Today we got our tickets for going back to Ireland in March. I'm excited! We'll only be there for a week and it will probably be hectic. Last year I went for two weeks (without Eric) and it seemed like every minute was planned. I spent time in Cork with my brother Michael, in Dublin with my brother John and his family, in Kilkenny with my dear friend Julie, and the rest of the time in Wexford, where my parents and my sister and her family live. Before I knew it, the whole two weeks had slipped away.
This year, it will be Eric and me, with just one week to spend with family. That will be hard. I like to just hang out, drink tea and shop for groceries with my mam, chitchat with my sister, share a pint of Guinness with my dad. Eric, understandably enough for an American, likes to see a bit of Ireland. I love the trips I've taken with him; I would never have seen the Cliffs of Moher if he hadn't wanted to go. But this is an ongoing balance we have to find: how to make it feel like a vacation for him and how to get enough time with my family because I see them only about once every 18 months.
This year the compromise is this: we spend a week in Wexford, and a week in Rome. I've never been to Rome, although I've been to Italy twice, so I am very excited. We just need to find the perfect hotel, ideally with a little balcony off our room.
Ireland and Italy, could it get any better? I can't wait.
This is me and my dad last year, with our last pints before I went back to San Francisco (well as this was early in the evening, I suspect there may have been more pints that night, but it was my last night.)
Fiestaware are the best dishes ever. We got them in a bunch of colors about seven years ago, on sale in Macy's. They get used every day and there is not one scratch or chip on them. Every so often, we'll buy some new pasta bowls from Williams Sonoma, and within six months they are starting to get chipped, but not the Fiesta. Even the time I was carrying a plate of cookies to a party and the car door slammed into the plate, it came away without a scratch.
Here's another poem. This one is about the movie theatre I grew up with in Wexford.
At Candleshoe with Jodie Foster and David Niven I sit with my sister and we hear Valerie Rush in the seat behind moan softly Her boyfriend with his hand down her cords. The projector breaks in Grease just at the part where John Travolta is running around the track pretending to be an athlete. We buy chips and walk home five abreast singing Summer Nights. I kiss Larry Byrne for an hour outside my house after AmityvilleHorror II, we don't speak eyes-shut, earnest sixteen-year-old kissing. After The Blue Lagoon, around the back of the Abbey with Elenore Roche and two boys, I pretend to smoke. Fight with my brother at Bedknobs and Broomsticks, cry quietly in the dark, the room around me brimming with the smell of stale popcorn. Sneak into Return of the Pink Panther without paying. Liz tells on me and I have to go down the next day push two pounds in an envelope under the door of the Abbey cinema. They tear it down after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and put up a multiplex near the railway station which everyone says is far nicer.
Chuck at work told me about the Ricky Gervais podcast, available for free from iTunes. As most people know, Ricky Gervais is the co-creator of The Office, the British sitcom, on which the American version with Steve Carell is based. I love the podcast. It makes me chuckle on the bus when I listen to it on my iPod. It's basically just Ricky, Stephen Merchant (the other creator of The Office) and their strange friend Karl Pilkington (who is either a comedy genius or a borderline retarded nitwit), chitchatting about monkeys, doing the dishes, life in Papua New Guinea - whatever strikes their fancy. The best part is Ricky's maniacal high-pitched cackle when he's tickled. It's brilliant.
Talking of The Office, I also love the American version, which some purists refuse to watch because they think it couldn't possibly stand up the the British version. It's definitely a different show; the whiff of despair is more evident in Wernham Hogg than Dunder Mifflin, but Steve Carell is terrific, and the spirit-crushing monotony of office life has been preserved.
Here's Ricky doing his terrifying dance for charity in one of the episodes from the second season.
Leonardo Di Caprio used to be a cute guy when he was in This Boy's Life and Growing Pains. He still looked fresh and boyish in Titanic, with his shiny hair and sweet face:
But over the years something happened to Leo. Instead of growing into a handsome young man, entering his thirties with style and the kind of hotness that comes with maturity, he got puffy and his features migrated to the center of his face, leaving a ring of unoccupied flesh at the outer edges.
He must be so sad. I wonder is that why Gisele fled.
Early Sunday morning, one of the best people I know passed away. Martha was first diagnosed with cancer in 1999. She fought it, and it appeared to be gone for a while, but just over two years ago it came back, and this time it stayed to take her at the age of 68.
Martha was like my surrogate mom when I first moved to this country in 1989. Her daughter and my good friend, Paddy, had studied in Ireland for a year, and when I got a green card I decided to come to San Francisco, where Paddy lived, because she was the only person I knew in the United States. Paddy's parents, Ed and Martha, and the rest of the family welcomed me warmly. Martha knew I was far from my own family and always invited me down to the Monterey Peninsula for Thanksgiving and Christmas the first years I was here. Paddy left for the Peace Corps and then lived in Turkey, but her sister Megan moved to San Francisco and we became friends. Through the years I saw Martha regularly. She was always delighted to see me, and she kept all the Christmas cards I sent her and Ed.
She was the heart of the family: a great storyteller, funny, kind, spiritual, deeply interested in other people and cultures. Her family was Irish and Ed and Martha always had a St. Patricks Day party that was the talk of the town.
When I met Eric, she welcomed him into the family too. She traveled to Ireland for our wedding and had such a great time that she talked about it whenever I saw her. Paddy always said she had a better time at our wedding than she did at Paddy's.
When Paddy called to tell me yesterday morning, I drove down to Monterey to say goodbye. the house was full of family. There were some tears, but laughter too, and stories told, and a sense of relief that she was out of pain. Martha was there and I kissed her cheek. That's how I want to go: surrounded by the people I love.
This is the photo in our guest book of Martha and Megan, five years ago this April. Goodbye Martha. You are an inspiration and I will miss you.
I don't understand homes with no books. They make me uneasy. It implies that the person who lives there doesn't value books, or enjoy having them around like old friends. And it deprives me of one of my favorite things to do when I'm in someone's house: peruse the bookshelf. What an intimate glimpse of someone's life!
I've always been surrounded by books, and it's hard to keep them in
check; I keep buying them, but I never want to get rid of any.
When space gets tight, I can sometimes give to Goodwill books I think I will probably never read again and that are not in danger of going out of print. I keep all my literature and poetry anthologies from college, art books, books I love so much that I read every few years, (anything by Jane Austen, Gran at Coalgate, The New Girls, Are You Somebody?), and I will generally keep books that I've bought in Ireland, because they seem extra special.
I found this adorable book when I was at one of my favorite stores, Lavish, the other day. The woman who wrote it has done a bunch of city guides. The San Francisco one just came out and it's stuffed with information about cool new and not-so-new spots to eat and shop.