Wednesday, May 31, 2006

this is my last blog post from europe

I'm flying back home tomorrow morning.

And yeah, I'm having a hard time keeping "Leaving on a Jet Plane" out of my head.

Been in Paris the last few days, just hanging out, saying goodbye to all my old haunts; bought my last few books and magazines from Violette. Said farewell to the permanently sleeping cats in the corners of Shakespeare and Co. Might go up the Eiffel Tower, because I've never actually done that.

But I'm in a very bizarre emotional state. Like limbo. I'm still suffocating under this head cold and been dealing with a sinus headache for almost a week now. I'm tired of being cold, and wet, and hungry. The weather's awful. I'm having problems with my credit card again. And I'm scared to go home. When I came to Europe I knew what I was leaving, what I was trying to escape. But what am I going home to?

Paris has been so good to me. So much has happened here that I didn't mention on my blog, for various reasons. But it's been amazing. I find myself in 3W, or Bliss, or Violette bookstore, just breathing it in, as if the air in that dyke space were like nicotine and if I just inhaled enough it would permanently infiltrate my lungs.

But I can't wait for a sweltering Midwestern summer. I feel like it's been winter for a whole year. I want familiar comfort food; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Root beer floats!

Ironically, as soon as I get home we're going to drive 6 hours to visit my sister in Ohio. And I'm hoping to visit California with my dear friend RC at the end of June. So I'm not putting the suitcase away just yet.

I'm feeling very forlorn. Going to sit somewhere and read.

I'll be back when I'm back.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

yesterday sucked.

I'm in Mitte, a neighborhood in what used to be East Berlin, in a hostel entirely themed around Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Trilogy. I shit you not. It's called The Heart of Gold Hostel and it has quotes as part of the decor ("Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it." "On no account allow a Vogon to read you poetry"). As far as hostel standards, it's pretty damn nice, and decently priced. Lots of brushed stainless steel. The doors and lifts, unfortunately, do not burble happily when you enter and exit. Nor can I find any depressed robots. But I got to do my laundry, which at this point in my life is quite a luxury (WOW! Y'all have a warshing machine! Well la di da!)

I know I've said this before, but I'm tired. Emotionally, as well as physically, for one or two reasons I can't mention here. Part of me is genuinely thrilled to be in Berlin, but it's pretty much buried under the part of me that wants to curl up in bed and weather this head cold with a cup of tea and a copy of Christopher Isherwood. I read The Berlin Stories when I was 15, far too young for it but fascinated; I remember sitting in the sun on the grass of my convent school, reading about homosexuals and cabaret singers in 30s Berlin while the girls in the choir sang madrigals. Wish I had a copy with me now.

So suffice to say, I won't be hitting any dyke bars here. I've got the will, but no energy. I'm probably going to leave on Saturday; it's a hell of a trek to get back to Verdun and my luggage, and I need time to say goodbye to Paris. It's a shame, because my grandparents lived in West Berlin in the 80s and I was looking forward to exploring a city they love so much.

Well, off to buy a train ticket and see what I can of the town.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

