today i bought books. i said no to full price waterstones for the sake of good price, fair trade war on want. i saved much money and had a nice walk. and then i spent the afternoon at clements over a cafe au lait, ham & cheese toastie, and jonathan swift's "modest proposal", all while staring at myself.
i was seated in front of a mirror. every time i looked up, it was me.
and you know how this goes: once you realise that you see yourself, you begin to subtly pose:
so this is what i look like eating a toastie.
this is me deep in thought.
this is me sipping my beverage.
ohhhh, here's me looking attractive for all of clements.
and this is my why isn't anyone paying attention to me but me? look.
i didn't get much reading done.
once i was relieved from my narcisisstic (does that seem like too many s's to anyone else?) chair into a mirror-behind-me comfy seat, i was able to get some writing done. this is good news.
and then i came home to susan and chinese food. [read: honey chicken, cashews, fried rice, ice-cold coca-cola. mmm.] we spent the evening listening to good music, picking our favorite songs and sharing them.
"ooh this is my favorite line."
"and that is what makes a good song."
"why can't all such and such's songs be this great?"
we made hot totties.
watched the movie king of comedy . ohmy. has anyone seen this movie? i had no idea. think: robert deniro with a 1982 swoosh kind of hairdo and scary, entirely too linear moustache. jerry lewis in shorts. sandra bernhard with a perm. ok, so just sandra bernhard. enough said.
all this and it's a scorsese flick. with cameos by tony randall, dr. joyce brothers, victor borge, liza minelli.
i'm still smiling.
and i'm thinking of marlei's advice about finding the bright spots even in the dark days. (thank you susan.)
do you ever have dreams that you interpret while you're dreaming them? like your subconsciousness is giving you a break.
i'm dreaming of rivers and currents too fast and deeper water than i'd thought and near-drowning and last minute life preservers.
it's all so fucking unoriginal, i told susan as we watched the moorhens trying to eat leaves at the park. the seagulls gave chase--they're like dogs that way. you can't have any food around without the seagulls trying to take it. i don't care if you're a swan or goose, duck or pigeon. the seagulls are master dive bombers.
so fucking unoriginal, i said. and she smiled and told me that it's probably best to leave creativity to my real world.
today, my braids are crooked and messy. but my hair is out of my face.
my mother set up a haircut appointment for me upon my return to the states: december 20, about 10:30 am with margy. she made this appointment while chatting with me on msn messenger and talking to margy on her cellphone. this was a dramatic technological discovery for her.
the sun shone today. and i finished a portrait of the artist as a young man.
and now, i shall check train times as i plan my last trip up to the north coast...one last hurrah at the downhill hostel. (she sighs.)
happy birthday--in no particular order--to:
joey vogel, my long lost brother hovering somewhere between erie, louisville, and oakland. (i miss you.)
madeleine l'engle, grandmother i never had, wondermuse and hopebringer.
melinda franklin, my clever, witty, gorgeous friend and former roommate--making east nashville and brentwood academy better places.
bono called jude last night. so. vicariously, bono called me last night. we're best friends. spending thanksgiving together, in fact.
jude and bono are saving the world.
vicariously, i am saving the world.
(actually, i'm just a proud friend.)
it's a cold, wind-whipping day out there. i'm staying in here. jenna is home sick today, refusing to get out of her robe. good plan. except we used the last of the drip-free teabags this morning. we are the only people in the whole uk without tea, i think.
[susan, if you're reading this: can you bring over some tea?]
last night fit well into my go-to-bed-at-3-get-up-at-11 groove i've had going for the past week. i watched in the bedroom at 2 am. and had stark dreams of new england afterward.
it's so grey today.
there is a small thunder in the fireplace. the wind, the wind. it doesn't stop.
makes me sleepy, dreamy. i'm warm under the blanket.
in light of all the fire talk happening here, and thanksgiving eve, i'm going to share two fantastic quotes that were sent to me by my nashville daddy, jim:
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that
gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
Gilbert K. Chesterton
"It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be
thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as
if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which
thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a
continual feast." ~W.J. Cameron
words to live by.
rosie magazine recently wrote an article about magdalene house and becca stevens (our priest), marlei told me today.
i'm so proud to call st. a's home. read the article HERE.
