Time for my first letter from the Emerald Isle on the night I heard about the death of Joan Rivers. She was one of my heroes (or sheroes as Maya Angelou used that term so eloquently) for her wicked wit, but above all for being a funny woman in a male-dominated industry. My admiration for her grew after I saw the documentary that was made about her a few years ago. Find it on Netflix and laugh as laughter is the ultimate survival tool and medicine… I was reminded of that again when I landed here on Wednesday after very little sleep on the flight. I took a shower and went straight to the office and found myself knee-deep in corporate chaos of starting a new job in a new role that the company has just created. That’s all I will say for now as I have just sworn to HR not to share anything online or in social media.
Besides spending time in the office and having to use a PC again (fill in the blanks), I was struggling today as I went to 2 banks where, in spite of an Amazon letter verifying my employment and dual passports, they did not want my business because I don’t have a local address and accompanying utility bill, and, walking off my frustration to the social security office where I have to apply for a PPS number, I found the office closed, even though the website said they were open all day. So there I needed to remind myself to laugh- so what was there to laugh about? Yes, the fact that they asked me if I wanted a “currant account” (probably courant but it sounded like an account with currants)- I may speak English but the locals produce some very funny sounds… which makes me feel facking retarded when I have to ask them to repeat the question…
First impression of Cork: it is the second largest city in Ireland but in population it’s comparable to that of Concord, CA. Yes, honestly. Have I told you how empty this country feels? The countryside probably wouldn’t look this pristine if so many people hadn’t died (and left) during the Potato Famine but there’s something eerie about it. Riding on a bus to Kinsale on the coast tonight, I couldn’t help but feel that the rolling green hills were haunted by some bad karma of all those who perished (and left). Because of it, Ireland really does seem to have skipped the industrial revolution altogether and went straight from farms to wifi (the digital age; wifi on every bus, better than what we have in the Bay Area, unless you’re resting your lazy behind on a Google bus).
Can you tell I am avoiding Cork? A river runs through it (no, that was a movie) which gives it in places a Dutch feel (houses on canals) but the old buildings are surrounded by some ugly, insipid postwar architecture. I was blessed with a sunny day but walking all over town, I asked myself do I really want to live here? Or maybe my impressions were colored by those bastard banks who wouldn’t take my money.
Also, contrary to popular belief, not all the Irish like Americans (and why should they?). On the bus, a college student complained about his many American fellow students and went on such a rant, mimicking an American accent (which was half-baked) with so much disgust and fervor that I was ready to turn around and hit him with my umbrella. I have my own love-hate relationship with America and its crazy politics but I love Americans as a people, because they, like no other facking people, have and had the sense of optimism to think they could beat evil, like Hitler, in WWII and for that they sacrificed countless American young men in a war that wasn’t even waged on their soil. There is no way that the Europeans would do something similar for the US, in the unlikely event of America getting occupied by the Canadians or the Mexicans. Take that you little prejudiced Irish prick. Maybe this is why you’re going to Cork and not Trinity. So Cork is out.
Kinsale, on the other hand, is a different story. At the most southern tip of the Irish coast, it was where the Lusitania was sunk (not that that will sell real estate) but it was also the place where the Irish forces and their Spanish allies (strange mix, huh?) were defeated in the Battle of Kinsale which meant the end of the old Gaelic order. It has one of Ireland’s most scenic harbors, is a culinary capital and it has an old star-shaped fort (built in the 1670s) which was taken by William of Orange in 1690. William of Orange is a total badass in these regions because of the Battle of the Boyne and the provocative Orangists in Belfast, but for me this was a confirmation that I might want to put down some roots here.
– I love all the names of pubs, like The Babbling Brook which shows the lyrical/literary talent of the Irish, I guess
– Eastern Europeans are the new migrant workers of Europe. Growing up in Holland, the migrant workers were mostly Turks and later, Moroccans, but now there are Poles, Russians, Rumanians etc everywhere, and also in Ireland. In fact, I may have talked to more Eastern Europeans than I have interacted with Irish people so far
– I miss Will, Jon, Caroline… and the dogs. Plus I am beginning to relate to what Jon has done all those years: traveling and living in a landscape of hotel rooms and corporate offices. For convenience’s sake I am staying at a hotel near the airport, near the Amazon office and I asked for a quiet room as I imagined planes flying over head as if I were at LAX. Duh… it’s so quiet here, that you could kill someone with a loud shotgun and no one would even call the police
– vitamin B rocks. If you take extra, when you travel across time zones, jet lag doesn’t exist (except maybe for that first day when I dragged myself to the office)
– redheads; honestly, everywhere… and I love it
– people in Europe read more by judging the number of literary magazines at an average store at London Heathrow. If you’re a fan of Philip Larkin (which I am), there is a new biography (Philip Larkin: Art and Love) out on him. The review mentioned him saying that “deep down” he thought foreign languages were “irrelevant” which, sadly, shows the monolingualism of the Brits, and how that view really doesn’t hold true anymore. I wouldn’t be sitting here in Cork if Dutch really (as the Dutch feel; read my swan song of teaching Dutch at UC Berkeley: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9p94z9pf) were so irrelevant.