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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sports Help Men Avoid Feelings

As featured on Click2Houston.com:

This time of year is difficult for a man; there's nothing good on television.

What I mean by that, of course, is that there isn't much to watch in the way of sports. For many men, sports is the only thing worth watching.

The football season is months away, baseball is at its tedious early-season stage, most people's knowledge of hockey begins and ends with the film "Miracle," and the only ones paying attention to soccer are us Anti-American Europhiles who are hell-bent on having the U.N. take over your town.

"What about basketball?" I hear you say. "It's playoffs, baby!"

Exactly. There's nothing good on television. I question the legitimacy of a sport when the players haven't figured out how to dress properly.

As a side note, due to my lack of interest, I had to check the official NBA Web site to ensure that it really is time for playoffs. I discovered there that the NBA has something called a "D-League."

Apparently the "D" stands for "development," but think of all the other words that start with "D:" deficient, dull, dumb and dunderheaded. Who's going to go watch a load of D-League players? Give me C-League, at least. Do D-Leaguers have to repeat the season?

Most amusingly, there is a team in the D-League known as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Really? Mad ants? That's the best they could come up with?

What do their fans say? "Go Mad Ants! Get angry, you ants! Play like someone's taken all your sugar!"

But the thing is, if there were a Mad Ants game on TV tonight, I would watch it. I am male and I have to watch sports. If I don't, the terrorists win.

Actually, I think a man's seemingly constant need to watch sports runs a bit deeper. Watching sport is a kind of emotional opiate.

The common perception by women is that men are emotionally D-League -- we don't quite get it. In truth, though, we do get it. We just don't like it. Feelings are hurty and troublesome. Feelings are the Bo and Luke Duke of our souls, upsetting our happy Enos Strate status quo.

I've never bought into the idea that men feel particularly differently than women. I think we just respond to feelings differently. Also, we generally don't seek out particularly emotional experiences. I know women who watch films that they know will make them cry. How does this make sense?

"Sometimes it's good to cry," my wife insists.

Sometimes it's good to get a colonoscopy; neither event, however, is really my idea of a good evening in. So, I watch sports.

I can sit there comfortable in the knowledge that at no point will I be introduced to some cute and quirky female character whom I will fall in love with, only to watch her make an idiot decision or die of a horrible disease. At no point will I be confronted with my own prejudices. At no point will I be forced to question my moral foundation.

There are moments of high emotion in sport. I will always remember the way the whole of Cardiff seemed to jump when Wales won the Grand Slam. A particularly important rugby achievement in this part of the world, it was met by rapturous celebration in Wales' capital city. My lasting memory is of all of us in the Maltster's Arms in midair as the final whistle blew.

But that kind of thing is rare. Generally all you get from watching sports is a handful of people you don't know running around for a few hours. If you are watching basketball or soccer, you get the added feature of watching people you don't know pretend they are injured.

Watching sports is easy on the soul. It settles all the frustrating things that might be dwelling there. In my case, watching sports helps me to take my mind off the paralyzing fear of exams I'm facing next month. I know I can trust Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo to do nothing more than run around like a sprite and pout.

Somehow that puts the world at right.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yeah, we are that lame.

The other day, Geraint listed his Facebook status as: "Geraint doesn't live in Chicago." Thus prompting this Wall conversation:

ME: "I don't live in Chicago, either. But I used to work there... in an old department store..."
GERAINT: "But you don't work there anymore?"
ME: "No, not since a woman came in and asked for a hammer."
GERAINT: "A hammer from the store?"
ME: "Indeed. A hammer she wanted. My tool she got."

For those of you playing along at home, uhm, this whole exchange isn't really worth explaining. But it strikes me as particularly funny. Perhaps because it's a conversation that played out over three days.

I wonder if there is anyone reading this who might have also worked at that same department store. I wonder if they still work there; or if not, why?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The WAG needs Carl

I've never been to Merthyr Tydfil. I've only heard about it, and nothing good. When people here say "Merthyr," they say it with a tone of defeat -- as if they are remembering the pain and frustration of being punched really hard in the stomach.

In my head, Merthyr is associated mostly with its name. Welsh for "martyr," I envision life there as a process of slow and constant suffering. The once heart of Wales gouged by the deception of industrial promise; and a moral tale of what happens when you refuse to let go of the past. Merthyr, in my head is what Wales was. Or, rather, it is what What Wales Was has become. It is that unhappy cocktail of failed dreams, and ambition deficiency. In my head, the sun never shines in Merthyr.