in which I get all serious before setting off for Berlin

Last night was so incredible I don't even know where to start.
The weather was nice, for a change, which meant I got to see the evening sun shining off the plastered, timbered walls of the Globe as I crossed the Millenium Bridge. I sat on the sidewalk at 6:30, eagerly waiting for the gates to open in a half an hour, wondering why there wasn't a crowd of fellow groundlings gathering to get a good spot. I mean, who doesn't want to spend their Tuesday night standing for several hours to witness murder, mayhem and a little cannibalism? But finally the gates do open, and I get my program, with its handy synopsis and historical background. I chat with the vendor; he advises standing about a row or two back from the stage, so you can see the peripheral action, and also because sometimes the actors like to involve the audience.
Standing in line waiting for the theater doors to open (I'm second place) starts to rain. Luckily I am prepared with my Official Globe Theatre Rain Mac, complete with Falstaff quotation on the back ("Let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves..." from The Merry Wives of Windsor). I took a tour of the Globe that morning and went a little crazy in the gift shop. The tour was fantastic; did you know it's the first thatched building built in London since the Great Fire? How cool is that?
The interior of the Globe is magnificent. The stage is swathed entirely in black cloth, except the roof, which is painted with the sun and the signs of the zodiac. There are two tall censers standing onstage, burning the same incense they use at a Catholic mass. I haven't smelled that for ages. How strange to encounter it here. There's a smoke machine underneath the stage that spews out a wet fog intermittently, which combined with the fading sun and incense creates a wonderfully eerie atmosphere.
I'm right in front, dead center, second row (insofar as there are rows in a crowd of people). The Globe is decieving; it's a lot bigger than it looks. The Yard can hold 700 people, but there are only 300 of us groundlings tonight. The theater slowly starts to fill up and it's amazing to see, from the Yard, surrounded by eager spectators like me.
And it's a hell of a spectacle. This cast is making full use of theater in the round; the actors come running from all directions--it opens with Titus returning triumphantly to Rome on litter carried by Goth prisoners, parading around the Yard on their way to the stage. There are two wheeled platforms that are used frequently, actors standing on top declaiming while the bit players push them around, literally shoving the groundlings out of the way. I don't know how they manage it with a full house. More than a few scenes happen right in front of my face in the Yard--the hunting scene, the discovery of Bassianus' body--I could practically smell the actors' sweat.
I'd never seen or read Titus Andronicus before last night. I make it a policy not to read Shakespeare until I've seen him performed--it's a play, after all, and it makes it easier to understand. Get the plot and the action first, go back to the script to savor the poetry later. I knew Titus was bloody--I think everybody knows about the Pie Eating Scene--but I wasn't prepared for just how gruesome it is. There's a scene where three characters disguise themselves as Rape, Murder, and Revenge, and I think Shakespeare wanted to see just how much of that he could fit into one play. It reaches almost ludicrous levels of violence, to the point that it's comic--the whole audience was laughing, half in shock, half in nervousness, throughout the whole performance. Shakespeare takes patriarchal Roman warrior culture to its logical conclusions in this play, with the result that nearly everybody is dead by the end. It's almost like absurdist theater, there's nothing you can do but laugh at their, well, bloodymindedness. Because it's all pointless, ultimately. Nothing changes, no one's redeemed, by the end; Rome is in the same state is was at the beginning, about to be overrun by the Goths. The only element that really horrified the audience, into dumbstruck silence, was Lavinia. When Lavinia appeared, raped and mutilated, her hands cut off and her tongue ripped out, drooling blood, you could hear a pin drop. She just mesmerizes the audience with her agony. I couldn't tear my eyes away from her, though I really, really wanted to. When ever she was onstage she was like a dead weight, compared with the frenzied action around her. When Titus kills her it's a shock but almost a relief, too, like a mercy-killing.
I think the moral of this story is a pretty simple one: Killing People is a Bad Thing. I don't know what Shakespeare's "intent" was, but it seems to me like a brutally clear example of the inherent self-destruction and nihilism of militaristic culture, the violence of patriarchal structures. And people wonder why I'm a pacifist.
Damn but it was a great show. Next time, though, I think I'll catch Twelfth Night or Much Ado.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

bragging rights

(because I can!)

guess who plunked down a measly fiver to be a groundling at tonight's performance of Titus Andronicus at The Globe?

and--I'm almost afraid to say it, in case I jinx myself--it finally stopped raining!

::jumps up and down like a three year old::

Monday, May 22, 2006

good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to London

and I used to be such a good girl.

