Saying Good Bye with Liquor

I leave in less than a month, and so in lieu of my usual avoid-my-friends-read-my-books lifestyle, I have been trying to get out and do the Cleveland thing before I regret it.

So this Friday I went out and when I woke up at 6am covered in lipstick that my friends used as a pen and threw up before going back to sleep, I felt like I was achieving my goals.

But Saturday was the best time I’ve had in Cleveland in so long. One of my former co-workers, Yoga Jones, invited Liebling and I to visit his new condo with its beautiful view of the lake, where he proved to me that the hair of the dog truly is the best solution to a hangover (other than maybe actual death) and more importantly proved that there is fun to be had when you spend time with adults.

Both Yoga Jones and his friends were several years older than Liebling and I, and while a few years may not seem like much, it felt like another world. They were talking about buying houses and their successful careers and played organized sports and had interesting worldviews. By contrast, my usual interactions with my friends involve high school memories, weed, and are a lot more remember-when than we-should-totally-just.

It was wonderful. We attended Tremont’s Ale Fest, drank outside for hours, petted so many dogs, and ate the literal best pizza in the world. Then Liebling left his keys at the bar so we slept on Yoga Jones’ couch, but you win some, you lose some.

It revitalized me. I am so excited to move to a new city and meet new people who don’t know me and prove that I can be an interesting, likeable, outrageous, frequently drunk human. Yoga Jones already booked his flight to visit me, so I intend to make him proud.

Teaching My Sister to Drive Manual

Today I finally put Ithaca behind the wheel of my WRX. It took coaxing, pleading, internet videos, and Tumblr posts by Maggie Stiefvater to make it happen, but happen it did. Ithaca was very nervous. More of me than the car. Apparently I have a habit of being unhelpful. I found this is a little hurtful as it is my literal job to teach people new things, but I cannot lay all the blame upon her. Thankfully she said I was nice though, so all went better than expected.

I did seriously consider murdering her when her very first attempt at moving went perfectly. I stalled four hundred to five hundred thousand times before I did that, so I think my dismay is forgivable. The first time she did stall I burst out laughing, half in relief and half at her face. “I think I have only made reaction gif faces since we started,” she said meditatively. I agreed.

We drove around in many circles and got her up to third gear. My favorite part was when the Top Driver car was circling the same parking lot. “REV AT HIM,” I demanded. “MAKE HIM FEAR YOU.” She did this accidentally a bit later when she forgot to shift to third. “WELL DONE,” I said.
“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT,” she moaned.
“IT WAS EXCELLENT,” I corrected. “HE FEELS THE FEAR.”
This was ruined minutes later when she stalled three times turning left. The student driver didn’t notice as he was clutching his steering wheel with the white fingers of death, hopefully because she really did frighten him, but the instructor gave us a look that said he knew exactly what had happened and he was both quietly judging and a bit jealous of my engine noises. I frowned back at him.

We celebrated with red wine and discussions of the 100 book (which I read) versus the tv show (which she watched) until she got sleepy and went home. I think our Arizona apartment is going to be like a big sleepover all the time, wherein I keep her awake with wine and stories while she silently wishes Mom and Dad had never had me. Having a sister is nice.

3 June 2015

County Mayo -> County Galway -> County Clare

“Is it our last day in Ireland?” I leaned over Ithaca’s shoulder as she was brushing her teeth.

“Yes,” she said, woefully spitting into the sink.

“I’m going back to bed and when I ask again I want a better answer,” I instructed.

Our first stop was Ballintubber Abbey (The Abbey That Wouldn’t Die). It was old and beautiful with giant graves and all sorts of statues and things to view. The pagans had a sacred well and an ancient road (you can still see both at the abbey) that led to Croagh Patrick because they worshipped there as well, and it was fascinating to see how those areas were just thrown into the Christianity basket and kept. Definitely one of my favorite parts about the trip was learning about the history and the prevalence to this day of religion.

We stopped at the Peacockes Hotel for the worst lunch you could ever imagine with such bad service that we ended up an hour behind schedule. Sadly because of it we only had time for a one hour walking tour in Galway. Our tour guide was an archaeologist and gave us fascinating insights into the grassy town square, the templar symbols in the church, various phrases that began in Galway, and even showed us one of the old city walls that has been preserved in a shopping mall.

We made it to the Cliffs of Moher with no time to spare, but they were pretty damn majestic. I loved watching the seagulls fly around them.

