Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

Live nude girls! August 22, 2008

A little reality check on Cape Clear Island, Ireland

A little reality check on Cape Clear Island, Ireland

That title is both accurate (if you keep reading), and may just earn this lowly little blog a day of big hits! By sleazebags. But sleazebags who read!

Watching a little BBC Four and writing yet another blog post. Note the slight sunburn! In Ireland! That's one step from seeing a leprechaun!!

Watching a little BBC Four and writing yet another blog post. Note the slight sunburn! In Ireland! That's practically like seeing a leprechaun, right???

Anyway, in order to be properly hungry for my full Irish breakfast, I woke up early and went for a long (5 ½ mile?) run today. Schull really is a gorgeous place, and you can run on the rural roads with a full view of the ocean the whole time. Anyway, I got back and took a shower and started drying my hair…and that’s when my time in Glasgow came back to haunt me.

One of the few indulgences I brought on this trip is a travel hairdryer. I had a delusional fantasy of drying my hair straight and having it stay that way. Not so much. Within five minutes of a nice blow dry, my naturally curly hair senses it’s in its mother country and starts to go crazy. Anyway, I’ve used it before without calamity, but within about 18.3 seconds of flipping it on, the fire alarms start going off, I realize it is putting out kind of an odor, and I go into a total panic.

I then notice the smoke detector on the ceiling of my room and flash back to the listing of innocent activities that can trigger a five-alarm event at the University of Glasgow (hair dryers being one of them). I’m certain that I’ve caused this with my super powered ionic ceramic whatevermajig American blow dryer. Worse, I have caused a ruckus, and I am totally nude. So I’m trying to determine the correct course of action, quickly:

  1. Do I get on the bed naked and attempt to reach the alarm and hit the correct button that shuts off the alarm?

  2. Do I ignore the incessant blaring in order to get clothes on in case someone bursts in in order to silence the alarm?

I went with option one, and as I was straining to reach the alarm on the super high ceiling, I realize that the window of my room opens to the back deck. And people are eating breakfast there. I also realize that I don’t know which button to push. It’s like diffusing a bomb: One false move and the alarms might never go off.

So I’m there straining toward the thing, but still a good three inches from actually touching it, and it goes silent. I managed to crawl back down without (as far as I could tell) anyone noticing my peep show. Moreover, as I went around and apologized to all the breakfasters for causing the alarm, the proprietor comes in and informs me that it was caused by a smoke detector on the second floor! I had nothing to do with it! Her husband flipped the breaker to silence it. (Thank god I didn’t manage to reach and press one of the buttons!)

So starts another day…

After that, I pounded down a full Irish breakfast (nearly identical to the full Scottish breakfast. But with tomatoes. And the black pudding was better here), and then went and caught the ferry to Cape Clear Island. Super quick history lesson: Former post of the notorious O’Driscoll clan (unpopular Irish pirates in the 17th century), three miles long, 110 residents, has an abalone farm that provides Japanese restaurants in London and Paris, and the official language is Gaelic. It takes about 45 minutes to reach by ferry and two and a half hours to become completely and totally boring. Trust me, I tried. I walked the thing end to end. And it is one steep mother.

I did take some gorgeous pictures, but after a while, you become accustomed to the heather fields the bucolic cattle, and the sweeping panoramas. Then you go down by the dock and hang out and wait with everyone else for the 45 minute ride back. At that point, you realize that it’s not warm, but it is pretty sunny..and you’re only wearing SPF 15. Thus, I managed to obtain the rare Irish sunburn. I have come full circle!

I am only in Ireland another 36 hours…which in a way is a good thing. i have got to get away from the land of all you can drink black tea, milk, and sugar. i am a maniac with the stuff. I’m putting it down like I’m trying to win a contest. As someone who pretty much never drinks caffeine, this cannot be good for me. my cheeks are flushed, my mind is racing, and i can’t stop pouring. If it’s not enough that the kind owner of the B&B has brought me a giant pot at both breakfast and again in the early evening, I have a kettle and no less than six or seven additional tea bags in my room. I may not sleep until next Tuesday.

On the other hand, if there were a tea drinking contest, where do I sign up? I could use the prize money (there’s prize money, right? Not just more tea?) I would be a worthy contestant, and probably the dark horse. Odds might be against the Yank, but I’m pretty sure I’d stun them all.

I remember the last time i made this trip, I met some guys in London and followed them home to Liverpool. Like a stray dog. Anyway, while there, I overheard my host’s mother on the phone, telling one of her friends that they’d ‘found a little American girl, and you would not believe how much tea she drinks!” I am a one-woman Boston tea party.

