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Contemporaneous notes

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Contemporaneous notes, 2001

"Low lights over the house" — a rather arty page I made in June 2001, shortly after arriving in Dublin.
_________

I've begun my new job, at Boulangerie des Gourmets. I'm going there in a few minutes, in fact. Eh. I hate work.

There, I said it.

I don't believe in baking anymore, either, and can hardly "feel" it at all.

— 12 August, 2001

_________

My employer has been miserly about advancing against my monthly pay. What a squib.

I decided to leave. Get out of Dublin. I set an alarm last Tuesday (a week ago.) Gonna go to Kilkenny.

Missed the bus. Gonna go to Galway. Went to Galway. Got a job offer.

— 28 August

_________

I'm moving to Galway tomorrow. I quit my job, left the house that my boss had me move into; and I'm relieved as hell to be out of that piece-of-shit scene. Ech.

— 4 September 2001

_________

I'm looking for work--again. Gotta find soon, but shouldn't be difficult.

I was working at a restaurant here and fell under the authority of a petty shithead. Again. This time I didn't even bother with it. I quit. Next....

— 10 September 2001 Galway

_________

Well, I gotta keep this short. I quit my job because the head chef is a wanker. What a dick. Business as usual. Demanding and thinks he's hardcore and commanding, but disorganized and a poor communicator.

Fourth morning, I started to make coffee. Brian [second chef,] who seems okay--as demanding but seems more competent--said "don't worry about the coffee, get to work." Said it was "pretty cheeky" to be making coffee first thing. I just stood there and looked at him. He mentioned I could get to work or leave. I started to go to get busy, but then realized this ain't shit. I said goodbye and left without explaining.

— 10 September 2001 Galway

_________

I am currently in Kilkenny, and--as you may have also guessed--I'm not sure what I am going to be doing. I like this town. I just went for a walk on the grounds of the Kilkenny castle. Just brilliant. A more beautiful urban park I've never seen, and the tranquility of it is soothing. It's esthetically amazing. The castle itself isn't all that much to hoot about, but--right across the street from old downtown--the grounds over which it presides is fabulous. Long, low-rolling stretch of grass, bordered by a forest of deciduous and evergreen trees of quite a variety. Awesome. I will spend more time there.

— 12 September 2001 Kilkenny

_________

This morning I awoke the phrase "cash crunch" in my head....

At Lautrec's, where I'm working now, I've met some grand folks....
...
I'm afraid of the isolationist factions in
America — the folks whose man is in the bully pulpit.

I'm worried too about the names we're hearing about again. Henry Kissinger... Newt Gingrich.... And who should appear from the near-grave but Billy Graham. Always bad to see....

16 September 2001 Kilkenny

The proximate reason I need to send a separate email about leaving Galway is that you made me remember a dream that I now absolutely must tell you about, because it's so brilliant that I'm actually proud of it.

I was working at The Malt House... a split shift, occupied ten a.m. to eleven p.m. with a three-hour gap in the middle.

That night I had a dream.

I was in a rustic pub. A man was playing guitar with a smooth flourish, singing a song: "How can a guy be yellow when he drinks like a fellow who is blue?"

Second day Brendan said "You've been here two days; you should know the menu by now."

The next day, that dream had come to mean something to me. Something about the paradoxical conflict between boredom/loneliness and fear or apprehensiveness.

I realized I'm not crazy about Galway. In fact, Galway reminds me a bit--in its "discovered" bohemianism, of Eugene and Berkeley.

I met a German girl at the hostel and we talked five or six hours. She helped me to realize I wanted to move on. I'd already been thinking of Kilkenny. So why not. Tuesday morning I went in balls-out to Malt House, got my money, hit the road.

— 16 September 2001 Kilkenny

I've been pretty irritable today, for different reasons. One of those though is that I've been worried that Americans are
going to make big asses of themselves, and--for one thing--squander the incredible international support that they have now.
...
Looking forward to getting a place to live. Another source of irritability, let me tell you; hostels keep one in human company 24/7 (as they say in America.) Don't really feel a commonality with backpackers, either--not to mention that they come and go so regularly that they begin to seem ephemeral.

