Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing as an exercise in writing

Catching up:

1. I am intimidated by my prolonged absence. The longer I put off writing, the longer I put off writing.

2. I won a stand up comedy contest in mid-November. I was/am stoked. I did a six-week workshop which was basically a way to force/motivate myself to write material and show up rehearsed every Wednesday night. We had one end-of-class showcase (mostly friends in the audience) that went really well, and then I got a gig for the following Thursday night. I didn't know it was a competition until I showed up. I wasn't supposed to be in it but someone dropped out. It was audience vote, and everyone was allowed to vote twice (to try to neutralize people only voting for them). And I didn't even have any friends with me! Just my boyfriend and he almost forgot to win! And I tied with this girl!

We dubiously agree to split the 50 euro prize.

That's right, out of two women and eight men, the two women tied. Pretty awesome to be so hilarious.

3. My new dream is to someday fly first class. I recently had a rather harrowing journey from London back home to Portland involving delays, missed flights, rescheduling and an un-reimbursed night in a Washington, D.C. Best Western. As I finally boarded my homeward bound flight, I nearly fell over in pure exhaustion into one of the fully-reclinable, semi-private, entirely exclusive seats of first class. My body just wanted it. Instead, I squeezed into a middle seat with shared luggage space under the seat in front of me and tried to make myself enjoy 7 hours of mediocre film.

I wanted to recline. All the way. I wanted to make my own little bed and sleep in it and for flight attendants to offer me warm things like towels and peanuts.

Maybe one day I will be seated next to a dangerous detainee and his guards and a flight attendant will spot me there and say to me, "Excuse me, Ms. Zander, I think you'd be more comfortable if you would just follow me." And I would be. I would.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Neglect

I went on vacation and then I was going to write about it, but then I started a knitting course instead.  Check out my new project!

Split focus = hopefully I'll someday tell you about Sweden.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ireland, Get Out The Vote!

It's voting day in Dublin, and the Lisbon Treaty is the hot issue.

Source: ft.com. Check out the full slideshow of images here.

When I first started seeing YES and NO to Lisbon signs about a month and half ago, I thought they were voting on whether to allow Lisbon into the EU.  Yes, it seemed a bit weird that they'd vote on a city rather than, say, the entire country of Portugal, but I'm just American, I don't know about this stuff.  

As it turns out, I still don't know much about it, but I did educate myself enough to know that it's a Treaty that was voted on in 2007, and that Ireland voted against it.  So, basically, there's now kind of a 're-vote' happening, and people are really, really divided on the issue.  The No People are like, WTF, didn't we already vote against this?  And the Yes Folks are all, Maybe we should stick with the European Union on this one?

More interesting to me than the issues, however, are the campaign tactics.  It's a pretty hilarious contrast.

The 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign is ridiculously upbeat and cheesy.  The street signs are simple enough: big YES FOR WORKERS and YES TO EUROPE posters stuck on street poles, each with a person of a different ethnicity leaning against a wall, arms crossed with a knowing smile, or looking up as they wipe their hands on their apron on a break in the local diner.  That kind of stuff.  A bit cliché, but harmless.  The video campaigns, however, as this article and several internet forums aptly point out, are just plain patronizing.  

I went to see Julie & Julia last weekend (great movie, adorable, teared up several times) and Away We Go the week before (a little meandering, but got better as it went).  So, just like the effing 'Twenty' that we have to sit through in the states, there are advertisement that run in Irish cinemas before the previews start, and now included among them is a pro-Lisbon (cleverly disguised in flashy cartoons and a friendly, female Irish voiceover) ad called 'what's this eu thingy doing for me?'  The nice lady proceeds to tell you, Not to worry, the seats you're sitting in right now are measured the the standards of European comfort! That popcorn you're eating isn't from China (okay, my words, not hers)!  And gosh, no matter which 'exotic' European location you want to travel to, no need to worry about the price of souvenirs, 'the Euro will sort you out'! 

 The most patronizing thing about it, though, is the repeated used of the word 'thingy,' as thought the Irish use it all the time because they're too stupid to use real, accurate words and that the word is the best way to explain a complicated treaty that would change the way the EU elects its officials and other EU processes and thing(y)s.

But the No campaign is even more (darkly) hilarious.

Source: indymedia.ie

It's basically fear-mongering, and from what I've read in 'non-biased' articles, a lot of it is based on false claims.  But I don't vote here, so again, I don't care much for the real issues.  It's the posters that really crack me up.

One features a tiny man in a hardhat, about to be stomped on my a giant, steel-toed workers boot, his arms flung desperately in front of him as though they will somehow protect him from this enormous foe: FOR WORKERS, NO TO LISBON.  This theme of people being crushed or bulldozed or otherwise physically harmed by large objects or beings is recurring in the No campaign, as though there's some clause in the treaty that will finally allow Giantland to join the EU and its citizens to lumber in and annihilate all the Irish.  

Leprechaun syndrome, anyone?  I think the Irish are a bit sensitive about feeling small.

My favorite No poster, however, doesn't involved direct depictions of violence and it only went up a few days ago, just in time to really impact the vote.  IRISH DEMOCRACY 1921*-2009? NO TO LISBON is written across the top half.  Pretty straight forward message; a yes to Lisbon is a no to democracy.  Covering the bottom half of the poster, however, is a picture of a tearful, green-eyed, creamy-skinned, Irish girl.  That's right.  Vote yes to Lisbon and you will make adorable, Gaelic children cry!  It's completely incongruous, but brilliant.  I'm sure some poor old lady changed her vote because of it.

In conclusion, politics are much the same everywhere.  It's the image that counts, not the issues.


*I'm not too sure about that date, but that is the year that Ireland became an independent state.  I wish I had had my camera to take a picture of the poster.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Also...

I had a dream last night that the GD was away and Bret and Jemaine came to visit me, only at my mom's house in Vancouver, WA.  Jemaine wasn't around much, maybe he's just a more devoted husband slash father and so he had better things to do.  Too bad, because he's actually my favorite (no offense, Bret, if you're reading this, I'm just attracted to awkward and kind of weird looking).  Anyhow, I tried to pass Bret off as the Good Doctor so my mom wouldn't ask any questions, mostly by hiding him so she couldn't see that he wasn't actually the same Kiwi boyfriend she had met just months earlier.  She came into my room once as we were setting up my childhood trundle bed (that's right, I wasn't actually going to cheat on the GD with Bret-- we slept in separate, nestling beds), but a fortuitous blinding ray of sunlight came streaming through the window and prevented her from getting a good look.  Whew!  Anyhow, then Bret and I had kind of an awkward slumber party.  I drew a picture.

My sister used to sleep in that thing.

Then, back in real life, the GD woke me up to say goodbye, he was going to work.  I told him what I was dreaming about.  He whispered, "Go back to them.  Go back to sleep."

What new music should I buy?

It just occurred to me that I haven't bought a new CD in over a year.  I am bad at keeping up with new artists in the States, but when I'm abroad, I don't listen to the radio at all and (apparently) don't hang out with people who know about new music.  I am sick of my iPod and the Good Doctor is in the same boat.

Suggestions?  Dissuasions?  Food for my starving artist?

Monday, September 28, 2009

On fashion: the tracksuit

Ireland is not (ahem) at the height of fashion, but it really, really wants to be.  

There are the knackers (not my term) who are unwavering in their determination to make the tracksuit an outfit for all occasions-- shopping; eating fast food; weddings; running drunkenly into oncoming traffic; celebrating 14th birthdays with tall boys on the top story of a Dublin bus; cursing; pick-pocketing a woman in broad daylight and then denying it when that woman and her friends follow her, demand the wallet back, and finally call the Garda (this really happened to someone I know); and probably, in a tasteful black, funerals.