Remember that ridiculous song that Austin Powers sings in the second movie? The lyrics were like, “Missus, bring me tea. Make love to me.” and then at the end he lists off “BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three…” That’s pretty much my Friday night here in Schull. Only without the making love, and with FIVE whole BBCs and an additional channel in Gaelic to choose from. It could be a lot worse (and it probably will be some night in the near future!)…

 

Bill Murray as Irish colloquialism August 21, 2008

That’s right. I’ve busted out an SAT word on your there. I strive to educate as well as to entertain. If you’re wondering, it basically means ‘slang.’ Anyway, the Irish show jumping horse was disqualified from the Olympics today as he tested positive for capsaicin (sp? derivative of cayenne pepper). The “teaser” line on the Irish CNN channel was, “Groundhogs day for Ireland at the Olympics!” as apparently the same thing happened in Athens four years ago.

Hilarious. I’ve never heard anyone reference that movie (Groundhogs Day) with respect to the same thing happening twice, but it’s genius.

Meanwhile they were really beating up on the hapless coach (I assume coach, they kept calling him ‘Chef de Keep’ and then ‘boss.’). The poor guy needs a PR rep tout de suite. He got positively hostile with the news reporter. He just needed a little guidance about how to gracefully answer the awkward, but predictable, questions about, “Are you surprised?” or “How do you think the people of Ireland will feel?”

In response to these, he said, “I’m not going to answer your questions! I came here to make a statement, and I made it: The horse will not be running tonight. That should be enough. I’m in Hong Kong. Beijing is four hours away.” His phone started ringing (a little Irish ditty) and he barked at the reporter, “My phone is ringing for the thousandth time today. I’ve gots to answer me phone!”

You couldn’t help but feel for the poor dude. Where are the Irish PR firms when you need one!? This flustered guy just needed a little speech writing about “disappointment” and “confusion” and “misunderstanding” and “getting to the bottom of this.” Something to smooth rumpled feathers and ill feelings. Apparently they are flowing. The news anchors were inconsolably angry that ‘the integrity of the Irish has been besmirched.” I’m going to start saying besmirched a whole lot more. Or at all.

Tonight I am in top notch digs: a B&B in Schull (but don’t say ‘Shool’ like I’ve been doing for three days. Everyone will stare at you like you’re not speaking the same language as them, which happens way more than you would think. Anyway, it’s pronounced “Skull.” Oh, and by the way, we’re saying Celtic all wrong too. It’s not Seltic. It’s Keltic. Boston Celtics, we need to think about some rebranding…). Anyway, the place is like heaven and Christmas rolled into one. And it’s so CLEAN. I want to roll around on the floors it’s so clean. And I haven’t even partaken in either of the ‘B’s yet. I have so much to look forward to…

Meanwhile, there is a TV show on wherein a (British it sounds like?) guy is tracking his genealogy. They hook him up with experts in the varying German towns his ancestors called home, and at the moment he’s stuck as his great-great-great-grandmother was (apparently) a bastard who lied about her name. He’s in the town where she came from following some flimsy clues.

I like it! if someone decides to make this show in the US, I’ll volunteer. On my dad’s side, we’re Romanovs for all we know. A Greek cab driver on the Vegas strip did once declare that I had a look of aristocracy. Obviously it’s true. Or maybe he was just hoping for a big tip?

Anyway, My great-grandmother (Stephanie – no clue if that was her given name. Kind of doubt it.) was apparently ‘from money” over in Russia. Her husband, my Lithuanian great-grandfather, can be tracked to Ellis Island, but prior to that, the trail turns cold. I’ll be in Lithuania in about three weeks, but I won’t be conducting much of a genealogy study as I don’t really know where to start and the BBC probably won’t be around to hook me up with an expert.

As for the guy on the show, it turns out his great-great-great grandmother was the illegitimate daughter of a prince, and ultimately he’s eight generations down from Henry II. Maybe that’s why they’re even airing this? If it turned out her dad was an impoverished wheat farmer with three other wives and twenty-seven other children, it may not have been that interesting to the masses. We all like a happy ending.

Speaking of which, I had a moment of peaceful hostel camaraderie last night which reminded me why in some respects I like to stay in them. Seven of us gathered around the TV in the common room to watch the movie The Descent: an Italian guy, an Irish woman, two American brothers, a Spanish father and his teen daughter, and me. The movie was total crap, but it was strangely fun to sit in the dark with people you just met and make wisecracks as we watched it. The other day I watched Old School with a bunch of young French guys and was totally amazed that they got every joke. One point in favor of hostel living: meeting and hanging out with cool people.

