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Somewhere in Time

11 Mar

This morning I had a moment straight out of the movie “Somewhere in Time”.  I don’t know if you ever saw the movie, but Christopher Reeves falls in love with a girl from the past and figures out how to travel backwards in time to pursue her.  This is one of my all time favorite movies and is probably partly responsible for my core belief that if you want something enough, you can make it happen.  That’s pretty much how Reeves travels back in time: he simply believes it so much that he actually changes his reality.

photo from "somewhere on the web"

(spoiler alert) After Reeves arrives back in time and wins the heart of his true love, he sees a penny that has fallen from his pocket that dates from the 1970’s.  The shock of this time disjunction sends him spinning back to the 1970’s where he came from.

This morning I found a US penny on the floor in my bedroom.   At first I thought it was a €.02 coin, and it was only when I picked it up that I had that wierd jolt of Somewhere in Time feeling like I was rushing back over the thousands of miles to the US with the strange and unexpected presence of the coin that at first seemed so strange but then reminded me of all the times that it hadn’t seemed strange to see a simple penny on the floor (here is the aforementioned penny pictured below next to the Euro version of it)

only slightly larger, but three times more valuable...

But the truth is that as well esconced and adjusted as we are to the culture and lifestyle here, there are still major moments of disconnect where it becomes clear that we are not “from” here.  This was well illustrated last week when we went to mass.

I don’t want this blog to be all about my observations of Irish Catholicism, but seriously, there are so many things about it that I find unusual.  Maybe it’s just because I”m not used to going to mass all the time, but I really don’t ever remember seeing all the staues in a church shrouded in purple cloths before.

Apparently this is a traditional thing that I just wasn’t familiar with since the US bishops decided not to do it anymore 38 years ago when I was just a toddler.  The shrouds are supposed to be about how just before they crucified Christ he hid himself from the people until it was his time to die.  So all evidence of the divinityof Christ is hidden in the church until…well…I’m not sure when we get to see the stuff again – probably right around Easter.

But no matter what the reasoning is, it is totally freaky to see all these purple shrouds all over the church.  Even my patron Saint Imy was all covered up. 

And if all the shrouds weren’t weird enough, we sit down and the whole mass is in Irish.  Grace is sitting next to me on the pew and I ask her if she can understand anything the priest is saying.  She tells me she can’t.  I say “you ought to understand a little more than me with all the Irish you’ve been learning.” she shrugs.  I hear the word “slieve” which I know means mountain and I figure out we’re hearing about Abraham on the mountain about to sacrific his child when god saves them from this tragedy.

Grace leans into me like a little baby bird leaning into it’s mother and I put my arm around her.  I get this powerful sense that the two of us are like strangers in a strange land, surrounded by weird statues covered in purple shrouds listening to an ancient ritual in an ancient language that has no relation to anything we’ve ever known.  I felt a little  lost, a little overwhelmed, and a little scared but I also felt like we were going to be ok.  Somehow it would be alright. 

Grace relaxes "in God's hands"

I know that being in Ireland right now is the right call, and I love exploring the new culture and the new relationships, but it does feel foreign sometimes and periodically I get that “Somewhere in Time” rush spinning my heart back to San Francisco.

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Sixteen Again

9 Feb

Here’s a funny thing about the Irish governement, (frankly I’m pretty sure it is universal and not limited to the Irish), one department obviously has no clue what the others are doing.  In this particular instance of Governmental non-communication, there is an interesting gap between the laws concerning driving in Ireland and the process of becoming  licensed to drive.

When I first attempted navigating the exciting curves of Irish country roads, I wanted to do so legally, and I found out that my California Driver’s License was valid here for up to a year after my arrival. 

I thought “Great, I can drive legally here.” but I also thought  “What happens if I am here longer than a year? Shouldn’t I get myself an Irish license?”

When I lived in Massachussetts, I got myself a MASS driver’s license and all it involved was going down to the licensing authority and filling out information about my existing California license and they just gave me one.  Simple as that.  I guess they figured that if I could drive in California, I could probably manage to drive in Massachussetts.   So with the Irish laws allowing me to drive legally on my California license here,I was betting there would be some system by which I could trade it in or leverage it somehow to get myself an Irish license. 

Not quite.  In fact, my CA license may be good enough to get me on the road here, but it’s not worth anything toward getting me an Irish license.  I had to start at the beginning for that.  Which means passing a written test, getting a learner permit, taking driving lessons, waiting six months and then undergoing an in-car practical driving test. 