I do not, as a rule, wish to make sweeping generalizations about a population.  "Knacker" began as degrading term for "travelers," those living in mobile homes and trailer parks and generally viewed with the same disdain as the Romanian Gypsies are in Italy.  I don't like using it (though the Irish pull it out without censor) because it is, in essence, a discriminatory slur.  There is also the more severe term "scumbag," which was developed to describe a smaller subset; those who might pull a rusty needle out of their own arm and stab you with it if the heroin isn't doing its job yet.

Things have become a bit more simplified.  

Knacker = any boisterous, drunk, track-suited person with a gelled mullet (man) or scrunchied ponytail (woman) who is openly breaking the law (e.g. drinking in public, running against a traffic light, screaming at the Gardaí who pulled them kicking from the restaurant where they were causing a stir); age does not make a difference, but the majority seem to be between the age of 13 and 20; annoying, but generally harmless (just watch out for the purse-snatchers).

Scumbag = junkie stabbing.  You do not want this.  
It's a bit of a square, rectangle situation.  A scumbag is a knacker, but a knacker isn't necessarily a scumbag.

So I've moved to Ireland, learned some degrading words for the locals, noted that track suits really aren't a good look on anyone (I felt this way several years ago when J-Lo popularized the pink velour version); drinking is not an organized sport, folks, you don't all need to look the same.  
No!

Not everyone here is strung out or an alcoholic, so how to explain the overwhelming bad taste? When the GD first moved to Ireland, he was working in A&E (that's Accidents & Emergencies, a.k.a. the E.R., for all y'all Americans), and I think, for a time, he did believe that every Irish person had a serious addiction problem.  But those were the only people he ever saw.  And I, despite seeing people shooting up or smoking heroin on our street on nearly a daily basis, know that this is not everyone.  Just the ones who think that a doorway is a secret hiding place to do drugs.

What's really to blame?  Well, I think peer pressure is always a part of bad fashion choices, but the cyclical nature of the fashion world is always what astonishes me most.  I remember when I had to stop wearing leggings because they were not cool anymore and I had enough other reasons to be picked on (I know you can back me up on this, J).  So yes, I am moving away from the tracksuit, and on to Ireland's secondary fashion crime: a full return to the 80s.  

I know that hipsters in the States have been moving in that direction for years-- the skinny jeans (guilty) eventually had to lead back to the source, right?  A return to leggings was inevitable.  People really started re-embracing them around my junior and senior years in college, but only the really cool, skinny girls could pull it off, and I secretly thought they looked ridiculous.  I will wear skinny jeans.  I will wear leggings under a dress.  I will not wear leggings with a tee-shirt that exposes my bum and makes me feel as though I'm wearing nothing at all.*

I think the irony of the whole hipster movement was lost long ago, really as soon as it because a cultural phenomenon and Target started selling those fake leather stretch pants (the worst!).  But in Ireland, there is no irony.  There never was.  There are just throngs of teenage girls who maybe never saw Sixteen Candles and don't realize that what they are doing has all been done before.  The neon colors are back and the bad, bright make-up with it (though I think the orange shellac as foundation never went out of style in some circles).  Some of the more daring girls have "edgy" haircuts-- short! asymmetrical!--, salon-styled and product-filled as ever.  The longer-haired ones make sure that their ponytails are good and frizzy; no one thinks you just rolled out of bed, honey, your eyeliner would be on your chin if you went to sleep like that.

So maybe I sound mean, or just plain bitter.  Maybe I am longing for my own days of legging innocence, before I tried on my first pair of jeans and thought Horrible!  Stiff!  Who would wear these?  The result?  Years of wearing wide-leg jeans (again, long after they were in fashion), more awkwardness and being ostracized by peers.  Or maybe I just want these young women to realize that they don't have to wear a tracksuit or leggings to fit in and be cool.  In fact, it doesn't really look cool at all.


*I may some day eat these words.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm making business cards


Attempt number one.  Later versions are tidier and more regular in size.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Amsterdam: Disneyland for Grown-ups

Just off the train, Amsterdam wasn't much to look at. The station was surrounded by some construction, and as the GD and I wandered down a ramp towards the office of tourism that seemed to be housed in super-portable lifted from my high school and dropped on that vacant lot, I thought, At least I'll be stoned tonight.

We bought a map, got directions, and after I led as a little bit the wrong way, we were soon heading down the right street, into the Red Light District where our hostel was located. As soon as we got off the main road, I started to see the beauty of the place (no, I'm not talking about all the dildos in the shop windows). Amsterdam is a maze of canals. For every two or three streets crossed, there is a canal to walk over as well. I was getting more and more excited as we entered the heart of town. Porn cinemas! Cannabis! Beautiful old architecture! Sparkly water! And at last, our hostel!

We had managed to book a private room for out first night, but night two would be a different story. The room was awesome (St. Christopher's), though it had cost a pretty penny. Accommodation is pricey in Amsterdam, which is why we had decided to go the hostel route, but a private room was still well over 50 euro a night for both of us, and the second night in an 8-bed mixed dorm put the total over 100. In any case, it was a cool room with lots of weird art on the walls and though there was no smoking allowed in the rooms, I imagined it would either be a really awesome or really creepy place to come back to after a festive evening. Or afternoon. Whichever.

Amazing, futuristic, gigantic library of Amsterdam.

First order of business: dinner. The hostel was in a perfect location, just off the Damstraat, a great street for food, perpendicular to the Damrak, a main road leading to the train station, and right on the edge of the Red Light District. There was no window prostitution on our street, which was kind of nice, but you only had to go around the corner to see it. But we were hungry. We headed down Damstraat and found a Mexican restaurant. I still marvel at the fact that I can eat Mexican in Europe after living in France for seven months, where they don't seem to have gotten the memo.

There's always something just a bit off about about European Mexican, as though something was lost on the trip across the Atlantic. When my mom tried to order a vegetarian burrito in Edinburgh, the waiter said, "Okay, we will invent a new one for you!" When the GD and I ordered a guacamole appetizer in Amsterdam, the dip was delicious, but where there should have been delicious, fresh tortilla chips, there were Dorito-style, red-flavored chips from a bag. Oh well, you can't win 'em all. My tacos were delicious.

It was probably a bit counterintuitive to eat Mexican before getting stoned, but we were hungry, and we needed fuel before setting off in pursuit of a café. The search did not take long. We stopped into a nearby seed shop and asked for the recommendation of the woman working there. She pointed across the canal. "The Green House is very good." Awesome. After a bit of a trial*, we got some cash and headed to our destination.

The man with the weed was super friendly and helpful. And British! He told us about all the varieties of cannabis available and their different effects. For walking around (as we were planning to do) he recommended one that had the highest levels of... well, whatever it is that makes you high (giggly, energized, talkative) rather than stoned (vegged out in front of the T.V. popping JuJu Bees). Twelve euro for a gram. Five euro bought enough to roll a joint.

Let's just say that my stoner days are more or less behind me, and while I'm at it, let me remind everyone that this is not an incriminating post as everything we were doing was legal, but I do still take pride in my rolling. If I were I smoker, I'd definitely roll my own cigarettes. I am a premo joint roller. And I put my skills to good use to roll myself a pure one, as well as a a spliff for the GD (he's a half-tobacco kind of man).

We lit up and walked out. We wandered into the heart of the District, and it was a bit grim. I don't know why, but I expected window prostitution to retain an element of class and glamour. I guess I was picturing French lingerie, seductive poses, elaborate hairstyles. The reality was a stark contrast to my suppositions. All the women looked the same. Well, not actually the same, but they were all wearing bikinis, bad make-up and tans glowing under the red, florescent light over their window, and most of them were having fake conversations on their cell phones. Most of the women were standing in front of staircases, presumably leading to other rooms and other prostitutes; some, however, were standing in a bedroom. We were stoned, and the whole thing was pretty surreal to begin with. These were real women; this was their job. We saw a lot of people milling around, but no one went in. The GD wanted to go back to the hostel. So did I.