After a quick stop at the hotel it was off to our very last stop, Bunratty Castle. This was an EXPERIENCE. It’s an actual castle that was lived in by the O’Brien’s and it has been restored with tapestries and furniture and when you walk in you get a ceramic mug of mead while a man plays violin and a woman plays the harp. Then they sing to you before sending you back down the probably-quite-dangerous-if-not-deadly stone steps and into the packed banquet hall where they sing more and talk more and you drink never ending amounts of wine. A couple from New York in our tour group were appointed the earl and his lady for the night. When they brought out the first dish he gave his hearty approval in a heavy New York accent — so authentic. The food was great but more importantly the wine was plentiful. They sang songs and told stories and made us all feel like medieval royalty.

Ithaca and I stopped in at Durty Nellie’s where a local man immediately started up a conversation with us, and by that I mean he just started spewing all sorts of inventive lies while his friends sang nonsense words and we all linked arms and did high kicks. He tried to convince us that he worked at the airport and we couldn’t possibly leave in the morning as there were no flights to Newark, and then insisted upon more dancing. And if you think this kind of thing makes me sound like a gobshite then you’ve never been to Ireland.

2 June 2015

County Mayo -> County Galway -> County Mayo

Today was kicked off by a ten minute visit to Aasleagh Falls, a tiny waterfall to be sure but the scenery was so breathtaking it didn’t matter. But the best part was that the road was very narrow and so on our way back to the main road, one car and two large trucks all had to drive in reverse so that our tour bus could get by. This was followed by a chorus of forty adults all chanting “Tre – vor, Tre – vor !” before we drove through even more beautiful countryside (you think you’d get used to it, but I was still gleeful about the baby sheep every time I saw them). We met another of Brendan’s girlfriends, this one a topless mermaid statue.

We took a catamaran ride through Ireland’s one and only fjord, Killary Harbor. I drank Irish coffee and watched sheep stand on hills. We had a delicious lunch at Eddie’s Pub and went on to the Quiet Man Walking Tour, which was kind of lost on me as I’ve never seen the movie.

Back in Westport we went back into the bookstore because I can’t help myself. I had an amazing chicken curry at one bar/restaurant and then went to Matt Molloy’s pub for even more whiskey and Guinness, like you do at eight o clock on a Tuesday in Ireland. The pub was packed like you should expect at eight o clock any day in Ireland.

More members of our tour group kept piling in, some of whom towed in Brendan the tour guide so I bought him a drink — he asked for a merlot. Ithaca immediately requested one as well. While standing ashamedly at a bar in Ireland ordering two merlots, I wondered whether he usually drinks merlot or he just picked the least stereotypical thing possible.

The music started around 9:30 and we left soon after, but it was light out until much later. I could get used to that in the summer.

1 June 2015

County Derry -> County Tyrone -> County Donegal -> County Leitrim -> County Sligo -> County Mayo

Made a brief stop at Irish House by Triona where we drank Irish coffee and saw how tweed is made. Then we hopped across the street to Donegal Castle and pretended we were important people in the 17th century. We stopped for lunch in Sligo at Swagman (an Australian-themed bar, true story) for delicious smoked salmon and chocolatey stouts before continuing on to Westport.

We stayed at the Hotel Westport and wandered out into town to acquire unnecessary belongings with Euros because spending foreign money is easy if you forget about the exchange rate. It was a bank holiday, which for Americans means sales and cookouts and for the Irish means all the shops are closed. But as a good tourist I did manage to buy both UK editions of books and makeup in a drugstore brand I don’t have at home, so hey oh.

I had guinea fowl and Italian wine for dinner. Intending to make it an early night, Ithaca and I went down to the hotel bar for wine and to write our daily notes (not having easy access to WordPress and Twitter was hard, okay), but then found ourselves sitting with a group of our fellow tourists laughing about the seventy two year old lady who is always late and other various tour happenings. Most people trundled off to a real bar but we stayed swapping stories with two ladies until the wee hours.

31 May 2015

County Down -> County Antrim -> County Derry

Drove through the beautiful coastal countryside on our way to the Giant’s Causeway in the windiest part of Ireland. The cliff face was both outrageous and beautiful and the rocks were both treacherous and impressive. We had perfect weather most of the time, but we did get hit by a brief rainstorm. During the worst part, the wind was so strong that a bird got stuck hovering in midair because he wasn’t strong enough to fly into the wind.

I had expected giant rocks to be going out further than they were after hearing the tales of Finn MacCool, but it was an adventure dragging my lazy butt up the shepherd’s steps to the top and looking down on the Causeway. Dad, braver than both of his daughters, was climbing where he shouldn’t and got both yelled at (according to him) and chased by employees (according to my exasperated mother).

