July 31, 2001

I have finally caved and added in those days I worked before that Friday I decided I would start the clock.  I am just tired of working all the time for no money.  So this will be day 14.  I’ll figure out when 16 days of shift is from now and tell Angela tomorrow that that is when I’ll leave.  I won’t have as much money as I planned, but I’ll have a life.  Just getting fed up with work.  Again, not because it’s hard, just because I am so dehumanized.  I am a cash register with a soul.  I am that place that things go to when they’re lost forever.

Yesterday I spent all morning expecting to work, to tick off that 10th day, only to walk all the way down there to find the Madge wanted me to switch days with her so that I would be off on Monday.  I said “sure” as I hadn’t had a break in six days, but then I realized that it pissed me off.  It wasn’t a proper day off at all, as my mind was set on working.  Then I had to wait 45 minutes behind the counter for Madge to show, so I wasn’t actually out until 3PM!!!  THAT is NOT a day off!

And when Madge arrived she was very appreciative – as appreciative as one can be without a voice box – but I still had pissed away a day.  Madge is rather disconcerting as she wheezes out of her throat like Darth Vader with every movement, like a flapping steam valve, and she has to hold onto her throat to croak her words out.

So I ran out of that place and decided to make the most of my joke of a day off from my joke of a job in this joke of a life of mine.

The two Dublin landmarks I had yet to visit were the Collins Barracks and Phoenix Park.  I walked all the way down the quays to them, only to discover that the museum was closed.  Duh.  Monday is culture’s day off – which meant that I couldn’t see the play I was planning on seeing the next day either.  Which I suppose was just as well as I had only brought £7.00 with me – which seemed a bit of overkill in the morning.  But you never can know what to expect when you leave the house.  It’s a game of Russian roulette, and that door is the trigger.

I walked down into Phoenix Park, your general uninspiring big city park with sunbathers glowing white like snowmen all over the grass.  I am so desperate for some skin color that I stripped off my shirt and joined the collective reflection/eyesore.  I heard the lawnmower coming and as I’m not keen on ending my days here I decided to dress and have a bit of a look around the place.  I walked up past the huge and imposing Garda headquarters – funny there’s such a reputation of crime in the same bit of land where the police have their headquarters – and stumbled upon the zoo.  I followed the line of children with plastic tarantulas and parents lugging water-bottles an infants and as I got to the gate I became terrifically enthused about going.  Must be some zoo-inspired sense memory of youth that made me very keen to go.  It’s the sound that zoos have that is indescribable – a mix of human and animal hoots and hollers that creates a buzz in the air.  Can’t describe it at all, but even now I’m getting a bit excited.  In fact, as I approached the zoo all I could think about was working in one.  Some form of hypnotism beam emanates from those places.

The price for entry was £7.50!!!  That was certainly more than I had and certainly more than a zoo small enough to fit in a park should be worth.  I was genuinely disappointed, however, and if I’d had the extra 50p I would have spent it.  Disappointed, I wandered around a bit more and went to investigate the Wellington Monument.  It is really pretty awe-inspiring.  It is a great granite obelisk with friezes of Wellington’s life in bronze on the sides of the base and the names of his great campaigns up the shaft.  It has that immensity where if you look up at it from the base you feel you’ll fall right over backwards.

I stripped off my teeshirt again and laid in the sun for the better part of a Madonna album.  But I am Teflon, and color just slides off me.

And that’s why I added on days to the work countdown.  Because I need to get out because I’m getting very lonely and upset and I need a change of scenery and a life in which I don’t just sit and brood for seven hours a day.

They say that smoking takes hours, days, weeks, months, years off of your life.  And that is why you shouldn’t smoke them.  However no one ever cautions you to abstain from jobs that rob you of those same hours, weeks, months and years of your life.

I want to be thin and beautiful.  I want to be one of the beautiful people.  But I’m glad I’m a bit too flabby outside and a bit too smudged inside to be there.  A lobotomy and a liposuction would fix me right up – ascend me to the heights of empty-headed fitness bliss.  I need to figure out my eating.  Since I don’t cook here due to the world’s worst oven, I eat crap.  It used to just be sandwiches and cereal and jam on toast, but due to the shop I now supplement that with sweets.  And I hate feeling fed.  I hate feeling full.  Because then I feel fat.  I figure if I can just keep that edge of hunger throw my stomach then I can be thin.  If I feel satisfied that means I’ve stuffed myself and my belly feels heavy and full like it’s pulling itself down and out to grow.  I hate it because food makes me unhappy.  I’m hungry but hate to eat and when I do eat I eat crap because I don’t buy a lot of food because if it’s here I will eat it.

And I will eat a Kit Kat today because I want the radio and it’s part of my routine in how I pass the shitty day.

And my pants are big so they hang awkwardly and I look like crap but at least big clothes make me feel thin.  But then if I get new clothes that fit and I gain the weight back I could NOT face going back up in size.

I want to be beautiful.  Because maybe then I’d be happy and feel in place in the world.  Ah, but when are you thin ENOUGH?  And WHEN and WHAT is beautiful?  It’s a never-ending cycle and I’m sort of pissed I’ve started it.  I was going all right at home, but the fact that no one will give me a second glance here makes me think I’m not good enough and need to look better.

Last day – August 24th?  18 shifts from here!  That would make 32 shifts!  (On the new system.)  [28 on the old system.  I like the new system much better.]

There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks they’re funny.

The sunburned thick fingered taxi drivers are my salvation in this job.

“Would you like a bag?”

“No.  I’d like a bath.  And a drink.”

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July 30, 2001

Haven’t written for a long while, and quite a lot of nothing has gone on since last.

Saturday afternoon I was WRECKED and all I wanted to do was go to sleep so that I could be beautiful for opening the next morning, but I wanted to greet Kevin when he arrived.  I was alone in the house so it was the perfect opportunity to curl up with Ulysses and hammer out a good hundred pages or so.  So I went into the living room, lugging its encyclopedic bulk behind me, and sat down in my favorite chair by the window to read.

