Saturday, September 25, 2010
Dublin is so easy. From the Charles Stuart Guesthouse, a basic tourist B&B just a few steps from O’Connell Street with The Dublin Spire in the middle, it's just a ten-minute walk to Trinity College and St. Steven's Green. As you're crossing the river Liffey, you'll hear Irish music coming from dozens of bars. Go in. Drink a cider for me. Ah, drink two. You'll never make it to Trinity College, but what the hay.
There's the sweetest man at the reception of the Charles Stuart Guesthouse. His job is to give you tips and make you smile, and he does his job well. He told us that to hear live Irish music away from the throngs of tourists we needed to go to The Cobblestone. We did. Who likes traditional Irish music? Can we get a show of hands? Put down your fiddles and your pipes. Anyone? No one? That’s sad, because traditional Irish music—even if it is awfully monotonous and, well, painful to the untrained ear—it is also blindingly intricate. It moves me when I give into it. Here’s a taste:
For the first few songs, you tap your foot and wiggle your head. By the fourth song, you begin to wonder if the group of local musicians (who are all seated at the front of the pub in a special area, much like the one in the video above) aren’t playing the first song again or maybe the second one. It all sounded the same. But. But. But. The fifth song changed the way I felt about traditional Irish music altogether. The song still sounded like all the others, but there was an uncanny togetherness among the nine musicians. Not one note fell out of place. When they finished, the pub exploded with applause and I had a tear in my eye. So we left.
“Best to end on a good note,” I said.
“I don’t think I could have taken much more,” said my father.
The next morning we were off to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. I love learning, but I hate museums. Imagine you’re reading a book, but the whole time there’s a group of Italian tourists behind you whispering veloce! veloce! That’s what I don’t like about museums.
I found the exhibit interesting because it described the art of manufacturing a book, from the production of ink and dyes to the binding of the book itself. If I can’t get a publisher all squishy about my novel, I’ll know how to make it myself. I just need to start digging for some red lead acetate in the garden.
More about Dublin next week, but for now . . .
I must be off,
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
In May when I started planning my trip to Scotland and Ireland with my father, I played around on Expedia.com for days, searching for the most economical meeting place and starting point for our trip. This place turned out to be Edinburgh, which was excellent because I have a couple of writerly friends there, M.J. Nicholls and Laura Guthrie, whom I’d never met face-to-face.
My first night in Edinburgh couldn’t have been better. We laughed, talked about writing, our writing, the contest, and the death of a close friend. It was rarely awkward. I was able to give Mark his half of the prize money. At one point Laura took out her notebook and wrote a fairly long poem from memory—a beautifully surreal love poem. It’s going to be anthologized this year. And then Mark gave me a Lucy Ellmann book that I was having trouble getting. I gave him a postcard. Yeah, a postcard. The picture I took of the Bridge of Sighs was crap, so I bought a postcard.
Christmas ‘Neath the Bridge of Sighs is forthcoming in Strange Circle Magazine.
I must be off,
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I wonder how many non-Irish tourists die on the road in Ireland each year. Someone Google that please. We happened upon a few signs-you know, those signs that tell you how many people have died in the last month/last year on a particular road in the hope that you have an aversion to becoming a statistic?—but I was driving too fast to read them.
The problem is, you're an American tourist (and a devoted Shakira fan) who's used to driving on the right side of the road in a driver's seat that's on the left side of the car. You're also conditioned to shift gears with your right hand because the gears are on the right.
And you bought your driver's license at Wal-Mart. Or at least that's what Egbert the Otter hide tanner tells me all the time. He's so funny. When I got my license at the tender age of 15-my God was I adorable at 15-I had to drive around the block once and park the car. The practical part of the test took about 10 seconds. The theoretical part included questions like "Which color means STOP? Red. White. Blue." I missed three questions.
So you'll love this. In Dublin, before they would hand me the keys to our rental car, I had to pass a test, which I'm going to try to reproduce here from memory. I haven't had alcohol in two days, so our chances are good.
1. Which side of the road do we drive on in Ireland?
2. Where do most accidents happen?
a. on motorways b. on dual carriage roads c. on narrow country roads
3. If I have an accident in the car, I automatically get a replacement car. True or False?
4. Which part of the car is damaged most frequently during an accident in Ireland?
a. front left corner b. driver's side c. back bumper
5. Put the following in order of importance, one being the most important
a. always concentrate b. stay on your side of the road c. slow down
6. Are all people in the car required to wear a seatbelt in Ireland? Duh. This is the only one (besides number 1 up there) that I knew for sure.
7. If Shakira comes on the radio, you
a. pull over and dance b. dance in your seat c. trick question because there is absolutely no radio reception in Ireland
I was sweating through this test. I don't like to perform badly on tests. I like to get an A; in fact, I'm a bit obsessed with getting an A. So I cheated. I asked the woman at the counter (we’ll call her bitch for so many reasons) for help, which she was glad to give. It turns out that the rental car company was just trying to get me to sign the agreement after having checked FALSE for number three up there. So it was all good.
“Would you like the windscreen insurance?” bitch asked. “We do get quite a few broken windscreens . . . from flying rocks and such.”
“How much is it?”
“Only five euros a day.”
“Oh, all right.”
I wonder what the employee training is like at Europcar. They must devote at least a week to “How to increase the customer’s bill to four times what he originally wanted to pay.” Extra driver, GPS, blow-up Shakira doll and the Upgrade . . .
“You have such a small car. We can upgrade you to the next . . . class,” bitch said and you know bitch knew the buttons the word “class” pushes in Ireland. I’m sure some people can’t resist the temptation of class mobility.
“Nah. I like small cars.”
“It’s only 15 euros more a day. Do you have luggage?”
“Yeah, but my father can hold it all on his lap. We’re fine.”
“Well. So when you return the car, please return it empty.”
I laughed. “I’m no rocket scientist, bitch, but that seems to be quite impossible.”
“It is our policy.”
Hmmmm. Let’s take a moment to dissect the architectonics of this policy. Europcar in Ireland charged me 72 euros for “Fuel and Service.” The teensie-weensie tank in the itty-bitty car only held 50 euros’ worth of petrol, which means Europcar charged me 22 euros for “Service.” What does this mean? And why should I be paying for it? I'd already paid 170 euros. What was that for? When we got the car, although it had been sprayed off, there were a thousand bug fossils stuck to the front of the car. In case you haven’t guessed, this is my “Rag on Europcar Ireland” paragraph. You see, there was no “Fuel and Service” charge in Scotland. In my next post, I’ll tell the story of how I tried to return the car empty. Have you ever TRIED to run out of gas? It’s hard.
Finally, a few words about the absence of pictures in this post. It looks so somber without pictures, doesn’t it? I’m camping out at my parents’ house right now (I surprised my father by getting on the plane to Nashville with him), so I can’t upload the pictures from the trip. I thought about uploading pictures of Shakira.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing bits of blarney about my trip to Ireland and Scotland. It was a blast, and apparently I survived it.
I must be off,