That's almost certainly not true. I know a girl from Merthyr and she is, in fact, an incredibly warm and genuine person; the quintessential big-chested friendly Welsh woman who complains about the price of bread.

But, even she will lilt her voice just so slightly when speaking of her hometown -- as if speaking of a relative who was fortunate enough to pass away before the police could press charges over his collection of child porn.

Then, on the train tannoy (FTYPAH: "public-address system") this morning came the cheerful song of a proper Welsh valleys accent:

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome aboard the Arriva Trains Wales service to Merthyr Tydfil! Our next stop will be Cathays; please alight here for Cardiff University. Please have your tickets ready for the automatic ticket barriers. Those of you staying on past Cathays, again, welcome aboard! My name is Carl; I'll be taking care of you this morning, all the way up through Pontypridd and up to Merthyr! I'll be passing through the train shortly, so please have your tickets ready. OK, see you in a bit!"

Carl made Merthyr sound like a magical place. Pontypridd and Merthyr! Wow! He made them sound like places you'd want to go to. More than that, places you'd be a fool not to go to. What's that? You've never been to Merthyr? My dear boy, do you but hate life? Do you detest puppies and pretty girls and freedom? What man with even the weakest grasp on sanity would refute Merthyr Tydfil?

I wanted to stay on. I wanted to have a chat with Carl. Who can concentrate on learning Irish when Merthyr awaits? Just the enthusiasm that Carl put into saying the name was enough to make me think: "I am going to take a day trip to Merthyr in the summer. I will read up on it and go see this place with all its history. It will be great!"

Imagine how the Merthyr-bound passenger must have felt: "Hey! I'm going there! Carl's talking about me!"

Clearly, Carl needs to be employed by the Welsh Assembly Government. His happy voice should be piped into all the trains in Wales, making us all feel that the places we are going are special and important; making us eager to visit those places that are just down the road.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Níl a fhios agam

Sport is an emotional opiate. Watching it on television is, at least.

Occasionally, watching sport produces intense emotional highs -- memory-searing moments that stay with us all our lives. The moment that Wales won the Six Nations, and the whole of the Maltsers Arms seemed to be in midair in an explosion of celebration, the way I could feel the whole city screaming, that's a moment I won't forget. But those moments are rare.

Generally, to watch sport on television means a few happy hours of emotional detachment that you simply can't get from watching, say, a film. This is why men prefer watching sport. We can sit there comfortable in the knowledge that at no point will there be some cute and quirky female character who we will fall in love with, only to watch her die or make some ass-hat life decision. At no point will we have to wrestle with moral issues. At no point will we have to watch a fella kiss another fella and pretend it doesn't make us uncomfortable.

Watching 11 blokes run around with 11 other blokes, all of them occasionally pretending to be injured and struggling to kick a ball into an area the size of a small bus, requires nothing of a man. This is why I am already looking forward to watching Tuesday's Champions League match. I am worn out, yo.

What's wearing me out is the fact that exams are fast approaching and I am wholly unprepared. Each night I toss and turn with the fear that I am lying in bed doing nothing -- Nothing, damn me! Sleep?! What is that about?! Laziness! Sloth! I should be up and studying! -- as my own academic version the Battle of Karánsebes (a) lies in wait.

The first exam facing me, and the one I'm fearing most, is my spoken Irish exam on 7 May. I think I could only be more unprepared for this exam if I had never actually set foot in any of the lectures. Indeed, if that were the case my impending failure might be a little more honourable. As is, I've never missed a lecture but have somehow managed to not learn a thing.

So I am now in the mode of desperately trying to teach myself Irish. Famously, I pulled this trick with Welsh, but in that case I had a little more than three weeks to learn everything. Indeed, it wasn't until six years into The Welsh Experience that anyone tested me on it.

And the online resources for teaching oneself Welsh are surprisingly better than those available to Irish learners. So far, the two best Irish sites I've found are those offered by non-Irish entities: the BBC and Des Bishop. Neither offer a great deal, and the BBC's site (logically) teaches the Ulster dialect, which isn't what I'm being tested on.

For those of you playing along at home, the concept of dialect in a minority language is a bit different than anything in our experience. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that American English is, in itself, a dialect. And within the American English dialect rarely are the differences in pronunciation, grammar, etc. so varied that one person genuinely struggles to understand another. Yes, those of us who grew up in Texas or the South can immediately think of people we have met, or are related to, who are somewhat unintelligible. But in truth that person doesn't speak all that differently.

