We Stood on Both Sides of the New York–Dublin Portal and It Was Glorious

Hundreds of people and two WIRED reporters gathered at the Portal, which is open again after being closed due to “inappropriate behavior.”…

Amanda: I got to the Portal in Manhattan’s Flatiron District a little before 11 am New York time, and found that there’s now a fence keeping people several feet away from it (but the same isn’t happening in Dublin). This is part of the new security the organizers have implemented: If someone steps on the Portal or blocks the camera, the livestream will blur for both sides, organizers say. For the next hour, a steady stream of people stopped by the Portal, with usually about 30 there at any time. They waved, they smiled, they danced YMCA and the Macarena on both sides. People brought dogs, and a group of preschoolers in a line walked by and waved.

David: Dublin’s Portal, located facing Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street and the historic General Post Office building, has one permanent observer—James Joyce. A statue of Ireland’s most celebrated writer and author of the archetypal Dublin novel, Ulysses, stands just meters from the video screen. But rather than reciting Joyce, it was a 20th-century American rapper that particularly inspired one Portal visitor. A woman dressed head-to-toe in white danced silently before the screen for a few minutes, before turning around and singing: “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” Joyce and Eminem may not seem like natural bedfellows, but in Dublin and in front of the Portal, it seemed oddly fitting to lose oneself in the moment.

Amanda: While we couldn’t hear the Eminem lyrics on the New York side of the Portal, the crowd enjoyed watching the woman’s energy and dance moves. Even without sound, people were able to convey emotion, and all eyes were on the silent performance broadcast from Dublin.

David: The police in Ireland did finally move on the Eminem tribute act, but one of the “Dublin Portal Ambassadors” —who told me clearly that they were not security—felt that the woman was doing no harm. Though the ambassador, who refused to give his name, added that the night before, things did get a bit more rowdy after 6 pm, with some groups on pub crawls around the city briefly disrupting other people’s interactions before things quickly returned to normal. As part of the measures introduced for the Portal’s reopening, opening hours have been limited to 6 am until 4 pm ET (11 am to 9 pm Dublin time).

The Portals stand 3.4 meters tall and weigh “multiple tons,” the organizers say, but they won’t give details about the camera and screen technology being used, adding: “It’s like the paint used to paint a painting—we want the audience to focus on the result.”

Amanda: Those working on the New York side handed out signs that read “I ‘heart’ Dublin” and “I ‘shamrock’ Dublin” for people to hold up, artificially ramping up the perceived goodwill between the two cities. One of the people working told me he hasn’t seen issues since it reopened—it’s been nothing but love and good vibes.

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