Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summertime, and the living IS easy.


Summer in Dublin.

The weather here has been gorgeous: warm, sunny, NEVER humid - ideal. Stark contrast to what I have been hearing from back in NJ...Apparently it has rained 20 of the last 25 days?? Wtf? Sorry about that guys...come to Dublin!

Still find it weird that it is socially accepted for guys to walk around the streets with their shirts off as soon as the temperature reaches over 65 F. Even on public transportation - No shirt? No problem! I find this a bit off but I guess you need to take in all the Vitamin D you can over here before the season changes back to "Overcast" which endures for months on end. I've seen girls tanning topless in public parks, Irish bros doing back flips into the River Liffey off the Docklands, and a bum pass out from the heat (or the drug addiction?) on Moore St....Loving summer here so far, but it is noticeably different from the city I touched down in back in January.

I used to revel in the quiet afternoons you could spend in Dublin during the week: Every weekend, in every month, the city heaves with loads of tourists, so I always enjoyed going into town on a more subdued afternoon in the middle of the week, just to enjoy the city in a more quiet state. You can sit in the same places where only a few days before masses of people were filtering in and out: smoking, drinking, eating, laughing, - noisy and distracting. However with the advent of summer, Dublin is crowded everyday - riddled with tourists constantly coming and going - a perpetual weekend, basically. (NOT complaining! Loads of fun). It makes me miss the quiet days.

I remember mornings in Dublin during the winter. They were bustling but sleepy - commuters on cruise control meandering their way to their jobs in a robotic and involuntary stride. I loved being in Dublin in the early mornings moving among this crowd. Not like I had a job to go to, (classes, yes) but waking up with the city is something I have always enjoyed - I think of NYC. It's even more enchanting in NYC because of all the neon lights. Have you ever been in Times Square at 5 in the morning? I highly advise it. The city that never sleeps actually does doze off for a bit, and as you take it all in, it feels like someone turned the city on mute. Neon lights are stories tall in the darkness but there are no sounds. Few people. It's amazing.

Summer changes this city, and gives Dublin somewhat of a face-lift: All the business are open, it's more crowded, more international, more diverse. I can't help but wonder if pieces of Dublin's personality, history, and identity are lost among the global brands, the Starbucks cups, the blaring tour buses. I wonder if commercializing "Ireland"and consolidating it to sound bites and stereotypes - does this result in losing a piece of what Dublin, and Ireland, really is? This goes for every city in an increasingly global world.

It is what it is, I guess. It's not a bad thing either. Being here has reaffirmed for me that "clashing" nationalities really only highlight similarities between people. I love the constant exposure to people from all over the world.

I worked with a catering company last weekend that was catering a Bat Mitzvah in Dublin. I was collaborating with the hosting family to organize and assemble all the decorations, and also got to interact with the Rabbi for a bit. Clearly working with a Jewish community in the middle of Dublin is unconventional, but it gave me perspective and was a reaffirmation that there are so many integral pieces to every cultural identity that it is overwhelming. Maybe the only way we can attempt to make sense of everything is by making broad and often inaccurate generalizations (i.e. everyone in Ireland is a drunk) and by exploiting the culture itself via fabricated symbols (i.e. selling Leprechaun mugs, jewelry, underwear, hats, shot glasses - anything you can print that little fairy man onto).

I don't know how I feel about it all. I cash in just like everyone else, I'm not above it.

Anyway.

Not much else to say, loving life really. Went to Manchester for a few days which was amazing and I will write about it later. I've essentially been on holiday for 6 months so I'm just trying to appreciate it all before reality yanks me back to New Jersey. I'm looking at flights and planning to come home during the first 10 days in August. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Sweetheart, bitterheart, now I can't tell you apart."

Bloomsday.

Yesterday, June 16th, was Bloomsday - the day during which all the of events of James Joyce's greatest work Ulysses took place (June 16, 1904). I attempted to read Ulysses when I was a freshman in college but my head exploded within the first chapter. Now that I'm so much older and wiser, maybe I can get to chapter 2. I actually am going to try and read it this summer.

Dublin was alive and celebrating yesterday with various guided tours, jazz bands playing throughout town, but most importantly; adorable old people sporting their bowler caps and sharp suits, strolling around town or grabbing a pint together. I was in town all day and it was fun watching the Joycians reveling in the atmosphere and dancing about.