So I got the process going and I passed the written test, filled in the appropriate paperwork and three weeks later I get the following in the mail:

I know I look angry in the picture, but really I think I was just wondering what trouble the girls were up to in the shopping center outside the photo booth. 

The funniest thing about my having this learner permit is that I’m supposed to put these large red “L” signs in the front and back window of the car when I’m driving and I’m not allowed to drive alone in the car, and I can’t go onto the freeway (which they call the Motor way, or the Dual Carriageway or “The Bypass”) which is how I get to work everyday…legally….on my California license.

So I’m pretending that I don’t have the learner permit and if I get pulled over I’ll show them my California license and say something like “Is your family name Riordan my great-great-grandfather was a Riordan and I’m looking for my ancestors do you know any Riordans around here you could be my cousin or something wouldn’t that be funny like y’know” and the Garda (which is what they call the cops around here) will roll his eyes and hand me my license and say something like “piss off yank” or “”drive on the left side now” or ” jaysus my great great granduncle Riordan left here fer ‘merica” or something like that.

In any case, I have another six months before you’ll hear about me taking the practical test.

Viva Patata!

24 Jan

Two food related things to talk about today:
   1. The Irish and Potatoes
   2. Mexican Food

Regarding potatoes: it would seem that there is a level of appreciation for potatoes here that I have only begun to be aware of. 

The other day I was going to the shop and Mary asked me to get her some “oven chips” which are essentially frozen potatoes prepared so that you can put them in the oven and produce “chips” (aka French Fries – but better because they use the right kind of frying oil/lard here). 

Anyway, I got what I thought were the right thing but turned out to be “Frying Chips” instead of “Oven Chips”.  Fast forward to me saying “we really should eat up that big bag of chips in the freezer since it is taking up a lot of space” and Mary says something like “you go ahead and cook them, they’re Fryer chips, not oven chips”.  I’m like “they’re frozen potatoes, what could possibly be the problem?!?” and Mary is like “you really don’t understand the Irish and potatoes do you…”

significantly different? we'll find out....

Then I recall a moment around Christmas when Jim comes in with a bag of potatoes that are smallish brown-skinned potatoes and says that these are the best potatoes around and that they came from such and such and he plucks a few out for us to cook up for the mashed potato dish.   As I’m peeling them we realize I’ll need some more and I go to the bag and take a number out and wash them and have them lined up for peeling.  Then Jim passes by and says something like “I don’t think we’ll need that many in the mash” and puts a couple of the unpeeled ones back in the bag.  I remember thinkng that I’ve never seen him worry about having too many mashed potatoes but I shrugged and never thought of it again. 

Until I roasted a couple of those potatoes and realized that their goodness was wasted in the mash.  They were excellent mashed, but roasted they were perfection.  I started to realize the subtleties of potatoes that I’ve never really appreciated before. 

I know we have like a thousand types of potatoes in California, but the application of different potatoes to different dishes here reaches a level of cuisinery that I could only compare to the level of appreciation some have for Oysters, or even wine. 

I still haven’t cooked the “fryer chips” yet, but I”m sure I will learn something interesting when I do.

In the meantime, my San Francisco girls and I are all missing our local San Francisco cuisine: Mexican Food.  Given the level of food sophistication achieved in Ireland during the boom of the “Celtic Tiger” it still amazes me how little representation Mexican food has here.

Going in to this adventure I knew I was going to miss Mexican here the way I did when I lived in Paris, but I figured there would be a little better access to the requisite ingredients here…..Wrong.

Anyway, today in desperation I bought something called “Fajita Sauce”.  Turns out this is what I’ve known all my life as “Salsa”.  Yaaaayyyy!!!!!

fajita = mexican

Can you say Taco Tuesday?  Well, technically Burrito Tuesday because I couldn’t find Taco shells, but did get Flour Tortillas (thank you universally accepted Ceasar Chicken Wrap) and the correct spices for ground beef and we had a very successful Mexican dinner. 

That should last us for a while anyway.

The 12 Posts of Christmas No.4: Presence

31 Dec

I titled this post “Presence” as an intentional pun on “Presents” (but I felt I might point it out in case you didn’t already notice it…”ya thick eejit”).

On Christmas Day we really felt the importance of “Presence” even more than “Presents”. You’re probably now thinking – “oh man, I thought this blog was about being in Ireland, not all this meta-psycha-mushy stuff”. But we were grateful for the people we had around us: Mary’s family and our good friends here and we were missing those people that weren’t here with us, whether they were in Heaven, California or elsewhere.