Today, as most days, I went up to the Castle grounds. Beautiful place. I had a nap in the sunshine there.

— 18 September 2001 Kilkenny

I really don't have plans much ahead. I don't feel the urge to return to the states. ~Funny, remember a few months ago I was really desiring to return. This actually happens to many travelers, but usually sooner in their travel. Which might indicate that I'm a bit more of a long-termer. Who knows though, I may do a complete turnabout and want to come back soon. No plans.

— 16 September 2001 Kilkenny

Life in Kilkenny. I have a pad, living by myself at 10 Rose Inn Street. It's not luxurious, but it's good for me to have my own space. I worried about it, to be honest. Last time I lived alone was in Eugene Oregon in 1994, and it just about blew my mind out. I was still trying to find some acid-based view of my lonely world, and suffered some difficulties in that pursuit.
...
But I've come a ways since then. I think I really needed to get out of my own little west-coast culture. And here I am, indeed, far away from it.
...
Lately I've been trying to concern myself with writing. It's hard to keep a sense of the meaningfulness of it, though, when my long habit is to leave all my work in my scrappy little notebooks.... How to get from here to there?

— 26 September 2001 Kilkenny

I'm in Kilkenny, still. Who knows, I might stay here for a bit. I have a place to live now, a flat where I live alone. This is a nice thing for me. I was a bit worried, to be honest; the last time I lived alone, in Eugene in the mid-90's, was a terribly lonely time. Now, I'm really taking comfort from the fact that I can have some refuge. Been living with people since in Europe—occasionally in hostels, which presents a 24-hour contact factor. It's nice to be able to get up and fix a snack without having to explain shit. That's a simple thing, but it's important.

I've been terribly insomniac lately. That's about my only problem. I've been working until fairly late, and the adrenaline doesn't go away easily.
...
There's a cute girl who works here at my internet cafe. We talked about going out for a pint with some of her friends on Thursday, my day off. I hope that happens. She's a real doll.
...
Something I think you'd like about Ireland—been meaning to tell you of them—are the
bettors. They're an important part of any town or—it seems—neighborhood.

— 3 October, 2001 Kilkenny

C_,

Anyhow. Well, the whole fucking thing with the chick turned out to be futz and fizzle. I tell you, my confidant, I'm truly becoming misogynistic. I never wanted to feel this way, but my heart and head are full of resentment and frustration. This little woman she has a boyfriend. He was there that night, and they sat there holding hands and being sweet. The other woman (I don't want to use names because, you know, the little twit works here and names can stand out visually) talked my ear off. She's cute too but...damn.

So I'm just pissed and disgruntled and utterly disatisfied. Still.

Interesting you used the term "prey" on women in your email. I had a dream last night and when I wrote about it today I used that word to describe what I was doing. Nothing happened—even in my dream!—but there was that feeling, of skulking around looking for cuteass women, with the idea of taking advantage of them somehow. So I don't know. I don't know what the answer is. More honesty? Less? I don't know. I don't know.

This little twit is now here in the corner of the shop with her guy. Oh well. Consign to irrelevance. Get on with it. I have to use the internet; what's more important?

Eh. I got to go to work. Time just flew; I was simultaneously working on a web page.

— 7 October 2001 Kilkenny

J_,

It sounds like you're taking it pretty hard, this "post-September 11" time. I agree, the world seems a bit shitty now. I don't know though. I don't find myself getting too depressed about it.

I think it would be a bad time for me to be in America right now, and I think I would probably find myself aggitated and conflicted more than I am now. Now, the killing by Americans begins and I have no faith that U.S. forces are going to make any effort to spare civilians. Well, maybe I'm being to skeptical, but I don't think so.

