Happy St. Patrick's Day!
It's cold and windy today, but the sun is bright and the sky is blue for the day when everyone is Irish, including English/German/Polish Jersey Girls. Today I am wearing my favorite purple off-the-shoulder shirt accessorized with silver and purple Mardi Gras beads, a green Mardi Gras bead complete with Shamrock, a headband with Shamrock antennas, and my green feathered boa. So I am fully decked out for the day, although since the boa sheds dreadfully (and is stinkin' hot to wear) it currently adorns the screen at my office's entrance and not my neck. My shirt thanks me for it.
Enjoy your favorite Irish tradition today. Mine usually involves some Jameson's, some more Baily's Irish Cream, bangers and mash if I'm out somewhere, and a viewing of Darby O'Gill and the Little People featuring an exceptionally young and charming Sean Connery pretending to be Irish with a Scot's brogue, complete with a family sing-a-long as follows.
Oh, he is my dear, my darling one,
His eyes are sparkling full of fun,
No other, no other,
Can match the likes of him
Oh, he is my dear, my darling one,
My smiling and beguiling one,
I love the ground he walks upon,
My darlin' Irish boy
In honor of St. Pat's Day, I thought I'd recount a story from my trip to Ireland in '99. It was my first year of graduate school at NYU and I celebrated my renewed student status by booking tickets to Ireland for Spring Break to fulfill a long-held dream. After the first few days in Dublin, which included fireworks to kick-off the St. Patrick's Day week ( the last one of the 20th century), a literary pub crawl, and a fall in the mud at Trinity College Dublin, I rented a car and headed westward to The Connemara and County Clare and then down into The Burren and County Galway and then into County Kerry and onto the Dingle Peninsula, then into County Cork to start heading east, back towards Dublin.
I wound up in Cork City one night, looking for a hostel that my Let's Go! book had recommended while weaving through rush hour traffic, complete with construction, in a stick shift car, sans the passenger side mirror thanks to a narrow road and an 18-wheeler in County Clare.
Such was the crazy trip I was having.
Finding myself on the far side of the Cork City- again - without finding the hostel - again - I pulled into a petrol station and called the place from the pay phone (cell phones weren't yet the end all and be all). A very friendly voice on the other end said to look for the purple door, but when I went back to the city and missed it for the fourth time, I pulled into the rail station and decided to hoof it.
A few blocks from the rail station, I found the purple door and rang the bell. While I'm waiting in the March wind for an answer, a man walks by behind me - late 30s, jean jacket, about 5'7", hands shot deep in his pockets, fairly non-threatening - and suddenly stops.
"Are you waitin' for Purple Door?" he says. (I can't remember the actual name of the hostel. "Purple Door" will have to do.)
"Yeah," says I.
"You're not plannin' on stayin' here?" Well, I thought. This is going to be interesting.
"That was the plan." His brow furrowed.
"Oh, I wouldn't, were I you."
"Oh really?" I was skeptical, but not worried.
"Why not?" His nose wrinkled.
"It's a bit smelly."
"Is it." He nodded, though I wasn't asking a question.
That's when the door opened and I turned to see a tall, blond 20-something, complete with various piercings, and said hello. When I turned back, my self styled travel agent had disappeared.
The blond was an American and when I asked for the guy I'd spoken to on the phone and he said, that's the manager, come on in and I'll get him for you. So I followed him into the common room where he introduced me to some Goths girls who were hanging out. Now, I was about 24 at this time and still feeling my way in some things, and so this hit my squee factor a bit, but I sat down and spoke with them and all was good while blond boy went to get the manager.
Well who should walk in from the other end of the common room but my on-the-street travel agent who, as it turned out, was the manager of the smelly place (not actually smelly, if you didn't count the incense). So we had a laugh and he offered me tea, which I remember as being really lovely, and I sat with him and the Goths for about half an hour drinking tea from a teapot in a cup, things not even Goth clientele can abolish in Ireland. Then he offered me the tour where he showed me the room I'd be in, complete with a sleeping lump who I was told rarely awakened. The manager said that he just went in every day and just slipped eight pound out of his pockets. This, I thought, was more true than not.
Well, it was a cold damp place with lots of "atmosphere" - scarves draped on the wall and raggedy sofas with deep, plush cushions - and not such great facilities. Plus, I felt hinky about co-ed rooms in those days. When I tried to expedite myself from the place, he insisted on knowing why, and when I told him, he got a bit bent and I couldn't tell if he was kidding again or not, so I left under full sail of pride, which left me on the streets of Cork in the dark at 6:30pm with no place to stay.
I headed back to the rail station, because by now I really had to pee, thanks to all the tea, and I figured I could do that and make some calls for a place to stay. As I was walking back to the rail station, I saw an elderly gentleman complete with vest and blazer and cap coming towards me and filed it back in my brain as a colorful note before I made to pass by him.
Which is when he reached out and grabbed my left boob.
Apparently, despite working in NYC for two years by then and another four after that, I had to go to Ireland to be felt up by some stranger on the street.
Not that that was a particular goal of mine.
I swatted him away and said something like, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? and kept walking. No harm, no foul I guess.
Once back at the rail station, I made some calls, but most places had co-ed rooms. I finally found a place that suited my needs with what turned out to be a very warm, narrow room with two bunks set end to end. The other women were great though, two were German as I remember, but it wound up being my worst night in Ireland as the hostel was home to many of the public (read private) school kids from the area who were up all night screaming and yelling. Plus I was working on a stellar cold and was already congested and what not. I spent most of the night sitting on the floor, reading Leon Uris' Trinity by flashlight, waiting for a reasonable hour to shower and high-foot it out of there. I left early enough in the morning that I ended up at Blarney Castle when they opened at 9am on the dot where I was sacrificed on an ancient ceremonial stone table, which wound up being absolutely perfect.
But that's another story.