When we were in Ireland, Eric and I kidnapped Jordan and Aaron for a day and took them to Johnstown Castle and Kilmore Quay. We had the best time, and they were good sports indulging my auntie kisses. I love those funny, sweet boys!
My first job in San Francisco was as an Irish Geisha girl. I answered an ad in the paper for "hostesses" at a karaoke bar in the Tenderloin called Ichirin, which was down an alley near Mason and O'Farrell. (If you're not familiar with SF, that's almost as gritty as it gets.) It's half a block from the Pine Crest Diner, where the cook murdered the waitress in 1997, and where the Zodiac killer got into the cab of one of his victims in 1969.
Ichirin was ruled by Mama-san, a tiny vicious woman who wore a Kimono and berated us if we weren't dressed nicely enough, or if we didn't fawn over the customers to her satisfaction.
There were several Irish Geishas working at Ichirin. It was during a time where immigration from Ireland was increasing (thanks to the Donnelly Visa, which was the reason I came to the US). The turnover was huge and they were always looking for people, and it paid $8 an hour, which was pretty good in 1989.
Our responsibilities were:
Sit with the customers (Japanese businessmen) at their tables and pour drinks for them. Every one of them drank Chivas Regal scotch, and had their own numbered bottles kept at the bar that they drank from every time they came in.
Light their cigarettes.
Encourage them to sing (at $5 a song).
Clap after they sang
Be as social and charming as we could be with the language barrier.
Often the only thing to do when making conversation with a man who didn't speak much English was ask him to teach me some Japanese. I can still say several sentences with a passable accent.
My shift was from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am. Some girls stayed until 2:00 am, and I suspect that they went above and beyond their official duties, if you get my drift.
I used clock out at 1:00 and walk up to the the bus stop for the night bus home. I was freshly off the boat, and quite sheltered I suppose. I guess Dublin had its share of prostitutes, but I am quite sure there were no tranny hookers in Dublin at the time I lived there (I could be wrong). So I was baffled by the impossibly tall women with large feet I saw traipsing around, and the cars driving by slowly with the driver looking at me expectantly. Once or twice, a car would stop by the bus stop and lower the window. This is how naive I was: my first thought was, "oh, he must be lost and need directions." After a couple of those incidences, I wised up and avoided catching the eye of drivers.
I worked there for eight or nine months. I look back on those days and I am amazed I put up with that job and didn't find it weirder at the time. I didn't like it, but I thought it was an easy enough way to make money. I don't know. I was 23!
No I didn't wear a Kimono. Eric's friend John Walson took this photo of me in Japantown - years after my stint as an Irish Geisha.
Icirin is long gone. It's not another restaurant. It's just boarded up and abandoned.
I once worked with a guy named Rick who was laughing so hard when I told him these stories, he had to lie down on the floor of his office.
When I was about 5 or 6, I woke up having had a little wet-the-bed accident. I was embarassed and tried to make my bed to hide the evidence. But I didn't do a good job, so later my mom was remaking my bed, and she says, "Anne...did you have an accident last night?" I shouted , "no!" and ran out of the room and out of the house.
I clearly remember wandering around the garden feeling sad, picking little leaves off a shrub and thinking, "this is the worst day of my life."
When I was 11 or so, the family took a trip to Kerry, where my dad grew up, to visit aunts and uncles and cousins. One day, my mom took all the kids to visit my dad's stepmother out in the country.
We all piled out of the car and into her little cottage where she was waiting to greet us. She said with a big smile, "ah, here's Liz and John and Michael. Where's Anne, and who's this little boy?"
Again when I was at the awkward, freckly, lanky age of 11 or 12, and my sister was 9, she wanted to take a gymnastics class up at the community center near our house.
My dad bribed me (with swimming pool money) to take the class with Liz. It was full of girls like her - little, blonde, cute. I was a head taller than everone else, with brown short hair that my mother still cut, and I was not cut out for gymnastics.
The only part I really remember (and you will see why soon) is when we had to run around in a circle and jump over a pommel horse. All the blondies were sailing over the jump, but I couldn't do it - so I would just run around it. I was feeling very self conscious. The big room had several mothers standing around watching their little darlings, and as I lumbered past, I heard one of them say to her friend, "that boy's a bit big to be in here, isn't he?"
