Friday, January 27, 2006

Tristram Shandy

Should I try to read Tristram Shandy before seeing "A Cock and Bull Story"?

Who am I kidding, it's never going to happen, is it?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Busy Saturday night

This weekend, I had one of those nights that young urbanites with any disposable income at all are supposed to have, if you judged by books and TV shows. My life is usually much calmer and home-bound, which, to be honest, I prefer. If you're coming to Dublin and wish to see what the range of pub/bar/club/alcohol-serving-establishments is, here're the venues.

Early evening (pub): had a couple of drinks with a friend at The Globe on Georges St. A fairly basic pub. Big scarred wooden tables, young-ish crowd, music (but not too loud), okay beer. Not one of my usual drinking holes, but okay for a Saturday night, meaning not absolutely packed. It had started getting crowded when we left.

Later evening (bar): I have no clue what this place is called, but it's a converted church at the intersection of Mary St. and Jervis St. on the north side. As if the sacrilege of turning a church into a bar wasn't insult enough, they turned it into a fake swanky, soulless place, populated by twunts (as someone I know would say). It was all blue lighting along the bar, shiny metally table and counter tops, white leathery club chairs. It was someone's idea of good design, if that someone had only looked at blurry pictures of "cool" places from the tabloids. It was filled with overly-cologned young men in striped shirts and women in pointy-toed shoes with trowel-applied make-up. It was totally silly. Fake fake fake. Soulless soulless soulless.

Midnight on (club, I guess?): Went with Convalescing-GothBoy to Dominion, a goth/metal/whatever place in the basement of Fraser's, on O'Connell St. Filled with chicks with long hair, in black PVC, lace and boots, and guys with, uh, long hair, in black leather, geeky t-shirts and boots. Both sexes wore more make-up than is strictly prudent. Music was...pretty much what you'd expect. I recognized some Nine Inch Nails and the Cure. Convalescing GothBoy knows the Dominion organizers, so I got to sit in the DJ booth with all cool "in" people. Aren't I great? Don't you wish you were me? Anyway, I clearly didn't belong there, but I think I got groupie treatment. Everyone was very nice, and hugged me and offered me alcohol and stuff.

Got to bed at 4; didn't leave the house the next day.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 that a compliment?

In my book group, there had been some recent discussion about whether the men and women in the group rate books differently and like different books.

When I got into the bar yesterday, people were discussing who had chosen this month's book, and one person said that she would guess that a man had chosen the book, but if it turns out a woman had chosen it, then it'd have to have been me.

Is that a compliment? As it turns out, I had chosen it. What does that mean?

Friday, January 06, 2006

How to make yourself feel utterly inadequate: a recipe


Portugal (if too expensive or out of season, substitute any other non-English-speaking country with a young, well-educated workforce)
1 Portuguese friend
a dozen friends of Portuguese friend
awkward attempts to speak Portuguese, to taste


Go to Portugal. Stay with Portuguese friend. Who is studying in Paris. And writing her PhD dissertation in English.

Go to dinner with friends of Porguguese friend. Discover that they are all poly-lingual. Realize that, out of table of 9 people, you are the only mono-lingual person. And that they therefore must speak in English. Which is fine, because, in addition to Portuguese, French, Spanish and German, they are all fluent in English.

Go to drugstore, awkwardly ask if they have vaseline lip balm. ("Tem...vaseline?" while self-consciously gesturing at lips.) Have drugstore counter chick say, "We don't have vaseline, but we do have a selection of other lip balms in this tray here" in flawless English. Buy lip balm and slink out.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

An Irish country Christmas

Well, darnit, aren't they just the sweetest people down there in Offaly! My friend and I took the train out on Christmas Eve. His sister picked us up at the train station, and we squished into her car, along with her 5-month-old and her 5-year-old, who went all shy and quiet as soon as he saw me. This apparently classifies as a Christmas miracle, 'cause I was told that, usually, you can't shut up him up. Went to visit another sister, who was in the hospital (she's fine, just in for a scheduled operation), then along home to meet the parents, who were just the nicest people on earth.

My friend's parents are in their '70s and his father was a dairy farmer. When it became clear none of the sons was going to take over the lifestyle, they sold the farm when he retired and used some of the money to build a new house to retire in. They kept some of the land around the new house, for a large garden and a field that they rent out to their neighbors as grazing land. The new house is large and on one floor, and one whole half of it is taken up by the huge kitchen and open dining room. Though they have a sitting room as well, all the day-to-day living is done in this huge space. There was always a fire in the fireplace, and the mother liked to sit in one of the comfy chairs next to it. Although she's not sitting still very often. They are both quite active, still, and as soon as one of them sits down, the other will get up to make some tea or get more wood from the entryway, or to wrap up some scraps for the neighbor's dog and cats who come calling to the back door (they have already figured out that no one uses the front door). The neighbors, as well as assorted children and grandchildren, also call often at the back door although they aren't given scraps.

His mother had apparently said, "Oh, God!" when informed earlier on the phone that I was a quasi-vegetarian. Her plea of, "Won't she have even a little turkey?" was answered in the negative. So when I arrived, I found that the father had gone out to the greenhouse, picked some lettuce and herbs, washed them, and had put a huge plate of it in the fridge for me. They cooked a fry-up for dinner, making me an extra egg and offering me enough toast for half a dozen people. After dinner, my friend and his father went off to midnight mass (at 9; I don't know either). His mother had been feeling poorly that day, so she stayed in to listen to the mass on the radio and said she would go to the Christmas morning service. They did not expect that I would go with them. They showed me where the DVD player was, and where the various foodstuffs were kept and told me to make myself at home if they were gone to mass when I got up the next morning. I was relieved and disappointed. Relieved because I didn't have to go to a Catholic service I knew nothing about and would have to sit through awkwardly; but disappointed 'cause it would have been an interesting thing to see. I've never been in any kind of a church service before.

The parents were great. They just mostly liked to sit about and talk and they've lived together so long and it totally shows. She does the cooking; she takes her time, moseys about, does a bit here, a bit there. He does the dishes, and sometimes she'll join him at the sink to dry. On Christmas Eve, they made the Christmas dinner dessert, which was a fruit, cake and sherry trifle. They'd done this so many times that it was like a cozy, choreographed dance. He opened the can of fruit, she cut the cake into slices and they both put their respective ingredients into the bowl, then he pours in the sherry and jelly while she stirs. It was so cute. Plus, the dessert smelled great while they were making it. They're totally cool. I asked about the service after they came back from mass, and she was saying how everyone loved the new priest, 'cause the old one was all fire and damnation and everything was sin sin sin, and this new one is totally more upbeat and happy and was really good with the kids and young people.

Christmas day was spent at the house of one of the sisters. Another sister came by for Christmas dinner while we all sat around and played with the kids' toys. The 5-year-old had gotten a robot that shoots out these foam rings; it was cool. Dinner was turkey (here, and in the UK, Christmas dinner means turkey and brussels sprouts), goose (which I stole a little bite of, as I'd never had goose), mashed potatoes, yams, brussels sprouts, and two kinds of (veggie) stuffing. One of the sisters had already started cooking me some fish before I could stop her and say that the veggies would be more than enough.

The next morning, I sat around a bit, the father showed me the paintings he'd done since he took up the hobby when he had hip surgery and couldn't work, ate some more salad, at lunch (salmon for me, turkey leftovers for them) and then they drove me to the bus station so I could get home to feed the cat.