Saturday, December 27, 2008

falling in the gene pool...

I know I say this every time I travel, other than that time I almost died from food poisoning in darkest China, but I'm definitely moving to Ireland. I've always been partial to winter and wonderfully, it's winter here year round. Maybe it's the scarves. Tuesday morning, we left Dublin on the train bound for Cork. Much like winter, I'm also partial to trains. I've been raised to appreciate them, risking a disinheritance should I refuse to share in my father's greatest passion. Those of you that know "train people" will know what I'm talking about. Train people collect time tables and ticket stubs, train buttons and train stickers. Train people take trains places not to get to the destination, but to try out a train they'd yet to experience. Train people can find each other at parties, much like I imagine NAMBLA members find each other, hinting at their forbidden love to those they suspect as kin. My father is a train person. Which is how I ended up on a train to Cork.
Irish trains are far more sophisticated than our ghetto Amtrak. Our names appeared on little screens above our seats and a woman comes down the aisles selling food and tea, just like in Harry Potter! My brother and I played cards and traded iPods for most of the three hour ride, in between our "testing out" the confusing round bathroom and snagging salt and vinegar "crisps" from the food car, which much to my simultaneous delight and sadness, had a bar.Once we arrived in Cork, Dad and Alex went off to pick up our rental cars, gone for a solid 90 minutes while mom, my Uncle Bill and I loafed around the Cork train station. I can report they're very big on egg salad sandwiches here, available in the bottled water section of all convenience stores. I can also report that the public restrooms are highly acceptable, several school children threw a chocolate Rolo candy at me and my mother, now that I'm not drinking, couldn't give less of a shit that I smoke in front of her. I feel quite brazen lighting up on the sidewalk or sneaking out before dinner, but she can sit there with her Chardonnay and I can't, so she's treating us as even I guess.
I'd rather have the Chardonnay.
Dad and Alex finally returned, Alex pulling up in "our car," a very Euro black VW golf. The grown-ups got a Ford Escort, I think. After lots and lots of discussion over maps and agreement that "this is NOT A RACE" we were off. Alex and I know our parents and we were certain they'd spend the two hour drive to the house in tense silence, my mother constantly gasping and my father nervously forgetting on which side of the road to drive. Alex and I, on the other hand, calmly navigated ourselves through the Irish countryside and succeeded in not only winning the
 forbidden race, but getting along famously the whole way. When mom, dad and Bill arrived, it was clear the same could not be said for them.
The reason we're here, literally out in the middle of nowhere, is because our family friends, John and Betsey bought a farm house and restored it so the outside looks like it should be in a period film and the inside looks like a cross between the Restoration Hardware and Sundance catalogs. There's actually coal and peat in the fireplaces, muddy Wellington boots left in the foyer and those curtains that are too longs and bunch flawlessly on the floor. We're in a village called Ahakista (I think) and the closest metropolis is Bantry, approximately the size of Mill Valley as far as I'm concerned.
After unpacking and naps, dad and Alex made dinner followed by heated games of the Christmas tradition, Pit. Alex and I share a room upstairs which is fine with me. We travel very well together and while we can't go 24 hours without annonying each other in some form or another, we drive each other the least nuts of everyone else. Neither Alex nor I have really adapted to the 8 hour time change, and at 3:30am I woke up to read downstairs. Alex joined me an hour later.
We headed into Bantry on Christmas Eve Day where we'd made a pact to buy all of our Christmas gifts, instead of carting them across the Atlantic. Bantry is very cute and was packed with people doing last minute shopping. Alex and I wandered around, spotting my father hustling down the sidewalk with a huge (dead) turkey in his arms. We had chicken curry pies in the street and picked out presents, answering the same questions in every store. "Yep, we're from America. Nope, we don't have family in Ireland." It seemed like they really wanted us to still have family here, like the potato famine wasn't really that bad and our great-grandparents were making a big deal out of nothing.