I met up with some people for the first time yesterday, and it was a really rewarding experience. We had initially only met up for a drink and a chat which snowballed into hours of discussion and then live music at Purty Kitchen. I was essentially drinking all afternoon and it ended up catching up with me as I hustled to make the last bus home. I was in a great mood, and loved the fact that even though I had taken a detour to my stop by grabbing one more pint at Gogarty's with some new people I met, I was still going to make the bus home. Humming to myself and slipping swiftly and skillfully through Dublin's dark streets to the bus stop I couldn't help but relish the fact that I knew these streets like the back of my hand. Basking in my own personal glory, I then saw the dominating building that was the GPO, right in front of me. What the fuck? It was entirely disorienting, and I turned around to realize that yes, the GPO did not move, I actually walked in the wrong direction for a solid 5 minutes. I crossed O'Connell Bridge without even REALIZING I should be going in the complete opposite direction to catch my bus near the main entrance of Trinity. Blame it on the alcohol? Yes, T-pain. However, blame it moreso on how distracted and gleeful I was from a great afternoon/night of drinking, live music, pleasant weather, and getting to know new people. In my giddy stupor, I considered my options as I did an about-face and headed toward home: I had missed the last bus, and probably would have regardless of if I had went to the right stop or not. The LUAS was still running, but doesn't have a track that leads too near to my school. The Nightlink begins running an hour or so after the normal hours of Dub bus, I could kill time in town, drink some more and then go home. I could meet up with the people I just left and keep partying with them.

I think that most of you know me well enough to assume with a high degree of certainty that whatever I decided to do probably involved going back and drinking more. That's what I would have picked for me to have done too.

I guess it's a testament to what a unique mood I was in that I instead opted to WALK home, or attempt to at least. Walking from city centre to UCD which is 6.6 kilometers away (OVER 4 MILES AWAY) during the middle of the night, by myself, is something I wouldn't even expect myself to do....out of pure laziness. Plus, I'm drunk, could I even find my way back? My mind was up for anything, for whatever reason. I had to try. If I got bored of the idea I could pop in a taxi, even though I hate paying their rates and talking to the cab drivers has even started to lose its novelty because the conversation about 85% of the time covers the following 2 topics only: (A) New Jersey OR (B) Politics.


Taxi Tangent

The topic of conversation when I am in a cab by myself can stem from the following topics:

(A)Where are you from? and (B) What are you doing here?

It is from my experience here that Taxis ALWAYS ask both of these questions. People are really friendly here and want to hear your story. From whichever answer they find more interesting dictates the entire course of conversation for the duration of the cab ride.

(A) I'm from the states, New Jersey, (B) I'm studying at UCD and I'm also here for the summer.

Predictable responses from taxi drivers that take more interest in:
(A) I'm from New Jersey.

A1 New Joisey!! Hahahaah! Isn't that near New York? I've been to New York.
A2 Wait, do you live near Tony?? Hahaah!!
A3 Why would you leave America? It's shite over here
A4 Want to hear my impression of Tony Soprano? ...Back off Motherfecka!
A5 Honestly what are you doing here? The weather is shite....just shite.

Predictable responses from cab drivers whom take more interest in:
(B) I'm a student at UCD.

B1 What are you studying?
B2 How excited is everyone about Obama? You're excited to have that bastard out of office - but are people too excited about Obama? Thinkin he's godlike?
B3 How about Hillary? (which quickly turns to...)
B4 Bill Clinton is amazing.
B5 Are you taking any Irish history?
B6 Bill Clinton is amazing.

Personally, I prefer (A), I never get sick of hearing the Irish butcher NY/NJ accents.

When not talking NJ or Politics, Taxi drivers have also given me some entertaining, even uncanny advice about dating Irish men that has served me thus far.


"Please don't stop the rain."

ANYWAY! End of the story from last night is that I actually did walk all the way home to UCD. It was longer than 4 miles because I drunkenly walked the route of the bus I always take into town from UCD - THE 10....holla. This required a bit of meandering when I probably could have taken some short cuts. Even when it started to rain, I just opened my purse and marveled at my preparedness that I always have an umbrella with me. (Summer essentials whenever going out in Dublin: umbrella, sunglasses, raincoat, scarf...Took me a few weeks to realize I needed to be ready for any sort of weather in the summer, but now I rock it, I must say). I was literally just walking on air...took me about an hour and 20 minutes to walk home but it was glorious, I will say. I might even do it again, although I think me actually wanting to do it last night was just...I don't know, a weird inclination I had. I wanted to see if I could find my way home.


Now.

I feel like myself again.

My first few weeks here since moving out from the nunnery were really challenging for a lot of different reasons that I'm not comfortable going into.

