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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flowing Irish Spring of Thoughts

Top-o-the-Mornin' To Ya, KuKd'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

Time to churn out some rambling thoughts from this tiny fishing village, nestled between the green cliffs and choppy gray ocean of Sheeps Head Peninsula. Ireland, that is.

* * *

Dear Euro: I hate you. You are an insensitive, pompous, bloated bastard. You make my dollar look like crap. Everytime I think about you, how many of my pathetic little dollars it takes to match your swollen strength, I want to punch you in the face. You are the reason for which it costs $8 for a beer, $10 for a scone and a cup of tea, $8 an hour to sit in this Internet cafe. You need to lose weight, fatso, and come back to earth. You're not as great as you think you are.

* * *

Not far from Cork City is the Blarney Castle, upon which is perched the Blarney Stone, which hoards of gawking tourists flock to in great big busses. I had heard that kissing the Blarney Stone brings good luck. It's one of those things in Ireland that you're supposed to do, and check off on your list of "things you did in Ireland" - like visiting the Louvre in Paris, or the Statue of Liberty in New York. That alone - the simple fact of it being something that everybody supposedly does - would normally be reason enough to avoid doing it. Kevin and I have always agreed on that point when it comes to traveling.

But this time, I suggested to Kevin that we break or cardinal rule of avoiding anything on the tour-bus circuit. Feeling that my uterus was in need of a dose of good luck, I told him I ought to lift up my shirt and press my abdomen against that stone (hoping that the stone itself wouldn't transmit some strange form of herpes to my tummy skin from so many internationals touching it with their moist, pursed lips).

Kevin agreed that it might be a prudent thing to do.

But when we looked it up in our guidebook to find directions, we discovered that the Blarney Stone doesn't actually bestow good luck, contrary to popular ill-informed belief. In fact, it bestows the "gift of gab."

Shit. The last thing I or my uterus needs is more gift of gab. If I had any more gabbing ability, I'd surely scare away everyone important in my life. So we canceled our Blarney Stone visit and ducked into a pub instead.

* * *

I am alone.

Not alone in the sense that there aren't any other people around. There are other people, of course: milky-skinned, freckle-faced families with accents to die for, farmers that look like such stereotypical Irish farmers that I can't help but stare (rubber boots, knee-length green pants, plaid wool vests, those Irish beret-like hats), butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

It's just that I'm alone, without Kevin - and slept decadently in the shape of a sprawled-out starfish on my queen-size bed last night. The idea to part paths came about as I sensed myself turning into what I call the Incredible Hulk-Bitch, and - for the sake of marital/personal/psychological health - thought it best to separate, me going off to do "my thing" and Kevin doing "his thing." For those of you who live in remote fishing villages and therefore haven't seen the Incredible Hulk, a quick lesson: it's an old show from the 70s or 80s about an ordinary guy who- whenever he gets angry - turns into this big, green, mean, angry monster-like thing (with awesome arm-muscles, if my memory serves me right) who throws stuff at people and breaks things. His grave warning to others was always: "Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry."

Here's what my grave warning to others should be, and Kevin would probably agree with this: "Don't make me hungry, cold, wet and tired. You won't like me when I'm hungry, cold, wet and tired."

There have been several times in our relationship when I've found myself turning into this person I'm embarrassed to be: a thoroughly bitchy, whiny, sulky, petulant, passive-aggressive, blaming-everything-on-Kevin, openly-complaining Incredible Hulk-Bitch. This is one of those times. It pretty much always has to do with physically pushing myself beyond my comfort zone - biking, hiking, what have you - and growing unbearably hungry and tired. Everything then becomes Kevin's fault, of course, for not predicting this would happen and suggesting a different activity from the very beginning; for not showing sufficient empathy; for not producing a warm scone from his coat pocket when I desperately need food.

Poor Kevin could not have known that cycling in Ireland - for me anyway - was a doomed prospect from the get-go. First, we brought our bikes here, even though I knew - deep down inside I knew - that my ass was completely tired of being on a bike. I didn't want to admit that - after our east-coast biking escapade - I'd almost rather eat stale cow shit than spend another day on bumping around on my rump and getting blisters on my palms. Well maybe not, but still. You get the picture.

