Friday, October 31, 2008

Sagrada Familia

Antoni Gaudi's kind of the golden maniac of Barcelona --- he's equal parts hometown hero and mad scientist to the Spanish, and his architecture is hugely celebrated in the city. We spent a morning visiting Sagrada Familia, the massive church that became his passion project. It's got an unbelievable story behind it. Construction on the church started in 1882. It's still not finished.

Gaudi was run over by a tram in June 1926 and killed. Fortunately, his proteges and collaborators continued work on Sagrada Familia --- that was, up until Gaudi's drafts and blueprints were destroyed by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War in 1938. So nobody really knows how Gaudi intended for the Sagrada Familia to be finished.

Completion is projected for 2026 --- 144 years after the first bricks were laid. But even this is a disputed date!

The entire thing is just astounding. To see the brute strength and literal years of labor it takes to make something so grand and so sacred makes your jaw hang open. After seeing St. Peter's in the Vatican, I was even more impressed. The whole of Sagrada Familia looks as if someone hauled up an old shipwreck after letting it mold for years under the sea. You wouldn't be surprised to see little crabs scuttling out of corners, barnacles on the foreheads of the sculptures.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barcelona 2.0

So! The javelinas have made their grand entrance. If that were the most exciting thing that happened to us in Barcelona, it would still make a great story. However! We still had four more jam-packed days in the city.

We moved on to our second hostel, perfectly located on the Paseig de Gracia, Barcelona’s answer to the Champs-Elysees. And we were just a short walk from Placa Catalunya, just like Union Square in Greenwich Village. Below Placa Catalunya stretches Las Ramblas, the main drag of Barcelona. Along Las Ramblas there are cozy cafes, Hemingway's favorite absinthe haunts, and quite a few merchants selling plants and animals of all sorts.
Believe you me, it took every ounce of willpower I had not to buy a chipmunk as a little companion. Only 15 Euro!

About six more NYU kids met up with us there --- although somehow I was put in a different room from them, which was not altogether unpleasant, since my Brazilian roommates all looked like disciples or fishers of men and had strong penchants for playing “Dear Prudence” on their guitars at all hours of the day. That’s half the fun of budget hostelling, isn’t it?

Our Barcelona days were spent trying to get as much sunshine and culture into our lives as we possibly could. We took in the Museu Picasso (a mind-blowing collection of his early exercises and artwork, so humbling to look at what he produced at only 15 years old!) and a Alphonse Mucha exhibit at the CaixaForum (beautiful, feminine posters in the style of Toulouse-Lautrec) and blew dozens of Euros on postcards and prints. We walked kilometer after kilometer, taking in the strong Spanish faces. There’s something about the “Old World” countries, I’ve found. It’s effortless to look at the man sitting across from you on the subway and imagine his face in a 17th century court. Something about the eyebrows and the nose --- they’re just timeless, compared to all of our muddled American features.

That’s something else --- in Ireland, we blend in fairly well. With our pale film-school faces and big eyes, we’re actually considered kind of beautiful here! Not so in Barcelona. While here in Dublin we can get away with messy Rapunzel hair and pasty arms, in Spain we looked like short albino mushrooms, all moist and mutant. It was humbling, and a little mortifying.

You can imagine our new priority was to soak in as much sun as possible. Carmen and I started a feeding frenzy in the harbor, coaxing fish two feet long to fight over cookie crumbs. All the beaches in Barcelona itself are manmade, but that only means that the sand is dark and trucked in monthly, and falls like cornstarch under our feet. It was such a welcome rest from the gloomy seashores of Ireland --- the Mediterranean, how exotic!
Pasty Irish moonface and all, I was really, really happy there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Benvinguts a Barcelona!

I feel bad starting out writing about Barcelona. Chronologically, we visited it first. But I loved it so much and was so sad to leave that I'm afraid any entry not about Barcelona will be a letdown. Not that Italy was a letdown at all! But all of my enthusiasm and all of my exclamation points have to go to Barcelona. It's phenomenal.

