Friday, July 25, 2008

Final Weeks in Dublin

July 10
First assignment from Mary Morrissy – a poem about pain. Sweet. Pain is a cloudy, swampy place – being flattened between teeth and spat into a glass of ice water, but the glass is the size of a lake, two miles wide and ten miles deep with giant chunks of frozen, salty water with sharp edges so they cut you and then the salt gets into your blood.

Small, pink, sticky fingers
Pulling petals from a daisy
From the stiff, dry center.
How would you like to press your palm
Into this patch of sand?
She’s afraid it will break every bone in her hand;
She’ll pull it back, crushed and dusty.

The exchange of bits of rainforest.

St. Stephen’s Green doesn’t have nearly enough shelters for such a wet climate.
I can’t decide which is more fun to watch – the people or the animals. There is a woman in a smart, black suit, very feminine, and she’s standing with a girl who has dreadlocks and pants made from about fifty different colorful patches. The hippie girl is trying to teach the office worker to juggle.
There’s a girl who appears to have some form of mental retardation that I’ve seen many times before, but I don’t know what it’s called. She startled the crap out of me because she squealed really loud, almost like she was in pain, but then I realized that she was happy. She seemed to like the rain.
The rain is so fine and these trees are so old, very tall with many layers of branches, that I’m hardly getting wet. Most of the time the rain is like this – so light that I don’t even mind not having an umbrella with me. I’m bummed, though. The park was full of people, but no they’re all in a hurry to get away, out of the rain.
Now it’s chilly. Before the rain, it’s always hot – then afterwards, it’s cool so that I’m shivering, even if I’m comopletely dry. I think I might have to get wet, though. This isn’t showing any sign of letting up. I’ll hide under this tree a bit longer.
The flowerbeds are all very uniform. In specific shapes with straight edges, all planted in rows, no mixing of species, each b ed is made up of one kind of flower, and sometimes in the center there will be a tree or a fern. There are flowers in white urns, too. Grecian urns and fountains. One grecian urn; two grecian urns, and a fountain. Trickle, trickle, trickle...

She wandered into a world of pain again.

The sun has gone MIA. Cold now – no longer just chilly. Make a break for it?

July 13
I’ve spent most of this weekend trying to get my sleep cycle out of whack. I finally fell asleep on Saturday, but it was at 7am. I don’t know what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, my brain is suffering. My balance is off and my eyes won’t focus. Luckily, there’s not much here that requires using any brain power – at St. Stephen’s Green again. There’s a horrible band playing “A Bicycle Built for Two.” Maybe a group of seniors who are just learning or a class of kids aged 10-12.
I wonder how many of the people in the park today are tourists. There’s a group of kids with shopping bags that are giggling over some giant, fluffy, green leprechaun hats with beards attached. I still haven’t figured out what Olivia would like for her birthday. What would an eight-year-old like from Ireland? An eight-year-old who loves horses and dinosaurs?
Born in 1880 as John Casey, Sean O’Casey came into the world during a time when Ireland was just beginning its recovery from the Great Famine, and the events of the Famine directly affected O’Casey’s childhood, perhaps most notably in the poor health of his eyes. From a young age, O’Casey suffered from trachoma, a condition of the eyes that flourishes in an impovershed environment and the poor hygiene that invaribly accompanies said poverty. This condition not only caused him great physical pain, but negatively affected his scholarship, and he was often ostracized from his peers, who called him names like “scabby eyes.”
Fortunately for O’Casey, he had a mother, Susan, who defended him against the uncaring world and kept him socially involved by taking him with her to run errands around town. His older sister, Bella, used her school teacher to supplement O’Casey’s education that was lacking due to his illness and discrimination/archaic academic instruction.
Then, another blow came when Bella got married, against Susan and Sean’s wishes, to a soldier called Beaver. Nora and Jack’s characters in Plough and the Stars are remeniscent of this couple – Bella was eight months pregnant when she married, and Beaver still had five years left in the military. The way O’Casey handles Jack’s abandonment of Nora in favor of a position in the Irish Citizen Army gives insight into O’Casey’s attitude toward Beaver.

At Peter’s Pub again. I so don’t want to go grocery shopping or write that damn poem, but I must, I suppose. After several days of reading and thinking about it, I’ve still got only a vague idea of what I want to write about.
Had to leave the park because some lady sat down right next to me with her screaming baby. I understand that babies cry, but at least make some effort to calm the child as long as you’re going to assert yourself into the space where someone is so obviously trying to sit quietly and think.

July 17
Poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”
Getting our essays back in Halpin’s class. I’m nervous. More nervous about my drama essay – I was so out of it when I wrote it that I can barely remember what I wrote about.
Seamus Deane’s novel, Reading in the Dark, linked to national history within the family history. The skeleton in the closet is embedded in the War of Independence.
Must begin writing short story for Mary Morrissy.
Londonderry – British or Protestant
Derry – Catholic
Same place, known by two different names by different groups of people.
Catholic nationalists in Derry were pretty much second-class citizens, living in someone else’s state.
In Mary’s class, we read an article called “Wedding and Beheadings” written by a writer/director about filming the beheadings of prisoners by Al Queda. It made me feel sick.

