June 16 is the 111th anniversary of Bloomsday; not bad, considering it marks a day in 1904 that only exists within James Joyce’s legendary modernist classic Ulysses, a novel that nearly all literati bow down before even if many have never finished it. Joyce’s transposition of The Odyssey to early 20th-century Dublin follows the wanderings of one Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s Everyman, over the course of a single day and evening as he navigates the city. Scholars and fans dubbed the book’s June 16 date as Bloomsday, setting it aside to celebrate Joyce in particular and Irishness in general, a happy decision that allows highbrows who disdain the blarney that is St. Patrick’s Day an excuse to heft a few pints of Guinness in genuflection.
But while anyone spending Bloomsday in Dublin can trace Bloom’s route around the city, it’s harder to emulate the hero’s perambulations in Las Vegas; 105 in the shade discourages, to paraphrase Joyce, the ineluctable modalities of the peripatetic (stop whining and Google the words). You can, however, get into the spirit of Bloomsday easily enough with these simple prescriptions:
The Book. Even though you likely haven’t read Ulysses, that’s no excuse not to do what countless bohemians have done: Walk around with a copy under your arm. Head to Vegas’ independent bookstore, The Writer’s Block (1020 Fremont) and pick up a copy. Walk to (1) The Beat (Fremont and Sixth), order an espresso, and flip it open. Don’t forget to stroke your chin occasionally and gaze pensively into the distance. And if you actually start reading it, here’s a pro tip: Put in your earbuds, pull up YouTube, look up “Ulysses Audiobook Unabridged” and listen as the novel is read aloud. You can even follow along. Hey, it’s only nine hours.
The Wandering. Bloom visits numerous places around Dublin, on errands large and small, many charged with melancholy, hope, lust and curiosity. Do the same, whether on foot (hardcore) or by car (normal). Visit the post office (bonus points if you’re receiving an illicit love letter), a (2) Catholic Church (Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Strip), a pharmacy, a newspaper office (Bloom goes to place an ad, but you can just stop by the R-J to complain about its Op-Ed page), the (3) library (bonus points if you discuss your theory of Hamlet with random patrons), and a maternity hospital, if you can find one. Don’t forget to have lunch (we recommend Eat) and dinner at a hotel (you’ll find one). Bloom also visits a brothel, but we’ll leave such high fidelity to the novel to the reader’s discretion.
The Drink. All of this has been leading up to the real point of Bloomsday, of course: that aforementioned Guinness. The best immersion in something resembling Bloom’s Dublin is to stop into (4) McMullan’s Irish Pub (4650 W. Tropicana Ave.), where the atmosphere is just authentic enough to encourage spontaneous readings from your now doubtlessly dog-eared copy of Ulysses, having fallen under the spell of Joyce’s protean prose and the spill of a good Irish stout … at least, until next June 16.