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 8, 2001

8/8!  I must call mother!

And the lotto draw is tonight!  I must play.  Figure out if I’m eligible only if it becomes an issue.  Hopefully it will.

I find oftentimes that the happiest memories are the ones we wished we had.  Like that split second joy in Bray on the promenade with my 99 ice cream cone pulling my mouth up to smile around its nostalgia.  Never have I had that day at the seaside with the ice cream cone, but I felt imaginary father’s fingers hand it to me in limegreen shorts under tousled hair as mom and sis sit under an umbrella by the transistor radio all black glasses glamorous beach chic.  I was 8 and the seagulls flew low over a deep technicolor green and the beach was hot mustard under my flip flop feet.

But I was alone.  Cold.  Tired.  On a gray and rocky beach.  With a cone that cost the very last bit of my money.  And though I am terrified of frozen fat, I could not resist myself.  And that taste of 50’s stock imagery illusion triggered by twirled frozen made me as happy as if I’d lived it.  I was genuinely happy for a moment.  It, like gas and love, passed.  To be replaced by the big empty.  But I’ve tasted happy, and I like it.  I’ve developed a taste for happiness.  Must it always be alone in the gray with manufactured memories?

Twelve shifts to go!

I want to talk to mom, but there’s always someone in the sitting room.  Right now it’s Keira, brooding in her lonely self-imposed funk.  She does really seem so unhappy and put out by having to live with people.  I think she yearns to be alone.  Kevin must drive her nuts.  I scratched out Declan because he is too charismatic – even Keira forgives him.

I haven’t written a lot because I’ve gotten very bored.  The work/sleep/eat cycle has begun to stamp its robotic imprint onto my angry little resentful life and I’m just falling down into that hole I’ve dug for myself with my aspirations and desire.  Hope is a grave.  Desire is a grave.  The harder you work at it the further you’ll fall.  And the more that will suffocate you as you life cold on the bottom.  I’m not really that fatalistic right now, but a neat image I think.

Couldn’t resist – had to play the Lotto today.  £6.6 MILLION!!! AND it’s 8/8!  If EVER there was a better time ME to play the Lotto, it was today.  I chose one set of numbers, mixing favorite numbers with random picks – your 9’s, 33’s, etc.  I also did a computer-chosen quick-pick.  Neither choice was a damn bit of good.  But it was only £1.50.  And I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t at least TRIED.  Everyone says this, but it WOULD have been nice to win.  I would have flown all my friends over to tour Europe!  For a weekend, at least.

Rafal and I had a joke – being foreign we didn’t know if we were eligible to win.  And if we did – as I was convinced I would – we would have to give the ticket to an Irish person to split with us.  It would have to be Maeve – Declan would smoke it and Keira would horde it and scowl at you as you tried to collect your half.

I need to sleep – I open again tomorrow.  So damn early.  I need to go back to school!

August 6, 2001

Well, I’ve been fighting it as well as I could.  To no avail.  Sitting around in just a t-shirt all morning – nevermind the fact that ALL my clothes are outside on the clothesline in the rain.  Fucking barbaric island.  It just seems rather ridiculous to go through the bother of actually CLEANING your clothes, only to throw them on a rope outside where the birds can crap on them, insects can fuck and lay broods of eggs, and rain can leave water marks.  Why wash at all?

But anyway – I can’t fight it.  I’m back in the kitchen with my sweater on wrapped around a mug of tea with my hands getting stiff again.  Yes.  It’s cold.  I must assume that the last two weeks – weeks in which NOT ONCE did I wear a sweater.  Weeks in which I EVEN ventured outside the house on TWO SEPARATE occasions without a jacket.  Weeks in which I ACTUALLY took my shirt OFF in Phoenix Park to take advantage of what I recall to be the SUN.

No.  Those days are over.  Summer has hiccupped and back we are to where we started.

It’s raining right now as we speak.  Cold.  Gray.  It makes me feel cold just to have the gray light hit me through the crusty windows.  It makes me feel cold just to hear the dagger drops of rain on the corrugated iron roof of the other bathroom.

Well, there it was!  Summer come and gone.  In TWO WEEKS.  The SAME TWO WEEKS I worked extra days and had my hours fucked with.  The SAME TWO WEEKS that left the two or three solitary rainy days to the two or three solitary days off I had.  But, on my frequent boredom trips to tidy the 40p postcards I saw the sun out the window and though I never FELT it per se, as it would cloud over the moment that I stepped outside as if the sun was taking a shower and drew a towel around herself out of embarrassment when she saw me – still I sold enough bottles of not cold enough still mineral water to fat old sweating tourists to convince me that there was SOME pleasant weather out there.  Though I suppose it is all technically hearsay.

