Even for those who cashed in nightclub chips long ago, the euphoria was palpable
"They've been stigmatised by the professional finger-pointers for doing what all teenagers do"
Fallen leaves lay in repose, and a rainbow of autumnal shades - russets and coppers and flaming burgundies dressed a half-lit, effortlessly elegant College Green.
The chill, if not yet Siberian, carried sufficient bite to persuade many of those advancing through the Friday night city to uniform themselves in greatcoats and scarves.
Still, just a week before the clocks wind Ireland back into darkness, there was a gloriously intoxicating midsummer buzz in central Dublin shortly before 10pm.
The boys (and girls) were back in town.
After a long sleep of nearly 20 months, nightclubs and late-night bars were awakening from protracted hibernation.
Ireland's youth, a triumph of vitality, poured onto the streets, hungry to reclaim lost lives.
It is truly lovely how a canvas of joy can lift every witness.
Turn left off Dame Street and twin serpentine queues snaked to the horizon like the kind of pythons Gulliver might have encountered in Brobdingnag, Swift's fictional land of the giants.
One was awaiting admission to The Globe, the other to The George, the iconic LGBTQ club across the road.
T-shirts, belly-tops, fashionably slashed jeans, and barely-there skirts defied the plummeting temperatures.
There was a soundtrack of giddy laughter, of beer cans whooshing open, of an ignition key turning in the engine of being, and stalled lives thrumming back to a state of animation.
Surveying the pulsating scene, I wondered what the collective noun might be for such a buoyant gathering.
A thrill of teenagers? An excitement of twentysomethings? An anticipation of revellers? A hope of hormones?
Younger people have endured a torrid 18 months.
College lecture halls and bars and dressing rooms have been shuttered, denying them an essential life-shaping, relationship-evolving chapter of the human experience.
They have been incarcerated by Covid's pause button.
The usual get-out-of-jail card of foreign travel - J1 visas, exotic beaches, the opening of new cultural pathways - was cruelly shredded by Covid's global assault on normality. Brutal one-eyed verdicts were issued by the supreme court of Irish opinion makers.
Distilled to its essence, they hammered home a message devoid of a scintilla of nuance or a granule of empathy: do pretty much anything and you'll kill your granny.
Generation Z was shamefully stigmatised by professional finger-pointers who tut-tutted at coming-of-age kids doing precisely what every coming-of-age kid since the dawn of time has done: obeying the urgent instruction from their pituitary gland to get out and live.
To meet and mate as Mother Nature intended, assuring the safe continuation of the human cycle.
Absurd inconsistencies and jumbled guidance notes were issued to the hospitality sector last week.
Limiting restaurants to tables of ten, denying drinkers the opportunity to sit at a bar, while 50,000 can gather at the Aviva or 1,500 in a nightclub, felt like the kind of bureaucratic flourishes patented by an old Soviet sub-committee overseeing The Well Being of The Citizenry.
But, honestly, even for those of us who long ago cashed in our nightclub chips, the sense of euphoric release was palpable on a stroll beneath the Friday night streetlights.
Heading south from George's Street, we encountered trails of humanity inching toward Flannery's and The Camden.
There was only one thing for it: divert around to Harcourt Street to sneak a peek at the Croke Park of Irish nightlife.
Coppers - so long the bellwether of the nation's thirst for late night mischief - didn't disappoint.
Cathal Jackson's timeless coliseum of grind and merrymaking, the home of the shift, could hardly have attracted a greater crowd if it was staging an impromptu All-Ireland final between Dublin and Mayo.
The queue evoked one of those endless, 50-carriage trains that thunder through the night across the American heartlands.
Or the late 20th century lines of humanity that used to form outside Switzers or Clerys - or, in anticipation of a complimentary week in Lanzarote, Budget Travel - ahead of the January Sales.
An infinite convoy of pilgrims, maybe five times the length of the Luas trams gliding down the same broad Dublin 2 boulevard, had gathered and was worming slowly toward the door, eager to worship again at its favourite altar.
Ireland's youth were walking the Harcourt Street Camino to inner peace.
Copper Face Jacks - cathedral of the night, pre-internet Tinder, Dublin's most accomplished matchmaker - was back.
And Anna Livia gurgled happily nearby, her beloved city taking another step to reclaiming its old terrain.
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