IRISH RAMBLINGS #30: “Excerpts from My IRISH JOURNAL, 2012”

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In mid- August 2012, my 11th Irish adventure came to a close: 30 days of peace and bliss. I returned home refreshed, reinvigorated and inspired. This is a final coda, culled from my journals:

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Well I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been! Could life get any better right now? Only marginally. (I could find a life-partner to share it with! That might be nice…) If only I could feel this happy all the time, as at home, no matter where my body was…

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This trip has been one endless photo safari. I’ve taken a great many of these shots before- long ago with film-cameras, producing negatives and prints with no digital copy. Now that I have an easy to use digital camera WITH VIDEO, I can’t help but go hog wild with the shutter. It took me a long time to get used to clicking without thinking about the financial gamble I was making. With that concern gone, photography is huge fun for me now! I’m burning through batteries and bombarding my Facebook friends with new photos almost daily. Lovin’ it!

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Made my first digital videos. (A 360 degree pan around Monk’s Harbor & The Eccles and the rippling waters of Glengarriff river) but can’t figure out how to post them on FB…

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Losing one Scrabble game after another. Rarely close scores. Arline usually just SLAUGHTERS me! Can’t catch a break. Remind me: WHY do i like this game so much?

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Experienced the usual gastro-intestinal distress I pretty much always get in Ireland: constipation from the plane flight that lasted the better part of a week. Then near diarrhea and mild cramping. I eat SO MUCH better at Toad Hall: more regular, balanced meals, more breakfasting, much better that include fruits and veggies I don’t often get at home, actually eating breakfast- so there is a sudden change of diet- but for the better! So why the internal distress? I’m thinking it’s the water in Ireland! Even through it’s supposed to be quite safe to drink, it comes out peat-brown from the tap and probably includes traces of things not found in the Santa Cruz water system…

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Late at night, poking around on FB, in my haste to close up shop for bed- I knocked my beer onto my computer! Not much left in the glass thankfully. I grabbed my hat and dabbed it up. Fortunately, it was already powered down and I now knew how to disconnect the keyboard so be sure there was no liquid pooling below it. Left it alone the following morning. Took a hair dryer to it. When I finally got the courage to fire it up… no problem! (Except that my computer now smells like a brewery!)

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I found a massage practitioner in Glengarriff! After a year working in Bantry, “Julie” now has a practice in the village.  Amazingly, It was advertised as being only 25 euro for a full body massage- even after currency conversion this was about a third the cost of a similar hour-long massage in Santa Cruz. I called the cell phone number immediately and scheduled one for midday Wednesday. I’d get a massage EVERY day if I could! A little focused human touch can be soothing but also very therapeutic and healing. In my body, all kinds of nasty trigger-points are lurking everywhere unannounced until their pressure-points are pressured, then: FIREWORKS. It’s not about how much stress is in your life, but more about how you process it. Even knowing about it, trying to keep my awareness focused on it, allowing it to wash over me like water off a duck’s back without sinking in- I still internalize a great deal of it. No matter how long the massage lasts, it’s never enough.

Julie was a very good masseuse, very small, slight, pretty- Julie had velvety soft hands of surprising strength considering her stature. Her voice was sweet with a delightful Irish lilt. I opted for deep tissue, and man did I feel it in my calves as I limped away from the session! The cramping from deep tissue wore off as I walked up the street toward Harrington’s for a bit of food and a pint. Later, I even wrote a poem about the encounter, called “TOUCH”, and posted in on the West Cork Business page as a testimonial for Julie. As Julie did not expect a tip, the low cost of her excellent service allowed me to gratefully buy a massage for my mother’s aching back as well. SO happy about this!

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One great thing: I am writing feverishly. Though I never even began work on the next TWISTED monologue as I had planned, I have managed to compile the quotes building over years in my email, and get a start on the vocabulary words. Writing almost a poem a day- and they’re pretty darned good. One night, as I lie in bed not sleeping, a poem that had been rattling around in my head suddenly demanded that it become corporeal. It came right out in one draft without effort- like a big bowel movement offering relief! The following morning a kind of depression set it, when I realized the truth of what I had feared at the time: That RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL MUSE was the best poem I’ve ever written, and likely to be the best poem I ever will write! Never occurred to me that achieving these heights of expression could be a problem. I have managed to keep writing- but no: none of them are nearly as transcendent.