Monday morning we woke up and checked out of our room. We hired bikes to see Amsterdam like the locals see it. It is an amazing city for biking. Not only are there bike paths everywhere, but the bikes are well-integrated into and respected by the general car traffic. It was a sunny day, the canals were shining, and it could have been the weed, but I truly felt like I was riding through a magical chalk drawing from Mary Poppins. It was all too beautiful! We rode to the Van Gogh museum, which I highly recommend. We rode to the gigantic, architectural wonder that is the Amsterdam library. Technically, the GD's week off was study leave, so he got in a couple of hours of anatomy and physiology while I wrote and then explored the building.

We went back to the hostel to check into our new room, the mixed dorm. I was the mixer. Six men, the GD and me. We didn't stay to chat. Studying out of the way, we went back to the Green House to use up the remainder of our supply before our flight out the next day.

We explored a bit more, walking past several theatres with live sex shows. Suspiciously, most of them had the same pictures on the marquee outside. There must be a standard set. We went back to the hostel, had a quiet evening and were asleep before the roomies got back. Two of them were up around 6 a.m. to check out and probably couldn't have taken longer or applied more spray-on deodorant in the process. By midday we were at the airport and then on a plane back to Dublin; back to the Fringe for me and a start on some real studying for the GD. We'll miss you Amsterdam. Until next time.

*Apparently, on a Sunday night in Amsterdam, all of the cash machines are empty. We kept coming across machine after machine that was out of order. We finally stopped into a cash exchange kiosk to ask what the deal was and where we could get money. He explained that the only safe bet was the train station, that everything else would be sucked dry. We were heading that way (quite a walk), when we saw a line of about ten people waiting for what turned out to be an ATM. We crossed our fingers, got in line, and made it to the front before the supply was depleted.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Belgium in two days

The GD and I flashed through Belgium in a day and a half.  An early flight Saturday morning, in Brussels by 9:30 a.m., drop the bags at the train station, wander around town for the day and on an evening train to Bruges.  Check in to hotel, sleep, shower, repeat.  Brussels and Bruges are both lovely towns to walk around, which is good, because that's about all we had time to do.  Brussels is on the cusp of the Flemish and French regions, so I did bust a couple of second-language moves, but Bruges is Flemish, all the way.  Of course, everyone is like trilingual, so it's no problem for us English-speaking tourists, but it was cool to see the signs changing from predominantly French to Flemish as we rode the train north.  Saturday night, once in Bruges, we indulged in some highly-recommended, traditional Flemish food.  


The Good Doctor rocks the main square in old Brussels.

The GD and I wove down the cobble-stone streets to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant where our hotel had booked us reservations.  We were early, so we popped into a hotel bar just up the road.  We were the only ones there and had a great chat with the extremely friendly (multilingual) bartender.  When we asked what was good to drink, he handed me a very fruity drink and said, "The ladies like this one."  I explained that I like beer, despite being a "lady." After this initial misunderstanding, he was very eager to offer us Belgium's finest, or you know, strongest.  

A bit buzzed, we made our way back down the road to the restaurant and squeezed inside.  We didn't have to wait long for our table, which was fortunate because there wasn't really anywhere to stand except between two tables of people already enjoying their meals.  We sat down, redeemed out champagne vouchers, (thanks Martin's Brugge!), and both settled on the beef stew.  Now when they say beef stew, they mean beef stew.  No veggies, no nonsense, just beef.  It was delicious and served with hot applesauce and fresh fries.  That was not a typo, fries are Belgian, not French, and a nice waiter literally carried around a pot of bubbling oil from which he extracted the hot fries directly and placed them on our plates.  I took seconds on the fries even though there was no way I could finish my first round, let alone the beef stew, just because they were so good hot.  And that was the culinary highlight of Belgium.

We missed our waffle window.  I thought about getting one from a street vendor, but we really wanted fresh waffles, not sat-out-all-morning waffles; we wanted the experience Belgium through waffles, as waffles, by waffles.  We waited too long.

Canals are funny!  I am chilly!

It was Sunday afternoon.  Trains run every hour two minutes before the hour to Amsterdam, but we were aiming for the 13:58 train.  We spent the morning exploring the canals, walking through a flea market (smaller than the awesome one we had seen in Brussels) and being too full from breakfast to stop for waffles.  We'll get some on the way out of town, we thought.  No problem, we thought.  There's loads of restaurants with waffles, we thought.

We grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed to a square with several promising restaurants, and settled on the first one that listed waffles on their menu.  Rosy-cheeked from our walk, heads filled with visions of days in Amsterdam ahead, we walked in, anxious only to have a real, Belgian waffle before moving on to our next destination.  Then everything fell apart.  

A woman came to take our drink order (tea), but wouldn't take the waffle order.  Around seven minutes later I finally wrangled in a waiter who had walked past us at least five times and made the long-anticipated request: one Belgian waffle with lemon, please.  Easy enough, right?

At this point it is about ten past one.  Our train is in 48 minutes.  The station is a good fifteen to twenty minute walk from where we are.  We think, It'll be close, but we'll make it.  How long can two cups of tea and one waffle take?  Too long.  Too long.  After (I kid you not) 15 minutes, they had not even brought out our tea.  Mind you, there were maybe three to five other people in the restaurant, and we had ordered the tea nearly ten minutes before the waffle.  It was nearing half past, and we started to wonder weather we were going to have to leave without eating.  The GD stopped our waiter and explained that we had a train to catch, and Is there any way to get our tea now? and possibly know weather our waffle has been started? thanks.

The waiter was not impressed.  We should have told him at the get-go that we had a train to catch, then they would have made our waffle first.  Never mind the fact that when we had arrived 40 minutes earlier, we hadn't thought time would be an issue.  He berated me a couple of more times, and I began the transformation into ugly tourist.  Where was the customer service?  The Belgian charm?  The man brought out our tea immediately --two cups of hot water and two tea bags, how hard was that?-- and said he would check on our waffle.  We sipped our tea and watched as the precious minutes left between us and the train station slipped away.  We were about to leave when another waitress plopped the waffle down in front of us.  My building anger and frustration was channeled into my knife as I cut off a bite.  I put it in my mouth.  It was mediocre at best and-- wait, is this possible?-- still frozen in the center!  

I lost it.  Well, lost it as much as I lose it in a public place in a foreign country.  A waitress was passing me, speaking to another woman in another language.  "Is this waffle from the freezer?" I demanded.  She looked confused, then said, "Um..."  

"It's still frozen in the middle," I retorted.  She wasn't even our waitress, but I was pissed.  I had completely interrupted her while she was dealing with another customer, I was raising my voice in English, and I may as well have been wearing a shirt that said American asshole, but I didn't care.  We were so out of there.  We were already grabbing our bags, desperate to pay and try to make our train.  There was some confusion with the bill and I left fuming before I hit someone, but the GD said they didn't charge us for the waffle.  Damn right, they didn't.

We hauled ass toward the station.  I had only looked at the map once before "lunch" to plan our route, but it was not the moment to be slowed down by such cumbersome things as directions.  I was peeling through the crowds with my rolling suitcase, the GD a slightly more relaxed ten paces behind me.  We got to the main road the station was on with about seven minutes to go, and I suddenly realized we were very much on the wrong side.  We were on the same side of the road as the station, but it split in such a way that we would have to veer away from our destination or cross several lanes of traffic without a crosswalk.  The GD reminded me that it wasn't worth running in front of a semi.  I resignedly slowed my pace, stopped, waited to cross the street.