Ten pages in I was deep in nap-land for a good two hours.  I really needed it and so starved was I for rest that I awoke feeling exactly the same, with only the shifted hands of my watch for proof, or even a hint, that I had been asleep at all.  It’s like the hangover thirst that is not in the least diminished by downing a gallon of water.

Maeve wanted to pick him up at 5:30, and it was now 7:30.  I figured they must have gone for dinner or to a hotel to reaffirm their relationship immediately, so filled with the omnipresent spirit of homesickness I started the rounds of calling.  Gregg wasn’t there.  Natalie was!

I could tell that Natalie had no idea to whom she was talking, and as she kept her phrases bland and noncommittal – “Hi, how are YOU?  So.  What’s up with… you?” I kept my responses just as generic.  “I’m fine.  How are YOU?”  You imagine that someone who’s called your cell phone must know who you are so you sort of dance around until they make that fatal mistake that blows their cover.  It made me laugh – she had no idea who was on the phone!  Then she realized and we got down to good, old-fashioned chatting.  She quit her job at the English camp one week early because she’s been cast in a 7 week tour of Chicago!  As the big momma character, whatever her name is.  It came sort of out of the blue and today she should be in fabulous LAS VEGAS rehearsing!  How cool is that?!  I am so proud and envious of her.  She has established a hard reputation to follow – I feel pedestrian next to her.  She is really so gifted and amazing that the world is HERS if she wants it.  She sets a high example and I don’t feel like I’ll do as well and just be old forgettable Paul next to her glorious star-power NATALIE!  Oh, well.  I love her anyway.  No matter how jealous I may be.  But it really is a happy jealousy as I do hope she makes it.  If anyone that I know can, it would be she.

So she’ll only get off tour right when I get back to the states, so we may move up to New York together!  Though hopefully I can get her to road trip with me to Vegas like we always said we would – now she’ll know all the cool places to go!

It was nice to talk to her but she had to go up to New York to clear her stuff out of Tiffany’s place before she went off on tour.  I don’t know when our lease starts, but it looks like it will just be Lisbeth breaking in the place for us.  I wonder if Richie is going to sublet my place?

Then I called Dad and we had our generally empty but fond chit chat that we share.  Dog was sick, now is recovered and shitting all over the carpet.  Tony is not yet divorced or annulled or whatever and evidently they are still living together.  I asked what sort of gifts I should get for his brood – as I have begun my great list which will require an extra suitcase on my return – and he promised to send me a list.  Hasn’t emailed for two or three weeks as his computer was dead.  Again.  This time it was the power supply.  For a house with a computer engineer in residence – purported computer engineer – they do certainly have more problems than anyone I’ve ever heard of.

I miss Dad a lot and can’t wait to see him.  Reminds me that all the extra stuff doesn’t really matter because he’s my father and I love him and I miss him.  However, this revelation has been brought home due to the fact that I am so lonely and have lots of time to think about people who are gone.  That he can miss me as much as he says in a house crammed full of animals and humans and the links in between that he purports to love so wholly and completely makes me wonder how happy he really is.  But I’ll always wonder that.

I also miss Michael Patrick and I drudged up his number from the archives in the hopes that he might be there or that I could get the number from his parents.  I had tried to call what I remembered to be his pager, but nothing was there.  He must have surpassed his technology yet again.  No one answered, so I left a message saying I was trying to get in touch with him.  He doesn’t even know that I’m in Ireland, unless he’s called home – though I doubt he has.  I just want to hear his voice and though our friendship has definitely changed I would like to know how he is and see what he’s doing.  Friends are so rare that they’re worth working for.  I hope that he feels that way.  I hope that he feels something.  I hope that he is happy.  I hope he’s doing theatre.

Kevin finally arrived as I sat talking to Rafal in the kitchen.  It was nice to get a chance to talk to him as he has relatively disappeared since the arrival of Kate.  I like Kate, but you can’t help feeling, and perhaps this is entirely due to Maeve’s influence, that there’s something up her sleeve.  That she’s using Rafal just to stay here for free.  If so that is a sad case because you can tell he really likes her and was hoping that her visit would be the first great happy memory of their lifelong romance.  But he is 25 and she is 18 and when you look at it that way it seems far from probable.

Time to go to work.  I’ll put this on hold and probably pick up tomorrow morning.  My favorite time in the whole day is morning kitchen table writing time.  This is absolutely my favorite and most unburdened time, watching ink curl words onto the paper, eating through this little notebook with pages of nothing that, as I have been proven, would be devastated to ever lose.

Later –

July [undated], 2001

I went into the GPO yesterday to consult the one set of phonebooks in all of Ireland.  It’s sort of like the library of Alexandria – if the GPO ever burns all the numbers of Ireland will be lost forever.  Plunging Ireland into another dark age.  As if it could get darker.

As I opened the first one, brand new issued by the dates on the cover and already dog-eared, on the front page was written in great, black felt tip pen, “Fuck you immigrant bastards.”  Should I add that to my list of omens?

July 28, 2001

Water – they get sold faster than they get cold!

The woman from Gallway used “now” instead of a period to end every sentence.

She put down the papers – “Now.”

She handed me her bill – “Now.”

I handed her the change – “Thanks, now.”

Would you like a bag? – “Ehm, I would, now.”

Thank you. – “Bye, now.”

Galway just came back.  Put the Locozade on the counter and interrupted her mumbled singing only long enough to grunt, “Now.”  At first it was a bit of a put-off – what a brusque and unpleasant woman!  But as she said it without fail after each sentence it just made me laugh.

Why do people need 3 newspapers?  One hardly ever gets through one, much less 2.  3 seems inconceivable and fool-hardy.