In London, completely exhausted and fending off a cold with my remaining energy. 48 Hour French Girlfriend, who I think I will start referring to as Garcon Manque (French for tomboy) met me here for the weekend, and well, we didn't get a lot of sleep. She left early this morning, at 3 am; and I'm in a very wierd mood. I've never done anything like this before; it's an enjoyably surreal chapter from someone else's life that's been randomly inserted into mine. We went to the Candy Bar and I had too much fun and got sick in front of Hyde Park on the way back. Making a spectacle of ourselves all over London. Whenever I'm on the street with a woman I'm "with" there's always a reaction from others (even in Paris), subtle and not-so-subtle commentary (I wonder what it would be like to hold someone's hand on the street, even kiss her, and have no one notice?). But Garcon Manque is so butch she easily passes for a boy; a few weeks ago she was in Istanbul with friends, and when she tried to put on a headscarf to visit a mosque, they told her "Oh no, no sir, that's only for ladies!" When I'm out with her we don't get commentary so much as double-takes and open staring, I guess because at first glance they think we're straight (I got such a look of amazement from a man at the bus stop this morning, as I said goodbye). We think it's hilarious, for the most part, and it only encourages her. But once, we were on an escalator on the Underground, her arms wrapped around me, and a woman passed us and gave us a huge grin. So yay for visibility!
Still, I'm glad to be on my own again. I'm not sure what exactly is the nature of our relationship or what to make of it, and that's tiring. I'm just worn out in general, I guess; epuisee. The thought of Berlin now is feeling more like an obligation than a thrill. I'm forgetting what it's like to stay in a place for more than 3 days.
Like Scotland. Wish I had stayed longer. Never managed to find me a freckle faced girl who'll read me Burns (the writer's museum, by the way, was kind of a dud). I was quickly falling in love with Edinburgh. The castle was impressive enough, and I just like the feel of the city, its particular energy. I met up with a friend of my brother's, a Scot who sounds very much like Billy Boyd, he took me out to a French restaurant (ha) and introduced me to single malt whisky and Baileys. I had a room all to myself in the hostel, I decided after Dublin that there's really no point in checking out the dyke scene once you've been to London and Paris, so I spent my evenings wallowing in the bathtub, reading The Lavendar Annual, a collective magazine published in the 80s by New Zealand radical lesbian feminists, which I picked up in Dublin (I know, I know). It's a great snapshot of the Second Wave, and not all that different from indie dyke media today. Where are all these uptight political P.C. Second Wave dykes I keep hearing about?
Rosslyn Chapel was amazing as well, I had no trouble finding it because everybody and their brother was going to see it that day. We poured off the local bus and walked towards it almost in procession, like pilgrims. And ironically we were all there not out of religious piety but curiousity about its links to blasphemous conspiracy theories. Rather incongruously set in a picturesque village, not the likeliest place for the Holy Grail and ley lines. But even if you've never read The Da Vinci Code etc, it's worth a look for the carvings alone. The Green Men are fantastic, not to mention the carvings of sweet corn and cactus in a church that was built almost a century before Columbus discovered the Americas. The basement room is kind of creepy though.
More sleep now, and Shakespeare tomorrow. Cross your fingers, I'm going to try and score tickets for a performance at the Globe.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

hello from Edinburgh

Which I like better than Dublin, even though it has more hills. I think the highlight of Dublin was, like JaneFan mentioned, Trinity College (I seem to have been chasing you around Ireland! wouldn't it be weird if we were someplace at the same time and didn't know it?). I went to see the Book of Kells, which was, you know, interesting and all, but I think the British Library sated my desire for ancient texts. It was the Long Room that wowed me. And it was totally unexpected, I knew nothing about the Long Room, I was just trying to find my way out, and I got to the top of the stairs and just stopped in my tracks, before I even rounded the corner. It was the smell of books, old, dusty leather bindings. There's no other smell like it. I just stood there for a minute and inhaled reverently. I love that smell. I wish they could bottle it.
And then I entered the Long Room, which is a bibliophile's wet dream. It's like...well it's like something out of a book. One long corridor full of towering shelves absolutely crammed with Trinity College's oldest books. There's the spiral staircase in the corner (I bought a print too!) and busts of great authors. It's magnificent. I was about to slide to the floor in a puddle of happiness when I saw the exhibition of Beckett manuscripts to celebrate his centenary. Notebooks and letters and drafts and theater programs and first editions. I've never actually seen any Beckett, but someday. He's enough of a literary giant that I was appropriately bowled over. I think my favorite part of the exhibit was his notebooks from his college days; there's one full of notes on Dante's Paradiso, going on about Canto XXVIII and the levels of heaven, very analytical, and then at the very bottom of the page he wrote, "[Don't understand a word of this]".
As I was drooling over the display cases I suddenly hear music from the far end of the room. Just to make things perfectly perfect (and maybe to make up for the fact that I spent the rest of my stay in Dublin soaking wet), they had a harpist playing Carolan on a replica of the medieval harp kept in the Long Room (Carolan was a blind Irish harpist in the 18th century, for those of you unfortunate enough not to have heard his stuff).
And then I did slide to the ground in a puddle of happiness.
But now I'm in Edinburgh, rather worn out, trying to find the Writer's Museum, and failing to arrange a final liasion with 48 Hour French Girlfriend. Tomorrow I'm going to Rosslyn chapel, just in time for the release of The Da Vinci Code.

