Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The clock just struck midnight, which means that it's Thanksgiving, officially. My sisters and I have been feeling anxious about this day because it's our first Thanksgiving holiday since our father died. Like most families, we have happy memories of being together on this holiday, eating lots and lots of food, watching the Macy's parade on TV, and feeling, in general, and if only for that day, the contentment that only a loving family can bring you. Self-satisfaction, maybe even so much so that it's a little boring. A non-event that, even on such a day when you're supposed to give thanks, you forget to really commemorate it, forget to tell everyone close to you that you would be lost without them, that you are, actually and truly thankful, because you forget that there might be a time when you won't be able to. That time and place will all diverge in such a way to prevent you from having these inconsequential days that seem so obvious, it's more about the food and the ritual than it is about the sentiment. But time and place have put me on this plane of existence, floating in a world where my family is not, and now I'm standing at a sort of precipice, staring down at all the 36 Thanksgivings that came before this one and wondering how I will manage my 37th when so much has changed.

I've been thinking lately about a Thanksgiving I spent with my father at my apartment in Boston. We didn't have turkey; we had a meat fondue. We did not have pumpkin pie; we ate coconut macaroons. The wonderful thing about my father was that he was never afraid to do things differently. He hated the way old people tend to get caught in ritual, and was always up for an adventure, be it culinary or otherwise. He hated, most of all, to feel old, which was good, because we loved having an adventurous father willing to try new things, and who was not afraid to let go of old traditions in lieu of something unexpected.

This week, I went to the funeral of a friend's mother. The ceremony was a loving tribute, delivered by the most sincere and affable priests I think I've ever witnessed (and I've seen my share of priests). Personally, I am atheist, but as a formerly devout Catholic, mass soothes me in a certain kind of way, another cue to memories of family and comfort. When the priest recited the first sentence of Confiteor – “I confess to Almighty God, and you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do” – I suddenly thought back to the hundreds of times I have said that prayer and it never produced any kind of feeling in me. But today, on Thanksgiving, I think about “what I have done, and what I have failed to do” and this nagging worry eats at me. Did my father know how thankful we all were? Did he know, I mean really know, how endlessly he was loved? At the time, our comfortable complacency seemed like the best thing in the entire world. Maybe it's possible that he enjoyed the quiet happiness we experienced; he didn't need big expressions of grand emotions. Maybe it's possible that he did know. That possibility keeps me going, because I honestly don't know if I could live if I thought otherwise.

So, following in my father's footsteps, I will not be frightened of setting a new tradition, of celebrating in a different way than ever before. I will cook large amounts of food; I will eat with my new family in my new country. And I will not regret those lazy, comfortable Thanksgivings in another time and place. Perhaps today will not be the most relaxing day I've ever had, but I hope to feel and show the same quiet love and affection for my family that I have always felt, and always will. Because, despite it all, I am still blessed, and there is still so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Day!

I've been working on this ultra-long post for ages, and I swear I WILL post it, but for now I'm going to do something easy. I never get blog accolades or nods or links of any kind in internet land (my blog is basically me writing over the sound of crickets. No one comments, hardly anyone subscribes, oh woah is me!). But Kim at Pass the Potatoes tagged me in an entry, and while I also usually shy away from internet memes, I figure what the hell.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Paste these rules on your blog post.
3. Respond to the following prompts (in bold).
4. Add a prompt of your own and answer it.
5. Tag a few other bloggers at the bottom of the post.
6. Leave "Tagged You" notices on their blog/Facebook.
7. Let the person who tagged you know when you've written the post.

1) The best investment you ever made:
My macbook. I was going to say "my education" but the ROI on that remains to be seen.

2) If you could’ve written any book, directed any movie, and composed any song, which three would you pick:
Book: I've been sitting here for three minutes, weighing the options. I'm going to have to say "Notes from Underground" even though it's somewhere between a long short story and a novella.
Movie: A Room with a View. I can't help it. Young Julian Sands.
Song: Don't Be Shy by Cat Stevens

Don't be shy just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head, and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feeling roll on by on by

You know love is better than a song
Love is where all of us belong
So don't be shy just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
You're there

Don't be shy just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head, and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feeling roll on by
On by, on by, on by, on by

3) Weirdest quirk:
Mark says, "If you took away your quirks, you'd have nothing left." So I'll say that I stir my coffee 30 times between spooning in the sugar and pouring in the soy milk, 15 times one way, 15 times the other way.

