Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dublin Buses Are Enormous

I told people I would keep a blog while I'm here. So I'm going to try it. So here we go.

June 14
Walked around the city centre today. There are so many beautiful buildings and streets, but somebody thought it would be a good idea to erect a giant, steel stiletto right off the O’Connell bridge in honor of the millennium. So there are old brick houses that have been there for over one hundred years on stone streets where James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Beckett, O’Casey, etc., etc., lived and worked and walked and wrote about, and then, looking completely out of place, someone managed to insert an enormous monument to the phallus that actually looks dumber than the Washington Monument. It makes me sad. The tower that was there before was very cool. Danielle showed me a picture of it on her laptop – it was a big, stone column called Nelson’s Pillar that the IRA bombed in the 60s because... they like to blow shit up? The Pillar was supposed to be controversial in its own day, too, though, which makes me wonder if one hundred years from now, people will think of it as an irreplaceable part of the city’s landscape. I think it’s official name is the Spire of Dublin, but Martin said it’s also known as the Stiffy on the Liffey, which I prefer.

June 16
Today is Bloomsday, though you can’t tell down here near the Institute for International Education of Students (IES) building on the Liffey at 8:45 in the morning. News from Iowa says that the sandbag levees have broken. Hopefully they were successful in cleaning out the art museum. Materials in the library should be fine. Also, the river has apparently crested at Cedar Rapids. I’ve heard people here talking about it now and again. I’ve tried to gain sympathy/free Guinness by letting the locals know that my university is underwater and my neighborhood has been evacuated, but so far no dice.
Sitting in front of Portobello College, now. Had our very first official class, and later we’re meeting with our drama teacher. We don’t start actually workshopping until sometime next week. It appears that this program is going to be just as intensive as everyone says. I hope I still have plenty of time to let myself become absorbed into the population. I’ve been in contact with Patch about some cool places to hang out.
The walking tour on Saturday was nice, too. Our tour guide was also a writer, and we bonded over a mutual love of Guinness and Jameson. He also explained some of the other rules of cricket that I’ve never understood, but I forgot to ask him about pelota. I hear it’s only played in rural Ireland anymore. I’m not even sure I’m spelling it right. At lunch after the walking tour, Martin told me that he wants to keep a journal entry cataloging the weird things that I say, though I’m not exactly sure which weird things he was talking about – good weird things? He also wants us to write our own journals about our experiences here. Could be good to send to Grandma – with a few edits, of course, but I’m sure she’d love to hear how I am enjoying her own grandmother’s homeland. I should also drop off her post card at the post office today, along with the ones for my nieces and for Jayne.

June 17
At International on Wicklow Street. Martin Roper’s sister’s fella bartends or manages this place, or something like that. Everyone is staring at the soccer match on TV. I asked for a Guinness and the bartender asked me twice if I needed two. I guess single girls don’t come here often. Waiting on the rest of the group. I think they’re lost.
There’s an awful lot of woodwork in this bar. Low stools around the tables, copper pots with handles hanging over the alcove where the cash register is. I wonder what used to be there. There are barrels in the wall behind the bar that maybe used to dispense whiskey? Or beer. Or both. Mirrors and a clock in the center that doesn’t work.
Shoibhan was right about the Irish men; they stay clear of me unless they’re drunk. This guy says, “I hate you people.”
“Writers?” I asked, as I was writing in my journal at the time.
“Americans,” he said, like I’m the idiot.
Then he went on some tirade about me being rich and spoiled and lazy. I told him I thought he was confusing television with reality, but I should have just stayed quiet, which I figured out immediately after he started in again, this time pretty much repeating what he’d said before, but faster and angrier. I couldn’t really understand him because of his slur and accent combined, but I did catch a few unoriginal insults before the bar tender kicked him out, then apologized to me as if it was his own fault. Much nicer than at home, where the bar tender would have watched with a blank stare while I was accosted. Who would guess I’d meet an Irishman who couldn’t hold his liquor to the point that he’s drunk at 9:30 in the evening?
Every time I glance up at the television, there’s something strange on, like a pop-eyed puppet with a huge shock of red hair. Or people in nice suits who look like newscasters sitting next to people in brightly colored woolen hats and sweaters and both of them are making silly faces at each other.