I was a Jewel song. It is a rainy Sunday night and I walked to Tesco to find some wine to mull. Raincoat, Gemma Hayes, wallet, Marlboro Lights: we were on a mission.
I learned an important lesson: Tesco closes at 6 on Sundays, not 8, I found out when I arrived at 7. Oh.
More importantly, however, I walked. In the rain, underneath a hood and smoking. My cigarette was soaked, but refused to burn out, and I was thankful. I had to drag harder, and the little flame-cherry-that-could lit up each time. Strangely enough, I was reminded of that verse: a smouldering wick you will not snuff out. And so a cigarette became hope for a moment, and I didn't care about the wet or the dark. I was simply walking, aware.
Aware of the Christmas trees beginning to line our streets. The typically drawn curtains are open to display them. And across the street, they're setting Santa and a snowman outside an upstairs window. Illuminated plastic, waving. Hello. This is Christmas.
So. No mulled wine tonight in front of the fire. But we've still got tomato soup. Jenna even lit the incense. Cosiness enough.
late now. the world is asleep.
i've got a small fire.
a small glass of brandy (thank you, susan).
small christmas lights climbing the corner, keeping the room bright enough to see.
and patty griffin's rain: i'm still alive underneath...
i read this earlier: when you are silent you are again beautiful.
at this rate, i'll be gorgeous by tomorrow morning.
Gemma Hayes playing quietly in the living room. I let a good thing go. Trevor has just built a fire in the drafty fireplace, and so the flames are subtle then flaring. Like playing with a lighter.
I am unkempt but clean. No makeup and soft, spray/gel/bedhead-less hair roaming free, smelling alternately of shampoo and cigarette smoke. Vanilla-smelling wool sweater: the maroon one. I saw patches of blue sky before the sun set. Now the rain falls hard.
Poof goes the fire: I'm here. I'm not. Crackle nonetheless. (I can hear you.)
So this is the business of living: a whole day on the couch. Nothing accomplished.
Don't be so hard on yourself, the whole world says but me.
I talked to Shannon. (I love being checked in on, she says.) Bea loves her swing, sits cosily in the kitchen as her mama makes cookies. Shannon pokes her head into Dave's studio: do you forget sometimes that we have a baby, she asks.
I feel it all, Gemma keeps repeating. Quiet then building.
Days like these are so dark. I feel cocooned by November. And maybe that's just it: nothing was supposed to happen today but this.
[despite my desperate hope for let there be light.]
advent and breath-holding are upon us, it seems. How long?
and gemma again sums it up: ain't you the lucky one?
at 1:15 am, it is the brightest time of day. i just got home from a night of susan-watching (more on this in a moment). the moon is fullish, surprisingly not masked. and so there are brave-shining stars and tufts of black clouds and bright moonlight illuminating the puddles in the street. even the deathly orange streetlights can't dim the glory. the air tonight is clear and i breathed winter as i walked from susan's car to the front door.
winter means i am going home soon. oh the ambivalence...
so. tonight and susan. errigle inn. she was supporting a singer/songwriter guy named dana lyons who has found very limited fame with a project called cows with guns. interesting? maybe. but it was more scary than anything. he was the guy who would come to your school and rap about recycling. the guy who would try desperately to be cool, but couldn't pull it off in his tight black jeans and tom sellick mustache. no matter how much he rapped.
i am not exaggerating. what's worse: the belfast crowd adored him! begged three encores. we couldn't believe it. we couldn't handle it. social/political/environmental commentary is ok in my book if it's done well. but don't rap at me. don't ask me to join in with hand motions. don't do johnny cash country (especially with suburbia as subject matter) when you're from seattle and we're in a pub.
(susan, gail, and i escaped across the street and ate really bad chicken at a happy days knock off burger joint: chicken strips encased in funky corndoggish breading. we enjoyed the fine musical ambience of ashanti and the corrs. we welcomed the step up.)
cynical? table for two? sorry.
the dana lyons experience left me feeling like i was in the audience for "red, white, and blaine" in the legendary waiting for guffman. it's funny because people think it's good...
anyway...it truly was an entertaining evening all around.
and then to come home to a bright sky. priceless.
welcome! bienvenido! failte!
isn't this place fantastic? so spacious, airy. windows are open; we're letting the light in.
can everyone just take a moment to thank mister [jp/p] for the amazing blogmaking job he has done for me?