We had missed it.  We were still minutes away and there was no way we were going to make it.  I hated Belgium.  I hated waffles.  I still really wanted one, but I hated waffles and most of all frozen waffles.  At our new, defeated pace, we rounded to the corner to the entrance of the station.  As we crossed the threshold, the giant, official clock told us it was 13:55.  Three minutes.  My eyes locked with the GD's and we exchanged a look that said, Let's do this thing.  We made a b-line for a ticket counter, miraculously line-free.  "Two tickets to Amsterdam, please!" I said.  My politeness had returned.  "Sure," she said, as she took thirty painful seconds to collect our money and print the tickets.

The GD turned to me. "Now it might be worth it to run."  We ran: to our platform, up the stairs, and into the first car with two empty, adjacent seats.  I let out of a breath of relief as we sat down.  Yes!  We did it!  Fuck you, Belgium, we're going to Amsterdam!  And so we did.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Facebook: Lifting the Feminine Mystique?

None of my good friends are married and none have kids, but this is the beauty of facebook: people from high school send me friend requests all the time, and I'll usually accept it if, after ten minutes of reflection, I can remember at least one class we had together.  In this way, I have been unwittingly (if not unwillingly) immersed in the new culture of early motherhood: the facebook status update.

I am fascinated by this phenomenon of the moment-to-moment, unabashed blurt from the minds of new mothers.  When one can send mobile updates to one's page at any time of day or night, the realities of parenting are no longer blended together as in a book like What To Expect When You're Expecting*.  It's no longer a general overview.  Motherhood (as the updates are nearly always written by the stay-at-home moms) is neither glossed over as nothing but sunshine and baby burps nor completely written off as drudgery, loneliness and sacrifice; the update provides a window into the ever-vacillating reactions and emotions of the young mom.

I have been following a particular former classmate of mine for the past few days.  She, of course, does not know this (further beauty of facebook) and wouldn't have time to care if she did, as she's taking care of a 2-week old.  Let's call her S.  In one update she writes, "S... loves her little [girl] more with each passing moment.  I may die from cuteness overload!"  This post is beautiful, and perhaps typical, but it comes nearly a week after the baby is born.  Obviously she loves and is in awe of her baby, but the six previous days of updates include exhaustion, pain, breast-feeding, exhaustion, no sleep, diarrhea, love, gratitude, and more sleep deprivation.  

Two days after the "cuteness overload" update she writes, "fussy baby, 4 hours sleep, no one around to take her. *Sigh*," then the next three days are all sleep-status updates.  On Tuesday she wrote, "[Baby] had a rough night and I have to [be] at work at noon.  Ugh."  Her friend (also a mother) responds, "I can't believe u have to work.  Well what am I saying I want to go back I am sick of being home alone."

And this is the thing: all of her friends seem to be moms.  Or maybe all of her other friends simply have nothing to say on the topic of "baby explod[ing] out both ends."  Nearly everyone who has written on her wall in the past two weeks is either a relative, an in-law or a fellow new mom.  The page is overrun with profile pictures of babies, mommies and babies, and the rarer family portrait.  One young woman has a baby and suddenly her facebook page becomes a forum for any young mothers she knows or may have met once and added as a friend.

The remark about being "sick of being home alone" really stuck with me.  Of course, these women aren't home alone; they're home with an un-intellectual, undeveloped being that demands all of their time and energy, but that being is still someone and the expectation is that to the mother, the baby should be everything and time spent with the baby should be enough.  This, of course, is not the case, and I've seen it expressed elsewhere on facebook.  Another former classmate of mine wrote a really interesting blog during her pregnancy following her preparations for motherhood that went as far as a detailed description of a fight with her doctor over the question of episiotomy; she didn't want one.  Since having her baby, she has been very open about the ups and downs of early motherhood.  I have seen her write, on more than one occasion, "I love this baby, but..."

I admit that I found this attitude to be shocking, at first.  I am not a mother, and the idea of being one (some day in the far and distant future) excites and terrifies me, partly because I'm afraid it will drive me nuts to be at home (alone) with a little blob of life all day.  Since the birth of her child, the pregnancy blogger has blatantly expressed her desires to get out of the house, spend time with "real" people, and recently, go back to work.  The whole phenomenon of mommy updates puts me in mind of Betty Friedan, of the isolated, lonely housewife, and how little "housewife syndrome" has changed since The Feminine Mystique was first published.  What is incredible and completely different, however, is that a: women feel free to air their grievances about motherhood as well as their joys, and b: that facebook has become a forum through which young women can reach out to each other and commiserate and celebrate being moms together.

But is facebook simply the new drug of choice?  Is it just another way to end the monotony of being "home alone"?  Where there was once a steady flow of sedatives and anti-anxiety pills a woman can now find a constant stream of information: photos, updates, moment-to-moment windows into the lives of others.  She can share pieces of her own life, she can seek pity and congratulations from her cyber-network of friends and perhaps gain a sense of fulfillment and community that she cannot find at home.  

I know that I have spent hours of my own life quelling boredom by spying on people I have not seen in years and secretly taking pleasure in the failures of people I didn't like in the 10th grade.  I was uncomfortable and even a bit aggravated when I saw the first wedding album of someone I knew on facebook.  If you're getting married, isn't it time to be a grown-up?  I thought.  Isn't it time to delete your page and be a wife or career-woman or mom or whatever?  I had a similar response to the first baby photos.  Get that child out of your profile picture! But motherhood seems to be the great unifier on facebook, and I am not on that page.

And what of these children who are growing up in an online community?  Long before they can give consent, their images are all over their parents' walls, their first steps are documented for any friends, family members or stalkers from sophomore-year biology (ahem) to see.  Kids just ten years younger than me are spilling their guts on youtube to anyone who will listen.  When I was their age, the blog was the great, new act of exhibition: a journal of your deepest thoughts, fears and desires that anyone is cyberspace can read!  Kids ten years before that didn't have the internet.  What will these featured facebook babies being doing in ten years' time?

*I've never actually read this.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Loss of a Legend: Ellie Greenwich

Ellie Greenwich, an eminent songwriter, producer and singer who made her mark in the early heyday of pop and girl groups, died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 68.

Image courtesy of last.fm, where you can sign up for free and listen to Ellie Greenwich Radio


Greenwich co-wrote several of her early songs (including "Leader of the Pack" and "Going to the Chapel") with her then-husband, Jeff Barry.  The couple collaborated with producer Phil Spector to churn out hits like "River Deep - Mountain High," "Da Do Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me," and "Hanky Panky."1
 
When her marriage to Barry fell apart after just a few years, Greenwich had difficulty reconciling the idealism of her songs with the reality of her own failed love life.  She said:
"… well, the disillusionment, you can imagine: the person who wrote 'Doo Wah Diddy' and 'Chapel Of Love' has gotta be devastated. I realized, those words, 'Till death do us part,' they don't really mean anything. Through the good times and bad times - what happened to that? We're having bad times - why should this be over?"2
She suffered a nervous breakdown after her divorce3, but went on to produce and write more hits.  She helped discover Neil Diamond when he was "'down-and-out songwriter,'" as he put it yesterday, and "'... was one of the most important people in [his] career.'"1 Greenwich's life was made into a Broadway musical, The Leader of the Pack*, and she was a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Most importantly, Greenwich was a prominent woman in an industry overridden with and run by men.  She broke into the biz not as a singer (though she was one), but as a writer and producer, a rarity at the time.  She simultaneously believed in a kind of fairy-tale romance and proved herself a force to be reckoned with in man's world.  

Tracie, over at Jezebel, has put together a particularly wonderful youtube compilation of Greenwich's "impact... on pop culture."   This Manfred Mann video is my favorite, but they are definitely all worth checking out.

Maracas! Apathetic drummer!

Ellie Greenwich wrote songs we have probably all sung too loudly in our cars or into a hairbrush in the privacy of our bedrooms; her lyrics are with us forever.  

