Saturday, August 28, 2010

As I was on my futile quest to find a free writing course/workshop/group, I came upon an event that interested me, a reading put on by Some Blind Alleys, "a literary entity that supports new Irish writing through publication, readings, and events, as well as creative writing courses for aspiring and established writers." Unfortunately, their courses are profoundly out of my price range (they are reasonably priced; I am unreasonably poor), but the event was only 5 bucks in, so I figured I should check it out. Of course, I literally only had that much in my pocket, so buying a drink once I got inside was out of the question.

Earlier in the day, I received an unexpected request to DJ at that night's Seomra Spraoi gig, since the scheduled DJ backed out. I said, sure, what the hell, and then realized that it would take a certain amount of prep since my itunes files were all a mess, and not only that all my music is now on an external hard drive, so I'd have to decide on the playlist in advance and burn the songs onto a CD-R in order to bring them with me. And I'd started a sewing project as well that I wanted to finish. AND I wanted to go running. So I sewed for a bit, went for my 5k, came back, showered, then started in on my playlist. But of course that took much, much longer than I wanted it to. So I reached a point where I thought gee, maybe I shouldn't go to this reading after all. But I'd planned it in my mind for weeks, and so at the last second, I ran out the door, not bothering to change out of my scuzzy jeans and t-shirt or put any makeup on. "It's a reading, not a fashion show," I thought. So I hopped on my bike and walked in the door of the Cobalt Cafe only a few minutes late. But when I walked in, I was sort of surprised at how posh everyone looked! I mean, in my mind, I guess I just expected to find grubby people like myself, but I walked into this strange scene of women tottering around on high heeled shoes holding full glasses of red wine, dressed to the nines. My only hope is that they had after-reading plans, to be dressed like that. The men were more mixed, but also looked intimidatingly well dressed. I stood there, reminding myself, "You *do* own nice clothing at home, Angela. It's not as if you put any effort in." But as I stood there, being all grubbed out, and too broke to at least wallow my wardrobe sorrows in a glass of wine, my initial feelings of awkwardness and inadequacy turned to a strange sort of anger. I started to wonder about the gritty process of creating a piece of writing, and how opposite it was of this (apparently) glitzy world of presenting it. The only thing to do, since the event was late in starting, was to inspect everyone else in the room with slight scorn, wondering if I'd want to be the sort of person who got dressed up for a literary event. I think I am, actually. But maybe only if I were the one reading.

So there I was, standing behind the doorway, leaning against the wall like a true wall flower, looking on, wondering if I should leave and finish picking out my DJ set. But then I thought, well, that would be 5 euro wasted, so I'd better stay and at least see something. My obvious bad vibes must have been picked up by the organizer of the event, Greg, who very graciously introduced himself to me. He wanted to know how I'd found out about the event, saying, "We don't get a lot of stragglers to these events." I definitely qualified as a straggler, and I laughed at being outed for my lack of fitting in. My pride prevented me from accepting a drink (or rather the fact that I knew I couldn't buy one back), but it was nice to be reminded that I was actually out amongst fellow human beings.

Now, here's where I am going to be brutally honest, because it's my blog and I see no reason to blow smoke up anyone's ass. Carlo Gébler is a highly accomplished author, obviously, and I'm a nobody. But if he himself asked me what I thought about the piece he read last night, I would have told him that it was a very good first draft. Usually when you see writers read their own work, it goes one of two ways. Either their reading makes you fall in love with the writing, and see something in it you'd never have seen, or it makes you feel uncomfortable and put off. I actually felt that the way he read the piece did the work a disservice, and I had to look down at the floor while he read, because his mannerisms and gesticulations distracted me from listening to the words. It felt a little like when you go to a small hole in the wall comedy club, and well known comedian comes in to test out new jokes. But I'm glad I went. Sometimes it helps to realize that we're all in the same boat, and that just because I haven't been published doesn't mean I'm not talented. I have faith that I have something to say, and I can say it compellingly.

I didn't get to stay to see the other readers, since I had to rush back home and finish preparing my DJ set, then jet over to Seomra Spraoi. The rest of the night was spent playing music, dancing, being plied with wine, and chatting until the wee hours. These days, it's been very difficult navigating the ups and downs of grieving for the loss of my father, so these full days remind me that there are lovely things in life to celebrate.