Our introduction to Spain was a really pleasant one, and pretty indicative of the five days we spent there. Immediately, we knew we weren't in Dublin. The air was warm and moist, and everything smelled like orange juice and wet trees. We shouldered our bags and, amused, followed the directions to our first hostel, a place out in the hilly suburbs --- "walk 500 paces up the mountain." Something had been lost in translation, we assumed. It couldn't have been a mountain we needed to march up!

It was, though, and it took much more than 500 paces to reach the summit. But what a reward, once we got there! Our bunks were really comfortable and actually kind of good-looking, a far cry from the sleepaway camp aesthetic we’d seen in so many hostels.

We threw our bags down and found a sweet Spanish senyora who handed us trays and plates and bowls of food --- our first meal in Barcelona, a real feast! Tomato soup ladled over rice and peas, fish sticks, good bread, salad with unbelievable olives, and a poached apple. The fish sticks I fed to a cat that was creeping around my ankles, but everything --- the food, the company, the view --- was wonderful.

We spent our first day exploring Barcelona, wandering up and down Las Ramblas, the main drag in the city center. La Boqueria, a giant marketplace, provided our entertainment. Stacks and stacks of fruits we’d never seen before, crates of eels and crabs and seashells meant to have their innards scraped out and eaten with broth. And of course, new and foreign words yelled at us.

Catalan is not at all an angular language, so no matter what volume it’s being spoken at, it sounds nice. Lots of eus, and xos, not many zs. It’s similar to French and Portuguese to my ear, at least. And Barcelona being bilingual is really something amazing. In galleries and museums where there are no English translations of texts, reading both panels of Castillian Spanish and Catalan will clue you in on most of the big ideas, in terms of the English cognates and similarities to other Romance languages.

And if all of this weren't enough for our first impressions, we had the absolute terror and delight of climbing the 500-plus paces back up the mountain to our hostel in the pitch black, clutching each other and hoping we didn't trip and fall off a cliff. Imagine the three of us, tiptoeing and clutching our keys between our knuckles to stab anyone who might try to emerge from the bushes and abduct us. Instead, we came across these little javelinas rummaging for food between the yucca plants and the morning glory.
If they had had tusks, we mightn't have gotten so close to take pictures. Hindsight's 20-20!

Don't Take My Word For It!

In case all of this seems too good to be true and you'd like another traveller's account of our vacation, I invite you all to go to the fabulous Carmen Angelica's blog ---

It's one of the links on the right hand side of the page. She's got some fabulous photos and exclusive videos you will see nowhere else. I guarantee!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ryanair, and the Beginning of the End

After the past ten days of roaming around Spain and Italy, I am over the moon to be curled up on the couch in my apartment with tea and my journal, going back over all of our adventures. There's hot water in the kettle, clothes in the wash, and socks in the trash. There was no way of resurrecting them after the abuse they'd been through these past few days. So I tossed 'em.

Where to begin? Last Friday morning, I caught a cab at 4:30 with Carmen and Lexi, my companions for the first leg of the journey. Drowsy but excited, we headed out to Dublin Airport to catch our flight to Barcelona.
We flew Ryanair this fall break, which was an absolute experience in itself. Dirt cheap flights --- I don't think we paid more than 35 Euro, or about $50, for any of our three flights. In fact, going from Barcelona to Pisa was 11 Euro, taxes included. But here's the thing about Ryanair. It's awful. In a really entertaining way, of course, when you're a student backpacking on a budget, but it's just terrible. The plane's decorated in banana yellow and navy blue, the flight attendants are grumpy, and you have to pay for your own barf bags. But hey! If the plane can get on and off the ground when necessary, I'm a happy camper. The flights make for great blog fodder, at least.