To make matters worse, we quickly discovered the big, bad dilemma of cycling in Ireland: once you get into the countryside, there are no street names, no street signs, no landmarks, anywhere. Just lots of forks and multi-pronged sporks in the road where a whole bunch of identical sheep-strewn, single-lane roads branch off each other toward identical, sheep-strewn hills. So if you're trying to get to, say, a certain town 20 kilometers away, you repeatedly find yourself at an unmarked crossroad with no choice but to take a wild guess as to which way to turn. You think to yourself: hmmm, this looks southwest-ish. I'll turn here. Inevitibly, it turns out you're in fact going northeast, which you discover 45 minutes later, and have to then backtrack to that same 3-pronged spork in the road, and take a different prong. Because you're a blindly bumbling Yank (and a Murphy, no less, toting around all of the bad luck which being a Murphy entails) with zero farm-road instinct, chances are your second guess is wrong too.

So, needless to say, much of our last three days were spent backtracking and looping and circling and staring hopelessly at our useless and inaccurate road map. Oh - and did I mention that Ireland is full of steep, steep hills - so that all of this wrong-turning and backtracking involved retracing our steps up and down those monstrous hills - AND that this was happening in the face of gale-force winds and driving rain?

"Just enjoy the adventure of all this!" said Kevin with what I perceived as forced optimism.

"I might enjoy it if I could feel my extremities!" I replied through gritted teeth, my blue plastic poncho whipping behind me like a sail, holding me back as I peddled against the wind. Busted: my pissy attitude revealed, as if Kevin hadn't already sensed my spirits plummeting. "Who the hell built this hilly, rainy country without road names," I said.

"But look at the farm houses. You like farm houses."

"I don't give a damn about the farm houses. I need food and we were supposed to get to Clonakilty like five hours ago and there's no end in sight and I'm freezing cold and my ass hurts!"

"Be like how you were in Uzbekistan," he said, "when you didn't mind stuff like this! Remember how carefree you were all the time, even when it was hard?"

Ahhhhhh, "how I was in Uzbekistan."

Is it really possible to eternally be the exact same person you are when somebody first meets and falls in love with you? To always show your best, best side - the side that enchanted them and drew them into you at the very beginning? Of COURSE I would never show Kevin my Incredible Hulk-Bitch side during our courtship days. No, no, no. Some things - like your rotten moods and the "signature stench" of your farts - are best left kept secret until...well...until you're married. :-)

Anyway, I knew he wanted to keep riding that bike, so - rather than force myself to do something that directly causes my mood to drop to its lowest point, I decided to hop a bus to our next destination and meet him in a few days. Kevin agreed more readily than I was hoping: this sounded like a good plan. So off we went, separate ways. I was relieved to be off the bike, but secretly nervous about being alone.

* * *

We live alone inside our heads for so much of the time; why is being actually, physically alone so unnerving sometimes? Being alone in a strange land: it makes me uncomfortable at first, a little bit scared. It's been so long since I've slept alone, eaten alone, meandered through unknown streets alone. I've only done this once since Zach's dirth, and that was in Ecuador. It was good for me in some self-helpy spiritual way, I suppose. But secretly it depressed me to be alone.

This time, as I stepped off the bus into the driving rain in the village of Bantry, at first I didn't know what to do with myself - so I just stood there with my great big bike-suitcase (yes, mine is a special bike that comes apart and fits into a suitcase) and backpack, rain pouring directly onto my head and dripping down my chin, looking pathetic and taking out my damp, dog-eared guidebook to find a place to stay. Even after checking in to a cold, crumbling Victorian bed-and-breakfast, I still felt at odds. What to do as an anonymous visitor in this remote village, as rain poured from the slate gray sky? Duck into a pub and sidle up next to a stranger? Somehow the thought depressed me.

So I took a long shower instead and settled in bed to read a book I'd picked up along the way, sheets of rain beating against my rippled windows.

This book is called "The Adultress" by some famous British author who now lives in Ireland. I was instantly sucked into this book, and forgot about the rain and the hills and the aloneness. It's about...well...several generations of Irish/English women cheating on their husbands for various reasons. There's more to it than that, of course - ghosts and haunted apple orchards and World War II and lemon cakes and things like that. I was fascinated by several things in this novel.

First, the way in which the book ultimately portrays adultery on the part of men and women as happening for different reasons, and that - when women do it - it isn't always entirely her fault. Or, rather, it's for reasons far more complicated - even perhaps understandable - than simple, selfish betrayal of a husband. As for what those reasons are, well, you just have to read the book.

Second, a very large percentage of the adultery that took place in this story unexpectedly had to with...drumroll please...KuKd! That is, there was a pattern in several of these women: pregnancy loss, or a string of losses, occurred. Then came the adultery. There were reasons for this - the isolation of KuKd grief, the way it can push a man away - but that's a whole 'nother post.

* * *

Falling headfirst into a good novel was exactly what I needed to kickstart this alone-time. Just me, my thoughts, my little Ireland-world. I've noticed the rain here stops around mid-afternoon when the frustrated sun breaks through scattered clouds, casting this ephemeral sparkly light all over everything. It's what makes Ireland one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, this time of day, when the green hills turn emerald and the ocean is flecked with glimmering sunlight.

