. It was also a final opportunity to spendtime with Kim who had proved to be the most generous, inspiring, maddening and hilarious companion on his travels. This was the renewal of a very old friendship and there seemed nothing they couldn’t turn into hilariaty, including Nicholas being forced into duplicity and deciet over the emptying of a bath. They enjoyed the luxurys of the hotel and semed to constantly have someone from concierge coming to the room and at one one point there were 3 members of staff in the apartment to fix the TV and deliver some plates and cutlery and replenish the water. They enjoyed some lovely meals, especially a supper at Sunset Towers, formally apartments where the likes of John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe had homes. It was a beautiful location with a stunning view of Los Angeles at night; no photos allowed, and the delightful company of Jackie and Wendy added to the magic. It was alo lovely for him to renew some friendships he had forged with members of ATC. Jackie, Nick and Nate, whom he had met and shared Christmas with when he had been in LA in December. In the early hours of the morning, he found himself reflecting on the wonderful experience he was having and what going home meant. The purpose of the odyssey had been to breakout of the routines and self imposed constraints of the past 20 years and he had undoubtably achieved that. He was going to have to give more time and thought and allow himself the space to work out what the future construct of his life would look like but that was going to have to wait till his flight home stated on the next day and it really was Journeys End. Who knew what the next day would bring for him.
Nicholas Quirke was thrilled to be back in LA on the 11th March and at the wheel of a fancy looking Soft Top Ford Mustang. Due to time zone changes he effectively went back in time from leaving Doha to getting to LA on a flight that felt endless and lasted 16 hours. In total he spent 26 hours in one day!!! Getting onto the flight from Doha seemed to be an enormous hurdle in which even to get through the Gate the passengers suffered a horrendous indignity and Nicholas found himself facing the possibility of not being on the flight because he didn’t have a paper copy of his flight out of USA and he found himself having to go through the process of checking in all his technology a 2nd time. Consequently he was one of the last people on the plane and discovered his window seat was occupied by an ancient Indian with his wife next to him. He felt bad but had them move. Not a word of English between them but he helped them with food and technology throughout the endless flight and the managed to form a bond. Naturally once at LA airport there were problems with picking up the car. He was meant to be at a launch party for the workshop which began the next day but first had to check into an Air B & B and was running late, the consequence was he felt extremely flustered but these evaporated when he discovered his car had been upgraded to a Ford Mustang. He arrived at the launch 2 hours late and was introduced to John Patrick Shanley who he was going to be looking after during the week, driving him to the venue and making sure he had lunch etc , etc, He then spent the evening chatting with some of the actors involved, one of whom, an older actress, said that he looked like someone she would want to date. It transpired that she had dated Robert Mitchum and Clint Eastwood, that gave his ego an immense massage. He had intended to severely trim his beard but time ran out and he had to continue to look like a genie particularly as once he was back at his accommodation after a chat with a fellow lodger, who was a film reporter, he went to bed to make sure he was up in time to Pick JPS and Kim up from the glamorous Sunset Marquis Hotel, which would also be his home for the next week. He got to the hotel on the 12th of March and they got to the theatre in Los Feliz, which he had been to in December, without any traffic violation. Nicholas had read the 7 amazing new plays that were going to be worked on and had found them a harrowing read, so it was with some surprise, once they had started working them how human, funny and vital they were. Of course, the work was confidential and he would not be able to reveal what they were working on but the themes throughout the plays provoked deep and exciting conversations and the work that the actors were doing with JPS was really inspiring. Nicholas made some vox pop videos to use in the continuing promotion. At the end of the day they went back to the hotel which was a famous mecca for the music industry’ with past and present greats such as Jim Morrison and Bruce Springsteen on the books as regular guests. It really was a Hollywood lifestyle, and as he pulled up in the car he was able to take advantage of the ‘Valet Parking’ which gave him another thrill. Kim ordered a Chinese meal and they were finally able to catch up on their activities over the past couple of weeks. Kim ran him a bath and he finally had the ritual of rmoving his beard. That chatted till late and finally got to bed around 1.30am. With all the activity and work on the workshop his commitment to his daily blog was waning particularly as he had booked his flight home and now knew that by the 19th of March he would be as his days were full of the workshop and he was going to have to make shorter irregular updates as the last days of the odyssey passed.