But I'm better now. Much better.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summertime, and the living is easy?

CORRECTION: Summertime, and we're in a recession.

Ireland’s GDP has plunged down 9% in 2009 so far which is a DISASTER to put it lightly. However...


Work it.
I FINALLY found a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




.....And it only took me 10 hours to quit that shit. I was walking around Dublin nostalgically retracing my steps back to where I stayed for my first 2 nights in Dubs off of Talbot street. When I saw in the window at a nearby hostel that they were seeking a receptionist, I took it as a sign (my first mistake).

I was “lucky” enough to unknowingly chat with the owner, who was the first person I saw upon entering the building. He interviewed me on the spot, firing questions at me rapidly (something I have gotten used, whether it be friends, people in bars, or potential bosses…there are often few if any pauses in Irish conversation). Anyway in an abrupt and shocking turn of events, I left the place in 5 minutes with a job! I started training the following day, and as my boss said upon my exit “Let’s see if you’re smart enough”. Well, that was encouraging.

I had my first day of training from 3-11. The girls that I work with were really nice, one was American as well, and within 20 minutes of my shift it was understood that they were all united under a mutual hatred and unending resentment of our boss, The Owner.

Without ever having given my CV (resume) or even my last name I worked there for another shift and got to see my egotistical egg-headed boss in his true form. He was unbearable, telling me that now that I’m "on the team", I can “say goodbye to any travel plans,” I’m “committed (to him) until the end of August”. (BTW – I won’t even be here that long, my lease ends on the 15th, but I had to lie initially to get the job). I witnessed him give one of the managers the silent treatment all day, and overall just act like a petulant child. He was for real too. It was hard to believe and I wished it was like The Office where I could just look at the camera like Jim does as if to say “Do you believe this shit?

The piss-ridden hostel had an everlasting aroma of EURO-B.O. But with the severity of this guy you would have thought he was running the Ritz. Newsflash dude: This place is a shithole. There was NO WAY I was going to deal with this during my last few months here, and plus, I was being paid BELOW minimum wage in Ireland to slave away at a thankless job that I thought could be so much more improved if The Owner took the time and effort to upgrade his booking system and make it more efficient. Get some software like Opera Fidelio that even I’ve heard of and upgrade your shit to something a bit more evolved than an excel sheet managed by ME which takes forever to actually complete. So much of the work was mindless, i.e. the literal writing out of scheduled check-ins booked on hostelworld or hostelbookers for the following day, answering phones all day long, looking at security cameras to verify the identity of people and buzz them into the actual hostel because the reception area was in a separate building.... I just felt like I would be unhappy at this job even if my boss was considerate.

Additionally, the times I would either be getting off work or having to come in in the morning would have required me to sometimes take a taxi into town (due to Dublin bus not running early/late enough). That would just be ridiculous. The only thing I enjoyed from my brief time there was the enthusiasm of the people traveling, giving advice on where to go out, and finding that I could actually give decent directions around Dublin.

So, after I decided I was going to quit, I remembered that they didn’t even know my last name and I started to imagine ways I could make a dramatic exit, like storming out in the middle of the shift after making a scene or something. I felt like I owed it to the other girls: They were entrenched in all the bullshit because they lived in the hostel (for free), making the job almost inescapable and giving The Owner a superb edge over them. (This is also why he could pay us lower wages as well).

I decided to stick it to the man by not showing up to my morning training shift (7-3). Although I had imagined in my mind much cooler ways of quitting, turns out I just snoozed through it. I would never just not show up to a shift if I was the only one, but since this was training for the morning work activities, I would be following the lead of another girl. That was that. They don’t even have my mobile number and were paying me under the table so I will never set foot in there again, and never have to explain myself. Woohoo!!! After doing this I felt immediately liberated. Call me an idiot for quitting when the job market is the way it is, but working there would have crushed my soul and I HAD to get out. This entire trip for me has been so fantastic I refused to have it all dampered by working at that place. I'm just taking it day by day for now.


The O2

Last week I also worked with a promotional group called Concert Live at The O2 concert venue in Dublin. The venue itself has recently been totally refurbished and is really top notch. I really enjoyed working there, and I wish it was for more than one night.

What the company does is record the concert as it is being performed, and then 10 minutes after the performance, CDs of the concert are available to take home with you. There was about a dozen of us, and the job was to approach people before the show, during the intermission, and at the end to try to get them to buy one of the “exclusive” CDs for 25 euro. Holy impulse buy!! Sounds like a rip off? It totally is. Surprisingly enough there was a really positive response and by the end of the night I was one of the top sellers which was really cool. I got to meet a lot of people and it was a fun atmosphere to work in. Unfortunately, Concet Live doesn't have an established presence here and only records a select few shows, no more of which are at The O2 this summer.