Indeed, the differences between all English speakers are not so great. More or less, the widest gap one can really come up with is that between the English spoken by Alexyss K. Tylor and the English spoken by Billy Connolly.

But the gap can be much greater in a minority language, to the extent that people from Cork, where my Irish teacher is from, will claim to not even comprehend an Ulster speaker.

So, I don't know Irish, the Irish I'm attempting to learn is the wrong kind, and my exam is two and a half weeks away. Liverpool v. Chelsea -- I can't wait.

-----
(a) Funniest. Military. Blunder. Ever. Well, as funny as 10,000 dead guys can be.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ghostly Ice Cream Van

I have fallen out of habit of directing to my columns, but I am still writing them. Here's my latest one, which I am sort of pleased with simply because of the imagery, e.g., "dairy-treat-bearing land shark."

To that end, I'm pretty sure that Bomb Pops to the Malevolent is a good name for a band.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The AMFA misses a PR opportunity

Since Tuesday, American Airlines has cancelled more than 2,600 flights, with a whopping 240 of its planes currently out of service due to a failure to address mechanical issues.

Northwest Airlines, as far as I can tell, has cancelled 0 flights as a result of the issues facing American.

Northwest Airlines' mechanics are members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association -- a union.

American Airlines' mechanics are not.

It seems to me that a PR opportunity is being missed.

As a side note: I'm sure many people have heard me say that if you have to drink crappy American mass-produced beer it should be Miller because it is union-made. I just noticed that Miller's workers are represented by... the auto workers' union. How does that make sense?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You ain't pregnant in yo' face

Well, she does have a valid point.

In response to Annie's question

Is that a general Kerouac question are you referring specifically to On The Road, since it is mentioned in the list of things I've read this year? This was actually my third time to read the book and I have to say that with age (that is, as I age) it loses something.

Kerouac is a good gateway for people who haven't really thought about using words to convey complex and convoluted emotions, rather than, say, cohesive thought. But there are authors before and since who are better at it than he was. If you strip away the events, you get storytelling that isn't actually that strong. Kerouac holds you with the action and pace rather than plot, narrative, craft, etc.

But, perhaps those criticisms are too easy to make 50 years after the fact. Classic literature rarely holds its initial impact for a long period of time because it gets copied to the point that the original seems cliché. This is especially true of any of the Beat authors. People tend to get locked up in the mythology of the author and project their envy/admiration on the work rather than evaluate it honestly.

We, the masses, have a bad habit of assuming that self-destructive behavior automatically means brilliant artistic output. Case in point, Lenny Bruce. Dude was not funny. Not even just a little bit. Don't argue with me on this because you will be wrong. But people hold him up as a genius because he destroyed himself. I have long felt that the only thing keeping Bill Cosby from being the greatest comic storyteller of all time is his failure to develop a heroin addiction. So, we look at Kerouac and think: "He smoked and drank himself to death; he must be a good author."

There are flashes of brilliance, but not on the level that the Great Kerouacian Hype Machine would have you believe.

A really interesting thing about On The Road is that it describes an America that is as foreign to the modern American as it would be to someone who's never even been to the country. Kerouac's pre-interstate, pre-fearing-the-world, pre-consumer-centric America cannot be found. Kerouac's America is so foreign that it is difficult for anyone of my generation (and I suspect anyone younger) to believe that such a place ever existed.

It's interesting also, to see how innocent/ignorant Kerouac was in a lot of things. His foray to Mexico is filled with failures of understanding, for example, the way he mentally ties mambo with Mexico (mambo being an American variant of Cuban music).

For all my modern criticisms, though, Kerouac has had massive impact on me. I still have a tendency to copy his style. I always claim to myself that Hemingway is my greatest influence, but my rambling manner betrays a far greater allegiance to Kerouac (and, it has to be said, Bill Bryson [and my grandfather]). I especially do this in the Welsh language, where there doesn't appear to have been any similar author. Literary rebels in Welsh write in unintelligible dialect, whereas Kerouac played with the words themselves (rather than the way the words are said/spelled) and used them to try to give form to the un-shapeable dimensions of what goes on inside our heads and hearts.

Beyond that, the Kerouac mythology has driven me quite a bit as well. Dr. Handy can probably expound on how she and I, under the influence of On The Road, pushed out into the world as best as could be expected of suburban Midwestern kids under the drinking age. And for each of us that served as the foundation for what we've become, what we're becoming. Although, it's quite possible that films like "Smokey and the Bandit" had just as much sway on my desire to travel.