(you're much loved, friend. thank you.)
so, here we are. it feels a bit strange to be blogging here, honestly. it's like your first day with a new toothbrush: hey, this feels a bit awkward...oooo, but i like it! my teeth feel so much cleaner now! the people in the commercial were dead on: this is definitely waging war on plaque.
life is good.
and i'm fast approaching the land of finals, even from way over here. so. i must get some work done.
many more words to come. soon.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
unbeknownst to me (because of the whole i'm in london thing) my shannon had a baby on saturday evening.
would everyone please give a warm welcome to a tiny, 6 pound beatrice abbot quiggle!
i heard her voice tonight over the phone; from erie, pa to belfast she cried, and i get to meet her in four weeks.
i'm in love.
i have mascara raccoon eyes after hearing shannon tell, so matter-of-factly, a story of contractions, the epidural that would never be, push, don't push. a tall, weeping husband holding his little bean for the first time with shaky arms. thick black hair (that will probably all fall out) and the longest eyelashes. full lips. skinny legs.
home is where i want to be. pick me up and turn me 'round.
He has ordered a glass of red wine. Bald, hunched over with bamboo walking stick and dignified umbrella, tweed coat and nearly matching tie, he tottered in. and now he is sitting next to me, folding his money, bill by bill: Elizabeth upon Elizabeth. He clicks his tongue and mumbles incoherently to himself in a grumbly Yoda voice. I'm sitting at the tiny table next to him, smoking a Camel Light, drinking a lager. He looks at his watch, clicks his tongue. Stares blankly forward. Whitney Houston is asking where broken hearts go. Can they find their way home? He is a perfect fixture at the Horse and Groom pub.
And now, another man, middle-aged and bushy-haired is struggling with a bottle of beer at the bar in front of me. His back is to the bar; he's facing me, wearing a remarkably bad sweater of some native design. I won't look, I won't look. These are the men who always want to chat me up, buy me a pint, ask me if I have a boyfriend. This is my demographic, I always joke with my friends. And it's true. Oh no, he has stood up, looking out the window behind me. Yoda clicks. He sits back down. Saved. For the moment. Yoda crosses his leg and gnaws a toothpick. Did he bring it with him? What kind of man brings his own toothpicks to pubs? I light another cigarette. Clear my throat.
It took an extra three hours to get to London today. Delay upon delay due to the fire brigade strike. Instead of the simple Piccadilly/Victoria Line tube trip to Oxford Circus, I had to detour along the District Line. And it was so crowded, full of people to stare at because you have to look somewhere. You pick your favorites: the ones who look the most interesting and also don't seem to notice you're staring. Therefore, you don't feel like one of those staring kinds of people. I found two: The first was a Hasidic mother, blue-eyed with olive skin, holding her baby and keeping her eye on her two boys and two girls, who were all very excited to be on the choo choo train. Her husband sat idly, distinguished in his black woolen trench coat and yarmulke. She looked so tired. Her lips were full and quiet. She had a sleepy profile.
Then, as I stood cramped in against a door with all my weight shifted onto my left ankle, I watched a woman in purple: knitted cap, scarf, and jacket were all various shades of lavender. She was small and pensive with animated blue eyes. She was seated next to a bearded Indian man—they were obviously a couple—talking quietly. She often looked past him as he talked with her ear cocked toward him. She had the deepest crow's feet around her eyes when she smiled, but she still looked very young. She held his hand with her pinky; appeared to be elsewhere much of the time. We made eye contact once, briefly. I looked down at my aching ankle. We arrived at the station. I nearly fell out the door. That was goodbye.