Monday, May 15, 2006

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

It's not precisely what I want to get off my chest, but it will have to do for now. And after all, I'm in Ireland.

I need a decent pint. On to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

the rocky road to Dublin

In the merry month of May from my home I started,
Left the girls of Tuam nearly broken hearted,
Saluted father dear, kissed my darlin' mother,
Drank a pint of beer, my grief and tears to smother,
Then off to reap the corn and leave where I was born,
I cut a stout blackthorn to banish ghost and goblin,
In a brand new pair of brogues I rattled o'er the bogs,
And frightened all the dogs, on the rocky road to Dublin.
One, two, three, four five, hunt the hare and turn her
Down the rocky road and all the ways to Dublin,

Sorry, it's in my head, but it's a good tune so it's okay. I recommend Gaelic Storm's version.

Yeah, so last night was a bit of a bust. I was too worn out and frazzled to really plan it out properly, and I didn't know that Dublin bars have bouncers. What the fuck! Who decide if you get in! At a frickin' BAR! They have bouncers at the dyke bars in Paris but they're just for keeping men out. The hell. So I made a bit of an ass of myself at the Front Lounge, failing to get in the front door, and just said fuck it. It's a bit too swank and la di da for my tastes anyway, and all my innate shyness suddenly overwhelmed me. So I spent the night stone cold sober, wandering Dublin, slightly forlorn. I'm trying to think of it as a recon mission. It sucks though, there are two gay bars on my street, but they're for men. GRRRR. ARGH. I need a Smithwicks.

But, I cannot believe I forgot to mention the coolest thing about arriving in Dublin yesterday. Our bus was trying to turn on the street of the hostel/tour offices, but there was a bit of a hold up. I'm looking out the window and there are carriages and horses, men in top hats and breeches, women dressed circa 1810, just standing around on the sidewalk. Jenny asks what's going on, and finds out we've stumbled on the set of Becoming Jane. And I positively SQUEAL with delight, and everyone turns around and stares at me because usually I'm pretty quiet and keep to myself. I grab my camera and I get this great picture of a woman in an absolutely fucking gorgeous scarlet pelisse, sitting on some steps, smoking a cigarrette. I'll post it as soon as I get a chance, but I don't know when that will be.

But what are they doing in Dublin? Unless they made up a lot of shit with the Tom Lefroy affair, which I hear is likely. Hm. Or possibly using Dublin to substitute for another location.

Right. Off to check out the Book of Kells and find the Dublin Writer's Museum.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Andy Does Dublin

Well, theoretically. Dublin doesn't seem to have a lesbian bar (plenty of gay male bars, OF COURSE. Would it kill them to donate a bar to us dykes?), just monthly parties that I've missed out on. Still, there are some mixed bars I'll check out, because after my tour I'm dying to queer it up as much as possible. I kind of wish I had gone to The Kremlin, the ::gasp:: gay club! in Belfast that turned out to be just around the corner from my hostel. Given the choice between Irish drag queens and pissed Aussie straights, I think I know who's better company on a Friday night.

Did the Black Cab Tour of Belfast this morning, which was fascinating, in spite of myself. Saw all the creepy-ass murals, Shankill and Falls Road and the Peace Wall (what a misnomer; it was built to block bombs and bottles from hitting the houses on either side). The cabbies were full of info and horrible stories and it was all a bit surreal, because what a pointless, hopeless conflict, and the whole time we're hearing about these murders and riots and fires and the people in the neighborhoods are just going about their lives trying to ignore us. There's a Loyalist mural with a giant masked militant pointing a gun straight at the viewer; and next to it there was a woman outside the building hanging her laundry to dry in the morning sun. People walking their dogs, getting the mail. Saw a man with a jug of milk get buzzed into the Sinn Fein headquarters, while on the other side of the street a little girl in white headed to her First Communion with her family.

well. I really really need to get drunk and go dancing. So, that's all I got for now.