*Incidentally, one of the first musicals I saw.  Annie was the first professionally-staged musical I went to as a kid, but my neighbor (infinitely cool just by virtue of being a teenager) growing up was in her high school production of LotP, and I remember clapping so hard at the end that my hands hurt.  It definitely turned me on to theatre in a big way and made me want to do that when I grew up, or, you know, got to high school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Basically the same thing

Sandwiched between the FOR HER and ETIQUETTE sections at Chapters, my favorite kill-two-hours bookstore?  FEMINISM.  I'm pretty sure the one copy of Simon de Beauvoir's The Second Sex comprised about a third of the section.  The thing is hefty, no doubt, but it didn't stand out much amongst the likes of To Hell In High Heels and The Naughty Girl's Guide To Life.

Chick lit.  Sigh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finny Finn Finn

So my bf, being a New Zealander as well as a Good Doctor, has introduced me to some pretty awesome/classic Kiwi tunes.  If you're going to have a conversation about music that includes New Zealand, you can't really avoid the Finn Brothers.  In fact, I think that might be the whole conversation.

Neil and Tim (Finn) have played together, fought, broken up, and reappeared in many musical incarnations as New Zealand's chart-toppers (all this before the introduction of my true favorite Kiwi musicians, Bret and Jemaine).  So I guess I kind of knew that one song by Crowded House, but I didn't that realize Neil (younger bro) had started the band after the disbanding of Split Enz (Get it? nz? Like New Zealand? Thanks, Wikipedia), Tim's much less commercially successful endeavor*.  Just check this out.



So Neil was all, "Thanks for letting me be in your college band when I turned 18, bro, but now I'm on to better things!"  They sort of re-collaborated in the early 90s, again under the name the Finn Brothers, but then Neil kind of took the songs they had written together and gave them to Crowded House and then had to let Tim in the band because he worked on the songs and it would be awkward (slash copyright violation) otherwise.  But then Tim peaced out when they were on tour in Europe.  Brotherly rivalry much?  I'd be pissed, too, if my younger brother was a better song-writer and knew how to play an instrument.  

I think that's what I love most about that Split Enz video, though.  Tim is knee-bending and two-stepping his way around that weird makeshift set (I wonder if that was their university theatre department?) and his elbows seem to be anchored to his ribcage as he "dances" with his arms; then, right at the end, Neil bops up behind him on a guitar and they harmonize and you're like, "Who's that cute, bouncy guy seems way less awkward than the guy singing?"  

I do legitimately like that song, so no diss on Tim.  I also enjoy that New Zealand, or, you know, just its music scene from the 80s and 90s, has some kind of a dramatic history.  Yeah, yeah, there was other dramatic history in how the English tricked the Maori people into signing over all their land and rights (silly mistranslation of documents), but there's no grainy 80s footage of that exchange, and it doesn't make me smile.  I'll stick with the Finns for now and leave the evils of colonialism for another day.

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: I was totally wrong.  The singer in that video was Neil not Tim; Tim came bopping up at the end.  So I guess Neil was even more openly upstaging big bro than I thought.  Lead singer in Tim's band!  What gumption.  I still like that video, though, and the song.

*I guess they were actually quite successful in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but who even goes to those places?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Birds

I. Hate. Pigeons.  For similar familial opinions on the topic, check out my sister's post on las ratas del aire.

We have a history.  I don't like them and they don't like me.  Much like the results of my futile childhood attempts to interact with horses, my fear and annoyance seems only to amplify their bad behavior and general distaste for me.  That's right, I also don't like horses much.

But horses are pretty and majestic and so I'll let them live on their farms or in open meadows or wherever; pigeons are filthy and stupid, eat anything, shit everywhere, and have a propensity towards dive-bombing my head.  On at least three occasions, I have narrowly escaped getting a face full of high-velocity pigeon.  Once I ducked so late in the game that the stupid thing grazed my hair.  I tried not to think about where it had been.

My latest battle, though, has to do with excrement.  Let me lay in a little background for you. The GD and I live in a large apartment complex (ha, you thought I was going to say 'large apartment') that's comprised of four five-story buildings surrounding a courtyard.  Because the apartment is not big and it's built with maximum Irish efficiency, our washing machine is under the microwave in the kitchen (leaving us exactly one lower cupboard for trash and no drawers), and (as in many European homes) there is no dryer.

None of these things are particularly problematic.  We keep the silverware in a tray on top of the microwave, we squeeze in when one person is doing dishes and the other wants something from the (counter-height) fridge, and we conveniently have a small balcony and drying rack for laundry.  Again, no complaints.

Our courtyard (besides being a daytime hang-out for kids and nighttime location for loud drunks) attracts a particularly precious combination of gulls and pigeons.  Particularly at night, the seabirds seem to fly in from the coast in Hitchcockian numbers, screeching at a level that almost drowns out the thumping base from the bottom corner apartment.  This is annoying and a little alarming (I always think of Jessica Tandy and my own impending doom at having left the window open), but it is still not what drives me crazy.

I have probably done laundry about 6 times since I have arrived here, and 3 of those times (including the first day I was here), a bird has shat on my drying clothes out on the balcony.  The first time, it was actually the GD's stuff that I had washed, but the second it was my jeans which take forever to dry and I was personally offended.  The third time was yesterday.  I had washed all of the bedding and painstakingly found places and creative ways to hang everything  up so that it would have a fighting chance at drying before bed time, and just when the sheets (outside) were nearly dry and I was about to switch out the comforter cover (hanging on balcony door), I witnessed a pigeon stop by just long enough to take a big crap on one of the sheet.  The bottom sheet.  The one we need to sleep on so we're not directly on the mattress.  I cursed my luck and threw it back in the washing machine.  

The thing that really drives me nuts is that the GD was living here a month before I moved in, and this never happened to him.  He has (of course) done laundry since I arrived, and it's still always my loads that get dumped on.  This is just like the three or four times that a horse, beloved by and loyal to my sister, tried to throw me as a child.

The whole thing leads me to believe that I have some kind of anti-Snow White complex.  Come to think of it, all of those Disney princesses loved wild animals.  Sleeping Beauty had those bird friends who'd dress up as a prince for her so she'd have a dancing partner in the woods; Jasmine had an effing tiger for a pet; and no one would even hang out with Cinderella except for some very talented singing/talking mice.  I think maybe wild animals don't like me because I don't buy into all that being-rescued-by-a-prince crap-- I think they don't like me because I'm a feminist!

Well, pigeons, if it's my principles you're after, I guess you'll just have to keep crapping all over my laundry, because I'm not backing down.  You just keep coming around with your tiny little heads and beady eyes, I will keep thinking about (but not actually testing) how much Raid it would take to get rid of you.  And I will not sing to you or dress you up as my boyfriend just so we can have a quick waltz around the balcony; I'll be inside with the windows shut, reading Jezebel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Not right now, maybe next year?"

Oh, the attempted humor (or is it just the language barrier?) of the non-native-English-speaking man in the library from the gym who asked me out.

Yeah, things really start to happen when I leave the apartment.

We met first at the gym, just one week ago.  Me, the only woman in the weight room, trying to do bar squats in the least evocative way possible; him, a Latin American man in street clothes, his shiny black curls slicked back off his face. A woman! he must have thought, What is she doing with big, heavy bar?

He asked if I needed help.  I did not.

Apparently my rebuff was too subtle, because he was back in a matter of minutes, this time saying, "I want to do some of these with you."  As my mind raced, trying to untangle how two people could do squats at the same time with the same bar without the situation taking a horribly wrong turn, I set the bar down and said, "Um, okay."

It turned out he wanted me to spot, but does a man stronger than myself need little old me to spot him with a 20kg bar?  No, he needs me to spot him, to feel faint at the sight of his flexing thighs and flashing green eyes.  I was not up to the task.  I looked at the ceiling, out at the pool, and generally tried to make myself unavailable in the case of a weight emergency.  I did not ask him to return the favor and made sure not to smile as he walked away.  

He returned for one more set, but I put on my best apathetic face and didn't make eye contact when we passed on the way to the locker rooms; and so, I thought we had parted ways for good.

