Sunday, November 3, 2013

Table for one OR zucchini is for bread OR we should Wellington all food

This is the tableau that played itself out in the predawn hours of room 107, Avalon House, Dublin today. 

Really, really early: Alarm goes off. I think it's 3 or 4 a.m. Someone gets up. 

4:30: Alarm that must signal a nuclear attack it's so loud and obnoxious goes off. And keeps going. It sounds for two or three minutes. That the owner of this alarm  does not wake up should tell you the potency of Irish whiskey. 

5:40: That alarm has gone off three more times. Is the guy dead? 

6:15: Normal alarm goes off, woman gets up, whispers to a man to get up. 

6:30: "Mike, get up! We have to go now!"

6:45: I give up on sleeping. 

That pretty much set the stage for the rest of my day. 

Like getting to church. I tracked out exactly what buses I needed to catch and from where and I was pretty confident. Then I got to the street where I was supposed to catch the first bus and I couldn't find a bus stop anywhere. It's a short street, too, so there are only a few places it could hide. I walk up and down both sides of the street, admit defeat and pull out my map. The bus stop where I'm supposed to switch buses is a few blocks away. I walk. It's a nice day. (It's not. It's so cold. But the sun is out.)

I get to the bus stop with plenty of time -- then watch as my bus pulls up and keeps going. What on earth? Why had the sign lied to me? Did the driver not see me? Am I going to have a complex about being overlooked for the rest of my life?

So, I started walking. Well, I kept walking. It's only a couple of miles, which isn't that bad, right? (It kind of is.)

The next bus stop met the driver's criteria for stopping, however, and through a combination of running and trying to keep my skirt from blowing up in the wind I caught the bus and found church. 

At some point in those three hours, I managed to lose my all-day bus pass. I essentially paid $9 to ride a mile and a half. And the money I had was earmarked for other things, and I didn't want to go to the ATM again. So I ended up walking the two miles anyway. At least it was warm. (It wasn't. It might have been slightly warmer. I went back to my hostel and put on jeans.)
I trekked across town to the Dublin Writers Museum and added a bunch of books to my list. Did you know that Jonathon Swift was sarcastic? And that he wrote a book in which he suggested eating a percentage of poor children, thereby reducing poverty and starvation at once? I must read this.  And some high school English teacher should explain to me why students are still reading "The Scarlet Letter" when they could be reading satire.

Then I returned to Trinity College for this picture, which I forgot to get yesterday. Apparently this is by a well-known Italian sculptor and has a snooty intellectual name. 


The students call it the Death Star. 

I treated myself to a real Irish dinner, which furthered my belief that while the Irish have a fine heritage, it shouldn't include food. Did you know that courgette is zucchini? I did not. When I ordered the dish, I was thinking it was similar to arugula. When I got the dish, I thought it was mushrooms. Halfway through, I realized it was eggplant. When I Googled it just now, I learned I ordered a pastry filled with zucchini. (And goat cheese. I'd like to take a moment to here to pay homage to goat cheese. And all cheese.) Then I went to a bar and listened to a jazz band and thought about this blog post. 

There's a lot to say tonight, and my brain is struggling to give words to all of it. So here goes nothing.  This isn't a pity party, really. It's more like emotional vomit.

I really enjoyed church today. It was testimony meeting, so there were no assigned speakers. It was wonderful to hear over and over again the testimonies borne in simple, direct language. There was no mention of Rocky, facial hair, trips other than to the temple or obscure doctrine gleaned from who knows where. No one said, "I told myself I wasn't going to cry!" There were no long stories tenuously connected to Christ. Only a couple people preached. It was wonderful. 

I can't think of a single American city in which I want to live. I can think of several European cities. 

I am tired of traveling, but going back doesn't feel like it's bringing much relief. I'll have more space, but I'll still be living out of boxes. I'm still homeless, still unemployed, still unsure of what's next. This trip was supposed to clear my head, not just my bank account. I hoped that when I jumped into the dark, God would light the way. I still have no idea what I'm doing on Tuesday. (Laundry, sleeping, applying for two jobs. I mean metaphorically. You know this.) I feel like I'm still in the dark, and that wasn't supposed to be part of the deal. 

I'm also tired of being alone. "Table for One" could be a great sitcom. (Dibs!) In reality, though, it gets old rather quickly. And it's not like a traveling companion would have made my trip any easier; so far everything has gone pretty smoothly. (Knock on wood.) There have been a few hangups, but nothing that couldn't be fairly easily fixed. But there would be someone else in the pictures, someone else in the stories. I wouldn't have dealt with the shady Hungarian trains, the groper, the snow, the "bad" maps, the Austrian bus that I worried would never come, by myself. I could have said the things I thought that I tried to file away as Facebook updates, tweets or blogworthy moments and then forgot five minutes later. I could have shared all the cookies.

OK, there are some perks to traveling alone.Quite a few, in fact. And I suspect that next time I take a trip, if it's not convenient for someone compatible to come with me, I'll remember the cookies and the autobahn and changing plans spur of the moment and not how lonely it gets not having a real conversation in five weeks. Because really, loneliness doesn't exist only in Europe. I've been plenty lonely before, but in much less exciting places.

And with fewer cookies.



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