August 15, 2001

My absolute favorite time of day – weekday noontime alone in a house full of people.  I seem to have slept off what was getting to me.  I overslept my usual 9AM by two hours – which is very unusual for me.  Last night Rafal appeared at the movie theatre five minutes late.

– Where have you been, late boy?

– It has been crazy day.  I am almost in tears all day.

What appears to have happened is that when Rafal went to school, he just unloaded all his problems onto his friend Salla – the Libyan with whom Kate is planning to stay until she leaves.  He then goes downstairs and Kate appears to check her email and ends up talking to Salla who relays to her all that Rafal told him.  You know, all the stuff they should have been saying to each other the whole time.

Rafal had told Salla that he loved Kate and Kate was surprised and evidently it may have a chance of working out.  Of course, neither of them have said ANY of this to each other – it’s all from Salla’s mouth.  And to be fair, who knows if he’s not telling each side what they want to hear?

So Rafal’s hopes are up, and instead of walking home with me after the movie he went down to Kate’s work to wait for her to get off at ten so that he could walk her home and talk to her.

He did walk her home.  And he did NOT talk to her.  Evidently this was the full extent of the conversation:

– Would you mind if I walked you home?

– No.  I don’t mind.

Then 30 minutes of silence until they got home and she went to bed.  I’m not seeing a whole lot of hope in this one.

Anyway, I got home and there was a bit of a party going on.  Declan and Fiona and her sister Sinead and Sinead’s boyfriend the amusing dirty scam job Rory.  I had something in my head so I ended up writing for a good spell in my room.  I’ve been trying poetry lately, and have fantasies now of going to readings in New York coffee shops.  Be part of a scene.  Though I am intimidated by how good my sister’s poetry is – lightning never strikes twice, after all.

A character in a 50’s movie in the other room just said, “I only make a hundred dollars a week, and you know I can’t live on that.”  Amen, brother, AMEN.

My poetry is horrendously shallow.  It’s either unrequited love shit or depressed suicidal shit.  I don’t feel especially suicidal right now, but as the adage goes – “old adage” would be redundant, wouldn’t it? – “Write what you know.”  It becomes obvious to me that I need to experience a whole lot more until anything I have to say will be of any merit.

When I came up to the living room they were red-eyed through a few joints and strawsipping on a Brazilian concoction knows as a “Caprini” or something like that.  It was some Brazilian sugar cane rum mixed with Demerrara sugar and poured over ice into a glass FULL of hundreds of little segments of lime.  It tasted pretty good, as long as there was enough sugar in the mix.  The nicest part was that all the limes and their juice spilling over the counter to the floor in fragrant water fountains gave the kitchen the nicest, freshest smell.  A wonderful departure from the usual dank mould smell.

Demerrara sugar is wet sand crystals thick and heavy, bits of windshield crass glass brown like molasses.  The rum is in a tall basket woven bottle – Ypioca Ouro.  Aguar dente de Cana – distilled from sugar cane.  39% alcohol.  Productores desde 1846.  Mummified in wicker caning, like the bottom of an old chair.  There’s a picture of an old bearded man in a turtleneck and jacket looming in the room, sipping appreciatively on a tumbler half full.  An interesting advertising idea – their market must be grizzled sailors and those who want to live their lifestyles.

I ended up telling the whole Rafal/Kate story to the assembled masses as Maeve knew there was a fight but wanted to know the details.  She just thinks that Kate is manipulative and is using Rafal for his room.  She was there at the Kitchen Nightclub when she was dancing dirty with other boys.  Everything happens when I’m not around.

Then we watched the second half of the Matrix – which really is AMAZING on a digital screen – and then went to bed.  I went to bed – no one else, of course.  I am the only lame one.  My stomach hurt again, and all I can deduce is that alcohol is now a full-out poison to me.

So here I am – at the end of this notebook with just five shifts until my 3 day break – SEVEN until I am DONE.

So where am I?

Well, my skin blemishes disgust me, I am still lonely, shit job is almost over, our house is BURSTING with people, we have an apartment in New York, mom sent me a bit of money so Europe looks brighter on the horizon, and I’m off to notebook four!

Thank you. –

August 13, 2001

I need to write more often because I’m always playing catch up.  And even though Maeve washed the table in her cleaning spree for Fiona’s arrival, it is still really nasty and I’m still using a magazine as a forearm condom.  Though the magazine, having been on the table, is not all that much better.

Finally yesterday my gallbladder caught up with me and I essentially fasted down the angry little pain in my side.  I had got to the point where I thought that perhaps it was all psychosomatic and had created it all in my fitness/thinness mania.  BUT no.  I have both a fixation on being thin and a painful angry organ.  I went out and bought some fat free pasta sauce – which is actually the best I’ve ever had! – and some crackers so it’s back to bread and pasta!  For a while, at least.

I sat at the table in my most foul of moods – my meek, quiet, soft defeated mood.  I had planned to write all that evening and I wanted to, but I just ate plan pasta and stared at the coverless Economist, flipping pages more than reading and I listened to O Brother Where Art Thou? on repeat for hours.

Maeve and Kevin woke up and were a happy bonding couple over French toast as I flipped and moped.  She is so happy and giving and he just doesn’t seem to be paying attention.  But I’ve seen them hold each other and that’s where it matters.  Opposites attract, I am told.

Tried to call Nick – Katie broke up with him out of the blue and he is destroyed.  “I’m just angry” or something was his email subject.  Sort of a relief – never a huge fan of hers and he needs to break from her in order to live his life as opposed to her life.  I should take that advice myself, but we’re all putzes and always think this is the last chance we’ve got.  I wonder if Chris knows – Josh should be ecstatic but he’s fallen off the email planet – I wonder if he’s still unemployed and miserable in New York, waiting on his leather sofa that’s never gonna come.

Anyway, Nick wasn’t there and I left a message.  Dad wasn’t there.  The other Nick was there but he had to jet – still nice to hear his voice.  Definitely my best college male friend.