Friday, August 27, 2010

This week has been Heritage Week here in Ireland. Basically, all week long there are events all over the country in Tourist Offices, Libraries, Office of Public Works Sites, Heritage Centres & Historical Societies, Museums, Bus Eireann Stations, and Various Hotels, plus a bunch of other places. These events celebrate Ireland's history and educate people about the country. Actually, it's pretty awesome. So far, we've gone to three events. The first was at the Cabra Library, and a woman from the Dublin City Library and Archive on Pearse St to talk about genealogical research. Boy do they have a lot of resources I never even thought of! So it was definitely an hour well spent, particularly for Mark, whose family is from Dublin.

Yesterday we biked over to the National Museum on Kildare Street for a lecture on the Sheela Na Gigs of Ireland: "Mr Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, NMI, will discuss the origins and functions of the mysterious sheela-na-gigs." The lecturer relied maybe a bit too heavily on his powerpoint presentation, so it was a bit more dry than I was expecting, but then when the audience started asking questions, his answers were a bit more off the cuff and more interesting.

Then we hopped on our bikes, and stopped for a quick bite to eat. I now have a dilemma! Remember my post a few months ago about Pablo Picante and their fantastic burritos? Well, I have to admit that Boojum gives it a run for its money. Now, the bean burrito at Boojum is like 2 euro more than the one at Pablo Picante, but it's a hair bigger. It was a really satisfying burrito though, and I am overjoyed that there are now THREE good burrito options (the third is Cafe Azteca, on Lord Edward St. which also have nice burritos) in Dublin. Hooray!

Due to a small wardrobe malfunction (note to self: don't bike around on a men's style bike with a pencil skirt), we stopped home for five minutes, then scooted back to the Cabra Library for Joe Lee's documentary film, "Bananas on the Breadboard," about the women traders of Dublin. It was a great movie! If you're into local Dublin history, I highly recommend this film, which is available from all the city Libraries. He covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, but the women traders that are interviewed really steal the show. Tough broads with great senses of humor, for sure.

Anyhoo - I'm really looking forward to having a bit of a "me" day today -- I'm going to do some creative work, clean up my work space, go for a run, and then tonight I'm going to a literary event, followed by a gig at Seomra Spraoi, which I've just been asked to DJ (after the bands). So it'll be a late night for me, but a fun one I'm sure.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This past weekend Mark, his parents, his uncle, and I went to Arklow, which is in County Wicklow. Our journey started with a taxi, which made three stops to pick us all up, and then brought us to Connolly Station. We managed to get everyone and the bags up the escalator. Of course, we were massively early, so we had some coffee in the station bar/restaurant while we waited. Traveling with three elderly is a little bit like traveling with three small children. They move slowly, they get easily confused, and they wander off. Mark's parents nearly got on the first train that pulled up, but we managed to grab them in time! The train ride was only an hour and a half, which I spent listening to my ipod and nodding off.

Being in charge of booking the hotel, I realized quickly that there aren't a whole lot of options for hotels in Arklow, and reading the online reviews, I was sort of horrified. But I chose the nicest looking one that wasn't massively expensive, the Arklow Bay hotel, mostly for the pool and jacuzzi. We hopped a cab to the hotel, and checked in. I had to show Mark's parents how to use the card key -- it was like something from Encino man. One dinner was included with our room, so after having a couple of drinks in the hotel's outdoor seating, we stayed put in the hotel and had a really very nice three course meal.

Then on Saturday, we hired a guy to take us around the outlying areas of Arklow. We passed through the town of Gorey, which reminded me of Dun Laoghaire a bit -- if I'd had any spending money whatsoever, I'd have liked to stop in Gorey. But as it happened, we drove through onto Ferns, which is in County Wexford. We stopped at St. Edan's Cathedral, and walked around the cemetery. Everyone but Billy was pretty bored with this stop, but I managed to get a couple of photos with (unfortunately) my phone. I will have to update this blog entry once Mark gets his photos developed!

We went on to Vinegar Hill, which (for those who don't know) is where the Irish rebelled against the British in 1798, but they lost miserably, sadly. It's strange to be on the spot and think of what occurred, since it's such a scenic spot.

There's sort of a fort/tower at the top:

Here's Bill and Billy, pondering Irish history:

Joyce, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air:

We drove through Enniscorthy, and then it was onto the Meeting of the Waters in Avoca.