June 18
The Winding Stair is the name of the bookstore that Shoibhan’s friend owns – over the Ha’Penny Bridge. Must get the following: Dislocation: Stories from a New Ireland, Seamus Dean’s Reading in the Dark.
John Swift was kind of a dick, I guess. Promoting the superiority of the English/Anglo-Irish? I still notice this, actually – people not recognizing individuality and assuming that the location of one’s birth automatically means that one embraces the values and culture of that place. Or perhaps it’s thought of in a racial context, but that’s just as ridiculous.
I learned that if I mimic the Irish intonation when asking for a drink, or anything else, in a loud, crowded place, I don’t have to repeat myself two or three times to make myself understood. I asked one of the fellas I met last night what our accent sounds like, which is one of my favorite questions. I never actually got his answer, because he wasn’t quite sure what I was asking him. I’ve decided that the Dublin accent makes me think of fairie tales; it’s very comforting. People from Southwestern Ireland sound like pirates – yaarrr!
Apparently, they don’t know where the disease came from that caused the potato famine. 1840s – 1860s; population of 8 mil. on the island, dropped to 4 mil. by the end of the famine; millions either emigrated or starved to death.
I feel endless joy when I walk around this city and remember that it was founded by the Vikings.
June 19
The Winding Stair is a nice little bookstore – across the Ha’Penny Bridge on the North side, turn left, and it’s across the street from the Liffey – though I couldn’t find everything I needed there. I found Flann O’Brien and Seamus Deane, but no Margaret Atwood or Dislocation. Reagan, the man who owns the place, chided me for carrying too many bags, but it’s difficult when I have to make several stops and travel for miles. I’ll have to stop at Hodges and Figgis again, then I have to get more eggs and breakfast sausages. I can’t wait to read Flann O’Brien. He sounds like the type of author that I appreciate most; morbid humorist, satirist, and if he has a love for killing off his characters, I might just cream my jeans.
I brought my camera with me on this walk, but so far I haven’t felt compelled to pull it out. Not sure why. I think it’s because I’m still uncomfortable with being seen as an obvious tourist and foreigner. I recently read an article called, “Top 5 Reasons We Hate Tourists” and it seemed pretty accurate. For an international hub, there are a lot of people who are intolerant of those who hail from other countries. Maybe it’s because no one used to come here until their economy started to boom. I would also find that irritating, I guess. People are more like vultures than they like to believe. The wealthy probably come here for their vacations, buy crap from the street vendors, hassle the locals, then move on to the next fashionable spot – is it Milan? Zurich? I’m not sure, though I do know that if I were ever to go on a European vacation, it would be to Spain. It’s the California of Europe, to paraphrase J.G. Ballard.
Cathach Books is a rare book shop off Dawson St., on the North side of Duke St. I went in there and handled some books signed by Samuel Beckett and Joyce and Heeney. I think the boy behind the counter knew what I was doing and that I couldn’t actually afford to buy any of the books, but he didn’t say anything.
Neither Hodges and Figgis or Waterstone had the books I needed, so I had to order them.
It’s starting to get chilly and rain. Now I’m sitting at a coffee shop called West Coast Coffee and is across the street from the rare bookstore. It’s nice because it’s much less crowded, and there is no one staring me down and babbling in French.
The police here are so much better than the sadists in the US. They are actually helpful, and they don’t automatically treat you like a criminal the second they lay eyes on you. They call them the garda here, and though I’ve always had a thing for men who have to wear special clothes to go to work, today was the first time I ever saw a policeman who I found attractive. Not in the type of way that I’d be willing to follow him around and break a few laws just to get him to talk to me, but it is refreshing to know that just because a man has a badge and carries a weapon doesn’t mean he’s automatically a prick. They can actually be intelligent and charming. Who knew?