I never got to explain Eva.  I always do that – get lost in the details and forget to mention the big picture.  The reason I started writing in the first place.

So Eva finished her set – her music metallic and elegant, with notes picked out as opposed to the strumming musical masturbation of the 20-something Jack Kerouac wannabes. It sounded almost Indian, her music did, but rippling like a current propelling her words.  She sat next to me.  What’s the point?  I thought – but I had to tell her how much I enjoyed her music.  I told her Kevin was looking to record people.  I told her I wanted to hear her play again.  Did she have a recording?  Anything?

We talked between maudlin 3 song sets of young adult angst delivered in eyes-closed solemnity.  I raved about her music.  She was coolly appreciative in her Swedish accent.  The bands played on, but I just waited for the breaks to whisper in her ear.  Kevin got up to leave.  I asked her to come along.  And she did.

Off to Zanzibar – architecturally a VERY exciting space for me with its Casablanca-like interior of pierced lanterns and rows of cushions by palms and tiled floors.  I almost expected a bowl of dates on the table.  I hadn’t expected to go for but a pint, and the two £5 notes stuffed in my breast pocket as we left had been reduced to an unimpressive jingle of coins in my pocket from Molloy’s and the open-mic entrance fee.

She sat down at the table – ma’am, you can check your guitar at the coat check – she said thank you with you intention ever of doing so.  She winced at the club music and the gyrating youth.  I ran to O’Connel St. for an ATM.  An ENVELOPE full of money at home and I ran to the ATM.  I need to be better prepared.  I essentially ran there and back, terrified that she would leave.  But why?

I couldn’t get enough of her.  She was a thinker – someone who wanted to talk about life and ideas and who had a poet’s mouth that couldn’t hold in her pain.

I came back and she was still there, talking to Kevin.  Declan and Paddy, who we’d gone there to meet, were not even on my agenda.  Just Eva.  She was in her 40’s, divorced, separated from her last partner.  Always “partner” – never “boyfriend” or, for that matter, “girlfriend.”  “Partner” always.  She had two children.  She’s sang for five years.  Her children were in Cork for the weekend with their father.  She came from a long line of actors and we both agreed on Bergman’s Fanny + Alexander.  Her father had been in a Bergman film.  She ran away at 16 to Morocco – well, she ran away twice.  First she and her friends were caught in Gothenburg as they were mistaken for a gang of wanted youths.  After two days in a holding cell she was sent back to Stockholm.

The next time was to Paris for a while and then Morocco to her boyfriend’s home.  She lived in a traditional Moroccan home and so was bound by Moroccan expectations.  She could not leave the house and the only song she ever heard was Hotel California.  She escaped to the Swedish embassy and the only thing she took with her on the plan was an abject hatred for all things Moroccan.  The food, the music, the Eagles.  The family could never understand why – why should she not want to marry their son?  He was a good catch.  What more could she want?

Why, I do not know.  But it was Cork and there were hippies there and she started to play.  It all gets much less specific.

She’s been emotionally, sexually and physically abused.  Love makes you arrogant.  She was so happy with her partner she was so arrogant in her happiness.

She has a family history of suicide.  She’s easily addicted and had far too much alcohol.

They shepherd us all out like sheep, waving their arms and prodding the herd.  Perhaps I’ve missed the last bus to Dun Loaghaire.  You can come crash on our couch – people always do.  How far is it?  A bit of a walk.

Kevin stumbles out of Super Macs with a face like he’s jus stuffed the last of ninety fries into his mouth with a drunken stagger to complement I ate way too much ketchup he burps.

Some tall skinny has stolen a pack of Times Saturday magazines – a sight that reminds me unpleasantly of the newspaper stuffing weekend ahead.  In a broken, open-eyed Chinese caricature he offers to sell us the magazines, pausing every five minutes to bow under the weight of the stack and complain about how heavy they were like clockwork.  We will not buy them.  He gives us all one oh they’re heavy and we walk off.  Kevin rolls his and puts it on a window ledge of the Bank of Ireland.  Eva asks what his problem is.  Kevin is far too ketchup poisoned to notice.

