July 20, 2001

Today is the first of my thirty shifts. I think I’ll put a little card on my dresser so that I can tick them off. I really am here for quite a long time – it’s as long as a semester, really! And I’ll quit work when they start school again – I hope my sister got that writing class. She’s so gifted at writing, it really does put me to shame. Wouldn’t it be great if both of us could do something with it? Mine seems so trifling next to her poetry however. I hope the old adage is true, that you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

I was exhausted last night after hiking all day – there’s actually sun in my face! – and then walked to TESCO for work food – if I didn’t have it I’d eat chocolate all day and then downtown to the £2 internet shack which had become my favorite. (I still see the fellow from the local internet shack standing outside sometimes and we always smile and greet each other). Then I bought a phonecard because more than anything I wanted to talk to home. However I was never alone in the sitting room but I still ended up pushing myself past my exhaustion to 12:30 just in hopes that Keria and Declan would go to bed. I even thought about staying up until 3 in my room or setting my alarm. And why? Why have I spent £60 on phone cards to date? I never really say anything except to mom because I email everyone all my actual news. I really just want to laugh and chat and close my eyes and pretend it’s a local call I’ve made and we’re just chatting on the phone, about to decide to meet somewhere and see a movie. I want to talk to my friends and while email is nice it is incomplete. The phone is incomplete, but at least there’s the voice and the spontaneity of conversation. Letters and emails are so one-sided, but a conversation really is a meeting and a haring of another person’s present – and all we have is the present. It means something when someone wants nothing more than you in their eyes and their ears and their brains. And it could be just for a minute, but THAT is what I miss the most.

This tabletop here in the kitchen really is so grimy and disgusting with spilt tea and sugar and jam and crumbs and ashes all camouflaged by its bright floral print. It really is so nasty that I’ve put down a magazine on which to lay my elbow so as not to crunch as I move across the page.

As my semi-legible entry from yesterday revealed, I went to Howth. I had planned on going to one place mentioned in my guide as having beautiful scenery, but when I got to Tara St. I realized that it was to the south of the city. As I’d already gone south, I just decided to take the north route as far as it would go. Plus, Aoife is from Howth so I figured I’d give it a go. I’ve never written down Aoife’s story! So let me pause for a minute.

Aoife came to work on Saturday with a backpack because she was going to change in the bathroom to go out with her friends directly after work. She invited me along, but as I had to open the next day I wisely listened to the clever part of my brain and declined. The next day she is a full quarter of an hour late to relieve me. I’m not angry, just curious as she’s always been 15 minutes early before.

– What’s up? You’re usually early!
– I know, I’m sorry. I spent all night in the hospital!

She’s still trying to reconstruct the events of the evening, but the story goes that they were in Temple Bar and the last thing she recalled was an unbroken chain of shots. Next thing she knows she wakes up strapped to a board and the only thing that she can manage to say is, “Where are my shoes?”

The story goes – as it was told to her – that they left a pub and she slipped on the street and hit her head on the curb of the sidewalk. A crowd of 300 semi-sober accident vultures crowded around her and as her breath was so shallow and she was out cold the conclusion was that she was dead. The ambulance came, strapped her in, and off she was for a free night of luxury accommodation in the Mater Hospital. She’s pretty sure someone shoved her playfully, but as the situation turned out as it did then no one is willing to fess up to it. I felt the back of her head – it was as if someone had implanted a raw hamburger in her scalp and sewn it up very badly. Perhaps the nastiest bump ever.

Back to Howth.

I really have no idea what’s at Howth, but it’s to the north and that’s all that matters to me. Through the train windows I see a beach and a cute little island with a Martello tower. Enthused, I run off the train and to the beach. The weather was beautiful with clear bright skies and the feeling of the sun just soaking into your pores like warm olive oil and bread.

The beach was not quite my cup of tea. It was very small, nothing more than a strip by the shipyard and the DART tracks. Second, the instant smell was of the THOUSANDS of decaying jellyfish frying themselves into nothing but little circles in the sand. They were everywhere, some still bloated with life like contact lenses from some Cyclops. Third, the Irish do not provide their children with bathing costumes. Instead they bring them to the beach where they strip down to their underwear and frolic with each other, throwing great cascades of jellied sand up in the air and over the heads of poor bystanders.

Then, of course, there was the ubiquitous dog shit without which, I am sure, Ireland would cease to exist. It’s the flag they lay down to show their territory. Like a flag on top of Mt. Everest but far less pleasant in the sunshine.

Then I meandered along the docks and the heavy wooden fishing boats covered with their nets next to the sleek white yachts and tiny little sailboats. I wandered around the town and wanted to get up to the Martello tower above me surrounded by a fence next to the skeleton abbey. I found a way back up to the tower on a road winding around the edge of the town and brought my lunch there. It was really a lovely lunch, bought from the clerk at Spar who was quite evidently getting frustrated by the back-talking group of children who would buy some candy, count their change and then buy some more. I passed my baguette and smooth Laughing Cow reduced fat cheese over their heads and then marched back up the hill. I sketched the tower, laid back in the sun, watched the harbor, relished the quiet and worshipped the weather.

Someone bought a 30p pack of gum with a £20 and I had NO smaller bills. 19 one-pound coin and a 50p and a 20p. That is a huge handful. A concealed weapon.

Could these people chew more gum?

– Can I get a box of Cadbury Roses?
– Sure.
– Great. Charge it to the hotel.
– Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t do charges.
– Yes you do. I come in here every day.
– Well, I’m sorry, but –
– Listen, I’m the hotel manager. I sign a chit and you charge the hotel.
– Do you know what that would look like?
– Listen, just leave a note for Angela. Say Edward Stevens took some Roses and she is to charge the hotel. Have you any bigger boxes?
– No, I’m afraid not.
– That one there? Is that bigger?
– No, that’s just the side. They’re all the same.

[And then he left. No thanks. Prick.]

She is typically beautiful with her long pale face and long blonde curtains. It is tight blue denim head to toe, and she is thoroughly unremarkably beautiful down to her pink glittered manicured toes ever so purposefully peeking out from her high heeled sandals. She is painted in blue denim. But it’s her thick wide white patent leather belt, not even threaded through the loops but perched like a necklace on her hips with its two rows of holes that shines out bright from her pelvis that stirs my chest and tightens my skin.

He is beautiful with soft blue eyes and an inconspicuous halo of blond crewcut as pale as his flawless perfect skin. His eyes are like an iceberg, deep blue frozen clarity that you could see right through but for the intense haunting color. He is broad and strong, but not threatening. His movements are as soft and precise as his broken English, punctuated by a deep look from his impassive inviting eyes. He is defined but not chiseled as there is nothing harsh in him, almost as if someone had drawn him very deliberately but with the soft edge of snow and I was looking at him outside through the steamed glass.

The way that “Manhattan” is written on those popcorn packets looks initially like “man eater” then “man hater” before it ever looks like “manhattan”.

Every day I walk home past the National Association for the Deaf, which of course comes out to be NAD in huge letters which always makes me giggle. But would it be any better if it was renamed Society for Ireland’s Deaf, which would come out to be SID? Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Or the Allied Irish Deaf Society – AIDS?

– Have you any stamps?
– To where? Where do you want to send them?
– To Scotland.
– How many would you like?
– I’m a bit taken aback, they never have them.
– I have ten left.
– Oh, I won’t need that many. Being a good Scot. That would mean I’d have to buy that many and then buy the postcards to put them on.

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