In terms of Kerouac, though, I tend to think that Dharma Bums is a much better book. It probably had greater influence on me than did On The Road.

So, to sum up: Jack Kerouac is good, but so are Bill Cosby, quaint anglophile travel writers and 70s car films. Obviously, I'm not the best person to be talking to about any of this.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Footie

Portsmouth and Cardiff are in the FA Cup final. Anthony, if you are reading this you'll want to read up on these teams because this is the match you will be watching when you and Maggie come to visit. Travelling several thousand miles only to find yourself watching soccer in a pub may seem a bit silly, but this is non-negotiable.

You will be supporting Cardiff City. This is equally non-negotiable. I'm not necessarily happy about it, but supporting the home team is a matter of health and safety in this country. In the United States, it is a cheeky thing to sit in a bar in one team's town and support the other team, but this isn't the United States; people here don't think it's funny to do that. They will hurt you on principle.

For those of you playing along at home, there's this game called soccer, which is really popular over here. They like soccer so much that their leagues and divisions mesh into an incongruous mess that forces the soccer season to be approximately 78 months long.

In America we are used to having ESPN tell us which teams are good, but here they expect you to actually watch loads of matches and figure this stuff out for yourself. I can't be arsed to do that. An easy cheat is to look at who is playing in the semi-final and final matches of three major competitions: the Champions League, the FA Cup and (to a lesser extent) the UEFA Cup.

Diehard soccer fans will split hairs with me on this statement, but that is because all diehard soccer fans are bound by the International Code of Diehard Football Supporters to disagree with anything anyone else says about the game. Bylaw 234 of the code also specifically states that anything an American says about the game should automatically be questioned, even when we make inarguable points like, "Soccer is played with a ball."

Anyway, the FA Cup is kind of big. In Britain (i.e., in competitions that take place solely within Britain), it is the biggest sporting event of the year. And now the two teams representing the cities that tie me emotionally to this country are set to take on one another on May 17.

I was wearing my old Portsmouth jersey as I sat in front of the television Saturday. I kept turning around and stupidly grinning at Rachel when strains of "Play up Pompey" could be heard over the BBC announcers.

"See?!" I wanted to say. "They really do that! Just like I said they do!"

Rachel wasn't bothered, and went upstairs to read. Mentally it appears West Brom did the same thing, defeated by Portsmouth's magical ability not to outplay them but simply bore them into complacency. But as Cardiff's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would remark the next day: "It's not how you do it, but that you do it."

Indeed, Cardiff adopted a similar strategy Sunday of playing slightly better than Barnsley, scoring a goal early and then just sort of running about for an hour. Or, at least, that's one interpretation. It really depends on who you were listening to how the match played out.

The Cardiff-Barnsley match wasn't on television, so I followed via the wireless (FTYPAH: "radio"). I started out listening to Five Live's coverage, featuring Alan "I hate David Beckham for no good reason" Green (a). The match was so boring to him that he started commenting on things outside the play, such as what he and the other announcer would be eating during halftime. At some point he looked across the broadcasters booth and spotted a fellow announcer, Malcolm, who was "doing commentary for the Cardiff crowd."

"My goodness, he's really worked himself up, hasn't he?" observed Green.

"I think he's speaking Welsh," said Green's co-announcer.

"Is he? Well, if you speak Welsh, you might want to switch over to listen to Malcolm, because he's clearly watching a match different to the one I'm watching."

So I switched over, and indeed, it was a different match. The same teams were playing, but in this competition Cardiff were not a mid-level Championship team and Barnsley were not close to relegation (b). Instead it was The Greatest Story Ever Told. Cardiff were Cúchulainn (c) against the English horde.

For amusement, I found myself switching back and forth between Five Live and Radio Cymru.

FIVE LIVE: "I'll be honest, with the exception of that goal by Ledley, the standard of play today has been really poor."

RADIO CYMRU: "Crushed in Watford (d), whipped in Toulouse (e), Swansea and Wrexham humiliated and heartbroken, this has been The Most Black Weekend for Wales. But now our Capitol City carries the hopes of a nation. After 81 years (f), Cardiff -- Wales -- are just 10 agonizing minutes from their chance to fight Portsmouth! Their chance -- our chance -- to defeat the English and take from them their cup!"