The toilet paper walrus whose face was covered with spit wads of razor adhered white foliage.  He waddled off, throwing his feet in front of him with powerful twists of hips.

Please someone touch me.  I tried to catch her fingers with mine as she handed me the 50p.  Anything.

July 27, 2001

I dreamed last night that someone came in and asked for half a litre of winegums.  I had to try to explain to her that they were not a liquid and the litre is a liquid measure.  She smiled, nodded, and asked again.  I don’t like dreaming about work.  I just sort of realized last night how similar this job is to the government job.  I haven’t any friends to come home to, I am bored to tears at work, and I work seven hours at what seems a dream job for someone like me.  Difference is that I got an hour for lunch at the government job so my day was cut into halves.  I could also REALLY read as I was interrupted much less.  I also got paid OVER TWICE what I do for the newsagents and I did have Dad and I did do it for a MUCH longer time.  And I managed just fine.  Why can’t I learn from the past?

Ah, but what happened after the government job?  Sure, I managed to get through.  But I also went insane.  But, as I’m so hell-bent on seeing patterns in life, that can also mean that life changed profoundly, and it certainly will when I return and move up to New York for whatever that may hold.  Natalie wrote me an enthusiastic and no doubt drug-induced email about going up to visit the apartment and just raving about its location and how excited she is about living up there.

Anyway – yesterday.  Yesterday was one of those beautiful days of hope and promise that are doomed from the beginning.  I planning on doing my tax things and then just going somewhere into the hills and soaking up the sun and unbelievable weather.  Get a bunch of exercise to work out the daily chocolate bars that mitigate my boredom and work out the five or six pints I’d had the night before with Maeve and her hot physio-friends.  Leisurely exercise, leisurely shower, leisurely dressing.  I went to look in my bag and – it was not there.  My notebook – THIS notebook – was not tucked safely away in its usual spot.  I felt sick and panicked – where was it?  Had I lost it?  Had I left it out – no, nothing’s on the dresser.  Oh god – I left it at work.

I needed to have it.  I felt naked and more alone than usual.  This book is all I have – the one I share my life with, my only companion.  I must have it!  I couldn’t wait until the next day – I needed to write!  And what if someone read it?  What if it got lost?

I pretty near ran through my tax errands – getting the letter from USIT then going to the PAYE office on Lower Mount Street.  I figured that then I could run by to get my notebook, pick up my check, and go check email where all my friends would have emailed me and run off to the sunshine green countryside.  It would be nothing more than a little hiccup in my day, and I’d have my journal back.

“It’s very lucky you came by today.  You might be the answer to her prayers.”

Fuck.  I hate it when people say shit like that.  It can only mean trouble.

Madge, the voicebox-less incredibly part-time other employee, was on a waiting list for a hospital bed so she couldn’t come in.  Could I please do her shift for her?

Like a putz I said yes.  Why do I care?  Why do I want to be responsible?  Why?  So on my ONLY day off, the ONE, SINGULAR, SOLE BEAUTIFUL DAY THAT DUBLIN WILL HAVE EVER EVER EVER EVER – I was sucked into work without even a windowpane full of enjoyment in the weather.  I ran and checked my email at a very expensive place – I couldn’t make it to my place and back in time for 2PM – and there was a cursory response from Shannon and not as many emails as I would have hoped from the two days of not checking them.

Sad, dejected, disappointed, I trudged back through the mirthful mocking sunshine and stewed in my own hideous juice of disappointment for seven hours.  Oh, and payday is Friday, not Thursday, so I didn’t even have a check full of consolation.

6 shifts down.  1/5 through.  By Tuesday – the next day off that I will NOT relinquish – I will have 10 down and be 1/3 through!

I have to run now.  Back to the salt mines.

* * *

“Do you sell Johnnies, then?”

“Eh, what?”

“Con – doms.”

“No, sorry.”

“Right.  Cheers.”

* * *

I am quite shaken.  The strangest thing EVER has just happened to me.  I was swapping my boring pound coins for a bonanza of millennium coins – which I plan to give away as gifts on my return – when a woman popped around the corner and said, “Boo!”  Then, all of a sudden, she began to weep and sob inconsolably and mutter about what I gather to be her very young husband with whom she has had four children who is suffering from cancer.  He still has his hair but his size 32 jeans he has to roll the waist over.  It’s lung cancer.

I didn’t know what to do.  She’d screw up her eyes and big heavy tears would erupt from nowhere.  I offered her some tissues.  She kept holding out her hand to me and I really couldn’t understand what she was saying.  It felt callous, but I finally asked, “Is there anything you want?”

“20 Silk Cut Blue, please.”

She paid with a rumpled £5 note, screwed up like the tissues in her hand by grief.  I didn’t want to look at her eyes and make a spectacle of her grief, so I just stared at the inch-long thick straight black hair on her chin, just right to the center of her under lip.  She held out her hand again and what could I do but hold it and say, “It will be all right, I promise,” as her other hand was thrown backwards to cover her face.

She released me.  I gave her the rest of the tissues.  She grasped my hand again, turned, left.

What was I to do?

Grief is very hard to deal with.  And scary.  If you open yourself up to enough to understand then you’ll break down as well.  Also, when you’re not inconsolable it is hard to understand how anyone else could be at that point where they weep their life story out to a foreigner in a newsagents.  But they are not actually telling you anything.  They’re venting the pressure of the grief and the words and tears are the overflows of emotion.

* * *

“Do you have any still water?”

“Yep, in the fridge.”

“How much is it?”

“A pound.”

“Is that a pound?”

“Yep.”

Man takes pills punched out of silver card.

“It’s called being sick on the plane.”

“I never have a problem with that.  I just can’t sleep.  Ever.”

“That’s no problem.  Not with these.  And I fly at LEAST two times a week.”

“Oh, really?”

“But it’s NOT psychological.  It’s an inner ear problem.  Have you got a bin back there?  Cheers.”

* * *

“Boo!”

