Well, I have been making a more concerted effort to meet people and get off my chair, with satisfactory results! Though I should note that I don't post absolutely everything I do in this here blog -- I do go to events and pubs and such that I haven't posted about, lest y'all think that during all other times than those posted, I'm just sitting around my house. And there's actually a few things I *meant* to post about that I just didn't get to, like the Dublin Flea Market, but maybe I will do it on a day when I feel like catching up!
Anyhoo - I was feeling rather isolated early this week, especially reading a mass of gleeful Facebook status updates from friends back home about their snow days and getting to stay home from work and school for a nice surprise day off. If I were there, I'd be likely teaching and have a snow day myself, and be satisfyingly rolling over and going back to sleep with the sounds of snow shoveling and plowing in the distance... So I was feeling a bit like jeez I need to figure out how to find some people to hang out with, and then I saw my old friend, Heather, on gchat, fresh from victorious news of her snow day. We got to chatting, and then we took it over to Skype. She is a dear, dear friend and lived in Norther Ireland for a few years, and knows a few people in the area. I told her about what I've been doing, and it felt so nice to talk to someone who has been through this and who understands. She insisted that I email her friend, (we'll call her J), who owns an art gallery here in Dublin. I told her I would (even thought I told I would before I moved and didn't).
So when I hung up with Heather, I did actually send off and email to J. And to my surprise, she sent a very warm and hospitable email back! So we agreed to meet at an art opening the next day. As it happened the art opening was Thursday, but we met for drinks with her gallery co-owner, A. They were the nicest women! The conversation flowed freely, and I just got the nicest feeling from both of them instantly. Like, you know that feeling when you meet someone and you just have no reservations whether they are a good person? That kind of thing. They were very helpful to me, asking questions about how I was getting on, what I'd been doing since I got here, what my plans where, that kind of thing. Before we were finished our first drink, they already had plans for people to introduce me to, and places I should check out, and all kinds of things. I was really stoked, and I don't mean that in a surfer way; if I were a fire, I would have been literally stoked, but as I was a human being, I was figuratively stoked.
Anyways, the next night I did manage to get out and meet them again for an art opening at NCAD for the artist Phil Collins however I stupidly, stupidly left the house with 1. only 12 euro, thinking, "Oh it's just an art opening. I'll go to the opening and go home. Twelve euro should be enough, even if we go get a drink afterwards." Hello! This is Ireland. There is no ONE drink afterwards. 2. No phone. I realized I had left my phone at home when I was nearly to the bus stop and I was already sort of late. I figured I would just go and try my luck and hope for the best. Back home I felt *completely naked* without my phone, but as I have no friends here and no one that really calls me, I don't even know where my mobile is half the time. 3. Without my Dublin city map! Oh, I can wing it, I thought, until I remembered that NCAD wasn't where I thought it was. I got off the bus when I remembered foggily that that's what we'd done when I went there with Mark. Then I sort of just walked, using vague recollection as my guide. At certain points I was sure I was walking nowhere, but then the street would turn busy again and I would remember where I was. So, I managed to find my way to NCAD without a map after all. But when I got to the opening, there was a mass of people and I feared I wouldn't find J and A. Here's where my phone would have come in handy. Alas, not an option, so I checked out the exhibit for about ten minutes or so. Then I milled around outside again and finally spotted A.
The two of them were sort of taking turns entertaining this English man by the name of Chris Smith, who, as I have just researched, is the editor of the Journal of Visual Art Practice. He's an artist and Principal Lecturer at London Metropolitan University. And also, kind of fascinated with watching other people hearing himself talk to them. Yes, he had interesting things to say. Yes, he is an intelligent man. Yes, sure. Ok, you proved your point Mr. Smith that you can talk to an audience. Isn't that what your whole career has been about? After listening to him talk both J's and A's ears off, one after the other, and then over again, I really did want to ask him, don't you ever want to shut up sometimes and ask other people about themselves? Just because you are 25 years older doesn't mean a person of 30 or 35 might not have something interesting to say to you. And, if you shut your flap for a minute, you might hear something inspiring. And I felt it was a bit of a complinsult for him to say to A that if he were X years younger, he'd whatever whatever... It really just underscored how little value he seemed to place on her as an actual person. Or maybe I'm looking at it as the glass half empty, I don't know. The thing is that, anyone with half a brain who'd talk with A for five minutes knows she's a fantastic person. So to say something like that I just thought was rather gauche. And patronizing. And what's more patriarchal. Anyways, I was happy when A asked if I wanted to go to a place called The Sugar Club for re-launching of an Irish art magazine called Circa. I said yes, though I started to feel anxious about my meager 12 euro in my wallet. I hoped I could get by with putting a few euro toward the cab and then buying myself one drink. But then in the cab A mentioned that there might be a cover charge! Shoooot! So I thought ok, if I can get to an ATM, maybe my bank account has 20 euro that I can withdraw so that I can pay the cover charge and be ok. As luck would have it, there was a machine across the street! But as I pulled out my card, I realized with much embarrassment and dismay that I had no recollection of my PIN, as I had only used the card once, more than a month ago. I explained this to my companion, who had already proclaimed that she would float me whatever I was short, but having only known her 24 hours (and even if I hadn't, it's really not my way), I really didn't want to have to rely on her offer. But I didn't seem to have much choice unless I decided to just call it a night and go home.