There was a monument with song lyrics, and Billy, who has fond memories of his mother on this spot, sang the song for us:

Here, the driver went into the back of his van and pulled out five champagne glasses with strawberries and a bottle of champagne. He also had orange juice for us to make mimosas. It was lovely! We sat and enjoyed our champagne, which Joyce admitted she had never drank before. I'm not sure she was very fond of it, anyways. We stopped in a pub in Avoca and had a couple of drinks, then it was back to Arklow for us. We stopped into a favorite pub/restaurant of Billy's and who did we bump into but his second cousin and her husband! So it was a happy family reunion, and they plied us with drinks and food, and it was a happy night indeed.

On Sunday, after breakfast at the hotel, we stopped back into Arklow for some lunch and a stroll. I took a photo of this stencil graffiti:

The train ride back was like something out of a bad sitcom, but we managed to get home all in one piece. Then, on my way to the store, I came upon our neighborhood mini horse that I could never seem to get a photo of. But I was able to follow him and pretend to be using my phone and catch a snapshot of him. He's so tiny!!! Lately there seem to be a lot more horses around the neighborhood than usual. It's pretty surreal to be biking around the city and nearly crash into a horse as you turn a corner. When I try to tell people back home about the horses around here, they don't believe me! But when we were out driving around the countryside, I said, "Hey look! They have horses out in the country too!" har har har. Anyways, here's the little guy:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Sunday I had a very active day! I got up in the morning, ate my breakfast, and then I went for my customary 5k run, which truth be told was a little more difficult than usual for some reason. However, I still made decent time. Then I spent another 45 minutes or so doing my "Power 90 sculpt" DVD. Then Mark had the good idea of biking over to Dollymount, which is the beach on Bull Island, pretty much right next to where we were the day before at St. Anne's park. So we biked the 6 or so miles, then had a nice little hangout sesh on the beach for a couple of hours.
I think I've posted photos of this place before, but who doesn't want a crappy cell phone pic of it? Not you!

Ships sailed by:

Mark went swimming but I preferred to stay dry and warm. Here's a photo of his sunglasses before he lost them in the waves. Good ol' Bono!

And because you are so curious, here's the view of the beach to the right:

And since it was a pretty nice day, I decided to take a happy feet photo:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Today was one of those days that, when I'm old and gray, I'll think back on and say to myself, "What a lovely time that was."

First, I got up early (ok, for me), made breakfast (two poached eggs and two pieces of toast), and then leisurely made my way over to the Phoenix Park Wellington Monument for yoga in the park. I've been wanting to go for months, but I kept forgetting to write it down. So finally this week I made the effort. Holy crap it was so fantastic! First of all, the weather was glorious. I was afraid I'd be too cold, so I layered up before I left the house, but by the time the yoga started, I was nice and toasty. The yoga class was taught by a woman named Fiona who introduced herself to me before the class. By the time it got going, I think there were about 20 people there. I was afraid that I would get a migraine (yoga sometimes does that), but lo and behold, I had a wonderful session, and after the hour was up, I felt fantastic. I took a photo of my yoga mat in front of the monument (objects in the photo are larger than they appear):

So I arrived home, ate lunch (amazing vegan quiche that my live-in chef made yesterday), showered, and then Mark and I headed out for a bike ride to St. Anne's Park, which is only about six or seven miles from our house. Mark's grandfather, the gardener, worked there. The ride there is through Fairview and Clontarf, along the water:

We walked through this meadow, and at the edge of it, there were these knotty trees that looked like ents from Lord of the Rings. I tried to take a photo, but as you know, I only had my cell phone, so of couse you can't see it at all:

Then we came along a little tree swing, so of course I swung:

Then we came upon a little pond, which wasn't very clean, but the ducks seemed happy enough with it. I decided to take a photo, but in the sunshine, it came out a little streaky. I have a sort of embarrassing theory that maybe this photo is slightly otherworldly.

We explored the woods, which had all sorts of little hobbit trails and towers in it, like this old relic:

It had a load of graffiti on it, including the text "Magic Mushrooms are a part of our celtic heritage." Here's Mark debating where we should go next:

Finally, we went to the Rose Garden and settled in for a nice little picnic (including blanket) of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, and ginger snaps, plus a half bottle of cheap wine left over from yesterday. Here's the view from our spot:

After our gourmet meal, we sat in the sunshine and chit chatted. We reclined, closed our eyes, maxed and relaxed. I took one final photo of the sky and the rose bushes:

We biked back towards home, stopping in town for some tahini, and we actually ran into a friend of ours. I love when that happens to me in Dublin because it makes me truly feel like I live here. I mean, we all know I live here, but sometimes I still feel like a tourist. Heck, I am a tourist. But I also live here. And it's nice to have local friends!
Yesterday I FINALLY got myself over to the National Museum of Decorative Arts and History. I live about a 15 minute walk from the place and I'd never been! (Unless you count the cafe, which I visited with a sleeping infant while babysitting.)And now I'm sorry I never went before, of course. I met my friend Ariel there, even though the weather turned out to be kind of nice. Here's the view from outside the entrance:

It's in Collins Barracks, and sort of reminded me of IMMA (the modern art museum in Dublin), minus the lovely grounds.
Once you get inside the courtyard, it looks like this:

It seems desolate and you'd never guess there was a museum in the place, but once inside the building, you realize that it's actually a pretty popular destination!
We entered the building at about 3pm, two hours before closing, and we didn't get to see everything! The place is huge! It figures that the batteries in my camera died, so I took some stealthy shots with my cell phone. I'm not sure what the rules are on this sort of thing, but I think it's safe to say that these crappy cell phone shots are no substitute for the real thing. Here are some of my favorite displays/items, etc:
From the Neilli Mulcahy exhibit, which made me absolutely droooool:

Keeping in Fashion, there was another exhibit called The Way We Wore, which (as the name suggests) had some fantastic clothing as well some of the creepiest mannequins I've ever seen:

I had never heard of the architect/designer Eileen Gray, but man, now that I've seen the exhibit about her, I totally want to know more!

They had some very cool mod furnishings, all set up together in mock living spaces:

Of course the non-modern items were exquisite, like this bird harp:

It was nice to see that the museum had items from all over the world, most notably in the Albert Bender collection of Asian Art. I took a (blurry) photo of the back of a kimono that took my breath away:

Oooooh and I may have been content to spend many hours looking at all the AMAZING jewelry. Here I am, admiring some serious gems:

Unfortunately, just as we got to a really cool and interesting part of the museum, the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibit, the museum was closing and we had to leave. I managed to snap a photo of one of their many realistic looking manequins, which I admit I found amusing:

When we got outside, I missed the opportunity to check out the grassy area in front of the museum, as it had closed too, but I definitely want to get a closer look at this:

I will definitely return to the Museum of Decorative Arts and History many times, especially on a rainy day. It really was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.
Thursday evenings are one of our semi-obligatory nights at the pub (I say semi because we aren't officially obligated, and we also enjoy it) with my in-laws. Like many elderly, they are creatures of habit, so they arrive precisely at 5pm, and leave at 8pm. This Thursday, when we got home I realized that I'd received a text message that I'd won a contest I'd entered earlier in the day for free admission to the Damo Suzuki show at Crawdaddy from the very cool and aptly named online magazine Le Cool. My stupidly leaving my phone at home nearly cost us the tickets, but we managed to get the all clear and practically ran out the door so we wouldn't miss the show.

When we walked into the place, which is the Chocolate Bar on the outskirts (Crawdaddy is through an inside door), I remarked that despite it being an open space with high ceilings, here was another bar that smelled strongly of farts. We arrived during the opening band's last song, and then Damo Suzuki's band started to set up. He has a "Damo Suzuki network", which basically seems to mean that he arranges for local musicians to be his backing band in each city he plays. So the show was made up of six backing musicians -- two keyboards, drums, bass, guitar, trumpet, and other percussion instruments like tambourine and cow bell. My camera (as regular readers will know) is total crap, so I don't know why I bothered, but here is a snap I took:

It was funny, though. As the show started, I noticed a guy standing at the very front with a camera -- he was a balding guy with very close cropped hair. He didn't seem to be paying attention to anything but how he would get his next shot. Then a couple minutes later, I noticed another guy of nearly the exact same description (balding, close cropped hair, t-shirt, fancy camera). They hovered like gigantic flies over the front of the stage. But then, a third guy of the same description appeared, only shorter and with glasses, and a much bigger camera than the other two. He was more of a swarmer, and passed back and forth from stage left to stage right. I couldn't help but get distracted by them. But more or less, I found the show to be entrancing. I used the time to daydream about my life and its possibilities, and to zone out watching Damo Suzuki do what he does and sweat a profuse amount while doing it. But it was rather stuffy up at the front. We quietly slipped out during the encore, feeling satisfied at ourselves for having a nice night out that cost us zero dollars.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One nice thing about today was going to my preferred fabric store here in Dublin. There's a couple of fancy places in the city centre, but I like my fabric stores a little gritty. My friend Emily and I are working on a costume for her. The inspiration:

As you can see, that's a lot of fabric, no matter how you cut it. (see what I did there? fabric? cut it?)