Back home sitting room talk and Kevin quickly goes to bed.  She plows into her Marlboro Lights and I doze in the chair.  She has a silver bracelet on the ankle of her boot and her naked feet are stretched out on the couch.  You’re welcome to sleep on the couch, but just keep in mind that my roommates go to work at eight.  Well, it’s 4:00 now, so I either get woken up in four hours or sleep in your room.  Hey, it’s your call.  People sleep here all the time that I don’t know.  It’s no problem.  Well, I’d rather sleep in your room – with respect.

I gather the pink sleeping bag from under the phone.  She strips off her black jeans but leaves on her ¾ sleeve brown shirt and slides into my bed.  I kick off my shoes and lay on the floor.  She drops the grey pillows down to me.  We talk and I hear Kevin grunt into Maeve as I drift off in the cold.  I forgot to close my window.

The most awkward part of the morning is that I like to be alone in the morning and there she was.  Still asleep.  I wanted to write about it all, shower, prepare for work.  She was asleep.  I tried unobtrusively to make as much natural noise as possible.  What do you do the morning after?  Open drawers, arrange loose change on the dresser, sit and breathe loudly.  Maybe she thinks I’m asleep and doesn’t want to disturb me?  Make deep, awake sighs and quick awake breaths.  Stretch and groan.  Knock up against dresser.

Here she rolls over.  Runs to bathroom without pants.  I prepare to shower as she slips back under the duvet.

Would you like some tea?  Soup bowl or cup?  The sink is full of thick black water and it scares me.  Milk?

She laughs at my skim milk and doesn’t trust the health craze.  She eats butter.  Americans, no offense, are obsessed with weight and being beautiful.  Yes, we are.  So am I.  She likes Irish girls because they walk around with bellies hanging out of crop tops spilling over straining jean bands and say fuck you, I’m beautiful.

Rafal comes up and clears the sink and wonders who she is.  She leaves along with her number on my wishful thinking list.  I gave this to your friend but maybe you would be more apt to use it.

She’s playing at the International Bar on Sunday.  Around 6.  I tell her I’ll try to go and wave her off down the street to the bus stop with a sincere thank you – I had a great time last night.  She smiles and is off around the corner.

I close the door and greedily get back to my routine.  Not too far disrupted as I woke up early with foreign breath in my room.  I’m back on schedule.

I did not go to see her yesterday.  I regret it.  I’d like to call her.  I’d like to have a friend.  That TALKS about IDEAS.

And nothing happened between us, snickering Maeve.  I did not try, nor did she.  Did she maybe want to?  I was attracted to her, but I didn’t want to lose the word-exchanging time.  I needed someone to think with, not swap fluids with.  I need her mouth to make words, not orgasms.

Part of me doesn’t know whether to try to see her again.  I don’t want to spoil my memory.  She is the first person I’ve ever MET in a bar.  Complete stranger.  Right into my bed.  I can’t be too repellant or uninteresting.  It’s very odd to wake up, though, to what really is still a stranger in your bed – no matter how well you may have clicked the night before.  I don’t think I’d like to fuck someone in that situation.  I felt weird enough in a guiltless free chaste morning.  And you never know what people may be carrying.  Very scary.

I wrote everyone about my assault, much to Aoife’s chagrin, so I’m interested to see what people say.

Today is the bank holiday, so supposedly we are to get paid DOUBLE wages for working today.  Everyone else is, of course.  However, I’m not holding my breath.  There’s probably an exception for all foreigners in wholly unskilled and boring-ass jobs.  I was about to write “profession” but calling the newsagents a “profession” is like clipping off your toe just to pare down your nails.  A bit of an overkill.  Not a great analogy, but I wanted to avoid “dressing up a pig.”  Oh, well.  I failed.  Again.

I have to admit I’m proud that I’ve stuck to this job and didn’t just buckle like I wanted/want to do.  All the time.  Not proud of the job, but proud that I can eat crow and do anything, even work a shit dehumanizing job, just by putting my mind to it.  Or out of it.  Perhaps I should write “through sheer perseverance.”

There’s meeting Eva.  There making my rent entirely through my money from the job for this month.  There’s working almost every day and never calling in sick – as sick and bored as I am.  Out of my skull.  There’s my friendship with Maeve and Rafal.  Good times and shitty times.  My assault.  My fruitless aggravating mouth of work hunting.  Being lonely.  BUT I’M STILL HERE.  I am winning and ticking off the shifts on my wall and writing and STILL IN ONE PIECE.  I am winning, and will continue to win.  Life is, in the words of Queen, “a challenge before the whole human race, and I never lose.”  And we need to go on and on and on and ON!  Ha ha ha!  Sometimes I make myself smile.  Someone has to, I suppose.