The weeper returns.

“How are you doin’?”

“Oh, y’know.  Cryin’ all the time.”

“Ah.  Do you work here?”

“Yeah.  Well, I was.  Not here.  I work next door at the Citibank.”

“Ah.”

“How old would you guess I was?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Go on, guess.  Be honest.”

“No, really.  I have no idea.”

“No, be honest.  What’s the first thing that comes into your head?”

“I don’t know.  Forty?”

“Do I look forty?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on.  Be honest.”

“Honestly, I learned long ago that quick judgments are always off – wrong.  So I don’t make them.”

“Fair enough.  I’m 42.  Good man.”

She clasps my hand again and goes.  She poked the relic blueberry muffin atop the register as she left.

* * *

The weeper has returned again.

“Do you have any chocolate covered peanuts?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Where?”

“Behind you.”

“Where?”

“Up there.  Behind you.”

“Where?”

“Behind you.  Up there.  In the green.”

“How much are they?”

“Lemmee see.  £1.09.”

“Do me a favor and say a mass.”

She pulls change out of her pocket and a magician’s endless crumple of toilet paper follows.  She hands me a £1 coin.

“Do me a favor and just take that, would you?”

And she’s gone again.

* * *

What the hell am I supposed to do?  The weeper was just ejected from the hotel.  The tall dark hair who did it waved her out then turned to tall blond hair and went, “Ah.  I’m so upset,” in memorial of her husky tone.  And laughed.  I think she must have been in the pub drinking, building up those garbage bags under her eyes – so severe as to be folded over on her face like envelope flaps – with alcohol as well as her tears.

* * *

Good God I wish that I’d stayed in German.  Then perhaps I could communicate with the guests.

* * *

It was odd – I was brick hit by terrible empty an hour before the offing.  I twitch shake shivered through the take, hands quivered and I was all at the bottom of my hole.  Then, I crouched down and I up sprang to ecstasy.  Full fast and hard.  Wide-eyed innocent joy highwire walk back home, not seeing as I nosed through Dublin with Led Zepplin pounding my burning ears.  Stop lights red lights, green walk men sauntering made no never-mind as I glid out in intersections, not pausing to take in colors except as window dressing.  My head quick flicked like a bird as I oh I’ve lost it.

I’m afraid to be happy because each mountain has its climbers dead on its slopes and the feet are much bigger than the head.  And for every head there’s two feet, one on each side.  And one is always sinister.  How fast will I fall this time?  And to where?  And why now to me at end of fine day with cash in hand ending to £150 tune?  Mayhaps a gift.  A thank you.  A chance to feel like others and not be pin-pricked by life until I am a sea of bleeding unseeable dot holes straight to my heart.  It’s all in me – it’s about time I felt what happiness was like more than a ten second 99 ice cream flake straw.  With one of four chocolate please not lime how disgusting on ice cream?

But I never just surf, but stop take core samples to see if the Romans smoked lead.  Rarity causes this.  Unhappy is my life and like duck water off-back flowing it fills my life.  But happiness?  So rare.  We kick dirt rocks of quartz which everywhere are found, but gold deserves a second look a bite between the teeth and I can’t believe I could be lucky enough to find it?!  There must be something wrong with it.  And by the time you’re done biting your suspicions away you’re left down with the feet.

Now my brain is brown sludging mud into itself, smothering the center joy before I’ve bathed in it.

I’ve been having a great time with Maeve lately, especially after that evening of Wednesday at McGavin’s in Phipsboro when drunken stumbling home we trekked.  But, just like Roisin, as I get closer to someone – purely chaste friend feelings – they get lost to me.  To Egypt or the boyfriend.

Joy makes me invincible.  I think no fried delight desire can kick me, stab my side with over-doubling slices of gall.  I smell and I desire.  I think and I do.  There are no consequences!

I suppose it’s good I’m never happy for long.  Who knows what I’d do?  But now I’m slipping out of it.  I read it in my words and feel it in my ink.  The backdoor is rattle-hinged as the fire steps out and only common thoughts are left like the weepers crumbled tissues on the dead empty dance floor.  They’ve all gone to pulse somewhere else.  My muscles knit back together and my head wood blocks again.  Too short, too sweet, too dearly missed.

Why now happen did this to me to my brain muddle cup?  So good I’ve been and calm and wracking sad lonely disappointment in bitter disillusionment tea I’ve drank but before no hang-over.  That was pride one of mine strength though endless sadness a sanity pervades.  But no longer.  A crack for real my egg is out and shell will not glue up.

Please don’t let me go so far away from home.  Aah!  Terror as I shake.

Stop.  Relax.  Please.

Why am I alone?

Please hold me.

Anyone.

My eyes are wide again, but in headlight deer fear.

I had that skin sweat in the shop in the final hour though the fan blew stamps in maelstrom of all-day coolness but only then I suffered as body tears flew from my pores as I got on the rollercoaster.  Maybe it’s a rollercoaster and down you start up fast quick screams hair blown back then again the long climb.

I had hoped to be on the hill longer.

But down up down up finish the sequence and let the answer be up and yes I’ll pull out of the dive and soar again.

Someone’s poured cement behind my eyes and it’s dripping down my spine and fills my forearms with gravity as my head lolls ragdoll to the right and I stare solid but for the live ink feed that barely pulls it out of the quicksand.  The opposite of depression is desire and I have to keep wanting and moving and caring to keep my head straight and that bedtime comes with 3 exercises and a sleep to prepare for the early tomorrow time of newspaper stuffing at Thanksgiving and hung over British needing the cigarette spark to get the engines lubed and they’re off for another day of abuse and wrong-currency using.

I just want to be beautiful and loved and held but my body aches and my clothes don’t fit and alone I go to bed in ugly town to go alone work for hours of my tiny life.

 

July 26, 2001

The lobby lion-tamer is at it again.