We took a brief photo stop at Dunluce Castle, which was abandoned after the entire kitchen fell into the sea. On our drive, Brendan explained that they drive on the left side of the road because back in the day you would want your sword hand out if you came across a troublemaker. “Just bring a gun!” shouted an American woman. “That’s why they call that seat shotgun,” she added conspiratorially. All of the Americans laughed. Then it was on to the charmingly European city of Londonderry, or Derry, depending on whether you ask the Protestants or the Catholics. They had a marathon that day so it was packed.

We went on a tour with Ronan McNamara, a half-Chinese, half-Irish father of three and self-proclaimed only Buddhist in Derry. He may be the most eloquent man I’ve ever encountered. He told us about the Troubles via murals and his own experiences, and he took us across the city walls and through city hall, all while explaining history and current politics.

After dinner at the City Hotel we went to a pub called the Grand Central Bar which was wonderfully full of Irishmen and had a man playing an instrument I can only describe by saying it required the use of his forearm, palm, and all ten fingers. Mom and I sat down at the booth side of a table, and the man sitting next to us saw Ithaca and Dad go to the bra. He didn’t realize we had an extra stool under the table, so he took one from under his friend’s feet to offer to us. I was floored.

“That’s for my feet, you bring it right back,” said Grumpy Friend. I thanked Polite Guy heartily and let him know we didn’t need it, so he gave it back to Grumpy Friend and apologized by insisting that Grumpy was not even originally from Derry, and that he shouldn’t change our opinion of the city because “we’re really very hospitable.”

Grumpy said he just noticed we had enough stools and wanted it for his feet since all three of them were in the marathon earlier. “My God,” I told them. “I wouldn’t be drinking, I would be literally dead.”

“That’s why we’re drinking,” said the third man, the squinty one.

Dad and Erika returned with drinks and I laughed because no matter where we went to drink, all of the draughts were served in a glass with its logo on it. I looked to my right and saw that Squinty was sitting alone. “Did your friends leave because you got a better time than they did?” I asked. He chuckled and said “Probably.” And we talked about our bus tour and he told me how beautiful Westport is and how much fun we would have at Bunratty Castle.

I really can’t say enough how welcoming the Irish are. Though if Squinty really thought I was going to climb the Croagh Patrick, he was drunker than he looked.

30 May 2015

County Down
-Learned that Belfast comes from Beal Feirste, which means “mouth of the shoal”

In the morning we went on a brief bus tour of the city and saw its political murals.

The Titanic Belfast was a marvel of a memorial. It shows the history of Belfast itself from when it exploded with industry (including linen and shipbuilding). You learn about everything from Harland & Wolff to how the Titanic was built and stocked, as well as small bios of crew and passengers, and the tear-bringing (at least for me) final messages from the Titanic.

We followed this with a walking tour that shared the black humor and the revolutionary spirit of Belfast that pushed it to the top of my favorite cities list. To give you an example, our walking tour guide recited this poem for us. We had fish and chips for lunch in a big indoor market like Cleveland’s West Side Market, only with less stuffiness (for example, no sanity toothpicks for the free samples) and more variety (like fresh whelks and a live band).

After a brief stop at the hotel, Dad and Ithaca and I went in hunt of a fishing store for Dad. Unfortunately it was closed due to a fire, so I bought a few books at a comic store where the clerk asked how we were enjoying our holiday. I told him we were having a blast and I adored Belfast. He laughed darkly. “That’s only because you don’t live here.”

“OK,” I challenged. “What is the best thing about Belfast and what is the worst?”

He gestured sweepingly to the store around us. “This is the best thing about Belfast.” He gestured at the door and the outside world. “That is the worst thing about Belfast.”

These misanthropes are my people, I thought with glee.

We stopped in a bookstore that was so crowded you could barely move around and I felt like I was home (sorry, Liebling) so I bought more books.

We went to Kelly’s Cellars, a bar older than the actual country that I live in, (I drank Smithwick’s Blonde because I’d seen a billboard and I am a sucker for advertising) and had a pint while people casually sat in a booth and played music while other people slowly tricked in and joined them. Then it was off to the John Hewitt bar (where I drank Hercules both because it was brewed in Belfast and because I approve of all references to Greek mythology) for pints and Jameson and delighted in even more musicians playing instruments I couldn’t name.

Erika and I wound down the night with the best charcuterie and cheese plate I’ve ever had at the hotel bar.

10/10 night in Belfast, would do every night forever.