Friday, May 12, 2006

drinks are on me

I have my money!

In Belfast. Just got back from a pub with The Gang. It was nice. Very traditional, little booths and everything. It's called the Crown Liquor Saloon, it was started by a couple, the husband was Protestant and the wife Catholic, and the only way she agreed to have a pub called The Crown was if there was a tile mosaic of the crown on the floor. So when you enter, you wipe your feet on it.

It's been very interesting being in Northern Ireland, post-Troubles. It's not like the tensions have necessarily disappeared. There are all these unspoken rules that Jenny explained to us; don't go here, don't wear this (no football jerseys allowed in pubs). But otherwise totally normal. Derry (or Londonderry, if you're a Unionist) was last night, I didn't go on the walking tour because frankly I can't get "Sunday Bloody Sunday" out of my head and I don't really care to see where it happened. I don't like the idea of Warfare Tourism; tons of kids died here for an ultimately stupid reason, let's all pose and take a picture! Though I am going on the Black Cab tour of Belfast tomorrow. Nothing else to do anyway. Saw the Giant's Causeway today, where I met a middle-aged English motorcycle gang (no joke) who took my picture for me. Also Dunluce Castle, where some Scottish aristocrats lived until the 16th century, when part of the cliff collapsed on Christmas, taking the kitchens and a few servants with it into the sea below. After that they left for one of their 30 other castles.

Tomorrow is the last day of the tour. It's been a mixed bag, all around. The weather's improved, I've seen so much more of Ireland than I would have on my own, it's been fun. god, Ireland's so beautiful. So beautiful. No wonder people have such an obsessive love for it. There has been much tree-hugging hippyness, between the rolling hills and rugged coastlines and dolmens. Inis Mor was fabulous. I'm running out of superlatives here, they're all becoming meaningless. I rented a bike and puttered around the tiny fields of stone walls and drowsy sheep, with yellow sweet smelling gorse all around me. Bought a gorgeous sea-blue hank of Aran wool; I'm going to make a shawl from it (I figure I can handle a basic triangle). Inis Mor is remote, in the gaeltacht, where Gaelic has survived as a living, daily language. The lone hostel is attached to a pub; I drank a pint of Smithwicks (can't handle Guinness) and chatted to an Irishman named O'Malley who was visiting his brother on the island. Late 20s, mild mannered and bespectacled, obsessed with fly-fishing. He explained why the Celtics were playing Manchester United; it was a charity event, Roy Keane's last game. He bought me a pint and got my email address (I'm too nice; but why not, after all). And judging from the email he sent, I think he likes me. Oh dear. Well, when I come back to Ireland, I'll have someone who's willing to show me all the best fishing spots.
I hated to leave Inis Mor. The next day was mostly driving, through Connemara, up towards Donegal. The people on this tour are fine, for the most part. But at this point, since we were mostly sitting on a bus, we had to keep ourselves occupied. Out came the gay jokes. Nothing awful, just the usual corny stuff straight people come up with when they're bonding. And the teasing and innuendo has pretty much continued. So that's been fun. Clearly, my hair is not short enough. And it sucks because there's one or two of them that I really like, like Rich the Kiwi Rugby Giant. Great guy. Part of me wants to come out and make a scene, perversely enough, but they're not worth it and it's none of their business and I don't want that attention and godfuckingdamnit, I just want to enjoy Ireland. It would probably help if I could stop staring at Jenny, who has blue eyes in addition to the charming accent. She just has this Irish chain-smoking-girl-next-door thing going on that's killer. I can't help it. So, I guess I'm doing my duty as a Queer and being appropriately tragic and tortured.

I need to go to Dublin and let loose. But now that I have my cash, I can! So I'll see if it really is as gay as everyone says it is. I read somewhere that there are more queers in Dublin, per capita, than San Francisco. Which makes sense. The States has more queer refuges, poor Ireland only has the one. Got a taste of old-fashioned Irish homophobia today, actually. I was in conversation with a nice friendly Belfast man who was giving me tips on all the pubs in the neighborhood, and heard his Horror Story of accidentally going into a gay bar for cigarettes and being SURROUNDED by GAY PEOPLE! They were EVERYWHERE! Blatantly breaking the Gender Dress Code and everything! I developed a sudden urge to do my dishes.