But (and this is a big but) I feel somewhat philosophical about the whole thing. That is, I feel upset, and ready to get more upset. But maybe that's okay for me personally. And yes, I'm thinking selfishly. I think of the World as an intricately and seriously fucked-up place, and that's not something for me to get upset about. That's not something I can change, and it's not my fault. I would like to change the place... but that's another story. Personally, I'm doing okay. And it doesn't pay to think too much more about that.

Hell, I'm honestly more concerned with the fact that I'm so fucking celibate and pretty women seem to be spoiled idiot brats everywhere I go. That affects me. I get upset about that.

(My new friend Molly, whom I was glad to find was gay because then I wouldn't have to revise my opinion that it was completely obvious, has been a good listener for me. We both like to talk about women, of course.)

The cute girl who works here at my internet shop asked me to have a drink with her and her friends. Now, I want to get to know people, fine. But naturally I start to think something's up like maybe she "likes me." Again, I find that it seems like the only women who are interested in me have boyfriends. He was there, and they were all over each other petting and holding hands. Very sweet.

— 9 October 2001, Kilkenny

J_,

Just now I came back from a brilliant hike. I found a trail that goes South, along the East bank of the River Nore. Took some photos, naturally. Wow. And it's one of those days that's just as good as it gets anywhere; perfect temperature, sun shining blue skies (and the air here is more pure than anyplace I've lived since Redmond.)

Saw and photographed some awesome stone ruins. The old buildings are great here; thick walls built of nonuniformly-shaped stone.

I hiked out past the concrete path, and through a field; under the modern high bridge, and through some rougher, lush riverside forest. I had an odd sensation. "There are no snakes in Ireland," I told myself aloud, stepping into the grassy/dryish swamp areas. And it kept occuring to me. It's a strange feeling, hard to describe. You always know snakes are about, right? You always remain prepared to have the mess scared out of you by some goddam slithering bastard. But here, no. Saint Patrick kicked them out, you know.

— 11 October 2001, Kilkenny

J_,

It's true that Tony Blair looks like Martin Short. This is a crippling disability, because Martin Short is the least funny of any so-called comedian.

Anyhow I'm not sure what Mr. Blair has had to do with the disarming of the IRA; certainly he's involved. You see, in the North, that's still Britain. My friend Graeme, in Dublin, is from Northern Ireland. He considers himself British.

It's an old, complicated mess, one that intrigues me greatly. By the way, here in the South, the Republic of Ireland, it's been largely peaceful for the last 80 years, since its War of Independence in 1919-22. (Try that on for size—not very long ago, was it? The Irish have suffered from the fact that unlike America, they're too bloody close to England.)

The act of decommissioning that took place the other day is indeed momentous. It's actually rather exciting to be here while this is happening. I don't get the sense that the average person on the street comprehends the import of it. But it's definitely important.

Yesterday the British government in the North began taking down four guard towers. There are many more, mind you—but this is all a good thing. A good start.

In the most simplistic terms, it makes sense to me that the island would be a nation—that the British would get out, renounce the land, let it be Irish. Certainly there would be sympathy for that here in Kilkenny, a very Irish town. In the tangled reality of it, however, it's going to be more complicated than that.

There is, now, talk of "peace in our time." This is a wonderful thing.

You know, some of this has a relationship to the disaster in NYC. This, and the fact that three men associated with the IRA were implicated in a mixup with FARC, a narcoterrorist group in Colombia, has eroded the international sympathy for the IRA (the IRA being, at least in part, a terroristic organization.) More significantly, possibly, the vital link to Irish-American financial support has diminished as a function of these two events.

But for whatever reason—and however cynical the matter is read—the result is good. The fact that there is hope for peace in Northern Ireland is a big thing.

— 25 October 2001, Kilkenny

Yesterday in the International Herald Tribune, I read that ETA, the Basque separatist group, has made an offer of peace to the Spanish government. (They asked for independence in return, which was always their goal; but they're trying to talk new talks.)

The ETA claimed 11 attacks since June 25. this is consistent with my impression while I was there, that they were killing about once a week. These people are vicious and clinical, usually car-bombing, and killing in some cases without much tactical sense. (Once, it was a well-liked cook at a restaurant where somebody ETA didn't like used to eat.)