The show itself was War of the Worlds, which I didn’t know was a musical, I thought it was just about aliens invading and I knew that there was a film about it with Tom Cruise (partially filmed in my town…whuddup Howell). I figured the audience would be ComicCon-esque but I was surprised that it was actually pretty diverse, ranging from excited little kids to people who told me they had the vinyl record of the music. There was a lot going on on that stage, live orchestra, live performances of characters in costume, narration by some digital guy’s levitating head stage left, stuff falling from the ceiling, and interaction of the performers with a digital ensemble on a massive screen above the orchestra. Then of course also some alien tractor looking thing in the middle that smoked and fizzled throughout the concert….Overall, enough to make anyone epileptic have multiple seizures. From the 10 minutes or so that I watched in the corridor, it was pretty cool.

Brit-brit is actually coming to town next weekend and doing 2 shows at The O2. I WISH I could work that but then I realized that recording Brit’s concert live would be redundant since she lip synchs and can’t carry a tune to save her life. Still, I would totally buy a live CD of her IF it includes her explicit outbursts on stage. (“My pussy is hanging out!”)

The only downside of the night was that I saw a cute and geeky guy from a bar that I met the week before and left rudely and abruptly under the impression that I was out with my friends having my “going away…back to the states” party and that’s why I couldn’t go out with him later on in the week. Sorry Peter, I’m an asshole. I wanted to dissolve on the spot when we locked eyes but instead I opted to just do an about face and take off quickly but nonchalantly in the opposite direction. It was really a weird feeling recognizing someone and being recognized because I have become so accustomed to no one knowing me here, and so I am never anticipating being recognized or sought out. This served me wrong when I bumped into one of my high school teachers (Ms. Smith) in the Jameson factory 2 months ago when Kelly was visiting – THAT was insane!!!! How does that even happen?? She was calling my name and I just ignored it because everytime I hear my name in this town I assume first that no one is directing it at me. That’s sad isn’t it?


Things that pissed me off today:

American tourists. I know that I need to get over myself….but there was a gaggle of the most typical obnoxious American girls on the bus with me today. I don’t know what it was specifically that left me no choice but to categorize them as such, it could have been their never-ending loud conversation about how drunk they were getting over here, bragging about blacking out, complaining about how many PDAs there are here, (wtf? I think they just wanted to bitch) and critiquing the bus driver for tailgating (Dub buses are flat in the front and from the second level it does sometimes look like they are dangerously close to other vehicles or going to run people over that are biking/crossing the street). Their voices were so annoying and shrill and made me realize what I am NOT missing about home, and also why people abroad might resent Americans for being ignorant tools.


My Final Destination moment

I can’t believe I’m even writing this.

Maybe I am losing my mind. Two days ago, I was catching a bus back to UCD from O’Connell St. There was a young, well-dressed businessman waiting at the stop with me, and I kept noticing him looking at me out of the corner of my eye. For whatever reason, he made me feel really uncomfortable so I moved away from him. We were waiting for about 10 minutes for the bus, and I when it finally arrived, I had a weird and subtle feeling not to get on the bus. The business guy’s briefcase had 2 locks on it and looked like it was made of steel. He went and sat in the back and was fumbling with it. At this point, I thought he was going to blow up the bus. For a few seconds I wager whether I should get off the bus or not. I think to myself that I can’t get off the bus because after waiting out in the sun the groceries I bought that need to be refrigerated are already probably going bad. Then I realize that if this guy is going to blow up the bus, me and my groceries are going to be in flames anyway and the quality of my dairy products will be the least of my concerns. In my mind I felt so uncomfortable that I actually got off at the next stop. What the fuck is wrong with me?


Now.

I am enjoying my new place on UCD Belfield campus. I live in my apartment with 3 guys, 2 of whom I lived with in the nunnery so that is really nice. The weather has been class, and the good thing about Dublin is that it is never humid - unlike NJ, swamp-ass capital of the world. I am enjoying the fact that the sun doesn't set until about 10:15 pm...It really is magical. Being in town before the sun goes down at night is really nice. I have booked a trip to Manchester in about 10 days and I am going to Old Trafford...I'm SO excited!!!!!!.....maybe I will catch Ronaldo cleaning out his locker.... Will add more later, gotta run