Whatever. I'm from Missouri, it's not anything I'm not used to. Dublin here I come! And Edinburgh watch out!

Monday, May 08, 2006

[witty Irish proverb]

Can't think of any at the moment that aren't worn out and corny. I do have a joke though:

When Noah had loaded up the Ark and the Flood waters were rising, he passed by an Irishman stranded on a small bit of land.
"Noah," said the Irishman, "Have ye got any room to spare?"
"Feck off," said Noah, and sailed on.
"Ah, sure," said the Irishman, "It's just a little rainstorm anyway."

Okay, so it's a heck of a lot funnier when it's told by an Irish ferry man shipping you back over to the mainland in the middle of a down pour. Ireland is fucking beautiful, fucking cold, and fucking wet. Jaysus Chroist, as Jenny the tourguide says (brown hair and freckles, it's torture). And we all got drenched on Blasket Island yesterday. But it was worth it. Slept in Killarney and then drove on to Dingle. I'm surrounded by about thirty Aussies, and a few Canadians and Kiwis. They're very nice, mostly 20 somethings, but I feel very...I don't know...queer, among them. I miss Paris. I miss the possibility of London. I'm formulating big plans for Dublin, at the end (yes, I'm still completely busted. I'll just smile real pretty, play up my Aw Shucks Midwestern Gal and snag me a sugarmama. I have always relied on the kindness of strangers...)
So I'm in Galway now, and I probably should go out later and check out the ceilidh dancing (I did tons of half-assed midwestern ceilidh dancing back home, I shouldn't pass up the chance for the real thing). But I'm tired. And I'm an introvert, and being surrounded by thirty straight total strangers is wearing on a girl (actually, I shouldn't assume. There's an older Aussie woman who referred to her "girlfriend", but it was impossible to tell if she meant "my hottt! lesbian lover" or "my friend who's a girl").
So, that's where I'm at, now. Trying to eat as cheap as possible. Taking lots of pictures. Trying to stay dry. Trying to be sociable. Trying not to ogle the Canadian blond (blue eyes) with the amazing figure. And I am having fun. Listening to the Chieftains and silently quoting Yeats ("Lake Isle of Innisfree" is poetic comfort food for me. It's like a talisman when I get stressed). But I will forever, forever regret missing that play in Dublin.
On to Inish Mor tomorrow.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

things to do in Dublin when you're dead

  • realize you have no money. As in, none. As in, how am I going to eat tonight? What am I going to do tomorrow?
  • misread credit card statement and mistakenly believe you haven't been booked on bus tour, because after all you never got a confirmation email from tour group anyway
  • cry
  • call mom and brother, humiliated
  • cry again as mom and brother are way way too giving and understanding about everything
  • want to die
  • miss tour
  • go hunting for another hostel to hold you over the weekend while you figure out what to do
  • perk up because at least you get a chance to see the Irish premiere of Emma Donoghue's play "I Know My Own Heart" about Regency society lesbian Ann Lister
  • in course of finding another hostel, realize you were booked for tour and they were looking for you
  • try not to cry
  • suffer two moments of horrible indecision as you are forced to decide between Emma Donoghue and catching up with tour group
  • decide on tour group since it turns out you did spend the money after all, even though all you want is to curl up somewhere and be alone and still

Friday, May 05, 2006

"I am alive and well and unconcerned about the rumors of my death. But if I were dead, I would be the last to know."

Paul McCartney, 1969

I'm in Liverpool, alive; hence the Beatles quotation. Which is kind of apt at the moment. I'm down to my last hundred bucks and I still haven't got my money from France. If it doesn't arrive today or tomorrow I will be officially dead. Either by my own hand or my mother's, that's still undecided.

I'm also exhausted and cramping. Hello, Universe? This was supposed to be fun, remember? (File this under How Not to Do Europe)

But it has been fun, all the same. And I'm sure it will be awfully romantic, looking back on it when I'm an old fart, "Ah, remember the good old days when I wandered around Europe broke and hungry and having lots of casual sex with strange girls?" Ha.