FIVE LIVE: "...Barnsley have really only had one flash of inspiration in this whole match. Anyway, we have been given by the producers an enormous tin of biscuits, which I can't imagine anyone could possibly consume in a single sitting..."

RADIO CYMRU: "Rise up! Rise up! Now is the time! Fe godwn ni eto! (g) Wales' moment of glory is at hand! We will defeat them! Providence is on our side! The Capitol City ushers in Cymru's Golden Age!"

OK, well, perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit. But the point is, in Welsh it was a much more exciting match. As the clock ticked toward 90 minutes, Radio Cymru's announcer became more and more rapturous. He was at times incoherent. My favourite moment came when the match's four minutes of added play were announced.

"Pedair munud! O, bobl bach! Pedair munud o artaith!" he screamed ("Four minutes! Oh, Jesus Joseph and Mary! (h) Four minutes of torture!").

Cardiff, the city that so many Welsh speakers are keen to disinherit, is now in the good books. This morning on Radio Cymru, First Minister Rhodri Morgan stated that a Cardiff City win would be more important than the Welsh rugby team's recent capturing of the Six Nations Grand Slam title. And other people were eager to suggest that Cardiff's prominence would be a boon for the Welsh language, despite the fact that Cardiff City can't spell its name in Welsh.

The next few weeks should be interesting as we get closer and closer to the actual match. I will be working on suppressing any natural desire to cheer for Portsmouth. I am resigned to jump on the Cardiff City bandwagon. Indeed, today I plan to buy a Cardiff City scarf. If you're going to superficially cheer a team simply because you don't want to get beat up by its supporters, you might as well do so in style.

-----

(a) I used to listen to England matches online when I lived in the United States, and one thing that struck me was Green's strange contempt for Beckham. Occasionally he would just blurt out, apropos of nothing: "And David Beckham has done nothing!"

(b) A beauty of the British system is that if your team is shit, it gets dropped to a lower division. Imagine if, after sucking it up for a year, the Miami Dolphins were dropped down play against college teams.

(c) Cúchulainn is a Celtic folk hero: A king who once fought off an entire army on his own.

(d) Welsh rugby team Ospreys were beaten 19-10 Sunday.

(e) Welsh rugby team Cardiff Blues were beaten 41-17 Sunday.

(f) Cardiff won the FA Cup in 1927.

(g) "We shall rise again." It is the motto of the comically inept Free Wales Army, a 1960s Welsh republican movement that was headed by a man authorities described as having "a mental age of about 12 years."

(h) That's a figurative translation. Literally, "bobl bach" means "little people." It is usually shouted in moments of frustration. I have always assumed it to have a folklore connection, cursing fairies (little people) for things going wrong.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

This kind of esoteric nonsense is one of the reasons I didn't blog for a month

It smelled like Britain Thursday. Britain has two distinctive smells in Chris Brain -- aromas that automatically rush forward every memory I have of this place. As if my olfactory memory were a DMV waiting room that uses binary.

The first smell is bus exhaust. A child of the suburbs, I somehow managed not to take in a great deal of it until living in Portsmouth. So, now that sweet choking smell of burnt diesel floods memories like perfume of the girl who broke my heart in high school.

That's a rhetorical simile more than one that actually reflects my experience. The only perfume that cues girl-specific memories is that which was worn by Kirsten Can't-Remember-Spelling-Of-Her-Surname. And those aren't particularly brilliant memories.

She was an odd duck, that gal. She tasted of menthol. Interpret that sentence however you like and you'll probably be right. Her perfume was equally distinctive -- sickly sweet. Very strangely, it was the exact same smell as whatever's used to clean the men's toilets at Groveland Tap in St. Paul, Minn.

Anyhoo, the other British Aroma is the deep earth, flowers and je ne sais quoi that hangs lightly in the air when the weather is nice and the sun shines here. It is wholly unique of anything experienced in the United States. It is the smell of trips to a country pub or sitting around in my garden or the tired aimless first few weeks of Rachel and I living here.

The arrival of that aroma Thursday was unexpected. Just for a day it was unseasonably warm and perfect. I went for a run and then sat outside watching dinner napkins sway on the laundry line like prayer flags.

It has been a rough few weeks in Radyr Way, or at least that tiny part of it that is my head. Thursday was a welcome respite (Does anyone ever use the word "respite" outside of the phrase "a welcome respite?"). Visiting Dublin broke the monotony -- I was thankfully too focused on regaling my hosts with directionless (and almost certainly factually inaccurate) tales to hear those rumblings in my soul -- but Thursday was the first time for me to sit still comfortable in my aloneness.

