21 June 2008

Itinerary for my good friend Nick who is going to Ireland.

Day 1: You're landing in Belfast. I'll consider this a white day because I've never been to Belfast. People tell me it's lovely, but since I've never seen it, I am going to argue that it doesn't really exist. Let's just get you out of there as soon as possible.

Day 1.5: Phew. That was close. Let's head to the west coast. You'll definitely want to start with Donegal. The Irish pronounce it as though it were two words, "Dunny Gall," and it receives the highest annual rainfall on the island. Considering this is Ireland, that pretty much makes Donegal the ocean. You may want to poke around Donegal castle, sample fresh mussels at a restaurant near the quay, or stroll the cobblestone streets lined with shops offering the best wool in Ireland. When you're done being a sissy tourist, you will want to find a pub. Any pub will do because Donegal pubs are the most likely to suddenly become venues for traditional music. You will be enjoying a quiet pint of the black stuff, listening to the chatter and laughter, when suddenly there's music. Fiddles, banjos, and an assortment of Irish instruments: the things just appear from under tables, behind booths, from the nether regions of woolly trousers. You won't leave until the sun rises.

Day 2: But the sun WILL rise, and we're off South to Galway, but on the way you'll make a pit stop in Sligo. William Butler Yeats is buried near here. It probably won't mean much to you, but I always visited his grave before leaving Sligo. And since I'm making the itinerary, you're stopping here, too. Like it or lump it. Eventually, you'll get to Galway. I think it's about a three or four hour drive from Donegal even though it's only 100 kms away. You will understand when you drive it.

Day 2.5: Galway forever struck me as a tourist town, but it's still lovely. Don't stay too long. We've got a lot of driving to do. When you leave Galway, head south, and take N67, the coast road toward Ennis. Follow the signs to the Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare near Doolin.

Day 2.75: Well, there they are. Cliffs. Neat, huh? All right. Off you go to the pub! Doolin's pub has remarkable seafood chowder. And beer. But that goes without saying.

Day 3: Holy crap! Day three, already? Quick, get in the car! It's only an hour to Cork. Go, man, go!

Day 3.13: In all of Ireland, Cork was easily my favorite city. It is a bigger, more populous version of the little towns. Not grimy and gray like Dublin, but not so small that you can meet everyone at the supermarket. Plus, Cork has the best weather.

Day 3.5: If you have any time, drive south to Cobh (pronounced "cove") or farther south to Clonakilty. In fact, drive to Clonakilty for breakfast and get the black pudding. This little town is famous for it. Kinda the Tuatapere of Ireland, but with more places to get drunk.

Okay, I realize this isn't so much an itinerary as it is a list of places I like. You're pretty much guaranteed a good time no matter where you go, though. Have fun, buddy!

14 June 2008

Something Silly for Friday

I'm afraid of number 4. Which one gives you the heebee jeebees?

12 June 2008

Concentration, or the Lack Thereof

I have always been easily distracted. From an early age, I remember feeling like everything was more interesting than what I was already doing. For example, one December in my early childhood, I was microwaving cheese--cheese and bread, to be precise (I loved melted cheese sandwiches when I was a kid: how the spongy white bread turned to rubber, the processed cheese oozing with every bite). My attention shifted from what I was doing pretty much right after I pressed "start" on the microwave.

Older, and still distracted, I have the luxury of blaming coffee for my infinitesimal attention span. Sometimes, I go so far as to drink too much coffee so that I have the jitters to prove that I've had too much coffee. Then, when someone looks over my shoulder and sees that I have a dozen different program windows open on my computer, I can just point to my half-empty cup and say, "Yeah, that's my ninth."

The problem is, no matter how much or how little I consume, my focus remains the same. Three pots of coffee? ADHD. No coffee for a week? ADHD. Imagine, if you will, a consistent, steady ship cruising calm seas. Now imagine that ship captained by monkeys in electric underpants. That is my concentration.

Back to the melting cheese story. Do you know what pulled me away from watching Wonderbread and Velveeta fuse into an as-yet-undiscovered chemical compound? The corner. Yep. The corner. I walked into the den, squeezed behind a big blue chair in the corner, and peeked over the top for no other reason than to see what it was like from there.

I was about to go outside and put sand in my pockets when I heard my mother screaming from the kitchen. That's how I usually knew my lunch was done.

11 June 2008

For the Betterment of the Blogosphere

A few weeks ago, I got back in regular touch with Phil (if Phil and I were characters in The O.C. or Spongebob Squarepants, he and I would be referred to as BFFs. Actually, if he and I were in Spongebob Squarepants, we'd be referred to as Jillie-Jelly and Poodle Pants). Since then, he's embraced the internet-o-sphere with great fervor: starting a hilarious and insightful blog, twittering, as well as sharing his life via Facebook.

