Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What a day!

So today I thought I would give my email a quick check and then do some sewing, as I applied for a table at the Dublin Flea Market. If I get it, I'll need to kick it into high gear with the sewing in order to have enough stuff. But just as I got on, I heard from a guy, we'll call him "Josh," who had contacted me recently because, by coincidence he and his wife relocated here to Dublin from Boston at almost the exact same time I came here. Weird coincidence, isn't it?He found my blog through a google search while job hunting. We'd exchanged a few emails and it seems like we've both been going through the same job search frustrations, and living in a new place with few friends frustrations. He caught me on gchat and we were talking about sites around town. I mentioned the mummies at St. Michan's Church, and neither of us had been. So we decided that since it was a beautiful day to get out of the house, we'd meet up and check it out.

We met at a bakery/cafe called Queen of Tarts (their website appears to be down for the moment), where I had a Red Onion and Potato Tart. At 9.95euro, it was more than I wanted to spend on a quick bite to eat (I wasn't terribly hungry, but I wanted more than just a scone), but it came with a large piece of focacia bread, dill potato salad, and a mixed green salad.

We headed in the direction of St. Michan's, and armed with my Dublin City map we figured we would find it no problem. But when we came upon where it appeared to be on the map, the two buildings that it seemed most likely to be didn't seem to be it. So we roamed on. We asked three different people for directions, and each person gave us different directions. Finally, I thought for sure that a church-like building ahead was the one we were looking for, so Josh asked a guy where St. Michan's was. And the guy pointed to that building. Eureka! So we crossed the street and approached the building. But as we got closer, we had our doubts. Just then, a voice from behind us said, "Lookin' for St. Michan's, are you?" We said yeah. He said, "That guy back there sent you over here but he actually doesn't know where St. Michan's is, so he sent me to follow you to show you where it is." The guy sent to follow us had just been on the Guinness tour and he himself admitted that he was half in the bag, but he led us to this main street and then told us to go up and take a right hand turn. "You can't miss it," he kept saying. Well, that's what the other two people said. After he walked on, I said to Josh, "I don't believe that guy." So Josh called his wife at the office, and between my map and google maps she was able to direct us to where we needed to go....

...which was right back to where we started. As it happens, St. Michan's, being so old, is actually not a very ostentatious building, and does not have a big sign on it. So with a metaphorical slap to the forehead, we walked in. After Josh very generously paid our entrance fee (I think it was five euro), we were told to go into the chapel and have a look around and wait for our tour guide. A woman from Germany walked in a few minutes later to join us, as we were poking around. Then, as we were inspecting the artifacts at the rear of the church, a man's voice called out, "Who wants to see the mummies?"

He led us outside, and to the side of the building. While we walked he asked where we were from, and if we'd ever been to St. Michan's before. I said I hadn't, but that my husband had as a child, and he'd actually been able to touch one of the mummies, and that my father in law had been able to shake hands with one of them when he visited as a kid. The tour guide gave me a very exaggerated "very unlikely" look and then made the index finger around the ear "you're crazy" signal. Balancing a lit and mostly smoked cigarette on the stone wall, he opened the bulkhead, went down, turned on the light, and came back up. Picking the cigarette back up, and taking the last few drags, he directed us to head down the stone steps. With much apprehension, we crawled down into the vaults. I forgot my camera, so I'm borrowing photos, found online. Here's where we had to walk down:

The tour guide was funny. He had an animated way of speaking that was manufactured to sound like he was sort of bored. We walked down this long hallway:

off of which, we were able to view this:

One of the mummies, the one at the back, is supposed to be a Crusader (we won't mind the dates, which, according to my research, don't match up with when the vaults were created). His body is 800 years old. And he is 'round about six feet tall (or should I say he was before someone broke his legs to fit him into his casket), which is tall for now, let alone 800 years ago. And you can tell from the size of his hands that he was a tall dude. But as the tour guide noted, he is missing one of his fingers, and his hand is in that position because....aha! they used to let people shake hands with the Crusader!! It was supposed to be good luck. But it wasn't like a proper hand shake -- more like a little touch of the hand. And then...the tour guide beckoned for us to come close, and he said that if we promised to give the Crusader 15% of all of our lottery winnings, he would allow us to touch him. And he moved the grate over to the side and told us to go in and have a go. The three of us were totally flabbergasted and stood there for a few moments stammering. I did the "after you" signal in a feigned gesture of politeness. Josh went in first, paused, bent over the mummy for a few seconds , and then stood up straight, and walked out without touching it. Then I went in. Man it was SO MUCH scarier inside the doorway with the mummies! I, too, bent over. And I almost lost my nerve. But then I thought of my lousy luck and the two job rejection emails I received this morning, and I thought, "Angela, don't blow this. You gotta touch that mofo mummy, even if it's just a stupid superstitious myth!" So I lightly touched the hand of the Crusader on a dark, shiny spot where you could tell it had been touched many, many times before by other poor saps in my same spot. Then I got the hell out of there. The German woman went in last. She bent down with her hand out, and was within a centimeter of touching the mummy, but as if repelled by a magnetic force, she recoiled and ran out of the vault.

There were other parts of the tour, which I will not retell -- y'all have google and can look up St. Michan's yourself. But it was definitely worth the trip out, and even the getting lost and misled for a bit.

Afterwards, since we were in the neighborhood, we headed over to the Dice Bar for a pint, and Josh agreed that it does resemble the Plough and Stars in Cambridge, MA. Tom Waits was playing, which was nice.

On my way home, I made my usual mistake of just randomly heading in a direction before thinking about where the hell I'm going. But I stopped and looked at my map and realized that I wasn't so far off from a very decent way of going home. Then I turned a corner and recognized a pub that I'd been to from my visit in 2007, so I knew I was at least somewhere near a place I'd been. I kept the faith and sure enough! I popped out close to the house, and was excited that I'd found a new way of getting from point a to point b.

Then upon my arrival, I sat down to my computer to check my email and wouldn't you know? I won tickets to see the new production of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors that's happening at The Abbey Theatre! I entered into an online drawing a couple of days ago on the website Culch.ie, and I have to admit I had a lucky feeling when I did. I can't wait to see it!

That's all to report for now. But isn't that enough? Today I touched the bare hand of a mummified Crusader. What will tomorrow bring?

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