I got Michael’s cell-phone number last night and tried to call him.  Left a big message.  Being here has taught me that I miss him and my father terribly.  I would love to talk to him and I can’t wait to see Dad and give him whiskey and “20 Majors” please – just like the black-fingered cab drivers with their golden badges and spilling bellies.

I have to pee now before work.  I don’t want to leave this book – it’s the only place I feel I belong.

We go through Kit Kats like they were the cure for cancer.

Trumpet Concerto in E flat major – Haydn.  That peppy “hooked on classics” sound.  Great!

Steve Foster – Hard Times Come Again No More.

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 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 18, 2001

The man with a buzzcut came in and asked if we sold combs by any chance.

– Yes, black or brown?
– Black will do – there’s always something you forget.
LIKE NOT HAVING HAIR?

Yesterday was one of my weekly revivals – I say, if I keep getting reborn like this then I’ll be in nirvana in no time!  I took the Dart down to Sandycove to see the James Joyce Martello Tower.  Really didn’t know exactly where it was, but figured if it was a coastal defense tower of any scale to be effective then finding the shore would mean finding the tower.  And I was right.

Leaving Dublin, however, I was of course obliged to have the ubiquitous joy-mitigating run-in with the Irish.  I had no idea how much a ticket was, but I’d got it into my head it was £4.00.  I’m not sure where.  I’m pretty sure that I read it somewhere.  I go to the ticket booth and then teenage jack-off behind the counter mumbles a price in that god-forsaken Dublin accent.  It is GARBLE-FIFTEEN.  I ask him again.  He repeats, louder yet no more clearly GARBLE-FIFTEEN.  I know that’s as clear as it’s going to get, so I assume he’s mumbling £4.15.  I hand over £5.  He looks at me as if I’ve just pushed liquid parrot droppings through his window.

– What’s this?  You only wanted one, right?
– Yes.
– So WHY are you giving me five?

Couldn’t just let it go.  Couldn’t realize I couldn’t understand a word he said.  Couldn’t just take what he needed from the pile, push the rest back and smile.  No.  He had to be the big surly Irish man.  I hate that man.  So it actually was quite a bargain and there were lovely signs on the platform that displayed when the next train would come.

It’s an electric train with the wires marionette-style above it like a streetcar.  They are wide, open cars with very little seating and a wide aisle of linoleum covered with the Irish polka dots of gum and cigarette filters.  I happen to be cursed with a magnetism towards the world’s most foul smelling people, and the only open seat was across from a prime Irish sow.  He belched rather regularly over his untucked blue wrinkle of a shirt and his mat of long stringy hair did nothing to improve his image.  His shirt tail had this funny little tag on it that said, “This shirt belongs to ____” with no name filled in.  I wonder if he was having his monthly visit out of the hospital and had eaten his chaperone along the way.  That might account for the awful smell creeping off his body like big black beetles covered in dung.  He’s taking the whole “smell of Dublin” thing a little too far.  He had one of those smells that make you leave your hand in front of your face – which is hard to maintain without looking like you’re holding back vomit – which perhaps I was – so that all you smell is the soap from the morning and the billions of your own skin cells you’re inhaling.

Worse still, a couple of young girls sat down facing each other beside us, and his smell was so thick a cloud around us I just hope they didn’t think it was me.  I’d boil myself if I had that kind of funk rolling off me like boulders in an avalanche.

Visually the trip was pretty.  I looked out the window away from the human compost heap and as the compost heap of Dublin fell away it was replaced by a string of green punctuated by squat Victorian stations and finally beautiful, if not gray, view of the sea.  Went by Booterstown, which I’ll always remember Andy Brown saying in Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.

Now, Dublin is pretty terrible – I must say that I don’t care for it much at all.  And though everyone has told me not to judge Ireland by Dublin, the moment I stepped off the train at Sandycove I knew that Ireland still held some promise.  I couldn’t have chosen worse weather as it was as cold as it’s ever been – thank God for this sweater!  – and the rain and the wind were a horrible and vicious pair.