Every Ryanair trip's a mixture of a gypsy caravan and a Tupperware party. There's complete anarchy as you board the plane, because there are no assigned seats, no first class or business class. Everyone scrambles for a seat, they strap you in, and we're off. No fuss. Until the official Ryanair jingle comes on! This is when things get exciting. You didn't think you paid 11 Euro to sleep on the flight, did you? Not a chance. The flight attendants, wan and smelling like Lysol, troll up and down the aisles for the entirety of the journey, hawking wares. Not the cool gadgetry you sometimes see in the catalogues on American Airlines planes. Ryanair sells discount makeup, phone cards, scratch-off tickets, generic corn-based snack products. It's like an infomercial without the charm, Chinatown in a culture vacuum. It is appalling and amazing, and you should try it at least once.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home Again, Jiggety Jig!

Hello, everyone! I'm just arrived back in Dublin -- an afternoon with the sun shining, no less! The city must have known we missed it. Fall break was really wonderful, and I have SO much to write about. So be patient, please, and stay tuned!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We're Getting Off the Island!

It's officially fall break! In six hours, I'll be hopping in a cab to Dublin Airport and heading over to Barcelona for the first leg of our journey. We'll be trekking around until the 27th --- then it's back to the grindstone! While I hope to stop in a few internet cafes whilst in Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and Venice, please don't be upset if I don't post any new entries. Just think of all the stories and photos I'll have you for when I get back!

Slan go foil, Dublin! I'll be back soon.

Pulp Fiction

Bits. They do a body good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Listen Up, Boys and Girls!

Ireland's kind of all over the place when it comes to gender. The Celtic pagan religion was structured around the idea of a sacred feminine, but Irish women didn't get the vote until 1928. Despite countless speeches and poems dedicated to "Mother Ireland," the streets here are all named after her great sons --- Daniel O'Connell, Padraig Pearse, Arthur Guinness, James Connolly. Along the River Liffey, there's Bachelor's Walk. No Spinster Street, though. But Ireland's got a female president and deputy prime minister! The place is full of contradictions.

This is a popular chocolate bar around here. I keep meaning to buy one, but...apparently, I can't. Who would tell a girl she can't have chocolate? Talk about reverse psychology. This is not a recent sensation, though. Nor is it a sensation at all. Yorkie bars can be bought anywhere, anytime!

And then there's the new Burger King campaign going around here advertising the "Meat Beast Whopper." 100% Irish beef, bacon, and pepperoni, in case your arteries were getting bored. Anyway, buses and posters everywhere are urging Dubliners to buy one --- well, maybe not every Dubliner. The campaign's slogan is "A Man Has a Right to More than One Meat."

Here's one of the TV spots they've had on recently:

Burger King Polygameat - Illegal, or Lunch?

I'm not really sure how to feel about this. It's kind of funny? Nobody really thinks of it as controversial.

At the same time, this being Europe, there's also a certain level of flamboyancy that's tolerated --- and even encouraged --- in men, regardless of orientation. Primetime television is interrupted not only by the typical glamour ads featuring Penelope Cruz wearing mascara and loving it, but also by cute young guys playing soccer, hair frozen in trendy peaks with the aid of Garnier Sculpting Gel! Never is a man here emasculated by the fit of the pants he wears, or the moisturizer he uses.

Next blog entry will be lighter, I promise. I guess we're all getting pretty fired up for the election here, and it's been making me think about why Palin's so-called "success" and Clinton's apparent "failure." Even here in Ireland, where there's such a contradiction in terms of the social expectations of gender, they had a female president elected in 1990. That was Mary Robinson, whose excellent quote I will leave you with as I go to fill out my absentee ballot:

"I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system."

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Transatlanticism Much?

You know how sometimes you wake up in a bed and you're disoriented for a few seconds, trying to remember which side the wall is on and what day it is?

Wouldn't you think you were in D.C. if you saw that? No such luck. It's Phoenix Park, in northwest Dublin.

