Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy.


This is long overdue, but if I don't write about it now, I never will. I went to Manchester two weeks ago. Short and lovely (as "lovely" as Ryanair can be) flight. Really beautiful flying out of Dublin in the early morning.


I always have a small notebook with me in my purse, wherever I go. I'm writing all the time. These are some of my reactions and observations to Manchester upon my arrival:

- gritty, badass, pollution, industry, red-brick, rugged,
- old-bald-cat-calling construction workers...imported from NYC??
- "Don't drink and drugs" (sign in the bathroom of a bar)
- scary homeless people ON THE MOVE (!)
- ghost town in the AM
- every other vehicle is a truck
- CO-ED bathrooms in Gay Village
- HOT gay men...goddammit
- unorthodox, alternative youth, hip, swanky - Canal St.
- Velvet, Queer - outdoor bars/cafes compliment the canal, within the backdrop of old industrial buildings,
- not as fun to get lost here as in Dublin...scary!
- hot music scene
- is everyone horny in this town?!
- extreme hair colors not the exception - bright, unorthodox hair on both sexes.

Modern industry began here and now it looks like an ancient dirty memory. Hard to believe that these same brick buildings - many with shattered windows, fields growing wildly around them - once exemplified the cutting edge of technology and began an industrial revolution that changed culture, social factors, politics, and economics forever- both within Britain and eventually globally.

Manchester: Old vs. New

Manchester is a killer town. I wish I could have stayed there for more than two days. What I enjoyed about Manc as a city is the interesting juxtaposition of two colliding worlds: the rugged exterior of buildings from the industrial revolution vs. the new side: swanky clubs and bars along the canal, a developed cultural scene with free entry into modern museums like the Urbis, the heavy population of students - all factors in transitioning Manc into a post-industrial city. This young, hip, swanky lifestyle has infiltrated into the rugged surroundings constructed a century before.

I was just struck by the distinct dichotomy that Manchester offered (old, rugged, industrial vs. posh, alternative, young, swanky).

Old Trafford <3

Obviously, I came to Manchester for one reason.

Theatre of Dreams.

Walking is to being abroad as driving is to being home. I love it, it clears my head, I need it. That's why I decided to navigate myself to Old Trafford on foot from the Deansgate Train station, over two miles away. I managed without a map, using my common sense (oh dear). Ok, it was mostly the street signs that helped, along with my nonchalance about getting lost if I were to take a wrong turn, but I would like to attribute some of it to the magnetic pull radiating from Old Trafford that only United fans can sense. Heh. Once I saw the stadium in the distance I was giddy with anticipation. Naturally, I ignored the sign demanding pedestrians take an alternate, longer route to the stadium and I instead walked along a (very) narrow median for the last quarter mile in the middle of a highway, cars and trucks streaming by on both sides, some of them beeping. Sue me. Then I was on Sir Matt Busby Way, and I had arrived. (!!!!!)

I had some time to kill before my tour (having been early for something for the first time in my life) so I wandered about. They were streaming MUTV (United TV) in the posh Red Cafe on the second floor of the stadium, where I sat and had a latte. It was during this downtime before the tour that everything came full circle. At the moment, MUTV was streaming highlights from a recent United/Chelsea match, and I knew from the goals that I had seen it before. Any United/Chelsea matchup is noteworthy, but in this condensed version of the match, I started to piece together the time and place. Goals by Vidic, Rooney, and Berbatov...Berbie's goal - a lightening volley off a corner kick - then I realized what match it was: the meeting from January 11, 2009. The day before I left for Dublin. It was the headline from that match from which I struck up conversation with my taxi man from the airport. I still remember the initial thrill of seeing Berbatov's ecstatic face on the FRONT PAGE of a newspaper as I jetted through the streets of Dublin before daybreak. It felt like I had travelled in time - I had just watched the match in my house, and once I arrived in Dublin the newspapers were already out. That is my earliest memory of Dublin. Weird, thought-provoking, refreshing to actually be sitting in Old Trafford 6 months later and watching that same match. I feel like so much has happened, and that I have changed so much since the last time I watched the match in my living room, with suitcases and clothing in disarray during my final hours in the states.

Bursting my nostalgic bubble, the bartender at the cafe asked if I wanted to get a drink with him later, which I politely declined. (This is foreshadowing of creepers to come). He gave me a souvenir of some posh United napkins from the restaurant...peculiar. I left shortly after, and went into the United Museum, waiting for the tour to start. Here, as I was browsing/salivating in the Ronaldo Room (cringe thinking about it now - I think he was technically still on the squad when I visited!) some creeper started taking a video of me. I was literally just standing there. Then his other creeper friend comes out of no where and tries to hug me. They are speaking a different language to each other and I try to smile while twisting out of his abrupt and awkward display of affection. Fucking creepers. Of course we end up on the same tour.

The tour itself was fantastic, and I felt like a kid in a toy store. Walking all through the stands, into the players' locker room, the players' tunnel before the pitch, sitting in the players' dugout - I even adjusted Fergie's seat although I'm sure hundred have before, and will continue to do so after me. We were even in the room where Becks first laid eyes on Posh...(not on TV) omg TRUE LOVE! It was class. The weather was bright and sunny - it was grand.