So we went in, and sure enough there was a ten euro cover! A paid for us both, and when we sat down, I just handed over my 12 euro to her. I drank two glasses of wine at her insistence, and we had a very easy conversation. We agreed that the event could have used some better PR, for one, to generate more excitement about the relaunching of the magazine. At some point she asked me to follow her outside so she could bum a cigarette from someone, and then we ran into a friend of hers, who was very charming indeed. In fact, so were J and A's friends at the art opening. A has lived in New York, France, and Switzerland, and she has a very keen understanding for how to carry on a proper conversation, and it's just been a long, long time since I had a genuine conversation with someone who wasn't Mark. I tried to remember the time, but with no phone (ie my only watch), as it happened, I asked A what time it was and it was just about 11:30! I needed to get out of there. She generously offered to loan me money for a taxi home, but I just would have sooner died. Seriously, I would have preferred to walk the entire way home than borrow money from so new an acquaintance. So I dashed into the bathroom quickly, and then ran outside like Cinderella at a ten seconds to midnight.
But the problem was that I didn't *actually* know where I was! I knew I was near St. Stephen's Green but that didn't really mean very much to me, to be honest. I was three glasses of wine in, and dinner was a distant, distant memory. So I walked quickly down the street in search of the nearest bus stop, in the hopes that there might be one last bus that would come along and take me to the city center, and from there I could walk home. It would be a pain, but doable. However there was no bus stop, and then I was just sort of walking, ahead, wondering where on earth I was and where on earth I was headed. Then I reached a spot where the street was clearly not going to go anywhere, so I swung a right in the hopes that it might take me to civilization. I had the feeling of someone who has been blindfolded, spun around a few times, and un-blindfolded. I wondered idly which canal I happened to be walking alongside. My feet pattered on the sidewalk, breaking the quiet of the night. I felt as if I were the only person awake on earth. The water of the canal reflected blackness with spots of light from the streetlamps above. Dead reeds leaned in the water as if they, too, were trying to catch a bit of sleep. That's when I realized that if someone did happen to come along and give me a good thwack upside the head and a shove, I would probably be like those "cold case files" you see on television of unsolved murder mysteries that baffle police for decades. Yes, it would be the perfect crime, I thought, as I looked around.
Still, I wasn't really scared in the least. It did seem like a decent neighborhood. In fact, I pulled out my camera and shot a couple of photos. First of the canal behind me:
Then, of a spooky looking tree, fiery red under a glowing streetlamp. It looked like a bloody nerve ending:
But I was getting concerned that I didn't know where I was, or where I was headed, and when I reached a cross street, I didn't know which way would bring me in the direction of the city center. My common sense told me that a woman alone at night should not be asking directions in any sparsely populated part of town because it signals vulnerability. I needed to either keep on like I knew where I was headed, or else think of another plan of action.
So I went with plan B. By then it was nearly midnight, and I felt sure that Mark would be at home and have enough cash there to cover the cost of a cab. If he wasn't home, I could use my phone to call him and take it from there or else who knows, pay the cabbie in our spare change! I quickly hailed a cab, and funnily enough he headed in the exact opposite direction that I was going; I was completely upside down and backwards! On the way home I made jovial conversation with the driver, with the expectation that I would have to ask for his patience once we arrived at my place. He gladly waited while I went up to grab some cash, which thankfully Mark was able to give me. I ran down, paid for the taxi, and ran back upstairs, so glad to be home!
So my lack of planning and thoughtlessness got me into a bit of a fix, but you live and learn -- all's well that ends well, etc etc.