Been emailing Michael – as overblown and pretentious in his emails as ever.  I just wish he’d write like a normal person – like he talks – not like a laudanum inspired Gothic romance.  Then again – who am I to cast stones?

Funny how I’ve held onto my high school friends – never really expected that at all.  Josh, Chad, Nick, Chris, and even Michael.  Never really thought that would be the case.  They’re good men.  And all of us are confused.  Michael got into GW Law School – good for him.

Back to staring blankly at the kitchen wall over the heads of the loving couple.  I went to do something in my room for a second and I hear Maeve yelling while Kevin ineffectively attempts to soothe her ragged nerve.  It seems that she accidentally swapped her very expensive jean jacket at the busy club the previous night for a cheap piece of shit that was revealed in the light of day to bear only a tacky and passing resemblance for her own.  She ran down the hall and slammed her door where I heard her cursing the universe.

So I’m still where I was, staring over the heads of loving couples, all empty inside.  But that’s okay – that’s part of this place tearing me down and me building something new and hopefully calmer and more self-assured and worldy in its place.

Then there was a Polish gathering in the sitting room – Oliver and Machek and Kate and Rafal and a swiss roll with “bill” berries and crisps and Zubrovka cut with apple juice.  Zubrovka comes with a long green straw of buffalo grass in the bottle stuck to the side.  With apple juice it tastes just like apple pie.  “If you put [the grass] in your mouth 20, 30 minutes, you are drunk, yes?  Put it in your mouth and suck on it and you are drunk.  No, really.”

Oliver was a tousled bleary eyed slouch who told me it would be a waste of time to visit Poland.  Machek was a jet black slicked ponytail olive gangle folded shut like a fan on the chair curled over Derek’s guitar and he played good blues licks as he barked out in Polish improvised lyrics about Kate that made them all laugh.  I haltingly repeated by tongue-twister and numbers and they all laughed.  “We are not laughing at you, it is just so funny to hear someone who is not from Poland speak Polish language.  Really.”  But that’s nonsense – I know when I’m being laughed at.  And it was fine with me.  I’m sure I was butchering their language.  And hey – if I want to be an actor I have to be comfortable with being the fool.

The Zubrovka was drunk, the Poles smoked Marlboro Lights, and I went with them to the off-license for some Stolichnaya.  My moratorium on drinking was suspended due to my girl troubles.  A worthy and time-honored exception from temperance.  Maeve and I split the bottle of vodka, I think the man at the off-license gave me too much change though I was in a haze and am still not sure, and as Maeve 7-Up’ed hers down I drank it straight hoping to avoid a horrible hangover as I had to open the next day.  I got real tired real quick, the Poles separated themselves down to Rafal’s room, and I went to my room.  My stomach felt awful and distended and I actually thought I would retch.  Hoped I would.  Knelt in front of my sink – my vomiting would be private this time – and spat a few times to try to get thing going.  Nothing came, I pulled off my clothes and fell backwards into bed.

The next morning was the conversation over the table with Kate about being expelled by Rafal.  My bowels were in raging upset all day and my gallbladder throbbed and a £450 take testified that there is no rest for the wicked.

I really didn’t know if I’d see Kate again, and that was an odd feeling.  Do you say “Goodbye” or “Later” or anything like that?  It was weird to leave yesterday morning with her eyes mascara flooded at the kitchen table.

Finally got home and found Rafal.  He seemed very calm and normal, which confused me even more.

– So what’s up?

– Nothing.

– What about Kate?

– Why do you ask?

– Well, she seemed pretty upset this morning.”

– What did she say?

– Well, that the two of you had a fight or something.

As it all reveals itself, Rafal had actually thrown her out of the house for the crime of not loving him.  Not that he would admit that, of course.  The evening after I went to bed proceeded thusly:

Oliver finds Rafal to tell him that Kate and Machek are kissing in the garden.  (Garden?  Broken concrete slug farm I’d call it.)  He goes to confront them, she laughs and goes inside to Rafal’s room.  He follows and the two of them are draped all over each other.  He gets the hint that they want to be alone and watches Pay it Forward with Michelle and Kevin.  He goes to his room afterwards and finds them – Machek and Kate – sleeping next to each other in his bed.  He stomps over to Declan’s bed to sleep, but is angry and goes back to his room and throws Machek out.  Rafal and Kate stay up all night talking and he tells her to leave.

– Don’t you think you’re over-reacting?

– No, but seriously, what am I supposed to do?  I open the door and they are there sleeping together on my bed.  You know, not naked, but next to each other on my bed.  The bed that I pay for.  And I am always sleeping on fucking air mattress and have pain in my back but that’s okay because she is guest.  And she can go out and have a date with whoever she want, but not on my bed.  What am I to do, sleep on fucking air mattress where I can see them together on my bed?  And she says it is my fault.  Why is this?  She says she was drunk and nothing happen but I am supposed to protect her.  She said I disappeared but I was in sitting room the whole time, yes?  She said I disappeared, that it was my fault.  I do not understand.

He recanted his eviction later that evening and told her she could stay until she could get a flight back to Poland because he told her family, he promised her family that he would watch out for her.  He went to work.  I fell asleep on Ulysses.  3 hours later I stumbled out of my room to Declan’s arrival.  Fiona, his long lost girlfriend, was arriving in a few hours from Munich and we went – mostly Maeve, actually – on a cleaning spree.  I had napped in front of the open window and was clamped up in my chest and wasted from the short sleep as I always am.  I stumbled around and pulled on my sweater and watched The Love Bug on Cine Disney and marveled at how stupid the films of my youth were.  I loved Herbie the Bug and even had a little toy car of him.  Matchbox-type.  Silly damn movie and the villain was the guy from Mary Poppins.

Exhausted, I waited for Fiona to come.  She did, I shuffled into the kitchen eventually to say hello, abandoning the stupid British cop show I was using to sustain my consciousness.  Fiona is beautiful, tall and tan and the two of them look very adult and handsome together.  Then I collapsed into bed after my exercises.

3:30 woke me with the loud moans of their reunion, but I managed to be still so exhausted as to fall back to sleep.