A woman bought the Herald – 70 pence – and asked for a receipt.  What on earth for?  It’s not like she paid with a £50 note, but with a £1 coin.  I’ve never given a receipt that made sense.

Only stupid people have stories.  They let dumb shit happen to them.  They don’t plan ahead.  A story is, after all, just something stupid that happened that could have been avoided if you’d thought ahead.  Or not been so dumb as to think that things would just take care of themselves.  Good, smart people don’t have stories.  They have comments.  “That was a nice day,” or, “I’m in love.”  Stupid people have, “So, anyway, you would not BELIEVE what just happened to me!  I was seeing this girl, right, but I wasn’t really in it as much as she was but I just thought it would go away and THEN I met this OTHER girl…”

The right decisions never prompt a nine minute explanation.  Smart people look ahead and have the courage to make the right decisions.  Only stupid people have stories.  Dublin has made me into a stupid person.  And a lot of it comes from my ignorance of what I was getting into and my ignorance of Ireland and her people.  But ignorance is a form of stupidity and ignorance of the law is no defense.

A receipt on £1.60, paid in exact change with small coins, for a pack of cigarette papers and winegums and a newspaper.  Why?

July 25, 2001

I haven’t REALLY written for a while and it’s making me a bit antsy.  I regard that as a rather good sign.

I’ve been having these vivid dreams that I probably should write down because they are really quite fully-developed stories.  I keep getting these strange déjà vu moments when I wake up that the dreams were all novels I will write, or they are gifts of books from my mind that all I need do is transcribe them – it’s only through my own laziness that I’m not published.  The dreams are funny quilts of easily identifiable elements – last night I worked in a store behind a counter but I didn’t really want to be there and there was a girl who worked there who looked like Sheila the one nice hotel person and I walked to France – to Lourdes, actually – but there was nothing there but books which were all ones I read about in the Times this past Sunday.

{I ate toast with a million boots marching in the empty ivory hall of my head.}

What’s odd is that rarely, if EVER, do I remember my dreams.  And not only do I remember these, I seem to be half-aware of the state I’m in while asleep, and I can even wake up enough to go to the bathroom and still fall back into the same dream.  I think it must be caused by the same urge that compels me to write – there is so much inside of me but no one with which to share it.  So I share it with myself.  I also wish that I did more creative writing, but I’m so far behind on recording what has actually happened that I don’t really get the chance.  Except in that sheaf of papers on my dresser.  I still feel like I’d like to write plays, plays with great monologues, but I’m still in need of great work in recording how people talk.  We THINK that we listen but really we just filter in the words and translate what’s said into our own speech patterns.  Like the way that Holly would always convey to me things Rosemary said – I got to the point when I thought Rosemary talked like Holly.  It’s the United Nations and we’re all listening to the simultaneous translations through our headphones that conveniently but everything into our own language, but we’re never ACTUALLY listening to who’s talking and the precise words they’re using.  And look at how effective the members of the UN are at communicating with each other, much less reaching a common ground.

{I don’t like the taste of whole milk.  It is thick and heavy.  Like sand.}

I’ve definitely noticed this about myself.  I’ll listen very closely to someone speak, like Angela or Aiofe or Declan, but when I try to reproduce it in writing or tone I am left high and dry.  They use words that I don’t use so they don’t penetrate my brain.  Their pronunciation is different but it all gets cleaned up by my – for ONCE – too efficient brain.  So TRULY listening, like auditioning, is an art and I need to practice.

{Aren’t words wonderful?!  I am both catholic and discriminating in my tastes, but neither Catholic nor discriminating.}

And I guess that’s a bit of a warning about all of my transcribed conversations.  They fall terribly short.

I need to catch up on a few things, especially Mister USP – the man who made my first solo day at work so unpleasant.

So it was that first Saturday and everything had been going just fine, aside from being terribly bored.  But I had managed to suffer through and had just got to the point where I thought, “Well, maybe this job isn’t so bad after all.”  Then, of course, the rug was pulled out from under me.

At 1:30 – a mere half hour before I can count my first day a success, after making it for 5 ½ lonely hours and getting up at 6:00AM – Dublin does it to me again.  Into the shoebox runs a wildeyed, shaved, white water-rat, pink eyes and all, and when I asked the scrawny young track-suit wearing man if there was anything I could do for him, his reply was:

– I was wondering if you could save my life.

Those are the kind of words that make your heart just sink.  It wouldn’t be anything simple like, “Do you have cough sweets?” or “Can I have change for the telephone?”  No, those were the words with which Dublin would bend me over the teacher’s desk and introduce me to the splintered broomstick.

So Ritchie spins this incredibly complex yarn that I can’t even begin to dissect.  It was all shot out of his mouh in a smooth con-artist wave, never leaving you a second to catch your breath, just sweeping you along for the ride.

He used to work there, he just got his last paycheck the day before, he’d been to every bank, pub, cash-a-check, rich socialite, illegal hoarder of pirate’s gold in all of Dublin in an attempt to cash his check and no one would do it.  Even the bank off of which the check was written wouldn’t cash it.  His credit union said it would take 7 days to clear.  So did the cash-a-check place.  Sound fishy yet?

And it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t the timing, you see.  It was his girlfriend’s birthday the next day and he had to give her a present.

Why such urgency?

Well, you’ve heard of post-natal depression, right?  Well, his girlfriend’s got SERIOUS post-natal depression.  Oh, yes.  An unexpected pregnancy, but now they’re engaged, still each living at home, she’s five months along and he doesn’t have a job.  So she gets really depressed.  Fits of lunacy!  She’ll be all fine one minute and then she’ll start yellin’ and screamin’ at him for no reason.  I wonder if him having no money and no job might contribute to that.

And as it’s her birthday tomorrow if he doesn’t get her something really nice then Lord only knows what she’ll do!

So where do I come in?