4) One wish immediately granted:
To have my father alive again.

5) Most expensive hobby:
Home organization/decorating. I'm always striving to make my home as nice as I can make it, with everything having its proper place. Ikea is my bff. I was going to say marrying into poverty, but that isn't nice!

6) An inexhaustible gift-card at which store:
Design Within Reach.

7) In another lifetime, you’d be:
A revered fiction and memoir author.

8) The most famous/interesting member of your family tree:
My family has had a LOT of interesting characters. Unfortunately, usually not for the right reasons. So I'll say my father, who invented crystal used in spaceship windows.

9) What would you say to your teenage self?
Don't rely on other people to make you feel good about yourself. Stop watching so much TV, stop procrastinating, and learn geography. Also, when you cheat, you are only cheating yourself!

10) What surprises you most about your life today?
I'm happy. After spending so many miserable years wondering if I'd ever crawl my way out of depression, I never thought I'd figure out what true happiness is. It's been a few years now, and I still can't believe how great things are, even when there's no money, I miss my family, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and I've lost people I loved, I am still, deep down and fundamentally happy. The surprise reminds me to appreciate it.

My addition:
11) What way do most people find your blog?
Believe it or not, most people get to my blog by searching google images for pictures of dwarves.

I now tag My lovely sister, Charlene, whose blog you should check out, Rachel at Balanced Crafts, and I can't come up with a good third, so if you're actually reading this, tag yourself!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We don't generally read the Herald, but Mark and I happened to be in a waiting room for a long, long time, and someone left a copy, so we took a gander. One article in particular caught our eye: Threat to RTE millions over anti-FF claims. Ok, so for my non-Irish readers, FF stands for Fianna Fáil (usually pronounced Feena Fall unless you want to get fancy and Irish, then it's sort of indescribable), which is Ireland's Republican party, which lords over Irish politics like a big dome blocking out the sun. Except for a few years in the 90s, Fianna Fail has been dominating elections since 1987. Here's the party leader, Brian Cowen:

Even the look on his face says, "Maybe you shoulda gotten someone else to do this job."

RTE, for my non-Irish readers, is Ireland's National Television and Radio Station, kinda like the BBC only with pretty crappy and pedestrian programming. It's also run by the government, essentially. As such, the government makes anyone with a television in Ireland to pay a "TV licensing fee," or else go to jail. But that's a rant for another day.

Now here's the thing. Fianna Fail is up in arms because they say that RTE is trying to make them look bad. According to the article, FF TD Noel Treacy said, "As far as I am concerned RTE is a left-wing organisation that has not committed itself to promoting policies laid down by the Government or parliament."

So politicians are complaining because a media outlet is not spewing governmental propaganda. Seriously? Have they never heard of freedom of the press? I don't get it. And of course the irony is that I'm pretty sure the consensus was that RTE did almost nothing BUT promote the Irish government. Hell, they ARE the government! What. the. FF.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can we talk about Mary Harney for a minute? I'm really torn about this:

So Mary Harney is Ireland's Minister for Health and Children. Of course, it's a nation-wide joke that our Minister for Health looks about as healthy as Jabba the Hut. Now, as a feminist, I have a natural inclination to want to support women in politics. But politicians, well, they're politicians. As far as I can tell, Mary Harney seems to be one part robot and one part Orc. I mean, just look at her face. It's stoney and heartless. And that's pretty much how she rolls. The proposed cuts on the Health Service Executive (HSE), which is how I have a medical card -- the only way I have access to any health care at all -- are between 600 million and 1 billion euro. (For American readers, 600 mil is like 834 million dollars.)

Basically what's happening here in Ireland, as far as I can see, is that in trying to make fiscal ends meet, the government is trying to skimp on services from the bottom (the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, public sector workers) instead of demanding that the country's wealthy (and I mean wealthy, not middle class) pay more in taxes, or... any taxes. Mary Harney is essentially a demon right now as hospitals either close or are over-crowded with not enough staff.