And here I am.  Eights shifts to go and tomorrow is my day off.  Maybe I’ll finally get a bank account.  I’ve almost used up this book and this pen.  Both good feelings.

I lifted some Nivea moisturizer from the shop – payment for staying late every time someone is supposed to come and relieve me – and it has pulled the redness out of my fingertips.  My thumbs are still all hangnails,  but they’ve been tamed.  I have to pee and run.  The countdown continues!  Suffer seven hours until I’m OFF!

I had just met a happy American woman who asked me which would be the liberal paper in Ireland.  I explained that it didn’t work that way – you have tabloids and other.  But they all hold the same “news”.  Then she wanted to know how to get to the Abbey.  She had just been up at the Friel family reunion where Brien Friel had been treated “like an angel boy.”

– Do sell stamps?

– Yes.  To where?

– To Germany.  I would like to write a postcard to Germany.

– All right.  That’s 32 pence.  Just one?

– Yes.  I am not such a big writer.

August 10, 2001

Two weeks from today and I will be done!  Only 11 shifts including this one looming over my afternoon!

I am so tired of this job.  I am so bored!  I haven’t touched by crosswords book or really anything.  Mostly I stare out in a self-pitying stupor.  When I planned to do this I really thought that 4 months would just swim past.  How wrong I was.

I’m also in a mood this afternoon because I drank last night, and I have truly realized its depressant nature.  Loosens you up as it flows through your system and tickles all your nerves on the way down.  However when it soaks into my muscles and bones and nerves and soul it deadens them.  I feel wooden.  And I’m always in a weepy mood the next morning.  Metaphorically weepy, that is.

Not that I drank all that much last night.  I have truly lost all semblance of a tolerance.  I had two pints of Heineken and a funny little test-tube of Jaegermeister – which is like drinking a Fisherman’s Friend cough drop – and I was pretty buzzed.  I’m such a lightweight!  That’s NOTHING!  Well, I guess at least in this period when I have no money – I literally have a handful of change to my name this morning – that I am a cheap date for myself.  Also good, I suppose, that I find Irish women as inherently unattractive as I could not POSSIBLY afford to have a girlfriend right now.  But I get paid today so it should all work out.  I really AM living hand-to-mouth.  And I don’t like it one bit.

Watched O Brother Where Art Thou? last afternoon with Kevin and Maeve.  I really enjoyed the movie, but it was absolutely the music that did it for me.  All those southern hymnal bluegrass scratchy record Grand Ole Opry sorts of songs.  Made me think of Grandpa Dunford and Mom.  George Clooney in the film combed his hair religiously with a black hard rubber comb and even looked sort of like Grandpa.  Made me think of him propped back in his burgundy recliner, white socks in black opera slippers, bluegrass on the radio and four crosswords ahead of him.  I think he only ever moved to eat meals and to flush them from his weathered body.  His hair gleamed charcoal and he smelled strongly of aftershave off his glistening face.  Sometimes the blue box would open and the rusty harmonica would wheeze from his fresh licked lips.  He’d tell me of the farm of his youth and a basket full of biscuits and ham his only companions on the miles and miles to school.  Thick plastic glasses he’d worn ever since they were the thing to wear, hair combed in the manner in which it was combed, attitudes held in the way they were held.  He feared and hated blacks and at dinner he would pray for the salvation of his next door neighbor, a Polish Jew who had survived the Holocaust at the cost of his family.

A slow moving, deliberate man.  A southern elephant.  A wonderful grandfather and a racist southern relic.  Exactly the sort of person the south needed to lose or change.

Since I’ve learned and had the chance to think about racism and the south and all that I get a bit confused in my emotions.  How could I love a racist?  Someone who perpetuated all the things that sadden me about the south and its ability to foster and perpetuate ignorance and intolerance?

I’d like to think it’s because I didn’t know.  That I had no choice, being related by blood.  And that, after all, is not the way that I feel or think.

I don’t know.  There’s a lot of shame, real and manufactured, in the South.  And the face of racism can be loving and related, but it is ignorance and fear that allows good people to feel that way.  There’s a fear that the past is never far behind, and then normal middleclass white folks march for the Klan and you think that maybe it never left or past.  Should I care when Grandma talks about the coloreds?  Should we try to change those so late in life?  Just wait for the generation to die off and with it their attitudes?  No, they stick like gum to a shoe and anyone who walked through it carries it with them, and there’s always a residue left when you try to scrape it off.

But anyway, the music was great and in what I’d like to think was an uncharacteristic act but which I know to be quite the norm, I ran down to Virgin Megastore and bought the soundtrack.  Mom would love it – I’ll see if maybe Kevin can burn me a copy.  Probably not.  He’s big talk and I’ve yet to see even medium action.

Yes, I’ve got the day after drinking blues, and I seem to be steering myself in a substance free direction.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I just realize I don’t care for the effects.  The cigarette tar tongue, the alcohol morning melancholy, the pot simple stupor.  Even chocolate I don’t much care for.  In fact, I don’t care for much, but bread and digestive biscuits.  And jam.  And a fear of being fat.  I think I’ve developed a complex about eating.  But the formula is so simple – eat less, weigh less.  A win/win situation!

I try to be sensible and do things with exercise and fresh fruit and never starving, and though I do eat quite a bit I always leave that edge of hunger.  And that can’t be good.  But I hate to feel full.  But I’m not really eating sensibly – bread and biscuits and chips at work!  My gall bladder is starting to throb a bit right now, actually.  But the stove is useless so I don’t cook my rice, they don’t have my beans and they don’t have my meatless meats that I adore.  Damnation!  So I eat CRAP.  The stove is awful and there is no fridge space so I only eat cold and boring component foods.  And I hate it.

And this house is a goddamned disaster.  The floors are a disgrace, people leave open magazines and CDs and dirty dishes and clothes and shoes and bottles and plastic bags and receipts and opened mail and CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE!  Plus everything is so generic and the walls are do dingy that even when I tidy up the living room it still is drab, terribly uninviting, a MESS.