When this happened yesterday I finally set down my book (reluctantly) and went for a walk by myself along a lonesone, rocky ridge over the sea. I had stopped at a little gourmet food shop and bought an entire tub of oil-cured olives coated in salt, which I munched on contentedly as I walked. God, I love olives. I wasn't really thinking about anything or having epiphanies every five minutes - just taking in the scenery, my mind at peace, feeling really calm.

Despite the Euros (fucking fatso fucktarded currency), the hills, the rain - Ireland is a country which, as my friend Al says about certain bars in Seattle, "speaks to me." The people are the friendliest I have ever met. The landscape is rugged and brooding, and even the climate I enjoy - just not while cycling uphill. I like feeling cool and gray and having to bundle up. And the bread! That Irish brown bread made without yeast, dense and yummy and biscuity and sconey? With slabs of cold salted butter on top? Christ, I could eat that all day every day.

And I like this little burst of alone time. Ireland is a perfect place to do it. Now I'm off for my second ridge-walk, after which I get to come "home" to my dimpled hotel bed and finish my novel, and wait for Kevin to show up. Tonight we get to eat out, together! - and each tell the stories of our separate journeys. I can't wait to hear about his. I just hope his ballsack and taint are still in tact after all that cycling.

As his wife, I do have a stake in his ballsack and taint, afterall.


angie said...

What a perfect post. You made me laugh, you made me scratch my chin in that cartoon-y thinking way, you made me sigh out of beauty, and you made me want bread and butter. I can feel the Irishness of it all. Enjoy your trip, Monica. I understand your literal pain, I also am frequently talked into, uh, I mean, gung ho about biking trips and become increasingly grumpy and pissed off the more grease-stained my calf gets. I think I have even shrieked, "How is this a GD vacation? We work from the time we get up until we drink."

Megan said...

I'm jealous of your trip. It sounds wonderful. I'm just sitting here growing follicles! Bleech. Thanks for taking me away for a moment, making me wonder...does Monica have a travel book in her?

We are roadtripping to Memphis this weekend. Elvis is calling. Have a great rest of the trip.

jill said...

Absolutely loved this post! It made me laugh many times and seriously contemplate planning a trip to Ireland. :)

Parenthood For Me said...

Great post! I will have to get that book. I sent you an email if you are checking.

Mandi said...

Ah, I identify in so many ways -- especially blaming my partner for shit when I'm hungry and tired (especially hungry).

But my ode to the Euro goes more like this: Oh dear Euro, how glad I am to be paid with you. How much further you reach when I pay my American credit card bills and student loans bills. Forty cents more to every dollar, in fact. And that goes a long freaking way when you're up to your ears in debt like me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So I can't really sympathize in that regard. But hey, you're in Ireland!

Mirne said...

I love the Euro :-) but then it's my currency. I love visiting the US because the US $ is so weeeaaakkk. Cycling in drizzly Ireland sounds vaguely similar to my experience of climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland in the middle of summer whilst it rained. A SHIT EXPERIENCE.

Michelle said...

This made me LOL because I can so imagine the same thing happening to me. I would definitely have hopped that bus. Also the Blarney stone thing was FUNNY! I did not know it gives the gift of gab...I think my DH will keep me far from there.

One time our car broke down and so I figured we could walk to where my mother worked and get her car. i thought it was much closer then what it actually was. After walking 7.5 miles I had enough and walked straight into a cab company. They were very confused because apparently nobody asks for a cab AT the cab place but thank God it was there or I don't think we would be married today. Also when we got in the cab and drove another 8.5 miles I was thinking my sense of direction and distance was a LITTLE off. So I say all that to say you definitely did the right thing.

Ireland must be so beautiful! I hope you have some great pictures! Enjoy the rest of the trip.

Jem said...

What a beautiful post. I found myself transported to the Emerald Isle along with you!

There is definitely a book in you, my dear. Please write it so I can read it. In the meantime, keep posting on your blog.


Sonya said...

Well done... well said.

KuKd Chick said...

To those of you who can relate to the blaming-your-husband-for-being-tired-and-hungry, THANK YOU. I thought I was the only unreasonable bitch out there.

OH - can somebody please translate "DH" and "BFF" for me? What the HECK are those things?

Mirne and Mandi - I hate you both. ;-)

Back on the bike today. At least there's a bit of sun.

forwardtumble said...