Aloneness. I turned 32 a few weeks ago and it seems to have rattled me in a way I can't shake. I spent that evening alone. I didn't get any birthday cards from friends. There are all kinds of caveats there, of course. Llŷr shared a few pints with me on the afternoon of my birthday. I expected cards from no one -- especially my friends back in the United States. The event isolated, though, it was shit.

But, as the Welsh are fond of saying, there you are. Thursday was good.

Friday, April 4, 2008

You say "France," and I'll whistle

While visiting Donal and Isobel last week I was delighted to be able to introduce them to the tale of Van Morrison's famous contractual obligation album for Bang Records.

You might have heard about this. The exact details of the album aren't very clear. I can't find any reliable tales behind the recording beyond the fact that it was cynically made in 1967 to satisfy Van's contract with Bang. The contract strangely required him to come up with 36 original songs within the space of a year. In a badass move that almost makes up for the time he collaborated with Cliff Richard, Van came into the studio and made up 31 crap songs in a single session.

I have on my iPod a copy of the "best" of these tracks, "Ring Worm;" but today dug around and found a blog that posted all 31 of the tracks back in 2005. As of today, at least, all of the songs are still available.

It's probably not worth sitting and listening to 31 (short) intentionally bad pieces of music. The novelty wears off rather quickly. So, I'll tell you the five most amusing tracks:
- "Ring Worm"
- "You Say 'France' I Whistle"
- "Want a Danish?"
- "Dum Dum George"
- "Chicken Coo"

In and of themselves the tracks are funny and odd (every time I hear the tiny little half whistle in "You Say 'France' I Whistle" it makes me giggle like a hyena), but they also have a number of amusing elements.

First off, they contain more dialogue from Van Morrison than you'll hear anywhere else. He's famously unchatty. I've seen him live in concert twice and the man simply does not speak between songs. Even more unlikely is any display of emotion beyond grumpiness, which makes his burst of laughter in the middle of "Chicken Coo" extremely rare.

There is also the epic of George, played out in the songs "Hold On George," "Here Comes Dumb George," "Goodbye George" and "Dum Dum George." Clearly Van has an obsession with this George person because later, in Astral Weeks he spends 9:46 singing about "Madame George."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

And get off my lawn, you damn kids

Here's a random thing that really annoys the hell out of me: When an artist releases a track or record, and music writers use the word "drop" where "release" belongs.

e.g.: "Jason Mraz has decided to drop this year's summer anthem early."

That's an actual sentence I read today. That "drop" is used in context with Jason Mraz makes it particularly lame. Mraz doesn't really strike me as an artist that drops tracks. That's more of a hip-hop thing. But even then it sounds stupid.

I am waiting for music writers to start using other inappropriate verbs: "Van Morrison expectorated his latest album, 'Keep It Simple,' on March 11."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Morning, evening

I woke up yesterday in Dublin. That sounds like a song lyric, but it is, in fact, a simple declarative statement about my life. And not all that exciting a statement, considering I had gone to bed in Dublin the night before.

It would be a much more interesting story if I had woken up in Dublin after a night of heavy drinking in another country. But I already have a story like that, and a man's liver can only stand so many such experiences. In this case I was simply visiting Donal and Isobel in the comfy green of north Dublin. It was in their apartment that I woke up. Again, this story would be so much better if I hadn't been invited to their apartment, or if I had woken up between them dressed in a leather nurse's uniform and covered head-to-toe in 5W-40 motor oil. Sadly, that didn't happen either.

Visiting Ireland has such an iconic status in the American imagination that I feel ashamed to come back from a weekend in Dublin with a simple tale of grown-ups in a large metropolitan area doing boring grown-up-like things such as: going to dinner, taking a bit of a walk, looking at things in a museum, and checking train times.

If it makes you feel better, we did tend to stay up late drinking beer and talking. But even in that case, the content of our conversations wasn't all that exciting. It was agreed that clocks have grown quite clever over the past several years, the public transportation infrastructures of both Ireland and the United States are woefully inadequate, young people's tendency to finish texts with numerous "x" kisses causes confusion (Do my female classmates really mean that? Are the kisses like Tesco Clubcard points? Can I cash them in for real kisses, or a holiday in Mallorca?), and Something Should Be Done about China but we're not entirely sure what.

It doesn't make the best story, but I had a good time.

I went to bed last night in Cardiff. The story of that adventure I'll save for another post.