Nicholas Quirke was full of sadness and consumed by a sense of loss on 10th March. He was flying to Los Angeles to be part of an amazing opportunity to work closely for a week with a world renowned playwright but as this experience opened up he realised that the journey he began on 2nd December was coming to its close. While messaging with his friend Terry he was reminded of the promise he had made to himself in 2003, when he had been severely ill with Fibro-Myalgia and reached the lowest point in his life, that he travel. He had now been fortunate enough to give himself this gift and he became acutely aware that the world would never be the same for him again. Dreams had been fulfilled, he had been touched In unexpected ways by the people and places he had let into his life but he had somehow made this rich, beautiful and wonderful planet smaller for himself and he now had to find a new future. Of course there were other journeys to make and discoveries to open himself to but the significance of the Odyssey was reaching completion. It had been his intention to honour this stage and mood by committing an act of self immolation and remove the beard he had nurtured to his journeys fruition. It was a new phase and would mark mark his entry back into the world. Naturally his plans went awry as his flight to LA was via a 20 hour stopover in Doha, in the luxurious surroundings of the Marriott hotel, however he could not collect his suitcase from the airport with all his accoutrements and that particular ritual would have to wait. The flight gave him the opportunity to watch the strange Suburbicon and Victoria and Abdul, the latter as a nod to the land he was departing. The hotel Kate had organised was marvellous and after a freshen up he took to the streets of Doha to explore another city in another land. The highlight of his walk was the Museum of Islamic Art, of which the building was as much a work of art as the collection it housed. He explored the pool and beach of the hotel and enjoyed watching the sunset from a particularly comfortable hanging chair. He ironed and freshened up the clothes he would have to wear for yet another day and decided to give himself a once in his lifetime treat and order room service. He was ridiculously excited when a table bearing lentil soup and fries arrived and were set up for him to eat at. The full 5 star experience. Once again it was an morning flight and he was having to get up early so he enjoyed a bath and an early night and went to sleep feeling satisfied that the day had gone well
Nicholas Quirke was convinced that the fates were conspiring against him and obliterating any evidence that Friday 9th of March happened for him. Despite being careful to ensure he had a plug adaptor from the hotel to charge all his technology, it transpired that there was a fault and by 4am, when he had to get up for his trip to Jaipur, his laptop, go-pro, I-pad were all dead and his phone was very low. He thought the solution to recording the day was to charge his phone and Ipad in the car on the 4 hour Journey. Of course,he plugged it in but after an hour there was still nothing happening. He managed a conversation with sister to help with accommodation in Doha, caught a couple of moments but it died and he was left with only his words to record the memory of Jaipur. It was a long drive starting in the dark but by the time the sun came up his expectations of beautiful indian scenery were crushed as all the daylight illuminated was a bleak and dull landscape and the only really interesting thing he noted was that the lorry’s, and there were a lot of them, drove in whatever lane they liked and the cars swapped lanes with terrifying speed and recklessness. However 45 kilometers from Jaipur and deep into the heart of Rajasthan the vista became utterly compelling, jagged rock strewn mountains, blossoms of purples, oranges, yellows and sights that are pure cliché but he would have captured them:- the colourful drudge of ladies walking in their Sari;s with bundles on their heads, people riding on tops of busses, cows using their sacred status to wander indolently about the highway, monkey sitting eating on the side of the road, working camels and elephants vying for space ni the traffic with the motorcycles with 4 riding pillion, derelict distressed buildings from which businesses operate and junk, junk, junk everywhere reminding you that you are looking squarely in to the face of real poverty it has a beauty but it is the alien in everyday that makes it quite haunting and magical to witness. They first stopped at the Amer fort and palace an astonishing 16th century conurbation with amazing views. Ragan let him use his phone to take photographs. Which became plentiful when an overzealous curator took the camera when showing them the Kings toilet and Bedrooms. It was an impressive and opulent and the pictures, if he hadn’t forgotten to give Ragan his email, would have captured the beauty and importance of the site. They then drove into Jaipur, seeing the relic of the haunting water palace, the extravagance of the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal, where the wives were kept by the Sultans in the city where every building is pink. Lunch was at roadside stand selling vegetables and potato made as part of a bun, It was delicious. Nicholas couldn’t escape though the feeling that he was about to be robbed , cheated, even abducted a feeling that intensified when he found himself in a Stone Cutters and a Carpet weavers. He survived the ordeal and they set of back to Delhi on another 4 hour drive. Back at the hotel he went out to see if he could get another adaptor but couldn’t find one and ended up spending some time chatting with a guy called Pintu who he asked for help. He was travelling the next day so it was to bed for another early start.
