Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

My goodness, my Guinness August 19, 2008

I imagine tourists have always been a hazard: Looking up when they should be looking for traffic, stopping suddenly when they spot a souvenir shop, clustering together in large, slow-moving groups. All of this was enough. But give a tourist a phone and the ability to text message their friends back home while walking slowly and ambling into traffic…and they’re practically a deadly weapon. Who knows? Maybe I’d be just as obnoxious if I still had my Blackberry. But I don’t. And I can’t figure out how to work my “fun phone”, so I guess that makes me neither part of the problem, nor part of the solution!

There is a peculiar thing in our society of wanting to go somewhere different, but not really want anything to change: not the food, not the language, not even our habits. I was at a hostel here in Ireland a few days ago where a guy from New Zealand spent all day, every day in the common room working on his laptop. When I stopped in and started looking around for an electrical outlet, he pointed out every single one in the room. Kind of makes you wonder why he bothered to leave New Zealand, where it might have been cheaper, easier, and even more scenic to surf the web all day?

As for me, I don’t need things to stay the same, but it turns out I’m not all that interested in shelling out pound after pound (now euro after euro) to see faux entertainment drummed up for the tourists. Case in point, my visit to the Guinness Storehouse. I don’t have any hard facts on this, but I would guess it’s the number one tourist attraction here in Dublin. I can’t imagine what would beat it. Anyway, I’m not sure why I was gung ho to do this. I know how beer is brewed. In fact, super thick dark beer is the easiest kind to make! I would know, I made some as part of a class (earned chemistry credit for it, in fact) in college. Overly sweet wine is pretty easy, too.

Anyway, now I know how Guinness is made (roasted barley and the water does NOT come from the River Liffey, which is good news because that water looks pretty dubious. The guide had to answer this question TWICE, by the way (?) ), and I got my free pint at the Gravity Bar. Although I suppose it was semi-interesting and the view from the bar was nice in a gray, cloudy, rain-soaked kind of way, I couldn’t help but thinking that for the price of admission, I could have had five pints of Guinness and needed someone to carry me home. Maybe next time?

If nothing else, it was kind of amusing to see all the people coming out with giant shopping bags branded “Guinness.” At any given point, it seemed like a third of the town was carrying one of those bags. One is left wondering if Guinness might make more money off merchandise than they do beer here in Dublin? Sadly, I have not room in my backpack to load up on Guinness t-shirts, magnets, bottle openers, signs, posters, plaques, sweatshirts, and glassware. However, and again I don’t have any hard facts, but I bet they’ve got a web site where I can order up memorabilia to my heart’s content once I get home! Now I have a way to get the matching Guinness leather jacket, pants, and baseball hat combo I was eyeballing!

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Another day, another downpour August 18, 2008

All these floods are starting to piss me off.

It’s hassle enough as it is. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that all the arrangements and traveling and lugging o’ the stuff and planning and plain old logistics weren’t utterly exhausting. They say getting there is half the fun. If that’s true, then I’m having -33% fun. Add into that the complications of the Irish weather (and the extreme complications of all the flooding – I’m currently writing from a train bound for Dublin. The journey typically takes 2 hours. Today – due to high flood water on the tracks – it’s taking six), and I’m having -75% fun. The other half had better be pretty darn good to compensate for all this!

Regardless, I’ve settled into the backpacking experience a little better, and am starting to develop a groove. There’s a ‘set’ way I pack my bag now, which makes it easier to get everything in quickly, and to find things in near silence and darkness. The hostel experience is made or ruined by your roommates, so I’m hoping to win a nomination – or at least honorable mention – as hostel roommate of the year. Thus, I always try to create zero disruption those times i share a room with early sleepers– which requires getting to critical items without actually being able to see them.

Meanwhile, I bought a ‘pay as you go’ phone, but no one seems to be able to call it. They don’t actually make phones that place calls and but won’t receive them…do they??? If they do, I’ve bought one. Moreover, whenever I turn the thing on (or it turns itself on, which it’s prone to doing), all sorts of bubbles dance around and spell out the words “Fun Club.” I could be wrong, but it makes me think maybe this is a phone geared toward the pre-school set? In that case, you’d think the opposite would be true: It could receive calls, but it wouldn’t be able to place them. Talking to preschoolers can be entertaining, but you wouldn’t want them calling you all day long, telling knock, knock jokes that they can’t remember the punch line to.

Otherwise, I’m in Dublin. It’s wet. I hear Portugal is having a heat wave, and I CANNOT WAIT…