Men always seem to think women are strange, unfathomable creatures – which, maybe some of them are, but there’s no point in bothering with those, anyway. They don’t seem to understand that we’re actual people – we want the same things they want. The only real difference I can think of, aside from the physiological, is our common reluctance to engage in casual sex – which I guess ties into the physiological. We want to know whose kid we’re carrying.
I wish I could enjoy the one-night stand. Stupid hormones and residual puberty post-adolescent nonsense. That’s why kids need to start having sex in high school – so they can have a little taste of heaven before their lives turn to shit for the next forty years.

I met a dude on the street who works for Sight Savers International and we got to talking. He seemed impressed by my knowledge of Dublin’s problem with trachoma during and after the famine – I didn’t mention that I only recently grained this knowledge by reading a biography about a Dublin playwright. He did tell me, though that most Dubliners are unfamiliar with this disease and the fact that it used to be such a problem.
I’ve noticed that pubs here post signs that people should use mobile phones outside. That’s a good policy. I would support that in the U.S.
July 21
Howth was fantastic. Got a bag full of books and some wildflowers from the hills, where we hiked for a couple of hours. Maybe I’ll have time to take Mom, Dad, and Lynne there.
I like this pub. It smells musty like an old man’s house. And there are a lot of older men here, so I guess that makes sense. I’m trying to listen to what they’re saying, but they’re all talking at once, and it sounds like most of them have rural accents. My ears need time to adjust to the rural Irish accent from the Dublin accent.
It’s a nice big pub. And calm. Maybe it’s hopping in the evening, though. It’s only 7pm now. This place is called Hartigan’s.
July 22
After Hartigan’s, I met Martin, Sarah Kolman, Amanda, and Sam at the National Concert Hall for an excellent performance. I really enjoyed it. I haven’t been to nice, classical concert for a long time. Mostly just local bands in pubs and the student union. Then, we went back to Hartigan’s. I barely remember walking home.

Bob and Cat are a couple having an argument about where to put items of furniture around their apartment. Rather, Bob is offering suggestions that Cat immediately shoots down, and Bob is starting to get tired of it. It’s his apartment, too, damn it. He has to live here, come home to it everyday, and maybe he wants the leather arm chair near the window.
“No,” Cat says when he suggests this.
It is a firm no, and often bickering for a bit, the arm chair winds up across the room in front of the fire place. Bob isn’t really sure how he lost.
Should the couch go against the far wall.
“No,” Cat says, and the couch is placed directly in front of the television, in the middle of the room.
Bob wants the end table to go next to the couch.
“No,” Cat says, and the end table ends up next to the arm chair.
Bob puts the papasan next tot he couch.
“No!” Cat says.
The papasan goes out on the curb.
Bob suggests putting the floor lamp next to the arm chair so he can read.
“No!” They say together, and Cat grows angry because Bob is mocking her.
She leaves the livingroom and angrilly flops angrilly on the bed in their room. She curls up facing the wall away from the door. After a while, Bob comes to stand in the doorway. He watches her lay motionless for a bit. Then he goes to sit near her on the bed. Her back is to him. He wants to touch her. He starts rubbing her shoulder, and his hand makes its way down her back. There is lust in the way he is rubbing her back.
“No,” she growls.
Bob sighs and retreats to the bathroom to shower and jack off.

July 23
In Ireland, it’s common to refer to a mentally retarded person as being “touched” – touched by God; God has removed his capacity for evil by keeping him in a lifelong state of infancy.
To have an informer on the IRA in the family was worse than having a murderer in the family. When the IRA killed informer, they buried them in unmarked graves. They were called the “Disappeared.”
The Informer
“North” by Sheamus Heeney
Common phrase in the North, “Whatever you say, say nothing.”
Self-Editing For Writers
How We Die Sherwin Nuland
Half-Life by Shelly Jackson
Jackson is the same woman who wrote the story called “Skin,” which exists tattooed, one word per person, on the skin of so many volunteers.

July 25
Last full day in Dublin. I’m waiting for a cabbie to come pick me up so I can take a package to the post office. I went crazy on books here, and I have to ship a bunch of them back home. Also, all of the documents I’ve accrued. The box is too heavy for me to carry to the post office. It’s almost 12 in. by 16 in. by 24 in.
It seems a shame to leave just when I’m starting to figure so many things out. Like the fact that Dubliners are so polite, they’ll give you directions if you ask for them, even if they’ve never heard of your destination. And multiply all units of time by at least two. If someone says it take ten minutes to walk somewhere, it will take at least twenty. The dispatcher said that the cab would be here in fifteen minutes, and it’s been 25, so I have five more minutes left to wait.
Went to La Cave last night for dinner. The meal was wonderful, but the room was very small and hot, and it got kind of emotional, since a lot of us weren’t sure we would see each other again. I’ll probably never see Dr. Halpin or Soibhan again. Mary Morissy is going to be teaching at George Washington University in the fall.
Anyway, I got pretty upset and had a small panic attack. I didn’t want to leave the room, and the idea of walking down the street was terrifying. It’s usually the opposite – I get claustrophobic and have to escape, but when the meal was over, I just wanted to hide under the table.
Might be going out tonight. Some people seemed interested in it, but there are also a lot of people with early flights tomorrow. I have to meet Mom and Dad at the airport at about 9am. We might have a chance to meet up with Martin for a cup of tea, which I know they were looking forward to.

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