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Been having occasional scary episodes with my eyes where I can’t fully focus. It’s been scary! High blood pressure? Macular degeneration from aging? Whatever it is, it’s FRIGHTENING!

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Why this life with out romantic love? Is there anyone alive more capable of falling in love than I? After decades of the single life, I guess I’ve just internalized the message that I am not worthy. If anything were going to happen for me romantically, it certainly would have by now, wouldn’t it? Doesn’t help that as I age, I hate my own body. How could anyone else love it? Lots of “love lite”- little real intimacy. I am grieving for the wife & children I will never have. Though feeling (for the first time in years) that I actually could be “successful” now, I am not feeling any hope whatsoever that I will ever find a life partner.

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The summer Olympic games took on a whole new freshness and immediacy, being in a country that was so close to the action. The TV coverage was fascinating, because naturally- they highlighted their own athletes, not the American superheroes venerated in U.S. Olympic coverage. A female boxer name Katie something took home the gold and electrified the country! Another woman representing Ireland, a solo sailor who went in with great national hopes, but ultimately came in 4th. No “Tin” medal for fourth place!

Danny Boyle’s opening ceremonies were one big “HUH?”. It was a jumbled, if entertaining mess. Poor Danny Boyle must have known he was in a lose-lose situation when he accepted the job. NO ONE ALIVE could have topped or even matched brilliant filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s stunning opening ceremonies four years ago in Beijing. The best Mr. Boyle could do is make the ceremonies a celebration of Englishness the way Zhang Yimou’s were a celebration of Chineseness. This he did, in a way that pleased almost nobody. He collapsed the arc of English history into a postcard, celebrating the death of nature and the rise of exploitation with the industrial age, without any mention of the incredible pollution, poverty, social disruption and suffering that came with it. The bucolic countryside recreated in the field, gave way to giant brick smokestacks that rose like cancer from the verdant earth. The sequence in which workers “forged” a giant ring from molten metal, and then attached it to the giant Olympic rings hovering overhead was just inspired! Though there was much to see, it was all happening at once, and so chaotic that when I read reviews in the British papers, they referred to all kinds of features I didn’t see in the coverage. (Guess it was one of those things where you just had to “be there”.) Though the section with the nannies in pinafores wheeling in sick bedridden kids was visually interesting, especially the lighting, glowing from beneath the sheets, and the attack of giant evil puppets from British children’s lit thwarted by an army of Mary Poppins clones) it was truly a WTF moment. Mr. Boyle understandably took a lot of heat for this in Britain, as it was seen an overt politicalization of the ceremonies and a direct slap at David Cameron- the current sitting Prime Minister- and it was! The right-wing torries in power there are attempting to dismantle the statewide healthcare system (NHS) and replace it with a privatized market-driven one. The narrator even had two lines to the effect: “Britons love their national healthcare system. HANDS-OFF THE NHS!” Even if I am in sympathy with these sentiments, and I am- is this the right forum for such pointed political criticism? The modern tribute to British TV and movies was just a lame, lame, lame embarrassment- a shockingly missed opportunity considering Britain’s remarkable contribution to pop music since the British invasion of the 60’s. Nice to hear Paul McCartney, but HEY JUDE? Isn’t it about time he retired that tired old war horse? The best thing: the breathtaking design of the Olympic cauldron was just stunning! The most beautiful one I have ever seen, it was composed of long-stemmed brass “lilies” that rose up from the ground to form a glittering flower of fire that was amazing to see when viewed from above. Even better, there was one “stem” for each country and it was given to them to take home after the games were ended.