My batteries have died so I can’t listen to my music to work.  Aah!  BUT I get paid so I’ll buy some batteries and have them for the walk home.  Ah, Friday night – drunk nackers on the move!  Something to which I can look forward!

My muscles hurt – another symptom of the morning melancholia.  My legs will be stiff today, no doubt.  And not just on account of walking downtown and back on 3 separate occasions yesterday.

But I want my body to be hard, to be perfect.  Because then maybe I could be hard and perfect.  I just want to be good and to feel good and to not assume that happiness is a chemical precursor to madness, or indeed the first part of it, as I do.  And I know I’ll never be PERFECT.  There’s always something.  But aren’t I supposed to try to get there?  Shoot for the moon and at least you’ll fall amongst the stars?  How much is enough?  I want to happy and be loved.  And I’m trying to get there.  And what’s so frustrating is not knowing which way to go.  I’m in the middle of a featureless acre and somewhere there’s a tiny sewing needle made of gold.  But they’ve spun me round in this blindfold and I could be looking forever.  I could just use a little encouragement.  A voice to bark “hot” or “cold” as I fumble in the dark.

Off to work.  Denied my brand new CD by weary power cells.  Full of ham sandwich and digestive biscuits and tea.  Off to chew a bunch of gum and eat something, or several something, that I’ll regret all topped off by another ham sandwich.

August 3, 2001

I woke up to Eva in my bed.

I was sleeping on the floor.

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day.

The night before I had stayed up late with Rafal – until about 2 in the morning – trying to learn a little Polish.  And THAT was after phone calls from both Gregg and Natalie.  Natalie succeeded in stressing me out sufficiently about New York – the ASTRONOMICAL fees involved in setting up shop.  I also realize I’ll have to do the job search thing ALL OVER AGAIN.  Rejection, acceptance, 7-11.  A deadly cycle.

Anyway, had great fun with Rafal – went into town with him the next day as he brought his smooth £90.00 suit – in light because he is dark, yes? – and then into Trinity where I checked my email for free but couldn’t send anything out.  Then I went down to Henry St. to that camping store where I bought a £5.00 backpack as I’ve realized that as much as I love my leather satchel, it is not meant for my lifestyle at the moment and it’s giving me pain in my right hip.

My legs have actually hurt quite a lot lately – that feeling of tingles when you haven’t walked for a while.  BUT I walk every day for at least an hour, if not more.  Maybe I need better shoes – some sort of hideous, ergonomic, plastic, space-age trainers.  THERE’S an idea.  Or maybe I’ll just continue to suffer for fashion.  If only I’d brought my Bongwater blacks!

It’s a pretty generic rucksack, so I went and bought an Irish patch for it – and two others as they were on sale! – and due to the strength of the canvas have only managed to stitch it 1/3 way on.

I wanted to see Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey, but they had no tickets.  At all.  For the entire rest of the run.  So what was I reduced to?  I went and saw Jurassic Park III.  It was a toss-up between that and Swordfish, but Jurassic Park was on the fabled great screen in theatre #1, so I went for that one.

I chose wrong.

To be brief, it was an awful story devoid of anything interesting or even mildly believable.  God-awful it was.  A waste of the film it was printed on.  On which it was printed.  The dinosaurs get better and better – they were great – but they NOT a movie make.  And, to be honest, they were almost peripheral to the ridiculous human stories.

I came home and went through THE GREATEST GIFT EVER!  FTC sent me a package with photos of the banner and program, a little pin, and even some letters that some people wrote.  It meant more to me than I can ever express.

Holly wrote me an email asking if I was pissed at her.  I responded that she made no sense to me anymore and that I hope she has a nice life.  I don’t mean it to be nasty – I just don’t think I can constructively have her in my life.  I really wonder how she’ll respond.

Sitting in my room, surrounded by my FTC gifts, Kevin came in and asked me to go to Molloy’s by Christchurch for a pint and an open mic night.  As I’d eaten literally all day I wanted to do the walk, but Kevin met a Kevin he’d met at Kavanagh’s who just happened to be going to that self-same open mic night at Molly’s.

I have to break here.  I am shaking tremendously upset.  Walking home after a perfectly long and mind-numbing day at work, feeling slightly revived by the omni-present Counting Crows, I was blind-sided by a stupid midget knacker bitch.  Out of the middle of nowhere.  Passing the bus booth before the train bridge, two girls arm in arm – flanked by two redfaced useless bits of boy meat – ran past me at top speed and whacked me in the chest with a fully outstretched arm.

It hurt.  Nearly knocked the wind out of me.

Of course I stop and turn around, pulling earphones down from my ears.  They are almost past the bus stop at the rate they’re running.  The short assaulting bitch with nasty blond shoulder-skimming course hair looks back to presumably gauge her effect.

“What the fuck?!” I yell.

The boy beasts sense a challenge and in the presence of what passes for the female of their sub-evolved species and they all come back to swarm me and make incomprehensible threats about my glasses and me being a faggot.  The girls are the worst, crowding in with their faces full of bad teeth and tar-stained acne flesh.  I know that I can’t take on four people, my glasses would be broken and my shit would get stolen by the harpies as they pulled my hair and bit my skin with their rows of sceptic snaggled teeth.  So I had to just stand there and take the shit.  I haven’t been made fun of since high school.  How do people go through life like that?

All I could do was yell, “Fuck you” as I left.  I had my money – £170 – in my pocket and a clear understanding of the odds.  Still I hate it.  It was all good fun for them, made them feel big and powerful and clever and invincible.  It just made me tremble like a leaf.

I hate eating other people’s shit.  I get so angry.  So I come down to my room, put my money away and stripped away all my things of value, washed my face several times, and then went out to see if they were waiting for the bus.  To finally stand up to someone.

But no.  I guess as luck would have it they had merrily frolicked on to destroy other’s people’s sense of esteem and – no.  FUCK THEM.  They don’t get me.  They don’t win.  I stood up and didn’t back down.  Didn’t just keep walking like nothing happened.  Stood my ground.  All I could be expected to do.

