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!


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