Seriously, though, Cardiff was great. Winter and the gang at Mind the Gap! are totally cool in addition to being incredibly generous, taking in a strange American they've never met and buying her alcohol. Even their cats are hip (I wonder if cat-ownership is a hidden prerequisite for being a member?). And Cardiff, thank god, is super pedestrian friendly which meant no hassling with bus schedules or subway maps. Winter (incredibly cute, scarily intelligent) and I hung out my first night, drinking wine, listening to indie grrrl bands and swapping war stories from the feminist front lines. The next morning I visited Cardiff Castle in the city center, a grandiose absurdity built by a filthy stinking rich Victorian with too much time on his hands and too much Sir Walter Scott in his library. Complete with a moat and screeching peacocks. Then spent the rest of the time in Bute Park, sweating in my too many layers, on an absolutely gorgeous day, because the UK finally gave up the ghost and admitted that it was spring (just in time for summer). Sunshine, trees in bloom, daisies, children eating ice cream, French teenagers who asked to take a picture with me. "Um, but I'm not English. Or Welsh". Which didn't faze them (When are we going to set up this Adolescent Quarantine Center I've suggested? Necessary public service).
And then that evening I got to meet the rest of the group, Naiades and Siberian Falls and the other non-bloggers, at a local cafe. Not only do they have international members--a couple Germans and Finns--they have a Token Male! I was quite impressed. We drank more wine and embarked on a very profound intellectual investigation on the politics of lesbian pole-dancing, and I elucidated the intricacies of American culture ("We're crazy. I have no idea what's going on.") It was a blast. Gappers (as I've started thinking of them) are funny and cool and interesting (well duh, they're feminists). It did me good, it's been so long since I've been able to shoot the breeze with other lefty activist types. I only hope I didn't bore them too much...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

nature is my church

(seen on a bumper sticker I wish I'd bought)

Killing time in Bath. I thought I wouldn't have hardly any internet access, but there's a cafe right next to the train station.

So, Glastonbury. Was a lot of fun. Almost didn't get there (stupid Bank Holiday bus schedules), but I made it eventually, on an absolutely glorious day that was not as warm as it looked. I keep forgetting how far north the UK is. I really want to buy a sweater, but I know as soon as I do it'll warm up.

But I was sitting on the bus, driving through the gorgeous countryside, and it just kills me that people live here, day in and day out, in a place like this. It's always surreal to visit a place that you've only seen in the movies.

Glastonbury is a great mix of the sacred and the profane. Absolutely packed because of the holiday. I'd been there before, on my high school trip, when I was still a good Catholic (in practice if not at heart). And now I've been there as a half-assed pagan, visiting the Chalice Well and poking around all the hippy Wiccan shops full of stinky incense and god-awful fantasy art (fantasy art is SO GAY. Seriously. Have you seen this stuff? Exactly like that Tom of Finland art but with dragons. And nobody seems to realize it either. And don't get me started on "Goddess" art). The Chalice Well was beautiful, of course, sunshine and flowers and children playing by the spring waters. It did me good; I haven't had a chance for quality Mother Nature time in a long while. I visited the Goddess Temple as well, which was nice, I've never been in a Goddess temple before, in fact I've never been surrounded by so many out pagans in my life. I only know one other person back home, and she's interested more on an intellectual than spiritual level. It really hit me how thoroughly identity is constructed by community; how much more stronger and stable one's self feels when surrounded by like minded individuals. I have so many different "Me"s, I get tired of them all, juggling them all depending on my situation (today I'm a Janeite! But tomorrow I'm a feminist! Next I'm an ex-Catholic! and on and on). Who I am always changes and it kind of wears you out.
So yesterday I got to be my tree hugging pagan self, which was wonderful, I don't often get a chance to feel that. I got a tarot card reading, which I'd never done before (because it's so!fucking!expensive!). Nice little old English lady Spiritualist, who was amazingly accurate and helpful. Mostly. Apparently the spirits neglected to tell her I'm a big homo. " Your husband will be very sensitive and spiritual!" I'll have kids too. Maybe I should have corrected her, but I figured she was just reflexively filtering everything through the heterocentrist constructs in her head. Pagans can be incredibly heterosexist, it's why I'm not into mainstream Wicca. They're not always so radical and different as they like to think they are.
But all in all it was an unexpectedly nice May Day. Life is just incredibly good right now. About fucking time too.