He wants me to cash his check out of the daily take.  That’s why he came right at the end of my shift.  Sounds seriously suspect and a little too dramatic to be real.  I tell him I shouldn’t and Angela told me not to cash checks for people that said they worked there – EERIE FORESHADOWING!

He pleads with me – please!  The girlfriend!  The depression!  Birthday gift!  C’mon!  Help a brother out!

I tell him to wait until Angela comes in – she’s supposed to come oversee the transition from myself to Aoife and help us close out our shifts.  I keep telling him to wait.

Aoife comes and Angela still hasn’t shown, nor will she.  Ritchie was right about that.

So what does he want to do with his life, as working in the newsagent’s is not part of the plan?

– I want to be a rapper.  I’ve got a tape and all.  I’ve got about four songs, and that’s not bad for, umm, you know five months of writin’.  Yeah, they’re not great quality studio tapes though.  I talk bits of songs and put them together on a tape, then I put two tape recorders up next to each other and I rap while the one plays and so they both go onto the other tape.  The thing is that everybody needs to have their own USP.  UNIQUE SELLING POINT.  Yeah, Eminem – he’s my hero.  He’s got 2 USP’s.  First, he’s white.  “What is that?  A white rapper?  Who ever heard of a white rapper?!”  Second, his second USP is that he goes around slaggin’ everybody.  “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”  My USP?  You know everybody sings and raps in an American accent.  Why?  So I’m straight out of Dublin, you know, so I’m not gonna hide my accent.  I’m going to be the first Irish rapper.  The first Irish rapper.  My USP is going to be my accent.  The first Irish rapper.

Angela never shows.  It’s a quarter past, he’s pleading with his hands together and his eyes wide open.  He helps us close, as we are quite confused and really could have benefitted from having Angela there, but I certainly watched his quick agile fingers whenever they went near the cash drawer.  He was never gonna leave.  Angela was never gonna show.  I caved.  I cashed the fucking check.  I hated myself for doing it because I could just feel myself getting conned.  I could smell the shit as he spread it over my body.  And I knew I’d get yelled at and probably fired and I didn’t need this and why did I even try to get a job and why am I here when I could be home and why does life SUCK?!  Why am I weak?  Why didn’t I just say, “Sorry, I feel bad for you but I was told not to and I won’t.”  AND ON MY FIRST DAY, NO LESS!

However, things are never as bad as they seem, and no one ever said anything about it to me, even though Aoife kindly told me she’d back me up to Angela that he would not have left otherwise.  She’s pretty cool.

In fact, when I got my first £18.80 paycheck Angela told me to do just what I had done for Ritchie.  So I guess it was all right after all.

So what did I learn?

1) USP – Unique Selling Point
2) It’s never as bad as it seems.
3) Be strong.
4) If you can’t be strong, then don’t sweat it.
5) If I make a mistake, it’s all right.
6) If it’s not all right and I get fired – THEN WHO CARES?!

Off to work –

When you buy two souvenir shirts you’re supposed to get a free cheesy Ireland cap and we’ve run out.

“What do I do if someone asks for a hat?  We’re out.  Are there any more upstairs?”

“No, there’s not.  He hasn’t paid they bill, y’see.  He’ll do that.  He’ll pay them then just stop paying then start up again and do a few more and then stop.”

“So what do I do?”

“Well, a man came in today and bought two shirts and he didn’t ask for them.  So I kept me mouth shut.”

“Well, that’s true.  People usually don’t notice and I remind them that they get them free.  So I just won’t mention it.”

“Yes, that’s what y’do.”

“But if they do ask?”

“Just say, ‘I dunno.’  That’s what we do in Ireland.  ‘Oh, gee.  I dunno.’  You’ll hear that a lot in Ireland.”

Had a great night out at the pub last night – I decided to go out as I will not be reduced to a dehumanizing work/sleep/work schedule.  It was Declan and Maeve and I and we even got Rafal and Kate out with us for Kate’s first Guinness.  We went across the road to McGrath’s.  It was odd as we were in the lounge which was very large and open with sofas and table lamps and televisions on the white walls.  It was like being in someone’s sitting room.  But we had a couple of pints and a really good chat and for the first time I didn’t feel totally third wheel but part of the group with something to say.  Rafal was slow going through his cider – still on his first as we were half through our second – and we wondered where this famous “vodka head” is that he talks about.  “Polish head” – excuse me.

Last call had come and gone, signaled by a very long and severe couple of descents into darkness, not so much a flipping of the lightswitch but a leisurely examination of the difference between lights on and lights off.  I thought it was a blackout!

Two pints in me, I bemoaned the passing of last call and said that I could do with more alcohol.  Just then Rafal spilled his last half a glass all over himself and me.

“When I said I wanted more alcohol, I didn’t mean on my pants!”

The Cigarettes Cheatsheet:

Silk Cut:
Purple = King Size
Blue = Extra Mild
White = Ultra (no one says “White”)

Superkings:
Blue = Lights
Black = Regular

Lambert & Butler
Gold = Lights
Silver = King Size

Back to the significance of color!  Apart from the GAA there’s the differentiation of cigarettes by color, not quality.  Silk Cut Blue, Purple, Superkings Blue and Black.  Gauloises Red and Bleu.  Even Rizla cigarette papers are green or red.

“Do you have the green Pringles?”

The Orangemen.

Color is everywhere and ever important.

Marlboro Reds!

She just pushed forward her hand, heavy with useless silver, and shook her head saying, “Could you, please?”

I wonder if people ever think I’m ripping them off when I pull change from their hands.  I never will, as I have much more respect and patience for them than the ones who pick in their hands for ten minutes, intently clucking their tongues complaining about the “funny money” only to end up handing over a mix of foreign currencies which I haven’t the strength or desire to sort out.

I love it when people with two or three young children ask for condoms.  I want to say, “It’s a bit late for that now, don’t you think?”  They don’t work retroactively.  Too little, too late.