Being in D.C. sounds pretty good right about now. Anywhere but on this island, really. We're all getting cabin fever, I think --- but if we can survive midterm week, we'll be set for fall break, finally! It should be amazing. We're flying early Friday morning from Dublin to Barcelona, then spending five days there, then off to Florence, Rome, and Venice. I'm open and enthusiastic about any suggestions you have for me --- where must I eat? what can't I miss? what should I bring you back?

"O the bricks they will bleed and the rain it will weep,
And the damp Lagan fog lull the city to sleep,
It’s to hell with the future and live on the past,
May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast."
-Maurice James Craig

Just got back from our second NYU-sponsored field trip --- this one was a whirlwind tour around Belfast. I don’t really like calling it a “tour,” since that makes it sound like a destination with novelty hats and theme parks and things like that. More like it was 26 hours in which to experience what we’ve been learning in our History, Politics, and Artistic Expression in Ireland class. And…yow.

I have to admit I was extremely nervous about heading up to Northern Ireland for the weekend. Whenever we mentioned to someone here in Dublin that we were planning a trip to Belfast, they grimaced as politely as they could, then wished us luck. Luck?!

It’s been ten years since the Belfast Agreement was signed, and I’m sure things are much better than they were during the Troubles, but it was shocking. For a few moments, I wanted to move to Belfast. It's lovely. The city center is honestly beautiful --- think of the nicest parts of Boston and add in the strong financial backing of British government, but the residential areas can hardly be explained. There’s literally a wall separating the predominantly Catholic Nationalists from the Protestant Unionists. What’s scary is that this is a hatred and prejudice that’s entirely self-policed. There’s no law that requires the two groups to live in separate neighborhood, or to eat at different restaurants. If somebody wanted to move into the Unionist side of Belfast, they legally would have every right to do so, if they were Catholic or Protestant. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be harassed and their house vandalized. Remember, this is a place where Beechmount Avenue is known more commonly as R.P.G. Avenue --- as in “rocket-propelled grenade.”

We went through both the Unionist and the Nationalist neighborhoods looking at the murals painted on the sides of houses and local buildings. These weren’t faded and peeling, either. Bright, recently painted colors and strong messages --- many anti-American, although one in the Catholic neighborhood featured my fellow Marylander Frederick Douglass's quote: "Perhaps no class has carried prejudice against colour to a point more dangerous than have the Irish and yet no people have been more relentlessly oppressed on account of race and religions."

What was the most startling part of the entire experience was how the city just functioned. I'm not sure what I was imagining, some kind of war-torn wasteland with fires burning in trashcans and long lines outside the welfare office. But what I found was just the opposite: Belfast still runs smoothly, and is, dare I say it, kind of booming. There are two Ferris wheels within the city center, for gosh sakes! And I've never been waved at so much in my life. Standing on the sidewalk, looking at the murals along Falls Road and Shankill Road, cars of people drove by and honked pleasantly, waving --- like we were wandering around Des Moines or River City looking for an ice cream parlor recommendation.

Belfast's people are cheery, get up in the morning and enjoy their coffee, head out to work. They eat in front of the television, drop their kids at school and walk their dogs. They do all this, however, hating their neighbors to such an extent that streets are barricaded off from each other. Kids grow up not knowing half of the city, except for the fact that the other half is to be despised. I'm sure some people are optimistic, and some are hopeful, but most are probably resigned.

Love you guys.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gach La, Olaim Caife no Tae

In New York, it’s essential to have some kind of a routine. There are just so many people and so many places that if you don’t go somewhere with some regularity, it’s absolutely possible that nobody would register you’re living there. You could fall into the East River one night and nobody would know you were even gone ---- the guy at the deli wouldn’t miss you coming in for a pickle and a diet Coke, the trainer at the gym wouldn’t miss you running your daily mile on the treadmill, the farmer at the market wouldn’t realize you hadn’t stopped by for your eggs and rhubarb. But start heading out to a restaurant or taking the same train every day, and you feel established in Manhattan life. Maybe nobody will know you by name, but you’ll have carved out a little pattern for yourself in a place that runs on chaos and distraction.