Maeve said, “Oh, knacker kids.  Yeah, they scare me.  I’m not afraid of men in dark alleys.  I’m afraid of those kids.”

Declan said, “Don’t let it bother you.  Hell, Kevin and I would have gone out and beaten the shit out of them for you.”

I actually really would have liked that.

The other reason I got hit – it was day 16 – halfway through work!  So I obviously couldn’t have TWO days of happiness without the bitter.  My horoscope said NOTHING about this!

That’s Ireland.  Had such a wonderful evening before, and so I had to get attacked on the street.  Good and bad back to back.  At least I wasn’t mugged – I still have my money and all my shit and my anal virginity.

All I wanted was to come home and sleep off the end of this hangover and be fresh for work tomorrow.  Now I’m all riled and hyper-sensitive about my chest and how it feels throbbing embarrassment and insult.  But I’m better now.  Fucking knacker children.

Where we left off, on my happy balance day of yesterday, when everything went so well, it was an evening of coincidence.  We finally got on the bus after waiting literally as long as it would have taken us to walk where the bus took us.  Kevin was schmoozing the band folks and trying to drum up some business and work some new connections.  As we walked up to the second floor of the bus I sat down right behind no less than Paddy!  Who was on his way into town to drink to the end of his thesis and all meet up in Zanzibar on the northside quays.  We promised to meet them later.

A hike from the bus terminus brought up past Christchurch and to Molloy’s, which was where Roisin used to live.  Or still does.  I don’t have a clue.  I miss her face.

Molloy’s was big red open and empty.  Two very bored barmistresses dispensed drinks that we carried upstairs to the plate glass windows looking out onto an uneventful street.  Rory sat across from me and threw his lanky body out in all directions as he told of living in New Jersey – the armpit of the United States – and teaching English in a small Basque town in Spain as he shared a room in a former seminary without a lounge of any sort.  For laughs they would go to a small pub in town where there were two racing car arcade games and you would tell the new guy to go up to the bar and order four big “maracones” – four big queers.  Much to the amusement of the rest of the bar.

We went downstairs where £3 let you into the world’s smallest basement-cum-stage.  Glow in the dark self-adhesive stars under a black light behind a candelabra – one full and aflame, one but stumps and unlit – were what passed for décor.  It was all pretty much your standard folky strumming terribly witty clever sad true all disguised in different voices.  ALL EXCEPT for the tall blond who was sitting next to me.  Eva.  Her allotment of 3 songs was amazing.  Her guitar gave off steel Indian sounds with actual notes chosen and not just a strum of chords to highlight the uninspired mediocrity of everyone else’s musical masturbation.  Her words were poetry, and well chosen, and complex.  I fell in love with her music.  I sat stone-faced transfixed, not touching my beer or wavering in my awe-stare for one minute of her far-too-short set.

I do hope Kevin got her on his minidisc – see if his technology is any good for all he talks it up.

August 1, 2001

Another day, another month in my joke of a life!

Before I get too far ahead of myself again, I need to recap certain events.  And continue the arrival of the Kevin story.

He breezes in big, loud, and American.  Accent on loud.  We all sit down in the sitting room and Declan and Paddy prepare for a deep lungful of homemade water-cooled wastebin bong smoke.  So Paddy does one, then so does Declan.  Kevin has been eyeing the proceedings with lustful wolf eyes.  Kevin says he must christen the bong.  It will help take the edge off.  Declan taps the poor empty bag with nought but green dust left inside and drops all those hints that anyone who was listening would pick up on.  But big loud Americans never listen and Kevin gets his bong made of the last scarce remnants of Declan’s weed.  He makes a big thumbs-up sign as he expands like a pufferfish.  This coupled with his shaved head and huge mutton-chop sideburns really does make me laugh.  Inside.  Where it’s funniest.

Kevin decides to take a shower to wash the airplane from his frame.  Maeve soon follows and they disappear to parts unknown. Or should I say, to her parts rediscovered.

I am like a dog following around Declan and Paddy, so obviously an outsider but so needy for conversation and companionship.  They share a few rashers and pudding.  I munch my toast and explain headcheese.  If you can’t be indispensible at least be interesting, I figure.

They are trying to decide where to go, but as Declan has paintball the next day he doesn’t want to go down to Club Voodoo where Paddy is set on going.  Anyway, Declan seems to recall that Club Voodoo is a gay bar, and Paddy is sufficiently put off.

I am ravenous, and against all my better judgments go across the street to Spar.  I can’t eat those triangle sandwiches anymore with their solid skin of butter and wilted brown salads, so I totally destroy myself and buy some McVities digestive biscuits and a Kinder Egg – just because I want to be happy.

I return home to find everyone had gone.  All out to Kavanaugh’s, I learn, to share a pint and the craic.  I, alone at the kitchen table, eat half a very unhealthy packet of delicious digestive biscuits, which are the round and greasy version of graham crackers.  It’s Bacardi 151 to the graham cracker’s Natty Light.  Then I unwrap my sad little Kinder egg with one side punched in only to remember that I don’t really like the flavor of that white layered milk + chocolate that surrounded my cheesy and disappointing grinning gold plastic airplane.

I blew on its propeller a few times, and when the novelty of the whirring buzz quickly wore off I went to bed and wept along to Counting Crows track 10 which I played over and over again, hoping to sustain a flow to purge my tears of loneliness and sadness and longing but to no avail.  I am a cornucopia of self-pity and my reservoir is fed by a great unlimited ocean refreshed by a constant rain.  So I am never left refreshed with newly emptied tanks ready to accept the joy of discovery and novelty, but instead with an increased sense of inadequacy at not being able to feel correctly.  And I fall asleep dry-eyed with a runny nose.  More trouble than it’s worth.

The next day was work and as they stumbled in at 4AM I learned by walls were not soundproof and I pray that they are not noisy lovers.