It’s the last fifteen minutes here that kills me, especially when someone is hanging around the postcards.  Shouldn’t you be at a pub?  Or in bed?

And by “last fifteen minutes” I mean the fifteen minutes before the ten minutes I take for closing.  When I say that I work until 9 that means it’s LOCKED at nine!

July 23, 2001

Yesterday was Bray – a little stip of a beach with a Victorian seaside heritage.  Didn’t write this morning as I took a chance and called home and BOTH my mother and sister were there!  When I first got to talk to mom I actually teared up from loneliness and homesickness.  Funny, as for the past two years I haven’t had much contact with home but then I had my very full life in F-town.  Now I guess home is all I have.

I had decided that I wouldn’t withdraw any money until I get paid on Thursday, but my haircut cost five pounds more than it should of out of my mass of hair needing to be shampooed before my mumbling barber would even deign to touch it with his tools.  Something about my hair being impossible to cut dry due to its volume!  I suppose my volume is water soluble.  And as I got my hair cut I decided I should probably shave to complete the hygiene illusion, so I went and took out £60.  I figured if I was buying razors then I needed to buy sandwich elements for work lunches so that I didn’t simply eat candy for two days.  Although that would quite quickly procure for me the 20 Kit Kat wrappers necessary for the free radio I so desire.

I have become a great fan of token promotions off of food packets.  I’ve sort of fallen out of a Weetabix mood, but I bought another box yesterday because that meant that now I can send away for the tin, with a £2.99 postal order.  If I get another pack of Ryvita I can also send those two wrappers along for another air-tight logo-embossed tin.  What a stunning marketing ploy, and how totally have I fallen for it!

There’s that strong, fat-calfed, wide-hipped model of the Irish working woman, whipping her cord around like a tamer in a cage rebuking the vacuum as she absent-mindedly passes her noisy wand over the spotless floor.  Thoroughly uninterested, thoroughly unthorough.

Oh, the caprices of the paying public!  Sunday I couldn’t throw water in the fridge fast enough, and today it’s frozen solid.  But I digress.  Back to money.

To make a long story short, and to ensure that I complete the thought, I withdrew my last bit from my American account – £60.00 – all because of a need/desire for razors that were not so nicked as to induce the feeling of shaving with a  sharpened fork.  Then I thought I should get food as well.  I go to Centra and buy food for the next few days, sit and think if I’ve forgotten anything, remember to get my tin-achieving package of Weetabix, congratulate myself on taking a minute to think before I rushed out, and left.  Sans razors.  So, of course the mission for which the funds were withdrawn in the first place was the ONE objective not achieved.  I luckily found an old razor head that didn’t protest too painfully its call out of retirement, and I shaved anyway.

She was painted black from right under her chin right down to the salmon floor.  Hoped that dressing like a black hole might suck in some of her bulk.  Trying to void it out.  She was a floating alabaster death mask floating over a bell of black sheeting.  But matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and you can’t hide so fleshed out a frame as that.  Though it certainly was more effective than the bright pink so favored by the horribly obese woman.  Still, at the back, her well-intentioned layers of concealment were parted by her sizeable rear end and a strip of bright red underwear bleeding through the cut dashed all that work on the soft wide rocks.

Looking at the schedule for the next four weeks – Angela’s going on vacation so I’m doing six days a week – a daunting task!  However after that I’ll get 3 full days off in a row, which really excites me.  I just don’t want to open weekdays – I must do it five times – because that will mean waking up at 5:30!  And after an evening shift the night before!  THAT’S what I hate – work, sleep, work, with nothing in between.  Expect some bitterness in two weeks!

But I never work more than six days without a break, and if I work ONE week after those three days off then I’ll be at my set number of shifts – NEVER to work in Ireland again!

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – WHY am I doing this?  I just keep remembering what Fabio would say – “I do not work for work.”  I should go out tonight and get a pint or something.  Otherwise I really will be doing nothing but being the victim of this job.

The scary emaciated monkey of a former Spice Girl on the cover of BELLA has been replaced by a woman who looks eerily like Maeve – those broad lips and hair.  And I bet she can’t hold a 5 pence coin in her dimple though!

I am the blind leading the blind – poor tourists with shaky English ask for advice and I give shaky directions.  And you can just see in their eyes that my jumble isn’t making it in at all.

July 22, 2001

Not so much this job, but this hotel will drive me mad.  This is roughly the equivalent of a motel, but the staff runs around like stockbrokers on Wall St. with their heads cut off.  There are literally four songs on their muzak tape – they couldn’t spring for the whole one?  Oh, there it goes again – “Unforgettable” in a sultry sax – what are we in the first scene of a porno?  Then “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues and some godforsaken song by the Carpenters – if she hadn’t committed suicide this song would have been the Twinkie that pushed her over the edge.  “We’ve Only Just Begun” on a flute.  A computer synthesized flute none the less.  Then that song that goes “… between the moon and New York City…”  I don’t know its name, but the tune will be forever burned into my slowly deteriorating brain cells.  And they’re all ultra-extended jazzy club mixes, so they go on far longer than they need to.

Oh, I forgot about “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” picked out on a sensual harp.  Pure magic.  What TV advertisement at 3:23AM can I order this bevy of hits from, none of which are available in stores?

Adding to the madness, the muzak doesn’t actually play all the time.  I think they switch it on when they see people outside the automatic glass doors, and they just let it play out its little 30 minutes of self.  Then they just let it be silent – merciful respites from the drone of smooth easy listening – and then when someone fills the door glass they just press play again.

And if the music doesn’t kill me then the staff will.  There is Igor who haunts me with his insatiable red Lucozade addiction and madly incomprehensible accent.  He wears a New York Police Department sweatshirt EVERY DAY under his off-white canvas jacket.

Sunday means Irish music on the radio.