Dublin’s exponentially smaller than New York City (the whole of Dublin is about the size of the Greenwich Village neighborhood), but the same principle holds true. I had a few goals coming here ---- to write a great screenplay, to FINALLY finish reading Ulysses, to make friends with some true blue Dubliners, and to become a local at a café. Mission accomplished!

It’s been just about a month since I’ve started going to West Coast Coffee, a five-minute walk from my apartment on the north side of the Liffey. Initally, I needed a place to hide out when I got caught in the rain without an umbrella. After my first visit, I knew that I had found the coffeeshop I’d be frequenting this semester. It’s part of a small chain here in Ireland (the “West Coast” in its name refers to San Francisco --- I get such a kick out seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on my cups!). It’s an “American style espresso bar,” according to the literature on the wall, but I’m not sure what else besides the logo has anything to do with America. The one I go to on Ormonde Quay is managed by a sweet young guy from Prague who’s hilariously inconsistent about prices. He’s daily trying to promote a great new deal --- “bagel wit orange juice and Philadelphia cheese and some streaky bacon for four Euro. Maybe four-thirty. But if you come between 10 and 10:25, you get some coffee but no cream for five Euro. Only on Wednesdays, though.”

There are two girls who work there, probably just a little older than me. Both are startlingly pretty --- their tip jar overfloeth, I’m sure. One’s from Argentina, and there’s a guy who comes in every time I’m there, waiting for her to go on break so he can chat her up in halting Spanish. She’s very tolerant of his advances, and doesn’t mind topping up his espresso every half hour. The other girl hasn’t been there the last few times I’ve stopped by, but she’s just as lovely, and the first one to start making me feel like a regular. “Hello again!” she yelps in her accent. “Mocha for here?” I knew I had become a true patron when she started drawing with chocolate syrup on my foamy milk. Sometimes I’d get a star, sometimes I’d get a spiderweb or a leaf.

And I get so much done there --- if you’ve ever received a postcard or letter from me, more likely than not it was written at my own little table by the window at West Coast Coffee, waiting for my warm mug to be brought over with a “hope it’s okay today!” Most of my writing assignments are done there, too ---- although I do plenty of people-watching when I need a break. There’s a couple who comes in sometimes to plan their wedding! I love sneaking peaks at their guest lists, to see who’s gotten the axe and who’s welcome to bring a plus one. I’ve seen a guy get stood up for a coffee date, only to return with a lady who I have to assume was his mother. Just last week, the three business men who normally take their lunches while I’m getting writing done beat me to the café and took my regular table. Boy, and they knew it! Gave me sheepish looks as soon as I walked in clutching my notebook in shock. They vamoosed, obviously, ASAP, with the redheaded spectacled guy shuffling off under the force of my glowering. That’ll learn him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment...a place where you're least likely to be bitten by a wild goat."

- Brendan Behan

Sunday, October 5, 2008

But Seriously, Guys...

...I'm kind of having a crisis.

That's Jean Butler. She is all I ever wanted to be when I was growing up. I still remember the night my parents got me out of bed to come look at the television in their bedroom, back in our old house in Wheaton. It was during the PBS pledge drive, and they were showing Riverdance. Instant adoration!

I started taking Irish dance classes at the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo (I remember that pockmarked wood floor like the back of my hand), and the rest is history. Eight years of my life spent with my arms at my sides. Putting duct tape on shoes, on blisters, on socks. Over this past summer I went through my filing cabinets, tossing out old notebooks. Out came my third grade papers --- I had practiced my cursive Js with writing "jig" over and over, my Rs with "reel" and "Riverdance." Sheaves and sheaves of drawings of Jean Butler dancing, and me dancing alongside her. Never mind that she's all legs and sleek grace and I was not, am not, won't ever be.