To make a long story short, that afternoon Kevin decides to “test” – read “show off” – his big American equipment with which he will continue his big American recording studio’s big American work even while he’s over here in Ireland.  Wow, we think, he must be very important and in-demand!  He plugs it all into a powerstrip, into the wall, there is a pop like champagne, a blue spark, the radio cuts out and the living room is dead.  As is the fridge.  And several outlets in the kitchen.

Figure this one out, big American jack-off!

We locate fuses and switches and flip to our heart’s content and Kevin is concerned he’s blown his specially built in California by hand to order built in a day sent that afternoon arrived on the tarmac as he stepped on the plane borne by a liveried Indian prince on a cushion of magenta velvet code-named black box sound device.  He goes in to a rant, Maeve curls up afraid in her chair, I go into my magazine.

Maeve tries every twelve seconds to alternatively call Michael – the landlord without a mobile or an answering machine – and to calm her big American lover with his big American temper.

Finally, drunk on his rage, he passes out and Maeve collapses in the sitting room looking frazzled and stressed.  She is genuinely embarrassed.

I suggest that bottle of wine we missed the other night, and in Quinn’s she chooses the white with the highest alcohol content – 13.5%!  She admits she was a bit upset by the afternoon’s activities.  I said, “Really?”  You could hardly tell by the way sshe gulped her wine like a fish with the sea.  Swallowing for dear life.

Declan and Johnny return from their paintball battle, reeking of sweat and pockmarked with bruises.  Never are they overly rushed by hygiene considerations to roll up a spliff, so they sit down and dip into the wine with us.  Declan goes and gets two more – reds this time.  A dark cinnamon Merlot and clean pale Pinot Noir.

Kevin is woken by the “smell of something herbal” and pulls right into a joint.  The sole candle drips wax on the table in a huge, jellied dribble and flickers on faces with muted orange.  Declan knocks over first one bottle of wine and then two, convincing himself that the carpet is thirsty.  Kevin brings in his laptop to play music – “It’s this great  8 disc box set of Atlantic Records rhythm and blues from, like, 1940 to 1970.  It’s got it all, man.  It’s cool.” – and Maeve starts to dance.

Keira comes home from her weekend in Mayo and at that exact moment Maeve knocks Keira’s stereo to the floor with a crash.  Keira, sour-faced, turns and silently stomps to her room.   Maeve says, “Oh, she was not impressed.”

I wrap up the cord and return Keira’s radio to her in her room, where she accepts it without a word.  No, indeed Maeve, she is NOT impressed.

I go to bed soon after to avoid further “unimpressive spectacles” – and awake on another glorious work-filled day.  With a twist.  The twist being NOT having work.  But I’ve explained that already.

And here we are today.  In the kitchen with my arm on the cleanliness magazine looking out on another beautiful day that I will miss as I perch on my unupholstered mountain peak and deal with the customer, who is always right.

It’s day 15 on the new calendar of 32, which makes 28 old days so taking the average I’m right at 30, with my final day figured to be August 24.  Something new to which I can look forward, as I have lost my desire for the flavor of Kit Kats and thereby the possibility of the radio.  And I am horrified by the amount of fat in peanuts and now I really don’t know what to eat!

Yesterday there was an armed robbery of a building society right up the road by the Tolka River.  Gardaí caught the bandits and recovered the money and were trawling the river for the discarded weapon.  Ah, Drumcondra, the Compton of Ireland!  Maeve said she saw the chase on the way home from work.  A body in a suitcase and an armed robbery equidistant from my gaff!  What a crazy little place!  Is it me?  Am I like Jessica Fletcher, bringing destruction where I go?  I like to think I’m a benevolent influence that protects from harm with my presence, which is why the crimes always occur while I’m away.  I should carry all my valuables on my person, I suppose.

Showed Ali G to Kevin last night.  God, it just gets funnier.  I have to get a tape of him to bring home.  Maybe Katherine would have one.

Time to pee then go to work.  Not hard, just boring.  Like a drunken frat guy.

Oh!  Sirens!  What am I missing?  I’m sure I’ll hear on the radio this evening.

Dancing – “You get all the exercise of walking with something to hold on to.”

“The country was dancing mad.  You’re always dancing mad when there’s nothing else to do.”

The appetite until 6 is solely cigarettes and water.  I feel like I’m a prison warden.

His high cheekbones pulled his nose up into the air and made him unbearable.

Life is not magical, comrades.  Nothing magical ever happens.  Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but hope in that magic is the heroin we inject with endless books and magazines that lead us to find hope in our shitty little jokes that are our lives.  You stay in that hair salon because tomorrow that rich man will come in with his frigid fiancée and instantly fall in love with you as you win his heart and conquer high society.

Well, it’s never gonna happen.  Here’s a hint to spare you a lot of heartache – he’s a pedophile and you’ll end up in a cast if not a dumpster.

July 11, 2001

Real quick – as it is very windy and I can’t keep the paper down – a small notice unnoticed before appeared in the Herald after being rejected from every number I called.  I came down to the Custom House Quay – Jury’s Inn – and got a job working in a little hotel shop!  35 hours a week!  M/W/F 2-9 and Sat. and Sun. mornings!  She SAID that if I show up tomorrow morning at 10 then the job is mine.  I’m not holding my breath, because to show up tomorrow to be denied would fracture my little heart and put me in a right horrible mood.  £4.95 an hour.  I must remember to bring my PPS# in as well.

Please let this work out.  I’m getting so bored and lazy and tired and angry and apathetic.  She said it’s easy and I could read or whatever.  Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a shit job to while away these horrible Dublin hours?

Anyway, I need to return to Frank Ryan’s Pub yesterday.  So the two foul mouthed gents next to me, the odd couple, the one bloodshot untucked shirttails and the other thin smooth haired checked-jacket-wearing precise partner.  Each were a half of their conversation, cutting and drifting through each other and addressing questions to each other as they went along.  Then there was John, the oldest man in Dublin, mumbling half-words through a dribbling mouth marked by the odd crooked tooth.  He sat in a corner under a picture of himself in that same corner.  His strands of hair faded into the alabaster dust of his parchment flesh.  However his eyes shone like onyx, as bright and black as the pint on Guinness in his hand.  He didn’t look half as shop-worn as some of the other men I have seen drinking on the street at midday in Dublin, but his picture seemed to vouch for his status.  He was an immobile monument in the dark polished wood of the bar.