On the other hand, come this morning, I woke and noticed that our room (there were only three of us) had a distinct funk. I will decline to identify his nationality on the grounds of prejudice or stereotype, but sufficed to say upon physical inspection it was clear that our male roommate needed a shower and a shampoo REAL BAD. DESPERATELY. So much so that, if I’d had to stay there another night and share the same room, I might have done it for him myself. And I am NOT into shampooing strangers. Only in an emergency super stench situation would the idea even come up…

Which brings me to my final thought for the day: You get enough unclean people (or even one unwashed dude) in a small room, and it’s like a freaky people barn. It ain’t right.

If you haven’t smelled this and for some sick and twisted reason you would like to, buy a ticket to Cork, Ireland, go to the Aaron House hostel, and ask to be put in the three-bed room with the (nationality omitted) guy who’s living there. That, or stick your head in a gym bag with clothes and shoes that have been left to ferment for a few weeks. That’s what I’m talking about. One big strike AGAINST hostel living…

 

Old churches, new clothes August 20, 2008

I’m having a semi-surreal moment, sitting in a nice little living room in Cork, listening to some Germans try to puzzle through the instructions for Monopoly and watching Mariah Carey vamp around in a microscopic silver dress and tube socks on TV. Mariah Carey is an interesting study in rebounding. Certainly no stranger to bottoming out, she seems to be back in fine form. I’ve never necessarily been a fan of her style of music, but anyone who can shatter glass with their voice is fine by me. Anyway, she reminds me of a good quote I read recently, attributed to Mary Pickford of silent film fame, “Failure is not the falling down. Failure is the staying down.”

Anyway, realizing my own propensity to pass judgment way too quickly, allow me to note that European life – much like American – sure does seem to revolve around retail. Old churches and retail. If pressed, that is how I would summarize the last few weeks of my life: She traveled at length, encountering numerous old churches and endless opportunities to buy stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, the old me would’ve been thrilled: Buying clothes that I had nowhere to put and no time to wear and driving up the weight of my luggage into the three digit range. However along with some other reality checks, I’ve recognized that as just one further symptom of the malady of not living my life. Not that I can or would speak for anyone else, but in my case, clothes came to personify me more than i actually did. Somehow my identity got strangely wrapped up in my own exterior and what i was projecting. Beyond the paycheck, the only other thing I loved about my old job was the excuse to buy great clothes.

Not to minimize my sincere feelings for my clothes: I do love them – passionately. It’s just that when you get to the point that you could personally clothe a small nation, you maybe need to stop and reevaluate?

Anyway, without all my cute stuff, I feel a bit like a slob, and not quite like “me.” I did pick up a blazer on clearance at H&M (for warmth as much as anything, but the fact that its tailored and looks polished didn’t hurt). Walking around the last few weeks, I’m struck by how people treat you when you’re in jeans and a t-shirt and carrying a giant backpack. They treat you, quite frankly, like you’re beneath them.

It’s odd, because just a month ago I was the same person, only in a suit, and that apparently made all the difference. I remember noting the same difference at the grocery store – the difference whether i went in dressed for work or on a Saturday morning in my running clothes. We are a superficial people. Case in point, the “band” now on TV – the Pussycat Dolls. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit? The lyrics are so bad (“When I grow up, I wanna have boobies.”) maybe they actually wrote them themselves?

Meanwhile, I’m in a super small hostel here in Cork. I’m sharing a room with a guy who is apparently living here (according to the girl that checked me in). I haven’t met him, but judging from his pile of stuff on the floor, he’s a smoker – but a smoker without loyalty. He had packs from at least eight different brands lying around. Maybe he’s doing some taste testing or market research or something? Maybe he has multiple personalities? Hopefully none of them is a serial killer…

Anyway, and more importantly, there is no Internet of any kind at this place. although I believe there’s a cafe in Cork where I can upload this. Moreover, tomorrow I’m off to Schull (at the very southern tip of Ireland), a town with a population of 700. That stated, if I fall out of contact for a couple days, rest assured that I’m writing the blog, I just can’t get online to post it. In that case, Saturday will be a bonanza of more exciting news and babbling. Yippy skippy.

p.s.

If you happen to talk to him, wish Tim a happy birthday!