So on one hand I think YEAH! I love the sight of Mary Harney, hands covered with the (symbolic) blood of people who will die from not receiving health services as a result of these cuts. But on the other hand, I'm just sad and discouraged. It's like eating that delicious chocolate eclair -- it feels good, but is it ultimately good for us? Will Mary Harney, or anyone else for that matter, suddenly come around because she was attacked with red paint? From today's interviews on the radio and online, it only seems to have made her feel all the more that it's ok to discount her critics. And I think god, how degrading it all is.
Halloween is a little bit of a different animal here in my neck of the woods. In our last apartment, we lived in an apartment building, so obviously no kids came around trick or treating. Also, our old neighborhood was in a place called Drumcondra, which, even though it's on the north side, is relatively posh. Our new neighborhood, Stoneybatter, while technically "up and coming," is surrounded by "flats," ie what in America we'd call Tenement housing, but is really housing given to the poor that has since become dilapidated and a bit "rough and ready" as they say here.

Because of all the kids roaming around our 'hood, and the fact that there are many houses per street and the streets are tiny, we figured that we'd get a ton of trick or treaters this year. In fact, I went out and bought FOUR bags of candy (luckily Mars bars, which Mark can't eat and I don't like so much). As Halloween approached, you could hear more and more "bangers" (ie crappy fireworks), and you would often see kids of all ages dragging random pieces of wood.

Here in the grittier parts of Dublin, bonfires are a great Halloween tradition. Mark has many fond memories of hanging out with a 2-litre bottle of cider, watching the ole fire burn up in Cabra. Personally, Dublin bonfires terrify me because I've heard too many stories of animal abuse at them. (Trust me, don't look into this matter further; you don't want to know.) But our house is a stone's throw from a very large flats complex called O'Devaney Gardens, and there really was no escaping the bonfire. Even if we couldn't see it, we could sure smell it.

So a few days before Halloween, it starts to sound like a warzone around these parts, because the fireworks sound like guns going off. Then the bonfires on Halloween start going, and you do start to feel like you're maybe in some kind of war-torn Eastern European country. Halloween was on Sunday, which is a night we typically go to the pub with Mark's parents. I was a little apprehensive about leaving the house, to be honest. But we got on our bikes and ventured out.

But as luck would have it, I got a tire puncture about 30 yards from home, just as we were setting out, forcing us to walk back to the house, ditch our bikes, and walk to the pub. But this wasn't a bad thing, because I grabbed my camera on the way out and we took a little detour to see the bonfire at O'Devaney. Now, keep in mind, we were still a pretty long distance away. But I took a little video. Look at the building next to it for a greater understanding of how tall this bonfire was. I think it was about three stories high. If you click on this, it is much more impressive in a bigger window:

We didn't tarry too long, but we also passed by another bonfire in another flats project called Drumalee, where we bumped into a man and his young sons who had pestered him to take them to see the bonfire. But you could tell he was NOT into it. "It's like during the war in my country," he said. We didn't press him for which country he referred to, but it sure did seem a little post-apocalyptic in our part of town. As we approached Cabra, we didn't see any more bonfires, but we could sure smell them. Mark drank cider at the pub as a nod to his happy bonfire memories. It was one of those moments where the country girl in me couldn't fathom feeling safe as a child in a place like this, on my own running around the streets. But that's what city kids do, just like us country kids ran around in acres and acres of woods with no fear or went skiing off the trails among the trees. Being a kid is about taking chances, and being fearless, of facing the elements, nature, and human nature, and not knowing what you have to lose.
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I try to be at least a little more politically active than the average person, though admittedly I am not as committed as I'd like to be. But when time and energy permits, I try to get out there and at least be a supportive body, particularly right now with Ireland's economy in the toilet and "cuts" being promised to services for the poorest people in the country. Well, there's been a timely movement here in Dublin to highlight the inequities that exist in Ireland between the very rich and, actually, everybody else. It's called The 1% Network. The name is derived from the fact that 1% of the country owns approximately 34% of the country's wealth. That's a crazy amount! And the kicker is how many of them are "tax exiles" -- in other words, they manage not to pay any taxes to Ireland, even though they have residences here.

Here's the description of the 1% Network from their facebook page: "We have all heard of the ‘golden circle’. We all know that there is one law for the rich and another law for the rest of us.

The 1% network is a coalition of socialist groups which has come together to oppose the cutback agenda of the government and to promote a socialist alternative to the current socio-economic system. The name of the coalition was chosen to highlight the fact that just 1% of the population control in excess of 34% of the wealth of the nation. Organisations within the coalition include éirígí, Irish Socialist Network, Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, Seomra Spraoi and the Workers Solidarity Movement.