The bar was dark wood with upholstered green benches along the wall fronted by round tables with ashtrays and coasters.  Drawn up to the bar were high, green upholstered backed stools.  On the walls were license plates from Canada, Dubai, and even Virginia, which was of a recent enough pattern to send a little chill of homesickness mitigated by pride through my body.

There was a mirror behind the bar that ran the length of it, in front of which were upside down bottled of Power’s and Smirnoff and Cork gin and Bailey’s all plugged into their 350mL dispensers, all with their upside down labels save for one.  Also in front of the mirror was a gigantic antique classical wooden clock, giving a nod to the architecture of the ancients as well as their perversity – on top of the clock two hand-carved wooden elephants were madly copulating.  Perhaps the gaudiest and greatest timepiece I have yet to behold.  I was filled with envy by that which was at once so antique and classic and yet so perverse and kitsch.

The walls were covered with pictures, but for the life of me none of them are at all clear in my memory.  They are all bits of frames with muddles of brown smudges inside.  In fact, I don’t think I would have noticed them at all apart from Frank taking one down off the wall.  I have a clearer memory of the square of brown paper pasted over the back of that picture and the wire stretched across it that I do of any of the art.  It all just sort of melted into the dark paneling, amber light and coating of nicotine and tar on all the surfaces.  It was like a pastel that had been brushed by a careless hand, pulling all the dusts of colors together and blurring their outlines.  It was a décor that was no examined but that instead stayed in that half blur of the edge of your vision.  It was the guy at the bar who never says anything – you know he was there, and even though you were almost elbow-touching for an hour there is no image.  Just a feeling of presence.

Ireland touts that half its population is under the age of 25 and in its search to be Europe and America it is adopting the obnoxious and somehow missing the worthy.  The men in that pub were what I had hoped Ireland would be.  Frank was enormous and heavy, but he had a very soft voice and a flush of his cheeks that highlighted his bright eyes.  There were Frick and Frack next to me and the slowly-sipping oldest man in Ireland in the corner.  Once they got into my name and its origins they couldn’t stop talking, ordering up the Golden Pages to provide me with Dunfords in Dublin and giving me directions to Goleen, near Skibereen in Cork where they fancied I came from.  When I left they shook my hand and asked when I’d return, making sure they’d heard my name correctly through the alcohol earmuffs and telling me that dinner was at 1:00 and Irish music was Tuesday nights.

Warm, open, bizarre, loud, drinking men – full of stories and opinions and directions and knowledge.  I instantly liked them more than anyone I’d met yet.  An Ireland full of stories and tradition and profanity and Guinness whiling away their lives in a dark wooden pub with the racing on the TV and their bets noted on their folded Evening Herald.  Characters all.

I must go back.  And Guinness is a sensible £2.50 a pint, not that lunatic £3.10 you can find in the center of the city.

The well-groomed of the couple, who shall now be known as Chaos and Order, told me that “Ford” always indicates a Viking heritage.  The people who came over with broadaxes flailing.  “The sins of the father are not the sin of the son,” I said.  Further, “Dun” means a fortress or a fort, while “Ford” means an opening or a crossing.  So I am a paradox, you see.  An opening that is a fortress.

“You’re not by any chance a schizoid?”

“That remains to be seen, sir.”

John, the oldest man in Dublin, never heard the name “Dunford.”  But that’s fine – John was a Dubliner.

THAT’S how the whole conversation got STARTED!  I told Mr. Ryan that I hoped to see Cork.  Frank said that Chaos was from Cork and called to him.

“Ah, you’re a Corker, are you?  What’s the name?”

Ah, yes, now I remember.  He never quite got past the marauding Viking idea.  I think it’s rather cool myself.  And hell, Dublin is so goddamned riled up about its Viking heritage that you’d think it would be a point of pride.  But, as always, I am the outsider on Ireland’s shores.  The perpetual immigrant.  However, an axe and a berserker bloodlust would certainly change the tone of the trip.  The Vikings gave Ireland the smack – I should follow their example.  I also mentioned that I’d heard the Spanish were great invaders.  Chaos and Order laughed this off.  Order explained that they would every now and then get an Armada together and rail off to conquer but be destroyed and discouraged by the weather whenever they tried.  And eventually they stopped trying.

I really liked the Ireland of Frank Ryan’s Pub.  The old Ireland.  It is this 50% under 25 influence that I hate.  They need to prove they are not provincial by demolishing old landmarks and erecting huge concrete and glass towers that pop up incongruously from the skyline like a black mustache on a beautiful woman.  The Irish language itself is peppered with English, so that an episode of Ros na Rún is almost incomprehensible without the subtitles.  Like carrion birds they have greedily stuffed themselves on the carcass of the rest of the West – forgotten fads and fashions and attitudes long discarded by the rest.

They try so hard to adopt the indifference they feel must come with being cosmopolitan and steel themselves to be hard enough to compete in a global dog-eat-dog market.  They push up prices so that they keep up with the Joneses even with their price tags – unless it costs as much as everywhere else it can’t be as good or will be ridiculed as backwater.  They young Irish so desperately want to fight the image of the sod-burning whiskey sweating sheep fucking paddy.  They adopt a version of urbaneness hollow and ragged, like a photocopy, culled from impressions of American television and British magazines.  But, as the movies come here up to a year later than anywhere else in the world, so too is it never quite right.  Ireland is always behind.  Women still wear nasty ‘80s pinks and stretch and pony tails on the top of their heads.  Boys walk around in goth garb or with huge tent pants and Mohawks.  Always a step behind.  Never quite right.  And it’s a small little city.  I can walk across it in half an hour.  Their idea of comprehensive inner-city transit is a bus.  But they want so desperately to make it a bustling mad mega-opolis ready to burst the seams.  They affect the harried, uncaring, self-important attitude of the cities that could hold Dublin in one of their parks next to the duck-feeding pond with room left over for a swingset.  They’re too busy, too harried, too important to care, too dependent on that great symbol of upward mobility and worldliness – the cell phone.