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The Irish are as unreliable as ever! Mom has been without hot water for over a week. The plumber keeps saying to call an electrician, the electrician keeps saying to call a plumber. “Jer”, (the plumber who lives across the street) was first SUPPOSED to come that night before dinner, but he called and said he’d drop by the following morning. He did not come by or call to postpone. That was a “bank holiday” weekend. So we didn’t see him Saturday, or Sunday or Monday. Turns out he was IN HOSPITAL with a heart problem! Last time we will ever have uncharitable feelings towards an Irish workman! (But still- what about my mom’s water problem? It was unaddressed when I left for home…)

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Finally got the allergy shot I have been hoping for. Can’t say that it did much though. It just feels like 50 euro down the drain…

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So much good food all month long! Mom feeds me like a prince. When hungry, I can just go to the fridge. Mom would be cooking anyway, preparing meals for one. It’s no more difficult to cook for two, and you don’t have to clean up after. (That can be the guest’s job.) I loved sitting for real meals with my mom. It made me realize how the joy of communal meals was lacking in my life. Cooking is one of the things my mother does to keep busy and she’s gotten good at it! Some groceries seemed much cheaper in Bantry than in Santa Cruz! I didn’t know what to make of it. Even after adjusting for currency conversion, much of the produce was FAR less expensive than in California, the “bread basket” of the nation. (Blueberries here: $4.00 a basket. In Ireland: 2 euro for the same amount- about $2.44 at the current rate.) This is just WRONG. It is time to subsidize healthy fruits and vegetables in America NOW!

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Finally figured out how to add photos and start my new “Photo of the Week” feature in KPKworld. Breakthrough. SHUTTERBUG’S DELIGHT is very popular already! I’m stoked to share this good work with the world.

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Almost nightly crazy dreams all month long. Kind of exhausting, but entertaining! I have wild, crazy, memorable dreams here- often nightmares containing so much violence, I was shocked. Am I dreaming this shit all the time and just not remembering it?! Sometimes, I had to will myself awake. The best among them, lucid dreams! (See: “Walking in Paradise”)

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Loving every minute of this relaxed vacation, but with much less to do than usual (with no road trips to focus on) I do find myself starting to feel like I’m putting what little there is of my life on “hold” while I’m here- though I can’t imagine feeling any differently back home.

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Although my credit card worked fine to book an earlier flight home and a night at a Dublin hotel, it was turned down when shopping for my mom at the SuperValu. Europe is adding microchips to credit cards there. Mine has none. This could have been the problem. I did end up coming home with a couple hundred bucks left over. (Good thing, as I had nothing saved for September bills, my food stamps have been cut off and the $100 I thought I set aside to get me through this period is nowhere to be found. Realized sheepishly, that I spent it before I left, on pants and shoes. Both were full of holes, and I didn’t want to go to Ireland in rags…)

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Lounging in the sunny atrium of Bewley’s Dublin Hotel, this is such a happy moment for me! I’m using up the last of my euro on good beer and a shot of fine (expensive!) Black Bush whiskey, with enough left for dinner… hopefully! Two German tourists approached and asked if they might join my table. They look so much like my nana & PapPap, that I really see myself in them, even though I can’t understand a word of their conversation. Reading, writing poetry and finishing journal entries. What a relaxing trip number eleven was! Having the luxury to spend a whole month was a blissful blessing.

Enjoying my last pint of Irish Guinness. I’ve burned through all my euro with nothing left for dinner- but the bar food choices are terrible for the vegetarian likes of me, and the restaurant, crazy expensive for dinner. Even though I could just charge it to the credit card I used to book the room, my cash options were all but exhausted. Maybe I’ll break down and get a pizza. For now, I think I’ll amble upstairs to my room to kick back and watch some TV news- see when the closing ceremonies are on…

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Watching a documentary on the Gaelic language channel, about a guest musician sitting in with FOUR MEN AND A DOG. Brings back good memories of that Celtic summer of ’94. Wonder whatever became of my Dublin friend Mick, the flight steward Bekah & I befriended on our way home? Did he ever realize his ambition to become an airline pilot? Does Lisa ever think of the fling she almost had with him in Santa Cruz? Too bad I can’t access my computer without a power adapter. Seems kind of stupid that an “international” hotel like Bewley’s can’t provide (or even rent) them! I do have the option of paying 1 euro for 7 minutes Internet access, but that would get expensive fast… if I had more than one euro left!