We are planning a number of events including a walking tour of the houses, secret meeting places and private banks where the 1% are to be found."

So a couple weeks back I went to the first tour. It was mostly depressing, to be honest, but it was also very educational. You can view videos of the tour on the facebook page also. It was kind of like a little bit walking tour, a little bit protest. We walked in the streets and had police along, like a protest, but it was a proper walking tour. Here are some photos I took:
This guy is a great speaker. But something (the old New Englander in me) wishes dammit man, can you not shave your beard and cut your hair so you don't look like some hippie wacko? His message is on point, I just wish he looked a little less wackadoo. But then the hippie wacko in me says, who the frig cares?

View walking down the street.

with the wind in our hair...

At this point in the tour, some yah dude holding a puppy stopped to listen. He stood there for about three to five minutes. When that stop on the tour was finished and we'd all clapped, the guy yelled out, "Why don't you people get a job?" Someone said, "We do have jobs, man." And he just kept saying, "You people need to get a job!" I made me really frustrated and angry because while many of the group were working folks, a number of us, like myself, would LOVE to have a job and can't find one. To be summarily dismissed as some kind of idiot is hard to take. I'm an educated person with work experience and plenty of willingness to work. But there just hasn't been a job that's come my way. So people heckled the guy and he walked away with laughter at his back, but I felt sad over it.

Check out this crazy statue of Queen Maeve:

Like, ok, I get the warrior thing, and the crow and the bull head or whatever, but did she HAVE to be naked with huge fake looking tits? Ugh.

Anyhoo, the Irish Times did a little writeup about the event and who happened to be featured in the photo but yours truly. I'm looking very attentive, aren't I? With the huge sunglasses, I'm all incognito.

I just missed the most recent 1% event, but I look forward to attending more of them, and I think you should too. It helps give a real look at what's going on in the mess of Irish politics and rhetoric. You may be dismayed and depressed afterwards, but at least you'll be informed.
In other news, we gave Galway another shot. See, the first time I went to Galway, I had only been living in Ireland for oh, 24 hours or so. I also got an annoying cold as soon as I got off the train, and it was New Year's Eve. So I didn't get a great impression of Galway because I was jet lagged, sick, cold, and half the town was still shut down for the holidays. We only stayed for the weekend and then hightailed it outta there back to Dublin, and I wondered what all the hype about Galway was over.

So when our friend Eve graciously invited us to stay in her new place in Galway, we couldn't turn it down. And you know what? I thought it was a cute little town this time around! Having all the shops and restaurants open, the sun shining, and being healthy and alert gave me a new perspective on Galway. Plus, it's hard to be unhappy when you are so close to the ocean. We walked around town, perused some stores, walked along the shore, and went to this really funny (and admittedly touristy) pub that reminded me SO MUCH of Maine, I insisted we go there twice.

My camera doesn't take good indoor photos, so I had to swipe these off their website.

But here are some photos I took walking along the shore:

Now, the Irish are a hearty people. And swimming in cold water is just one of the common sights all around the country. Maybe it's good for the soul, who knows. But while we walked around in our scarves (ok, I was in a scarf, the others threw caution to the wind), these ladies went for a dip:

This was taken from a diving platform. I'm sure it looks much different in high tide (ie it's covered in water). But this is where people get their swim on:

I decided to take a little ten second video of the view from our little diving platform, for posterity.
So much for posting more regularly. Of course I haven't stopped living, I have just stopped blogging so much about it. But I swear that things have calmed down now so I should be able to keep up! Now, I guess I'm a just gonna have to do a bit of a recap of the month...

Well, first of all, the Rag Issue 5 came back from the printer's! We are all very excited about this year's issue, and I can't wait for our launch party, to which all are invited, on November 20th. Here's the poster for it:

So please come on up to Seomra Spraoi, have a little food, be immensely entertained, dance, and then go home with a copy of The Rag#5 for your very own. It will be a ball!

The first couple of weeks of October were pretty intense, putting together the magazine, dotting our Is and crossing our Ts and making sure everything was more or less kosher. I think we have a great range of articles, two of which were written by yours truly! So look out for it, and if you can't make it to the launch party, never fear, the magazine will be in book shops around Dublin and will be available through Distros around the world. I'll keep you posted on that after the 20th!