Oh dear, i know what you're talking about, Ireland and the rain... It's been bucketing rain for weeks and weeks now (ever since Babette left (a babyloss mum who came to visit in June))
I suppose this is a beautiful country, even when it rains... and the people haven't much of a choice with weather like this but to be cheerful and friendly anyway. But honestly, you have my pity to have chosen Ireland for a cycling holiday especially this year... ouch, my bum hurst just listening to you! In my younger days I called the cycling tourists the cycling-one-man-tents. :-P

Today the sun is shining a lot more (on the east coast anyway) but there is a fierce wind blowing.. not sure it that's better or worse?!?

Ok, sorry, I shouldn't be laughing, but you post has me laughing and so I send you a bit of my ramblings.

BTW the lady at the post office this morning said the weather is to get better for the next couple of days. let's hope she's right!

I hope you get some sparkling sunshine and enjoy the rest of your stay.

xx Ines

PS Mirne and Mandi are my Euro friends ;-)

Tina said...

Your posts always make me laugh out loud, but this one was so funny that I had to share parts of it with my husband!! In fact I am still laughing just thinking about it. I especially like the parts about the fucktarded Euro and your husband's ballsack!!!

Oh and my husband would tell you that I definitely turn into an Incredible Hulk Bitch when I am hungry. In fact if he senses any bitchiness from me he alsways asks if I have eaten. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip...I can't wait to hear more about it.

Parenthood For Me said...

Hey if u read my email can u respond to erica at
On vaca only have blac.kberry

KuKd Chick said...

Parenthood 4 Me -got your e-mail- yuppers! Delayed due to being waterlogged and broke. ;-)

Tina - good - glad you turn into Hulk-Bitch too. One of these days you and I might meet up and practice our Hulk-bitching skills together.

Forward Tumble (AWESOME name you'v got) - YOU'RE HERE? IN IRELAND? AS IN, YOU'RE IRISH AND YOU'RE HERE AND YOU GET TO EAT THAT AWESOME BREAD ALL THE TIME???? AND YOUR CURRENCY IS THE EURO??? OK, I'm envious in every way except for the fact that your clothing must be permanently damp and dank-smelling like mine. You must have strange green fungus growing in your lungs from breathing in all this wet, grassy air. But you're rich and have a cool accent and have great food and get to look at gorgeous scenery, so what the hell.

forwardtumble said...

Yeppers! I'm here, and we have dryers, so no
damp and dank smellling clothing :-P bnut i don't think you can get dryers for bicycles yet! Rich? No way José... haven't you heard about the recession everybody out there is moaning about who hasn't got real things to cry about??
But yeah this beautiful place is my home. Beautiful sunrise today, I think the post office lady was definitely right ;-)

Pundelina said...

I think you were completely brave and awesome to have even started the Irish cycling. I would never volunteer for that!! Give me the tropical sun and a smidgen of physical activity any day :p When do you go home?

DH = darling husband (except when hungry/cold/tired and then it's definitely d*ckhead husband)

BFF = best friend forever (vomit-worthy)


KuKd Chick said...

Pundelina - thanks for the lovely translation. Darling husband? Is that supposed to be sarcastic? Who uses the word ~darling~ anymore these days? Sheesh. Good to know, though.

Forward Tumble - Arright, true. You do have that economic crisis going on. My advice is: come to America where your euro will you so far you'll feel like a speed racer. Oh, and -being Irish- you have the wonderfulness of being among the funniest, easiest-to-strike-up-a-conversation-with, brilliantly laid back populations on the earth. CHeers to that!

KuKd Chick said...

Pundelina - thanks for the lovely translation. Darling husband? Is that supposed to be sarcastic? Who uses the word ~darling~ anymore these days? Sheesh. Good to know, though.

Forward Tumble - Arright, true. You do have that economic crisis going on. My advice is: come to America where your euro will you so far you'll feel like a speed racer. Oh, and -being Irish- you have the wonderfulness of being among the funniest, easiest-to-strike-up-a-conversation-with, brilliantly laid back populations on the earth. CHeers to that!

Amy said...

I love this! My Hulk personality is called "Wednesday Adams". I turn dark, sullen and grumpy when the hungry level dips too low. DH and I are not allowed to speak or interact much when we both reach the hungry stage.

Ireland sounds beautiful after a rain once the sun comes out.

Glad you found some peace and enjoyment in your solitude.

The trip sounds amazing even with the long, bumpy and frustrating bike ride.

Pundelina said...

OMG maybe it's not darling husband, now I'm thinking it's more like Dear Husband.

I'll have you know that some sappy peeps do say ~darling~ every now and then ... *blush*.

(I love your use of the Charlie Brown-esque 'Sheesh' - I may have to steal it.)