Sandycove was what I expected Ireland to look like.  Even with the gray of the sky.  It’s a little picture postcard with a winding shoelace of a road that hugged the shore, packed between two rows of tightly-packed whitewashed houses like a set of teeth on the mouth of the bay.  The wind and weather battered new life into my tired little soul as it constantly shook me and battered me.  It was like a slap to wake someone up.  I always feel so disconnected but weather like that forces you into your surroundings and keeps you grounded and it never lets you forget that even though you are tiny, you are still a part of the world.  It was truly invigorating.

I just sat for a long time on the big brown boulders of the shore and watched the green blue explode into nets of foam like lace thrown high into the air.  Crashing against the stalwart shore.  The battlements of boulders.  And as I sat, as immobile as the rocks, with my pants legs becoming stiff from the weather, the flensing wind rubbed my skin bright red with its sandpaper.  My hands were so abused and so cold that I couldn’t get into my pocket to get my knife to open my orange juice foil seal.  It was heavenly.  I was just getting hammered by the rain, but I had my collar flipped up, my bandana tied around my throat – am I ever glad I found it! – and my hat as tight around my skull as I could manage.  Like the monkey king in mischief.

I walked along the shore to the James Joyce tower, having no clue as to its location besides “Sandymount,” but I figured that if it was a coastal defense tower worth its salt, finding the shore would mean finding it.  And I was right.  I walked past rocks and the gray brown sand and the low-flying gulls cutting into the wind and the little pools of quiet water in rock basins fringed with bright green moss that were calmly protected from the weather by strong guardians on all sides.  Little oases in the sandy desert.

The tower was closed for lunch, it being about 1:45, so I just sat on the shore again but it started to pelt rain so I hid against a wall until 2:00.  £4 bought me admission to the tiny museum.  There was the original door key, mentioned in Ulysses, some death masks (he must have been very slight), his guitar, some first editions, and quite a lot of postcards.  There was a block of stone from Nelson’s pillar and a block of stone from a house that Joyce lived in.  He was at one time in DRUMCONDRA! but his house had been demolished in 1999 and the rubble was all that remained.  Ah, the Irish, in such a rush to destroy themselves.  It’s rather telling that the relics of their lauded past are but bits of stone and mortar rescued from destruction.  Sad.

The next floor was the living floor, and someone put a statue of a panther by the hearth where in Ulysses that chap hallucinates one and lets off some shots in the middle of the night, much to Stephen’s displeasure.  Rather unexpected and humorous addition.

Joyce signed quite a bit of his correspondence as “Stephen Daedalus.” Or was it “Stephen Hero?”  I forget.  “Stephen” anyway.

Then the top of the tower where the gun would have been, where the weather was even more brutal.  As I stood there and looked out over the bay and the infinite distance of the sea mist, I realized that though Dublin is not the place for me, IRELAND definitely had promise.

Wouldn’t you know it, coming back from my trip I saw that the video store right across the street has a help-wanted sign out.  A new one, so it must have some basis in reality and is not simply windowdressing from 1979.  Maeve’s eyes lit up and she told me I must work there so that we can get some movies.  Maybe Declan should – he’d get some cash anyway as he was talking about getting a job for some spending money.  But I’m pretty sure that was a short-lived notion.  That boy’s as bad as I am.

Last night burned through another phone card to FTC.  Nothing of note, actually can’t remember a damned thing we talked about, but I am just so starved for friends just to have mindless chit chat is a treat I’m willing to pay £10 for.  Hell, it’s cheaper than a night drinking and it certainly leaves you in a much better state.

Must get ready for work.  Then tomorrow is off!  I packed a lunch – or actually a dinner – so I wont get so munchy and I’ll have a sort of break.  I’m bringing Ulysses – I want to get through 100 pages a day at work.  Let’s see how that works out.  Then tomorrow is off again!  But it will probably be a tax day so I’m not too terribly enthused.

– Have you got something really nice?
– Well, that would be the whole table here.  Do you know what you’re in the mood for?  Something soft, something hard?  Something with nuts or caramel?
– I don’t know!
– Well, you’re gonna have to narrow it down a little.
– I’ll take this – no.  Wait.  I’ll be safe and go with this.
– Ah, my favorite.  Good choice.  That’s 50 pence.
– Thanks.  I’m looking at rum and butter – that looks quite disgusting, doesn’t it?
– Yes, I don’t know why it’s supposed to be an appealing flavor.
– How much is that?  Is that 50 pence also?
– Yes.
– I’ll take one of those then.
– You just said it sounded disgusting!
– I know!

My next book: “Gosh, You Don’t Sound Irish!”  My Time in the Newsagents

“I need a pen where the head is very big.”  Ah, the Japanese.