I guess my sweat-drenched men's gym shorts were too sexy, my general odor too enticing, and my one-word responses too seductive, because when I happened to pass him on the steps to the library today, he recognized me immediately and went in for the kill.  "You got lost?" he asked, laughing at his own joke.  What?  Like, on the way from the gym last week? 

"No."

"You are looking very good."

"Okaaayyyy huh."  

I thought that perhaps my extremely uncomfortable laugh paired with a sudden increase in pace followed by my intense absorption in a library computer would be enough of a hint.  It was not.  He was persistent.

"I just need one minute.  Honestly you are looking very good and I need to see you again or I will die.  Can I see you?"  

Wow, for someone who speaks such weird, broken English (I am not doing it justice in my transcription), you really have the topical stuff down.  

"No."

"Why?"

"I'm busy."  This is not a reason, folks, but no means no.

"Not right now, maybe next year?" Another chuckle at his own brilliant comedy.

"No."

"Why not?"

"I'm busy all the time."

He thought that was funny.  "No.  Why not?"

I pulled out the big guns.  "I have a boyfriend."

"It is not enough."  He lingered until finally (the desired effect), he wandered away, still chuckling to himself in disbelief.

But wait, what?  "It is not enough?"  What is not enough?  One boyfriend?  Or it's not enough of a reason?  And more importantly, why did it take me saying that I was with another guy for him to leave me alone?  I find that to be the most frustrating point.  He only abandoned the pursuit when he found that I might be "taken," because a single woman refusing him was just too much to wrap his big, shiny head around.  

*Woman's smile = open invitation to men 

I'm the doctor!

I was roused from my internet stupor Saturday afternoon by the following text message* from our neighbors K and the OGD (Other Good Doctor): 
"Hey, our friends we were supposed to see tonight were at a mansion party last night and aren't up for anything, so now we've got all this food and wine and only you, me and [the OGD] to eat/drink it."
I can't say that I found anything to complain about in her misfortune.  I have never turned down a challenge involving excessive food and drink, and in this case, the fewer the merrier (er, drunker); plus, plans for Saturday night!  Awesome.

I realized it was already 2:30 and hopped on the DART down to Dun Laoghaire (pronouned Dun Leary, silly Irish language) to catch a puppet show I had been reading about at what seems to be the only puppet theatre in the area.  I was pretty excited about it, imagining Bread and Puppet-/In the Heart of the Beast-style antics.  I had read about the founder and lead artist of the Lambert Puppet Theatre and he seemed like an interesting guy.  They had staged puppet adaptations of Oscar Wilde!

The place was flooded with kids.  I was the only one there without a small brood in tow; in fact, I was the only one there solo.  I tried to exude Artist! as an explanation of my presence to the surrounding families, but I think Weirdo! was the more probable read.  When Lambert himself came out and started an Abbott and Costello-style routine with a stuffed dog, I knew I was at the wrong show.  The kid behind me (two, too young) was kicking, and the kid next to me (ditto, ditto) was covering what kid one couldn't hit from the side.  I stuck it out for the Billy Goats Gruff (just ask me to sing the Trip, Trop song!), but skipped out at intermission, missing out on the Three (Tree! - Irish) Little Pigs.  So, I kind of accidentally found myself at a show for preschoolers, but I did pick up a pamphlet on the International Puppet Festival - Ireland 2009.  The brochure looks sweet--acts from Russia, Spain, the Czech Republic, France and Italy--and the festival is much more in line with what I was looking for.  One of them in a Spanish puppet adaptation of The Miser, only "it is no longer money that everyone covets, but water."  The puppets are made out of faucets and stuff!  I'll definitely be there for that one.

Free of the tots, I hopped back on the DART and headed home, then across the courtyard towards the promise of wine and company.  What I got was champagne (fancy), cheese (French), wine (check), dinner (penne bolognese), more wine (check, check), drunk (duh), a TV (more later) and a rousing game of Operation.  Yeah, this one.


Doctors love money!

Predictably and (hopefully) due to my level of inebriation, I completely failed.  The OGD was ridiculously good.  Apparently there's something about being a real doctor (dexterity, nimble fingers, concentration under pressure) that carries over to extracting ice cream cones, pencils and butterflies from a red-nosed, buzzing man.  K also kicked my butt.  I can only presume this is because she owns the game and (therefore) practices constantly.  I got the wrench-- $100, a poor showing.

A second game was vetoed (that final butterfly really took it out of all of us), and we all piled onto the fold-out couch to watch Spinal Tap, which I barely managed to stay awake for.  It was 11pm.  I thought about pulling a similar stunt as earlier in the day and skipping out half-way through, but a combination of pure laziness and pride (bruised by my recent defeat) kept me glued to the couch and my eyes (mostly) open.  Plus I wanted the OGD to carry over the promised extra TV (again, pure laziness), and I thought there would be a higher chance of that happening if I stuck it out.  The movie ended and the OGD's proposal of an outing was mutually shot down by the women; just the same, he did bring over the TV (which is sitting on a chair, untouched and unplugged), for which I was grateful.  

Sunday was a bit quieter (a little more hung-over-er) with the GD arriving home from work in the a.m.  Apparently my drunk dial(s) had not been too disruptive, but I did effectively get the Operation jingle stuck in his head all night (I did not sing it, he just made the association).  At least it was thematically appropriate.

In other news, I continue to be under-worked and under-paid.  I have some rehearsals starting up next week (I'm and extra!), at which point I'll just be regular-worked and under- not paid.  In the meantime,  I'm thinking I should buy Don't Break The Ice, practice at least an hour a day and then invite K and the OGD over for dinner.  Best to have some wine on hand, as well.

*I accidentally deleted the original message; this is a close approximation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So you just stay home and play synthesizers*

Or – When you’re unemployed, there’s no vacation (except when your bf has a week off work).

The Good Doctor stole the internet today (or, you know, he took our little Broadband To Go stick to work), so I am forced to hang out in a café for the free Wifi—not a terrible consequence, as it turns out, and on track with my goal of getting out of the apartment at least three times a day.

Last week was gloriously full of oversleeping and riddled with evidence that the GD and I are both very set in our ways. TP over the front or back of the roll? Lasagna foiled or unfoiled? Front and foiled, obvs, but one must pick one’s battles when one is living with someone with whom one wishes to continue living. I learned this lesson repeatedly by picking as many battles as possible (compulsively and without intent of harm) during the GD’s week off and then feeling like an ass about it immediately after the fact. But, come on, put some foil on the lasagna so it doesn’t dry up. Right? Am I right?

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one making an ass of myself in week one of the Living Together Adventure (LTA), and we’ve come out of it stronger than (and as stubborn as) ever. Don’t worry, we didn’t spend the entire week arguing about who was going to do the dishes (that’s right, we both wanted to do them in our respective ‘right’ ways). We didn’t go far, but we did manage to get out of the city on several occasions last week. We went out to Howth (pronounced like a frat boy chanting "Hoath!") on the train and walked the peninsula to the point where some actual hiking trails started and a downpour forced, er, allowed us to turn back to town for a pint. We took the bus to Sandymount, a lovely little suburb that’s also right on the water and made me happy to be living by the ocean again.

Howth!

On Saturday, we took a windy and slightly hung-over coach ride out to Glendalough (which is part of Wicklow National Park) and (after an emergency 40-minute sandwich detour), we ‘hiked’ one of the trails through the park. The first part of the ‘nature trail’ sure had a lot of pavement and noisy European teenagers, but one we broke off onto the ‘Ramble,’ things cleared out a bit. That’s right, the trails were ranked Easy, Moderate, Ramble and Hill Walk. How is a Ramble harder than Moderate? (It’s not.) Also, Hill Walk? How much more lamely could you phrase that? Moving Your Feet Forward On A Slight Incline? Anyhow, we totally would have done that one, but it was supposed to take 4+ hours and we didn’t have that kind of time; plus, there was an alarming warming sign by its description on the map depicting a man falling off a cliff, and I found that to be off-putting.