Back to the creepers - it turns out they live in Dublin, and were even on the same flight as me. One of them was pretty nice - too bad I had already told them my fake name. It was fun though. I had never had to actually respond to my fake name for a few hours, and they asked for my surname too! (Rachel Walker..."of course I have facebook!"). It was even more hilarious as they took videos throughout the tour - there's plenty of "Say Hi Rachel!" and "Rachel stalked us on the plane over here" I totally fucked up though and was talking to a Swiss guy during the tour and told him my name was Nicole....I realized as soon as I said it was more like, "I'm Nicol-FUCK-Call me Rachel!" I told him the story and he was laughing and said "how do I know you just don't think I'm a weirdo and Nicole is your fake name?" Ahh international WB. (REEEN!!) He probably thought I was a fucking weirdo. But I am. Anyway, the creepers tracked Rachel down in the Megastore after the tour finished, and they cornered her for her number. Ugh...unfortunately Rachel doesn't have her own mobile...yet.

- is everyone horny in this town?

I took a bus from Old Trafford into Manchester City Centre. Got a bit lost, naturally, but eventually found my way. I ducked into a Cafe/Bar because I was shattered from traveling (I had to catch the 4 am aircoach to make my flight). I sat in this bar for two hours at least, had lunch, and was writing and people watching. The bartender that had been on shift this entire time came up to me and asked me if I needed anything else. I said I was fine, thanks...We started talking, he asked where I'm from, why I'm here, where I'm staying...general chit-chat. I told him how knackered I was from getting up so early and walking around and getting lost. (I honestly had a horrible headache). Danny the bartender had a pink streak in his hair. He told me he hadn't slept in 36 hours, that it was staff night out last night, that he was still drunk, and that he had a daughter. Well OK then!

We chatted some more but then I asked for the bill, paid, and went to the bathroom before walking around some more. I stared curiously at the portrait of Josh Hartnett on the door to my bathroom stall and wondered if that was good or bad for his career. I washed my hands and left the bathroom. Danny was standing in the small hallway between the bathroom entrances and the door back to the restaurant. I was a bit surprised but smiled and said, "See you around"... I attempted to walk past him and he put his hand out and cornered me, as I retreated into the wall. He was smiling as he got in my face and tried to kiss me and for the second time that day I had to twist out of a stranger's grasp...smiling all the while, for my own safety, to be honest. I don't even remember what I said besides "No Danny!" but he tugged at my bag playfully and asked me to go for a drink later. To appease him and get out of the situation as quickly as I could, I said "yes, I'd love to." He placed a piece of paper in my hand and as he moved his hand from blocking my path I bolted out the door as fast as I could , through the restaurant and into the sunshine. As soon as I verified he wasn't following me I relaxed. What the FUCK! I was a bit unsettled but no harm done. That situation was harmless, but it could have been much worse. I enjoy traveling alone but at the same time, I can't relax the way I would if I were in a group or had some sort of guide besides my spontaneous and oft ill-informed will, or heart...whatever it is that drives me to explore these places...I think it goes without saying that I didn't call him later.


Is fucking amazing. Nick was the first person to tell me about it, before I even left the states. I forgot about it until a month or so ago. I will write more extensively about it later, but in brief it is a networking site in which people who enjoy traveling can be hosted by other people whom live in whatever city they want to visit. It has been in the news recently over here, as 3 American Couch-Surfers were denied entry into Ireland, and sent abruptly back to the states (Read more). The boys in that article are now being financed by some company - don't remember which- to come back to Ireland, and given 1000 euros in hopes to make amends (also great PR for whatever company it is). In the Dublin CS community, we are thinking of organizing a massive piss up when they arrive. That's the other amazing thing about it - nights out with people from all over the world...basically any day of the week! Anyway, in Manchester I couch-surfed for the first time and stayed with a girl named Amy, who was lovely, and had a view of Old Trafford from her balcony! (10 or so floors up, you could see the stadium in the distance.

I've only been involved with CS for a month or so, and so far it has proved to be an excellent experience. I was at first very cautious of the idea, it requires a huge amount of trust, on both ends. After doing it once though, I am a firm believer in it and I wish that more people had the mentality and kindness to partake in such a basic yet revolutionary idea. This is how it works, in brief: I had never met Amy before in my life. I used the website to get in touch with her. She gave me her address, I went to her apartment as a total stranger. My moment of doubt in the elevator (went something like "What the hell am I doing - I am alone and about to knock on a stranger's door and stay in their apartment...) evaporated as soon as she opened the door and welcomed me in. She was very interesting and easy to talk to. We got along really well, I learned a lot from her - she had studied abroad in the US, and was now a teacher. (Incidentally, she was home from work early because her school had just been "compromised" by the swine flu!) She gave me a map of Manchester and helped me structure out my time and what I should see the next day. It was amazing. I woke up the next day feeling accomplished and really grateful that I had taken this leap from the ordinary. When I awoke, Amy had already gone to work, and had left me a copy of the key to her apartment, in case I wanted to come and go as I please during the day. Amazing.

Homeward bound.

I booked my flight to the states. August 5th. Less than a month. Crazy to consider. I feel like I just got here. Actually as of today I have been here for a full 6 months, to the day. I feel that recently I have turned a corner and have started really immersing myself deeper and deeper into the culture and history, and it is all going to be ripped away. Very bittersweet, although I do have so much to be grateful for and look forward to when I land back in Dirty Jerzy. More talk of this later.

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