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On my final night of my final day in Ireland, I finally had what used to be the quintessential Irish experience for me: an intense, unforgettable conversation with a stranger. Not one time this trip did a stranger invite me to join their party or spot me a pint. This used to be a common occurrence.  I decided to turn in $18 for euro at the hotel desk, giving me just enough money for a “child’s portion” of pasta, but the waitress couldn’t help me until I found a place to perch. All the little comfy islands were taken, so I took a seat at a long bar for single travelers. Before long, the fellow next to me began to chat me up. He introduced himself as Trevor Welch from Kilkenny, bought me a pint, and began to launch into a monologue about his life: he was 29 and had his own business selling coal. Though not married, he was partnered with 2 kids. He managed to buy a plot of land right next to his father’s right before the bottom fell out of the housing market. Despite the banks reluctance to loan, he was just putting the finishing touches on the new house. The more he spoke the more he drank. Several Red Bull’s & vodkas later, and he was very animated indeed. I started feeling him out on the values by which he led his life and things began to get very intense. The more he bombasted the more of an extremist he revealed himself to be. He claimed to be AGAINST education, confusing the ill-use of knowledge with the acquiring of knowledge. He sure didn’t want HIS kids to get too educated! After all, education was the cause of all the world’s ills, right? I kept reminding them that there was a difference between a thing and what you do with it. What one does with the education they receive depends on their values. Getting knowledge is good- imperative to be competitive in a global economy. Using it for selfish, destructive or malevolent ways is a character flaw based on faulty personal values. This message frustrated him terribly, because it required him to think and redefine his way of looking at things. It was just too three-dimensional for him to grasp. Not conveniently black-and-white.  He kept chuckling and accusing me of being “tricky” and “clever”.

Trevor had an awful lot of opinions on the matter for someone who claimed to know nothing about politics. He insisted that if Sinn Féin, (the political arm of the I.R.A.) were in charge instead of the totally corrupt Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties, they would fix everything immediately. Apparently he also had no sense of pre-1980 world history either. He blamed Ireland’s problems of all the new foreign immigrants- saving particular ire for the Poles. I suggested that his government was not to blame for accepting the recent émigrés, as every member of the E.U. had to agree to accept their share of refugees in order to remain in the union. I told him that Brussels had poured billions of dollars into Ireland when it joined the E.U. to bring its infrastructure up to the minimum standards enjoyed by the other first-round countries. This was total news to him. I also suggested he place himself in the shoes of a Polish worker. If the roles were reversed, wouldn’t he want to take advantage of the new rules that would allow him to emigrate and secure a better future for his family? Grumbling, he had to conceded that he didn’t blame them for wanting to improve their lives and would have done the same thing himself. I pointed out that in the new competitive environment, it wasn’t enough to be an Irish workman. If you wanted work, you needed to be a GOOD workman, regardless of national origin. I explained that it IS frustrating for the displaced when a whole class of workers suddenly comes in and dominates a new field. But how does this happen? It happens because of the inequality between countries and people. Polish workers brought with them, much lower expectations about their labor. They were simply willing to actually show up when they say they will and work harder, for lower wages that are still higher that those they got back home. Was this undercutting of the local wage levels welcome? NO, of course not. It has the potential to reduce the quality of life for the average worker and reward the big corporations with cheap labor. But is it realistic and understandable? YES! If he wanted to compete with these new arrivals, he simply had to up his game. It’s an ugly truth about globalization- for which he cannot blame his own government alone.

After he began jabbing his finger at my chest aggressively for dramatic emphasis, I had to calmly ask him to please stop this. He recoiled and wondered aloud why so many people find him “aggressive”. He wasn’t angry he insisted- just passionate. I assured him he would moderate with time. Don’t think he much liked this message. I get this. The 29 year old me would have been equally resistant to this reality.

I told him with a blunt smile, that in America we would be polar opposites politically. I would think of him as a right-wing reactionary and the massive gulf between us meant we probably wouldn’t even be on speaking terms, but admitted that I liked him anyway, even if I didn’t agree with anything he had to say. Finally, I had to disengage. My food was et and I was eager to get up to my room to watch the Olympic closing ceremonies and unwind for bed, and a very early morning. But he was so amped and excited he didn’t want to let me go. he wanted to debate further, make me see things his way. I explained that we could talk all year, but though I was capable of understanding his point of view, I was never going to come round to it. Couldn’t we just agree to disagree? Yes, he said. We could. He would send me a Facebook friend request. And I finally managed to detach form the agitated Irishman.