Alas, the weekend ended, the GD went back to work, and I decided to create a less ridiculous sleeping schedule for myself. I have to pretend I have a job by saying things in my head like, “Anne, you are due at the gym by 9:30am. You have a very important meeting with the treadmill,” and, “The servers at Taste of Emilia are waiting for you to order your coffee and write for an hour in their café.” So far, dividing my time between things like this and the general pursuit of domesticity (doing dishes and laundry; elaborate meal-planning and baking projects; finicky tidying and rearranging of furniture) seems to be an effective way of killing a day. I’ve also secured myself a spot as an extra in a Dublin Fringe show from Argentina, and I’m trying to become a volunteer with the Fringe Festival, itself. Pretty productive, right?

The only real tragedy I’ve suffered in the last week is the half-death of my ancient iPod. The thing is still kicking, but the headphone jack has crapped out. I can still listen to it on the GD’s dock in our living room, but alas, no more trips to the grocery store with the world around me completely drowned out by Girltalk. I think the damage may be a result of The Dropsies at one of my important gym meetings, but I drop that thing ATT, and this is the only serious injury it has sustained. I refuse to let it die completely, though, because I cannot afford to replace it with one of those new-fangled ‘color screen’ iPods with a million GB of space that I could never use. MyPod will serve out its final days honorably: as the soundtrack to my confined life of poverty and small domestic tasks§.



*FOTC: Inner City Pressure

†Amazing little Italian place right around the corner. Apparently Emilia is a place in Italy, and most of the food and drink is from that region, including the little sample platters of parmagianno with balsamic they give you when you’re drinking a delicious glass of red wine! Also, bomb cappuccinos. The only place in Dublin they don’t put chocolate on top.

‡Not the correct use of the term ‘half-death.’ I think it has something to do with cells, or maybe that's half-life. I do not claim to know.

§That one guy from The Stepford Wives would like to watch.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Time, time, time and not a thing to do

The past few days have been pretty quiet around here. I'm settling into the apartment, the GD has been working crazy hours this weekend (one week of annual leave starting after his nap today!), and I'm doing my best to get into the habit now of audition-searching and looking for ways to make connections here in Dublin. I have (already) managed to eke out a friend; that is to say, the gf of one of the GD's friends (and former co-worker) is similarly unemployed and bored out of her mind, so we've joined forces. Her situation as an unemployed writer (who came from a good job in Australia) doesn't really bode well for me and my artistic job-seeking plans (having come from a series of short-term, non-commital jobs, myself), but I hope we can find some kinship in the excessive amount of freetime we share. She seems to enjoy drinking, so in that regard she's got my vote, and she and the OGD (Other Good Doctor) live in an apartment directly across the courtyard from ours. Convenient? I think so.

I called my sister last night to ask her what that one website was where you could find tv shows watchable outside the U.S. She pulled through for me and I entertained myself with several hours of 30 Rock hilarity last night while I went into a bit of a cleaning frenzy on the stovetop. Yeah, it's good to have the GD home from work. It will be even better when I have people to call when he's not around. Maybe I'll take out a personal ad:

WF available most afternoons for baking, margaritas, light manual labor. Seeking daytime platonic companion to share in activities, crack jokes, generally be entertaining. Dance background a plus. Or, you know, employment. I'd take employment, too.


Needs a little work. Don't worry, I've got time.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dual Citizenship!

I can't believe I forgot to tell you, but I'm Canadian!  


Thankfully, my WIG Lauren mentioned it in her blog, which reminded me that I had recently made a trip to the Canadian embassy in Seattle.  I think I mostly forgot on purpose because the whole process of printing a card with my picture on it as proof of Canadian citizenship is going to take about a year (serious backlog), and I was trying not to fixate on the awesomeness that will ensue when those 12 months are up (in an effort to make that time go by more quickly).

So, my mom is Canadian by birth, thanks to my Scottish grandparents who moved there en route to the US.  (So international, I know!)  Anyhow, my mom only lived there until she was two, but her birth certificate gives her citizenship, and after some recent inquiries on my part, I found out I'm in, too.  I just have to fill out this form (done), drop it at the embassy (done), and wait a year while the people in the one office in Canada who process all the applications from all over the world shove mine to the bottom of the pile and ignore it for about six months until they finally get around to processing it (doing).

But that's it!  I will totally have two passports.  This confuses me, by the way.  I read a pamphlet about it in the embassy, and they were mostly like, Make sure the dates of entry and exit are in the same passport for each country you go to!  Also, some countries don't want you if you have two passports.  But I don't want them either.  I just want access to all the former commonwealth countries, which I will have with my fancy new Canadian passport-- in 10- to 12-months time plus 2 to 4 weeks to process the passport application.  So there.

Dublin Invasion

Folks, I am back in the game-- the game being Europe.  After a brief two-month stint working as a file clerk in my mom's law office (thanks, guys, for always giving me a job) and a week of mayhem (ish) in the Twin Cities, I've broken a little higher than even and arrived in Dublin with enough money in account to live here very, very humbly for as long as they'll let me.  Luckily, the Good Doctor has a place, so I only have to pay a fraction of the rent I would if I was trying to get a place on my own.

So, at the moment, I'm chillin' to some Salt-N-Pepa while the GD works a 24-hour shift, planning some errands (mobile phone!  kleenex!), and generally plotting (legitimate) ways to stay in Ireland for longer than the three months allotted to me by the very kind, but very stringent Garda officer who let me in.  He looked up the GD in the system!  He took my picture!  Anyone know someone in Dublin who's hiring?

In the meantime, I'm just working on adjusting to the time difference.  I think I may have slept 11 hours last night?  To be fair, I didn't sleep at all on the red eye, and my four-hour nap yesterday afternoon just did not cut it.  I forced myself out of bed around 11 am (just five short hours after the GD had to get up for work), but I would have had no trouble sleeping another five or so.  I am going to use the same technique shortly, however, to force myself off this couch and out into the streets-- just for errands, don't worry.

Also, apparently I only blog when I'm in Europe?  Or maybe it's just that I only blog when I don't have a job, or don't have a job that takes up more than twelve hours a week.  Here's to more of that, at least as long as my credit card balance stays low and my bank account high.  Cheers.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back in the Yu Ess uv Ey

I'm over the initial culture shock and back into the routine of living (temporarily) with my parents, and suddenly instead of feeling like I've been back for three weeks (which I have), I feel as though I never left. Frightening.

In May I was in London, Paris, Càdiz, Granada, Madrid, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna and Paris. Yeah, I know I said Paris three times. That's how many times I was there. And, okay, I was only in Dublin for 12 hours (would have been shorter if the GD and I hadn't missed our original flight to Budapest), but it still counts. My job ended April 30th, and I was on a train out of Flers the morning of the 1st. Never looking back.

Early on, I think I was pretty good about blogging. That is, I vaguely remember writing stuff about being in London with my sister. Then, as my internet access got spottier and spottier and my schedule involved fewer nights in each city, I found myself becoming lazier and lazier about keeping my (huge) reading public up to date on my travels. Then I got back to the states and was jet-lagged and mostly just felt like sleeping (or not, depending on which was less convenient) and that got in the way of blogging. Then I just hadn't blogged in so long that I felt overwhelmed by the idea of starting up again. And that's where I am now.

I saw more places in a month than I thought I would see at all in Europe, got to feel inadequate in numerous languages, bickered and made up with my mom at least 17 times, and enjoyed a well-mediated birthday dinner in Edinburgh. That is to say, the GD met my mom and managed to cut the tangible tension (after two weeks of mother-daughter travel) with pleasant, engaging conversation. I made it to (surprise, birthday destination) Budapest despite missing the aforementioned "plan A" flight by the second of three overnight trains the GD and I took in our travels.