I hate cell phones.  Dublin lives on its “mobile”.  Children, elderly infirm, athletic, housewives, businessmen have cellphones.  I am the one person, along with my Polish roommate Rafal, to not have a cell phone.  When a phone rings, all Ireland pats its pockets.  I’ve seen it happen.  Dublin has a tinny electronic soundtrack as everywhere someone’s mobile is serenading us with the music of Celine Dion or the hits of Boyzone or some other poorly rendered electronic muzak version of a popular and incredibly forgettable song.  And they always let it ring long enough to make sure that everyone knows they have a cellphone and they are the ever-harried important city dweller on the move who has been urgently contacted.  Indeed, the cellphone is the great Ferrari of the Irish identity crisis.  The bulging codpiece of the Elizabethan gentleman; the Louis Vuitton purse of the 13 year old socialite carried conspicuously in her manicured hands.  It is the symbol of the new Ireland and no one can wait not only to have one but to pour all available money into customizing it to reflect their worldly personalities.

Mobiles must keep the Irish economy alive.  Every other as is for mobile phone top-ups and every other shop is selling the phones and every other store has the section with the customizable covers with Bacardi rum or Tweety Bird or Budweiser on them.  The newspaper is awash with brightly colored squares of new ringtones for your mobile!  And graphics for your mobile!  The shelves are stuffed with cute text messages to send to your friends, volume 1, 2, and 3.  Yes, the mobile is the great conspicuous indispensible status symbol.  The great penis of modern Ireland.  No longer is it a pub with a fiddler and uileann pipes – it is a soundtrack of tired top 40 American and British pop hits laced into a dance beat played over the MTV flashing by on the silver, widescreen TVs.

It has lost its traditions.  It has thrown away its map (for a map is just a memory of where you’ve been) and is not fumbling blindly and lost, grabbing desperately everything it finds in the dark.  I am bombarded by music being driven into my years far long passed from my airwaves and fads long proven stupid in front of my eyes.

My handwriting is fading which means time to break.  Basically it is the denial of heritage and tradition that has led to this culture that bothers, vexes, insults and ignores me so.  I should really get out to the country – but now that I have a job – maybe?  Never get my hopes up.

June 30, 2001

Friday I asked Declan to share a bottle of whiskey with me as a thank-you for smuggling me into school with him to check my email in his secret high-tech lab.

Plus, it just seemed a very Irish thing to do.

I chose Paddy Whiskey, because even though Declan said it’s a bit rough and Jameson’s really is the best choice, I saw them drink it in Waking Ned Devine and it’s not available in the US.  Declan said it’s a very 1970’s country drink.  Interestingly on the label they say the name “Paddy” came from one of their most famous salesmen of the golden liquid.  My question is – what did they call it before then?

Declan jokingly said if we finished the bottle in two hours then we would still have time to get a second one before the off-license closed.  A small rush of usually dormant testosterone flooded my body and I said, “Sure, why not?”

First bottle came and went.  It’s sort of nasty when you start and then you get to the wonderful place during a night of alcoholic mayhem where you might as well be drinking water because it’s so smooth and tasteless.  You could be drinking kerosene or mare’s piss – if there’s alcohol in it you’ll get to that point.  And that’s when you need to stop or you’ll get in trouble.  We did not stop.

Declan told me of a brand of harsh, nasty cigarettes that complete the Paddy image of a rough Irish country night of boozing, so of course I had to run to Spar and get a 10 pack and a chicken stuffing sandwich as Declan ran to the off-license for bottle number two.  Neither the cigarettes nor my sandwich had much flavor either.  Another bad sign and unheeded warning.

There was some hesitation to open the second bottle.  It sat on the table untouched for several minutes until its awful Pandora’s screw cap was cracked open.  Unconsciously we much have known what we were in for.  Halfway through the second bottle we went outside for fresh air where we smoked the rest of the cigarettes – I got into quite a rhythm with them, starting off a new one with the embers of the last – and Declan punched bins.

When we wandered back in Declan gave me a course in German geography with his map book and we sort of grimly and quietly then went about the task of finishing that bottle, which would essentially make it a bottle each in under four hours of 40% alcohol.  I started to taste the whiskey again.  Very bad sign.  I was already on bathroom trip 39, as I pee like nobody’s business when I drink as all good and healthy fluids are immediately rejected, replacing my spit and my sweat and my blood with alcohol.  Filling the laces of my muscles and capillaries of my brain with pure poison.  When you start to taste it again is your body’s last kind reminder before it takes matters in its own hands (ha, ha) and it was my last wall-banging trip down to the bathroom that I began to vomit.

Now, to be honest I don’t remember vomiting.  I remember feeling terrible and wanting to vomit.  I remember laying my head on the toilet seat and gagging and spitting and pushing my fingers down my throat and scrambling my uvula, and praying and hoping and desperately trying everything I could to vomit.  But I don’t remember actually doing it.  Then somehow I woke up in my bed, fully clothed with my shoes off.  I woke up and threw an entire bottle of water down my throat, which did nothing to alleviate the tightness and dryness of my poor parched sandpapered throat.  I went to the bathroom and there was on the rug three separate piles of pasta and chicken and stuffing.  I was in that stimulus/response of hungoverhood, that limbo of ID before you truly wake up where there is nothing but absolutely basic, troglodyte brain functions.  You’re like a lab rat with an electrode.  Stimulus.  Response.  So I saw my three neat heaps of largely undigested food, scooped it up in my hands, and flushed it down the toilet.  Then with my hands and toilet paper cleaned the disgusting floor and carpet.  I took the carpet outside and poured some boiling water over it and bought some Febreeze and did my best.

Frankly, I don’t think that bathroom had ever been cleaned, so my vomit cloud had a silver lining.