But after those years of dancing, of driving all over to competitions and coming in fourth place! no place! third place! no place! no place! first place! fourth place! first place! no place! no place! duct tape! I finally stopped at the end of my sophomore year of high school. Theatre was keeping me busy, I couldn't give over the hours to practice and study and perform --- and my joints were just destroyed. Even so, it was really, really hard to give up dance.

Here's the thing, though --- I found my passion for film because of it. With my weekends back in my hands, I started learning about production and cinema. I doubt I would have ever fallen into this if I had continued with dance. So now I'm here in Ireland, somewhere I've desperately wanted to be since I was six. In those dreams, though, I was in Ireland to compete in the World Championships, the Oireachtas. I'd have Jean Butler's beautiful hair and long legs and I'd be the champion of the world.

But I'm here, finally, on such a different track --- on the couch, now, watching YouTube videos of Riverdance, realizing that this all started thirteen years ago. Thirteen years ago!! When did I get old? Why do my knees still ache? Honestly, I'm past my prime, dancing-wise. And it makes me so sad to think that at 19, I'm already put out to pasture. But I wonder what would have happened if I had stuck with dance, really thrown myself into it. I wouldn't be here now, writing films. Can two things you love actually cancel each other out, one eclipsing the other without you ever knowing?

Walking down Grafton Street today, a street musician started a slipjig, heaving his accordion to and fro, and I had competition flashbacks. Flashbacks! Like, twisting my head around to make sure my mom wasn't behind me, holding my shoes and waiting to get my scores. It's been years, years, since I've curled up the couch watching the shows we taped off of PBS pledge drives onto VHS tapes, and even longer since Christian and I would dance for company in front of the television. I've still got goosebumps seeing this, though. And I still wish more than anything I could be Jean Butler. Maybe I could have been a contendah.

At least I got some phenomenal posture out of those eight years of dance. That'll stay with me!

Lazy Sunday

Today I saw this bird:trip on this grass:That's how dense and thick the grass is here! His little foot got all caught in the roots --- stepping and bobbing, munching on a crisp, stepping and bobbing...then WHAM! He's down for the count.

Can't you read, mister? They've got signs for a reason!

P.S. Yes, that's a Calder sculpture behind the sign. Such a eirephile am I that I completely forget to take pictures of it. Ta bron orm! Apologies!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Brazen Head

"Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis."

This weltanschauung comes to you courtesy of Mr. Brendan Behan, Irish novelist, playwright, and poet. We've recently found a home in one of Behan's preferred pubs, the Brazen Head --- but on second thought, this was a man who referred to himself as a "drinker with a writing problem," so I wonder if there was a Dublin pub that Behan DIDN'T frequent. After all, he drank "on two occasions --- when I'm thirsty and when I'm not."

Luckily, the Brazen Head's got much more to offer than pints and whiskies. It's the oldest pub in Ireland, actually established in 1198. For more than 800 years, it's stood just on the south side of the River Liffey at Bridge Street, luring locals and tourists alike with traditional music and cozy wood-panelled rooms. Seven nights a week, local musicians tramp in to the main hall of the pub, bringing their accordions and guitars and settling onto stools to sing traditional songs --- although a few weeks ago, one of the groups had a strong penchant for Simon and Garfunkel covers. While they didn't play "The Only Living Boy in New York," I have to admit that it was the first moment since I've been here in Dublin that I was actually homesick.

Only a few minutes walk along the river from my apartment here, the Brazen Head's out of the touristy Temple Bar neighborhood. No bachelorette parties disrupting the evenings spent here! It's really refreshing to be able to leave behind the scribblings of any day and stroll down to hear a few hours of music with some of the girls here. We've never been hasseled, never been bullied, and already we've become regulars to the bartender! We've been there a grand total of four times in three weeks, but he recognizes us enough to give us advice and ask about class. Wednesday night, we had a lesson in pouring cream over the backside of a spoon so that it floats on top of a cup of coffee. Slowly, delicately...and it's done!