“Many times you have lingered around my garden door,
Oh hard times come again no more”
Steven Foster, writer – Jerry Lynch, singer

– Do you have any better money?  My husband likes to save them.

These are the customers I while away my life with.

Then there is that bitch manager with her shoulder length brown hair and perky face covered in the worry and stress of self-assumed importance and imagined stress.  Just as I wrote this she came over and paid for a pack of cigarettes.

– I still owe you money for those tights, don’t I?  £2 is it?  I’ll be right back.

That was over an hour ago.  Bitch.

Then there is the prick manager busy-body.  I’ve already vented about him.

Finally the dwarf Spanish woman who always smiles at me as she passes to the luggage room.  I was refilling the water bottle cornucopia that is the half-assed Häagen Dazs fridge when I saw her beaming at me from the register.  I was so pleased – she had come to say hello to me!

No such luck.  Instead she told me that I should have stamps for all the Americans who want to send letters back home.  I told her that as soon as we get them we sell them out.  She said that we should buy more.  Insolent bitch.  She also said it would make more business sense for us to have them – why?  Do we make any profit from them?  Indeed not.  It is purely a convenience for the fat, pampered, impatient guests of the riverside hotel.  And if a person chooses to buy all the stamps at once, robbing the next 50 people who want them of their stamps, then that’s not my problem.  Doing anything nice for anyone is never enough and never worth the hassle.  The thing that REALLY pisses me off is that she took time out of her busy luggage-lackey taxi-calling schedule to rebuke ME for not having enough stamps to coddle the 90 postcard buying guests.  The nerve.

I am also not a fan of the people who pick up a paper and hold it up to you from across the room, expecting the color to spark a Pavlovian response in which you crash your head down on the register immediately using your nose like a chicken at supper to punch out the price on the register, barking as you go.  They look so pissed when you ask them to bring it over so that you can look at the price.  They hate treating the help as people, and the closer they get to me the more human I am.  Much safer to yell across the room like a drive-through speaker at Taco Bell.  I should ask them if they want fries with that.

And THEN there are those people who grunt in horror when you tell them it’s a pound for their water.  I realize it’s a ludicrous sum – about $1.20 after all, and I’d never pay that for something that came out of a tap – but what do they expect?  Where do they think they ARE?  This is a shop in a hotel lobby – immediately you’re not in a place known for value and cut-rate prices.  If you’re too lazy to walk around the block to Spar then consider it a lazy-ass tourist tax being levied in the horrendous horror-snorting 200% markup.  I understand it’s insane, but I’m not sitting here under a sign that says KRAZY KARL’S KUT-RATE KONVENIENCE STORE.  It IS a hotel lobby, and you ARE going to have to get over it.

That’s why it’s CONVENIENCE store and not “CONVENIENT” store.  You buy convenience with every purchase.

Dublin’s playing in the qualifier this afternoon against Sligo in their back-door bid to be in the all-Ireland finals, and I’m back in the dining room with my arm in a magazine to protect me from the tar pit that is the table top.

Walking home was a wonderful and colorful experience with people in their blue Dublin shirts and black and white of Sligo.

Buy, sell, swap tickets!
Headbands, buy your headbands here!
The pigs are out in force.

Every pub is gorged with costumed revelers, spitting out chunks of humanity into the streets with their drinks and loud conversation, yelling across the streets to people I imagine they must know.

There is the t-shirt seller with his tent of uniforms outside our house, moored around the dumpster.  I think I should get one for free for living here, but evidently Michael charges them rent.  Of course he does.

But what team would I choose?  Cork – I SUPPOSEDLY come from there.  Sligo – where the hell is Sligo, anyway?  Not Dublin, after all I swear that I hate it but it’s really the only one I could claim to have any real tie to.  Love-hate makes a strong relationship after all.  Well, TOLERATE-hate.

Children are swaddled in flags – the actual DESIGN of the flag doesn’t matter, simply that it has the colors.  Hence Sligo’s black and white supporters have adopted the black and white checkered racing-pennant.  Due to this design-blind practice Cork with its red and white has run into some controversy for having people bring rebel flags to matches – just for the red and white.  All the flags are sold with bamboo lengths for handles – I’ve never seen bamboo in this country so it must be specially bred simply for the purpose.  Like free-range chickens there are probably organic bamboo farmers, with ranch hands patrolling on horseback to make sure no bamboo desperados make off with their bumper crop of flag components.

In fact, color is all important to the GAA.  Meath’s inspirational fan song is to the tune of “Those Were the Days.”  It goes “Go on you boys in Green, go on you boys in green, dad a dad a, dad a you boys in green.”  The “da da da” part is just a mess where people mumble and repeat “you boys in green” until they get back on track and eventually peter out.  Not a very profound thought-out song.  But they repeat their color as often as possible and that’s what’s important.

Kildare is in all white, so their rather ill-chosen nickname is “the Lily Whites.”  To me that’s almost like choosing to be called “Chicken Shit” but I suppose there’s no color name in that.  Maybe their motto should be “We’re so good, we’ll share your shit white.”

On of the teams is known as the All-Blacks, but I can’t remember who.  Maybe it’s Sligo.  It’s the victory over the All-Blacks that forms the basis of the play at the Gaiety – Alone It Stands.  Or whatever it’s called.  My brain is jellied from work, in its own boredom juices.

Even though you can hear the game and the crowd clearly from the kitchen – louder actually than on the television – the crowds are really well-behaved.  Consider that all of the pubs are overflowing with customers for hours before the game and each garbage drum is full of cider bottles and beer tinnies padded out by the grease spotted paper of takeaway joints there is no violence. Everyone is crammed into each other’s faces and slotted like a jigsaw into each other (especially on Hill 16) and emotions run high as people heatedly yell and scream in reponse to the moves of their teams.  Drunk people in each other’s faces would always make a fight in the states, and alcohol is definitely monitored, but here no such lunacy.  Amazing!

Why does this chair smell like rubbing alcohol?