Also recently, my little brother, source of wonderment and woolly knits, decided to post his thoughts on the internet in the form of one of those new-fangled weblogs.

Two great thinkers, two funny writers, both adding another level of joy to the universe that is the world wide web.

07 June 2008

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today is the 40th wedding anniversary of Karen and Darrell Love, heretofore affectionately referred to as "my mother and "dude". 40 years ago they wed and began the greatest, most rewarding task of their lives: creating me.

Before that they were simple folk. My mother worked in the mail room of the Wichita Eagle Beacon, sorting out the checks from the envelopes that obviously contained cash, which found their way to the nether regions of her capacious bra. Dude toiled 9 hours a day in the Tawanda Mannequin Works, shaving raised creases off the plastic thighs of all big-and-tall dummies. It was Kansas. Life was plain, but it was good.

Good, that is, until he came to town one muggy, August evening; the blight of Sedgwick County: Chancho de Salsa.

Chancho de Salsa ruled the Wichita underworld with an iron wrist. He would have ruled with an iron fist, but he was born without hands--a deformity he was very sensitive about. He worked his way up the crime ring by telling people he was a skilled street fighter, and that he defeated anyone who got in his way until one day he was jumped by a dozen men who successfully relieved him of his appendages. The truth is that fighting--at least "fist" fighting--would have been very painful for Chancho, as his wrists were overly sensitive. So sensitive that the slightest breeze tickling his stumps would cause his knees to buckle and tears to stream uncontrollably down his cheeks. If you knew this fact, it would explain the mittens. But since most men were too terrified to ask, those knitted adornments on the wrists of Chancho de Salsa remained one of The Windy City's unsolved mysteries.

Chancho also had an eye for one Miss Teen Wichita; the Maiden of McComas; the lovely, Karen Gail Smith.

Late that summer, Karen started receiving Mysterious packages at work (Mysterious Industries was the company de Salsa used as a front to disguise his criminal dealings. They were Sedgwick County's second largest supplier of ball bearings and hair pins, but they also distributed cheese doodles to Wichita's north side. An odd combination, hence the name "Mysterious" industries. They used to be called "Ball Hair Doodles Inc" until de Salsa took over). Knowing their origin, and because she had her eye on someone else, Karen refused to accept the boxes of ball bearings, hair clips, and cheese doodles that were sent to woo her. This angered de Salsa, and he shook his mittened wrist nubs at heaven, vowing to destroy the man who had won the heart of Miss Teen Wichita.

Luckily, Dude was oblivious to the spectacle going on around him. He would whistle his little tune as he scraped piles of thigh plastic day after day. It was menial labor, so Dude would busy his mind with subjects that interested him, like time travel and knots. One afternoon, he got so distracted by his thoughts that he'd shaved the whole left leg off one of the mannequins. To cover his mistake, he shaved the right leg down to match and told his manager they had been sent a short person's mannequin by mistake. Reginald Hharrr, the manager of the mannequin factory and Dude's boss, wasn't so displeased about the midget mannequin that Dude had created as he was concerned about the massive pile of shaved plastic on the shop floor. Since shaved plastic was a key ingredient in cheese doodles, there was only one option: sell the stuff to Mysterious Industries. Reginald instructed Dude to sweep the plastic into a bag and deliver it to Mysterious Industries, a task Dude happily--and somewhat ignorantly--accepted.

But Chancho de Salsa was waiting. He knew Dude's job. He knew Dude's tendency to daydream. He knew everything about Dude, and he knew Dude would be arriving soon with a bag full of mannequin thigh plastic. Chancho de Salsa winced as he slid the knitted mittens onto his wrists--even woolen fibers irritated his sensitive stumps.

Dude arrived in the late afternoon, fighting the gusty winds as he gripped the plastic-filled bag. At Mysterious Industries, most of the employees had already gone home for the evening, so it was de Salsa alone who waited. Watching Dude walk naively up to the front door, de Salsa grinned. His only wish being the ability to wring his hands in diabolical anticipation. When Dude reached for the door, de Salsa bounded out.

"Ah ha!" Chancho de Salsa shouted, leaping wrist-mittens-first at Dude, "I have you now, Dude! You will never have Miss Teen Wichita! She's mine!"

The attack came so suddenly and startled Dude so severely, that he jumped backwards with fright, launching the bag of plastic shavings into the air and knocking the mittens from de Salsa's arms. Dude shouted his most forceful cuss word, "Gosh dang it!"

What happened next was never fully known. The bag of mannequin thigh shavings hung in the summer air like only a bag of mannequin thigh shavings can: briefly, before being ripped open by a severe gust of wind. That same gust blew the millions of sharp, plastic pieces into the face of de Salsa, and more importantly, onto his un-mittened wrist lumps.

The shrieks, it was said, could be heard as far away as the Flint Hills. And the pain that caused the shrieks drove Chancho de Salsa mad.