June 21
Woke up this morning planning to go to the Temple Bar food and book market, but when I looked out the window and saw all of the blowing rain, I decided I’d rather wait until tomorrow. So I rolled over and went back to bed.
Ilse’s birthday is today. Suzanne and her other roommates are planning a surprise taco party, but I don’t know what time it is.

On the Luas. Pierce and John are apparently keeping Ilse occupied while the taco party is being prepared, and they’re having trouble. So I’m going over to Doyle’s to order a Guinness and drink it very, very slowly. Doyle’s is right next to Trinity College. Pretty small and low-key. I haven’t been there, yet, but the others have. I imagine that on a Saturday in the early evening it should be pretty quiet. Quarter Finals are today.

Taco party was a success. They even made their own guacamole. It was delicious. I brought Ilse some cider and had some myself – it was orange and fizzy like Squirt. Now everyone is out at the pubs, but I decided to call it a night to get some writing done. Still haven’t finished my assignment, and I can’t get much good work done with a hangover. Not that it’s good work, anyway.
At Doyle’s, a man came up to our table and asked us if the Guinness there was any good. I told him we were from the United States and didn’t know the difference between good Guinness and bad Guinness. Apparently, the Guinness at Doyle’s is bad. He told us to go around the corner to a place called Mulligan’s. I will have to try it. It’s nice when people are helpful and don’t treat us like shit because our great leader can barely put a sentence together.
Missed the Quarter Finals. Rugby was on at Doyle’s and we were trying to describe the scrum to Ilse, but none of us is actually familiar enough with rugby to properly explain it to anyone else. It looks goddamn painful. There’s nothing more arousing than watching grown men beat the piss out of each other.
Roommate is watching “Sex and the City.” It’s agonizingly boring no matter what time zone one is in.

June 22
Didn’t go to Temple Bar again. High winds and rain. One or the other would be fine, but both means that my umbrella probably wouldn’t last long. I did need food, though, so I had to wait until around one in the afternoon to make the trek to Tesco. I was out of milk and cheese. Also got pasta, chicken, laundry det., etc. Got up to the counter, and the machine wouldn’t read either of my cards. So the man who was checking me out told me to go to the ATM. Waited in line for about ten minutes, waited for the machine to process my card, finally got back to the line and there was another man there, who asked me, “Are these things yours?” in a very accusatory voice. I would have thought that the other guy would have explained it to him. So I told him the story, and he checked me out without looking at me or saying anything else. It was odd. I couldn’t figure out if I had done something wrong or if the new guy was just a douchebag.
Braved the winds to get home, then had some bread and cheese while I settled in to do homework. Only four pages done on the assignment. At least two more to go.
Rommate Chrissy just got back from Cork. I asked her if the horny old man held her up-side-down to kiss the Blarney stone, and that was an affirmative. Too bad she missed the massive nude photo shoot at Blarney Castle. I may not be very comfortable with my body, but I’d tear my clothes off in a second to be part of an enormous naked photo shoot at Blarney Castle. Woohoo! Spring Break!
I should make plans to go to Howth. Patch said it was his favorite trip. Roommate Danielle went there this weekend. The highlight was the National Transport Museum, which is essentially a barn full of old vehicles. She said she was the only one there.
Tonight, orange-pepper chicken for dinner and baked potato. Must also send email to Grandma. Kris emailed me and said that Madeleine and Olivia got their postcards. I sent Olivia one with a happy-looking pony and Madeleine one with a picture of a pint of Guinness and a plate of what appear to be oysters that read, “Traditional Irish Breakfast.” Haven’t a clue where that came from, but whatever. The next one I’m sending has a photo of a set of statues commemorating the potato famine. They’re all of people who look exactly like skeletons and who appear to be carrying what belongings they can as if they’re going to a boat to flee the country. The statues are so lifelike that it’s easy to pretend they’re actual people – that there were people who looked exactly like that in Dublin in the 1850s. Would be a good lesson for a couple of kids who always seem to be complaining about the food on their plates.
The washing machine hates me.

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