And now I'm here, wondering if any of that just happened. I'm pretty sure it did. I've got pictures.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Càdiz

This place is amazing. My activities today included (but were not limited to) getting up after 11, walking out to the plaza to use the free wifi, spending several hours on the beach, and filing my nails. Yeah, it's rough here. I can see why my sister might not want to, like, stay home and do her homework.


Tomorrow we're taking a ferry to the nearby town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, which is supposed to have beautiful beaches and some kind of celebration going on. Yesterday we took a day trip to Sevilla. The weather was a bit drizzly, and two-thirds of what we went to see was closed for the day (the Cathedral and the attached tower) but getting to see Alcazar (which I hear is similar to the Alambra in Granada but on a smaller scale) was pretty awesome. I'll fill you in on the comparisons (if I feel like it) after our stay in Granada Tuesday night.

I don't want to leave the beach! But I guess Paris* will be okay too. Again. Quel dommage.




*I am afraid that I have not been making any kind of an effort here with the language, and even more afraid of the state my French will be in after a week and a half of English.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Rain Train in Spain

Is awesome and spacious. It has way more leg room than any I've taken in France, and possibly three times as much as that available on any Ryanair flight. Plus, they show movies! At least the one I was on from Madrid to Cadiz did, although it was confusingly both dubbed and subtitled in Spanish, and what they were saying wasn't always the same as what was being displayed at the bottom of the screen. Plus it was written and directed by David Mamet (Redbelt, 2008), so I might have found it a bit hard to follow in English anyhow.

After a couple of days in Paris, speaking mostly English (hooray for American friends visiting!), I spent one night in Madrid, speaking mostly French. I managed to avoid talking to anyone as I navigated the metro to my hostel, and I totally caught someone trying to pick my pocket! Er, purse. That sucker was going for the outside pocket, where I only keep a notebook to write down travel information. I saw his fingers reaching in there out of the corner of my eye, and when I turned to look at him, he totally pulled his hand away and acted like nothing had happened. I wish I had known something clever to say to him in Spanish. As it was, I hardly spoke any Spanish at all that night. The first girl I met at my hostel was French and spoke Spanish way better than I did. We went out for a tortilla (a Spanish omelette) and I totally let her do the ordering while we chatted away en français.

My Spanish is in a pretty embarrassing state, considering I did study it for a couple of years earlier in life. Though to be fair, the Mexican Spanish I learned in school is pretty different from what they speak here, and I've been speaking French for the past seven months. So every time I try to reach back five to six years in my brain to find a Spanish verb conjugation or the correct direct object pronoun placement, I always come up with the French first.

But, hey, I'm in Càdiz (a.k.a. beachville) for the next four days, so I should just get over any embarrassment and enjoy it. And as long as I'm hanging out with my sis, she should be able to communicate on my behalf. And did I mention my mom is here? Yeah, it's a regular ladies only family reunion. My mom wisely brought along a friend to travel with, whose second purpose (I suspect) is to shame my the three of us out of bickering in front of a non-family member. So far I'd say the success rate is at about 60%. I don't have much shame.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sistertime, and who is the superior visul artist?

Work is officially over, I will probably never catch up on Italy blogging (basically Sienna, Florence and Venice were all awesome, but I got sick at the end of the trip and spent most of Venice in bed in the hotel room), and my sister and I just spent an awesome weekend in London. We only bickered a few times and we made a good showing at the pubs all three nights. Yesterday we hung out pretty much all day with out second cousin Billy, getting up in the London Eye in the morning and starting a long day of drinking around noon. I started out the afternoon with a meat pie, so things didn't get too ugly. At some point after we had met up with some of Billy's friends to continue the debauchery, I decided to draw mustachioed men on the hands of anyone who was willing. This was the result.



I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my favorite depictions of myself as illustrated by my former students in good-bye cards.


I love this one a) because it's one of the more accurate depictions of my hair and b) because everyone in this class clearly copied the same sentence as given to them by their teacher that spelled my name wrong, but then most of them also spelled my name correctly somewhere else in the picture. Also look at the size of my arm! Or is it a flashlight beam?


I was drawn as a blond in at least five cards. Wishful thinking, I suppose. This was also a very popular spelling of "bye bye."

And finally, this isn't me, but what a crazy/trippy drawing! I love it.


The robot is almost as awesome as the heart-/ex-eyed yes and no characters.

I'll probably share some more when I have a little more time, but I'm about to check out of this hotel in London and take the train back to Paris. Coffee is in order.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pisa

[Just pretend I'm writing this in real time.]

I got into Pisa on Tuesday (4/14) a little later than desired (this after the bank card debacle in Lucca), but that was okay because all I was really planning on doing was checking into the hotel, taking a nap, and waiting for the Good Doctor's* flight to get in. I accomplished all of these things, plus I went and found a pizza to eat. I was told the hotel had a car service (for only 3 euros!) that went to the airport to pick people up, so disoriented as I was when my alarm went off at 11pm, I went to meet the GD in person.

Pisa was really just a meeting point for us, but we got up and went to see the one, important thing the next day before heading out of town. The Tower! Look how leaning it is!



Amazing! Just kidding, I totally tilted my camera for effect. In case you couldn't tell by the nearly equally leaning buildings in the background. This is what it actually looked like, from the other side and further away.


Still impressive, and the church and dome right next to it were (although standing vertically) quite impressive as well, possibly even more ornate and interesting to look at than the tower itself.

Pisa is fairly small (compared to Rome and Florence), but if you get into the older part out town (nearer the tower), there's a good mix of chilled out cafés and tourist traps. Our hotel was right across from train station, which was very convenient, but meant we were in a kind of crappy part of town. It was only a twenty minute walk, however, to the Tower, and since there isn't much else to see, it wasn't a big deal.

After our big morning seeing all the, er, sight, the GD and I grabbed some panini sandwiches and beers and high-tailed it out of town, this time without incident at the train station. Next stop, Sienna, for some camping!



*I can't take credit, this is what my dad calls him, but I like it and I'm sticking with it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

High Self-Esteem: Take Two

So this is my last week at my job here in France, and no I haven't been laid off in the recession, my contract just ends April 30th. This means I show up with final lessons that involve singing and candy, and my kids present me with more awesome notes telling me how nice and beautiful I am. I work in four elementary schools teaching English, and I had my last day at my favorite school today (mostly because that's where I work the most hours). This is the booty I raked in:


My favorite is the card that says I love you because she actually wrote it in lipstick and it is quite sticky. I even got a note from the boys this time! Mind you, they sort of frantically noticed that all the girls were giving me cards and quickly huddled together to bang out (in 2nd grade French), "We love you a lot see you soon ANNE THANK YOU FOR HELPING US." Then one of them wrote, "Signature:" and they all signed it. Later in the day, after one of my other classes, one of the boys came up to me with a more eloquently written note (still from all of them, still in French, I didn't teach them that much):

Dear Anne,

We thank you for having taught us English so well.

and having been so kind with us.

I hope that you won't forget us.

We will miss you.

we hope that you will come back soon to see us.

See you soon Anne.

They didn't call me beautiful, but pretty much all the girls did, so I'll forgive them. Plus I'm sure it would have been a serious blow to their 8-year old reputations to write such a thing. I am not going to miss this town, but I am going to miss my students. Even the crazy, loud ones. Especially them. Here's the best picture I was able to get with them. By best, I mean no one's eyes are closed and they are mostly looking at the camera.

Pretty cool, yeah? Now on to worrying about finding a new job in this shaky economy, and trying to move to Dublin, and being a serious actor/writer instead of a teacher! I don't think I'll be getting too many admiring notes like this in the near future, but if I'm feeling low and battered by the world of auditions and submissions and constant approval-seeking, I know exactly where I can go: right back to Flers.