Bad motherfuckers. I think it interesting that to at least an extent they are being flushed out. There have indeed been some recent arrests of some of their operatives.

— 30 October 2001, Kilkenny

Didn't remember Dad taking the cut of the treats on Halloween. That's too funny. I do remember by the way that I did like popcorn balls. Naturally you'd always got to worry they'd put a razor-blade or a pin in there—natural urban legend concern.
...
Me, I worked last night, then walked all of 100 yards to Syd's Pub, which is across the street from my flat. Went by taxi from there with M_ and M_, for a bit of a smoke; we chatted and watched Something About Mary. Pretty safe time overall. Damn cold night. Cold day.

I think I'll stick out the winter here in Kilkenny. I've met some friends here, and they are among a circle of friends. I am in what you might call a sort of a community, and I don't think I ought to rush away from this. I've been doing a lot of writing, which to me is a bit of an indicator activity.

I've been eating well and drinking moderately. (Feckin' pubs here close at 11:30 weekdays, 12:30 weeknights and I work right just about up to the bell, so I can't say the degree of my moderation is always voluntary.) Been smoking a bit of hashish, but nothing that would worry the doctor.

— 1 November 2001, Kilkenny

I woke early this morning. Showered, breakfasted, made a cup of tea. I sat by the window over Rose Inn Street, where I've moved the table, and did some writing. After writing for a while, I lay down for a bit, and had a brilliant nap. Classical music, sunshine through the window—very nice.

— 2 November 2001, Kilkenny

J_,

Shot some pool last night. It's taking time to get my game. One factor (not just a poor excuse) is that the tables and balls here are about 3/4 the size of American. Believe me, this makes a difference. It's quite hard to read the geometry on those puny fuckin little balls. We've got different rules over here too--though these do not hinder my game, which is all about not being able to sink the damn ball. One rule I like very much is that when you "foul," the other player gets two shots. This alters the strategy of a game very much--gives it an element of strategy, in fact, that American pool does not have. It certainly lends utility to the practice of dirty pool. (They don't call it that here; it's "snookering," and a perfectly reasonable way to play strategically.) If you can snooker the [other player]--in other words hide the cue behind one of yours, preventing said opponent from hitting [one of his own,] that will be a foul; you get a couple of shots & a chance to bring the game around.

— 12 November 2001, Kilkenny

J_,

I'm enjoying Kilkenny very much. I've really been appreciating the people I've met here, and am very pleased that I get to see them frequently. Indeed, I'm having to revise my feelings of loneliness in a way, and try to keep my wits about me when I am in fact alone. It's a sort of a growing, improving feeling that I need not worry or fret so much, because I will soon be able to be with friends. Only a matter of a day or two, and it will happen as a natural course of events. It's a good group of people--misfits every one, and real sweethearts.

— 20 November 2001, Kilkenny

C_,

...Bastard hound got barking and he wouldn't stop. I started telling him to fuck off. The owner, a woman about two hundred yards back toward the centrum, started calling him "come hee-yeer," all chirpy sweetlike the way women can never get male dogs to obey....

— 24 November 2001, Kilkenny

J_,

My job is not panning out real well so far. The head chef, an English guy named Simon, obvously fudged his way into the position. My bud Justin is practically running the place, and Simon is just too damned slack to pull it together. Or, as Justin said, "He couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery."

— 18 December 2001, Kilkenny

C_,

I'm flat busted broke. The restaurant that hired me away from my other crap job is just not even hobbling on its best gimp leg. Head chef Simon is a beanball gobshite. Idiot. I've no confidence in him, which gives me a conflict; I'm so prepared to slag on him when he's not around--but I'm not in a position to tell him how I really feel.

Anyhow I had better go; I've not been in contact with anyone since Ireland shut down for Christmas. (Well, the pubs and bookies opened up again the day after Christmas--life must go on, right?)

— 29 December 2001, Kilkenny

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