But anyway, when Grace and Tara came home from school with letters written to Santa, Grace had written: What I want for Christmas: 1. My dog Angel from San Francisco; 2. My Guinea Pigs from San Francisco 3. My Friend Georgia from San Francisco; 4. My Friend Michael from San Francisco; and 5. A pony.

There was a lot of explaining to Grace that Santa wasn’t really an international taxi service and that ponies didn’t fit in his Sleigh. Grace pointed out that in the “Little House on the Prairie” books the family got two horses from Santa. She’s tough. Fortunately enough, her best friend Zoe showed up from San Francisco and more than made up for any other friends Grace was missing. Plus, Zoe’s (extraordinarily generous) grandmother bought tickets to see Santa at Bunratty for Zoe, Grace, Tara and two adults.

If you don’t know about Bunratty, it is a fantastic old castle right near us that they have restored it and they host these traditional dinners where don’t give you forks or spoons, they only give you a knife to eat with (or fight with) just like in the old day and there are singers and glasses of mead and all sorts of old-timey stuff.

if head downriver you could get here from St. Michael's Rowing Club

theoretically, I could row here from St. Michael's , it's just downriver

While the castle is pretty cool on its own, next door they have recreated a whole 18th century Irish village as authentically as they could. (I’m going to have to send this blog to the Irish tourism board and see if they’ll hire me!). But seriously, the village is really great for the kids and we’ve taken the girls there several times, but at Christmas they turn it into Santa’s village, decorate it like a winter wonderland, light it up, and there are all sorts of people in costumes, both vintage/traditional and north-pole-ish.

We had a great day, and we got a great picture of the girls with Santa too! Santa’s house was pretty good, but the illusion wasn’t perfect: as we walk in Grace points to one of Santa’s helpers and says “She’s not a real Elf! She’s my teacher!” Yep, Grace’s part-time teacher moolights at Christmas as one of Santa’s helpers…I guess underpaying teachers is a global problem, not just a U.S. thing.

And I haven’t even told you about unwrapping the actual presents yet….oh well, this post is long enough for now.

…and they’re off!

10 Dec

The Christmas Season in Ireland has a very clear beginning to it and it recently happened.

Many people would incorrectly assume that this seasonal Starting Point would be December 8th which is the Catholic “Feast of the Immaculate Conception”.  Talking to older Irish folks, it seems this feast day used to be the official kick-off for the season.

New Testament Starts Here....Bethesda, birthplace of Mary

Incidentally, a lot of people also incorrectly assume that the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception” celebrates the moment when the “Angel of the Lord” visited Mary in the middle of the night and “filled” her up with “The Holy Spirit”.  People assume Mary’s conceiving her baby is the only immaculate conception because it’s the only one most people have heard of, but in the Catholic tradition there is another immaculate conception that you don’t hear much about (except on Dec 8th).  Mostly because this “other” immaculate conception isn’t actually in the bible, but was officially declared to exist in the middle of the 1800’s after several centuries of theological debate that pretty much can be summarized as:

1. If Mary was born of Original Sin (i.e. her mother had sex with her husband) then the mother of God wasn’t pure.  2. The mother of God couldn’t possibly be impure.  3. Therefore, Mary must have been immaculately conceived the same way her baby Jesus was even if we never heard about it in the bible.

So December 8th celebrates the moment that Mary’s mother St. Anne was knocked up “immaculately” by the Holy Spirit.  Apparently it happened in Bethesda (Mary-land?) pictured above with Arrows showing the important places.

But as for Christmas here in Ireland, the season no longer starts on December 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…nowadays it starts with the Late Late Toy Show.

The Late Late Toy Show is a Christmas special hosted by the guy who hosts Ireland’s version of America’s The Late Show made famous by Johnny Carson and taken over by Jay Leno.  In the Irish Late Late Show, a guy named Gay Byrne was their Johnny Carson (here they don’t snicker when people are named “Gay”).  Gay hosted the Late Late show for decades and started a tradition of reviewing all the toys in the market at the beginning of the Christmas season in a special Three Hour Marathon show – that starts at…..9:00pm!!!! 

Walking in Gay's shoes maybe...but not Gay's sweater.

