Archive | November, 2012

The Big Smoke

30 Nov

Some people here call Dublin “The Big Smoke”.  It sounds kind of cool, but I have a feeling that it’s like calling San Francisco “Frisco” – people who actually live in SF sort of cringe when they hear it.  In any case, I had to go to Dublin today.

I’m more than a little freaked out that I haven’t posted on the blog for so long, but November has been pretty crazy with Tara’s birthday, massive load at work, Thanksgiving, my MBA classes, rowing, etc. etc. etc.  In the midst of all this, I had to pass a standardised test called the GMAT exam to get “accepted” into the MBA programme that I’ve been enrolled in for the past three months.  Apparently Dublin is the only place in Ireland where you can take the GMAT exam so I had to go to a testing centre in “The Big Smoke”.

Since our friend Zoe is visiting us from Canada, I brought her along to see the sights.  I found the testing center and parked the car and then Zoe and I looked for a nearby place to rendezvous after the exam when…lo and behold….we stumbled upon the National Leprechaun Museum.

The Leprechauns must be camouflaged on the green carpet

The Leprechauns must be camouflaged on the green carpet

Who knew they even had one…I wish I had had the time to go in and see if they had a pot of gold there, but I was too interested in taking my test.  Which turned out to be worthwhile since I got my results and scored a 740 which is 10 points higher than the average Harvard MBA student gets…and puts me solidly in the 97th percentile…boo ya!  Looks like the old noggin still has a few tricks left in it.

Repatriation

3 Nov

A lot of powerful feelings flooded over me as I cleared U.S. immigration two Fridays ago.  I had been out of the country for over a year so I took advantage of my business trip to Mexico to spend the weekend with Mary in New York.

good times, but not very square…

We were both relieved that there wasn’t any trouble with Mary’s green card, but I was feeling very homesick to be in the U.S. without a plan to get home to S.F.   Nonetheless, New York was just as I remembered it.

You just can’t compare the vibrant buzz of the people and the traffic and the spectacular urban vistas in New York with anywhere else in the world.

it’s all about the buildings..

But the last time we were in the city, there were two more buildings on the skyline, and their absence was a tangible weight on top of all the other emotions that our brief stop in the states was stirring.

So the first thing we did on Saturday morning was to head downtown to pay our respects at the World Trade Center Memorial.

As large as the hole in the ground is here, there is no way to measure the holes in all the lives touched by this tragedy

Any words I can put to the experience would be inadequate, but it was cold out, and emotional, and right next to the site was an Irish bar called O’Hara’s from which we could hear a hot beverage crying out our names.  So we stopped in to warm up and chill out.

Every inch of the back-bar at O’Hara’s is covered with the badges of Police and Firefighters from all over the U.S.  As a central hub of the World Trade center rescue, recovery and cleanup, O’Hara’s has served the servers, and these are the tributes to all the men and women who put their lives on the line in service to others.

badges of honor

There is a bar in Kinvara, County Galway that has similarly covered it’s back-bar with the badges of Police and Firefighters from all over the U.S.   In Ireland, these badges honor the contribution the Irish people have made to U.S. emergency services and at O’Hara’s it is the Irish people who honor the emergency workers right back.

Then an elderly man and his wife sat down next to us and ordered with Irish accents.  So we began talking, and it turned out that this couple immigrated to New York in the 50’s during one of the many hard times in Ireland that sent the Irish across the world willing to work.  This fellow came from rural Longford to this enormous city to work as a welder on the tallest buildings in the world – what a mindblowing shock that must have been.

Today was the first time this weary man had come down to the site since his handiwork had been so senselessly wiped out.  Talk about mindblowing.

It occurred to me that the Irish were a big part of both the beginning and the end of the World Trade Center story.

But even without the Twin Towers, New York is still very much alive, and after honoring the dead, we headed to Greenwich Village to celebrate the living.

the “North Beach” of New York

Our friend Mike had told us they were having a block party.  They had blocked off the street, fired up a barbeque grilling burgers and hotdogs, tapped a couple kegs of local microbrews, and were rocking out to a band of enthusiastic local musicians in front of the Tavern on Jane.  Being there at that moment made me even more homesick because the vibe was so similar to the comfortable community coolness of our old North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco.

And just like North Beach, Greenwich Village is full of surprising little nooks and cranny’s that lie just out of sight of the casual passer-by.  In this case, the highlight was a small private garden shared by a bunch of the nieghbors that we could duck into for a quiet break from the crowding mayhem of a New York street party.

garden party in the village

It was a whirlwind one-day visit to the big Apple, but we managed to experience so many different sides of the city that it felt like a whole week.  On Sunday morning, before I headed off to Mexico and Mary headed back to Ireland, we got to experience one last thing that we couldn’t get on the Emerald Isle: a proper brunch at a sidewalk cafe.

homefries in the homeland

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