Here is a pic from the mid '50s. To the far left is my grandfather; the two in the middle are a couple of relatives helping out with whatever the work was that day (It looks like they just packed in a load of turf for the winter, but my dad says the hammer and bucket makes him think they were building something.) On the far right is my dad in his early twenties. He's a farm boy but he has an air of the school teacher he's in the process of becoming, I think.
Weather is still warm and sunny here in Ireland. This is my second week here, and it's going to be a busy week. Tomorrow is Leigh's birthday dinner. Wednesday is Aaron's confirmation and celebration barbeque, and on Thursday my mom turns 70. We are having a lovely dinner out that night; just the grownups, which will make the evening uncommonly civilized. Lovely!
Barbara, one of my oldest friends (from high school and college), happened to be in Wexford a few days ago and we got together for a few drinks, just as we used to do 20 years ago, God!
It was great to catch up and fill in the gaps and talk and talk. We put away only three drinks, which is a lot tamer than when we were in art college in Waterford. Back then we would get a good base of drinking going at the flat with the rottenest 99 pence cider you ever tasted. Vervier, it was called. Then the pub, and then the Bridge Hotel for dancing and snogging and drinking, and chips on the way home. Ah youth.
In those days, Barbara's mother knitted her a huge jumper (sweater) every week or so. Big long colorful concoctions which were perfect for art college in 1984. We all loved them and begged for them, and pretty soon Angela was outfitting the whole art department in vibrant wool.
Barb just found this drawing I did of her back then. Short blonde hair, black and white glasses, huge earrings and a giant jumper; this was classic Barb in 1984. I love this!
I am in Wexford, and the weather is glorious! It's always a gamble with the weather here; that's why Irish people don't camp. It's great to be here. Everyone is doing well and I've already had my first two pints of Guinness with my dad and his storytelling friend Philip in their local.
I've also walked along Wexford's Main Street a few times, scanning the crowd to see if I recognize anyone, but no one yet. Wexford is quite young; it seems to be populated by people who were just toddlers when I left.
Wexford is a very pretty town, and ancient: about 1000 years old. It is changing of course, but I don't get as nostalgic about the old Wexford as I used to. Towns have to evolve. I just wish the new Theatre Royal they're building here wasn't so hideous.
Here is my lovely home town:
And back in California, here is a nice shot of Eric and Dad in Mendocino last year:
Here is a new diptych I just finished. I like the colored faceted shapes I've been working on, although they are a little derivative. But that's what art is about - taking what's in the zeitgeist and making it your own, right?
I am off to Ireland tomorrow and I can't wait. My mom turns 70 on May 15th, and there is going to be a barbeque at my sister's house, and a wonderful dinner out at one of Wexford's loveliest restaurants. My niece Leigh also turns 20 when I am there, and my nephew Aaron is making his confirmation, so it will be a busy vacation.
Hopefully I will have time to see Barbara, Julie, and a couple of other friends, but often the days slip by when I'm home and suddenly I'm on the plane coming back to SF thinking of all the people I should have seen.
Here is my sister Liz and her family a few years ago. That baby in her arms is now two years old and wreaking havoc.
Back row: Dave, Leigh, Liz, and Nathan. Front row: Lauryn, Jordan, and Aaron.
I've been bad about updating, and I don't even have a reason. Just lazy I think.
I brought back a bunch of old photos from Wexford to scan. It's amazing going through them. Most of the old ones are of my mom's family. My dad grew up on a farm in Dingle, County Kerry. There are some photos of his family, but not as many. They were too busy milking cows and threshing hay.
This is a stylish shot of my mom (on the far right) with some friends. I believe she was on the town in Cork, going to a movie or a dance. She's easily the prettiest of the three I think.
This is a school picture taken about 1974. A photographer came to the school to take pictures of all the kids. My dad was the school principal, so he had the opportunity to take a shot with his kids. I am on the left, sporting some crazy lapels. John is on dad's lap, and the blonde cutie with even scarier lapels is Liz.
I don't know which of my parents christened us with nicknames, but we all had them. I was called Annabelle or Nancy; John was always Johnny Jumps; Liz was Blondie Button;and Michael was Mickey Jo.