Today there is guy named Ryan something (Ireland’s Jay Leno?) who hosts The Late Late Show, but he continues the Late Late Toy Show and it is apparently still a major tradition.  The whole week at school the kids were talking about the upcoming show.   On Friday after school, plans were made, friends were called, blankets were procured, hot chocolate was made and the kids settled into small nest-like spots in front of the TV and fire to watch all the toys that you could write about in your letter to Santa.

Besides all the toys being reviewed by kids and demonstrated by kids, the show is also filled with uber-talented children who reminded me of the kind of “stage-mom” raised kids I used to see on the Mickey Mouse show or those 70’s talent shows with super-trained kids.  The talent was astounding, the little kids elocuted their words very very C-Lear-Ly and with huge smiles.  There was a girl who knocked off Shirley Temple remarkably well including the super sugary sweet smiles and very pronounced pronunciation of “Hip-Po-Potta-Moose” and a sort of robotic “It’s a Small World” ride dancing style of movement.  Another group of kids covered a whole (famous) band down to the grown-up outfits and makeup – probably better musicianship though.  It was a little creepy frankly, but our girls thought it was great. 

This year’s show was the most watched television program in Ireland in 17 years.  I don’t know what happened 17 years ago but it must have been big because the Late Late Toy Show blew everything else out of the water since then.

Christmas starts.......now!

After all this, and the staying up till midnight for the first (authorized) time.  Grace asked Santa for: her Guinea Pigs from San Francisco; her friend Georgia from San Francisco; her friend Michael from San Francisco; her puppy Angel from San Francisco; and a horse.

Tara prepared a series of pieces of paper in advance of the show with form fields clearly identified for “Toy”, “Brand”, “Price” and “Description”.  As the show progressed, she filled in the pages with toys that she thought would make suitable gifts for Santa to bring her.  At the end of the show, she had a nicely organized stack of requests.

We had to explain to Grace that Santa isn’t a taxi service and couldn’t bring friends and animals from San Francisco to Ireland.  She countered the horse didn’t have to come from San Francisco.  We responded that Santa couldn’t possibly deliver horses in his sleigh and down the chimney.  She reminded us that in the book “Little House on the Prairie” Santa brought two horses to the family for Christmas. 

We’re kind of hoping Santa shows up with a puppy for her.

Burning the midnight oil at both ends

2 Sep

It’s just before 11:00pm and as much as I want to go to sleep, I am still up trying to get a counteroffer out on a backup offer for Grove St before tomorrow. 

The day started at 5:00am when I had to drag my sleepy ass out of bed to go move Nick’s Giant Truck that I’ve been successfully parking around the area while I shuttle large objects in and out of my life.  Unfortunately, last night I had to park it in a 6:00am street cleaning spot since that was the only available place.

You may be asking why I had to get up a whole hour before I had to move the Giant Truck and that would be a good question.  The answer is that I had a phone interview with a guy in London at 6:00am and I needed to move the Giant Truck and be back, prepared, and caffeinated in order to sound “high-energy” enough on the phone to have a good conversation.

It seemed to go well and we set up a follow-up call for when I get to Ireland, so there’s my Monday meeting already in place.  Oh, I didn’t mention the plan: hit the ground running.  I don’t want to waste a minute once I get there and I wanted to set up meetings for the first day I arrive to establish in my mind, and those of the people around me that I am serious about finding gainful employment as soon as possible.

Anyway, I got that done this morning, before the rest of the day unfolded which now has included a counteroffer on my own house sale as well as submitting an offer on behalf of a client who I took on a four hour tour – in Nick’s Giant Truck. 

Tomorrow I’ve got all sorts of excitement: window people coming at 8:30 to install the new window, appliance people coming at 9:00 to install the new washer/dryer, Saturday’s tour to set up, Thursday’s offer to negotiate, and, oh, that’s right I’m supposed to pack up all my stuff and move out!!!  Ack!!! 

I better get to bed.

Wow, what a rush!

31 Aug

Literally and Figuratively…it’s a total rush having just booked my flight!!!

Yes, it was totally scary not having a ticket while I let my little angels off without me.  But now I’ve gotten far enough along on the eviction, the house sale, and my business that I can pin down a date to leave.

That date is next Friday, September 9th.  Yes, there’s the literal rush: 10 days to get everything else done that needs doing.

The other rush is the adrenaline that coursed through my brain when I hit the “purchase” button on Travelocity and knew that I had comitted.  Not that I was in danger of *not* going, but there’s still that rush of knowing it’s real.

Here we go.

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