Equally attentive are the patrons. Most are international, some tourists and some expatriates. We've shared terrific conversations with a family from Norway, debated politics with fellows from Australia and England. Within the three rooms of the pubs, there are benches and chairs, tables with candles --- all full of people happy to tell you how their days were, when their mother's coming to town, how much they love Manhattan and can't wait to visit again. Of course, while I'm always glad to have a chat, there come moments when you just have to be quiet --- "Whist, whist," they say here --- and listen to the band.

And at the end of the night, after the singer's encouraged you to clap until your hands are swollen and bang spoons in time to the music, you walk home with your friends and watch the bridges over the Liffey and the cars driving home. You understand then what Joyce was thinking when he wrote:

"The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses where we ran the gantlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits...a summons to all my foolish blood."

As always, wish you were here!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Field Trip to Kilmainham Gaol

After public executions were banned, this became the hanghouse. Seven men were killed here.

Kilmainham was established as a dungeon and corrective jail in 1796.

The jail was abandoned in 1924 after Eamon de Valera was freed. It's considered the Irish Bastille.

This is some inmate grafitti. It's a quote from "The Rebel" by Patrick Pearse, a famous political prisoner at Kilmainham. In full, it reads "Beware of the Risen People, Ye That Have Harried and Held, Ye That Have Bullied and Bribed."

The East Wing of the jail was built in 1864 and held both men and women, political dissidents and petty thieves. Two seven-year-old boys were jailed for stealing a rabbit from the Dublin Zoo.

Constructed during a period of Victorian prison reform, the East Wing was modeled after the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

It's a tall, open space with high skylights --- the architects concluded that exposing the prisoners to the redemptive "Light of God" could only be a good thing.

The leaders of the 1916 Rising were executed against this wall. The cross marks the place where James Connolly was tied to a chair and shot --- he was so badly injured from the fighting that he could not stand and face the firing squad.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One Month!

Happy anniversary to us --- time flies when you're living under constantly grey skies and watching movies!

What has one month of living in Dublin taught me?

- Always, always carry an umbrella, no matter the forecast. But never wear galoshes unless you want to stand out like the greenhorn American you are. Real Dubliners get their feet wet, and they learn to live with it. Love it, even.

- When in doubt, ask for help. Someone will likely know the way! And if they don't, they'll give you the names and phone numbers of four of their best friends who can help you.

- Some things you just have to leave to chance and spontaneity. Things like bus schedules, train destinations, postal fees, menu selections --- who needs a structure? Just go with the flow. It'll either work out, or you'll have a great story to tell about the time you ended up in Limerick instead of Dublin.

- Speaking of travel, cab drivers DO NOT need to be tipped. I don't know why I tipped 10 Euro. This is why I'm poor!

- The reason people abroad think Americans are idiots? What would you think, after feeding on a steady diet of Hulk Hogan, "The Hills," "Pimp My Ride," and "America's Got Talent"? I propose that the American television shows that have flooded the European market were chosen specifically to portray the worst of American culture. It's appalling.

- Condiments here are disturbingly vague. I wholeheartedly admit that I am Little Miss Ketchup --- but trips to the grocery store here leave me with goosebumps.

(Photo by Carmen Angelica, comedienne extraordinaire)

Salad Cream?! You know what it really is? Mayonnaise. If that's not your thing, you could always opt for some good old-fashioned HP Sauce. It comes in two flavors - HP Original or HP Fruity. Both are considered to be standard European condiments. When asking a grocery store employee what exactly HP Sauce is, you're met with a blank stare. "It's brown sauce." I should have guessed! In restaurants, you're given the choice of two major condiments: brown sauce, or red sauce. That's as much as you get. Both are elusive and disappointing in their nothingness. Sometimes you get lucky, and are offered white sauce for an extra Euro. But why bother, when you've got Salad Cream?

It's weird to think I'm in October, while everyone back home is still blissfully enjoying September. Make the most of it, you guys! I'm living in the future, and I see what this October's bringing. Big surprise: rain.