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.


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.

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.