Ahakista's Christmas tradition involves everyone jumping in the bay after Christmas mass. Thus, Alex, Daddy and Bill found themselves in swim trunks, shivering in the fog down by the pier with about 50 townspeople, passing out whiskey and towels. I have no problem identifying myself as a huge wimp, much less as one unwilling to wander around a strange town in my swimsuit diving in the freezing Atlantic when I won't even get a shot of booze afterwards. The boys literally jumped in, screaming in the frigid water and leaping out just as fast as they leapt in. 
You can see my videos of this freakshow HERE and HERE and HERE.
Anyway, Christmas was lovely and the next morning, Alex was off to join his friends a day early in Cork. If you'll recall "The Lads", my brother lived with three Irish fellas in college who spent a Thanksgiving with us. Alex is hell bent on getting in his Lads time and I can hardly blame him. 
Stuck with the grown-ups, the folks, Uncle Bill and I spent a day doing nothing. I chose to sleep in while the family decided to go on a "walk" with a bunch of people from town. I guess they read about this in the church newsletter and wanted to mingle with the locals. After I woke up, I threw on a sweater and a pair of John's Wellies and started to wander the countryside. I was relatively fine, hiking up hills and making videos in case I got lost. I occasionally wondered what the folks and Bill were up to, but mostly I was worried about Alex, navigating the roads by himself. 
You can see my little hike messages (mostly for Mel's benefit) HERE and HERE.
When I finally made it back to the house, no one was home. 
Hmmm, that's weird. I hope no one's dead. 
Finally, Rob and Alex called to announce that they were together, safe and sound. I relaxed, made some tea and a fire and read my book. Just before dark, which is around 4:30 here, the folks pulled up and mom slowly came to the door, motioning for me to come outside. 
There my Uncle Bill was gingerly helping my father out of the car. It seems my family, now known in Ahakista as "the Americans who fell" had a bit of a rough time on their trek. 
Apparently, they had a choice between an easy walk to the water and a more challenging hike up a mountain. In an attempt to represent the USA, they went hardcore and paid the painful price. It's 24 hours later and I'm still hearing about this "horrendous trek" over "rough terrain!" 
"Beth, there's no way you would have done this."
"You would have turned back."
"It was the worst four hours of my life."
My father is so injured, or at least claims to be, he actually found a cane. When I offered that he looks like an idiot limping around with a cane that's too short for him, I was informed, "It's either this or an umbrella."
"Dear God. Do you need to see a doctor?" I passive-aggressively asked, hoping to put his slip down a hill into perspective. 
"Well, it's Saturday. If I'm still in this much pain on Monday, we'll have to go to the hospital."
I love my father a great deal, but "we" will not be going to hospital. As I pointed out to my mother, this is what they mean by 'in sickness and in health.'
On and on, they told of their story. They're still talking about it right now. I can't help rolling my eyes, as the miles involved and pinnacles reached grow greater with each retelling. 
One day, they're going to meet one of the 18 people who escaped from the top floors of the World Trade Center before it collapsed and they'll say, "You think that's a story? Let me tell you about this walk I went on in Ireland."
May I present my father's extremely shortened version of the events:

He survived the night, thank God and we've made it to Cork, meeting up with Alex at our hotel before a big party at Rob's folks' house tonight. I predict the walk talk will be repeated at length this evening, the poor O'Halloran's and McCarthy's politely listening to my family as my father balances on his purloined cane. It's not so much being in Ireland that makes me desperate for a drink. It's my mother screaming for directions in the driver's seat as my father balances a cane on his lap while giving her incorrect guidance...


Anonymous said...

Love it!
I live vicariously through your adventures.

Becky said...

Awesome Christmas!!

Sweet Melissa said...

Thank you so much for the videos! Remember that your billionaire has to build you a tunnel to my house (which will obviously be next door). And also: you look amazing!

Stephanie said...

Well at least your dad will have plenty of stories to swap at Sacramento Seminar. So will my dad with his tales of Houston. All we daughters get to do is stand by and shake our heads.

Brian Lawrence said...

I've never understood the whole potato famine thing. I like them, but I wouldn't starve if they were eliminated from my diet. Especially if I lived on an island....which are usually surrounded by bodies of water containing fish.