Going up to my room, I was highly amused by the whole exchange, remembering how often in the past I had had similar exchanges- almost ALL of them in Ireland. These unexpected but profound exchanges are  absolutely my favorite thing about Irish culture. I tried watching the closing ceremonies what I saw what so English-centric as to be uninteresting to me. The Spice Girls? George Michael?? These people are MAJOR has-beens that speak nothing to anyone outside of the British isles. Where was Sir Elton John?

The following morning, as I boarded the shuttle bus to the hairport, I realized that I had been in such a hurry to disengage from my Irish blowhard that I completely forgot to pay my bar bill! (I hoped they didn’t present Trevor with MY bill.) When I got to the Dublin Airport- there he was! Trevor blasted right past me going about his business. I hailed him to say hello in passing, but he seemed embarrassed to see me, realizing how drunk he had been the night before. (And no, he did not send me a Facebook friend request.)

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When checking in at the Dublin Airport, I was singled out as a solo traveler and asked if I might be willing to be bumped to different flights. If I agreed, I would leave Dublin 2 hours later and still arrive in San Francisco 2 hours early! My 5 hour layover in Charlotte North Carolina, would be reduced to a 2 hour wait in Philadelphia. Even though I had no way to call Suz, my ride home to alert her of the change, I decided to agree, with the stipulations that I would still get an aisle seat and vegetarian meals. (Looking back at the decision, I should have played hardball and asked her to sweeten the pot by upgrading me to first class. There were empty seats there, and she probably would have agreed to it.) Dropping my last few euro into the Internet kiosk, I sent a flurry of quick emails to Suz and various people who may have been able to help me get the change of plans to her. But I had no way of knowing if I was successful until my arrival in S.F. As it turned out, my new seat on the U.S. bound leg was in an emergency exit row, offering all the leg room I could want. But located right next to the toilets- make that toilet singular, as at the very beginning of the flight, I had to inform the staff that one of the two toilets wouldn’t flush, causing them to close it for the duration of the flight. And since (bogus?) “security issues” kept us from using the toilet in first class, this meant that hundreds of travelers had only one toilet to use the entire 7 ½ hour flight! Naturally, big queues of impatient, uncomfortable travelers pooled in a grumpy clump around the one usable restroom the entire trip, crowding out the “extra” leg-room I thought I had. The smell quickly became rank and nasty as the effluent tank quickly filled to capacity. Add to this U.S Airways mercenary food policy (little free food, snacks and drinks cost big $$$ and they refused cash, accepting credit only) and crappy, almost non-existent entertainment system, and it’s highly unlikely (all things being equal) that I will ever chose this airline again. Unfortunately, I may have no choice if I want to avoid transiting through Heathrow- AND I DO. Heathrow is a friggin’ nightmare. Travelers have to claim their baggage and bring it through security again, only to have it put back into the hold on the next leg of their journeys- a major pain in the ass for a jetlagged traveler that makes no sense to me if the bags were properly screened the first time…

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My dear sweet friend Suz was there to greet me in the San Fran airport. We retrieved my luggage and drove home in heavy fog. It was hard to sleep the first night. My body was just too stressed from hours of cramped sitting I couldn’t seem to wring out the sore kinks and it kept me awake tossing and turning despite my extreme exhaustion until the wee hours.

The next morning, the mourning began. I could NOT let go of Ireland! It was such a strong feeling, it felt like a mental disorder! I was so fixed on it, I found it very hard to just BE. I was miserable, deflated, depressed. Nothing is happening in this life I have in Capitola! Joseph Campbell insisted a man must “follow his bliss”. If so, what am I doing here? My bliss, without a doubt, resides in Ireland- where my body should be.

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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About KPKeelan

Fool, Philosopher, Lover & Dreamer, Benign TROUBLEMAKER, King and Jester of KPKworld, an online portal to visual and linguistic mystery, befuddlement and delight.
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One Response to IRISH RAMBLINGS #30: “Excerpts from My IRISH JOURNAL, 2012”

  1. Pingback: Guinness « The Beer Poet

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