So we visited TWI fabric in Mountjoy Square. It's this store that you wouldn't even know was a store. You walk in, climb the stairs, and it's balls to the wall fabric.

Of course my heart quickened its pace and even though some of the fabrics have been there so long, they are musty and discolored, some of them are so wonderfully vintage and classic, that my mind went in about fifty different directions thinking about all the things I would like to make with them.

Now if I could just finish the project that's been on my dress form for the past six months. I have vowed not to buy any more fabric until I've used up my current stash (not that I could afford to buy fabric of any kind right now), and so I guess it's a lucky poverty.

My Mondays and Tuesdays are now going to be spent helping a very talented (and nice!) local fashion designer at her studio. The work so far has been fun (for me), and I know I am going to learn a ton. And it's gotten me back thinking about fashion, which feels really good. So going back to school isn't going to happen for the moment, but maybe I can still "make it work."

I had one vague job lead a couple of weeks ago, and thought I might actually be going to work teaching English Composition at a local college. But as it turns out, they're not hiring at the moment. So I did get my hopes up, only to get my spirits down, but now I'm sort of glad it didn't work out. While I do miss teaching sometimes, I don't want to do it full time again. Hopefully a door will open for me sometime, somewhere. Until then, I just gotta keep on keepin' on.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yesterday we looked at the weather forecast and it seemed sort of like maaayyyybeeee it might not be a horrible day out, so we said what the hell and decided to bike from Stoneybatter to Howth, which is just over 10 miles (16km). Once you get to Fairview, it's a straight shot along the water, and quite pleasant. Arrows indicate our home and destination points.

Well, the ride in was very pleasant indeed (aside from nearly being run over by a car less than a mile into the ride). When we arrived we realized that there was a little food market, and so we eagerly locked up our bikes and strolled over. The baked goods looked divine, and there was falafel, crepes, fruit, olives to die for...but before we could decide, it started to POUR like holy hell on top of our heads. Not having an umbrella, we scrambled to put on our rain jackets, but it was coming down so hard, I felt like all my happiness was being washed away. So I said screw it and decided to throw plastic to the wind and treat us to an indoor lunch where we could dry off and wait for the rain to stop. (A nice lunch, you see, was not in the budget.) But then we couldn't find the place we wanted to go to (the place with the most amazing veggie burgers!), and then I started to really get grumpy. Everything was either too meaty or too expensive. Then, all of a sudden, the rain eased up a little. So we agreed that we weren't SO hungry after all, and we could handle the walk up Howth Head without lunch. But the lovely food items we'd encountered on our arrival were too far to go back to, and I thought of them longingly as we stopped into a Spar to buy some nuts to eat if we got hungry on our walk. Stupid rain! It took us a while to climb up the hill (there is a bus that goes right to the top, but who needs buses when you have perfectly functioning legs), but when we got there, ignoring the large groups of teenagers and families, the views were beautiful!

Realizing that we didn't take the most scenic way up, we took it on the way back down:

Just before we got back to sea level, guess what happened? It started to rain like hell again! Rain jackets back on, moping toward our bikes, dreading the ride home, somehow the place with the veggie burgers JUMPED out at us, and since they were the best veggie burgers I'd ever had in my life, we decided what the hell, you only live once, let's wait out this rain, and we stopped for a bite to eat. And we were not disappointed. It felt like fate that we didn't get all full up on burgers and fries before climbing Howth Head. That would have been gross! But after the walk, it was fantastic to have a little feast.

When we got out, it wasn't raining, and in fact the sun was shining. Then of course about ten minutes into our ride home, guess what happened? It started to pour like holy heck again! We just went with it, and biked home, suffering. But also not suffering because we had a nice day.

And I have to mention, just to prove that if God exists, he hates me, that it was fantastic to get home, shower, change into something dry, and chill out. But then it was time for our Sunday night at the pub with Mark's family, so we headed out. It was (you guessed it) raining, so we decided to walk and use our umbrella. But then, when we got outside, it seemed to magically stop! Yay! So we went back inside, and grabbed our bikes. Then, about halfway there, the sky opened up, and yep, we got absolutely soaked. My pants never did dry until I took them off to go to bed. Ah well. That's life in a wet country.