Later, the mayor came to the mannequin factory to award Dude with the keys to the city for ridding the town of the evil Chancho de Salsa. Dude smiled humbly, looked at Miss Teen Wichita, and uttered these famous words:

"Well I'll be . . . for heaven's sake."

Happy anniversary, mom and dad: hero and heroine of my own world, daring little fiction that it is.

06 June 2008

I Can Has a Couch?

Three weeks ago, Ami and I ordered a couch. Wait, let's go back a little farther. Six weeks ago, Ami and I moved in to our new apartment on West 1st. Our voices echoed off the bare walls as we walked from one empty room to the next. We had a bed, but little else. Considering we had just moved to Vancouver, Canada from Wellington, New Zealand, the lack of furniture of any kind should be understandable. Luckily, a friend of a friend gave us a futon and some dishes, or else we would have been eating take out on the carpet for weeks. So began our hunt for a couch.

Back in Welly, we had two gorgeous love seats. Ami's memory is a bit clouded, though, because she says "Meh, I didn't like them that much." She's lying; she loved them. Dark brown leather, classic square shape, hand-made in Wellington--just lovely. Needless to say finding something comparable in Vancouver was going to take more than a trip to Ikea (a place that, I've decided, is a portal to hell).

We shopped around for three weeks before finding exactly what we were looking for: dark gray upholstery, again the classic square body, hand-made in Vancouver, and with a chaise. I've never been so excited about a couch. I liked it so much I dreamed that the Jamie of 7 years ago suddenly appeared and kicked me square in the nuts. The store owner, Kareem, told me they would deliver it in three weeks.

Three weeks later (yesterday) I'm waiting outside the venerable Croatian Villa for the delivery van. What do you know, but he's right on time? Bang-on 5:00. Ben, a waifish boy of 23 years, springs out of the back of the graffiti-embellished van. Together, we begin to move the couch. First the cushions, and finally the 7-foot long base.

We soon learn a little something about the architects responsible for my apartment building, the Croatian Villa--they were all right-handed. How do we know this? Because they must have drawn the building plans with their left hands. Observe:

The back door only opens half way, meaning we must first move the couch into the hall, then shut the door to move it back through the hallway to the stairs (elevator? no such luck). At the door to the stairs we hit our first impasse: at no angle with the couch fit through. How did we get it through the back door but not this door? Because the door to the stairs is narrower. We flip, shuffle, lean, squirm, shove, curse, drop, lift, rotate, and curse some more. Nothing. Let's try the front entrance, I tell Ben. It means walking up one extra flight of stairs, but we don't have much of a choice.

I meet him at the front door. We get through the hallway to the stairs, tilt it perpendicular to the floor, pull the bottom through the door--so far so good--and I, on the inside of the hall to the stairs, begin to flip my side up so that it will stand. Impasse number 2: it won't stand. How did it stand in one hallway but not the other? Because the ceilings are different heights. Brilliant.

The couch never made it. In the end, we had to send it back to its maker. But not after trying to pull it up through the balcony door, three storeys off the ground. . . well, we considered it, anyway.

So, couch-less, we will host Molly (little sis) and JF for the next four days. The futon that once took pride of place in the lounge will become their bed. I foresee much time spend outside the apartment--hoping the weather holds out.

02 June 2008

Here Be Falcons

I noticed something odd on the way to work the other day (Well, I notice something odd on my way to work EVERY day, but that's because I take public transport . . . in Canada. . . on the west coast--seriously, if I get to the office without seeing a.) lap dogs in knitted jumpers, b.) ice skates, or c.) blatant drug deals, then it's probably Saturday, in which case I'll probably see something odd as I travel back home). Walking down the steps as I exited the Sky Train station in Burnaby, a woman was standing on the platform with a hawk on her arm. It was trained, obviously, and she was wearing a high-vis vest and falconer's gloves, so it didn't seem to be an accident (although I don't really know how a woman could "accidentally" wear a giant bird of prey on her wrist). Naturally, this piqued my curiosity.

In my head, she was part of an elaborate scheme by city planners to rid Vancouver of pigeons. In my head, she was merely one of a number of falconers who would soon be patrolling areas all over the city. In my head, the sky would soon be full of hawks and eagles instead of pigeons--those disease-ridden, rats of the air. In my head she was French . . . I'll just leave that one alone. But since "what happens in my head" and "what is real" are rarely even remotely similar, I decided to strike up a conversation with Hawk Lady.

It turns out she was part of an elaborate scheme by the city planners to rid Vancouver [Sky Train stations] of pigeons. She was one of many falconers working in the city, and I would no doubt be seeing many, many more raptors "patrolling" the skies. All this rattled off speedily in a bouncy, French accent.

Well I'll be damned.

Imagination, meet Reality. You've never met, but it turns out you have a few things in common, after all.