Nicholas Quirke was holding back the expletives on 8th March as he stood in open-mouthed horror at the words he heard fall from the Hotel Managers lips. He had started the day in optimistic fashion at 5am with Amrit waving him off in a Uber. The flight was smooth he had a great window seat and he was arriving at a sensible time of 11.15. He struggled slightly with the Uber and the driver who was trying to take him somewhere else, but considering it was a nice hotel Nicholas stood his ground but did agree to be taken into Delhi later. Delhi was a diversion, he had felt he could not be in India and not see the Taj Mahal, so as he discussed with the Hotel the best way of getting to Agra the next day he found himself saying in shock, ‘You are Joking’! “No sir.” said the young man alarmed by the colour having drained from Nicholas’s face, ” The Taj is shut on a Friday”. Feeling stunned by the news he was told that his driver was here. He could not concentrate on what the driver was saying as he tried to think what he would do the next day when his misery hit a new low when his beloved Moscot sunglasses broke. A rare glimpse of histrionics occured and it was back to the hotel to get his Ray-Bans and to look at Jaipur. Plans were made and he sset off to enjoy the sights of Delhi. The traffic was appaling but he was pleased he saw, The India Gate and the parliment buildings, as well as the remarkble ancient remins of Quitb Minar. He struggled to get cash out of an ATM which was a further dissapointment as he had decided to go a step beyond the foot massage and a full one to relax the tensions from him so instead it was a dinner at the hotel and bed, ready for his early start the next day
Nicholas Quirke was reeling from the attack upon his senses Calcutta had battered him with on 7th March. The whole city seemed to be one glorious anarchic mess of colour, sound and smells and he was surprised by how energised the chaos made him feel. The day started slowly after their late night with Amrit going out to get a traditional breakfast of Dahl and kachuri bread giving him the opportunity to explore the environment he was in. It was a home he recognised from films like Salam Bombay, Slumdog Millionaire and he was looking forward to getting out into the city to see what other references he would identify. With DG accompanying them they set of for the Victoria memorial, a beautiful, extravagant evocation of the days of the Raj. He encountered his first experience of the fascination of the Indian with the white man as children stared and started to touch him. It was an attention he would receive all day with request for photos. Strangely the police were cagey about photographs and he was not able to take pictures inside though he and DG, a photographer, surreptitiously did some filming. They then visited the cathedral and on the walk Nicholas witnessed his first impression of the anarchy on the roads. With no pavement in sight they walked along the road as traffic roared past, cars with horns blaring, bicycles, autos, rickshaws, tuc- tucs and busses bursting with citizens all vying for dominance on the road. It looked and felt dangerous but it somehow seemed to work. After the calm of the cathedral they went for lunch at a traditional Bengali Restaurant where he ate his food with his hands. It was a lovely lunch of Curry, dhal and rice with a subtle blend of spices that made the food and eating experience delicious. They then visited, at his request, the Kali Temple which was also a first for Amrit. It was possibly one of the most bewildering situations he had been in since the Odyssey began as it was crowded, noisy, dirty and aromas that assaulted them from sweet and divine to the breath holding smell of shit. A guide got hold of them, made them remove their shoes and led them through the mess of people and children to sights where they threw flowers as offerings till they were individually taken to some kind of monk who daubed his head, tied string round his wrist and coaxed 500 rupees out of him. Amrit and DG were furious about it but Nicholas welcomed the sensations that entering the bizzare world of a Supposedly holy place offered him, though he was discombobulated by the discovery that his money was likely to go to the imminent slaughter of a goat. Kali is a god of chaos and it seemed a most appropriate event. They made their way to the museum which was a fascinating look at the archeological aspect of India. He loved the faded, distressed glamour of the building and its contents which echoed the colourful and neglected architecture of the City. They then entered the market streets of north Calcutta, which was again a chaotic and noisy walk, to get to and enjoy a ride to the Ganges on a battered old tram still in operation from the 60s. If he lived here he might be driven mad but there was an energy and fury to the city that really grabbed his attention. DG was to tired to continue the ride and left Nicholas and Amrit, who talked with passion about film and Indian culture as the journey to see the sunset on the the Ganges. Experiencing Ghat was a truly haunting sight, watching men and women solemnly perform their washing rituals as the red sun set over the waters of the river. It was time to return to the apartment and they stopped for some supper before getting home. Amrit showed him the short film he has just made and he was really impressed with the maturity of the subject matter and the mastery of the story telling. Nicholas was disappointed that his 2 days in Calcutta were reduced to 1 thanks to Chinese Eastern Airlines and he did not get to do everything he had planned, but Amrit had been a wonderful guide and it was a privilege for him to meet and get to know the sensitive, deeply thoughtful and talented young man he had been friends with on Facebook for 4 year. It was an early night as Nicholas had a flight to take in the morning and continue his brief travels through foreign lands.