Yoda seems to have fallen asleep. His chin is buried in his chest. He's leaning, leaning…sits up with a start. Looks around, clicks. Closes his eyes and leans. Bad sweater man is talking to a friend, laughing.
carrie says i should write about the corner store. let me tell you about the corner store: the co-op. i frequent the co-op at odd hours; it is my own personal oh-shit store: oh shit, we're out of...milk. bread. tomato soup. yummy chocolate/caramel biscuits. goodfellas pizza-for-one.
there is a security guard outside the co-op (like most businesses) in the evening, and he has kind eyes. he looks like a sailor, with his navy blue turtle neck--thick and woolen--and pipe and hemingway beard. we're now on nodding and smiling terms when i walk in the door. sometimes i say hi, and he gives me the what-the-hell-is-an-american-doing-in-east-belfast-especially-at-this-time-of-day-and-in-that-outfit look. i shrug, usually, giving him the i'm-just-getting-milk look.
once inside the co-op, you're in for a party. two aisles of great deals on various canned things. and fantastically bad music while you choose between heinz or campbells tomato soup. it's the only place i've heard the R group, SWV (sistas with voices) since 1993, when dad drove mom and me down to florida in the ford festiva with no air conditioning. i bought the tape then, specifically for the song "right here" (which was also featured in the movie, free willy). SWV and janet jackson's wildly popular janet were my soundtracks for that trip.
memories of busch gardens and the gulf of mexico, palm trees for the first time and bad hair all come racing back hilariously as i buy some wheaten bread and diet coke.
right here. be right here. no fear. lovin' is here.
great lyrics, eh?
so. that's the co-op.
don't get me started on the chip-shop.
the quiet and dark of november muffles words sometimes. it's a lesson in resting in the contours of silence.
but is this rest or breath-holding?
because it feels like the world is in wait for the arrival of my best friend's baby.
or. maybe it's me, an ocean away at 2 am, knowing that the due date has come.
and nothing else matters.
(it's enough to make a girl homesick.)
guess what? my sister, catherine frances has started a blog! (i'm so proud!) i knew she had the words. and here they are, laid bare.
here are a few words about our trip (we just returned an hour ago):
Atticus is about to jump out the window, I think. And Harley is in the garden, chasing a bird. She is a black and white, smallish mop of a cat, flat now as she stealthily moves across the brick walk. Unfortunately, the bird is a tease and has flown away, peeping. So, Harley has abandoned her predator pose. She scratches her ear. Meanwhile, Atticus is still contemplating the window jump. He's sitting on the dining room table, looking out on Harley's adventures. Today, he is the most mindful of cats. Tiger-striped and tall, he boldly wears a white patch on his chest. He has been my table partner all morning, sitting on the chair next to me, gazing. There has been no begging, no demand for attention. He has simply sat, breathing evenly, with green slits for eyes and a smile. For an hour.
And why not. We've got a rainbow right now. Nicole has got to see this! I call her down: come here! And Nicole is suddenly taking pictures of me and the cat and the rainbow.
She is gone now, off to blowdry her hair.
The rainbow is nearly gone as well; a phantom appearing and disappearing between eyeblinks.
So this is Sunday morning at the Downhill Hostel. Nicole and I are travelling girls now, finding our way around the winding country and coastal routes of Ireland.
I understand Atticus' desire to jump out the window. We have, right in front of us, a mercurial ocean with phantom rainbows right overhead, keeping watch. And we have the green and shadows of Donegal. We've got train tracks and tunnels bored through cliffs. (Here comes the train now, through one cliff and now another.) Right in front of us, we have creation bearing witness. And Atticus is a smart man.
Later that night.
Such a day of familiar hiking up to the Downhill House and Mussenden Temple. Across to Castle Rock. To my favorite cliff. I saved the life of a white faced yellow lab this afternoon and we saw countless rainbows.
And then we drove. We were supposed to get to somewhere near Galway tonight, but I didn't even look at the map until we left. So, exhausted, we arrived in Strandhill, near Sligo tonight, hoping for a room at the hostel, which we found by divine happenstance. All night, we've sat at the bar across the street, playing cards. We were supposed to hear traditional music; what we got was four men and guitars, playing covers of everything from David Gray to Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, guitar man number four also doubled as Sligo's own John Mellencamp, in his tight jeans and yellow t-shirt. He traded guitar for celtic drum early into the gig, and played it with eyes closed, carefully avoiding the tear in the skin, all the way through to "Sweet Home Alabama".
The locals will love you because you're American, Trevor told us the other night. And he was right. From bartenders to the guitar guys in the corner, we were the Strand Bar princesses tonight. We even got a free lighter.
pee ess: please read (if you're so inclined, which i hope you are...) my review of rosie thomas' when we were small cd for relevant magazine HERE.